Marrakech is a wonderful and fascinating city to travel to, but the hustle and bustle, noise, traffic, heat, and the crowds, take some time to get used to.
People have different feelings about the city, same love it others hate it. The intense heat in the Medina, the intimidating nature of some men, pollution, constant harassment, rubbish everywhere, and animal exploitation are between the main reasons, I can definitely see both sides and no place is only good.
I personally had a great experience, most likely because most people thought my partner was Morrocan 🙂
Marrakech is one of the most visited Moroccan cities and is also called ‘’the red city’’ because of the colour of its walls.
Marrakech is a city of small paths, amazing crafts and colourful atmosphere, is known for its markets, food scene, riads (traditional accommodation around a courtyard) and medina, the heart of the city.
Lost and found in Marrakech, the medina and the souks
The Medina is the ancient walled city that dates from the 12th century, a place to get lost walking the winding streets. All Moroccan cities have an older part where the medinas are located.
Visit the medina first thing in the morning is great, just before everything opens, so you can feel the city waking up. Also, make sure you get off the main streets and explore the hundreds of alleys without shops.
The medina is a place for selling and buying all kinds of products, and their streets are packed with shops and street vendors. The Marrakesh medina is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
The souks of Marrakech are messy, chaotic, colourful, smelly but kind of fantastic at the same time. I loved walking around watching life going by. The souks sell a variety of items such as carpets and rugs, traditional Muslim attire, used clothes, livestock, and fresh produce. Haggling is still a very important part of the trade in the souks.
Unlike the medina, the souk is a temporary structure that goes up in the morning and down later in the day, located in an empty field.
When you walk around, leaving the more touristic routes, you can find markets where you will see locals buying fresh ingredients.
The alleyways and narrow turns seem to go on and on, they are packed with the busyness of the city so as the streets are usually packed, it’s the perfect place for pickpockets. Don’t be too complacent.
The top tip here is, if you don’t wish to buy anything, don’t ask neither answer. Simply keep walking and smile. Also knowing two simple Arabic words can get you a long way: La= No, Choukran=thank you.
Somehow Jemaa el-Fnaa comes on top of most websites and guides as a must place to go in Marrakech.
Jemaa el-Fnaa it’s a very busy market in the main square packed with stalls selling local wares/food, musicians, acrobats, and storyteller. Is quite an aggressive place for tourists, in the way you can’t really walk around without being disturbed, the harassment is constant, so get ready to feel overwhelmed to start.
There are also snake charmers and men with monkeys chained to them trying to get people to pay for a photo. The animal tourism here is cruel so please don’t encourage it by paying to take pictures with the animals. As you know we create the demand..
I would still recommend you to go but lower your expectation…wasn’t my favourite part of Marrakech at all. You can always go up to one of the bars and cafes overlooking the square and spend some time watching all of the antics going on below.
Some people say that if you skip Djemaa El-Fna you miss the soul of the city unless hardcore harassment is Marrakech’s souls it’s hard for me to agree with that statement.
Be aware of pickpocketers at Jemaa al-Fna square.
Enjoy the calm of the parks
Cyber Park Arsat Moulay Abdeslam
Just outside of the medina is the Cyber Park Arsat Moulay Abdeslam, that dates back from the 18th century, a set of beautiful gardens with fountains and plants. A perfect place for a walk around and relax.
Jardin Majorelle (Majorelle garden)
The Majorelle gardens are located about 500 meters from the medina, behind the central bus station. It’s a charming place, wrapped by a water canal, with stunning cactus, exotic plants, palm trees, a lily pond, and a small bamboo forest. Although this was not my favourite, I like the gardens to be tranquil and peaceful, and this one is usually pretty busy.
The entrance fee is 70 Dirhams (£5.50) per person plus an extra 30 Dirham to visit the Berber Museum.
Le Jardin secret
Le Jardin secret is a beautiful private medina garden revived for the 21st century that displays an exotic and traditional Islamic garden. (50Dirhams ~ £4.10)
This isn’t really a garden, but acres of olive trees and an empty pavilion in the back. Not really worthy of 70 MAD entrance fee at all.
The Bahia Palace was built in the 19th Century, and it offers some quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the Medina. The palace has beautiful courtyards and rooms with magnificent ceilings. A must see if you like architecture as there’s lots of intricate tile, paint and woodwork.
The admission ticket is 70 Dirhams (£5.50) to go inside and walk around the grounds.
El Badi Palace
The Badi Palace is in bad shape nowadays but it offers fantastic views of Marrakech from the terrace where you can see the Atlas Mountains on a clear day.
It cost 70 Dirhams (£5.50) to visit the vast palace ruins, with its large pools and orange trees.
Koutoubia Mosque is located right by Jemaa el-Fnaa and is the largest mosque in Marrakech. Unfortunately, you can also see it from outside and walk around the gardens unless you’re Muslim. This place is quite beautiful after sunset when the light bouncing off the mosque.
There’s a public garden right behind Koutobia called Parc Lalla Hasna, is a great place to photograph the mosque and the minaret.
Ali Ben Youssef Medersa
(Closed for renovation works until 2020)
Ben Youssef Madrasa is a Quranic learning centre that was once the largest in North Africa and remains nowadays among the most splendid. The inscription over the entrance reads, “You who enter my door, may your highest hopes be exceeded”.
The Saadian Tombs, located in the south of the medina, contain the remains of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur and members of his family.
The structure dates from the late 16th century while interesting, the tombs can be very crowded with visitors. Some ornaments are quite impressive, reminding slightly Alhambra.
The tombs were built with marble imported from Italy and they have beautiful stucco work made with cedar wood.
Bab Agnaou is a beautiful getaway to the old city built in the 12th century, right next to the Saadian Tombs.
The gateway used to have a stone that had a blueish hue in the beginning but that the desert sands turned into the reddish colour.
La Mamounia Hotel
My suggestions are not to stay at the La Mamounia Hotel, where the room price goes at £400 a night, but instead just to visit the most historic and famous hotel in Marrakesh.
Wondering around Marrakech
Walking around without a plan is wonderful, you will stumble on amazing markets where locals are buying fresh ingredients; stunning doors, alleys, and picturesque mosques.
Landing in Marrakesh can be a bit overwhelming in the beginning, and tourist scams are far too common, be aware and enjoy. Find here the 15 essential tips for visiting Marrakesh
photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha