Sights, Sounds and Souks: Six Days in Marrakech

Playing flight roulette brought me to Morocco over Christmas, with no idea what to expect. What I found was a mesmerising destination, rich in history and culture.

I want to go to a new country that I haven’t been to before, and I want to go somewhere warm, I thought to myself as I tapped my preferred travel dates into Skyscanner. After clicking “everywhere,” Marrakech airport returned the cheapest flights. Well, looks like I’m going to Morocco for Christmas! I thought, before taking the plunge and booking.

Before my trip, I was unusually nervous. Maybe it was because I was travelling to another continent, but this adventure seemed a bit more stressful than others. I needn’t have worried though – it ended up being a fantastic experience, seeing the main sights in Marrakech and feasting on lots of tasty Moroccan dishes.

Top attractions in Marrakech

Marrakech is famous for its souks – they’re part of the Marrakech Medina Unesco site, after all. Winding through narrow passageways, you’ll find stall after stall of unique goods and sellers hawking their wares: carpets, lamps, shoes – you name it, someone will be selling it. Haggling is expected, so never accept the first price offered.

Bahia Palace is one unmissable attraction in Marrakech, with intricate tilework and stunning architecture. But don’t skip a visit to Badi Palace – this 16th-century royal complex is in ruins now, but equally interesting. Marrakech isn’t all ancient history, though: you’ll find extraordinary gardens throughout the city. Jardin Majorelle, or the YSL Gardens, pull in big crowds and Instagram enthusiasts; visit first thing in the morning for a more peaceful experience. The tranquility of the Secret Garden is juxtaposed with the chaos of the bustling medina just outside its walls.

Easily, my favourite experience in Marrakech was a day trip out of the city, to the Atlas Mountains and Agafay Desert. I hiked to a waterfall and in between Berber villages, all under the shadow of Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. Then it was time for wandering in the wide open spaces of the Agafay Desert, with sand dunes stretching for miles.

Food and drink in Marrakech

As this was my first foray into North African cuisine, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I was surprised in the best way; I tucked into some seriously delicious couscous, tagine, falafel and hummus platters over the course of my trip. The most ubiquitous Moroccan drink is mint tea – you’ll likely be offered it everywhere, several times a day, every day! Keep in mind not every restaurant or cafe will serve alcohol, and it’s pretty expensive if you do choose to drink. A glass of wine or a cocktail will easily cost more than a main dish.

Travel tips for Marrakech

You’ll need to bring plenty of cash with you to Morocco, as most smaller businesses (including taxis and market stalls) don’t accept card payments. Some places will take Euros, but the exchange rate tends to be better if you pay in Moroccan dirham. There are loads of banks and ATMs near Djema el-Fna. If you’re travelling from the UK, you’ll need a plug adapter – Morocco uses the same two-pronged plugs as the rest of the EU.

If you’re staying in the medina, arrange an airport transfer with your accommodation. It can be very confusing and overwhelming to try to find your way through the souks, especially if you’re laden with luggage. There are no street signs within the medina, so downloading Google Maps offline will be a lifesaver. As with any trip, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. Keep a hand on your belongings, particularly in the busy souks, and watch where you’re going so you don’t get hit by scooters or bikes. Try to avoid walking through the souks after dark as the dimly lit alleyways can feel uncomfortable.

While Arabic is the official language in Morocco, most people also speak French. The majority of people in the tourism industry will also speak English, but a polite shukran (thank you in Arabic) will be appreciated.

Visiting Morocco with Culture Trip

Travelling around Morocco can be intimidating and stressful, even for experienced travellers like myself. Luckily, Culture Trip has three superb itineraries in this North African destination. Our 11-day Epic Morocco trip starts in Casablanca, then travels through Fes and the Sahara before finishing in Marrakech. Our five-day Mini Trip explores the top attractions in Marrakech, before heading into the Atlas Mountains and spending a night in the Agafay Desert. Or for a truly unique experience, why not join our 12-day Rail Trip from Madrid to Marrakech? Whichever trip you choose, our Local Insiders will be on hand to guide you through the desert trails and maze-like medinas.

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