Ultimate Marrakesh Travel Guide: A Journey through the Red City
Marrakesh, or the Red City, is a vibrant and enchanting destination in Morocco, beckoning travellers from all over the world to explore its rich culture, history, and architectural marvels.
If you’re planning a trip to Northern Africa, then Marrakech should definitely be at the top of your bucket list.
As the fourth-largest city in Morocco, there are tons of incredible tourist attractions in Marrakesh, from bustling markets and palaces to lush gardens and historic sites, there really is something for everyone here.
After Travelling around Morocco on a National Geographic Journey, as well as some independent travel, I’ve put together the ultimate Marrakech travel guide to help you plan your visit and truly make it the adventure of a lifetime!
Read on to discover the real highlights of Marrakesh, with insider tips.
What to Expect in Marrakech
Marrakech is a city that is rich in history and culture, and with that comes a unique set of customs and traditions.
One thing to keep in mind is that the language spoken in Marrakech is a mix of French, Spanish, Arabic, and Berber – I found it handy to know a few words of French during my time here.
The currency used in Morocco is the dirham, and when it comes to spending money, be prepared to haggle in the markets (this is for sure my number 1 lesson from my time in Morocco!)
Regarding clothing, it’s important to be respectful of the local customs. Morocco is a Muslim country, so I recommend packing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
Also, keep in mind that the left hand is considered unclean, so people always use their right hands for interactions and eating.
Getting Around Marrakech
The city of Marrakech is easy to navigate on foot or by taxi, but be prepared to use a map or a phone with data to get around – I always use Airalo, which is an incredible app that gives you a variety of data packages to help make your travels as easy as possible.
It’s not uncommon to encounter locals on the street offering directions and then asking for money in return, so simply politely decline and move along!
If you’re planning to explore other parts of Morocco, train travel is a great option and can easily be booked with Omio (super handy travel app that lets you compare and book trains, busses and flights.)
Where to Stay in Marrakech?
Marrakech is home to some of the most luxurious hotels in Morocco, but you can also find authentic and beautiful accommodations on a budget. Riads, which are essentially guesthouses, are a popular choice. These guesthouses often have a unique look and interesting history, as they are converted from homes that are hundreds of years old.
Some of the top hotels in Marrakech include The Bohemian Jungle, La Mamounia, and Riad l’Oiseau du Paradis. Or, if you prefer to rent a villa, apartment, or home, VRBO has plenty of amazing accommodation options to choose from.
Best Activities in Marrakech:
#1 Jemaa el-Fnaa: The Heart of Marrakesh
No visit to Marrakesh is complete without a stop at Jemaa el-Fnaa, the city’s bustling central square and UNESCO World Heritage site.
This lively plaza is teeming with activity, from street performers and snake charmers to food vendors offering authentic Moroccan dishes, and just about everything in-between! Be sure to sample the delicious street food here, including the local delicacy of lamb’s head.
As night falls, the atmosphere becomes even more electric, with live music and impromptu dance performances everywhere. This is undoubtedly one of the most epic places to visit in Marrakesh!
#2 Koutoubia Mosque: A Timeless Architectural Gem
Standing tall in the heart of Marrakesh, the Koutoubia Mosque is the city’s most iconic landmark.
With its distinctive minaret visible from miles away, this 12th-century mosque is a prime example of Almohad architecture.
While non-Muslim visitors can’t enter the mosque, the exterior and surrounding gardens offer some of the best photo opportunities in Marrakesh.
#3 Experience a Luxurious Spa Day
Did you know that Marrakesh is home to some of the most luxurious spas in the world? From traditional hammams to modern wellness centres, you’ll find the spa day of your dreams here!
One of the most popular spas in Marrakesh is the La Mamounia Spa. Located within the luxurious La Mamounia hotel, this spa offers a range of treatments inspired by Moroccan traditions. From the relaxing hammam to the indulgent massages, every treatment is designed to rejuvenate and relax the mind and body.
#4 The Majorelle Garden: A Serene Escape
Escape the bustle of the city by visiting the Majorelle Garden, a lush, 12-acre botanical garden designed by French painter Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s.
Featuring a striking cobalt blue villa, which now houses the Berber Museum, the garden is home to an impressive collection of exotic plants, fountains, and pathways that offer a truly tranquil retreat from the city’s chaos.
The garden was later purchased by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who further developed it as a haven for relaxation and inspiration. For me, this beautiful garden was the top place I visited on my North African getaway, I highly, highly recommend adding it to your Marrakesh itinerary!
While visiting the iconic Le Jardin Majorelle, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the garden’s boutique, which offers a range of exclusive products inspired by the garden’s beauty. From stunning silk scarves and vibrant ceramics to unique jewellery pieces, this boutique is an excellent place to find one-of-a-kind souvenirs in Marrakesh.
#5 The Bahia Palace: An Ode to Moroccan Artistry
The Bahia Palace, a 19th-century palace located in the heart of Marrakesh, offers a breathtaking display of Moroccan art and architecture.
With its stunning courtyards, ornate decorations, and intricate tile-work, the palace was designed to be the epitome of luxury and grandeur.
