Are you planning to visit Marrakech soon? If you love architecture, this article is for you.
Marrakech is one of the most beautiful cities in the Arab world. Its architecture legacy goes beyong centuries of history and cultural evolution. However, finding the city’s top gems can be a bit tricky, since they won’t be exactly on your way. You’ll have to pay attention not to miss some of these spots.
If you happen to visit Marrakech soon and love architecture, don’t miss these wonderful places.
My favorite is #2, yours?
1. Menara Airport
Architect: E2A Architecture
Location: Ménara (Google)
Description: Marrakech welcomes the traveler in the best way possible. Its airport is one of my favorites, the perfect mixture of old and new architecture. It features an exterior made of 24 concrete rhombuses with glass printed ancient Islamic ornamental motives. The roof is constructed by a steel structure that continues outward, forming a 24 m canopy providing shade. Inside, the rhombuses are covered in white aluminium. Read more here.
2. Majorelle Garden
Architect: Jacques Majorelle
Location: Rue Yves Saint Laurent (Google)
Description: One of the most beautiful spots in Marrakech, don’t miss this one. It took French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) forty years of passion and dedication to create this enchanting garden in the heart of the “Ochre City”. The garden has been open to the public since 1947. Since 1980 the garden has been owned by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé. After Yves Saint Laurent died in 2008 his ashes were scattered in the Majorelle Garden. Read more here.
3. Service Station
Architect: Jean-Francois Zevaco
Location: Rue Al Madina (Google)
Description: Jean-Francois Zevaco, born in Morocco in 1916 was part of a team assembled by the French Modernist Michel Ecochard and alongside Le Corbusier, a member of CIAM. Zevaco designed this service station much in Niemeyer’s style. A curved concrete roof is the main feature of this small gas station. Locals are used to visitors who admire the building so if you speak French, ask them about it, they will tell you how proud they are to work at a building designed by Zevaco. Read more here.
4. Koutoubia Mosque
Location: Avenue Mohammed V (Google)
Description: Although non muslims are not allowed to visit the mosque, the exterior is quite impressive as it is the largest mosque in Marrakesh. The mosque is ornamented with curved windows, a band of ceramic inlay, pointed merlons, and decorative arches; it has a large plaza with gardens, and is floodlit at night. The best place to photograph it? Besides the square, which will provide the full angle, try Hotel Les Jardins De La Koutoubia, its rooftop is amazing. Read more here.
5. Jemaa el-Fnaa Square
Location: Jemaa el-Fnaa Square (Google)
Year: 12th century
Description: If I had to choose one spot that defines Marrakech as a city, as a social hub and as a mixture of locals and foreigners, it will be Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. Built by the Almohads as a public square where public executions took place. During the day it is predominantly occupied by orange juice stalls, water sellers with traditional leather water-bags and brass cups, youths with chained Barbary apes and snake charmers despite the protected status of these species under Moroccan law. The square was featured in the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Man Who Knew Too Much. The best spot to photograph it it’s from Chez Chegrouni Restaurant’s top floor. Read more here.
6. Ben Youssef Mosque
Location: Kaat Benahid (Google)
Year: current 1563, original 1070
Description: It was arguably the oldest and most important mosque in Marrakesh and it’s one of the first brick buildings in the city. However, the original building was demolished when the Almohads captured Marrakesh (1147) and found an orientation error (its mihrab was pointing some six degrees south of Mecca). The Almohads erected a new reoriented central mosque on top of it, which is the building we can currently visit. Read more here.
7. Medersa Ben Youssef
Location: Kaat Benahid (Google)
Description: Over the cleared space of the new Ben Youssef Mosque (see point 6), the Saadians erected a great new madrasa (theological college), the Ben Youssef Madrasa just east of the mosque giving it a new life as the mosque of scholars. This Quranic learning centre was once the largest in North Africa, and remains among the most splendid. Read more here.
8. Almoravid Koubba
Location: Kaat Benahid (Google)
Description: Built in the 12th-century as a domed little building famous for being the last remaining example of Almoravid architecture. Due to the rise of the ground level of Marrakesh, today’s visitors must descend two floors to reach its entrance. In addition to the koubba itself, visitors can view a large water cistern and remains of fountains for performing ablutions. Don’t miss the interior dome, it’s ornamented beautifully. Read more here.
9. Maison de la Photographie Museum
Location: 46 Rue Bin Lafnadek (Google)
Description: I love this museum which exhibits a vintage collection of Moroccan photography dating from 1870 to 1950. But my favorite part is the panoramic terrace on the top floor. Enjoy coffee or lunch with magnificent views of Marrakech’s chaotic urban grid. Read more here.
10. Dar Si-Saïd Museum
Location: Riad Zitoun Jdid (Google)
Description: This museum, housed in an opulent palace that is a delight to explore, manages to communicate a sense of living nostalgia in a beautiful way. A monument to Moroccan mâalems (master artisans), the home of Bou Ahmed’s brother Si Said is a showcase of regional craftsmanship. One of the objects one can find here is an AD 1002–1007 chest that belonged to a chamberlain of Spain’s Umayyad Caliphate. Don’t miss the beautiful red staircase. Read more here.
11. Palais de la Bahia
Architect: El Mekki
Location: 5 Rue Riad Zitoun el Jdid (Google)
Description: Imagine what you could build with Morocco’s top artisans at your service for 14 years, and here you have it: La Bahia. It was built in the late 19th century, intended to be the greatest palace of its time. In fact, the name means “brilliance”. A part of the palace is occupied by the Moroccan Ministry of Cultural Affairs. Read more here.
