Marrakech is certainly one of those places that is an assault on the senses. The hot African sun beating down, crowds of people, brightly coloured stalls filled with handmade Moroccan wares, the smell of traditional spices. The Red City is like no other place that I’ve visited. Everything feels so alive, and at times it can be overwhelming.
Overwhelming but enchanting, definitely somewhere that should be on your bucket list. I will admit that Marrakech wasn’t one of my favourite cities by the time I left but there is something really special about it.
I’d recommend visiting for a long weekend, after all the flight from the UK is actually a lot shorter than you’d expect! Here’s everything you need to know about spending a weekend in the Red City.
There are regular flights from the UK, especially from London airports, in to Marrakech Menara airport. Flight time is usually between three and four hours.
Arriving at the airport
Couple of top tips for arriving at Marrakech Menara: take a pen to fill out your landing card, and when putting down your occupation, write your job title in the simplest form. My boyfriend’s job title is a bit obscure and it meant that he spent 10 minutes being questioned at the border. For example, instead of putting down my title of “National Account Manager”, I simply put “Sales Manager”, which raised no questions.
Getting from the airport to the city
You can quite easily grab a taxi from outside the airport terminal and it shouldn’t cost much at all; a trip in to the city doesn’t take long. Be sure to haggle and agree a price before you get in to the taxi.
I pre-arranged a taxi with our riad, definitely the easiest option. Although more expensive by a long way (though still cheap by Western standards), it is much more straightforward if you’re staying in the medina. Taxis can’t enter most of the medina, and as such, it’s unlikely that you’ll be dropped off at your accommodation. Booking transport through your riad or hotel means that they will take you right to the door of where you’re staying, no matter how far in to the medina it might be.
How to dress
Marrakech is a predominantly Muslim country, and as such, you should respect local customs and dress appropriately. As a female, cover your knees, shoulders and chest as much as possible. I found that long culottes and midi skirts worked well. Take a light scarf as an extra cover up.
It’s a little more relaxed for males, although I’d still keep your shoulders covered. Plenty of male tourists were walking around in shorts and who can blame them in such a hot country.
Where to stay
I’d highly recommend staying at a riad (a traditional Moroccan house with interior garden or courtyard) within the medina. It’s an unforgettable experience, read more here. I stayed at Riad Spa Sindibad and Riad Dar More, both of which I’d definitely stay at again.
What to see and do
It’s likely your accommodation will be within the medina, especially if you opt for a riad. Just wandering the medina is an experience in itself, the narrow streets are bustling with people, scooters and horses.
Morocco is famous for it souks (marketplace or bazaars). Wander through these and get lost amongst all manner of stalls, selling everything from Moroccan spices to rugs to trainers to fresh olives. Be sure to keep on your poker face when trying to buy something, and haggle, it’s expected. Vendors can start at up to three times the price they actually want for an item. Yes haggling feels uncomfortable, especially when it’s over a small amount, but it’s completely normal in Morocco.
The largest mosque in Marrakech, Koutoubia is stunning and not to be missed. Although non-Muslims are not permitted to enter, it’s well worth visiting to see from outside.
Le Jardin Majorelle
These gardens, lovingly created by French painter Jacques Majorelle over a forty year period, are one of the most visited attractions in all of Marrakech. Yes you’ll likely have to queue for a while to get in, yes it will be crowded, but trust me it’s worth it.
The gardens are filled with beautiful trees, plants and cacti. The buildings are painted in beautiful Majorelle blue and yellow. Definitely not to be missed.
Entry to the gardens costs 70dh (around £5.50) and its an extra 30dh to enter to Yves Saint Laurent museum.
Another beautiful mosque worth checking out.
My favourite of the palaces in Marrakech, Bahia is absolutely stunning. It was built in the 19th century and took 14 years to complete. Think intricate architecture, beautiful tiles and the most gorgeous colours.
We paid 10dh for admission but a lot of people just skipped this and entered for free; the ticket office is literally a little cabin by the entrance that can be walked by easily.
El Badi Palace
El Badi Palace was completed around 1593 after 15 years.
Be sure to head up the stairs just left of the entrance, there’s a view point with great views over the palace.
Jemaa el-Fna Square
The main square in the medina, Jemaa el-Fna is filled with stalls and orange juice stands by day. At night, vendors set up street food stalls. There’s also a number of street entertainers, snake charmers and people with monkeys on chains.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t like Jemaa el-Fna at all. If you visit, please don’t take photos with the snakes or monkeys, as you’ll only encourage these cruel practices to carry on.
It’s worth noting that locals will expect payment if you’re taking photos of them or their stalls. Also, be aware of the ladies offering henna. One came up to me and started brushing henna onto my arm without permission. Say no, be firm and walk away.
Maison de la Photographie
This photography museum takes you on a journey back time, with exhibitions documenting the history of Marrakech.
I didn’t love the exhibitions that we saw but I think I was unfairly comparing them to the ones I saw at Fotograsfika in Stockholm earlier this year, which were incredible.
The museum is well worth a visit just for the beautiful internal architecture and the gorgeous rooftop café, which has great views over the city.
Enjoy the view from a rooftop
There are plenty of rooftop cafes, restaurants and bars in Marrakech. In my opinion, spending time at these is the best way to soak up the city. If you visit during spring, you’ll be able to see the Atlas mountains in the distance; they make an amazing backdrop.
Food and drink
Whilst in Marrakech, there are a few local and regional specialities you must try:
- Fresh orange juice
- Mint tea (with sugar!)
- Cous cous
- Harira soup
This was my favourite rooftop spot in Marrakech. It’s lesser known than some of the other places in the city and this makes it a more relaxing, less crowded place to grab some lunch.
The wraps and salads are fresh and tasty. They also serve alcohol, something that isn’t true of many places in Morocco.
Nomad is a trendy spot, perfect for grabbing lunch, a fresh juice and doing a bit of people watching. It gets busy and you may have to wait for a table.
The food is expensive by Moroccan standards but it’s tasty and there’s quite a few vegetarian dishes on the menu.
There are two Al Fassia restaurants, serving delicious traditional Moroccan food.
Sick of tagine and cous cous? You don’t exactly expect to find a great burger restaurant in Marrakech, but Beats Burger is just that.
The food is delicious and the restaurant itself is really cool, complete with a rooftop of course.
As I already mentioned, not many places in Morocco serve alcohol outside of tourist hotels.
Kosybar is situated in the medina and has a lovely rooftop where you can enjoy a drink. The wine and beer is good but avoid the cocktails- the Espresso Martini I ordered was pretty awful.
Have you been to Marrakech? Do you have any other recommendations?