Aït Benhaddou is a fantastic example of traditional Moroccan architecture (Photo: Getty Images)

The most exotic country within touching distance of Europe, Morocco dazzles with its heady souks and sublime Islamic architecture. Spring and autumn are the optimum months for visiting Casablanca and the imperial capitals, while Essaouira and the coast are year-round destinations; you’ll need to visit outside of summer if you’re heading to the Sahara.

The best places to visit in Morocco

Rabat

Rabat

Laidback Rabat is the perfect introduction to Morocco (Photo: Getty Images)

Though Rabat is the capital of Morocco, it’s a relatively laidback city, making it the perfect introduction to the country – and an ideal weekend getaway. If you’re wondering where to go to get your bearings, head to the twelfth-century Kasbah des Oudayas, a fortified citadel that offers superb views over the Bou Regreg Estuary and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Occupying a prime position – just around the corner from the Royal Palace of Rabat, the King of Morocco’s primary residence – the Rabat Marriott Hotel is one of the best places to stay in the capital.

Marrakesh

Marrakesh

No visitor to Marrakesh forgets the intoxicating atmosphere eliciously scented smoke rising from the food stalls on the Jemaa el-Fna (Photo: Getty Images)

Is there a more evocative city in North Africa than Marrakesh? The latticework of narrow streets that make up the Medina are crammed with museums, sultans’ palaces and ancient medersas (Koranic schools), but it might just be the smells and sounds that will leave a lasting impression: the spices in the souks; the deliciously scented smoke rising from the food stalls on the Jemaa el-Fna; the call to prayer rolling out from the Koutoubia Mosque. You can live like a sultan yourself at AnaYela, Marrakesh, a Member of Design Hotels, which is set in a 300-year-old former palace and has a tranquil indoor courtyard, heated pool, and a rooftop terrace overlooking the Medina.

Casablanca

The commercial centre of Morocco, Casablanca attracts fewer tourists than the imperial capitals of Marrakesh and Fes, but it’s unlike anywhere else in the country and is one of the best places to visit on a road trip along the coast. Set on the seafront Corniche, the monumental Hassan II Mosque is one of the few religious buildings in Morocco that’s open to non-Muslims; built in 1993, its prayer hall and vast courtyard can accommodate over 100,000 worshippers. Well located for the mosque – it’s just a five-minute drive along the waterfront road – the Casablanca Marriott Hotel is also within walking distance of the city’s strikingly Art Gothic Sacred Heart Cathedral.

What to eat and drink in Morocco

Tagine

Tagine

This irresistibly rich stew is named after the type of dish that it is cooked in (Photo: Getty Images)

Named after the dish that it’s (slowly) cooked in, tagines are a staple of Moroccan cuisine. Try lamb, prunes and almonds, a rich stew that tastes even better when the tagine has been left to bake for hours in the heat from a local hammam.

Pastilla

Originally made from pigeon but now more often chicken, this crispy filo-pastry pie is one of the dishes to try on a visit to Fes. A local speciality, it’s a deliciously unusual combination of sweet and savoury.

B’sara

There are plenty of great places to eat in Morocco, but street stalls serve up some of the finest food going. You won’t have far to wander before you’ll see vendors hawking b’sara, a thick pea soup that is usually topped with a glug of olive oil and a sprinkle of cumin.

Msammen

Crispy square-shaped pancakes made from flour and semolina, msammen are served up for breakfast and are delicious drizzled with honey.

Mint tea

Mint tea

Refreshing mint tea is an essential part of Moroccan life (Photo: Getty Images)

Very hot and very sweet (yet very refreshing), mint tea is an essential part of Moroccan life, making an appearance at everything from family gatherings to business transactions.

Top things to do in Morocco

Tanneries Chouwara

The Tanneries Chouwara in Fes, where workers stand knee-deep in a honeycomb of brightly coloured vats, is one of the most unmissable sights that Morocco has to offer (Photo: Getty Images)

It is said that the Medina of Fes features 10,000 alleyways, making it one of the wonders of this UNESCO World Heritage-listed city. All paths seem to lead down to the Tanneries Chouwara, where workers stand knee-deep in a honeycomb of brightly coloured vats. It’s an unmissable sight, and easily one of the most interesting things to do in Morocco. For a respite from exploring, book a stay at the Fes Marriott Hotel Jnan Palace in the French Ville Nouvelle; the palm-tree-filled gardens here enclose an inviting pool.

The laidback seaside town of Essaouira is worth working into a Moroccan road trip, especially if you’re visiting during spring, when the breezy ramparts are a refreshing counterbalance to the sunshine. Wander down to the working port, where one of the fun things to do is to order a sardine supper from the fish stalls lining the harbourside.

The Atlas Mountains are an essential stop on any Morocco itinerary. Hiking in the hills is one of the best things to do here – head to the trekking hotspot of Imlil, in the High Atlas just outside of Marrakesh, for scenic walks between Berber villages, or to the Middle Atlas, south of Fes, which are carpeted in cedar forests and home to Barbary macaques.

Hidden gems in Morocco

Chefchaouen

The blue-tinted town of Chefchaouen is an artists’ enclave of stepped alleys and tiny doorways (Photo: Getty Images)

In the hills of northern Morocco, the blue-tinted town of Chefchaouen is an artists’ enclave of stepped alleys and tiny doorways. Part of the appeal is just wandering, especially after the hubbub of the Medinas, although there are plenty of alternative things to do here, including climbing up nearby Jebel el-Kelaa.

Head east to the Erg Chebbi, near the border with Algeria, where riding a camel out into the dunes for a night under the clearest of Saharan skies is one of the most unique things to do in Morocco. You’ll drift off to the sound of music round the campfire and wake to the sun sweeping the desert with warmth.

Go deeper

In Morocco, metered petits taxis are used to travel within towns, and you’ll usually find them gathered by the main gateways into the Medina. Set-price grands taxis, on the other hand, make the longer runs between towns and are usually shared by as many people as the driver thinks they can fit in. Riding in either kind of taxi is a truly Moroccan experience.

Published: July 26, 2022

Last Updated: March 03, 2023

Article Tags:  Marrakesh , Morocco

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