Exotic and beautiful, the medinas in Morocco are fascinating places you will never forget. With every turn along their narrow streets, you’ll be surprised with amazing finds, unique features and historic buildings.
A medina is an old part of a city, found not only in Morocco but also in other North African countries. They are usually walled and are full of narrow, maze-like streets. We travelled to some of the best medinas in Morocco, of various colours, landscape and charm. Five of these places are in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site List: Fez, Marrakech, Essaouira, Tetouan and Aït Benhaddou. Here are the 6 of the best medinas we visited in Morocco:
Home to the oldest continuously running university in the world, University of al-Qarawiyyin, Fez is a place rich in history and culture. The medina in Fez is considered one of the largest car-free urban areas in the world. It was our first medina in Morocco and one of the most memorable ones in our trip. When we entered the medina of Fez, it was like the world had suddenly changed – we were in a labyrinth!
Make your way among donkeys, mules and men in hooded cloaks. It’s a different crowd out there. Textile shops, sweets shops, and ceramic shops could easily get you distracted. Most corners look familiar but they aren’t. If you get lost, don’t worry, most likely a local passing by will try and save you. Be wary though, they will say it’s free but you’ll have to leave them a tip to get you back to your hotel.
The highlight of our visit to the medina in Fez was our visit to a tannery. It’s a unique scene that will leave you breathless (figuratively and literally – the smell is a bit hard to take but they’ll provide mint leaves to soothe your nose after).
READ MORE: Navigating the Mazy Medina in Fez, Morocco
Possibly the best medina in Morocco (it is our favourite one), Chefchaouen is the perfect place to relax and unwind for a few nights. Located near the Rif Mountains, this medina stands out because of its unique blue coloured walls, thus it is often referred as the “Blue Town.” A walk along its narrow streets and winding staircases leave you feeling like you’re in the Greek islands. Enjoy this scenery with a cup of Moroccan mint tea, or hike along the Rif Mountains to get a gorgeous view of this blue medina.
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Traditional ceramics, hand-made leather bags, colourful metal lanterns – the souks in Marrakech have them all. If you love handicrafts, this is the perfect place to go. It’s not all about shopping, though. The main square in Marrakech breathes so much life from morning till night time – here you can witness buskers, snake charmers and monkey performers. If you don’t want to be at the center of the action, you can observe all the happenings from one of many terrace restaurants near the square.
Marrakech, also called “Red City’ because of its red coloured walls, is on TripAdvisor’s Top Cities to Visit in 2015. Others consider it the best medina in Morocco. If you are looking for an exotic romantic retreat, spend a few nights in one of many beautiful riads in the medina. It’s also easy to arrange trips to other places such as Essaouira, Aït Benhaddou and Erg Chebbi Desert.
Essaouira (formerly Mogador)
Essaouira is a fortified seaport town with European and Arab influences. This medina in Morocco is a mix of charming cafes and shoppes selling arts and crafts. It’s relatively small compared to other medinas and easy to get around. However, the best part of Essaouira is the port facing the sea. Near the harbour lies a fortress like the Tower of Belem in Lisbon, from there you can view the picturesque scene of this stunning seaside town. Essaouira is presented as the City of Astapor in Game of Thrones. If you’re a fan of the TV show, like we are, you should definitely check out this place.
READ MORE: A Game of Thrones Day Trip to Essaouira
Technically not a medina (we’ll include it in this list anyway), but a Ksar (collective grouping of dwellings in Southern Morocco), Aït Benhaddou is the ultimate desert town. Located near the High Atlas Mountains in the Province of Ouarzazate, this place has been featured in many films and TV shows because of its unique landscape and architecture. It is one of the most interesting sights we’ve seen in Morocco. It’s a mix of fire and ice (well, desert and ice) with its mud brick houses surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
READ MORE: Cinematic Scenes from Aït Benhaddou, Morocco
Tetouan’s medina is a blend of Andalusian and Arab influences. It’s a very local town, like that of Fez, with very few tourists. You’ll appreciate the atmosphere in the white-walled medina of Tetouan because there are not many touts lurking around. We went up and down the many narrow staircases in the medina, and got lost a few times – but it was fun.
Archer: You’re missing out on all the great things that Tangier has to offer.
Lana: Name one.
Lana: [Interrupting] Apart from cheap hash and a repulsively low age of consent.
– Archer (TV Show), Season 4
After watching an episode of Archer partially set in Tangier, my expectations this medina in Morocco were pretty low. In reality, it’s really not that bad – apart from the place being very touristy. This seaside town is the gateway for most tourists coming from Spain. Like Tetouan, Andalusian influences are evident in some structures in Tangier, however, its medina is less-preserved compared to the others we’ve seen.
Location Map: Best Medinas in Morocco
Have you been to Morocco? Have you visited any of the medinas in Morocco? Which one do you think is the best medina? Let us know.
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