We present 10 cultural and historical sights in Marrakesh: magnificent palaces, ancient mosques, great museums and secret gardens!

Top 10: Historical sights of Marrakesh

We present 10 histor­i­cal sights that should not be missed on any visit to Marrakesh and provide an overview of the city’s cultural highlights.

Marrakesh has a lot to offer — the large Jemaa el Fna square, the bustling souks, the wonder­ful rooftop terraces with views across the old medina to the High Atlas. You can easily spend a few days here just drift­ing around.

But there are also some world-class histor­i­cal sights to discover. Most of the high­lights can be found in the medina, some­times hidden away in narrow alley­ways, and can be visited almost inci­den­tally while strolling through the souk.

Moor­ish archi­tec­ture, unsur­passed in its orna­men­ta­tion, can be admired in the old Koranic school Ben Youssef Madrasa and the Dar el Bacha. Orien­tal palaces such as the Bahia and Badi Palaces fire the imag­i­na­tion. As a contrast to the dusty alley­ways and to relax a little, it is worth visit­ing one of the beau­ti­ful gardens such as the Jardin Secret.

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Which historical sight should you have seen?

Which of the cultural high­lights you would like to see depends on your personal inter­ests. Here you will find an overview of the histor­i­cal sights of Marrakesh to help you get your bear­ings and plan your stay.

If you are short of time, you should concen­trate on three selected desti­na­tions: one of the gardens, a palace and a museum. 

The medina is huge and by the end of the day you have easily walked 12 kilo­me­ters or more with­out real­iz­ing it. It is there­fore advis­able to make a plan before­hand of what you want to see and make sure that the sights are not too far apart.

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Discover historical sights on walking tours and city tours

If you have two or three days in Marrakesh, you will have no prob­lem fitting some of the sugges­tions below into your wander­ings through the city. It’s worth plan­ning one day for the south of the medina and the next day for the north.

The most impor­tant sights in the north are Dar el Bacha, Jardin Secret, Ben Youssef Madrasa and the Maison de la Photographie.

In the south of the medina are the Saadian tombs, the Badi Palace and the Bahia Palace. 

The Koutoubia Mosque and the adjoin­ing Jemaa el Fna form the heart of the medina.

The Jardin Majorelle and the YSL Museum are located north of the old town in the new town and are best reached by taxi.

Anyone visit­ing Marrakesh for the first time will quickly be over­whelmed by the chaotic hustle and bustle of the medina. A guided tour with local guides makes things much easier and ensures a relaxed vaca­tion expe­ri­ence. We have there­fore selected the most beau­ti­ful city tours for you and linked them to the respec­tive sights. 

In Morocco, by the way, only certi­fied guides are allowed to offer such tours, which is why the qual­ity of such tours is usually very high and a real enrich­ment for your vacation.

For those inter­ested in art history who want to see as many of the city’s most impor­tant monu­ments as possi­ble in one day, this guided tour, which visits many impor­tant sights, is ideal: Histor­i­cal & Cultural Sight­see­ing Day Tour*. It is almost impos­si­ble to visit so much in one day on your own, because a good part of the time would be spent search­ing, queu­ing and find­ing your way around.

The best historical highlights of Marrakesh

1. Jardin Majorelle

The top 10 historical sights of Marrakesh: The Jardin Majorelle.
The Jardin Majorelle

The Blue Villa of the painter Majorelle, which was saved from decay by Yves Saint Laurent along with its garden, is the most visited sight in Morocco.

The beau­ti­ful gardens are one of the high­lights of a visit to Marrakesh. Lovers of cacti in all shapes and sizes will get their money’s worth.

The iconic villa now houses a Berber museum that is well worth a visit.

Tick­ets with admis­sion times are only avail­able online*the queues at the gates to the garden were simply too long. Combined tick­ets for the garden and the Yves Saint Laurent Museum are also available.

You can find more infor­ma­tion about the garden in our blog post Jardin Majorelle — discover the garden of Yves Saint Laurent.

2. Ben Youssef Madrasa

The 500-year-old Koranic school Ben Youssef Madrasa is one of the most impor­tant cultural and histor­i­cal monu­ments in Morocco.

