Day 1: Medinas and Markets
Everything in Marrakech goes on within the hustle and bustle of the Medina, the walled, most ancient part of the city. Spend a day, soaking up the sounds, smells, and sights of this remarkable area, experiencing the souks and squares.
1. Wander Around the Medina
The most beautiful part of the Medina is its maze of narrow streets that transport you back in time. Throw your map in the garbage and lose yourself in the excitement, while dodging donkeys and carts.
Admire the colors of the walls and buildings, the smells of the food and spices, and speak to friendly locals. Most unique of all is the sounds of the call to prayer echoing among the narrow streets coming from the many mosques situated close by. To experience this high up, head to one of the many rooftop cafes to experience panoramic sounds and views.
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2. Jamaa El Fnaa
At the heart of the Medina lies the world-famous Jamaa el Fnaa square. Walking through this square is an experience like no other! Feel the heat beating off the stone floor, as you worm your way through snake charmers, entertainers, and street food stalls selling fresh juices.
By night, the square comes to life with music, with flute players, dancers, and artists all showing their talents under the twinkling lights of the stalls. This amazing demonstration of Moroccan culture is not to be missed!
Tip: Pickpockets are operating in this area so be wary.
3. Explore the Souks
If the square is the heart, then the souks are the true soul of Marrakech. Wander just off the main square to discover an extraordinary labyrinth of markets. It’s easy to lose yourself in the covered markets and the network of tiny streets that all seem to look the same.
Don’t worry about this, and enjoy the fantastic colors of the textiles, the magical smells of the vibrant mountains of spices, the high-quality leatherwork, and the glittering lights bouncing off the lanterns and colored glassware. Make sure to visit the main souk: ‘Souk Semmarine’, located just off Jamaa el Fnaa. A little further away is the ‘Souk Place des Epices’, which is the traditional spice souk.
Tip: Get ready to bargain! This is a key part of the culture, so shop owners will always bargain on the price. Be aware that shop owners can hassle tourists to buy products in the souks. Be firm and politely say no before moving on quickly. If you’re worried about getting lost in the souks, it’s a good idea to hire a reputable guide.
4. Find the Best Places to Eat and Drink
Marrakech has a great selection of traditional and fusion restaurants that serve up delicious tagine and couscous. Our personal favorite was Cafe Atay. There is also Cafe Clock, which is more of a fusion one but also very good!
In Morrocan architecture, all buildings have flat roofs which make it perfect for rooftop bars. Head to a rooftop cafe overlooking Jemaa el Fnaa for a delicious mint tea, or visit the museum Maison de la Fotagraphie, which has the highest rooftop bar in the medina for incredible views!
Note: Marrakech is an Islamic city, which means alcohol is forbidden outside of bars. Many bars and restaurants won’t serve alcohol at all, so search beforehand for places that do, or enjoy a dry trip!
Day 2: Incredible Architecture
Enjoy day 2 by jumping between beautiful buildings. See the traditional Moroccan architecture and designs of arches and blue tiles, but also the more innovative designs of artistic buildings and museums.
5. Stay in a Traditional Riad
Staying in a traditional riad (guesthouse) is the best way to see the stunning details of Moroccan architecture. On the outside, they are normally a sandy color with basic architecture. However, once you open the door, there is a whole different world. This is the link to the riad below in the photography.
A world of wonderful colored tiles, detailed patterns, and plants, that are normally centered around a dreamy looking swimming pool. Staying in a riad is definitely a peaceful experience, that provides a tranquil oasis away from the noises of Marrakech.
6. Jardin Majorelle
This incredible, vibrant blue house is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Marrakech and an absolute must-see! The beautiful house and gardens were originally created by Jaques Majorelle, who was the inventor of this deep blue shade, named ‘Majorelle blue’.
Later the house was bought by Yves St Laurent, who restored the house and botanical gardens to their former glory. This truly feels like a tropical oasis, with green plants from all over the world that look beautiful against the blues and yellows of the house.
