The best cities to visit in Morocco

The enigmatic and beautiful country of Morocco has lured foreign visitors for millennia, and remains one of Africa’s most-visited nations. Home to metropolises built around laid-back beaches, soaring mountains and bustling souks, here is our guide to the best cities to visit in Morocco.
Chefchaouen, a vibrant arts and crafts hub, and one of the best cities to visit in Morocco. Photo: Shutterstock
Chefchaouen, a vibrant arts and crafts hub, and one of the best cities to visit in Morocco. Photo: Shutterstock

Last updated: 14 June 2023

The information in this article is inspired by Inside Guide books - your essential guides for visiting the world.


Both African and Arab, eastern and western, Marrakech is an eclectic meeting place of different cultures and the country’s most vibrant metropolis. One of Morocco’s four imperial cities, Marrakech is nestled in the shadow of the Atlas Mountain range. 

Perhaps most famous for its medieval medina, a UNESCO-protected maze of alleys and markets, the city is also known for its iconic 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque, with a single minaret that can be seen for miles around. 

For some, part of the fun of visiting Marrakech is getting lost. If this is you, embrace the chaos as you wander the souks of the medina in one of the best cities to visit in Morocco. The cultural soul of Marrakech for 1,000 years, Jemaa el-Fna square comes alive each evening at sunset.  

Locals and visitors congregate to see the acrobats, magicians, fortune-tellers, snake charmers, Gnaoua musicians, and storytellers that together create a wonderful open-air spectacle. The city’s Moorish traditions and artistic heritage are complemented by a burgeoning contemporary creative pulse. 

This has led to Marrakech being designated as the African Capital of Culture 2020. Museums and galleries including the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, the Museum of Photography, and the Yves Saint-Laurent Museum are hosting events throughout the year. There is even more to discover in the cultural scene of Marrakech during 2020.

Marrakech - one of the best cities to visit in Morocco. Photo: Balate Dorin/Shutterstock


The smallest of Morocco’s four imperial cities, Meknes offers a fascinating snapshot of the megalomaniacal rule of the extravagant Sultan Moulay Ismail. This scenic hilltop city is set in the heart of Morocco’s premier wine-producing region and makes the perfect base for day trips to the nearby Roman remains of Volubilis and the holy town of Moulay Idriss. 

Moulay Ismail ruled Morocco from Meknes with an iron first from 1672–1727. During this time, the city, surrounded by fertile ground and good trade routes, prospered. Ismail built a complex defensive system, comprised of impressive fortifications that have stood the test of time. 

Home to its own UNESCO-declared medina to rival Marrakech's, the beautiful Bab Mansour gate and the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, Meknes makes an excellent choice for those looking to get off the beaten track in Morocco. 

The ornate interior of the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, Meknes, Morocco. Photo: Shutterstock


One of the oldest and most historic settlements in North Africa, Fez is another of Morocco’s imperial cities and its former capital. Interestingly, Fez is thought to be home to the world’s oldest university, which was established in AD 859, together with one of the largest mosques outside of Mecca and Medina. 

This city is a melting pot of cultures, with its significant Arab and Berber populations having been bolstered significantly by refugees from Spain and Tunisia. 

Step back in time to the Old City of El Bali, a mysterious, golden-hued labyrinth of medieval markets, palaces and mosques. Many of the crafts and trades that are the lifeblood of El Bali’s narrow streets have barely changed in 1,000 years.

Explore the spiritual heart of Fez as part of Insight Guides Luxury Morocco trip.

Detail of the Blue Gate in Fez, Morocco. Photo: Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock


Nestled amongst the peaks of the Rif Mountains, the blue-washed city of Chefchaouen is a vibrant arts and crafts hub with a relaxed atmosphere. Many of the locals here speak Spanish, unlike the rest of the country, where Arabic and French are most widely spoken. There are several theories as to why the buildings in Chefchaouen are painted blue. 

Some believe this trend began when an influx of Jewish immigrants fleeing the Spanish Inquisition arrived; blue represents divinity in Judaism, as it is the color of the sea and the sky. Others believe that the color blue keeps away flies and mosquitos. Whatever the reason, this picturesque city facilitates a slower pace of life, and is certainly one of the best cities to visit in Morocco. 

Discover the medina and sous of Chefchaouen on Insight Guides Morocco: On Hannibal's Trail trip

The picturesque city of Chefchaouen.

The picturesque blue-washed city of Chefchaouen, Morocco. Photo: Shutterstock


The city of Tangier is one of Morocco’s best loved, and has long been a magnet for an eclectic crowd, ranging from artists and writers to international spies. Located at the northernmost point of Morocco – and indeed Africa – Spain is just 9 miles (14km) away from Tangier. 

Unsurprisingly, the city has been a vital crossroads in trading routes for millennia, with plenty of cultures leaving their mark, particularly on the Medina. More recently, artists, writers and musicians such as Henri Matisse, Jack Kerouac and the Rolling Stones have made Tangier their home. 

The area around Tangier is also home to some of the best beaches in Morocco. Explore them for yourself as part of Insight Guides Morocco: On Hannibal’s Trail trip.  

