Heading to Marrakech soon? For information on the key sights and my favourite places to eat and unwind, check out my comprehensive Marrakech travel guide… 

Marrakech Travel Guide

In my previous post, I discussed my first impressions of Marrakech and wrote a bit about what you can expect when visiting: the madness of the medina versus the calm of the rooftops and museums. Marrakech has a rich history and a lot of culture: there’s plenty to see, do and eat. I would recommend at least 3 days to get to grips with, explore and discover what the city has to offer. 

Are you interested in a particular section of the article? Click on the relevant heading, below:

~ What to Do and See ~

1. Bask in the beauty of the Ben Youssef Medersa

The Ben Youseef Medersa is best enjoyed in the early morning light, before the crowds appear. The Medersa (or theological college) is over 500 years old.
 
After wandering the now deserted dorm rooms, I headed to the centrepiece of the Medersa: the interior courtyard.  Wow. The tiles: patterns of green, orange, white, brown and blue. The symmetry: perfect arches and pillars line every side of the courtyard. This combination creates a dreamy, photogenic environment. 
 
Above the doorway, as you enter the Medersa, is an inscription which reads “you who enter my door, may your highest hopes be exceeded.”  Mine certainly were. 

2. Lose yourself in the Medina

Marrakech’s medina is a modern day labyrinth; a collection of twisted roads paths and alleyways criss-cross within the old city walls. Thankfully, I never encountered a Minotaur. Instead, you’ll uncover a vast collection of beautiful architecture, artworks and delicious food. Oh, don’t forget the endless shopping opportunities (more on that at #3, below). It’s likely that you’ll get lost within the maze of the medina. I like to think that I have a pretty damn good sense of direction but still lost my way a few times. Don’t fret when this happens, embrace it and wander (after all, you might stumble upon the perfect doorway for your Instagram feed!).

3. Shop (until you drop)

The souks of the medina contain an incomprehensible number of stalls and shops. Here you will find an overwhelming choice of leather goods, trinkets, artworks, jewellery, artisan rugs and spices. Keen shoppers amongst you will be in dreamland. Whether you are looking for a little memento to take home, or a gift for a loved one, you’re bound to find something! Most places don’t have prices, so dust off your bartering skills and jump right on in.

4. Explore the courtyards of the Bahia Palace

If sublime courtyards and vibrant tiles are your thing, head over to the magnificent Bahia Palace. As with many of Marrakech’s attractions, it is best enjoyed earlier in the day, before the hoards of tourists appear. I actually visited in the afternoon, straight after a rain shower (yes, the rain seems to follow us Brits everywhere) and was lucky enough to find it almost empty.
 
Bahia translates to ‘beautiful’ and it’s a fitting name for this palace. I particularly enjoyed the Grand Courtyard, which made for some fabulous photographs.

5. Take a trip to Marrakech's most beautiful garden

The Jardin Majorelle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Morocco, and for good reason. It took French painter Jacques Majorelle 40 years of passion to cultivate the garden. The garden is also synonymous with Yves Saint Laurent who, with his partner Pierre Berge, purchased the garden after Majorelle’s death, saving it from demolition. The garden itself is beautiful and relaxing and is home to a cacophony of plant life. The centrepiece though is the electric blue villa, which also serves as a berber museum.
 
As with many of Marrakech’s attractions, head over early so that you can beat the crowds and the midday heat. 
Visiting Marrakech - Majorelle Garden

6. Watch sunset over the Jemaa El-Fnaa

No self-respecting Marrakech travel guide would be complete without mentioning the Jemaa El-Fnaa.
 
At street level I was not a fan. Here you’ll find aggressive sales techniques, over-priced, average food and potential pickpockets. The worst part about the Jemaa El-Fnaa is the deplorable treatment of animals. In particular, the monkeys. Dressed in nappies and shackled with chains, their masters force them to perform for and have their pictures taken with tourists. I implore anybody visiting to refuse to engage with these disgusting individuals. I hope that they ban this practice sooner rather than later.
 
By all means take a stroll through the square, but the best way to enjoy it is from an elevated position. Numerous balconies and cafes overlook the Jemaa El-Fnaa. It is a fantastic place for photography and to witness Marrakech’s vibrant sunsets. 

Sunset over the Jemaa El Fnaa

7. Enjoy a pot of mint tea

Marrakech’s main attractions are best visited when they are quiter, either first thing or shortly before closing. What then should you do with the rest of the day? One option is, of course, to explore the medina and souks. The other is to find somewhere quiet, such as a balcony, where you can people watch from, and enjoy a Moroccan specialty: mint tea. It forms a key part of life in Marrakech and is a staple of Moroccan hospitality. There is no shortage of places to enjoy tea: literally everywhere serves it. 

Marrakech’s main attractions are best visited when they are quiter, either first thing or shortly before closing. What then should you do with the rest of the day? One option is, of course, to explore the medina and souks. The other is to find somewhere quiet, such as a balcony, where you can people watch from, and enjoy a Moroccan specialty: mint tea. It forms a key part of life in Marrakech and is a staple of Moroccan hospitality. There is no shortage of places to enjoy tea: literally everywhere serves it. 

