7 Cities to Visit in Morocco on Your First Visit (And Where to Stay!)

If you’re starting to plan your trip, here are 7 solid cities to visit in Morocco that’ll give you a good introduction to the country!

Over the 3 weeks Autumn and I spent in Morocco, we wound up going through 7 cities in basically one perfect loop from Tangier to Essaouira (and Casablanca, but I only flew out of there). It sounds like a lot, but I think the key to enjoying Morocco, especially on your first visit, is to keep moving. We did everything from shop in the medinas to ride camels in the desert and more. I like to think we had a great introduction while also seeing enough that if we never get the change to return, we won’t have any regrets.

With that said, here are the cities I think are worth visiting!

7 Cities to Visit in Morocco

white and reddish buildings in tangier

1. Tangier

Tangier’s biggest claim to fame (at least in my head) is that it’s incredibly close to Spain and the northern Moroccan border. Specifically, it sits as the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. Because of its location, Tangier has been known for its mix of cultures and as a major port city.

We flew here solely because it was the closest city to Chefchaoeun (only 2-3 hours), so we had about one full day to walk around. We didn’t do much persay, but we just wandered around the medina, along the coast, and ate at some nearby places. If I replanned this trip, I’d give us an extra day so we could go out to the Cave of Hercules and Cape Spartel.

Here are some tour options for Tangier:

Where to Stay in Tangier

We stayed at the Tanja Lucia Hostel ($) in a 4-female dorm room. Overall, we had a really pleasant experience, and the one host was particularly friendly and helpful. It’s right in the medina, so it’s a bit tricky to find at first. I enjoyed the sitting areas the most and, of course, the views from the balcony.

However, I do have to say they were some odd moments to be aware of, especially if you’re a woman traveling solo. There was an older man who seemed to staying there long term that made us a touch uncomfortable, and one of the girls we became friendly with told us later in Chefchaoeun that one of the hosts got her number and texted her inappropriately after we’d all left. I mean, check herefor more reviews and see for yourself.

I’ll leave it up to your judgement, but here are some other options as we noted as well:

blue facades of buildings in chefchoauen morocco

2. Chefchaouen

The famous blue city of Chefchaouen! This was obviously on my list as it’s a photographer’s dream. I also read the town is much more relaxed compared to the rest of Morocco, so I thought it’d be a nice way to get more acclimated to the culture. 

I will say, I feel like because the area is so calm and blue, it kind of emphasizes it when the men get a little too aggressive. It stood out more to me here than in Fes, but it might have just been me still getting used to Morocco. Remember to just ignore them and keep walking. 

If I went again, I’d give us an extra day to go hiking because there are really nice waterfalls nearby. Otherwise, you’re kind of walking around the town eating and taking photos the whole time since, besides the Kasbah, there’s not much to do

Here are some tour options for Chefchaoeun:

I do think, if you’re only visiting for photos, a day is probably enough, so here are some tours from nearby cities:

If you’re staying in town and still want a guided tour, try this private one.

Where to Stay in Chefchaoeun

We stayed at Dar Antonio ($) in a private two bed room but with a shared bathroom. It was a really nice place right in the medina and near a main square. The only issue I really have is how hard it is to find! It literally is like a little blue cave, and most people we asked didn’t know where it was. It doesn’t show up where it’s supposed to be on Maps.Me either! The hosts were really lovely, and the guesthouse was really well designed.  Check here for prices + availability

If Dar Antonio is booked, we also looked at these places:

channoura tannery in fez

3. Fes

Fes is one of the oldest cities in Morocco and the second largest after Casablanca. It dates all the way back to the 700 and 800s, and from what I read, its medina, Fes el Bali, which was also built around the same time, is the best preserved. I’d say Fes’s most notable feature is the Chouara Tannery, which you can see from different rooftops and balconies. 

We basically had two days to walk around, and in addition to the tannery and staying in the medina, we walked out towards the old Jewish Quarter and the royal palace! Check my post for a more detailed guide on what to do in Fes.

Here are some tour options for Fes:

Where to Stay in Fes

We stayed at the Riad Dar Lmallouki, which I found on Airbnb. I’m going to be honest the actual accommodation isn’t going to be the fanciest or even the most private place. All the rooms surround a kind of courtyard below, and you’ll want to keep the windows open for airflow.

However, the rooms are clean, the bathroom nice, and, most importantly, the hosts were AMAZING. Hasan was so lovely, and he was always eager to help us with anything. Autumn and I both left wanting to marry Abradhim, who was in charge of breakfast and even did our laundry!

Anyway I’d stay here again because the hosts were so freaking lovely, and it’s right in the medina near the Blue Gate, so it’s super central to everything. Check here for prices + availability

If Riad Dar Lmallouki is booked, here are some other places we had bookmarked:

4. Merzouga

If you’re hoping to visit the desert while in Morocco and not do a multi-day Marrakech excursion, then Merzouga is one of the places you want to stay. It’s right by the Cherg Ebbi sand dunes and is otherwise a pretty sleepy town. I personally didn’t love the town itself, so I wouldn’t hangout here for an extended time. I did however enjoy how close it was to the sand dunes, and if you go at a cooler time, you could actually walk out to them right from town. 

Here are some tour options for Merzouga:

Where to Stay in Merzouga

We stayed at Family Moroccan House or Dar Gambra. I’m going to be honest, we didn’t love our stay. It’s weird because they did do a lot of nice things in helping us, but I also feel like they did twice as much in trying to upsell or slightly manipulate us. I started writing everything down, and it just got exhausting and too long, so if you ever meet me and want to know all the details, just ask haha. 

