Marrakech is delightfully crazy, chaotic, exotic and mesmerizing. There’s a reason tourists have been flocking here for decades. It’s the kind of place that finds its way into your soul and has you longing to return. I had the pleasure of visiting the enchanting Red City twice and will go back again! I fell even more in love this time. Furthermore, I now know much more about the city and am able to provide this handy guide full of tips for visiting Marrakech. I will tell you where to shop, what to see, how to avoid common pitfalls, where to eat and of course, where to drink.
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Yes! Don’t believe everything you hear, especially from the western media and people who haven’t actually been there! Duh! If you follow my basic tips, use some of the same safety protocols you would use anywhere, you will be fine. I was often alone here or with one other female and I felt very safe. I will be writing more about this soon.
It’s both! In English, it’s commonly the latter but you will more commonly see the former, the French spelling, when you are there. If you are wondering, in Arabic it is مراكش.
Arabic is the official language but a large percentage of people in Marrakech and the east speak Berber which is the native language of Morocco. French is the typical 2nd language followed by English and Spanish. Many Moroccans speak all these languages! Pretty impressive.
Knowing a little French is very helpful. Knowing Arabic even better! Here are some useful words and phrases:
al-salāmu ʿalaykum, pronounced “ah salam ah lay koom” This is a more formal greeting used throughout the Islamic world. Translates to “peace be upon you” but is also a general greeting.
Shukran (“shook-raan”) Thank you
La Shukran No Thank You
Afwan You’re Welcome
Ma’ salamah Good Bye
Moroccan Dirham $1 USD is 9.75 MAD
Cash is king here for most things. Larger restaurants, hotels, and riads will have credit card capability but street vendors will not. In cities, you can easily find ATMs.
As a tourist, you can wear what you want but since it is a Muslim country, you may want to dress a bit more conservatively than usual if you don’t want to attract unwanted attention. In general, cover cleavage, shoulders, and knees.
There are international airports in Casablanca and Marrakech but Casablanca is generally cheaper to fly into. Avoid Royal Air Maroc! Customer service is non-existent. If they lose your luggage, they will not deliver it to you. You will be expected to take time from your vacation and get your bag at the airport at your own expense.
There are trains connecting cities in the north, the coast, and Marrakech.
Taxis are easy to find in the cities, but always negotiate the rate with the driver before you get in. Ask your hotel what typical rates should be for various trips.
Don’t Get Haggled! Plenty of people will approach you, smile, joke around, be super friendly, and seem helpful but be wary of these people. Most of them want something from you. Example: If children see you looking at a map or heading in the direction of a known attraction, they may either steer you away to their father’s carpet shop or offer to take you and then demand a tip. People may lie to you and tell you an attraction is closed and then offer to take you to an alternative place. Some will offer to take you on a tour. Best to arrange tours via an official agency or your hotel. I’m not saying not to be friendly or talk to locals but be aware that these types of things are common.
Do yourself a favor and pick up a SIM card before you leave the airport so you can use your phone right away.
Pro Tip: Download an offline Google map of Marrakech for use when you don’t have phone service. Find your lodging, hotel, and places of interest ahead of time on the map and save them with little stars or hearts or labels. Then when you are out and about you can find them all easily. Also consider planning your activities and meals with the places that are located close to one another.
Read More: Self Drive Tour of Morocco
You could easily spend a week here, there is that much to occupy your time. However, I know this isn’t realistic for most so I recommend making the most of the time that you have with a mix of the following activities. You can probably see all of these in 2-3 days if you are so inclined and can manage your time well.
This is the heart of Marrakech, the old city with tiny maze-like streets full of activity. Thanks to the many monuments dating back to the founding of the city in the 11th century, it has UNESCO heritage status.
If you look up hustle and bustle in the dictionary, it must be a photo of a Moroccan medina. Give yourself plenty of time to get lost in the maze and see what treasures you stumble upon. It may be a charming tea shop, or a vendor selling colorful and bizarre-looking botanicals. You may pass the butcher throwing bits of meat to some delighted street cats or find yourself dazzled by the glittering lights in a lantern shop.
