Updated: Oct 31
Whether you spell it Marrakech or Marrakesh, the French-infused exotic city in Morocco is overflowing with vibrancy. From colorful souks to marbled palaces, Marrakech is not only easily accessible from Europe by cheap direct flights as low as 16 euros, but it is a wonderful starting point for a Moroccan adventure to nearby cities. Spend a few days just in Marrakech or spend a week exploring the whole area. In just 3 days in Marrakech there is plenty to see and do. Let me be your guide.
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In this article you will find:
Must-See Sites in Marrakech
You can't go in (unless you are going for worship), but you can look around the outside. You'll find hawkers selling souvenirs and beautiful mudejar architecture. It is a central monument of the city and is worth seeing.
It's a 12th century gate and good photo op, but that's about it. Don't go out of your way, but if you can include it on your walking route you should!
Tip: find a horse and buggy around here and let your feet rest while you clip clop through the streets to your next destination. Agree upon a price and destination in advance.
With nearly free admission, this is definitely worth a visit for the photos alone!
Browse with respect, of course, because these are the resting places for many famous royals in Moroccan history.
El Badi Palace
Pictures barely do this place justice. A sprawling palace, it will take a good hour to go through.
Every turn offers photo opportunities.
Bring water and a sunhat because the sun in the central courtyard of the palace is brutal with little shade.
Palais de la Bahia
This photo worthy palace is a good stop to spend time wandering and musing about the rich and the famous. Bonus - you won't find crowds of tourists!
This overly-hyped, busy garden has eluded me thus far, but only because I don't like to wait in lines. If you're like me, maybe you'll appreciate visiting here as part of a day tour. GetYourGuide offers nearly 40 tours visiting the gardens by horse and carriage, paired with a camel ride or walking tour, and more.
Try Majorelle Garden entry and lunch in a desert camp, perhaps?
Where to Eat in Marrakech
Jemaa El Fna
Probably the most famous area of Marrakech, Jemaa El Fna is best taken in full in the evening at the sunset hour. By day it is fairly empty but still vendors hawk their wares and yell at you to purchase in every language they assume you might be.
At night witness street games, fire eaters, cobras in baskets and all the things you might expect from an exotic North African marketplace.
When you get hungry, seek out any of the well-lit tents and sit down for what surely will be an excellent feast.
Try tagines of stewed meats, bastilla meat filled sweet pastry, merguez sausages, vegetable platters, couscous and more.
Order a la carte from English menus and stuff your face full. You'll walk away very happy, believe me!
Want to try it all? Check out an organized street food tour.
If you feel like getting gussied up for a very Moroccan experience, check out Dar Esselam's dinner and belly dancer show. It's your traditional style dining establishment with tables lined up against red carpeted walls with a central rug area for entertainment.
Expect tagines, a family style feast, and ornate trappings on every inch of this beautiful restaurant.
Candlelight only enhances the experience. Book online in advance!
For lunch only, this is not a restaurant or even something you can really Google. Simply put, it's an alley full of folks cooking roast lamb in underground pits. You have options for tanjia, which is sheep's head in a clay pot or mechoui (pronounced “mesh-wee”), which is the pit roasted lamb.
You order by the size and part of the animal, making it a seriously unique street food experience. Stalls open daily from 11:00 a.m. and close/sell out by 2 p.m.
Different cuts are sold at different prices. Ask for a nus (half) or rubb (quarter) kilo.
If you go around 11 you might catch the vendors pulling things out of the ground. You might want to consider taking a food tour for this unique experience, in order to get the most of it.
Bagatelle or La Grand Cafe de Poste in Gueliz are great options if you want to feel the old-timey Casablanca style vibes of French Morocco. Definitely upscale, these spots are for the see and be seen crowd, and they serve alcohol.
Where to Shop in Marrakech
You can do your research on souks if you want, but ultimately they all blend together. You'll see once you get there. You may try to seek out the spice souk, or a souk for carpets or shoes or baskets or lanterns, but you will get lost.
Trust your spidey shopping senses and just follow your instincts on where to go next in the maze of souks.
You'll find different outlets full of the same items, and that will be a good indication that you've made it to the next souk.
I recommend picking up some dates and nuts, maybe some spices, and haggling for everything.
Don't ever pay the first price. I got a man down from over $100 on a silver ring and got it down to $13 in the end. He was pretty pissed about it (so we walked away quickly!), but we were his first and what seemed like only sale for the day, so he took the money.
Prepare to spend hours browsing (and getting lost) and just have fun with it. Stop for a tea and a rest from time to time, and eventually whip out your Google Maps to find your way back to your riad.
Fear getting lost? Try an organized shopping tour instead.
Carre Eden near Gueliz or Menara near the airport are big modern malls with Carrefour and other convenient options for stocking up on food supplies, clothing, souvenirs and more.
Other Things to Do in Marrakech
Get a Massage
I researched tons of places, but ultimately chose the Mythic Oriental Spa. Book online in advance for whatever treatment pleases you. They do offer hammam washing, but after doing plenty of reading on the scrubbing and nudity of it all, I opted to go with a traditional relaxation massage.
Want to amp it up before the spa? Try this combo buggy ride, camel ride and spa treatment tour.
Want something more traditional? Try the hammam experience.
Get Some (Above Board) Henna
Go to the Henna cafe for a relaxing juice or snack and some legit henna.
Located at 93 Arset Aouzal, Marrakech, Morocco +212 656-566374, do not confuse it with the henna 'art' cafe, run by an American woman.
The one I went to had a very chill and authentic vibe.
Beware the street henna artists using bad henna ink. You want to get it at an above board shop like this one, so you don't get bad rashes or infection.
