I don't like taking sides, so I stumble when people ask me about my favorite places to travel to. I always find it unfair to all the other places, but if I were honest, Marrakech would just be it. It was love at second sight, but now I think we are in it for the long run. Why you may ask and how to navigate in this crazy beautiful city. I want to show you my favorite Marrakech excursions and reasons to love the Red City of Morocco beyond what the guidebooks may tell you...
And if you need some very practical advice on getting around and what to avoid in Marrakech, you can jump ahead to the tips here.
37 Reasons to visit & Marrakech excursions
In no apparent order...
Musée Yves Saint Laurent.
If you have any interest in fashion, this is the place to go in Marrakech. I have seldom seen such a well-curated, beautifully designed museum. While you are there, stop at Jardin Majorelle and the Berber museum inside, which was also curated by the late Pierre Berger who was Yves life and business partner for years.
This newly opened garden in the middle of the medina is the perfect destination for excursions in Marrakech itself. The place showcases the best of Islamic architecture and hydraulics as the water in the fountains here comes all the way from the Atlas Mountains. Beautiful tiles, the typical symmetry of Islamic art and of course, a myriad of plants and flowers - it is the picture-perfect city escape right within the city walls.
Maison de la Photographie
This is my favorite museum in Marrakech with pictures from the last century in Morocco. It is simply stunning, and I come back here often. I also like it because it reminds me of my second trip to Marrakech (that time when the city and I finally clicked). It took me forever to find my way to the Maison, and when I made it, I realized I was out of cash and the next ATM was far. They had a credit card minimum, and so the cashier told me I could go inside and if I wanted to buy something at the shop afterward, fine, and if not it wasn't a problem either - I should just enjoy the museum. I was incredibly touched by his kindness, fell in love with the museum and unfortunately the shop as well.
Argan oil ice cream at Nomad
Nomad is one of those restaurants which have gotten a bit too hip and happening for its own good. The food is okay but nothing to write home about but the views from the roof terrace are stunning and the argan oil ice cream one of a kind.
The Marrakech airport should make it on the list of most Instagrammable places in Morocco because it is just so pretty. Fortunately, it has also gotten a make-over (this awning is the old part) which means no more hour-long queues at immigration.
Marrakech is a city full of roses.
The Marrakech medina
Yes, the streets are crumbling, somewhat hazardous and very maze-like but still, the medina is so very charming. I recommend booking a riad in the Marrakech medina to get a proper feel for the city when you stay here - even or especially for first-timers.
The typical Marrakech scent of bitter orange blossoms, sugar, and olives.
La Mamounia gardens
They are another green escape right by the city center, and no, you don't need to stay there to enjoy them (though I recommend you do if you can afford it for a special occasion - the La Mamounia is my favorite hotel in town!). The hotel is steeped in history, and the gardens are a big part of this history. Today they host different open-air exhibits and are the perfect setting for a sunset stroll. Follow that with a fancy cocktail at the hotel's Churchill Bar.
There are plenty of excursions from Marrakech if you need a break from a city. One of my favorite mornings was spent in a hot air balloon over the outskirts of the town followed by an authentic breakfast in the local village.
Even in summer, you can see the snow-capped Atlas mountains on a clear day. This picture was taken on the roof of El Fenn offering a stunning view of the Koutoubia Mosque and the mountains.
It is a tiny shop at the Places des Epices offering holistic services and some of the best Moroccan argan oil products I have found.
I must admit I don't find Moroccan breakfast terribly exciting except for freshly deep-fried doughnuts to-go on Derb Dabachi. You can have tiny or big ones, avec or sans sucre.
For the best dinners and nibbles stay at Chambres d'Amis. Preorder and enjoy on their roof terrace with a bottle of rose.
For sunset in Marrakech find yourself a rooftop in the medina to enjoy the view and the sounds of the call to prayer - I like to call it a beautiful dissonance. No ocean needed for a picture perfect sunset (and no alcoholic sundowner as most places in the medina don't serve alcohol).
Yes, sometimes sales people are pushy in the souks and boys will catcall you but still, you will also find some of the friendliest people in Marrakech, and Moroccan hospitality is unsurpassed.