This place is a shopper’s paradise!
There’s no possible way for me to give you directions to these places but try to google them!
Yannass Salon De The
A really cute tea shop that sells many fine products and also can make you a plate of cheese, bread and spreads of your choosing. They also have great fresh juices and smoothies.
Argan Zine Cooperative
Buying argan oil from a women’s cooperative is the best way to ensure that you are buying real argan oil AND helping women who are the ones that harvest the oil. The couple who run this store are lovely beyond belief.
Sens de Marrakech
The products from here are used in many hotels in the medina. The place is more upscale and expensive than your typical botanical vendor but is a great place to get somebody a special gift, packaged beautifully.
Maison Du Caftan
If you want quality well made Moroccan clothes, check this place out!
Jemaa El Fnaa, or as I like to call it, the Times Square of Marrakech, minus the billboards. This is a place you must see once, and that may be enough. It can be a bit TOO crazy at times. During the daytime, it is full of some very aggressive salespeople trying to get you to do all sorts of things. You may find yourself being drawn on by a veiled woman doing henna painting or having a snake thrown over your neck by the snake charmers. Be prepared for the pushy salespeople before entering the square and stay firm with your “no thank yous” if you don’t want to be forced into paying for these “services”.
I found the snake charmers mildly amusing but the inner animal activist in me wonders how ethical it is. The henna women are harmless enough if not annoyingly grabby. What I have no tolerance for is the guys with the chained monkeys. This to me is as unethical as one can get with animal exploitation for tourists. I merely pointed my camera in the direction of these guys and they demanded money from me which I, of course, refused to give, and I was spat on in the process.
Later I found out there are security guards on site I could have reported them to so don’t hesitate to report anyone who makes you uncomfortable. I beg you not to give your money to the horrible monkey men. Those monkeys look incredibly sad and deserve a better life.
Some of the nicer things to do here include having delicious fresh juice from one of the many vendors. The oranges here can’t be beaten…sorry Florida! You also could peruse the many olive, fig, and date vendors and try some samples.
At night the square is a completely different place and is filled with food stalls cooking up a fresh offering which changes daily. This is definitely a fun experience. Ask your hotel which number stall they recommend. Some are um…cleaner…than others!
This mosque is the largest in Marrakech and serves as a symbol of the city. You can see it from almost anywhere with its 77-meter-high (253 ft) minaret. I found it to be a useful landmark for navigation. This mosque was completed in the late 1100s. It is surrounded by lovely gardens and is floodlit at night.
Majorelle is the most famous (and expensive) of Marrakech’s gardens. Designed by the late French designer, Yves St. Laurent, this magical garden is full of unexpected colors. It is also his former home and current resting place. There are cacti from literally all over the world. Go early as there will be a line anytime starting mid-morning. I spent about 20 minutes in line around 945 am. It opens at 8 am and costs 70 MAD. If you want to see the Berber Museum and Yves St. Laurent Museum, the combo ticket is 180 MAD. It takes about 1 hour to see the gardens and take a zillion photos. There is a lovely tea garden here with fun unique tea drinks.
It should cost less than 50 MAD ($5 USD) to get here in a taxi from Jemaa el Fnaa Square.
Functioning today as a historical site, the Ben Youssef Madrasa was the largest Islamic college back in the day. A Madrasa is essentially and Islamic school. This madrasa was named after the adjacent Ben Youssef Mosque built in the early 12th century during the Almoravid period. That mosque was once the principle mosque of the city.