12. The Jewish Quarter
Location: The Jewish Quarter (Google)
Year: early 16th century
Description: The so known mellah is the walled Jewish quarter of Marakech, the home of the main spice markets in the city and the gold souks. The 40-acre historic neighborhood is surrounded by high walls that once separated the Jewish and Muslim communities. Don’t miss the synagogue, have a hammam at Ziani and the cemetery. Read more here.
13. Musee Tiskiwin
Location: 8, Rue de la bahia (Google)
Year: 20th century
Description: A beautifully restored riad houses one of Marrakech’s most fascinating museums, the Tiskiwin Museum. In Hispanic-Moorish style, the house is a true architectural jewel. The collection, amassed by Dutch anthropologist Bert Flint who has resided in the city since 1957, is organized into geographically themed exhibitions, with each room of artifacts marking out a different spot along the ancient Saharan trade route from Marrakech to Timbuktu. Read more here.
14. El Badi Palace Ruins
Location: Ksibat Nhass (Google)
Description: El Badi palace (“The Incomparable”), which took twenty five years to build, was constructed using some of the most expensive matrials of the time. Including gold and onyx, the colonnades are said to be constructed from marble exchanged with Italian merchants for their equivalent weight in sugar. On display the visitor can find some of the best craftmanship of the Saadian period. Check out the view of Marrakesh atop the pisé ramparts and don’t miss the Koutoubia minbar, well worth the additional Dh10 ticket. Read more here.
15. Saadian Tombs
Location: Rue de La Kasbah (Google)
Description: It will take you about half an hour to visit the tombs and light is not amazing, so you won’t take many pictures. However, the decoration is so beautiful that you would vividly retain its image in your head. The Saadian Tombs in Marrakesh were sealed up for centuries until their rediscovery in 1917 because Alawite Sultan Moulay Ismail walled up the Saadian Tombs to keep his predecessors out of sight and mind. Occupying a quiet enclosure at the kasbah, the tombs are magnificently decorated with colorful tiles, Arabic script and elaborate carvings. Read more here.
16. Bab Agnaou Door Entrance
Architect: Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur
Location: Route d’Ourika (Google)
Year: 12th century
Description: I walked all around Marrakech’s old fortification to find this gate, which is just one of the original nineteen gates of Marrakech. This is the most beautiful of all believe me. While Bab er Robb was the official entrance to the city, Bab Agnaou gives entrance to the royal kasbah in the southern part of the medina of Marrakech. The function of the gate, as royal entrance, was primarily decorative. Read more here.
17. Menara gardens
Location: Aïn Mezouar (Google)
Year: 16th century
Description: If you are looking for magnificent gardens, you’ll definitely be disappointed here. The name menara derives from the small pavilion built during the 16th century Saadi dynasty and renovated in 1869 by sultan Abderrahmane of Morocco, who used to stay here in summertime. What I love about this place is how relaxed the atmosphere feels and the view of the Atlas mountains, just beautiful. Read more here.
18. ONCF Railway Station
Location: Hasan II Avenue (Google)
Year: 1923, renovated in 2008
Description: With architecture and adornments reminiscent of the colonial era, the Marrakech Railway Station offers travelers and architecture lovers a glimpse of Islamic and European architecture. Equally beautiful during day and nigh times. Read more here.
19. Théâtre Royal
Architect: Charles Boccara
Location: Hasan II Avenue (Google)
Description: From the outside, inspired by Roman art, the Theatre Royal Marrakech is a stunning piece of architecture with its imposing cupola and columns. Unfortunately once inside, the story is not so grand. Only the outdoor amphitheatre is available to host events, and with less than ideal acoustics it does not do justice to artistic events such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Morocco. Read more here.
20. Fobe Home
Architect: Guilhem Eustache
Location: Route d’Amizmiz Km 9.2 (Google)
Description: Built as the private house of a film producer in Belgium so respect private property. However, if you are on your way to the beautiful Faculté Taroudant, don’t miss it through the window because you may see it. The concept is based on a close dialogue with the land, vegetation and the atlas to the horizon. Read more here.
21. Palais Namaskar
Architect: Imaad Rhamouni
Location: Route de Bab Atlas, No.88/69, Syba (Google)
Description: This impressive 5 star luxury hotel and spa with private villas and suites will blow your mind. The architecture, feng shui-inspired with cascading water features and Moorish and Andalusian influences, will definitely be a contrast to what you’ve seen of Marrakech so far. Stay here one night if you can, completely worth it. Read more here.
22. Sahara Palace Marrakech
Architect: Stuart Church
Location: Club Med Marrakech La Palmeraie (Google)
Description: Another amazing hotel to visit, but not to stay based on negative comments of past clients. It features all the splendors of moorish, indian and venetian architecture and is beautifully complemented by landscaped gardens, surrounded by palm trees and olive groves. Don’t miss the central patio. Read more here.
23. La Mamounia
Architect: Henri Prost et Marchisio, Jacques Garcia (2008)
Location: Avenue Prince Moulay Rachid (Google)
Year: 1925, renovated in 2009
Description: Facing the Atlas Mountains, this 5 star hotel is probably one of the top spots in the city that you shouldn’t miss. Featured in The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock, 1956) and in thousands of Instagram posts by fashion bloggers who know how to appreciate the beauty of a 1925 hotel initially reserved for long stays and in which one came here with his own furniture. Read more here.