Located in North Africa on the border of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea lies the beautiful country of Morocco (officially known as the Kingdom of Morocco). The country is best known for its riads, souks, cumin (main spice), maze-like medinas, and the vibrant rich colors and intricate patterns of their buildings. The official language is Arabic, but French, Spanish, and English are also spoken. In this guide, you will find the top places to visit on your next trip to Morocco. Cities highlighted in this guide include Casablanca, Fes, Marrakech, and the capital city Rabat.
Top Places to Visit
Hassan II Mosque
Located in Casablanca, the Hassan II Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world and the second largest in Africa. The mosque was commissioned by King Hassan II in 1980 to create a single landmark in Casablanca. Construction began in 1986 and was completed in 1993. Only Muslims can enter the mosque, while Non-Muslim visitors can only enter with a tour guide. Guided 1-hour tours are available throughout the day in English.
Additionally, while in the area, you should take a 15-minute ride down to La Corniche neighbor. Here, you can take a nice walk along Boulevard de la Corniche, catch a movie at the local theatre, and grab a bite to eat from various restaurants. You can also opt to sit outside and enjoy your meal while looking out at the Atlantic Ocean. La Corniche neighborhood is also popular for nightlife (bars, pubs, clubs), beach clubs, and hotels. There are two beaches nearby, but I would not recommend them.
Located in the Fes Medina (a UNESCO World Heritage site), the Chouara Tannery is one of three tanneries in Morocco and the largest and oldest. To make the leather, animal hides are softened by soaking in large vessels that contain either white liquids made up of limestone, cow urine, pigeon feces, salt, and water or dyes. You will be taken aback by the smell when entering the tannery. To make the experience more enjoyable for visitors, shopkeepers will give fresh mint leaves to sniff. It makes a difference! You will need more than one mint leaf (a bunch) or opt to spend less time viewing the workers and the leather-making process. While visiting the tannery, you will have an opportunity to shop at various stores for authentic leather bags, jackets, purses, wallets, shoes, and much more! Because this tannery is located in the Fes Medina, it is best to hire a guide to avoid getting lost. If not, hopefully, you will find your way using maps on your phone.
From Fes or Meknes, you can take a day trip to get to the well-preserved Roman ruins of the lost city of Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Volubilis was founded by the Romans in the 3rd century B.C. and abandoned in the 11th century A.D. Today, only half of the site has been excavated. I enjoyed Volubilis as I did not expect to see Roman ruins in Morocco. I thought it was quite amazing to hear about the history of Volubilis while looking at the tall pillars, mosaic floors, pools, and the triumphal arch because it allowed me to imagine what the city once looked like and how the Romans lived. To get the most of your trip to Volubilis and understand its history, it is best to hire a tour guide.
Located in Marrakech, you will find Majorelle Garden which was created in the 1920s by French painter Jacques Majorelle. After the garden was neglected for some time, Yves Saint Laurent, a fashion designer, and his partner Pierre Berge restored and owned this garden and residence where he would visit from time to time for inspiration. The garden is beautiful, full of life, and contains an exquisite collection of plants. It is also “Instagram famous” for its stairway, which will be easy to find based on the long line of tourists waiting to get a picture.
Jemaa el-Fna Square
Located in the Medina of Marrakesh (a UNESCO World Heritage site) is Jemaa el-Fna Square. Here, you can find food, fresh juice, souvenir shops, snake charmers, souks, and more! Since there are a lot of shops here, be sure to bargain with the owners for items you’re interested in purchasing. The same rule applies when shopping in other cities of Morocco. Additionally, while visiting the medina, you can attend a cooking demonstration. The cooking demonstration I attended showed and explained to us the process of making couscous, which a staple dish in Morocco. Usually, it takes a few hours to prepare from scratch. But for the sake of time, I had the chance to taste couscous that had been prepared earlier in the day. The taste is much more authentic when made from scratch than the prepackaged version from the local grocery store. Eating couscous is a must when visiting Morocco.
Located in Rabat is the ancient walled town of Chellah. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chellah is made up of a fortress wall, columns, statues, a necropolis, a school, gardens, and much more. Chellah was once a Phonecian trading market and then became a town when the Romans took over. After the Romans lost control, Christian Berbers took over and later abandoned it. Years later, Arab Muslims claimed Challah and turned it into a sacred burial site.
While visiting, you will also see storks, their massive nests, and a few cats lounging in the shade. You do not need a tour guide to visit Chellah, but a guide would be helpful if you want to learn about its history and the ruins within it.
Other Recommendations and Tips
- When you hear someone shout “Balak!” move out the way as quickly as possible. It could be a vehicle, mule drivers, or handcarts coming through on the narrow streets and alleys in the medinas (i.e. Fes Medina).
- Take a visit to Bahia Palace in Marrakech. You can visit the courtyard area and a few rooms, while the rest are closed to visitors as it is still used by the King of Morocco for visiting government officials and events.
- Visit Chefchaouen, where the city is painted in various shades of blue. If you do not have time to visit Chefchaouen, visit Kasbah des Oudaias (UNESCO World Heritage site) in Rabat for colorful blue and white alleyways.