Morocco is more than Marrakech; here are my 7 favorite cities in Morocco
1. Rabat – the Capital
My favorite cities in Morocco are not easy to rate, but the capitol Rabat is such a beautiful city that it has to come high up on the list, so why not first! The city is located at the Atlantic Coast and apart being the capitol, it is one of Morocco`s 4 Cities of Kings. The others are Marrakech, Fez and Meknes. Rabat is a modern city but also has an old part, both small and pleasant. The old Medina has souqs and bazars where you can shop in peace without too pushy salesmen and the chaotic and hectic atmosphere you find in Marrakech. Rabat is a coastal town where the waves can be high and powerful. Several places you will find traces of water making the land slowly disappearing. Rabat has some very nice beaches and a seaside promenade where you can enjoy the surfers playing in the waves. The mouth of the river Bou Regreg divides Rabat from its neighbor city Salé.
Per and I celebrated New Years Eve in Rabat one year and would love to go back. What attracts us is the mix of old and new in this city. It is modern and beautiful with big avenues and young people having fun on the beach. It is old and beautiful with an old Medina and traditional life between the small alleys. The old part of the town spreads beyond the cliff with a good view over the river to Salé. The old part of Rabat is extremely photogenic with all its blue painted walls and doors. If you have an interest in photography, you can stay here for many days and find great motifs again and again.
Do not miss:
- Mausoleum Mohammed V
- Hassan Tower
- Rabat Archeological Museum
- Saint-Pierre Cathedral
2. Ouarzazate – The city of Cinema
On the other side of the High Atlas, about 4-5 hours with the bus is Ouarzazate. The city is situated on a plateau 1200 meters above sea level. Ouarzazate has had a huge increase in population for the last 6-7 years. And it is all due to the film industry. Three big film studios are located here and many well-known movies and TV-series are using the surrounding desert landscape as location. Ouarzazate is the perfect starting point for day trips into the desert or to the Draa Valley, the largest oasis in Morocco.
Ouarzazate is one of my favorite cities in Morocco because it has this very central location in relation to, in my opinion, great and marvelous desert landscape along the boarder to Algeria. The city has a modern center and an old center and can offer accommodation in all price ranges. This part of Morocco is known for its many Kasbahs. A Kasbah is like a palace built in clay and mud with tall walls and towers and few windows facing the outside environment. Kasbah Taourirt in Ouarzazate is very well preserved and serves to day as a museum. The place is worth a visit and is listed on Unesco`s World Heritage List.
Ait-Ben-Haddou is a fortified city with many great Kasbahs, it was listed on Unesco`s World Heritage List in 1987. You will find Ait-Ben-Haddou outside Ouarzazate and it is practical to take a taxi for your visit there. Scheck out a previous post about Ait-Ben-Haddou: Ait-Ben-Haddou a Jewel in the Desert.
Do not miss:
- Taourirt Kasbah in the old center
- Musee Theatre Memoire de Ouarzazate, in Skoura
- Atlas Film Studio, 5 km from city center
3. Tiznit – The Silver City
Tiznit has its own souq dedicated only to the many silversmiths in town. The city is famous for its Berber silversmith traditions and nowhere else will you find so much wedding jewelry on display. My desire to buy reached new heights as we slowly walked around in the souq an early morning. The small shops where just about to open and for the first 10 minutes I could hardly wait to get inside and see the jewelry more closer up. Rarely have I seen so many beautiful pieces of silver work. You can find everything, and I mean everything from earrings to necklaces so big that they can only functions as wall hangings. Shopping in Tiznit is relaxing and prizes are much less than in many other cities in Morocco. After shopping you can enjoy a cup of mint tea at the place outside the souq.
Tiznit is located not far from the coast in the southern part of Morocco. The city has about 50.000 inhabitants and was founded in 1881 by Sultan Hassan I. In Tiznit you will also find the natural water source called; Lady of Tiznit. It is said that she was a local prostitute who repented her sins and became a holy woman. To day the area is a building site because they are building a fountain for the water.
If you want to explore the southern part of Morocco then Tiznit is a perfect starting point. The area along the coast south of Tiznit has many nice beaches and it is not far from Agadir, about 2 hours drive north.
Do not miss:
- Beach Lagzira south of Tiznit and just north of Sidi Ifni
4. Tafraoute – The Mountain City
In Anti Atlas, the heart of Berber Country, the small city Tafraoute is situated in an amazing valley surrounded by mountains. The route from Tiznit to Tafraoute is an adventure with a view you very rarely find elsewhere. Tafraoute is very populate among mountain climbers and there are petroglyphs in the neighborhood. You will not find the same and varied product range as in Marrakech, but the selection of shoes is large. The shoes are hand sewn at the spot and the prizes are about a third of what they are in other bigger cities. So no need to bargain!
