8 Best Morocco Cities for Your Itinerary

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Choosing the best Morocco cities for your itinerary can be a task. This is because Morocco has been at a cultural crossroads for centuries.

Once home to Carthaginians – originally from Phoenicia in modern-day Lebanon – it was soon conquered by the Romans, who then fell under the spread of Arab Islamic empires.

Indigenous Berber empire rose up and went onto conquer much of the Iberian peninsula, taking back with them medieval European influences. The many Morocco cities tell these stories.

European powers arrived, Portuguese and Dutch, but most crucially the French, whose conquest of Morocco led to it becoming part of France’s empire. Parts of Morocco even became officially Spanish Morocco for much of the 20th century.

With all of these influences and all of this history, Morocco cities come in the forms of imperial capitals, strategic colonial trading posts, cities in the desert and cities by the sea.

It drips with the opulence of Islamic architecture, ancient ruins, and romantic colonial remnants. And here is a breakdown of the best Morocco cities the country has to offer.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Morocco (Travel Guide)


8 Best Morocco Cities for Your Itinerary


1. Marrakech

Streets in Marrakech - Best Morocco Cities

Founded in 1062, Marrakech is arguably the most important of Morocco’s four ‘Imperial Cities’ – strategic trading hubs and capitals that linked the North African Islamic Berber empire throughout its various dynasties.

Particularly, Marrakech is seen as a symbol of Morocco and of the power of the Almoravid (1071-1147) and the Almohad (1147-1244) dynasties.

Today it’s a major economic center, known also for its labyrinthine souks or markets, where traders and tourists haggle on the price of everything from soap to jewelry surrounded by the medieval walls of the medina.

Where we stayed in Marrakech: Mogador Palace Agdal & Spa

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Things to See and Do in Marrakech

The minaret of the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque is seen as a symbol of the city and can be seen for miles; the gardens at the mosque are particularly beautiful as a slice of paradise-like greenery in the desert city.

Jemaa el-Fnaa is the central courtyard and marketplace where visitors can eat, drink and embark on adventurous shopping trips. Elsewhere the Bahia Palace, built in the 19th century, is a stunning example of magnificent opulence.

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2. Casablanca

Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco

Made even more famous by the 1942 American film of the same name, Casablanca is home to the former romantic, colonial ideals of Morocco, but it couldn’t be further from that now.

It’s the largest of the Morocco cities and one of the most important in North Africa, home to one of the largest artificial ports in the world. Though not Morocco’s capital, it’s considered to be the country’s economic and business center.

A colonial legacy can be found in the city’s downtown Mauresque architecture, a heady blend of Moorish styles and European art deco.

Where we stayed in CasablancaNovotel Casablanca City Center

Things to See and Do in Casablanca

Remnants of colonial times can be seen in things like the 1930s Casablanca Cathedral, a mountain of white in the city, as well as the old French city center with ornate administrative and residential buildings.

Casablanca also became home to Morocco’s largest mosque in 1993 in the form of the Hassan II Mosque. It was also here that Immeuble Liberté, the first skyscraper in Africa, was built in 1949.

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3. Meknes

Horse in the streets of Meknes, Morocco

Another of Morocco’s four imperial cities of the past, Meknes was founded in the 11th century during the Berber Almoravid dynasty. Later on, it became the capital of Morocco under the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismaïl, between 1672 and 1727.

The Sultan turned the city into one of architectural extravagance in the Moorish-Spanish style, a city surrounded by high walls and great doors, leaving a lasting legacy with its harmonious blend of Islamic and European styles.

Where we stayed in MeknesZaki Hotel

Things to See and Do in Meknes

A monument to Sultan Moulay Ismaïl exists in the form of his mausoleum, complete with regal courtyards and fountains. Further monuments from his influence over the city can be found at various sights, including the Bab Mansour Leleuj.

This is an ornate gate decorated with thousands of mosaic tiles, and the Sahrij Swani – an ornamental lake big enough to sailboats on, to name a couple. Elsewhere the museum at the Dar Jamai palace and the architecture of the Bou Inania Madrasa give glimpses into the richness of this city’s past.

The Roman ruin of Volubilis is not far from the city and is just one of the country’s well-preserved ruins dating from the height of the Roman empire.

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4. Ait Benhaddou

Ait Benhaddou in Morocco

The otherworldly Ait Benhaddou is a traditional mud-brick city or ksar – meaning ‘fortified village’ – built on the edge of the Atlas Mountains. Due to it being a particularly fine example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture, the ancient town has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Where we stayed in Ait BenhaddouRiad Maktoub

Things to See and Do in Ait Benhaddou

The primary activity of interest in Ait Benhaddou is to walk around the old town – across the river from the more modern settlement – soaking in all the architecture and the atmosphere of the place.

Movie lovers will recognize the town since it’s featured in many films, including The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Mummy (1999) and Gladiator (2000), among others. It has also been used in Game of Thrones!

