Hey guys! I’m back again with another Travel Guide and this time we’re going to vibrant and colourful city of Marrakech! The Marrakech Travel guide is here to help you navigate this sometimes tricky city to visit! Marrakech was the first African country I visited outside of my home country, Nigeria, and what better way to start my African adventures!

Marrakech taught me colour. 

Yves Saint Laurent

A little about Marrakech, Morocco

Frequently referred to as the red city, the name Marrakech has two theories; one says it comes from the Berber phrase “mur akush” meaning “The Land of God” and the other says it’s from the Arabic Phrase “murra kish” which means “Pass by Quickly”, as a warning to travellers to be wary of thieves and animals. So I’ll leave it to you to decide which one you think is right! Although it isn’t Morocco’s capital city or even the largest (that’s Casablanca), Marrakech is the unofficial cultural centre with its winding alleys and red brick buildings against the red dirt desert and mountains.

Marrakech Travel Guide

Marrakech or Marrakesh?

Now this one confused me because depending on the time of the day I could spell it either way and I always wondered which was correct. So I did my googles and found that the proper spelling within Morocco is with the “ch” at the end, the French spelling. But the “ch” combination in French has the same sound as “sh” in English, so from language to language the spelling changes!

READ MORE: Is Marrakech worth visiting?

Getting To Marrakech

The only international airport in Marrakech is Marrakech Menara International Airport (RAK) and there are direct flights from Manchester. The airport is only about 4 miles (15 min drive) to the city centre. We flew Ryanair from Manchester Airport to Marrakech Menara Airport and the flight lasted 3hrs 45 minutes.

If you’re feeling really adventurous and have time, it’s actually possible to travel to Marrakech completely by train & ferry from the UK! You can take the Eurostar to Paris, sleeper train through Spain, the ferry to Tangier and a finally a train to Marrakech! It’s quite a long and expensive journey, however, you see two countries and two parts of Marrakech. So the option is there for you. Check out Seat61 for more details.

It’s best to arrange transfers in advance through your riad even though it’s more expensive, because unless your riad is really popular, they can be quite hidden and usually in side roads where cars can’t enter. If you’re familiar with the city and know where you’re going, you can get a local taxi from the airport for about £8-£10 with some negotiation.

Know before you go to Marrakech

  • UK, USA and Canadian citizens don’t need a visa for entry into Morocco for tourism for up to 3 months.
  • Arabic is the official language in Morocco but French is the unofficial language and is just as common as Arabic in the city! However, English is generally spoken.
  • There are 2 plug types for Morocco, C and E. Type C has two round pins and type E has two round pins with a hole for the sockets earthing pin. UK, American, Canadian and Nigerian residents will need an adapter before you arrive to use the Marrakech sockets.
  • The Moroccan currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD). The Dirham is a closed currency which means you can only get it when you arrive in Morocco.
  • Cash is KING. I’d suggest changing just a little money at the airport to pay for your transfer or taxi and change the rest of your money in the main square as the rate in the city is MUCH better than in the airport.
  • Buy a sim card at the airport. You’ll need the internet especially google maps to navigate the Medina successfully. 
  • Beware if scams. If someone offers to help you with directions, they will most likely ask for money at the end and they can et quite aggressive. 

When to visit Marrakech?

Marrakech is warm all year round (Woop!) but the best times to visit are from March to May and between September and November when the weather is good all day long, the sun isn’t too hot and hotel rates are more affordable. But do avoid the Easter holiday when prices tend to jump! The summer months, June to August are particularly scorching, with temperatures of +30C° and sometimes reaching 40°C which for me is ‘remove wig’ weather haha, brutal! However, summer does bring with it the Festival of Popular Arts.

Marrakech Travel Guide

Winter, December to February still has good weather with temperatures hovering around 20°C but at night the temperature drops considerably. Christmas and New Year (between 20th December and 6th January) are especially busy time so prices are likely to increase and riads will sell out. During Ramadan, a lot of restaurants are closed and attraction opening hours could be affected. Just some things to think about when planning your trip.

Marrakech Travel Guide – Getting Around

The best way to see Marrakech, in my opinion, is by foot, particularly in the Medina. You stumble on so many gems along the way and get to interact with locals. Google maps doesn’t always work well in the winding alleys of the Medina so if you do need to ask for directions, ask one of the shop owners or women, they’ll direct you for free. But, as we know, Marrakech is a pretty big city, so there are quite a few other ways to get around including taxis and tuk tuks.

Something interesting I found out was that Marrakech grants tuktuk licences to handicapped drivers only and explains why you don’t see hordes of them round. A great reason to probably use a tuktuk at least once during our trip! They’re particularly good for getting around in the medina to get a break from the sun and they’re pretty affordable. Again make sure you agree a price before you enter

Marrakech Travel Guide – Where to Stay in Marrakech

Riads are uniquely Moroccan and I wouldn’t be looking anywhere else to stay when next I visit. It’s a much more personal and cultural experience because they tend to be pretty small. As you arrive, first order of business is the complimentary mint tea which is the absolute best welcome anywhere!

We stayed in 2 riads for the 4 days we were in Marrakech. First, we checked into Riad Golfame and then, Riad Sashema. Both riads were really superb and really made our time in Marrakech. Riad Golfame was nestled deep into the Medina while Riad Sashema in Kasbah, outside the Medina.

