Exotic and magical, Marrakech is an assault on the senses. From arrival at the airport to wandering through the souks, the hustle and bustle of the city, and the endless options for dining, it can certainly be overwhelming. We’ve pulled together our favorite ideas and tips for an unforgettable city break in Marrakech.
To get your bearings and learn about the history of the old Marrakech medina, book a half-day guided tour with an official guide. Ask to visit some of the harder-to-find sites – La Maison de la Photographie, Musée de Mouassine – but also just to wander through the souks and watch the artisans at work. Guides tend to know the best of the medina and souks so ask to be taken to lesser-known areas. The history is fascinating, and having a guide to point you in the right direction may help ensure that the rest of your trip is enjoyable rather than spent wandering aimlessly.
With the Atlas Mountains at the doorstep, a trip to the surrounding countryside is a must do! Visit the Atlas Mountains for a bit of trekking and a peek into local Berber life. If you’re short on time, but want to visit the Sahara desert, book a day trip to Ait Ben Haddou, a centuries-old Kasbah on the edge of the Sahara. Or for a bohemian-chic experience, have lunch and a camel ride in the Agafay desert.
It won’t take long to realize that men frequent the cafés, meeting each other to slowly sip a coffee while watching the world go by. Join in! Grab a seat at one of the many cafés located throughout the medina, or new city, for some of the best people watching. For a truly local and authentic experience, visit the community hammam. With separate areas or special hours for men and women, this is where the locals come for a scrub-down and a bit of socializing.
During the French protectorate era, the locals lived in the medina while the French lived in the new city Gueliz. Filled with Moorish art-deco buildings, street-side cafes, trendy galleries, and showrooms, a wander through this neighborhood provides a glimpse into a more modern Marrakech. Many of the businesses are closed on Sundays and shut for lunch between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. daily.
One of the great things about Marrakech is its rooftop terraces and watching as the sky changes from pinks and purples to fiery reds and oranges at sunset is a spectacular site to see. Climb up to one of the rooftop terraces overlooking Jemaa el Fna as the call to prayer sounds out over the old city for a truly magical experience.
Getting lost is inevitable, and one of the best ways to discover the secrets of the Marrakech medina are the little alleys where artists are working in the most unassuming workshops, souks, hidden alleyways, beautiful doorways, and the locals are going about their daily life. But this also needs to be taken into consideration when trying to find sites such as the Maison de la Photographie and the Saadian Tombs, as streets are unmarked.
The food in Marrakech is wonderful and the range is wide. With vendors in Jemaa el Fna serving up some of the best street food in town including fresh calamari, snails alongside evening entertainment, dining al fresco in the square is a must do! Cooking classes are a great way to learn about the cuisine, shop in the local markets, and roll up your sleeves to prepare a feast for yourself featuring some of the home cooking. Restaurants like NOMAD and La Table du Riad at Riad 72 provide lighter menu options using fresh local ingredients to create modern Moroccan cuisine. The Royal Mansour and the Selman Palace provide luxurious dining options.
Booking a mid-range hotel or riad usually comes with a great concierge to provide tips on where to shop, what to do, and where to dine that are genuine. The concierge will help ensure you have a pleasant stay, and also book drivers to and from the airport to ensure you arrive at the riad without getting lost, an essential service upon arriving in Marrakech.