The sprawling complex features 150 rooms, including living quarters, reception halls, and gardens, each adorned with exquisite craftsmanship.
For a view of North African architecture at its best and some epic Marrakesh Instagram content, don’t miss out on this gorgeous palace.
#6 The Saadian Tombs: A Portal to the Past
The Saadian Tombs date back to the 16th century and house the remains of the Saadian dynasty’s royal family, offering a fascinating window into Moroccan history.
Rediscovered in 1917, the tombs were painstakingly restored to their original splendour, featuring intricate tile-work, stucco decorations, and gorgeous wood carvings.
The tombs are a peaceful and evocative site, offering a glimpse into the opulence of the Saadian era. For any history buffs, this is undoubtedly one of the top places to visit in Marrakesh.
#7 Maison de la Photographie: A must-visit
For photography enthusiasts, the Maison de la Photographie is a must-visit in Marrakesh.
This museum houses an extensive collection of photographs taken in Morocco between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, providing a unique insight into the country’s history and culture.
Don’t miss the rooftop terrace, which offers panoramic views of the city and the Atlas Mountains.
#8 The Fascinating Mellah
Discover Marrakesh’s Jewish heritage in the Mellah, the city’s historic Jewish quarter.
Wander the narrow streets lined with unique architecture, visit the Al Azama Synagogue, and explore the Jewish cemetery, where you can learn about the city’s intriguing past.
#9 Le Jardin Bio-Aromatique de l’Ourika
A short drive from Marrakesh, the Le Jardin Bio-Aromatique de l’Ourika is a delightful organic garden nestled in the Ourika Valley.
With over 50 different plant species, this garden offers a sensory experience as you explore the fragrances of various herbs and plants.
Here you can enjoy a guided tour and pick up some amazing organic products to take home with you. This is for sure one of the most relaxing Marrakesh day trips 🌿🍃✨️
#10 Le Jardin Secret
Another way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city is at Le Jardin Secret, a serene oasis hidden within the medina.
This beautifully restored garden features two distinct areas: The exotic garden, with its lush vegetation and fountains, and the Islamic garden, showcasing traditional landscaping and architecture.
Take a moment to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere here as you meander through the gorgeous garden paths.
#11 The Fascinating Tiskiwin Museum
Immerse yourself in the rich culture of Morocco and its surrounding regions at the Tiskiwin Museum.
This intimate museum, curated by Dutch anthropologist Bert Flint, showcases a diverse collection of artefacts, textiles, and art from Morocco, Mali, and the Sahara.
The museum’s vibrant exhibits transport you on a journey along the ancient caravan routes of North Africa, making it one of the most fascinating things to do in Marrakesh.
#12 Discover the Dar Si Said Museum
No visit to Marrakesh is complete without exploring the treasures of the Dar Si Said Museum.
Housed in a stunning 19th-century palace, this museum boasts an impressive collection of Moroccan art, including ceramics, textiles, and jewellery.
The intricately carved wooden dome is the centrepiece of the museum, showcasing the exceptional craftsmanship of Moroccan artisans.
This beautiful museum has tons of interactive displays to help you learn about the fascinating history of the red city, making it a must-see attraction in Marrakech and the perfect wholesome day out.
Where to Eat in Marrakech
Red City delights all the senses, and its culinary scene is no exception. From traditional Moroccan dishes to innovative fusion cuisine, Marrakesh offers a diverse array of dining experiences.
There are so many incredible restaurants in Marrakech, but here are my top picks:
#1 The Amal Women’s Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant
Located in the Gueliz neighbourhood, the Amal Women’s Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant is an inspiring dining experience that combines delicious Moroccan cuisine with a powerful social mission.
This non-profit organisation empowers disadvantaged women by providing them with culinary and hospitality training, helping them to build a brighter future.
Here you can feast on a variety of traditional Moroccan dishes, such as tagine, couscous, and pastilla, while knowing that your meal is making a positive impact on the local community.
If you don’t have long in Marrakech, I highly recommend prioritising The Amal Women’s Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant.
Nestled in the heart of Marrakesh’s medina, Nomad offers a modern take on Moroccan cuisine, with a menu that emphasises fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
The restaurant’s stylish rooftop terrace provides a perfect backdrop for enjoying dishes like spiced lamb with eggplant and roasted cauliflower with preserved lemon.
Don’t miss their delicious desserts, such as the saffron-scented orange and almond cake – for me this is by far the best restaurant in Marrakesh (I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!)
#3 Le Comptoir Darna
For a taste of Marrakesh’s vibrant nightlife, head to Le Comptoir Darna, a popular restaurant and lounge that combines delicious food with live entertainment.
Savour a fusion of Moroccan and international cuisine while enjoying the lively atmosphere, with belly dancers, live music, and DJs creating a memorable dining experience.
From mouthwatering appetisers like shrimp briouats to succulent main courses like beef fillet with foie gras, Le Comptoir Darna offers a truly indulgent evening out in Marrakesh.
#4 La Maison Arabe
Experience the elegance and sophistication of Moroccan fine dining at La Maison Arabe, a legendary Marrakesh restaurant located within a luxury boutique hotel.
