Despite being far from the largest city in Morocco, and not being the capital either, Marrakech manages to hold an unbridled allure for both typical tourists and more experienced travellers alike. As Moroccan cities go, Marrakech is one of the best in terms of visitor infrastructure. It retains its authentic charm without selling out to commercialism that can be seen in the holiday resort locations of similar countries such as Tunisia and Turkey (although these countries are still very nice indeed). When walking through the streets of Marrakech and the spiders’ web of souks, it’s easy to forget that Marrakech is a popular travel destination and not some undiscovered gem.
Whether you’re visiting the city to revel in the unique culture, to explore the souks or to sample the cuisine, the palaces are something that should not be missed. Here are just some of the amazing buildings that can be found within the city that should be at the top of your list when travelling to Marrakech.
El Badi Palace
The now ruined location of El Badi Palace is perhaps not the best indicator of its former glory. Having been built over 400 years ago, with completion in 1593, the palace was only briefly enjoyed in its intended condition. Ahmad al-Mansur, the original commissioner of the construction, lived for just ten years after its completion, passing in 1603. The Saadian dynasty, of which he was a part, fell roughly 50 years after in the wake of the Alaouite Dynasty. With the new sultan, Ismail Ibn Sharif, choosing to strip the palace for building materials to construct his own palace, El Badi fell into a state of disrepair.
Despite this, visitors still flock to the remains of the palace, which are quite spectacular in themselves. In its former glory, the palace would have boasted over 360 rooms and a large central pool. The cost to enter is 70 dirhams which roughly translates to £5. We’d suggest visiting earlier in the morning to avoid the hot midday sun, as there are few shady places on the grounds.
A much more modern location than El Badi Palace, the Bahia Palace was built during the second half of the 19th century by Si Moussa Ba Ahmed. The palace is a sprawling affair, set on over eight hectares which includes beautifully maintained gardens. Comprising of over 150 rooms, only a small amount of these are open to the public, as the palace now is occupied by the Moroccan government which use the space to host important events.
The courtyard, known as the Cour d’Honneur is undoubtedly the highlight, a magnificent 1500 square meters of Italian Carrara marble. With many of the rooms being undercover, it’s possible to visit the palace during the warmer parts of the day without feeling to heat too much. The cost to enter is just 10 dirhams, which works out at less than £1.
Dar Menebhi Palace
Now home to the Marrakech Museum, the Dar Menebhi Palace was initially built in the latter part of the 19th century by Mehdi Menebhi. The palace received extensive renovation in 1997 from the Omar Benjelloun Foundation to bring the building into a suitable condition for the installation of the museum displays. The museum has an atrium area which was initially a courtyard but is now covered with glass and fabric. From the ceiling hangs a large, ceiling piece that somewhat resembles a chandelier, made from decorated metal plates.
In the museum, it is possible to find examples of both old and new Moroccan art, historical books, coins and pottery. It is open from 9am to 6.30pm every day and with lots of indoor areas, can be visited at all times during the day. Costing only 30 dirhams (£2.50) to enter, this can be a great way to spend an afternoon in Marrakech.
Dar Si Said Palace – Museum of Moroccan Arts
Another palace-turned-museum, the Dar Si Said Palace is a 19th-century building initially owned by the brother of Grand Vizier Bou Ahmed, occupant and owner of the Bahia Palace. Since then, the palace has been converted into a museum that houses beautiful collections from across Morocco, including gems, hand-made weaves and carpets, and objects of historical significance.
The palace is decorated in an opulent fashion, especially the first-floor wedding chamber. This museum is much larger than the Marrakech Museum and has two floors to exhibit all of the items. There are also several patio areas and a small but well maintained garden. The price for entry is 20 dirhams, which is just under £2. With lots of indoor space, this palace is a great trip and perfect for hiding away from the sweltering sun for a couple of hours.
If you are looking to explore and discover Morocco for yourself, why not check out our range of experiences that take place in this amazing country? Our desert experience not only showcases the best Marrakech has to offer but also allows you to venture into the Sahara Desert and spend a night there!