Marrakech Essential Travel Guide
If there’s one place in the whole world that constantly challenge us and makes us step out of our comfort zone, it’s Marrakech! Known as the city of colours and the five senses, the capital of Morocco is now one of the most visited places by tourists all around the world. What makes it so unique? Its colourful vibes, the breathtaking views from the rooftops, the hustle and bustle of the Medina, the senses of spices, the strong smell of leather and that sweet Moroccan mint tea. Well, you must experience for yourself so you can understand and feel all its glory, so we have put up an essential travel guide for a true cultural experience in the city of Marrakech.
Getting to Marrakech
Marrakech is located in the center part of Morocco, a country that lies on the north-western coast of Africa. To get there you can either choose to fly or take a ferry from Spain, where you can bring your own car. Although this might be a nice way to explore more of the country, our best advise is that you fly into Menara airport directly, as now you have flights from all around the world and can get really affordable prices if you purchase them at least 6 months in advance.
If you still want to come by car, you should take the ferry in Tarifa, Spain, and then you will disembark in Tangier port. The ferry ride takes only an hour, but then you still have a 7 hour drive till Marrakech, so bear that in mind.
Should You Rent a Car?
To be completely honest with you: hell no! Marrakech is a busy city, full of cars, crazy motorbike riders and people on the streets. Even if you are an experienced driver and love challenges, you can save your money by choosing to walk and grab taxis. If you have a car, you are more likely to not have places to park, especially if you stay in the old Medina, where the streets are super narrow and most of them interdict to cars.
Best choice? Walk, as much as possible. Everything in the old Medina and its surroundings is at a walking distance so you just have to embrace the adventure and experience the true culture of Morocco while wandering the souks (the designation of their street market roads, where you are more likely to get lost, but it’s all part of the adventure).
When you want to go outside of the Medina, we suggest you grab a taxi as prices are really affordable, especially if you are with a group of people. Now here’s a trick, always ask the price of the journey before you get into the car! Marrakech taxi drivers are well adapted to the rise of tourism in the city, so they will charge you at least 70% more of the normal tariff for locals. Show your address to the driver and ask for the price, then bargain until you reach a fair price.
Tip: use google maps offline within the city, it can be really confusing roaming around there, and you won’t have to ask the locals, as some might ask for money. In Marrakech, information is not always free!
Where To Stay
You have two options: stay in the old Medina or enjoy the luxury hotels in the new part of the city.
The city accommodates all type of travellers, either you are a backpacker or are in a vacation with your family, so there are accommodations of all types. For a more real and cultural experience, our suggestion is that you book a Riad in the old Medina. Riads are traditional Moroccan boutique hotels and so beautiful! With a pool in the center, only few rooms and nice rooftops, it makes the perfect combination for an incredible cultural exchange. Here are our top picks:
One of the most instagrammable riads in town, @leriadyasmine is located outside of the old Medina but a walking distance from Majorelle Gardens. Their vibes are the best and the rooftop is so well decorated with an outdoor shower and everything.
RIAD DAR TEN
Our traditional choice. @riaddarten is a true hidden gem, with a genuine Moroccan vibe and atmosphere, a cosy little pool and a jacuzzi on the rooftop.
A sacred nature space, @kitulamarrakech is well hidden in the middle of the Medina but as soon as you enter its doors, it feels like you’re entering an oasis. Best suite room and the most incredible rooftop view to the koutobia mosque.
Outside the old Medina there are plenty of new hotels and resorts. Maybe you won’t have the full traditional experience but these places are really incredible:
LE MERIDIEN N’FIS
A good choice for a resort vacation. If you don’t want to leave the hotel and really enjoy staying by the pool sipping cocktails, Le Meridien is the place to be.
ES SAADI PALACE & RESORT
A magical paradise, with a sublime interior décor, an outstanding SPA and gorgeous traditional villas, @essaadimarrakech is one of those places that will make you feel at home.
book your nights in these hotels and riads using our discount link and win 15€ credit to use on your next bookings!
You Shouldn’t Miss
This is the main mosque in the city and the largest one. It is located in the southwest part of the medina and near the famous Jemma El Fna square. Take your time to stroll around its gardens and admire all the glory and architectural details. Unfortunately, the inside is only accessible by Muslims, just all mosques, but it’s exterior eally worth a visit.
JEMMA EL FNA (or DJEMA EL FNA)
The famous big square, part of UNESCO World Heritage. You will often hear locals asking if you are looking for ‘’la place’’ if they see you lost, so now you know this is the one. The square is the heart of the city and a place full of spectacular performances from day till night. During the day you will find snake-charmers and street vendors, but all its glory kicks off at sunset time, where berbere musicians play for dancers, restaurants fire up their grills and storytellers start a magical show. For a more intense experience, Thursday’s evenings are the best time to go, as it’s the day when locals go out to party and have a lot of fun.
