If you’re visiting Marrakech for long enough to afford taking a day out of town, the ancient port of Mogador, the modern day Essaouira, is well worth the two and a half hour trip.
A small, picturesque seaport with a shipyard and important fishing fleet, Essaouira is unlike almost any other town in Morocco due largely to the fact that it was developed originally by the Portuguese, a heritage accounting for much of its character and charm. The walled town stands on a narrow peninsula sheltering a vast bay and crescent of fine sand.
A Unesco World Heritage Site, it is a fascinating example of 18th century European military architecture, notably its sea defences, constructed by the French and equipped with an impressive row of Spanish canons. From this fortified Scala there is a splendid outlook over the sea and Atlantic rollers crashing against the rocks.
A few yards from the busy fishing port, the medina features a large square and a couple of wide boulevards as well as a maze of narrow streets, all the more pleasant for being pedestrianised.
There are also a couple of specialist souks (for fish and spices, for example), countless restaurants and a host of small shops selling everything from tourist trinkets to fine art and craft items, many of them wood carvings in thuya and argane for which the town is famous.
Most visitors reach Essaouira by minibus from Marrakech or by the frequent and comfortable coach service operated by Supratours, a subsidiary of Moroccan Railways.