It’s hard to imagine that this breathtaking place was “just a school”. It looks like a palace with it’s ornate courtyards with the most some of the most stunning tilework I’ve ever seen. You can spend hours marveling at the the Zellij tile and Arabic calligraphy
This is the grand dame hotel of Marrakech that you’ve probably seen on Instagram. You must see this place as it is EXQUISITE. There are few places in the world as beautiful as this hotel. From the entrance to the lobby, to the spa, to the gardens, it is all luxurious, ornate and breathtaking
The fancy pastry shop is worth every penny you will spend in there. I recommend trying all the macaroons.
A day at Le Spa at La Mamounia is the perfect ending to a Marrakech holiday. For $60 you can purchase a day pass and use the sauna, pool and hot tub. But for $100 you can book a hammam or massage and ALSO have the day pass. This is the way to go, in my opinion, for an unforgettable luxurious Moroccan experience.
This grand hallway connecting the stunning hot tub to the pool is fit for a queen.
Could this be the world’s most beautiful pool? I felt like royalty here and there were very few people.
I gotta say something about this special room. The room that became famous on Instagram and is now locked and open only for hotel guests. I totally understand why they do this. People have become obnoxious AF and they would have a line of people traipsing through the hotel lobby if they left this open to the public.
The room is absolutely stunning, no doubt but if you want to go in you have to either be a hotel guest or make arrangements prior with the management. You have to be media or doing an article about the hotel. I only managed to have a very brief supervised visit in this room because I mentioned doing an article plus my friend and I spent a significant amount of money at the spa.
Be warned! If you want to eat lunch here, your wallet will feel the burn. One glass of wine and an appetizer came to about $40 USD! Ouch!
Another tranquil getaway within the crazy medina is this garden, which was only recently opened to the public in 2016. They have an exotic garden with plants rare to Northern Africa. They also have typical Islamic garden split quadrants. A garden is a metaphor for paradise, and it must follow the Koranic description of paradise. The first palace built on this site dates back to the 1500s from the time of the Saadian dynasty. The admission price is 50 dirhams and an additional 30 if you want to visit the tower. There is a terrace cafe here overlooking the gardens.
You definitely will need some places to escape the craziness and luckily there are many gardens in Marrakech. Menara Gardens and Palmeraie Gardens are two beautiful ones to check out that are just outside the city.
The Mellah is the old Jewish Quarter of the city. Hardly any Jews live here anymore but at one point Morocco was a haven for Jews escaping religious intolerance in Catholic Spain, after the Moors were overthrown. Where are my history nerds?? The atmosphere here is a bit more chilled compared to the heart of the medina, but with many of the same sorts of shops. A few of my favorite places are here including Bahia Palace and Kosybar.
The name means Palace of the “Beautiful” or “Brilliant”. Set up at the end of the 19th century for the personal use of Si Moussa, the grand vizier of the sultan, this palace is named for one of his wives. The photo below is the harem, which includes a vast court decorated with a central basin and surrounded by rooms intended for the concubines
The intricate colorful tile work is EVERYWHERE and can make you dizzy. Try not to hurt your neck cranking up to look at the incredible carved wood ceilings flanked by lush stained glass and gorgeous lanterns. The cost of admission is just 10 dirhams ($1USD).
The celestial mosaic designs are common in Islamic design.
The name translates to “The Spice Cafe”. This popular cafe is multi-level with a terrace overlooking the spice market. If you can score a table overlooking the square, cheers! The natural juice selection here is great and the food quite good. I enjoyed this carrot orange ginger juice and 4-way vegetarian sandwich immensely.
Another cute restaurant with a cozy terrace that is just across the square from Cafe Des Epices.
This cute little terrace restaurant has tasty traditional Moroccan food and live music. We enjoyed the Moroccan band versions of “Despacito” and “Hotel California”.
This restaurant has French-influenced Moroccan cuisine and is in a luscious garden. The last time I was in Marrakech, they served alcohol but this time they did not. It is still worth going for dinner, and that’s saying a lot coming from me!