The archi­tec­ture and deco­ra­tion of the Ben Youssef Madrasa are of exquis­ite beauty. An absolute high­light for art enthu­si­asts and archi­tec­ture lovers.

The Top 10: historical sights of Marrakesh: the Ben Youssef Madrasa.
The Ben Youssef Madrasa

After years of reno­va­tion work, the Koranic school is finally open again and shines in new splendor.

You can find a detailed descrip­tion of the history and art-histor­i­cal details in our arti­cle: Ben Youssef Madrasa — the old Koranic school.

As the build­ing in the middle of the souk is not easy to find, a guided tour of the Ben Youssef Madrasa in combi­na­tion with the Jardin Secret* is recommended.

3. Saadian tombs

The top 10 historical sights of Marrakesh: The Saadian Tombs.
The Saadian Tombs

The Saadian tombs, or Saadite tombs, are located in the south of the medina. A true gem of Muslim architecture.

500 years ago, the sultans and their wives were buried here in vari­ous mausoleums in the former garden of a mosque.

Closed off with thick walls 300 years later to erase the memory of the Saadian dynasty, the tombs were only redis­cov­ered by chance at the begin­ning of the 20th century. 

The complex is not large, but the opulence and vari­ety of forms of the old tomb site is impres­sive. If you don’t want to plunge into the hustle and bustle of the medina on your own, you can take this Koutoubia Mosque, the Saadian Tombs, the Bahia Palace and the south­ern part of the medina tour*.

4. Bahia Palace

The large Bahia Palace in the south of the medina is one of Marrakesh’s most popu­lar crowd-pullers. The exten­sive complex, which was built in the 19th century, is impres­sive due to its size and richly deco­rated rooms. 

The large inner court­yard of the harem, around which the rooms for the sultan’s 80 concu­bines were arranged, is partic­u­larly impressive.

The top 10 historical sights of Marrakesh: The Bahia Palace.
The Bahia Palace

The beau­ti­ful, lush inner court­yard surround­ing the offi­cial recep­tion rooms, on the other hand, is more charm­ing. Other parts of the build­ing include the sultan’s private living quar­ters and the cham­bers of his four wives.

The Bahia Palace is always busy, so it is worth visit­ing early in the morn­ing to enjoy the court­yards in all their splen­dor. To avoid the queues and discover the palace with your own guide, you can take a guided tour of the Bahia Palace*.

5. Koutoubia

The top 10 historical sights of Marrakesh: The Koutoubia Mosque.
The Koutoubia Mosque

The Koutoubia Mosque is omnipresent in Marrakesh. The streets of the new town are laid out around it and in the medina it serves as orien­ta­tion point from the roof terraces.

The tower, which is consid­ered a land­mark of the city, has been stand­ing here for 800 years and also survived the severe earth­quake in 2023.

Inside, the Koutoubia has room for 25,000 worship­pers. Unfor­tu­nately, tourists cannot visit the mosque or the tower itself, but the large square in front of the mosque is perfect for a few unmis­tak­able vaca­tion photos.

There is a small garden behind the mosque, which offers beau­ti­ful views of the tower and is a good place to take a break. 

You can also visit the Koutoubia on your own, but if you want more back­ground infor­ma­tion, you can get it on this guided tour*which, in addi­tion to the Koutoubia Mosque, also visits the Bahia Palace and the Saadian Tombs.

Are you looking for a hotel in Marrakesh?

Our charm­ing Riad Selouane in the Medina offers the best ratings, break­fast on the roof terrace and first-class service!

Riad Selouane Marrakesh: the pool in the courtyard

6. Dar el Bacha — Musée des Confluences

The old royal palace Dar el Bacha is one of the most beau­ti­ful exam­ples of a Moroc­can palace and today houses the Musée des Conflu­ences, among other things.

The museum show­cases Moroc­can arts and crafts tech­niques that have been used to deco­rate palaces and mosques since ancient times.

The Top 10: historical sights of Marrakesh: The Bacha-Confluences Museum.
The Bacha-Conflu­ences Museum

But not only the museum is worth a visit, the palace itself with its inner court­yard planted with orange trees and richly deco­rated walls is also worth a visit.

