Marrakesh, Morocco: A Travel Guide To The Bustling City Of Marrakesh
The bustling city of Marrakesh is located in the center of Morocco. With its vibrant colors, buzzing atmosphere, mix of tradition and modernity, and aromatic smells, it’s a city like no other: Marrakesh truly stimulates all your senses at once. But besides that, it’s also the gateway to the beautiful High Atlas region and the Sahara Desert. In this video, we will highlight the best things to do in and around this UNESCO World Heritage City. This diverse mix of activities will give you a better understanding of the culture and history of the Marrakesh old town while also providing a taste of the unique beauty outside the city. To have the best experience, we recommend combining these things in a 3 to 4 day visit. In this article we will talk about the most important things to know, where to stay, where to eat and drink, and the 10 best things to do in Marrakesh.
Check out our video on Marrakesh to see the best things to do through our camera!
Table Of Contents
Important Things To Know
Best time to travel to Marrakesh
The best time to visit Marrakesh is from March to May and from September to November. In these periods you will have great weather without being too hot. You will also have fewer tourists. We visited Marrakesh around mid-November and had the perfect weather to explore the city.
Cost and currency
Marrakesh is affordable compared to popular vacation destinations in Europe, but it is one of the most expensive places in Morocco. If you travel with a tight budget, you will definitely have a good time in Marrakesh, but you will need to watch out for the places to eat since they can range from very cheap to very expensive. In Morocco, they use the Moroccan Dirham, so if you plan on going, keep an eye on the exchange rates to save more money.
Safety in Marrakesh
Marrakesh is generally safe, especially for tourists. Just make sure that you stay as close to the center as possible and don't go in the outskirts of the city. We walked by ourselves at night and had no problems. Though always protect your belongings, especially at the Jemaa El-Fna square which can get extremely busy during the evening! There could be some pickpockets. Finally, be aware that strangers (usually merchants) will talk to you everywhere you go in the medina. In 99% of the cases, they want you to buy something. This can be a little bit annoying at times, but can be avoided by simply ignoring them or saying "thank you" ("merci" in French or "shukran" in Arabic).
Where To Stay In Marrakesh
Riad Basma: this was the riad we stayed at. The location and facilities were great, though we found the beds to be a little hard.
Dar Charkia: a beautiful place with an amazing location
Palais Dar Donab: this stunning hotel will make you feel as if you're in the middle of nature while being in the center of Marrakesh
Where To Eat And Drink
Chez brahim: great authentic Moroccan cuisine. Try the tagine with figs and nuts and the Berber couscous here.
La cantine des gazelles: cheap and amazing food, reserve a table because it gets very busy (we couldn't get one for two days...)
Café des épices: nice rooftop for watching the sunset
Mazel café: touristic but good for lunch, we had pita there and it was awesome
Le grand balcon du café glacier: has the best view of Jemaa el fna and the Koutoubia mosque
Best Things To Do In Marrakesh
There are so many things to do in this bustling city that not everything could make our list. There are a few things to do in Marrakesh we won't mention but are certainly worth it if you have the time:
Medersa Ben Youssef
Horse or Camel Ride in the Palmeraie
Dar Si Said Museum of Moroccan Arts and Crafts
Let's now jump in the 10 best things to do in and around Marrakesh!
If you're traveling to Marrakesh and want to save time searching for directions to all of the places we mention in this article, then look no further than our custom map. Simply click on a point in the map below to get directions there for yourself!
10. Explore the medina
The medina is the old city of Marrakesh, entirely circled by light pink-red walls. It’s the heart of the city, packed with shops, traditional houses called “riads”, restaurants, and many of the historic sites. Until just over 100 years ago, most people lived within these walls. However, today the majority of people have moved outside the walls and many of the “riads” have been converted into accommodations for tourists. To learn all about the medina and local life in Marrakesh, we recommend going on a walking tour of the city on your first day here. It’s a great way to become familiar with the labyrinth of alleyways as well as the local customs. The tour also takes you to corners you wouldn’t be able to find yourself, such as the workshops of the souks.
9. Try the traditional local food
Morocco in general is known for its delicious, unique cuisine that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Some staples you have to try include couscous, meat brochettes, and the most iconic dish of all: tagine, which usually includes some kind of meat like chicken, beef, or lamb that is left to simmer and slow cooked with herbs, spices, and other ingredients such as dates, potatoes, and vegetables. Most restaurants are located near the main square of Jemaa el-fna. But don’t shy away from street food stalls, as they offer a delicious and affordable selection of sandwiches and pastries as well as freshly squeezed juice and more exotic dishes. Another way of experiencing the local cuisine is by doing a cooking class taught by local chefs. This is a more unique experience and something that will definitely stand out from your trip to Marrakesh.
