“I believe that Marrakech ought to be earned as a destination. The journey is the preparation for the experience. Reaching it too fast derides it, makes it a little less easy to understand.”Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams
As much as this ultimate Marrakech travel guide may try to, Marrakech remains a place that almost nothing can prepare you for. And as Tahir Shah says above, the journey is in the preparation. You might absolutely love your time here, you might hate it but in all, you will leave this country with experiences you won’t forget in a hurry. My guide is here to help you spend your days here in the best way; at least going armed ready for whatever this city throws at you. If you missed Part One two weeks ago, check it out here before you continue!
Where to Stay
In my previous post I talked about where to stay and whether you should stay in a riad or a hotel AND I gave you a list of some riads for different budgets with prices so definitely check that out!
Things to Do
IThere are MANY activities to get into and this ultimate Marrakech travel guide will give you some of them AND costs! Marrakech is one of the most Instagrammed places probably and if you visit just to take pictures, I’m sure you’ll leave with your hard drive full. As much as Instagram is a massive resource for people, please please don’t experience this city only in the footsteps of your favourite travel blogger or instagrammer, explore for yourself, take the advice of locals!
You can look online for activities or you can just as easily ask the staff at your hotel/riad for recommendations.
Marvel at the Majorelle Gardens and YSL Museum
This is probably one of the most popular sights in Morocco. It was created by French painter Jacques Majorelle and he spent 40 years building this beautiful garden. This garden filled with over 300 species of plants, streams, koi ponds with fish and lanes to walk around and enjoy this magical place. Check theirwebsite for opening times as they change at different times of the year. We only went to the gardens
Cost= Garden- 70dhm (approx. £5), YSL Museum- 30dhm (approx. £2)
Visit the Ben Youssef Madrasa (when it reopens)
This Madrasa, which translates to school, was home to students for over 400yrs and is a fantastic representation of traditional Moroccan architecture .This, was once the largest Quranic School in North Africa and represent how education was in a different time. I was really looking forward to visiting but not able to as it’s unfortunately been closed for restoration works for a while and they are scheduled to be finished in 2020. Check here for more details.
Cost= 20dhm (approx. £1.50)
Visit Bahia Palace
Bahia Palace means “The palace of the beautiful, the brilliant”. The Northern part was built for Si Mousa, Sultan Hassan I and the southern end was built by his son, Ahmed, for his favourite mistress hence the name, Bahia. It’s one of the main sights that show the city’s cultural heritage.
Admire Koutoubia Mosque
In Marrakech, there’s a law that states that no building can be higher than a palm tree, so as you walk Marrakech, looking up, the skyline is clear. That’s until your eyes hit this landmark mosque’s minaret. Located in the heart of the Medina, the Koutoubia mosque is a massive tourist draw and of course a standout in the city. Its minaret dominates the skyline and is visible from 30km away, helping tourists, and locals alike, find their way in the city. Open only to Muslims, non-Muslims can walk the grounds and appreciate the beauty of this historically relevant building,
Cost- Free (Inside the mosque is closed to non-Muslims)
Visit a Hammam
A hammam is basically a lot of nakedness haha. Nah at a hammam, a woman (or man depending on your sex) uses heat with soap to exfoliate your skin, aggressively sometimes even and then a massage to finish. Going to a Hammam is a quintessentially Moroccan experience, a ritual for locals and one you should definitely try to fit into your itinerary.
Picking a hammam is down mostly to your budget and what you feel comfortable spending. For a very authentic experience, you can visit local hammam. There are lots of small hammams around the Medina and cost from 10 dhm for entry and a further 15 – 30dhm for a scrub and 50 – 100dhm for a massage. There are also lots of mid-range and luxury spas that offer this service, catering more to tourists.
We, unfortunately, left booking a hammam too late and couldn’t get into any of the 1 million hammams we called! So keep that in mind and book in advance because they’re super popular. Whenever next I go back, I’ll definitely be making sure this happens.
Barter at the Souks
The souks are heaven for anyone that loves the thrill of bargaining and bartering with shop owners for the best deals available. No matter what you’re looking for, the men of the market sell everything from iconic lamps, leather handbags, wallets, shoes, carpets and everything else!
If you’re timid or your negotiation skills are less than ideal, you will get significantly ripped off so sharpen them up! The souks can be overwhelming and quite difficult to keep your bearings, so look out for signs or something like a landmark to help you find your way.
Do a day trip/Desert tour
I wrote all about “My day trip to Imlil” in this post so make sure you check it out! Doing a day trip or a 3+ day desert tour is something that you should find time for in your itinerary. You can find a variety of tours onwhattodo.ma or on getyourguide.co.uk from day trips within Marrakech, Camel riding, quad biking to a day in Essaouira. Here’s a great 3 day desert tour from Marrakech to Merzouga desert with various stops along the day.
What to Wear
Morocco is a majority Muslim country and so a lot of the local women dress conservatively. There aren’t any clothing restrictions but ladies, I would suggest not showing too much skin here because it’ll make you feel uncomfortable with the attention you’d get. So maybe leave the short shorts and backless tops at home. I did see some people wearing shorts there but I personally wouldn’t advice it. I wore dresses and palazzo pants there and nothing too short. I did wear a ‘spaghetti’ strapped top once but I carried a scarf out with me just in case. Just generally be aware and respectful of the religion there and you should be fine. These are the things I wore.
Food in Marrakech
Food in Marrakech from these colourful markets, street-food stalls and cafes is not only delicious; it’s often cheap, too – and a great way to explore this bustling city.
Located in the souks behind Jemma El-Fna, Café Nomad is an oasis from the craziness of the souks below. Nomad serves fresh modern Moroccan food with the views over the Medina in the background. Mains are between 100 and 130dhms (approx. £8 to £10) and it’s great for lunch.
Five mins from Bahia Palace, La Famille has quickly become a favourite with locals. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 11am to 4pm and it’s a Vegetarian restaurant with supposedly super tasty food. It gets very busy during lunch but you can call ahead and make a reservation to ensure you get a seat.
I Limoni serves delicious Italian food in a secluded garden courtyard filled with lemon trees (as the name suggests) in a bohemian atmosphere. The food is supposedly high quality and well-priced Desserts are apparently a speciality here so maybe have dinner and order one! It’s quite hard to find so you’ll need patience but I’m sure it’ll be worth it!
Jemma El-Fna is an unlikely place (because it’s a tourist trap) but can be surprisingly good to eat at. Although there is definitely better food elsewhere in Marrakech, it can be an experience eating here, especially if it’s late. When picking what stall to eat at, look for stalls where you see lots of locals eating. Avoid stalls that are filled with tourists. Also, make sure you understand what you’ll be eating and how much it will all cost before ordering a single thing (Read my “The Good, the Bad, the Beautiful” post for our experience with the stalls and how we got ripped off!). Look out for stalls with grilled food and avoid couscous or salads. As you walk past cafes and food stalls you will be approached and they are persistent but just say you’ve eaten and just no, don’t engage.
Some things you should keep in mind with food and eating in Marrakech:
· Drink bottled water and make sure it’s sealed. You could use it to brush your teeth as well, I personally didn’t do that.
· Avoid salads and raw vegetables or anything that’s likely to have been washed in water
· When eating from food stalls stick to food that is grilled rather than tagines that may not be started fresh every day.
· Beware of fried fish or seafood. Marrakech is land locked so it takes a bit more effort to get seafood here. If you can’t see that it’s fresh, don’t buy it. Also have a peek at the oil food is being fried in and if it’s black, you already know, keep moving.
While I never actually went out to a bar or club in Marrakech I did know that it had a small up and coming nightlife scene. Unlike in Europe where you can go to a club or bar and spend very little money, budget nightlife options aren’t easily found here, particularly where alcohol is served.
We spent most of our nights walking around Jemma El-Fna, maybe get dinner at one of the restaurants that have god views over the square or just watch the different performances that happen there at night. There’s a small number of restaurant and bars in the Medina that are licenced to serve alcohol and most riads don’t either but you can ask.
If drinking great wine and eating Tapas while having conversation with friends is more your thing, head to68 Bar A Vin. You can get wine by the glass here and smoking is allowed in here, so something to be aware of if the smell of smoke annoys you.
In Hivernage, there’s Theatro, a pretty big nightclub with amazing performances from jugglers, dancers, musicians, acrobats and so much more! The welcome a lot of international and local DJs to spin and as you can imagine all of this comes at a price. Entry costs 200dhm (£15) during the week and 300dhm (£23) on weekends while tables start at 1600dhm (£125). There’s a Casino next door if you gamble or maybe just wanting to win back some of the holiday money you’ve spent
For more chilled settings, check out The Pearl hotel’s sky lounge. It’s open to non-hotel residents too and by day you can chill round the pool on the sun loungers and cabana bed and enjoy the views of the Medina and the Atlas mountains. By night, you can eat or have drinks up here too and enjoy the live band or DJ.
Marrakech is s mostly safe city to visit, the main crimes tourists fall victim to here are either scams or pickpockets. Although it’s safe, common sense still applies so be cautious, avoid walking round at night and leave your valuables in your room. Be aware of pick pockets and be alert at all times! Avoid drinking tap water as it’s not safe to drink. If you have a sensitive stomach, be careful about eating fruits on the street or general street food; make sure it’s piping hot when you get it. You wouldn’t want to spend half of your holiday with food poisoning on the toilet or puking your guts out.
If you’re a woman travelling solo and walking around alone, you’re likely to attract attention from the men around and increased likelihood of being cat called or even touched. Even my friend and I together got a lot of attention so I can only imagine what it would have been like if either of us were alone. And most definitely don’t walk around at night! You have to be firm with people asking you for things or calling out to you. Here it’s not rude to ignore, trust me, they get it all the time and they’ll be fine.
I think a SIM is worth getting if you can. You can get it at the airport but I’m sure it’s better to get one in the main square or somewhere in town for a better deal. Internet at the riads really does depend on the riads or hotel you are in. At our first riad its was a little patchy but our second one was great. Wifi at restaurants also is usually available and where it is, its usually password protected so ask the waiters.
The main networks operating in Morocco are Imzi, Maroc Telecom and Orange. Maroc Telecom seems to be the most recommended because they provide the best coverage across the country, especially useful if you plan on going beyond the city centre. You can get a prepaid Maroc Telecom SIM card for 50dhm and get 5GB of data valid for a month.
And that’s all folks!
If there are any questions you have or things you would like to add, this will be a live blog post so it will be updated periodically whenever something new happens so leave a comment on my Instagram, send me a DM or better still, leave a comment below!
Until Next time Biscuits xx