10 Best Cities to Visit in Morocco

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From winding medieval market streets and snow-capped mountains to wind-swept coastlines and sun-drenched deserts, Morocco is a country located in Northern Africa that is full of incredible variety and beauty.

Having recently returned from Morocco, on a tour all around the country in our vintage camper, we've selected what we think are the 10 best cities to visit in Morocco that are not to be missed!

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Old Town viewed from the fishing port in Essaouira, Morocco
Family riding camels in the Sahara Desert in Merzouga, Morocco
The Painted Rocks giant art installation, outside of Tafraoute, Morocco
View of the beach in Taghazout, Morocco
Family exploring the Blue City of Chefchaoun, Morocco
Inside a shop full of golden lanterns in Marrakesh, Morocco
The winding road through the Dades Gorges in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Horse and carriage outside the palace walls in Meknes, Morocco
Art Deco buildings and former cinema in Sidi Ifni, Morocco
The city walls of Fes, Morocco

Essaouira

Located on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, an easy short hop from Marrakesh, sits the beautiful city of Essaouira. An important fishing port for centuries, the city’s visual appeal has seen it often used as a backdrop for the big screen.

Sunshine and Atlantic trade winds have acted as a magnet for water sports enthusiasts, with art galleries and beach bars completing the bohemian vibe. It’s Morocco in a nutshell and a great place to hang out for a few days.

Best Bits...

  • Morocco’s only pre-planned old town medina (market) - Spacious and hassle-free to explore and free from the claustrophobia experienced elsewhere, the medina nonetheless contains the expected range of shops and atmospheric souks.
  • UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kasbah; the fortified coastal defences surrounding the old town.
  • Sandy beach, suitable for chilling or taking a camel or horse ride.
  • Centre of expertise for kite surfing - lessons and hire readily available, with an inland lagoon for beginners not yet ready to take on the waves.
  • Lively evening atmosphere with rooftop and beachfront licensed bars, some with live music.

Bad Bits...

  • Persistent winds mean the beach is not always the best for relaxing on.
  • High alcohol prices, when compared to Southern Europe.

Eat… At the far end of the beach from the old town, ‘Ocean Vagabond’ is a great spot to relax at sunset after a long day walking and exploring the city. They have a great drinks menu (including all types of alcohol), decent pizzas as well as a full food menu, and a good range of seats and loungers that look out onto the beach.

Stay… Palazzo Desdemona is wonderfully located in the heart of the medina. This guesthouse occupies a beautiful historic building full of antique charm and has a panoramic roof terrace with city and sea views.

Don’t Miss… Just outside Essaouira, on the main road to Marrakech, is the ‘goat tree’. Known for naturally climbing Argan trees to graze on the fruits, these goats have been pushed a step further by an enterprising local farmer who has placed them as a group in a tree at the roadside. It makes for an amusing distraction and an excellent photo opportunity, especially as the goats all seem happy enough.

For more from our family trip to Essaouira, check out the Top 5 Things to do with Children in Essaouira.

Merzouga

At the centre of Morocco’s desert tourism industry, Merzouga sits tucked in at the base of the mountainous red dunes of the Sahara Desert. It boasts a range of traditionally constructed, yet also luxurious, hotels and desert camps. The abundance of camels, the desert backdrop and night skies filled with endless stars make this a beautiful place to visit in Morocco like no other.

Best Bits...

  • Easy access to the dunes of the Sahara - fun to explore by day and with brilliant stars above on a clear night.
  • Ride camels into the desert to stay overnight at a luxury desert camp, with tents complete with high-end furniture and ensuite bathrooms.

Bad Bits...

  • The rate of ongoing construction and expansion of hotels risks tarnishing the unique atmosphere.
  • Accommodation very spread out around the town. Hard to explore without independent transport.

Eat… L’entrecôte Merzouga has a great varied menu; the food is all freshly cooked and delicious, the staff are some of the nicest people you’ll meet and, best of all, the prices are incredibly reasonable.

Stay…

  • At the foot of the dunes lies Hotel Kasbah Moyahut, a beautiful desert hotel made of a traditional mud construction and an entrance foyer full of desert fossils. There is a good assortment of outdoor spaces to relax in with comfy seating, a pool, and a licensed rooftop bar with desert views.
  • For a desert camp that is a cut above the usual offerings attached to hotels, head to the luxurious Sahara Stars Camp. The tents are stunning and come with great beds and ensuite bathrooms.

Don’t Miss… A short drive from Merzouga, it is possible to visit the ‘Pigeons du Sable’ (or Pigeons of the Desert); a musical group based within the Gnaoua community that descended from South-Sudanese slaves. Once reserved only for ceremonial celebrations, they now play their traditional (and loud!) music to people visiting their village. It’s something you won’t forget in a hurry.