With its exquisite Andalusian-style courtyard and refined ambiance, La Maison Arabe offers a serene setting for enjoying classic Moroccan cuisine, such as pigeon pastilla and chicken tagine with preserved lemon and olives. You can also enhance your meal with a selection from their extensive wine list, featuring both Moroccan and international options 🍷🍷🍷
Overall, Marrakesh’s dining scene offers a diverse array of culinary experiences that cater to every palate. Be sure to savour the flavours of the Red City at these must-try restaurants during your Marrakesh trip to truly immerse yourself in the delicious world of Moroccan cuisine!
Best Places to Shop in Marrakesh
Marrakesh is a shopper’s paradise, offering a diverse array of traditional handicrafts, vibrant textiles, and unique souvenirs. From bustling souks to chic boutiques, the city’s shopping scene caters to literally every taste and budget 🛒 🛍️
#1 The Souks of Marrakesh
No shopping experience in Marrakesh would be complete without exploring the city’s souks, where you’ll find a treasure trove of handmade goods.
Be prepared to haggle, as bargaining is an essential part of the shopping experience in Morocco!
Take your time to explore the maze of stalls, and you’re sure to find unique items, such as colourful rugs, intricate lanterns, and fragrant spices to take home.
#2 Ensemble Artisanal
For a more relaxed shopping experience in Marrakesh, head to the Ensemble Artisanal, a government-run complex showcasing the work of local artisans.
This air-conditioned, fixed-price shopping centre offers a diverse selection of Moroccan handicrafts, including pottery, textiles, and jewellery.
In my opinion, the Ensemble Artisanal is an ideal place to find quality products without the pressure of haggling.
To experience a more modern side of Marrakesh, visit the Gueliz neighbourhood, where you’ll find a mix of international brands and trendy boutiques.
Some highlights include 33 Rue Majorelle, a concept store offering a curated selection of Moroccan fashion and design, and Kaftan Queen, a boutique specialising in chic, modern takes on traditional Moroccan clothing.
#4 Al Nour – a Cafe with a Social Impact
For a shopping experience in Marrakesh, visit Al Nour, a non-profit organisation that empowers disabled women by providing them with artisanal training and employment opportunities.
At Al Nour’s shop, you can find beautiful, high-quality textiles, including hand-embroidered linens, clothing, and accessories.
By purchasing from Al Nour, you’ll not only take home a beautiful piece of Moroccan craftsmanship but also support a meaningful cause.
Overall, shopping in Marrakesh is an adventure in itself, with an abundance of treasures waiting to be discovered.
From the bustling souks and the serene Ensemble Artisanal to the chic boutiques of Gueliz, there are countless opportunities to find unique and memorable Marrakesh souvenirs to bring home.
So, whether you’re searching for traditional handicrafts or a stylish ensemble, Marrakesh’s shopping scene has something for everyone.
Best Time to Visit Marrakesh?
Naturally, the best time to visit Marrakesh depends on what you’re looking for. If you are looking to escape the cold and soak up the sun, the summer months of June to August are a great time to visit. However, after visiting in June, I will say be prepared for high temperatures, as the city can get very hot during this time of year, and can be quite crowded.
For milder temperatures, the months of April to May and September to November are ideal. These months offer pleasant temperatures, fewer crowds, and a chance to explore the city’s vibrant culture and architecture without the summer heat.
Additionally, the winter months of December to February offer cool temperatures and a chance to witness the city’s beautiful winter festivals, including the Marrakech International Film Festival.
Whether you’re looking for a warm weather escape or a winter holiday, Marrakech has something to offer year-round, so it’s up to you to decide what time of year suits your travel style and preferences the best.
Best Morocco Travel Insurance
Obtaining global travel medical insurance is an absolute necessity when moving to or visiting any foreign country. This became extremely apparent after my partner nearly died in a motorcycle accident in Bali, and his medical bills ended up totalling over £10,000 (luckily he was insured!)
So, if you’re traveling around Morocco, I highly recommend getting travel medical coverage. Nomad Insurance with SafetyWing is probably your best bet, as it covers emergency medical evacuation and bedside visits, starting at just $42 per 4 weeks. While I hope you never have to use it, it’s there in case of emergencies that can seriously rack up expenses.
This is particularly important for Morocco, as the costs of healthcare here can be high, particularly if you require emergency medical attention or evacuation.
One of my favourite features of SafetyWing Insurance is that you can use it as a subscription service, meaning you don’t have to pay for the whole year upfront. Instead, you’re charged every 28 days, until you cancel (for for a maximum of 364 days), which gives you the ultimate level of flexibility.
Another massive benefit of SafetyWing is that there’s no limit on travel duration, so you don’t need a return date (and a return ticket) in order to activate your insurance. So in my opinion, it’s the perfect safety net for anyone on the move!
Check SafetyWing Insurance out for yourself here:
Marrakesh, Morocco’s enchanting Red City, is brimming with captivating sights and experiences that go beyond the popular tourist attractions. It’s a city that is rich in culture, history, and beauty. With its stunning architecture, delicious cuisine, and unique accommodations, Marrakesh is an awesome destination that should be at the top of any traveller’s bucket list.
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