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5. Rabat

White horse and guard in Rabat, Morocco

Morocco’s capital city lies on the country’s Atlantic coastline and the shores of the Bouregreg River. The city of Rabat – which means ‘Fortified Palace’ – is known for its architecture that speaks as equally to its Islamic past as it does to its time as a French protectorate.

Where we stayed in Rabat: Le Diwan Rabat – MGallery by Sofitel

Things to See and Do in Rabat

Being close to the coast, one surprising thing that you can do is surf. The Oudayes Surf Club features a continuous set of small waves which is perfect for beginners and children alike.

Back inland, the kasbah – the center of the fortress – is a great place to soak in the culture and everyday life of Morocco with a glass of mint tea and a sugary treat, a quintessentially Moroccan snack combination.

The uniquely stark art deco St. Peter’s Cathedral is worth a look, an orderly set of lines and rectangles with nods to traditional earthen building styles. Slightly out of Rabat’s center there’s Chellah: firstly a Carthaginian, then Roman, and finally Arab city, boasting a fascinating mix of ruins.

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6. Fes

Tannery from above in Fes, Morocco

One of the most famous of Morocco’s cities, if only for the hat of the same name, Fes was the capital of the Kingdom of Morocco until the early 20th century. Of course, Fes is famous for more than just the eponymous hat.

Its medina is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is one of the largest urban pedestrian zones in the world; it’s also known by two nicknames, ‘Mecca of the West’ and ‘Athens of Africa’, and is often referred to as Morocco’s cultural capital.

Where we stayed in Fes: Hotel Volubilis Fez

Things to See and Do in Fes

Fes is home to one particularly famous place and that is the Chouara Tannery. Dating back from the 11th century, this is thought to be one of the oldest tanneries in the world and has been featured on many a Morocco-based travel documentary.

But just wandering around the Fes El Bali medina in town is a good way to soak in the atmosphere and culture of this storied city; at the medina, you can find two madrasa or religious schools, the 14-century Bou Inania and Al Attarine, both elaborately decorated with cedar carvings and stunningly ornate tile work.

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7. Chefchaouen

Blue streets in Chefchaouen, Morocco

This city is perched high in the Rif Mountains of northwest Morocco. In 1471, it was founded as a little kasbah by Moulay Ali ibn Rashid al-Alami, a distant descendant of Muhammad, the Islamic prophet.

It is in part of the country that became Spanish Morocco due to a Franco-Spanish treaty in 1912 and remained in Spanish hands until the Infi War of 1958. Today it is chiefly known for its overwhelmingly charming blue-washed buildings, earning it the nickname of ‘The Blue Pearl’.

It is also the main producer of cannabis in Morocco, and hashish is sold all over town. That said, that doesn’t mean you should plan on partaking as a tourist, there are hefty fines for anyone caught doing so.

Despite this, the blue-colored streets alone make this one of the best Morocco cities for your itinerary.

Where we stayed in Chefchaouen: Casa Hassan Chefchaouen

Things to See and Do in Chefchaouen

There are many theories regarding why the city is blue: one is that it wards off mosquitoes, another is that it was a color introduced by Jews when they migrated here in the 1930s, and once more gives the reason that blue is the color of the sky and therefore heaven.

Whatever the reason it looks beautiful, and you can spend hours wandering the streets, passing leather and weaving workshops. Elsewhere the medina is a delight, and the octagonal minaret of the Great Mosque is incredible.

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8. Essaouira

Blue boats in Essaouira - Best Morocco Cities

Formerly known as Mogador, the seaside town of Essaouira became the first seaport of Morocco in the 19th century – after being bombarded by the French in 1844, part of the First Franco-Moroccan War, which led to the country becoming a protectorate of France.

Its port status led to it becoming a relatively important city at the time, and remnants of this can be seen in the 19th-century consulate of the European powers of the time.

Later on, in the 1960s, Essaouira became something of a hippie hangout, becoming more famous due to a visit by Jimi Hendrix – allegedly the inspiration for his song ‘Castles Made of Sand’. 

This makes an experience in Essouira completely unique to any other place in the country. This is what makes it one of the best Morocco cities to visit.

Where we stayed in Essaouira: Atlas Essaouira & Spa

Things to See and Do in Essaouira

Essaouira is renowned as a destination for kite-surfers and windsurfers, both past-times being well catered for by strong trade winds that constantly blow over a protected and therefore almost waveless bay.

In terms of history, there’s a Genoese-built harbor citadel, the old medina, city walls, and the Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah Museum, named after the founder of the city and set in a stunning 19th-century house.

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About David Stock

I have always been an outdoorsman so becoming an adventure traveler was just the next natural step. I love nature, I love to get off the beaten path and I like to explore. I enjoy scuba diving and cars. And yes, Lina and I have a naked dog.



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