MEDINA OF MARRAKECH
One of the most amazing and challenging places within the city, the Medina is a huge neighborhood made of tiny little streets and tunnels, full of small artisan shops where you can find spices, clothes, shoes, musical instruments and many other things. This is the heart of the city, a wonderful mix of senses, sounds and smells. Take your time to wonder through its narrow streets and prepare yourself to experience the true Moroccan lifestyle.
PLACE DES EPICES
Coming to Marrakesh means taking home a lot of oriental products that are often hard to find in western countries, or that are too expensive. Place des Epices is an outdoor market with many incredible artisan shops, herb stores, people selling all sort of spices and even some wild animals. A must try are definitely some of the spices, especially the ras el hanout, saffron and cumin. Take as much as you can home, you won’t regret it!
LE JARDIN SECRET
Even with all that hustle and bustle within the city it is possible to find quiet spaces to hang out for a bit. Le Jardin Secret is located in one of the most famous streets, Rue Mouassine. You can expect some tranquility as well as a beautiful garden full of different species of flora, some photography exhibitions and a rooftop tower with a view to the city and a terrace.
Entrance fee: 60 dirhams (5,50€) + 35 dirhams (3,30€) for the tower / Opening times: 9.30 am - 7.30 pm (time varies from seasons)
EL BADI PALACE
Do not get fooled by its name, this is not an ornamented Palace, but an ancient ruin site, full of historical artifacts. El Badi Palace by the sultan Ahmed al-Mansour to commemorate the victory of the Battle of the Three Kings against the Portuguese. It features a nice courtyard within and some incredible moody spots.
Entrance fee: 70 dirhams (6,60€) / Opening times: from 9 am to 4:30 pm (Fridays 3 pm to 5:45 pm)
A 19th century palace with amazing architecture and colours, located not far from El Badi. It also has a garden, where you can take some time to rest. This may be something personal but we love walking barefoot, feeling the floor under our feet and this is one of the best places to do it - the cold tiles are like a natural massage!
Entrance fee: 70 dirhams (6,60€) / Opening times: 9 am to 5 pm
MEDERSA BEN YOUSSEF
The largest madrasa in Morocco - it was an Islamic college founded during the 14th century. When you walk inside the feeling you get is unbelievable - you can really imagine the classrooms, the children and all the culture present there. Photographing in this place and admire the architecture was something we really enjoyed, so different from everything we have ever seen! CURRENTLY CLOSED DUE TO RENOVATION WORKS TILL 2020
Saadian tombs are composed of three rooms, decorated with columns, cedar wood and stucco work. Here you can find the graves of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur and his family. Outside the building is a garden and the graves of soldiers and servants.
Entrance fee: 70 dirhams (6,60€) / Opening times: 9 am to 5 pm
A spacious botanical garden with a beautiful view of the Atlas mountains and a lovely pavilion. There is a large pool that irrigates the surrounding gardens and orchards, with water that comes from the mountains. If you go to Menara gardens during the weekend, you will see lots of Moroccan families having picnics, playing with their children and enjoying the peace of the surroundings. The space is incredible for photography or just to relax after a warm day.
A botanical garden and one of the most visited gardens in Marrakech. You can spend an entire morning here, trying to find more than 15 bird species (endemic to North Africa), relaxing with the many fountains and exploring the notable collection of cacti. The blue and yellow tones in this place made me feel super alive but what we liked the most was the many spaces to relax here and spend some time with yourself. Bear in mind that during the high season this place is more likely to be packed with tourists!
Entrance fee: garden 70 dirhams (6,60€) + museum 30 dirhams (2,80€) / Opening times: 8 am to 6 pm
As vegans we didn’t have any problem finding some local delights to savour, so you should be good too. During ten days we tried a lot of different plant based dishes and these are our ultimate favourite restaurants, where you can find some of the best food in town.
Le Jardin – cute little space with wholesome food
Café Arabe – delicious italian food
Kui-zin – the traditional moroccan
Henna Art Café – more than a restaurant, a community
Café des Epices – best food at an affordable price
Nomad – sunset rooftop vibes
- Tap water is not drinkable and there aren’t many places with refillable stations around, so instead of buying multiple small bottles, get a 5 liter carboy from the supermarket and refill your reusable bottle.
- The city is already full of cars and motorcycles and as there is no need for you to rent one, always choose to walk, as much as possible.
- Buy local! The city is full of markets and this is the best way to support local artisans and farmers.