And above all, it has the best coffee in town. You can find out more about this small but elegant café in our blog arti­cle about the Bacha Coffee House — Maître du Moka.

The Musée des Conflu­ences is well worth a visit on this guided Medina High­lights Tour*.

7. Jardin Secret

The Top 10: historical sights of Marrakesh: The Jardin Secret.
The Jardin Secret

In the middle of the noisy hustle and bustle of the medina, there is an oasis of tran­quil­lity: the secret garden — the Jardin Secret.

Sitting on one of the benches, watch­ing the waving grass, listen­ing to the birds chirp­ing — and know­ing that the chaos of the medina is raging behind the wall — gives a visit to this garden a very special flair.

There was already a palace garden here in the Middle Ages, which was only brought back to life a few years ago. Even the old irri­ga­tion system still works and supplies the garden with water.

The plants have now grown consid­er­ably and the Jardin Secret is a lovely place to take a break amidst the lush green­ery. Not far from the Riad Selouane, we also like to have lunch in the small restau­rant in the garden.

The Jardin Secret is located in the souk district, so a guided tour of the souk with a visit to the garden and the Koran school* is recommended.

8. Badi-Palast

This was once the most beau­ti­ful, largest and most magnif­i­cent palace complex in the entire Maghreb. Today, only ruins remain, but even these are still impres­sive due to their sheer size.

In its heyday, the palace, which was much larger than today’s ruins, was consid­ered one of the wonders of the Islamic world.

The Top 10: historical sights of Marrakesh: The Badi Palace.
The Badi-Palast

Unfor­tu­nately, the palace was destroyed several centuries ago when subse­quent dynas­ties used it as a source of mate­ri­als for their own build­ing projects. In addi­tion, the follow­ing rulers wanted to thor­oughly erad­i­cate the memory of the Saadite sultans.

The palace’s current land­mark is the many storks that live here. Marrakesh is famous for its storks, which nest mainly in the south of the medina and can be seen all over the city. 

The three most impor­tant cultural monu­ments in the south­ern medina can be expe­ri­enced on this guided tour: Badi Palace, Bahia Palace and the Saadian Tombs*.

9. Maison de la Photographie

The Top 10: historical sights of Marrakesh: The Maison de la Photographie.
The Maison de la Photographie

If you want to know what the souks of Marrakesh looked like 100 years ago, you should defi­nitely visit the photog­ra­phy museum.

Not far from the Ben Youssef Madrasa is this small, private collec­tion of old photographs, which displays its trea­sures in chang­ing exhibitions.

The old photographs impres­sively show the lives of people from times gone by.

In some of the pictures, a compar­i­son with today is almost inevitable — did the people them­selves change or is it mainly the modern objects that distin­guish today’s photos from the old ones?

We always find it excit­ing to immerse ourselves in the old days, and the small souvenir store, where copies of the old pictures are sold, also offers inter­est­ing finds.

A nice alter­na­tive to the usual city tours is this tour by tuktuk*which also visits the Maison de la Photogra­phie as well as the Jardin Secret.

10. Yves Saint Laurent Museum

After the death of the great fash­ion designer, his part­ner commis­sioned the construc­tion of this museum oppo­site the Jardin Majorelle.

Sketches, designs and garments from his collec­tions are exhib­ited in the modern premises.

Another room is dedi­cated to the painter Jacques Majorelle and his works, who built the garden of the same name that YSL acquired.

The Top 10: historical sights of Marrakesh: The Maison de la Photographie.
The Yves Saint Laurent Museum
Photo by Nico­las Mathéus

The build­ing itself is worth a visit: the success­ful combi­na­tion of the cool auster­ity of the lines with the colors and textures of Moroc­can archi­tec­ture is a great gesture to the fash­ion designer and the city he loved so much.

Tick­ets for the Yves Saint Laurent Museum* are avail­able online, as are combined tick­ets with the Jardin Majorelle. The Majorelle and YSL Museum Tour* visits both the museum and the garden and offers a private trans­fer from your hotel.

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Marrakesh offers many histor­i­cal sights that are defi­nitely worth a visit!

Looking for more information about Marrakesh?

Visit our travel guide to learn more about the sights of Marrakesh and Morocco!

Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh
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