Entrance Fee: A ticket is 70 Dhs to the garden (around $7). The museum entrance fee is 30 Dhs (around $3). The house and gardens are open from 8-5.30 every day and 8-6 in the summer months. Go as early as possible to avoid the crowds, and get the best photos possible.
7. Ben Youssef Madrassa
Explore a world of stunning symmetry, and intricately patterned mosaics, in this former Islamic school. Located near the medina, Ben Youssef Madrassa used to be the largest Islamic college in Morocco. Spend an hour or so here, admiring the beautiful Moroccan architecture, especially the remarkable interior terrace, that’s centered around a tranquil pool.
Entrance Fee: Tickets are approximately $5
8. Bahia Palace
This extraordinary palace, with 150 rooms, was built in the 19th century by the grand vizier of the sultan, who hoped for it to be the greatest palace of all time. Discover the traditional Moroccan architecture of the courtyards, filled with orange trees and fountains, and the beautiful stain glass windows and tilework.
Most impressive of all is the huge, luxurious marble courtyard at the center of the palace complex. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn about the fascinating history of the grand vizier, his family, and his many wives.
Note: Only a portion of the palace is available to see but it’s definitely worth it, especially as it’s located just a 20-minute walk from Jamaa el Fnaa square.
Entrance fee: 70 Dhs ($7). Open Monday to Sunday 8 am-5 pm
Day 3: Outside of Marrakech
The stunning nature of Morocco is just a stone’s throw away from the city. Once you’ve soaked up all the culture of dynamic Marrakech, take one of these day trips to experience country life, majestic mountains, or the heat of the Sahara.
9. A Day Trip to the Atlas Mountains
Take a day trip to the jaw-droppingly beautiful atlas mountains, situated just an hour or two drive away from Marrakech. Most tours offer a return journey to Marrakech and take you through beautiful valleys and traditional Berber villages. This is a perfect way to see some of the amazing nature in Morocco and get up to the cooler climates of the mountains.
Tip: Visiting in the winter? Take advantage of the fact you can go skiing in the Atlas mountains! If you’re visiting in summer, don’t forget that the mountains get a lot cooler as it approaches the evening, so make sure to take an extra layer.
10. Aït Benhaddou
Situated on the Atlas mountains, south of Marrakech is the movie-like scenery of Aït Benhaddou. Earthen, sandy buildings that make up this ancient village dating back hundreds of years. The UNESCO site is exceptionally well preserved and allows travelers a glimpse into a simpler way of life. Spend some time here, wandering through the village, admiring the surrounding mountains, and sip a mint tea as the sun sets over the red clay.
Tip: Day trips can be arranged to Aït Benhaddou for as little as $22 USD.
11. Sahara Desert Tour
No trip to Morocco is complete without seeing the epic scenery of the Sahara Desert. Adventure by jeep or foot amongst the rippling sand dunes by day. By night, experience some of the most incredible stargazing in the world, by a roaring campfire. Most drives to the Sahara take about 8 hours, stopping at villages and natural sights along the way. Because of this, it’s recommended to do a 2-3 day tour of the Sahara.
Tip: Looking for a desert day trip? Head for the nearby Agafay Desert instead! It might not be as impressive as the Sahara but you’ll still find just as much adventure!
Best Time to Visit Marrakech
The best time to visit Marrakech is in the shoulder seasons of March-May or September-November. In these months it will be beautifully warm and sunny but not too hot. The winter months can still be lovely and sunny and are a great time to visit if you want to ski in the Atlas Mountains.
How to Get to Marrakech & How to Get Around
Marrakech is easy to reach by train, plane, or bus. It has an international airport and the roads in Morocco are perfect. You can easily reach other cities in Morocco, such as Fes via train. Once you’re in Marrakech, all the sights are within walking distance of each other. Walking is the perfect way to see the city!
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Where to Stay in Marrakech
Take the opportunity to stay in one of the beautiful riads! Whether you’re looking to splash a bit more cash or something a bit more budget-friendly, there is amazing accommodation for every kind of traveler in Marrakech.
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We are traveling out to Marrakech in November and your travel guide has been such a help, thank you.
You’re welcome Ann! Have the best time there.