For more from our time in the desert, check out Merzouga, a Moroccan Desert Adventure.

Tafraoute

Think mountains in Morocco and most people will think of the High-Atlas. While these are beautiful and worthy of a visit, if you want to escape the waves of Marrakesh day-trippers, head south to their little brother, the Anti-Atlas Mountains.

In a valley at the centre of the Anti-Atlas Mountains is the town of Tafroute, which is surrounded by dramatic red granite landscapes and other-worldly scenery. Strategically sited on ancient trade routes, the town now makes the perfect base for those looking for some outdoor adventure.

Best Bits...

  • Endless mountain scenery and trails, perfect for hiking, mountain biking and climbing.
  • A surprisingly smart and pleasant town, considering its position in the middle of nowhere.
  • Unforgettable drives and viewpoints on the roads in and out of town.

Bad Bits...

  • Not much to do beyond outdoor or mountain pursuits.
  • Difficult and time-consuming to reach by road.

Eat, Stay... The stunning Auberge Kasbah Chez Amaliya is a delightful hotel and restaurant laid out around a central swimming pool, set right under the watchful eye of the so-called 'lion's head' rock in the mountains above.

Don't Miss… The 'Painted Rocks' - A popular short drive or bike ride outside Tafraoute brings you to the 'Blue' or 'Painted' Rocks. Originally created by a Belgian artist, an enormous area of wilderness granite boulders have been painted in bright colours of predominantly blue, but with some also in radiant shades of red, yellow and orange. Love it or hate it as an idea, it really is unlike anything else you'll ever see. You have to see it to believe it.

For more from our trip to Tafraoute, check out our epic road trip across southern Morocco, Morocco: From the Atlantic to the Sahara.

Taghazout

Morocco’s surf capital, Taghazout, is now a big player on the international surf scene. From humble beginnings, a blossoming surf and yoga industry has emerged to engulf this former fishing village on Morocco’s southern Atlantic coast.

The town boasts a beautiful, long sandy bay, and a good selection of accommodation and restaurants to match. Whether expert, beginner or only a beach towel spectator, if you’re interested in surfing in Morocco, this is definitely the place to come.

Best Bits...

  • International surf and yoga scene - lessons, hire and complete packages all readily available.
  • Consistent waves and year-round sunshine.
  • Range of surf spots and conditions around the town to suit surfers of all abilities.
  • Varied restaurant options with decent vegan and health food options.

Bad Bits...

  • Town infrastructure struggles to cope with the influx of international and domestic tourists during the peak summer season, with overcrowding an issue at times.
  • The current small-town charm that exists is at threat from the ongoing rapid construction of international hotel chains and luxury apartments all around the town.

Eat… Enjoy tasty and freshly-cooked burgers at the family-friendly Chez Titrite Restaurant.

Stay… The original surf and yoga guesthouse operator, and still arguably the best, is Surf Maroc. It has highly-rated rooms for hire and specialises in organised and bespoke surf and yoga holidays.

Don’t Miss… Every year, the World Surf League comes to town, with the hosting of the Pro Taghazout Bay event. Expect pro surfers, an atmosphere of excitement and impromptu parties in the guesthouses and surf lodges around town.

To see more from our trip to this beach, check out Sun, Sand, Surf & Camels in Taghazout.

Chefchaoun

A backpacker favourite, Chefchaoun in Morocco’s northern Rif Mountains, has long been famed for being at the epicentre of Morocco’s cannabis production industry (rumoured to produce half of the world’s hashish in the farms around the town). Whether or not you view that as positive, it shouldn’t put you off visiting.

The town is also undoubtedly Morocco’s prettiest, with narrow, winding streets and alleyways lined with buildings all painted in blue. It’s a picture-perfect, friendly and laid-back place to visit, far removed from the stresses of everyday life.

Best Bits...

  • Picturesque streets wind their way up the hillside, presenting photo opportunities around every corner.
  • The lively central square with evening street entertainers.
  • Centre for handicrafts, especially woven goods and brightly-coloured carpets, all at reasonable prices when compared to the larger cities (but, like anywhere in Morocco, still always expect to haggle hard).
  • Excellent mountain walking opportunities to viewpoints in the surrounding hills.

Bad Bits...

  • Hillside setting with winding streets and stairways may not be suitable for people with mobility issues (or those who don’t like walking up hills!).
  • Difficult and time-consuming to reach the town along winding mountain roads.

Eat… Centrally located and serving up excellent Moroccan food is the lovely Sofia Restaurant. It is a cut above the rest of the other average, generic offerings that surround it.