Tangier's Cap Spartel lighthouse, looking out toward the coast of Spain. Photo: Pavel Szabo/Shutterstock 


Another of Morocco’s iconic cities, Casablanca was immortalized in the 1942 film of the same name, starring Humphrey Bogart. Don’t be fooled by the city's on-screen sin city image though: Casablanca is one of Morocco’s most modern cities, its economic capital, and a fast-changing metropolis. 

The city’s burgeoning business sector and the westernized middle class and their cosmopolitan outlook make Casablanca more reminiscent of the south of France than the Maghreb. Architecturally, the city is home to an unusual but distinctive blend of Parisian art deco and local Moroccan craftsmanship, which starkly contrasts with the modern neighborhoods and districts. 

Away from the Medina, the elaborately decorated Hasan II Mosque, the Place du 16 Novembre and the Place Mohammed V are just a few of Casablanca's must-sees.

The ornate exterior of Hasan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco. Photo: Anton Ivanov/Shutterstock


Port city Essaouira, by popular acclaim Morocco’s most likeable resort, was once a haven for hippie backpackers, but it’s gradually been moving upmarket. Budget travellers may be hard put nowadays to find food or accommodation within their price range.

An eighteenth-century town, enclosed by medieval-looking battlements, Essaouira’s whitewashed and blue-shuttered houses and colonnades, wood workshops and art galleries, boat builders and sardine fishermen all provide a colourful and very pleasant backdrop to the beach. The feathery Norfolk Island pines which surround it thrive only in a pollution-free atmosphere.

Many of the tourists who come to Essaouira are drawn by the wind, known locally as the alizee, which in spring and summer can be a bit remorseless for sunbathing but creates much-sought-after waves for windsurfing and, increasingly, kitesurfing. The same winds make Essaouira pretty terrible for surfing – those in the know head down the coast to Imsouane and Taghazout.

Fortress, bridge and little harbor of Essaouira, Morocco. Photo: Shutterstock


Capital of the nation since 1912, elegant and spacious Rabat is the very image of an orderly administrative and diplomatic centre. Lacking the frenetic pace of Morocco’s other large cities, Rabat is sometimes harshly referred to as “provincial”. 

Sure enough, there are times when it’s hard to find a café open much past ten at night, but there’s other times when the city comes out from its conservatism and even makes a little noise, such as the during the Festival of Rhythms each May. 

Befitting its regal status, Rabat – along with neighbouring Salé – has some of the most interesting historic and architectural monuments in the country, and the fact that the local economy does not depend on tourist money makes exploring these attractions a great deal more relaxed than cities like Fez and Marrakesh.

Discover the best cities to visit in Morocco with this Inside Guides trip to Imperial cities of Morocco.

Bou Regreg river and distant Kasbah of the Udayas in Rabat, Morocco. Photo: Shutterstock


At some stage, you’re almost bound to spend a night in Ouarzazate, the main access point and crossroads of the south, and it can be a useful if functional base from which to visit the ksour and kasbahs of Aït Benhaddou or Skoura. 

Although lacking the architectural charm of other settlements down here, the town nevertheless has a buzzy, almost cosmopolitan feel, which contrasts sharply with the sleepier places found elsewhere in the region.

Like most of the new Sahara desert towns, Ouarzazate was created as a Foreign Legion garrison and administrative centre by the French in the late 1920s. 

During the 1980s, it became something of a boom town, as the tourist industry embarked on a wildly optimistic building programme of luxury hotels, based on Ouarzazate’s marketability as a staging point for the “Saharan Adventure”, and the town was given an additional boost from the attentions of filmmakers.

Ait Benhaddou Kasbah Berber near Ouarzazate, Morocco. Photo: Shutterstock

Asilah - one of the best cities to visit in Morocco for a beach holiday

The first town south of Tangier – and first stop on the train line – Asilah is one of the most elegant of the old Portuguese Atlantic ports, small, easy to manage, and exceptionally clean. First impressions are of wonderful square stone ramparts, flanked by palms, and an outstanding beach – an immense sweep of sand stretching to the north halfway to Tangier.  

The town’s Medina is one of the most attractive in the country, colourwashed in pastel shades, and with a series of murals painted for the town’s International Cultural Festival (3–4 weeks in Aug), which attracts performers from around the world with a programme of art, dance, film, music and poetry.

Before the tourists and the International Festival, Asilah was just a small fishing port, quietly stagnating after the indifference of Spanish colonial administration. 

Whitewashed and cleaned up, it now has a prosperous feeling to it: the Grand Mosque, for example, has been rebuilt and doubled in size, there’s a wide paved seaside promenade and property developments, including a marina and golf course estate, are popping up either side of the town. 

Asilah beach in Morocco. Photo: Shutterstock

Ready to take a trip to Morocco?

Insight Guides can help plan and book incredible trips in Morocco for you. Simply get in touch with us, to let us know when you would like to travel and your ideas for the trip. Local travel experts will then plan a personalized itinerary especially, which you can amend until you are completely happy with every detail before booking. Browse our existing Morocco trips for inspiration, and remember that all our pre-planned itineraries can be tailored to suit your specific requirements. 

Updated 26 February, 2020