If you are new to henna, just remember that it takes time to dry and crust up. The longer it dries, the longer it will stay on your body. That said, don't get it somewhere where it will smear the second you walk downstairs.
Ibn Youssef School
Go for gorgeous photo opportunities of this lavishly adorned campus.
House of Photography
A museum of wow-worthy portrait photography not to be missed if you are into that sort of thing.
Dar Si Said Museum
Another opulent example of vibrant moorish architecture, famously known for their carpets and tapestry collections.
Mellah Jewish Quarter
Really just another area of town for browsing historic streets, doing some shopping and stepping back in time, a trip to the Jewish Quarter is paired well with visits to the Slat Al Azama Synagogue and Miara Jewish Cemetery. Please remember to be respectful of these places of worship and solemnity.
Visit the Tanneries
I have not been to the tanneries in Marrakech, but I did go in Fez (pictured below). Tanneries can be really interesting and very smelly. My understanding is that in Marrakech the tanneries are not really visited by tourists, but can be with a proper guide. The scenarios I have read about all sounded a little shady, so take caution making arrangements for this and consider perhaps the more touristy visit to the tanneries in Fez.
Le Jardin Secret
Just what it sounds like - a secret garden that most folks don't know about. Go here instead of Majorelle Gardens and you'll be happy to avoid the crowds.
Tips for Visiting Marrakech
Download Maps of the City in Advance
I can't impress this enough - the souks of Marrakech are a maze. Finding anything on Google maps felt near impossible given the lack of street signs and tiny alleyways.
Go with the flow as much as possible. Let your nose guide you to meals, don't get caught up finding and researching the perfect place to shop or eat because you'll kill yourself finding it.
Download your maps of Marrakech in advance of getting there so that you are not relying on the internet or cell service to use your preferred map service (I suggest Google Maps).
What to Wear in Marrakech
If you ask me, pack a lot of blue and teal. The colors will pop and vibrantly bring out the tiles and mudejar textures of door frames, tiled floors and walls and then some.
Of course always dress modestly with shoulder and leg coverings, and bring a scarf for your head should you have an opportunity to enter a holy place.
Breezy materials work best for drastic climate change from day to night.
Bring Lots of Cash
Even though most of our lodgings were through Booking.com and their platform takes care of payments in advance, many were 'pay at the property' and reserved with a credit card.
Don't be fooled though, in Morocco they'll use every chance they can to get cash instead of using credit cards as payment on site.
I heard everything from "the machine is down" to "your card won't work" and we were often forced to pay in cash.
Of course in Morocco we consistently ran out of cash because we only budgeted for incidentals, not overnight stays, and I have to tell you that ATM's are not exactly easy to come by. Don't be like us, get lots of cash in advance. Don't know how? I've detailed how to get cash abroad here.
Morocco Is a Modest Country
Please be respectful of their customs. For instance, I stayed with my then-boyfriend now-husband in a small guest house and the couple who ran the place commented to us how shameful it was that earlier that week they had had an unmarried couple staying in the same room together. We kept our mouths shut and decided to go along with the guise that we were a married couple for the remainder of the trip.
Also be reminded that alcohol is only found in certain establishments and it is not common to see elsewhere. Tea, coffee and hookahs are the chosen vices, so suck up any alcohol addictions you may have and say, "when in Rome".
Should you need a happy hour or cocktail fix, try heading to Gueliz in the northwest quarter of Marrakech for some modern, french-inspired eateries and cocktail bars. Many offer happy hour!
Where to Stay in Marrakech
I am meticulous about finding a place to stay. I must have searched through hundreds of riads (which by the way, you want to stay in a riad). A riad is essentially a guest house with a central open courtyard.
I suggest looking on a map to determine where you want to be in town. If you need easy in and easy out, try the outskirts. If you want to be in the center of everything, make sure you have good map skills.
I wanted to stay somewhere with great hospitality and home cooking. Check and check!
A beautiful stay, they also cooked us dinner by candlelight. Very romantic and very accommodating!
Services offered include home cooked meals (arranged in advance), airport pickup, and a really alluring swimming pool, not to mention gorgeous guest rooms.
Side Trips from Marrakech
A seaside medina full of souks, seafood restaurants and beach vibes, this coastal city also offers gastronomic delights like wineries, fromageries, and argan oil distributors. Definitely worth at least two nights!
Straight out of countless films, this clay and sandstone village is not only picturesque, but an excellent way to experience berbere life for a quiet overnight stay.
Stay at the Kasbah El Hajja guest house in the center of Ait Ben Haddou, tucked into the sandstone village where most travelers only visit by day to see the berbere shops and eateries.
We stayed and dined in a candlelit cave for dinner, where our hosts joined us to play music, talk about life and share some laughter. A truly memorable experience.
A modern town famed to be the based for movie stars throughout the century, many of who filmed in neighboring Ait Ben Haddou. Get some great french food and explore town for a few hours on foot.
Consider taking an organized day trip to both Ait Ben Haddou and Ouarzazate. You'll be surprised at the price!
If you have the time, look into camping near Zagora in the desert outside Marrakech. I've detailed my experience in the link above - for better or worse, it's a camping experience that should definitely be on a bucket list.
All in overnighter in the desert too much for you? There's tons of options for a desert dinner and camel ride to be arranged close to Marrakech.
Zaragoza, Spain (2 hrs direct on Ryan Air)
I may be biased because I live part time in Zaragoza, but I love that Ryan Air offers a direct flight from Marrkech to Spain's moorish and Roman city. Expect mudejar influences much like what you'd see at the mosques and palaces of Marrakech, but enjoy the cuisine of Spain and a much smaller tourist footprint than like in Granada.