Morocco is an Islamic country and as such, alcohol is rarely sold in local restaurants, where mint tea and thick, dark Arabic coffee are the general tipple of choice. However, that’s not to say it’s illegal. Visitors can readily find alcohol at Western-style restaurants, bars, and upmarket hotels, and Marrakesh in particular is known for its nightlife. You’re spoiled for choice in terms of ways to stay up late, with options ranging from laid-back café bars with excellent live music to avant-garde nightclubs with international DJs and performers. Although there are a couple of nightlife options in the historic medina or walled city, the best neighborhoods for after-dark fun are Gueliz and Hivernage in the Ville Nouvelle.
To make it easier for you to decide where to stay in Marrakesh, we have divided some of the city’s best bars by neighborhood. Most of the addresses listed below also double as late-night restaurants, where you can pair your beverages with authentic Moroccan cuisine or fusion creations from across the world.
Although licensed restaurants and bars are few and far between in the medina, it nevertheless remains the most atmospheric part of the city, and the few nightlife options that are available are well worth exploring. First on the list is Le Salama, a Moroccan brasserie featuring atmospheric, colonial-era décor and a rooftop lounge overlooking the center of the action in Djemma El Fna. Here, you can settle in with a hookah pipe and choose from a full list of wines, spirits, and cocktails while admiring sweeping views of the distant Atlas Mountains. Local DJs and belly dancers perform regularly.
Kosybar follows a similar concept, but is located a few minutes’ walk from El Badi Palace. Come for dinner in the Moroccan restaurant, then stay for cocktails at the rooftop bar where the panoramic city views are especially rewarding at sunset. Our third choice for drinks in the medina is Café Arabe. Tucked into the souk within easy walking distance of Djemma El Fna, it specializes in Italian-Moroccan fusion cuisine and your choice of cocktails, Champagne, and Moroccan wines. Opt to sit out in the zellij-tiled courtyard or up on the rooftop terrace.
French-era, Art Deco Gueliz offers a far larger variety of bars and is easily distinguished from the medina by its palpable European influence. For a chilled-out hangout spot complete with a library and board games, a quiz night on Mondays, and live music on Fridays and Saturdays, choose Café du Livre. Open until 11 p.m., it’s a good place to start your evening, especially between 6 and 8 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday when its happy hour offers some of the most affordable beer and wine in the city. Café du Livre also screens major international sports matches live.
Those who wish to stay up a little later will do well at Baromètre, Pointbar, or 68 Bar à Vin, the latter two of which stay open until 2 a.m. Pointbar is a contemporary tapas bar with a tree-lined terrace, nightly DJ sets, and a drinks menu that includes cocktails and shooters. Baromètre wouldn’t feel out of place in New York City, with its underground laboratory aesthetic and trendy, craft cocktail-sipping crowd. Meanwhile, 68 Bar à Vin is a cozy wine bar offering an extensive choice of imported and Moroccan labels. Smoking inside is allowed.
Located next to Gueliz, on the opposite side of Koutoubia Mosque from the medina, Hivernage is Marrakesh’s most glamorous district. It’s known for its nightclubs and 5-star hotels, many of which house excellent bars. First on the list is Le Churchill, one of several drinking establishments at La Moumounia hotel. Leopard print carpets, padded red leather walls, and black velvet armchairs set a lavishly romantic tone, while mellow jazz serenades well-dressed patrons until after midnight. Alternatively, nearby Le Palace is a subterranean speakeasy with a decadent Art Deco vibe and an in-house DJ.
Other notable hotel bars in the Hivernage area include the Rooftop Garden at The Pearl and all of the bars at Royal Mansour Marrakech. The former is open to guests and visitors, and boasts spectacular views of the medina ramparts and the Agdal gardens. Expect expert mixologists, circular day beds, and a central swimming pool. At the Royal Mansour, you have your choice of elegant watering holes; the Main Bar is a tribute to 1920s glamor, with a handcrafted silver ceiling and vintage carved chairs, whereas the Fireplace Lounge channels British sophistication.