The Douiria is a beautiful house from the 16th century which was restored using original building techniques and now functions as a museum. They are currently rebuilding the neighboring property which once belonged to the building, and if you ask nicely, they will give you a little tour.
On the Jemaa El Fna, you pay for pictures whether that is for a photo of a monkey or a person. I don't take pictures of animals because I know how they are treated and I usually can't be bothered to take photos of people - it seems a bit too touristy for my liking. However, there is a guy who "sells" teeth and dentures and who is so wonderfully freaky that I couldn't resist. He is at the Jemaa El Fna and has a blue table - you can't miss him. In general, negotiate a price before taking the picture and give about 20 MAD.
The merguez from the food stall No 31
Don't go to their neighbor with the English menu, go to No 31 and show with your fingers how many you want. Wash down with mint tea.
There is no city like Marrakech which hides big surprises behind unassuming doors better. Here you will find the city's riads which over time have been turned into hotels or galleries. What they have in common are beautiful airy courtyards, intricate wood or marble decorations, and the typical Moroccan hospitality. And if you get very lucky, you may just discover a secret garden or even a palace behind one of these doors.
I called the Marrakech doors unassuming which is not necessarily true. The city boasts some of the most beautiful doors, many of them with stunning carvings - people have done entire posts and photography exhibits on Moroccan doors, so it is worth to keep your eyes open when strolling through residential neighborhoods.
I have yet to find out why Moroccans love tortoises so much but it seems to be their preferred pet. When I first visited the Places des Epices (a place in the medina that is known for its spices and beauty products), I was so sad to see many little tortoises in cages, thinking they would be ground up and used for potions and stuff. Luckily this isn't the case - they are sold here as pets. Most riads like El Fenn have a few walking around - you'll have to be careful not to trip when you leave your room in the morning.
Jemaa El Fna at night
In the evening the big square in Marrakech comes to life. Storytellers, acrobats and the infamous food stalls which always remind me a bit of the dining/pig scene from Spirited Away. The atmosphere is electric, and you shouldn't miss it. That said, it does get quite crowded and a bit overwhelming. Visit the square during the day before to get your bearings and know general directions.
There is a beauty to getting lost in the medina and kasbah. Marrakech excursions without getting lost are only half the fun. Just trust that you will find your way again, enjoy the ride and know that all roads lead to Rome/ Jemaa El Fna.
No Marrakech visit would be complete without a good scrub at the hammam. Splurge at the hammam at the Royal Mansour hotel spa or if you dare - ask your riad where the closest public hammam is.
The souks of Marrakech
Hard to believe I hated the souks the first time I came to Marrakech; so much so that I managed to buy not a single thing. A long time has passed since then - there are few places more fun than the souks. Just don't be in a hurry and put on your best poker face.
While non-Muslims cannot visit the Mosque, it is still a beautiful sight and a good landmark when making your way through town.
It is a crash course in culture, religion, and Marrakech customs you can take at Cafe Clock. Perfect if you are new to Morocco or tend to ask too many or slightly embarrassing questions like me.
I live out of a suitcase, and so it is especially tragic that I own the most beautiful collection of Moroccan ceramics - bowls, plates and tea glasses. If you are looking for household or home decor items, Marrakech is the city for you. You can bargain your way through the souks or head to Ensemble Artisinal or Chabi Chic for set prices.
Harissa is a hot chili pepper paste you could also call the ketchup of Morocco (only so much better) - you can put it on everything. I buy mine from Chabi Chic as their have their own brand of prettily packed condiments, and they sell a red and green harissa. Since I currently don't have a kitchen, I leave my jars (I always get a new one when I am in town) with my brother, and it keeps forever in the fridge.
Marrakech Food Tours
You can read all about my friend Amanda and her Marrakech Food Tours here, but trust me - they are the first address when it comes to exploring food in Marrakech.
The most beautiful phrase of the Arabic language to me: God willing. And while I'm not religious, it is my favorite reply when I say 'see you soon' to people in Marrakech.
No country has cats quite as wonderful as Morocco and no city 'does' kittens better than Marrakech. They are usually frightfully scrawny, but oh so cute. I still think I will return with a kitten or two in my suitcase one day. Luckily there is Spana, an organization which takes care of sick kittens in Morocco and other mistreated animals but do buy a can of tuna when you see one around.