I will give them that the luxury desert tour & camel riding they set up for us was really nice, and we loved our guide, Hasan, who was cracking jokes the whole time he was leading us through the Sahara. Anyway, check here to see everything for yourself if you do want to book. 

Here are other places I’d rather have stayed:

ben ait haddou

5. Ouarzazate 

Sitting south of the High Atlas mountains, Ouarzazate is most known as Morocco’s little Hollywood since its film sets have seen the likes of everyone from Doris Day to Emilia Clarke! The biggest site — Ait Ben Haddou — is actually about 30 minutes away. You might just recognize it as Yunkai from “Game of Thrones.” There is also the Cinema Museum and the Atlas Studios area where there’s a lot of filming done.

Autumn and I really liked Ouarzazate, and it’s one of the places I’d probably return to if I were to come back to Morocco! I picked it randomly on the map when I was looking for places to stop between Merzouga and Marrakech to break up what would be a 12 hour bus ride. I didn’t know it had so much movie history and incredible views!

I strongly recommend renting a car and driving out to the Telouet Kasbah even if it’s a 90+minute, very mountainous drive. The views are insane, and we were in awe the whole time. Don’t go to the bigger brand names car rentals because they’re over 3x the price! We rented from one of the smaller shops downtown and got our car for 520 MAD for 24 hours vs. the 1600 MAD Europcar quoted us!

Here are some tour options for Ouarzazate:

Where to Stay in Ouarzazate

We stayed at Dar Ritaand I wanted to kiss the ground after our first night! Compared to our miserable night’s sleep in Merzouga, we slept like absolute babies! There’s a perfectly functioning A/C unit right above the double bed, which basically put it in the front of my favorites right away. 

On top of that, our hosts were the loveliest! They were so friendly and welcoming, and, hey, they put the prices for extra things on the back of the doors like you ought to. Location-wise it’s not the most central, but we walked quite  bit our first night and were fine. Check here for prices & availability

If Dar Rita is booked, you can also try:

jardin marjorelle in marrakech

6. Marrakech

Ahhh Marrakech — the number one the top cities to visit in Morocco! Some people who visit the country, only visit this bustling place. It’s a huge hub for travelers, and a lot of the places we visited for multiple days can technically be done as a day trip or 2-3 day Marrakech excursion. 

We didn’t spend a ton of time in Marrakech, so we missed some of the bigger highlights. I spent one of our two full days there on a day trip to the Ouzoud Waterfalls while Autumn finished a big grad school project. The next day we hit Jardin Marjorelle, had lunch at the loveliest place called the Amal Centre, and then did a really fun evening food tour with Marrakech Food Tours. 

Here are some tour options for Marrakech:

Where to Stay in Marrakesh

We stayed at Riad the Ocher City. It’s owned by Jessica, this lovely French woman and her sister. The riad is nicely located and it’s beautiful on the inside! It’s just so airy and spacious looking, and our room is at least tied with Dar Rita for being the most luxurious feeling place we stayed. Breakfast is extra, but it’s only like 50 MAD. Of course, my favorite part of the whole place is their cheeky cat, Simba! Check here for rates & availability

If it’s booked, we also looked at these:

7. Essaouira

Ahhh Essaouira, or as GoT fans might call it, Astapor, home to the Unsullied! I’m so happy my last major place was Essaouira because it’s such a different vibe than everywhere else, and it’s tied with Ouarzazate as one of my favorite cities to visit in Morocco, and I’d say of all seven on this list, it also felt like the safest.

It’s just airier and more relaxed. The medina doesn’t feel like a claustrophobic mess, and the sea breeze is the loveliest of all. It was also the coolest place we stayed — we actually got a few goosebumps at night!

We kind of just enjoyed the atmosphere and our last few days in Morocco! Some of the best things to do in Essaouira are roaming around the port and indulging in the freshest of seafood. I also did a bit of shopping towards the end for a little straw bag and some souvenirs for friends.

Here are some tour options for Essaouira:

Where to Stay in Essaouira

We stayed Dar Moonlight Riad through Airbnb, and it was the perfect little place! Saïd came and fetched us at the Supratours bus station and helped us walk into the medina to find where our apartment would be. The terrace is really lovely, and that’s where the WiFi is. I honestly slept up on the couch there because the night air was so cool and lovely. Check here for rates & availability

If Dar Moonlight is booked, try these:

Bonus: Some More Cities to Add if You Have Longer

  • Agadir – Further south than Essaouira; apparently if you rent a car and drive in between the cities, you might just see the famous goats on trees!
  • Casablanca – I guess I technically was in Casablanca for a day, but I was tired, and we weren’t staying near any of the big sights. Autumn spent more time there after I left, so maybe I can get her to write a mini-guide for us! There’s not a ton for travelers here because it’s not so much a tourist city like Fez or Marrakech. The one big thing I had wanted to see was the mosque by the sea.
  • Rabat – The capital city of Morocco. I don’t know too much about it beyond that — this is where Meghan Markle and Prince Harry visited though! 
  • Meknes – With Rabat, Marrakech, and Fez, Meknes is last of the imperial cities in Morocco on this list! It dates all the way back to the 1000s  There are a lot of cool, historical sites around hte area, like Volubilis, Roman ruins, and the really gorgeous Bab Mansour Gate from the 1700s.

Tips for Visiting Morocco

As for more travel tips, here’s how to get around Morocco since we did quite the combination in our time there! If you want some culinary inspiration, then check out my guide on what to eat in Morocco as well. Also don’t miss my tips on what to wear!

And there you have it! Seven cities to visit in Morocco to help you start planning your trip. Let me know if I’ve missed any!

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