It can be challenging to select the best Morocco cities for your itinerary, and this is due to Morocco’s long history blend with cultural influences.
Once inhabited by Carthaginians – originally from Phoenicia in modern-day Lebanon – it was quickly conquered by the Romans, subjugated by the spread of Arab Islamic empires.
The indigenous Berber empire rose and conquered much of the Iberian peninsula, bringing medieval European influences. These stories are told in many Moroccan cities.
European powers arrived, including the Portuguese and Dutch, but most importantly, the French, whose conquest of Morocco resulted in Morocco becoming part of France’s empire. For much of the twentieth century, parts of Morocco were even officially designated as Spanish Morocco.
With all of these influences and histories, Morocco cities take the form of imperial capitals, strategic colonial trading posts, desert cities, and seaside cities.
It exudes the opulence of Islamic architecture, ancient ruins, and romantic colonial relics. And here is a list of the best Moroccan cities to visit.
The 8 Best Cities in Morocco for Your Itinerary
Marrakech, founded in 1062, 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.
Marrakech, in particular, is regarded as a symbol of Morocco and the power of the Almoravid (1071-1147) and Almohad (1147-1244) dynasties.
Today, it is a significant economic centre known for its labyrinthine souks or markets, where traders and tourists haggle over the price of everything from soap to jewellery, all while being surrounded by the medieval walls of the medina.
- Things to See and Do in Marrakech
The minaret of the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque is a city symbol that can be seen for miles; the gardens at the mosque are charming as a slice of paradise-like greenery in the desert city.
The central courtyard and marketplace, Jemaa el-Fnaa, is where visitors can eat, drink, and go on adventurous shopping trips. The Bahia Palace, built in the 19th century, is a magnificent example of luxury.
Casablanca, popularised by the 1942 American film of the same name, is home to Morocco’s former romantic, colonial ideals, but it couldn’t be further from now.
Morocco’s largest city and one of the most important in North Africa, with one of its largest artificial ports. Although it is not Morocco’s capital, it is its economic and business centre.
The city’s downtown Mauresque architecture bears a colonial legacy, a heady blend of Moorish styles and European art deco.
- Things to See and Do in Casablanca
Casablanca Cathedral, a white mountain in the city, was built in the 1930s. And the old French city centre with ornate administrative and residential buildings are colonial relics.
In 1993, Casablanca became home to Morocco’s largest mosque, the Hassan II Mosque. In 1949, Immeuble Liberté, Africa’s first skyscraper, was built here.
Meknes, another of Morocco’s four imperial cities, was founded in the 11th century by the Berber Almoravid dynasty. Later, between 1672 and 1727, it was the capital of Morocco during the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismael.
The Sultan transformed the city into a Moorish-Spanish architectural extravagance, surrounded by high walls and great doors. It left a lasting legacy with its harmonious blend of Islamic and European styles.
- Things to See and Do in Meknes
Sultan Moulay Ismael is commemorated by a mausoleum complete with regal courtyards and fountains. Can find Further evidence of his clout in the city at many locations, including the Bab Mansour Leleuj.
To name a few, this is an ornate gate decorated with thousands of mosaic tiles and the Sahrij Swani – and ornamental lake large enough to accommodate sailboats. The museum at the Dar Jamai palace and the architecture of the Bou Inania Madrasa, on the other hand, provide glimpses into the richness of this city’s past.
Volubilis, a Roman ruin not far from the city, is just one of the country’s well-preserved Roman ruins from the height of the empire.
4. Ait Benhaddou
Ait Benhaddou is an otherworldly mud-brick city or ksar – meaning ‘fortified village’ – built on the edge of the Atlas Mountains. The ancient town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its outstanding Moroccan earthen clay architecture.
- Things to See and Do in Ait Benhaddou
The main attraction in Ait Benhaddou is to walk around the old town, which is located across the river from the newer settlement, taking in the architecture and atmosphere of the area
Moviegoers will recognize the town because it appears in several The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Mummy (1999), and Gladiator are among the films he has directed (2000). Also used it in the HBO series Game of Thrones!
