The Medina of Marrakech is the historic center of the city. The Medina is surrounded by 19 kilometers of walls, which date back to the 12th century. Behind these, you will find some of the most incredible attractions of the city, as well as souks, riads, and much more. This part of Marrakech consists of narrow and tightly packed alleys and can be a maze to find your way in. The Medina of Marrakech is home to both international trades, as well as royal and cultural activities. And today it has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Therefore, a walk through this amazing maze is one of the things you simply cannot miss when in Marrakech.
What to know about visiting the Medina of Marrakech
As we have said so many times before, several things are good to keep in mind when traveling and exploring different attractions and sights. Therefore, we have gathered the information we found very useful before we visited the Medina. Below you will find everything you need to know about visiting the Medina of Marrakech
Getting to the Medina of Marrakech
Getting to the Medina of Marrakech is actually quite easy. The area surrounded by the wall is quite huge, which makes it possible to reach from most parts of the city. If you are staying outside the Medina, you will have plenty of options to choose from. You can either use public transportation or walk. We would always recommend you walk as Marrakech is a very walkable city, and walking is the best way to discover the hidden gems of both the city and Medina.
The Medina of Marrakech is open every day to the public, which means that there are no definitive opening hours. It is only the souks and shops that have opening hours. But this varies a lot depending on the shop owners. Most of them are open around 10:00 and close by 20:30. Though some of the souks close to Jemaa el Fnaa may stay open until 11:30 PM when the food stall closes.
Luckily for you, there are no entrance fees to get inside the amazing maze of the Medina. Even so, you should bring some cash, so you have the opportunity to do some shopping in the incredible souks.
Time spent in the Medina of Marrakech
When you are visiting the Medina of Marrakech you should set aside enough time for you to explore. Walking down one or two alleys is never enough. The maze has so many incredible experiences awaiting you. This is why you can be certain that with each new alley you explore you encounter new scents and sights. Therefore, we recommend you spend at least one full day inside this incredible place. But the more time and days you spend inside the maze the more you get to experience it.
Bonus tip: Book accommodation inside the Medina in one of the beautiful riads for a true Marrakech experience.
When you are walking around the Medina there is no dress code. But this does not mean that there are not some things you should be aware of – especially as a woman. It is a good idea to keep it modest, no matter which gender you identify as. Therefore, you should let your revealing clothes stay at your accommodation and instead wear something that covers your shoulders and chest. As a woman, it might also be a good idea to cover your knees to avoid too many stares from the locals. Other than that, you should be good to go.
Finding your way in the Medina
Orienting yourself and finding your way inside the Medina of Marrakech can be a little tricky. The alleys are often narrow and tightly packed – with both locals, shops, and tourists. Using a map can in some situations be necessary. But even if you use a map, you will see that some of the street names may be different from the nameplates, as well as many of the street signs are in Arabic. Navigating your way, the Medina can therefore be a bit confusing.
Before you get freaked about the bewildering maze you must remember that getting lost inside the Medina of Marrakech is part of the experience. You will never know what might be just around the corner – getting lost inside the Medina is part of the fun.
Bonus tip: We recommend you use Maps.me if you need any help with navigating your way inside the Medina. It was the one app that was most up-to-date.
Keep an eye out for any scammers and pickpockets
The Medina is an amazing maze that you must walk through when you are visiting Marrakech. But even so, there are unfortunately some things you should be extra aware of when inside the Medina.
First is thieves. We did not experience anything remotely thief-like, but we had heard a lot of scary stories before we arrived. Some of the best tips to avoid pickpockets is always to keep your bag close to your body. It might also be a good idea to only bring the most necessary personal belongings, as well as only bring cash instead of your credit card. During our visit to Marrakech (as well as Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Bali, and Nusa Penida) we made use of a small padlock for our bag. We would recommend you do the same as it gives a nice sense of security when walking around crowded areas.
As mentioned earlier you tend to get a bit lost inside the Medina. As a tourist, this can cause some unwanted attention. Many locals offer to guide you through the Medina or give you directions. If this happens to you, you should politely say “no, thank you” and walk away. This is because these individuals often charge very high fees to help you or even show you the wrong way. If you follow their directions, you often end up at their family business or in another uncomfortable situation where the locals aggressively insist on payment for your “guided” tour. Therefore, we always recommend you use Maps.me or ask the police for help if you can find an officer. But do not worry, we only had a few of these encounters and almost everyone went away when we said stop.
If you want to know more about what to expect for your visit to Marrakech, you should read our post with 12 things to know before you travel to Marrakech.
Jemaa el Fna
One of the things that the Medina of Marrakech has been famous for is Jemaa el Fna – and it is a fascinating place to visit. Jemaa el Fna is a huge open square in the center of the Medina and has become a pulsating place where medieval and modern blend. During the day the square is at its least hectic with snake charmers, monkey handlers, acrobats, musicians, henna artists, and different vendors. Whereas in the evening the square transforms into a circus with entertainers and a huge open-air dining area.
We had a very mixed experience with our visit to Jemaa el Fna. The square itself is very beautiful with different shops and cafés in the surrounding buildings. But we also found it very overwhelming. Chained animals being coerced into performing for tourist cash was heartbreaking.
We would also recommend you stop by the Jemaa el Fna as there is a very special atmosphere by the square. Though we would recommend you move to one of the rooftop terraces surrounding the square for a better view and to avoid animal cruelty.
Please be a responsible traveler and stay away from all the performers using animals. It is cruelty to animals, and we should never encourage that as travelers around the world.
The souks of Marrakech
Some other places you simply must visit when wandering the Medina of Marrakech are the souks. The souks of Marrakech are among the finest souks in the Islamic world. These incredible souks consist of narrow streets filled with everything from crafts, arts, and workshops. It is a perfect way to experience the work of the locals and maybe even find a souvenir or two. Below you will find a list of the souks inside the Medina of Marrakech.
Souk Smata: This is your go-to for the beautiful embroidered Moroccan slippers. Every shop in this souk sells pointy-toed slippers, also known as babouches.
Souk Haddadine: This is the souk of the blacksmiths. Here you will find lanterns strung in almost every shop, giving this souk a magical and fairy-like appearance.
Souk Cherratin: If you are looking for leather goods this is the souk to visit. Here you will find everything from bags, wallets, belts, and purses.
Souk Zrabia: This is the souk to visit for some stunning rugs and carpets.
Souk El Attarine: This souk is probably the most famous one – the perfume and spice souk. Here you will be met with an incredible mix of colors and smells, as well as large piles of exotic spices.
Stunning attractions inside the Medina
When you stroll through the labyrinthine alleys of the Medina you will be able to notice that the Medina has not changed since the Middle Ages. This means that some of the biggest attractions in Marrakech are well hidden inside the walls of the Medina. If you want to explore some of the stunning palaces of Marrakech, you should visit Bahia Palace and El Badi Palace. Another place to visit for some of the Moroccan histories is the Saadian Tombs. And lastly, there is nothing better than taking a break from the heat and tightly packed streets in Le Jardin Secret.
Best time to visit the Medina of Marrakech
The best time to visit the Medina of Marrakech is as early in the day as possible. That way you might be able to avoid some of the bigger crowds and the narrow streets have not reached the highest temperature quite yet. But no matter what time of the day you end up visiting this incredible maze you will not be disappointed by its gushing atmosphere.