As Morocco’s leading tourist destination, Marrakesh draws visitors to admire the beauty of the palaces, roam the enchanting alleyways and shop for handmade goods in the souks.
The city is usually flush with tourists during its peak seasons in spring and autumn, and during the Christmas and New Year period. Yet despite soaring temperatures in the summer months, particularly July and August, the city is becoming a year-round destination.
Travelers visiting off-peak, particularly in January and November, are not only rewarded with the chance to soak up some winter sun, but also the increased availability of accommodations – and fewer travelers posing for photos at the city’s main attractions.
So whether traveling for the culture, local festivals or the shopping, in the winter sun or summer heat, these are the best times to visit Marrakesh.
March to May and September to October is high season and the best time for perfect weather
Temperatures, particularly at nighttime, tend to increase from early March, marking the return of pleasant evenings spent dining on rooftop terraces and orange blossoms scenting courtyards. In May, while exploring the art galleries and architecture of Gueliz, keep an eye out for jacaranda trees that provide a pop of color along the main avenues.
Easter break sees the city swell with travelers so arriving with a general plan for your days will avoid any disappointment, particularly at the Majorelle Gardens where advance purchase of timed-ticket entry is mandatory.
Come June, when the heat hits and temperatures can hover around 45ºC (113ºF), the snow-covered Atlas Mountains, visible in the distance from the rooftop terraces of the medina, draw people for their significantly cooler temperatures (around 10ºC/50ºF) and fresh mountain air.
A buzzy vibe takes over the city in early autumn, as city residents return to a bustling pace after the summer, galleries host vernissages to unveil new exhibitions, and travelers once again flock to the city, particularly during Europe’s half-term holidays. Book accommodations, guides and restaurants well in advance of your arrival.
Late December is the best time for nightlife
Marrakesh is abuzz from around December 20 through the first week of January, as travelers choose Morocco to ring in the New Year in style. If heading to the Red City for a celebration at this time, expect to spend at least five nights, the minimum stay required at many accommodations. But days are easily filled with exploring the medina, day-tripping to the Atlas Mountains or Agafay Desert, and gallery-hopping in Gueliz.
Known for its nightlife, trendy restaurants and hip bars in the Gueliz and Hivernage areas, Moroccans from across the kingdom head to Marrakesh too to celebrate the start of the New Year. A night out may cost more than in London or New York, though it typically includes dinner and lively entertainment, with party-goers dressed to kill.
As the city comes to life during this time, advanced restaurant and excursion reservations are mandatory. Don’t expect to be able to pick up any last-minute bookings.
June to August is best for poolside lounging
While there may be less typical tourists in June to August, Marrakesh welcomes another type of traveler – Moroccans residing abroad (known locally as MRE) as they return home for the summer holidays. Wedding celebrations are also popular during this time.
These are the months when you’ll find deals on riads and hotels. Riads with a pool, even just a plunge pool, and air-conditioning are highly recommended throughout the summer months. The hotels and resorts in the Palmeraie are perfect for lounging poolside as the sun beats down.
If exploring the medina or Gueliz during this time of year, head out on your city wanders early and return to the pool during the heat of the day. Day trips to the Atlas Mountains are a great way to seek relief from the heat. Restaurants catering to foreign tourists may close for summer holidays during this time.
The city’s nightlife turns up the heat once the sun sets. Flashy cars, well-heeled party-goers, and friends catching up in street-side restaurants until the wee hours create a unique ambience.
The city hosts events in January to February and November to December
Considered shoulder season, these months are typically when Marrakesh experiences its largest rainfall, which can hamper plans to explore the city. But the rain usually only lasts a day or two, making for ideal opportunities to head to the hammam to warm up and scrub down.
Comfortable daytime temperatures make for pleasant wanders through a still-vibrant medina. There may even be a deal to be had when negotiating given that there are fewer tourists around. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to drop to around 10ºC (50ºF) once the sun sets, so booking accommodations with in-room heating is a must, particularly if booking a riad in the medina.
Expect road closures around town as marathoners race around the city’s ramparts, through the palm groves and down the main drags before crossing the finish line in Djemaa el Fna as part of the Marrakesh marathon on the last Sunday of January.
The third weekend of February sees the art world descend on Marrakesh for the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, headquartered at the famed La Mamounia. Galleries around town unveil exciting exhibits (often highlighting Moroccan artists) and the art fair itself is open to the public.
Movie stars and filmmakers descend on the city as part of the Marrakesh International Film Festival in November or December, and this under-rated festival is worth a visit in its own right. Free passes to official screenings, often in the presence of a star-studded jury and cast members too, can be ordered online in advance and picked up in person. Cinema Colisée hosts panel discussions with the cast following select screenings.