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The city of Marrakech is a complete assault to the senses – a visual kaleidoscope of vibrant colours, combined with the wonderful smells of leather and spices, along with the soothing sounds of the call to prayer and snake charmer flutes. It is definitely one of our favourite travel destinations.
Marrakech is one of the most popular cities to visit in Morocco and is a great all year round tourist destination with more than 300 days of sunshine. The city is so buzzing that it can feel rather overwhelming at times – but if you have a keen sense of adventure then this is the perfect city break for you!
There are heaps of great things to do in the city, so here are is our Marrakech travel guide with our top things to do, and a few travel tips for first time visitors:
Table of Contents
Marrakech Travel Guide Good to know
You will hear a mixture of languages in the city with the main ones being Arabic and French. English is fairly common as the city is becoming quite touristy.
Morocco uses dirhams. It is a good idea to carry cash with you for buying souvenirs in the souks.
Marrakech is a year round warm and sunny destination (around 300 days of sunshine). Afternoons during the summer months (July-August) are very hot with temperatures soaring into the early 40s. Winter nights can be very chilly so remember to pack layers.
Getting around the city
The old city is fairly compact so walking is the best way to take in the majority of the main sights. A few are located outside of the city and require a taxi or the tourist red double decker bus to get you there.
What to wear
Morocco is a Muslim country so it is respectful to cover yourself up a bit when exploring outside of your hotel (avoid tiny shorts/skirts or skimpy revealing tops). The locals seems to be pretty tolerant though towards tourists.
Practice good hygiene to avoid a bad stomach by always washing your hands before eating and avoid drinking tap water. Avoid any hotel buffets too!
The traditional Arabic greeting is “Salaam”
1. Experience Jemaa el-Fnaa
Watching the hustle and bustle of Jemaa el-Fnaa is a must do experience. Whilst it has stalls and a handful of street performers during the daytime, it becomes a whole new world at night to the sounds of drums and story-tellers, and the smells of the many smoky BBQ food stalls (although you may not want to walk through them as there are an incredible amount of touts trying to entice you with their tacky menus). Instead, sit back, relax, sip mint tea and watch the world unfurl below from a rooftop café.
2. Soak up views of the city from a rooftop café
Head to Le Grand Balcon Café Glacier for an incredible view of Jemaa El Fna at night (to enter, head to the stairs on the left and walk up the two flights of stairs). To access the rooftop, you have to buy your drinks in advance. We ordered mint tea (20 dirhams) but had to wait and chase it several times so maybe just grab a cold drink from the fridge for convenience. Then, just sit, back, relax and watch the all action happening below you – all the sights and smells of the square await you.
As you can imagine, this rooftop can get quite busy at sunset so to get a table directly overlooking the square, you may have to keep an eye out for people leaving and then pounce panther-like to grab your seats. We were so enthralled by what we saw that we stayed for a couple of hours (although our mint tea was very cold by the end of it!) Go for the view and the view alone.
Café de France is also another good rooftop bar to go to for perfect views of Koutoubia Mosque at sunset.
3. Relax in Jardin Majorelle
These magical and beautiful botanical gardens are serene – visions of the lush Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto combining with the desert tropics – this is one of the most incredible places to visit whilst in Marrakech. The only downside is that the sheer number of Instagram wannabies and selfie snappers hogging photography spots does start to wear you down after a while – if you want to get an ‘empty’ shot, you have to bide your time and pick your moment carefully.
There is also a rather expensive café, and if you don’t fancy doing the long walk from the city or getting a taxi, the red double decker tour buses also stop here. There are also two museums on the site, one is dedicated to Yves Saint Laurent, whilst the other is about the history of the Berbers. Entry fee for Garden is 70 Dirhams and the museum is 30 dirhams.
4. Get lost in the souks
The chaotic, colourful and overwhelming souks are an absolute wonder and delight to explore. It is a total shoppers paradise with many stalls selling gorgeous leather items such as bags, shoes and poofs (don’t forget to bargain hard!). Do not worry about getting lost when trying to navigate the narrow alleyways – it is inevitable it will happen, so just go with the flow and you will eventually end up back at the main square (probably…). Keep your eye out for many moped drivers to avoid being run over, and make sure you have plenty of room on your camera card.
We recommend booking a private guide for your first day in the city – Abdul from Marrakech Guided Tours crafted an awesome itinerary and walking tour based on what we wanted to see. From the hustle and bustle of the leather auction in the handicraft area, to the calm, tranquil respite of the Musee des Confluences, we saw lots during our four hour tour and got the opportunity to take plenty of pictures.