8. Visit the Saadian Tombs
You can’t leave Marrakesh without visiting one of its historic sights. The Saadian Tombs are a 16th century burial ground of the Saadian dynasty, which ruled over Marrakesh between 1524 and 1668. The mausoleums are beautifully-decorated and set amid a garden. The tombs were walled up by the following ruler (Alawite Dynasty) to keep his predecessors out of sight and mind, and was only rediscovered in the early 20th century when aerial photography exposed it.
7. Find peace at the Majorelle Gardens
Marrakesh is known for its beautiful gardens and Majorelle Gardens might be the most famous one. Located in Marrakesh’s new town, these lush botanical gardens are filled with cacti, palms, and other colorful trees, offering a true escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was originally created by artist Jacques Morelle, who lived in this garden and villa complex. It was later purchased by the famous fashion designers Yves-Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, who restored it. Today, it’s open to the public and some of the houses have been converted into museums, the Museum of Berber Arts and the Yves-Saint-Laurent Museum, which can be visited for an additional fee.
Tip: Keep in mind that this is one of the most popular sights in all of Marrakesh! Avoid crowds by coming as early or late as possible (check the opening hours here).
Other interesting gardens in Marrakesh include:
Le Jardin Secret
5. Get lost in the souks
Marrakesh is known for its traditional “souks”, which are basically markets or bazaars. In the past, a souk was an area where merchants passed through the city and traded goods. As such, you can find them in different corners inside and outside of the medina. What makes the souks in Marrakesh remarkable is the wide variety of exotic items you can buy, such as babouches (traditional slippers), lanterns, ceramics, carpets, and leather goods. Most of the popular souks can be found next to the main square. Some souk options are:
Souk smata (Souk of the babouches)
Souk semmarine (most touristic one )
Souk chouari (Carpentry souk)
Souk haddadine (Souk of the blacksmiths)
Souk zrabi (The carpet souk)
4. Check the ruins of El Badi Palace
The Saadian Ruler Al-Mansour who was buried in the Saadian Tombs we discussed earlier also had built a grand palace in the 16th century. And although it stands largely in ruins today, it is still easy to take a journey back in time and imagine the beauty it once had. Step foot inside and you’ll see its grandeur, with mosaic-tiled floors, ruined pavilions, and high enclosing walls. Make sure to go to the top of the walls, where you can take in views of the Palace from above as well as across the medina.
3. See the beautiful Bahia Palace
After El Badi Palace, it might be interesting to see the contrast with the beautiful Bahia Palace, which was built in the late 19th century. The interior decoration combines colorful tiles, painted ceilings, and ornate wrought-iron features that showcase a lavish lifestyle. The beautiful courtyards with banana-leaf plants and trees are a tranquil break from the buzzing city.
2. Go on a day tour to the Ouzoud Waterfalls
If you want a true escape from the noise of the city and would like to experience some of Morocco’s finest nature, we highly recommend going on a day trip to the Ouzoud Waterfalls. With a height of 110 meters or 360 feet, these are the tallest waterfalls in the country. A day tour from Marrakesh allows you to spend around 4 hours at the falls, which is plenty of time to hike down to the river, take in the beauty, do a short boat ride to get closer to the falls, and hike up again. There are many restaurants with a stunning viewpoint as well on your way towards the exit. And as a bonus, you’ll also encounter many macaque monkeys who call this place home.
If you have more time to spare than just a day, we also recommend venturing to the High Atlas Region and the Merzouga Desert. You’ll need at least a few days to really enjoy these unique landscapes. It is also possible to do a guided day trip to the Atlas Mountains from Marrakesh which we highly recommend!
1. Experience the Jemaa El-Fna square
Finally, you can’t leave Marrakesh without visiting its beating heart; the Jemaa-el-Fna square. It’s the hub of entertainment, with a variety of food and juice stalls, musicians, fortune-tellers, henna tattoo artists, and snake charmers. The square really comes to life in the evening and can be a bit overwhelming for some people because of its loud noise and large crowds. An evening spent here wandering around is a truly Moroccan experience. To escape the chaos, you can head to one of the rooftop cafés next to the square that offer panoramic views. Also don’t forget to check out the Koutoubia Mosque, which can be found right next to the square. It’s Marrakesh’s most famous landmark with its large minaret that is visible from every direction!
Use These Websites To Save Money On Your Trip To Marrakesh
Booking.com for places to stay
Skyscanner for cheap flights
GetYourGuide for local tours
Rentalcars.com for affordable car rentals
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