8. Explore the ruins of the El Badi Palace

The El Badi Palace is certainly not modest. The name gives it away; El Badi translates to ‘the incomparable’. With its sunken gardens, collection of pools and archways it would have been quite the sight when first constructed. Some 5 centuries later the palace is a crumbling ruin. Ruins which hint at a previous grandeur and opulence: in its heyday, the palace’s 350 rooms were ordained with cedar wood, onyx, ivory and Italian marble. A gold and turquoise colour scheme running throughout.  
 
Make sure to climb to the top of the palace’s walls. From here the reward on offer is some spectacular views across the red city. After exploring the central courtyard, head south to check out the stables and dungeons (previously used as a state prison)

9. Find an oasis of calm

In my previous articleI mentioned that one of my favourite things about Marrakech was discovering the oases of calm which exist around the city. Exploring the narrow bustling streets of the medina can become overbearing (especially with the prospect of mopeds zipping around) and its important to find somewhere quiet to relax, take stock and enjoy an obligatory pot of mint tea. Some of my favourite spots of calm were:

  • The Maison de la Photographie, which has a great roof terrace. The museum also contains an excellent selection of portraits and photos, which capture life in the city through the years
  • The Secret Garden – a walled garden in the west of the medina. 
  • The calm, relaxing vibes of Cafe des Espices,with its feature spiralling staircase (be sure to mind your head!).
Marrakech Travel Guide - cafe des espices interior

10. Admire the Koutoubia Mosque

Local laws prohibit any building from standing taller than the Koutoubia Mosque. As a result, the Mosque’s minaret tower dominates the Marrakech skyline. 
 
Whilst the Mosque is off limits to non-muslim visitors, its rose coloured exterior is beautiful to behold. It also makes for a fantastic silhouette at sunset. 

The Koutoubia Mosque dominates the Marrakech skyline

~ Food and Drink in Marrakech ~

Marrakech is crammed full of great places to eat, here are some of my favourites… 

Cafes and cheap eats

Atay Cafe: Atay offers a friendly welcome, delicious, reasonably priced food and awesome terrace views. Unsurprisingly, it was my favourite place to chill out in Marrakech. The cafe is laid out over a number of floors, but head straight to the top for the roof terrace. On the menu are 6 different varieties of tajine (50-80 Dh) and four varieties of skewer (55-70 Dh) to sample. The lamb tajine was delightful. 

Marrakech Travel Guide - Atay skewers

Delicious meat skewers - Atay

Zwin Zwin Cafe: its close proximity to the Bahia and El Badii Palaces make Zwin Zwin Cafe a good place to stop off whilst exploring the south east of the city. Zwin Zwin offers a delicious selection of salads – for lunch I opened for the trio of Moroccan salads (carrot and cinnamon, courgette, eggplant – 50 Dh) and an assortment of briouates (triangular parcels of meat or cheese wrapped in filo dough and fried – 50 Dh). For dinner there are a range of tajines choose from (70-130 Dh). As with the other cafes on this list, Zwin Zwin has a roof terrace with great views. 

Cafe des Espices: located in the heart of the souks and offering great views over the Spice Square is Cafe des Espices. It’s great for lunch: I enjoyed the kefta sandwich – minced beef, tomatoes onion green peppers on a nice fresh cob and a super refreshing juice (spinach, carrot and cucumber). The menu offers a selection of salads, sandwiches and tajines (50-65 Dh) and tea and coffee (10-20 Dh). 

Kefta sandwich - Cafe des Espices

Cafe Clock: located in the South of the city, Cafe Clock offers a cultural/cafe crossover experience. Chill out with a juice, tea or signature dish (check out the camel burger) or you could choose to partake in a cookery class or watch thelive gnawa music. 

Roti D’or: for a quick, cheap meal, look no further than Roti. Here you will find a selection of tacos, burritos, kebabs, burgers. The taco (at 25 Dh) was a bargain and very tasty! 

Looking for something a bit more fancy?

Latitude 31: Fancy treating yourself? Look no further than Latitude 31. The combination of an open air courtyard setting, soft lighting and mellow musical beats (courtesy of a resident DJ) creates an intimate ambience. The menu is awash with interesting dishes, which offer a delicious balance of flavours. The dishes themselves are beautifully presented. Starters range from 75-90 Dh, mains from 110-210 Dh, and desserts from 70-80 Dh.

~ Where to Stay ~

Marrakech is famous for its riads and no trip would be complete without spending a night in one. A riad is a traditional Moroccan home, the key characteristic being an open-air inner courtyard which the building surrounds. There are no shortage of riads within the medina and there is sure to be something to meet your tastes. We stayed in the Rodamón Marrakech, a hostel-variety riad. It was clean, safe and comfortable. If you are travelling with a partner, you might want to look into something a little more intimate. Otherwise, I can confirm that the Rodamón offers a good location and competitive prices.

I hope that you’ve found my Marrakech travel guide to be of some use! What are your favourite things to do in Marrakech, and what would you add to this list? Let me know, below…

By CHRIS BURCHILL

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