I first went to Morocco back in November 2015 and instantly fell in love with it! So much so that I decided I would go back again the following year- something I rarely do unless a) I REALLY feel a pull from a country telling me I NEED to go back and explore more or b) I’m relocating there for 6 months +
Morocco is one of those places that you can’t just visit for a few days and get a feel for the place before forming an opinion. There is so much magic and mystery surrounding the entire country and such a strong air of tradition, stepping off the plane there is like stepping into an alternate universe.
Here’s what to do in Marrakech:
Where to stay
With so many riads dispersed across both central and rural Marrakech, you’ll have a gazillion options to chose from regardless of your budget or location preference. We stayed in riad Lola, a beautiful and rustic boutique riad situated just a 2-minute walk from Jemaa el-fnaa, the center of the old medina and the main shopping district. The staff at our riad were so lovely and welcoming and they spoke great English, French and Spanish. Our room was like something out of an ancient movie with a shabby chick touch to it! Check them out on Airbnb to book your room. We also stayed at Dar Biona, situated at the bottom of the Atlas Mountains. This place was just out of this world- amazing views, home cooked food and a rustic, traditional interior with a huge outdoor pool, this place will be permanently cemented in my mind!
Along with most of the tourists, we took a trip to the YSL gardens, formerly owned by Yves Saint Laurent himself but now open to the public for a small price.
Although I tend to try and stay away from the touristy locations, sometimes you just gotta roll with it and this little spot is well worth a look. With so many clashing colors and an array of designer-looking floral displays, the gardens are a great way to relax and unwind after the hustle and bustle of central Marrakech. Prices are 70dh (just under 5 pound) per person for unlimited time at the gardens. If you’re visiting Marrakech during Ramadan, then I would definitely recommend you stop by the mosque at Jemaa el-fnaa between 9-9.20pm. Watching everyone pray in unison to the beautiful words of the Koran (which is blasted out through huge speakers) is quite a spiritual experience! Finally, the Atlas Mountains are one thing you cannot miss, whatever you do! No matter where you find yourself in Marrakech, look up and you’ll see the mountainous wall surrounding the city. However, the best possible views are to be found upon visiting the mountains themselves! Take a 30-minute drive out of the city center (around 200-250dh in a people carrier) and head towards the mountains for a picturesque view that you wont forget. If you’re looking to do something a bit more adventurous, I would highly recommend you try out quad biking! I had never done it before and it was certainly an unforgettable experience!! Take a look here for prices.
(A word of warning- you’ll be riding through the desert so bring practical clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty (and dusty!) and be prepared for a rather bumpy ride!)
Where to eat
I’m going to be honest here, there was not a single day throughout my entire 10 days stay in Marrakech when I did not eat tagine for dinner! The traditional Moroccan dish is so full of flavor and tummy-satisfying (and not to mention cheap!) You’ll doubtless find one on the menu in any restaurant you step foot in but I would highly recommend the chicken with vegetables and lemon and olives. There are around 7 different options to chose from with a variety of different meats and sauces, if you have a sweet tooth then chicken and almonds is the one for you! One of the best tagines I had was at Nomad Café, located just a 5-10-minute walk from Jemaa el-Fnaa. I nearly fainted with joy, this food was so good! Prices are very reasonable too which would explain why there was a huge queue and very limited spaces available when we arrived so you may want to try and book a table in advance (apparently it’s a big hit with locals and tourists alike). Le Marrakchi was an absolute gem that we stumbled upon whilst browsing around the souks one day. Rustic and traditionally designed, the food was outstanding and the service even better! Their mint tea game was so strong, I think I developed a minor addiction to it and spent the rest of the holiday comparing every other mint tea I drank to the one I had there. Try it, you will not be disappointed.
Marrakech is honestly a city that just never seems to sleep. By day it is heaving and crowded but at night, it seems like the entire place comes to life in a different way. Head to Jemaa el-fnaa after sunset and you’ll find a slightly chaotic scene of street performers, live music and tradesmen. A word of advice, if you look like a tourist, you’ll get treated like a tourist so expect to be inundated with locals trying to get you to buy fake watches or take a picture of you standing next to a monkey wearing a dress… If you’re not interested, say no and walk away. If they persist, be firm- you don’t HAVE to do or pay for anything if you don’t want it. Lots of restaurants have belly-dancing shows and live local music depending on which night you visit, take a look here for more information.
Finally, you just cant visit Marrakech without going shopping (unless you literally have the willpower of a wilderbeast). With hundreds of shops or `bazaar`s` practically overflowing on top of each other, you’re sure to be spolit for choice when it comes to picking up new goodies. You’ll find everything from Nike footwear to silver tea sets but make sure you come prepared to barter as you’ll almost always be given the `tourist price` in the first instance. Tourist price can be anything from three to four times more than what the locals would pay so if something seems too much, it probably is. Oh and don’t forget to leave space in your suitcase to take all your new goodies back home!