Abdul also gave us lots of recommendations for other things to see and do around the city, many of which we did in the following days. Book a tour with him online here.
5. Enjoy an evening street food tour
The thing that excites us the most about visiting a new country is the opportunity to experience authentic local cuisines and exciting new street foods. It is not always easy though, the language barriers, fear of food poisoning, tourist trap restaurants and maybe lacking the confidence to try something new can all hold you back. So we recommend booking a laid back evening food and walking tour with Marrakech Food Tours.
Small groups of maximum 7 people are guided around the narrow back streets to sample some of the most delicious local dishes and meet local traders. Book one of their tours online here and watch our video of the tour below!
6. Drink mint tea
Mint tea is the staple of Moroccan hospitality (in fact it is considered rude to refuse the drink when offered). It is simply prepared with freshly infused mint leaves, green tea and then sweetened with lots of sugar. You will be able to find this drink everywhere – from the most fanciest of hotels to the small shops in unassuming alleyways. For Moroccans drinking tea is a way of life, and the art of serving mint tea is to pour the liquid from the teapot at a great height!
7. Visit Dar El Bacha Musee Des Confluences
Forget your travel guide book recommendations telling you to visit Baihia Palace, and instead head to the recently restored museum – El Bacha Musee Des Confluences. Unlike Baihia, coaches full of tourists do not stop here so you will find this a much more tranquil and pleasant experience.
The incredible courtyard plays host to a variety of juicy looking citrus trees and some beautiful symmetrical architecture (with some stunning and intricate tiling and wood work). Visit now before it gets discovered by the masses. Entry fee is 30 dirhams.
8. Photograph Koutoubia Mosque
The minaret of Koutoubia mosque dominates the skyline of Marrakech and is the tallest building in the city (no buildings are allowed to be built any higher than this). Due it being a sacred and religious place, non-Muslims are unable to visit the interiors but you can still listen to the calls to prayer that eminate from it and visit the area around it.
Two great photo opportunities are also available – head to the Parc Lalla Hasna next door and take a shot of the fountains with the minaret in the background. Also, directly underneath the minaret in a shaded walled section, look up and you’ll get a shot of the minaret, palm trees and bell all together.
9. Strike a pose at Hotel La Mamounia
You know all those Instagram shots you see of skinny tanned blonde women posing in a pretty hotel somewhere in Marrakech? Chances are they were taken in La Mamounia. If you cannot afford the hefty nightly rate to stay here, you can still pop into the hotel and it’s gardens for a wander on a weekday (Monday – Friday) until 4pm.
Some parts are ‘guest only’ areas including the pool and spa, but there is an option to purchase a day pass (starting from 1600 dirhams) giving you access to both. Book your pass here.
10. Have dinner at Dar Cherifa
This gorgeous and ancient riad is hidden in the very heart of the souks and is really worth the effort to find. Dar Cherifa serves as both a restaurant and a cultural centre, hosting regular exhibitions. The 16th century architecture is gorgeous with skillfully carved wood panels, and they have a lovely little rooftop where you can eat your dinner whilst watching the sunset. The food served is Moroccan with an international twist.
11. Stay in a traditional riad
There are many beautiful riads in Marrakech, which give you a much more authentic experience than staying at a hotel. These boutique guesthouses are usually decorated in true Moroccan style, with versions available to suit any budget. Some have small swimming pools and some have gorgeous rooftop terraces – in fact there are so many to choose from with more than 1000 traditional riad houses located in the ancient medina!
12. Head out of the city
If you have time we highly recommend heading out of the city for the day to take in some of the gorgeous scenery surrounding Marrakech. Popular day trips include the epic UNESCO heritage site of Aït BenHaddou (used as a filming location for movies such as Gladiator, Babel and Lawrence of Arabia). The route to get here is really stunning, driving through beautiful mountains and passing through many small Berber villages. We booked a trip with Toubkal Guides who were excellent.
Alternatively visit the hip and laid back coastal town of Essaouira, where you can stroll through many art galleries, and eat and drink at some of the many trendy restaurants and cafés.
If you have a few spare days then a trip to the desert in Morocco is a must do! We did a 3 day/2 night Sahara desert tour in Merzouga that included a camel ride to a luxury desert camp! We booked this experience with Authentic Sahara Tours, and it was hands down one of our all time favourite travel experiences!
Here are some highly rated accommodation suggestions for all types of budget in the Marrakech.
Hostel accommodations that come highly rated include:
If you are looking for something mid range then these hotels are in excellent locations with great reviews:
Alternatively if you are looking for something more special then treat yourself to a stay at one of these beautiful hotels in Marrakech:
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