READ MORE: Where to Stay in Marrakech

Marrakech Travel Guide – What to do in Marrakech

1. Marvel at the Majorelle Gardens and YSL Museum

This is probably one of the most popular sights in Morocco. French painter Jacques Majorelle spent 40 years building this beautiful garden. The garden is filled with over 300 species of plants, streams, koi ponds with fish and lanes to enjoy this magical place. Check their website for opening times as they change at different times of the year. We only went to the gardens and not the museum. I would suggest buying tickets online a few days before as slots go quickly and don’t be late to your slot.

2. Visit the Ben Youssef Madrasa

This Madrasa, which translates to school, was home to students for over 400 yrs and is a fantastic representation of traditional Moroccan architecture. This was once the largest Quranic School in North Africa and represents how education was in a different time. It’s one of the most important buildings in Marrakech which makes it so possible. I was really looking forward to visiting but couldn’t as it was unfortunately closed when I visited. Check here for more details.

Marrakech Travel Guide

3. Visit Bahia Palace

Bahia Palace means “The palace of the beautiful, the brilliant” and it lives up to its name as one of the most beautiful sights in Marrakech. 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. You walk through countless rooms and courtyards, a real paradise of Moroccan architecture.

Because it’s quite magnificent and one of the highlights in Marrakech, it gets quite busy. So I’d recommend visiting early in the day to beat the rush.

Marrakech travel guide

4. 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. The minaret dominates the skyline and is visible from 30km away, helping tourists, and locals alike, find their way. Open only to Muslims, non-Muslims can walk the grounds and appreciate the beauty of this historically relevant building.

Marrakech travel guide
Marrakech travel guide

5. Visit a Hammam in Marrakech

A hammam is basically a lot of nakedness haha. At a hammam, a woman (or man depending on your sex) uses heat with soap to exfoliate your skin, and a massage to finish. Going to a Hammam is a quintessentially Moroccan experience, a ritual for locals and one you should definitely do in Marrakech.

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. There are also lots of mid-range and luxury spas that offer this service, catering more to tourists. Book in advance because they’re super popular.

6. Barter at the Souks

No Marrakech travel guide would be complete without a visit to the Medina. The souks, i.e. the markets of Marrakech, are heaven for anyone that loves to shop. No matter what you’re looking for, the market has it. Everything from iconic lamps, leather handbags, wallets, shoes, to carpets, to everything in between! Negotiating or haggling is very much part of the experience or you will get significantly ripped off so sharpen them up!

You could also get a guided tour of the souks with an experienced guide. You can book a tour here: Medina Souks Guided Walking Tour.

7. Do a day trip/Desert tour near Marrakech

I wrote all about My day trip to Imlil so make sure you check it out! Doing a day trip or a 3+ day desert tour is something you should find time for in your itinerary. You can find a variety of tours on Get Your Guide for day trips within Marrakech and further afield.

8. Visit Jemma El-Fna

Jemaa el-Fna Square is the chaotic beating heart of the city. It’s a bit of an assault on the senses. The square is very vibrant and colourful with smells from street food stalls, shop owners calling out, snake charmers, drummers and lights shows. Day and night in the square couldn’t be more different, it definitely comes alive in the night time. It is very fascinating and overwhelming at the same time but a must visit on any trip to Marrakech.

Something to note about Jemma el-Fna is it is very common to get asked for money as soon as you bring your phone or camera out to take a picture. So just be aware and either tip or don’t take pictures.

Marrakech Travel Guide – Where to eat 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. Tagine is the traditional dish of Marrakech and most restaurants will serve it. I was tagine-d out by the end of my trip so it’s good there are other cuisine options in Marrakech.

Cafe Nomad

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 and it’s a great place for lunch.

La Famille

Five mins from Bahia Palace, La Famille has quickly become a favourite with locals. 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 a seat.

I Limoni

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!

Some things to keep in mind with food and eating in Marrakech:

1. 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.

2. Avoid salads and raw vegetables or anything that’s likely to have been washed in water.

3. When eating from food stalls, stick to grilled food rather than tagines that may not be started fresh every day.

4. 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, if it’s black, you already know, keep moving!

Marrakech Travel Guide – What to Wear in Marrakech

This Marrakech travel guide wouldn’t be complete without some fashion talk. 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 because you’ll get a lot of unwanted attention. I did see some people wearing shorts there but I personally wouldn’t advice it. I mainly wore dresses and palazzo pants, 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 and you should be fine. Here are some of the things I wore.

Marrakech travel guide
Marrakech travel guide

Marrakech Travel Guide – Safety in Marrakech

Marrakech is mostly safe to visit, the main crimes tourists fall victim to are either scams or pickpockets. Although it’s safe, common sense still applies be cautious and avoid walking alone at night. 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 eating fruits on the street and make sure street food is piping hot when you get it.

If you’re a woman, travelling solo or walking around alone, you’re likely to attract unwanted male attention, get cat called or even touched. My friend and I together (both black women) got a lot of attention, so I can only imagine what it would’ve been if either of us were alone. 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.

Marrakech Travel guide – Should I visit Marrakech?

We enjoyed Marrakech alot and would definitely consider visiting other parts of Morocco It’s one of those places you need to visit to understand or appreciate. It gets some bad PR but I always encourage people to make their own decisions based on your own experience. Read more about my experience in Marrakech and if it’s worth visiting.

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Until next time xx…

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