This is one of my favorite places in Marrakech. I love the vibe on every level of this place. The ground floor is a stunning restaurant. The food is excellent! I had the fish tagine and it rocked my world. They also have wine. Try the Gerrouane Morrocan red. On the 2nd floor is the Berber Room, a rose-colored fantasy room with billowy drapes and lush pillows that looks like Aladdin and Jasmin’s honeymoon suite. The top-floor terrace is a cute bar where you can enjoy spiced almonds and olives with your wine. What could be better?
This is a newer place close to Riad Be and it really impressed me. The decor was the sultry dimly lit Moroccan style that I adore. There is also a terrace on the roof. They also serve wine. As you can tell this is important to me. The food is “Moroccan modern” and I’m a fan. Everything was fantastic and I just wish I had more days to try the whole menu. Try the fish pastilla with smoked aubergine or the souk salad made from cauliflower, caramelized onions, and preserved lemon. The fig and saffron cake with salted caramel was the best dessert I had in 3 months in Africa. Don’t share it!
This is the perfect spot while you are in the Mellah visiting Bahia Palace. One of the special places that serve alcohol, it also has a rooftop terrace with a pretty view of the neighborhood below as well as the Atlas Mountains. I highly recommend their selection of Moroccan salads. The red pepper and eggplant are to die for. Did I mention there is wine?
Sky Bar (near Jemaa el Fnaa)
Terrasse Des Epices (near Le Jardin)
If you have enough time and want to see a different side of Morocco, take one of the many day trips to enjoy nature. The Atlas Mountains are just outside of Marrakech as well as Ouzoud Waterfalls.
The Ouzoud day trip is nice. The drive from Marrakech is about 3 hours. You stop first in a Berber village and learn some history as well as the ins and outs of the Argan oil industry. You can sample and buy some if you wish. Then you hike to the waterfall, passing the local Barbary macaques along the way. This is not a challenging hike but you may want to some rugged shoes so you don’t slip. You can wear anything you are comfortable walking in…no need for hardcore hiking gear. Once at the falls lunch is included. You get to see the waterfall from many different vantage points and it is uniquely striking from each.
Another fun day trip is to visit Ait Benhaddou, which is a UNESCO heritage site and a film location used for many famous movies.
Book your day trip here!
There are no shortage of choices but I recommend that you stay in the medina at a riad. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house, normally with two or more stories around an Andalusian-style courtyard with a fountain. The riads were inward-focused without windows, which allowed for family privacy and protection from the weather in Morocco.
Most of the old homes have been restored and often are used as guesthouses. These places are very special because they only have a few rooms so you feel more like a family visitor rather than a hotel guest. Here are some that I have stayed in. I liked all of them for different reasons.
This place is a gorgeous little oasis run by Ayoub who is a doll! This man goes above and beyond for the guests. This is the kind of place you can just hang around all day and be happy. The resident cat was one of the sweetest I’ve ever seen and you will surely want to put him in your suitcase! Book Riad Dar Yema Here!
I stayed here my first time in Marrakech and still think about the tile, the lighting and the delicious breakfasts, one of the best I’ve ever had. Click the link for more information or to book Riad Idra.
This place! The location is still central but not quite as central as the others which is not a bad thing. The neighborhood was low key and quieter, which can be a welcome change after some time scurrying around. It has expanded from its original “Hippy Berber” style riad to a newer attached riad that is a more modern but still full of lovely Moroccan style elements. The rooftop terrace has many inviting spots to sit and chill. The breakfast is fantastic. Here is a direct link to book Riad Be.
This place has a great location in the part of the medina that had my favorite shops not to mention just a few minutes walk from Le Jardin, Kui-Zin, and Le Jardin Secret. The manager Hussein is very helpful and kind. The room is cute with a little loft sitting area. They also have toiletries from Le Sens Marrakech in my favorite scent, Fleur D’Orange. Here’s a link if you are interested in Riad Cinnamon.
Want to look for other places? You can find them all here:
You can probably tell how crazy about Marrakech I am. I already am planning my next trip. There is still much more to discover here. Tell me what places I need to go next time!
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