While almost all of the major attractions cost an entrance fee, there are plenty of free things to do in Morocco to rival them. Whether you’re on a tight budget or not, these are the places to visit in Morocco!
Observe life in the medinas
The medinas are definitely the best free attractions in Morocco. And they are actually so different from each other that you won’t get bored.
The medina in Marrakech is orange-red and unfortunately often very crowded. The medina in Fes is more yellowish, motorbike-free and very confusing. The medina in Essaouira has a chequerboard pattern and is right by the sea. The medina in Chefchaouen is blue and the one in Ouezzane is green.
They are all great for strolling and people-watching. There are usually plenty of shopping opportunities in the medina, either in the souk or in small shops in the alleyways.
Go shopping in one of the souks
Every city has a souk and visiting them is one of the best free things to do in Morocco . Sometimes in the form of a market hall, sometimes more like a weekly market outside somewhere. My favourite authentic souk is the one in Rissani on the way to Merzouga. Sunday is the big market day there (and Tuesday and Thursday a bit smaller) and the town is full of people coming from the surrounding villages, riding donkeys or driving horse carts. You can buy everything there, from fruit and vegetables to donkeys and sheep. It is really fun to watch the colourful hustle and bustle.
In the larger cities, e.g. Marrakech and Fez, the souks are almost their own quarter and usually partly covered. Here, people tend to sell for the tourists, there are souvenirs of every type and quality.
Listen to the stories at Jmaa el fna
One of the main attractions and most entertaining experiences in Marrakech is an evening on Jemaa al fna, the city’s main square. I recommend enjoying the sunset from one of the rooftop terraces while sipping an orange juice or a traditional mint tea.
Later, you can walk around the square and watch the storytellers or listen to traditional music. The best storytellers can be found by looking for the biggest clump of people. And even if you don’t understand any of the local Berber languages, it’s really fascinating to watch.
Hiking in the Valley of Roses
The Valley of the Roses lies behind Kelaat M’Gouna and is, in my opinion, the most beautiful of the valleys south of the Atlas. You can stay overnight in the village of Bou Thrarar and go for a hike or two from here. If you stay in the main valley, it’s easy to hike without a guide, there’s no chance of getting lost. So this is another great free thing to do in Morocco.
Take a beach day
If you are looking for a secluded and picturesque beach, you should take a trip to Tafedna. This small village is right by the sea and has a very nice beach that is practically empty during the week. When we were there, you could rent an umbrella for the day for 20 DH and there are some small shops and restaurants.
The beach is great for swimming and bathing, but there is no entertainment other than watching the small fishing boats bring in their catch in the afternoon. Also, there were no lifeguards, so you should be a skilled swimmer.
Legzira was famous for its Elephant Rock, an arch made of the red rock typical of the region. Unfortunately, it collapsed a few years ago. But there are many more rock arches at the beach, they are just not as impressive.
The small village in the bay has a few hotels and apartments overlooking the Atlantic.
Feel like a film star
Ait Ben Haddou was founded about 1000 years ago and used to be quite a rich town, as it was the first stop for all travellers and traders coming from the north through the Atlas. So, because of the wealth, there was quite a need for fortifications, and you can still see this on almost every building.
Today the place is largely uninhabited, but is visited by tourists, and occasionally by film crews. You can walk in the footsteps of Russell Crowe (in Gladiator) and Orlando Bloom (in Kingdom of Heavens) here.
Essaouira is also a well-known film location; parts of the series Game of Thrones were filmed here.
Take photos like an Instagram star in Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen became famous through Instagram. Before every travel blogger posted photos from the blue medina, hardly any tourists ventured into the city. It’s really hard to highlight individual “sights” as almost every corner is photogenic. So, you should just walk around, get lost and take as many photos as your heart desires. Since the medina is really small, don’t worry, you will always find your way back.
Street art in Asilah
Asilah is a very cute and cosy little town on the Atlantic Ocean. Every year, there is a festival here where artists paint colourful murals on the walls of the houses in the medina. This means you actually have to come back every year to see the new artworks.
The medina is very small, mainly white and blue, and there are relatively few tourists here. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of this, it is worth a visit.
Take photos of the Tanneries in Fes
One of the biggest attractions in Fes is visiting and photographing the tanneries. Especially the biggest one, the Chouara tannery, is probably the most photographed place in Fes these days. I’m sure everyone has seen the colourful photos of the tannery in Fes on Instagram.
In Fes, leather is still tanned the same way it was hundreds of years ago, with pigeon droppings, quicklime, and cattle urine (hence the smell!) as well as natural dyes. The men then tread on the leather in these huge cauldrons, softening it while exposing their own skin to these strong chemicals. Although they earn a good salary, their life expectancy is rather short.
Pay respects to Ibn Battouta in Tangier
Have you ever heard of Ibn Battuta? He was basically the Marco Polo of the Islamic world. He was born in Tangier at the beginning of the 14th century and during his life travelled as far as China and back, as well as through parts of East and West Africa. His accounts were written down by a famous writer of the time, but somehow got lost for a few centuries. Today he is a famous figure in the Islamic world and his tomb is here in Tangier.
It’s a bit hidden in the western part of the medina and rather nondescript. But I think it’s a great place to pay respect to one of the greatest travellers of all time.
Visit the Hercules Cave
The Cave of Hercules, or Hercules Grotto, is perhaps the most famous of Tangier’s attractions, but is actually located a few kilometres west of the city. Nowadays it is easy to visit as the path down into the cave is paved, making it safe to explore in all weathers.
The entrance to the grotto facing the sea looks like a mirrored outline of Africa and is a very popular photo motif.
Check out the Spanish influence in Tetouan
Tetouan is located in the far north of Morocco, near the Mediterranean Sea. Tetouan’s medina is one of the smallest in Morocco, but one of the best preserved. It has whitewashed walls and is built on the side of a hill, making it very photogenic.
The entire medina is still surrounded by a large wall and you can only enter it through one of the seven city gates. Parts of the medina are covered with green wooden roofs, which provide the necessary shade in summer.
The medina borders the Spanish Quarter, which is also white, but much newer and with the typical Spanish balconies. It is this contrast that makes Tetouan one of my favourite cities in Morocco.
Admire the most beautiful city gate in all of Morocco in Meknes.
The Bab Mansour in Meknes is considered the most beautiful city gate in all of Morocco. And from everything I’ve seen so far, I have to agree. Not only is it huge, it is also lavishly decorated and features several columns that Moulay Ismail “took” from Volubilis.
The Bab Mansour is best admired from Place el Hedim or one of the surrounding rooftop cafés in the late afternoon, when the sun is shining on it.
For more general information on Morocco, also check out these posts:
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