The beauty of spending a few days in Marrakech is that as a relatively small city it’s easy to get around. Unlike sprawling cities such as London or Delhi which can take hours to cross, everywhere in the medina, the ancient walled city, is within walking distance.
Where to stay in Marrakech
A 20 minute airport transfer will find you at the doors of your riad and about to enter a space of profound peace, one which you will come to love during your stay as a refuge from the intense energy of the streets outside. We always recommend staying in a riad on a first visit to Marrakech, a traditional Moroccan house which has at it’s heart a courtyard, often planted with citrus trees around a zelige tiled fountain. The word riad is actually derived from the Arabic word meaning garden, and the architecture of these homes with their inward facing windows and roof open to the sky, means that the interior stays a few degrees cooler than the air outside during the hot summer months.
It’s great to throw yourself straight into life in the pink city, venturing out from your riad to explore. No need to be fearful, Marrakech
is open-minded and cosmopolitan, justly renowned for its warm welcome to visitors. The Jemaa el Fnaa, the world famous big square, comes alive at night and is a must to wander at least once during your trip. The scenes here have changed little over the centuries and you will see traditional story tellers, gnaoua musicians, acrobats and herbalists, the spectacle made more magical by the flickering of hundreds of lanterns and the mystical scent of incense hanging in the still night air. The square is framed by juice stalls piled high with artfully merchandised fresh fruit, and you will inevitably be drawn to the food stalls in their midst by smoke wafting from the cooking fires and lively banter as each mini restaurant vies for your custom.
Where to eat in Marrakech
The food scene in Marrakech
caters to all budgets and tastes, from simple street food such as sardine and fries for a few dirhams, to palatial restaurants with their stunning decor and impeccable service. One of our regular haunts is Cafe Atay
, where you can marvel at rooftop views of the nearby Ben Youssef Mosque while enjoying tasty Moroccan food at a modest price. L’Mida
, situated just off the spice square is another favourite, again with a beautiful rooftop offering panoramic views across the city to the mountains beyond. Here the food is a delicious fusion of Moroccan-European flavours and the mocktails just divine! For a true oasis in the medina Le Jardin
is, as the name suggests, a garden paradise filled with palms and birdsong and our favourite desert, the orange blossom creme brûlée. A short taxi ride to the Gueliz, the modern commercial district of Marrakech
, brings a plethora of new dining options and we suggest making a reservation at Plus 61
to experience contemporary dining with an elevated simplicity using the freshest locally sourced ingredients.
(Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech)
Do you need a guide to Marrakech?
To benefit from a short stay in the city it is helpful to spend a day with a professional guide. Through their eyes you will discover the city in a way that can be difficult to access on your own. You can relax free from hassle and be introduced to areas deep in the souks where you will witness artisans practicing their age-old crafts with immense skill. A licensed guide will also smooth your entry into the busier attractions, think the Majorelle Gardens
, YSL Museum
, Bahia Palace
and Madrasa Ben Youssef
, and help you maximise your precious time. They love to share their knowledge of the history, culture and traditions of Morocco and in the company of a good guide you will feel as if you have found a new best friend.
(Shopping in the medina of Marrakech)
Our guide to shopping in Marrakech
Shopping in Marrakech
is an adventure all of it’s own, it is the largest hub for authentic artisanal wares from across the country and the spectacle on display in the maze of streets is a dizzying cacophony of colour. Take your time to meander and chat to the shop owners, when you meet someone who is engaging and whose products you like let the negotiations begin. A few stores are starting to sell at fixed prices as they know tourists can be intimidated by the process of bartering, but if entered into in good humour it is great fun and a new skill to be learned. Do be aware that in Morocco, as everywhere else, prices are rising and the cost of living for people on a low income is a challenge. We are always conscious to arrive at a fair price in our negotiations so that the vendor is able to make a profit and sustain his family.
An alternative to shopping in the souks is to take a taxi ride out to Sidi Ghanem, the industrial zone on the outskirts of the city 5km from the medina, and where a growing number of designers are opening showrooms. You can quite easily spend a day there visiting stores such as LRNCE
, Maison Sarayan
, Marrakshi Life
, Magasin General
and the wonderful MCC Gallery
of contemporary art. Stop for lunch at Jajjaj, the restaurant, gallery, shop of Moroccan born artist and photographer Hassan Hajjaj
. We love his witty, maximalist vibe, shining a light on the art of iconic everyday Moroccan objects.
(Dar El Bacha Museum of Confluences, Marrakech)
Slowing down and finding calm
If you need to slow the pace down Marrakech
is blessed with gardens and Le Jardin Secret
in the centre of the Medina offers a botanical sanctuary from the bustling streets and speeding mopeds. We also regularly pop into the Museum of Confluences
to chill in their incredible zellige tiled courtyard and relax in Bacha Coffee
, situated just off the garden, with a glass of chilled orange blossom almond milk. For a real escape the Agafay desert is a mere 45 minute drive from the city and another world entirely, where you can ride camels into the sunset and enjoy dinner around a campfire accompanied by hypnotic drumming under the stars.
Marrakech really does have something for everyone wherever your interest lies, be it history, architecture, craft, photography, shopping, food, the list goes on. Even travelling regularly to Marrakech over the past 25 years we are still making new discoveries on every visit, and have only touched on what this astounding city has to offer in our brief guide.