I experienced the city as a very cozy and small town and it was pleasant just to wander around. That’s one of the reasons Tafraoute is one of my favorite cities in Morocco. The surrounding area in Anti Atlas is exciting and wildly beautiful. With Tafraoute as a starting point, you can easy use a whole week to explore.
About 4 km from Tafraoute the Belgian painter Jean Veran has made his stunning Land Art project. The stones in Tafraoute where painted in 1984 with the help from local firemen. 18 tons of paint where sprayed over parts of the landscape. The result is great! Read more about this project in an earlier post: Land Art in Tafraoute, Morocco.
Do not miss:
- Land Art by Jean Veran
- La Maison Traditionelle, 6 km outside in the village Oumesnate, both museum and accommodation.
5. Taroudant – Little Marrakech
Taroudant is called Little Marrakech but also The Grandmother of Marrakech. This is because it is very similar to Marrakech, but in a smaller version. The city has around 65.000 inhabitants and is situated on the plains in Sous Valley south of High Atlas. It’s a little too far for a day trip from Marrakech, but the route over Tizi-N-Test pass from Taroudant to Marrakech is considered one of the most beautiful routes in Morocco. We have written a post earlier about this route through the pass: Tizi-N-Test Pass through the High Atlas.
The town is well known for their craftsmen, nice carpets and leatherwork. There are several market places, both a Berber market and an Arabian market. The city is mostly concentrated inside the well-preserved and beautiful city walls. You will get better and cheaper things in the markets here than in Marrakech. A walk along the city walls on the outside in the afternoon is recommended. The colors of the clay will change from light brown to dark red, depending on the sun. A trip with a horse and carriage is also nice in the evening.
Do not miss:
- Berber Market
- Arabian Market
6. Fez – City of Tanneries
Fez is one of Morocco`s 4 Cities of Kings and a bit smaller than Marrakech. This makes it somewhat easier to get an overview of the city. But be careful, it’s still easy to get lost! Unlike Marrakech, Fez is located in a hilly landscape and the main street of the Medina goes up and down. The biggest tanneries in Fez are probably the most photographed spot in Morocco and a colorful experience. The whole Median in Fez is listed on Unesco`s World Heritage List.
I find Fez more authentic than Marrakech, but that’s only my personal opinion! Fez has many nice restaurants and cozy cafe`s where you can sit on the roof terrace and enjoy a glass of vine.
Do not miss:
- Chaouwara tanneries
- Bou Inania Madrasa, one of the few religious places in Morocco open to non-Muslims.
- Kairaouine Mosque is on of the largest in Africa
- Batha Museum is an earlier summer palace, to day a museum with art and craft
7. Marrakech – City of diversity
For a first-time visitor this chaos can be both confusing and scary. Especially for a Western not used to bargain and negotiating, the bazaars and souqs in the Marrakech Medina are a big challenge.
Out from the central square in the Medina, Jemaa El Fna, the narrow streets and alleys spreads outwards in an infinite labyrinth. Here in the bazaars and souks you can by almost everything. Closest to the square you will find mostly cheap stalls with typical souvenirs and other tourist stuff. Everywhere you will see a motley assortment of soccer jerseys. You have to walk further into the labyrinth of the Medina to find more exiting stalls and shops and do a good buy. Here you will find the souks with its small workshops for nearly every craft tradition. There are souks specializing in carpets, shoos, jewelry, metalwork, clothes, spices, fruit and vegetables and most of them are situated north of Jemaa El Fna.
The first thing you should do is to get a good map of the Medina. Consider also whether to use half a day on a guide to take you through the labyrinth of the Medina and show you the most important and exiting areas. The Tourist Office is placed on Jemaa El Fna.
If you get lost in the Medina, and that is really easy, you will soon be approach by young boys eager to show you the way back to where ever you want. They may not take the shortest path, though! Be also aware that they will be well paid and can be quite aggressive if they are not pleased with the payment you offer them. If you need to ask for directions, ask a woman. I have many good experiences with that. Street names are written in many different ways and that can cause confusion.
Go to cooperative outlets/markets and check prizes before you get into the buzzy Medina. Cooperatives have fixed prizes and can give you a good indication of the price level. You will normally not find pushy salespersons and you can stroll around in peace.
Read more about shopping in Marrakech here: Marrakech Medina is a shopping Eldorado!
Do not miss:
- El Badi Palace situated east of Saadian Tombs
- El Bahia Palace close to the Jewish Market and north of El Badi Palace
- Koutoubia mosque and minaret
- Jardin Majorelle, the blue garden
- Djema al-Fna, eating there once is a must!
What is your opinion?
Do you have a favorite city in Morocco? Please comment and tell me why