Keep calm and drink tea - the motto of Morocco. I think Moroccans drink more tea than the English or the Indians. Moroccan mint tea needs to be poured from high up to create some bubbles and tastes best with lots of sugar.
Sugar & Marble
Back in the day, Morocco used to trade its sugar with Carrara, Italy for its marble. Marrakech tour guides will usually tell this story when standing in front of an unusually ornate marble wall and laugh at the fact that - look, Morocco still has the marble, but Italy has long used all the sugar. Lucky us!
Holidays in Marrakech
Or holidays from Marrakech? If you need a break from the city head towards the Palmerie. Here you will find lots of greenery, some of the best golf courses in Morocco and spacious pools. My favorite hotels outside of Marrakech are the Royal Palm and the Fellah hotel which make for a lovely city break. If you want ocean jump on a Supratours bus to Essaouira, if you want to go hiking head to Imlil in the Atlas Mountains and if you want to sleep in the desert head to Scarabeo Camp in the Agafay desert - Marrakech is a great starting place for excursions all of Morocco!
Practical Tips for a holiday in Morocco & Marrakech excursions
Languages spoken: Moroccan Arabic, French, Berber or the Amazigh languages. Especially in touristy areas of Marrakech, you will be able to converse in English and probably get offers to buy something in your native language too. But to get around and have a conversation, I recommend you brush up on that school French and learn a few phrases in Arabic.
Money: Moroccan dirham - 1 € is currently 11 MAD
As per usual, I prefer to draw cash from the ATM, and you will find plenty at the Jemaa El Fna and the surrounding streets. Credit cards are only accepted in bigger hotels or shops - when in doubt, check beforehand. And don't go into the souks without cash, the next ATM might be at the end of the maze.
Phone & Internet: Most riads and hotels have wifi which can be spotty at times. When in doubt get a local SIM card from Maroc Telecom, Orange or Inwi as data is pretty cheap in Morocco.
Maps: The medina of Marrakech is a beautiful maze and maps will only get you so far. I have been quite successful with Google maps and if you don't have data, download an app like maps.me which you can use offline. Most riads and hotels will give you a printed map of the area, and I think the best and most detailed one is from Riad El Fenn.
How many days in Marrakech is a question I often get and to be honest, I am probably not the best person to answer that because I would always say - you can't stay long enough. But I think to the average visitor 3 days in Marrakech is a good start as the city does tend to get overwhelming.
The airport is not far from town and you can either take bus 19 to Jemaa El Fna for 30 dirhams or a taxi. Taxi prices are set at 70 dirhams. There is even a big sign at the airport with that price, but unfortunately, drivers will still try to get more. Do not pay more! If you are not in the mood to argue I recommend you ask your hotel and riad to organize a transfer for you. This will probably cost you double, but I think it is worth it and more hassle-free. If you are staying at a riad in the medina, your pick-up will also show you the way to the doorstep of your accommodation in Marrakech. Alternatively, you can hire a porter yourself from the 'border' of Jemaa El Fna.
Getting around in Marrakech: you can either walk, take the bus or take taxis. Taxis should technically turn the meter on but usually don' t for foreigners. I honestly don't care enough to argue with them - make sure you agree on a price beforehand. Petit taxis can take up to 3 passengers and will drive within Marrakech whereas grand taxis can take up to 5 and will also take you to destinations out of town.
Make sure to have small change - the excuse that the driver doesn't have change is all too common. Read this awesome post by Maroc Mama on how to avoid all common taxi scams.
Within the medina, you can also travel by tuk-tuk, a fairly new initiative to create jobs for men with walking disabilities and a great way to get around the narrow streets which cars can't go to.
Where to stay in Marrakech: I have mentioned some of my favorite hotels and riads above. I think to stay in the thick of things, the medina, is an experience you shouldn't miss in Marrakech. Do keep in mind that many of the places are quite old and may not offer the most modern amenities. Most riads stay cool enough during summer but check that there is a heater available if you come during the winter months.
If you are staying out of town, check if the hotel offers a shuttle service so you can get to and from the city as taxis can get expensive.
You can book my favorites below, ranging from least to most expensive:
Do you have any other questions for your Marrakech holidays? Let me know in the comments and I will update the post.
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