Clubs in Marrakesh are primarily for tourists and there are only a handful to choose from. One of the best-known and most established is 555 Famous Club, which blasts out trance, house, and RnB until 5 a.m. and has a reputation for hosting international DJs. It’s notoriously expensive, even by Western standards. For a slightly less conventional nightclub experience, try Palais Jad Mahal or Theatro, both located in Hivernage. Both offer Moulin Rouge-inspired frivolity with acrobats, fire eaters, and belly dancers, but the Palais in particular is known for its in-house Mahal’s Band.
Live music of one kind or another is prevalent in Marrakesh. In the medina, the epicenter of after-dark activity is Djemma El Fna, the central square where sidewalk cafés and open-air food stalls emit gouts of smoke and tantalizing smells, while live musicians, dancers, and snake charmers entertain the streets. For a more formal setting, African Chic offers late-night Latin music in Gueliz. Hipster spot Café Clock, on the other hand, is a restaurant and cultural center that hosts live Gnaoua music, jam sessions, traditional Moroccan storytelling, and calligraphy and cooking courses.
If you feel like trying your luck at the gambling tables, you have two choices in Marrakesh. The first is Le Grand Casino La Mamounia, located at La Mamounia hotel. It’s open from 1 p.m. to 9 a.m. daily, has a strict dress code and high minimum stakes, and offers 140 slot machines and 20 game tables. Also in Hivernage, Es Saadi Resort’s Casino de Marrakech enjoys a storied reputation as the first casino in Morocco. Its vintage interior sets the stage for major poker tournaments throughout the year, while game tables host everything from roulette to Texas Hold’em.
The city’s premier festival is the National Festival of Popular Arts, held annually over the course of 10 days every July. It sees entertainers and performers from all over the world descend upon the city, including musicians and dancers, fire breathers, fortune tellers, and costumed horse riders. Open-air performances are held in Djemma El Fna and the atmospheric courtyard of El Badi Palace. Other festivals include the Marrakech International Film Festival and the Sun Festival (seven days of contemporary art exhibitions, workshops, concerts, and lectures).
Tips for Going Out in Marrakesh
- Make sure to leave plenty of room in your budget for nightlife in Marrakesh. Nightclub admission fees and drink prices at the high-end hotels are expensive, especially by Moroccan standards.
- If you want to cut costs, opt for local wine and beer wherever possible since imported drinks carry a heavy duty tax and are therefore charged at a premium. Bars that cater to locals rather than tourists tend to be significantly cheaper; however, the crowd will be almost exclusively male which can be intimidating for female travelers.
- If you simply want a drink rather than a night out, ask at your riad whether you can purchase a bottle of wine from the supermarket and drink it on the premises. Most riads have beautiful interior courtyards and rooftop terraces.
- Tipping is discretionary in Morocco and is expected more for waitstaff than barmen; 10 percent is considered normal, but feel free to tip more if you feel that the service was exceptional.
- Remember that although alcohol is legal in Morocco, it is considered offensive to be drunk in public (particularly in the more traditional medina). Similarly, women may want to dress more conservatively than they might for a night out at home in accordance with Islamic culture.
- Marrakesh is a relatively safe city and getting around at night is often easiest on foot. However, it’s best to walk in a group, especially if you are female.
- Petit taxis do operate at night, although rates are higher. If there is no meter, be sure to negotiate the fare before accepting a ride. Uber is not yet available in Marrakesh.
- Be wary of overly friendly women at tourist nightclubs. Prostitution is rife in Marrakesh and often the women are victims of sex trafficking schemes.
- Drugs, including cannabis and hashish, are illegal in Morocco and it’s unwise to partake, especially since policemen frequently pose as dealers.
- Although you’re unlikely to run into problems in practice, bear in mind that homosexuality is illegal in Morocco. Same-sex displays of affection can theoretically be punished with a fine or up to three years’ imprisonment.