Stay… Located just outside of town, but with connecting shuttle service, is the relaxing rural retreat of Dar Wadada. It is complete with beautiful rooms and mountain views.

Don’t Miss… The ‘Spanish Mosque’ - Never actually used as a mosque, it is located high up on the hillside on the other side of the valley from the town, with an easy walking trail leading up to it. It’s great to visit at sunset for unforgettable views back across the striking blue town below.

Marrakesh

Marrakesh (or Marrakech) is Morocco’s number 1 tourist destination, popular as a year-round spot for a city break. The energy of the city with its extravagant sights, sounds and smells is a pretty unique feast for the senses. It’s everything you’d expect from a trip to Morocco.

However, in some ways, the city has become a victim of its own success, with ever-increasing crowds bringing associated problems with them. Far from my favourite place in the country, I’d still recommend anyone to experience it at least once.

Best Bits…

  • The Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. Unique to Marrakesh, and the heartbeat of the old city medina, everything centres around this focal point of the square. Think musicians, street hustlers, market stalls, outdoor dining and even snake charmers, all packed in together and exciting to experience both day and night.
  • Extensive and atmospheric medina market area, with an unrivalled variety of shops and stalls.
  • Excellent hammams for a traditional spa experience.
  • Pleasant parks and gardens make for good, calmer, alternative spaces for escaping the bustle of the city.

Bad Bits…

  • Hassle and misinformation worse than anywhere else in Morocco. Frustrating and tiring to deal with after a few days.
  • Prices tend to be on the high side for Morocco.
  • Can feel overcrowded with tourists, especially at busy times and at the most popular places. Large tour groups are commonplace.
  • Motorbikes are allowed through the narrow, crowded lanes of the medina and are a constant menace.

Eat… For a break from the usual Moroccan offerings, try out some delicious Lebanese cuisine at the excellent Naranj restaurant.

Stay… Riad Azra Marrakech offers well furnished, great value rooms right in the heart of the medina and only a short walk from the Jemaa el-Fnaa Square.

Don’t Miss… The 19th Century Bahia Palace is a beautiful former Royal Palace that is open to visitors. It’s full of ornate, geometric decorations and is easily accessible from the main medina area for an alternative experience of the city.

For a round-up of our experience in the city, check out The Best and Worst of Marrakesh.

The Atlas Mountains and 2 Gorges

The majestic, snow-capped High-Atlas Mountain range runs through the centre of Morocco and forms a beautiful backdrop to the Marrakesh city skyline. The incredible, varied scenery includes traditional Berber villages, waterfalls, epic gorges and even (limited) skiing in winter.

Best Bits…

  • Within easy reach from Marrakesh - perfect for a single or multi-day tour from the city, with plenty of options readily available.
  • Endless opportunities for trekking through the mountain scenery, either with an organised group or independently. Traditional shepherd’s tracks used for centuries criss-cross the landscape, providing well-trodden paths to follow.
  • Morocco’s two finest gorges are located on the southern side of the mountains: The Dades Gorges with its impressive geological features and steep switchback hairpins on the road to the top, and the Todra Gorge with its enormous vertical granite cliffs, a favourite with rock climbers.

Bad Bits…

  • Very popular with day-trippers from Marrakesh - can lose some of the feelings of magic in places due to the crowds. Some of the ‘traditional’ customs on display can feel a bit staged as a result.
  • Endless roadworks on the main road over the mountains make for slow progress.

Eat… At the Todra Gorge, the Dar Al Manadir Todra Gorge comes with a great roof terrace offering up views of the gorge and the surrounding mountainous countryside. The restaurant serves set menus that come recommended.

Stay… Also at the Todra Gorge, the Hotel Les Roches is located within easy reach of the gorge and is well placed to service the climbing crowd. The restaurant also caters to coach trip groups at lunchtimes.

Don’t Miss… Descending from the mountains on the southern side, coming on the main road from Marrakesh, brings you past the traditional mud-brick town of Aït Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Aït Benhaddou was used as a backdrop for Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ movie. This has ensured it has been immaculately maintained and makes for a lovely place to stop and wander around, even if it is a bit of a tourist magnet for the tour parties passing through.

Meknes

One of the four imperial cities of Morocco, Meknes was the capital of the country and the greater Moorish empire under the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismail in the 17th and 18th centuries. The city boasts an impressive, though crumbling, architectural legacy from this era, with grand city walls and palaces built in a Spanish-Moorish style.

