Having just come back from a long weekend in the beautiful city of Marrakech, Morocco, I am absolutely beaming from ear to ear. It was such a beautiful city which is full of character. You can easily get a good feel for it in a few days, so it is the perfect place to visit for a long weekend, which is exactly what I did. To help you make the most of your time in Marrakech, here are my top tips, tricks and recommendations.
What To Do:
Marrakech is within driving distance of the desert and its definitely a sight to be seen. I had never experienced a desert landscape before and it is truly stunning. Many companies offer overnight desert camps which look incredible. Instead of doing this, as we were short on time, we went for a day trip to the desert on dirt buggies. It was such an exhilarating experience. We used a company called Dunes and Desert, chasing a private tour, and stopped at a local persons house for lunch, Hassan. He welcomed us into his home, made us delicious tagine and even let me cuddle his goats. The dream!
The Authentic Treatment:
A hammam is a traditional Arabian body treatment which isn’t to be missed. Admittedly, its a rather peculiar experience but I absolutely loved it and would get another in a heart beat. Basically you strip down and are taken through a series of rooms from hot to cool, having different treatments as you go; such as hair masks, cleaning with olive soap or being exfoliated with a rough glove. You leave feeling super refreshed and clean, and afterwards is the perfect time to get a massage which most hammam providers have as an option. One thing to note is that you will be basically naked (except a thong) and have a stranger rubbing you, so brace yourself for that!
The Medina is the old town of Marrakech and is contained within city walls. It includes the famous Souks and Jemaa el-Fnaa. The Souks are the markets of Marrakesh and are spread over a honeycomb of connecting alleyways. They are an adventure for the senses and are so much fun to get lost in. Jemaa el-Fnaa is the main market square which is a hub of hustle and bustle, the perfect place to absorb the atmosphere of Marrakech. If I am honest the whole Medina is worth exploring, I particular loved exploring the Jewish quarter of Mellah and the lesser known district of Kasbah.
As much as Marrakech is a bustling city, it also has a abundance of garden escapes. The most popular is Jardin Majorelle, the YSL gardens, which admittedly was a bit of a let down for us due to the ridiculous crowds. If you do go, I recommend getting there for when it opens. However, we did love Le Jardin Secret, the secret garden, which is right in the heart of the Medina. It isn’t as well known and therefore provides a quiet sanctuary to explore.
The History & Architecture:
There is an abundance of historical and architectural sights to be seen in Marrakech. Personal favourites included the ruins of Palais el Badi, the stunning tiles of Dar is Said, the intricate details of Bahia Palace and the remains of the Saadian Tombs. All of these are must see spots, but I do recommend looking up the history of them before arrival as many don’t have signs in English to explain what you’re seeing.
One thing Morocco is famous for is its rooftop terraces. These are the perfect place to grab a drink and take a load off your feet during the day, while overlooking the madness of Marrakech below. They are also amazing for sunset drinks or dinner, as they give the best views of the colourful African sunsets Morocco provides. Be warned, terraces book up days in advance so plan ahead.
Where To Eat:
Here is the ultimate foodie hit list for Marrakech, based on my own experiences and the hundreds of recommendations I received through instagram:
Nomad. The most highly recommended spot in Marrakech and its easy to see why, it was by far the best meal we had.
Le Jardin. Nomad’s sister restaurant. Based in a secret garden and providing authentic moroccan cuisine.
El Fenn. A more luxurious setting for dinner and cocktails.
Earth Cafe. A casual spot to grab vegan and vegetarian meals.
Terrace des Epices. An incredible rooftop restaurant, perfect for sunset dinner and drinks.
Cafe Clock. A cross-cultural casual cafe serving up delicious meals. A great spot for live music.
Cafe Arabe. An delicious mix of Moroccan and Italian food in plush surroundings.
Atay Cafe. A young and trendy spot for lunch and dinner with an instragammable terrance.
Marrakesh Henna Art Cafe. Eat great food, get henna and support a good cause at the same time.
Riad Jardin Secret. The perfect spot for dinner, vegetarian and vegan friendly with a beautiful pink rooftop.
As a general rule, most of these restaurants get fully booked, especially on the terraces, in advance. It is always best to plan ahead.
General Travel Tips:
Accommodation: We stayed at a small Riad, Riad Azzar, right in the heart of the Medina. It is much more convenient to stay within the old town walls if you want to get around on foot.
Safety: Keep your wits about you. Pick pocketing is common as in most major tourist cities so keep you belongs safe.
Shopping: A lot of locals will offer to show you to a sight or service for free when they will in fact lead you to a friend or family members shop. Once a man offered to show us to an ATM but instead took us to his uncles tea shop! If you’re ok with this then just go with it, but if not then if anyone asks if you want to be shown something just kindly decline to avoid wasting your time.
Animals: Vegans, be warned. You will see a lot of poor animal treatment and overt cruelty. Please do not support this by paying people for photos with monkeys, snakes or any other animals.
Clothing: Morocco is a modest country so it is appropriate to wear clothing which covers your shoulders, upper arms and legs.
Noise: If you’re staying in the centre of town, definitely take a pair of ear plugs. Otherwise you will get woken up by a call to prayer at 5am every day like we did!
All in all:
Marrakech took a piece of my heart. Previously I had never visited a North African or Arabian country so it was a trip full of new experiences. It was a welcome change for my senses and the whole city was filled with so much character. I feel like I just scratched the surface and now I am desperate to return and explore more!