Morocco’s capital city is located on the country’s Atlantic coast and along the Bouregreg River. Rabat, which means “Fortified Palace,” is known for its architecture, which pays homage to its Islamic past and its time as a French protectorate.
- Things to See and Do in Rabat
Being close to the coast allows you to do something unexpected: surf. The Oudayes Surf Club has a continuous set of small waves ideal for beginners and children.
Back inland, the kasbah – the fortress’s heart – is a great place to immerse yourself in Moroccan culture and daily life with a glass of mint tea and a sugary treat, a quintessentially Moroccan snack combination.
The unusually stark art deco St. Peter’s Cathedral, an orderly set of lines and rectangles with nods to traditional earthen building styles. Chellah, located slightly outside Rabat’s centre, was first a Carthaginian, then a Roman, and finally an Arab city, with a fascinating mix of ruins.
Fes, one of Morocco’s most famous cities, if only for the hat of the same name, was the Kingdom of Morocco’s capital until the early twentieth century. Of course, Fes is well-known for more than its hat.
Its medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world’s largest urban pedestrian zones; it is also known as the “Mecca of the West” and “Athens of Africa” and is widely regarded as Morocco’s cultural capital.
- Things to See and Do in Fes
The Chouara Tannery is a particularly well-known attraction in Fes. This is thought to be one of the world’s oldest tanneries, dating back to the 11th century, and has been featured in numerous Morocco-based travel documentaries.
However, simply wandering around the Fes El Bali medina in town is an excellent way to soak up the atmosphere and culture of this storied city. You can find two madrasa or religious schools at the medina, the 14-century Bou Inania and Al Attarine, both elaborately decorated with cedar carvings and stunningly ornate tile work.
This city is located high in the Rif Mountains in northwest Morocco. It was founded in 1471 as a small kasbah by Moulay Ali ibn Rashid al-Alami, a distant descendant of Muhammad, the Islamic prophet.
It is located in a region of Morocco that became Spanish Morocco in 1912 as a result of a Franco-Spanish treaty and remained in Spanish hands until the Infi War in 1958. Today, it is best known for its overwhelmingly charming blue-washed buildings, which have earned it the moniker ‘The Blue Pearl.’
It is also Morocco’s largest producer of cannabis, and hashish is widely available throughout the city. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t go as a tourist; there are steep fines for anyone caught doing so.
Regardless, the blue-coloured streets alone make this one of the best Morocco cities to visit.
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There are several theories as to why the city is blue: one is that it repels mosquitoes, another that was introduced by Jews when they immigrated here in the 1930s, and yet another that blue represents the sky and thus heaven.
Whatever the reason, it’s beautiful, and you could spend hours wandering the streets, passing by leather and weaving workshops. Other highlights include the medina and the Great Mosque’s octagonal minaret.
Essaouira, formerly known as Mogador, became Morocco’s first seaport in the nineteenth century after being bombarded by the French in 1844 as part of the First Franco-Moroccan War, which resulted in the country becoming a protectorate of France.
Because of its port status, it grew to be a relatively important city and can find evidence in the 19th-century consulates of the European powers of the time.
Later, in the 1960s, Essaouira became a hippie hangout, becoming more famous due to a visit by Jimi Hendrix – allegedly the inspiration for his song ‘Castles Made of Sand.’
As a result, an experience in Essouira is unlike any other in the country, which is what distinguishes it as one of the best Moroccan cities to visit.
- Things to See and Do in Essaouira
Essaouira is well-known as a kite-surfing and windsurfing destination. Both activities are well catered for by strong trade winds that constantly blow over a protected and thus almost waveless bay.
In terms of history, there’s a Genoese-built harbour citadel, the old medina, city walls, and the Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah Museum, which is named after the city’s founder and housed in a stunning 19th-century mansion.