Best Bits…

  • Despite its historical significance, Meknes receives very few foreign visitors when compared to the other major cities in Morocco, making for a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere for exploring.
  • The old Royal Stables make for a compelling visit, constructed with space for the thousands of horses that made up the Royal army of the past.
  • The horse and carts for hire are the most ornately decorated of any we saw in Morocco. Trips are reasonably priced and take you to some enchanting locations around the city, mostly along quiet, traffic-free roads.

Bad Bits…

  • Beyond the small old town and surrounding historical buildings, there is not too much else to see here. A day trip is plenty for seeing the city’s sights.

Eat… Restaurant Baraka is located inside a family house and serves up traditional and delicious Moroccan food in a beautiful environment.

Stay… Riad El Ma has good sized rooms with private bathrooms, set in a historic building. The guesthouse has the bonus of an outdoor swimming pool for use during the summer months.

Don’t Miss… Located 30km north of Meknes are the archeological remains of the once important Berber and Roman city of Volubilis. Flattened by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, sections of the town have since been expertly reconstructed. There are some well-preserved and impressive floor mosaics, including some noteworthy ones that incorporate elements of both Roman and Berber design in their patterns.

Sidi Ifni

On the Atlantic coast in Morocco’s deep south sits Sidi Ifni. With a long colonial history of Spanish occupation and control only coming to an end in the 1950s, the small city displays this legacy with an architectural style quite different to other places surrounding it.

Striking Art Deco buildings are slowly crumbling, but still retain a lot of their grandeur. The area around Sidi Ifni is also home to some great Atlantic, sandy beaches.

Best Bits…

  • The best of the Spanish, Art Deco buildings surround the Place Hassan II roundabout.
  • The best beach in the area is at Legzira, just north of Sidi Ifni. Popular with paragliders who descend from the clifftops, Legzira Beach makes a lovely, relaxed spot to sit and enjoy the seemingly never-ending sunshine. Surfboards can also be rented on the beach.

Bad Bits…

  • Sidi Ifni is in a part of the country that still retains a more conservative viewpoint than in other areas. Expect to see stricter standards of dress for women and a scarcity of alcohol on offer.

Eat… The pick of places to eat is Le Nomad restaurant. Inspired by French cuisine and consistently busy, this is a lovely little spot serving up tasty and fresh local food.

Stay… Logis La Marine is positioned right on the seafront with unbeatable ocean views. It offers smart rooms with private bathrooms.

Don’t Miss… Each summer (usually in June), Sidi Ifni hosts its own summer festival featuring music, food and Saharan activities.

Fes

Fes (or Fez) is Morocco’s second-largest city. It is home to an ancient old town and medina. The medina sits in a natural bowl and its cramped, winding and slightly claustrophobic lanes make for a very atmospheric place to explore. Grand boulevards and gardens surround the city centre.

Best Bits...

  • The medina in Fes is unrivalled when it comes to providing the classic, Moroccan shopping experience. Wooden handicrafts and Berber woven carpets are particular local specialisms. It is also free of motorbikes, which is a real blessing when compared to Marrakesh.
  • The grand Blue Gate marks arguably the most exceptional entrance into the old city. Cafes line the entrance, making for a great people-watching spot.
  • The ancient leather tannery in Fes is the most interesting and colourful of any in Morocco. Terraced galleries (within giftshops) can be entered for free for a view down on the action.

Bad Bits…

  • While not on the same scale as Marrakesh, Fes is also not unfortunately free from similar kinds of hassle and misinformation. It sometimes seems like everybody wants to direct you the wrong way all the time. The area around the tannery is perhaps the worst for this.

Eat… In the heart of the medina sits the Ruined Garden. Its beautiful walled garden is truly an oasis of calm and a great place to escape the business of the surrounding city. It serves tasty, fresh food with an emphasis on vegetarian dishes.

Stay… Hotel Dar Anne has a great location and offers modern and artistic rooms within a historic building. A beautiful roof terrace provides the perfect place to relax and enjoy the sunshine while taking a break from exploring the city.

Don’t Miss… Close to the Blue Gate, just outside the old city, is the Garden of Jnan Sbil. The extensive garden offers a pleasant place to walk around or relax in the shade if needing a break from the heat of the city.

In Summary

Morocco is a friendly and welcoming country full of endless colour and diversity, just waiting to be explored. Whatever type of holiday you're after, be it a city break, beach, mountain or desert adventure, Morocco has it all. I hope I've been able to give you some inspiration for some of the very best cities to visit in Morocco.

This article was edited by Loredana Elena and was first published on May 5, 2020 11:04 UTC.

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Written by Children of Wanderlust

Children_of_Wanderlust We are Rachel & John, a married couple from the UK with a passion for travel and exploration. Nowadays, that means bringing our 3 children, Savannah (5), Aurora (3) and Easton (1) along with us.


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