When booking my trip to Marrakech I did not know what to expect. I got so inspired to visit due to all of the colorful and patterned pictures I've seen on social media. I had been longing to visit for a long time and took the plunge when the opportunity came up. As you can tell by the title of this travel guide we did not have the time to explore the rest of Morocco, but that it just an excuse to return and hopefully soon.
This guide contains:
- General information
- Good to know before traveling
- Telephones and mobile broadband
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
- What to see
- Excursions from Marrakech
- More information
Marrakech is the third largest city in Maroco after Casablanca and Rabat and is located by the foot of the Atlas mountains. The city has around one million inhabitants and the name in Berber language means "gods country". The old city (the Medina) was founded in 1062 and is since 1985 a UNESCO world heritage site. The city was under French occupation between 1912-1956. The center of the old city is the Jemaa el-Fnaa square. Further west you will find the modern part of the city called Guéliz. The local currency is moroccan dirham.
Good to know before traveling
- Bring cash, especially in the old city there are very few places that accept cards. You can pay with either dirham or euros.
- If you don't have such a sweet tooth make sure to order your mint tea without sugar (they will serve it with the sugar on the side anyway in case you change your mind).
- Stay at a Riad in the old city for an authentic experience. If you are staying in the medina everything is within walking distance. The riads are often cheaper than hotels and when you can walk everywhere you don't have to spend money on transportation.
- Have your adress to the place you are staying in Marrakech easy accessible upon arrival at the airport. When you fill in your disembarkment form you will have to write it down.
- You are allowed to haggle (in the market and with taxi drivers).
- It´s not always sunny and warm. In the wintertime it can get really cold especially at night time. Pack accordingly.
- Fridays are holy days and many places can be closed. Traveling to Marrakech during Ramadan can also be tricky.
- To be on the safe side drink bottled water.
- There are many languages spoken in Morocco: Arabic, Berber, French and English. Most people know English, however it´s a bonus if you can speak some French.
- Mosques are generally closed to people who aren't muslims.
- Traveling as a Swede we didn't have to have a visa to enter the country. (Check with your countries embassy to see the regulations for your country).
- Bring toilet paper with you as not all toilets provide it.
- As Morocco is a muslim country it´s very important to respect the culture and dress modestly.
Telephones and mobile broadband
In the arrival terminal of the airport you receive a sim-card which you can fill up with your preferred amount of mobile data. However I found that most places had public wifi and didn't find it necessary to buy data.
Where to stay
Marrakech offers places to stay for every budget and personal preference. Personally I would advise to stay within the old city. Then you have access to most of the attractions by foot. The luxury hotels and resorts are located outside the city and that makes it harder to visit the media. In the old city there are lots of Riads to choose from offering the full authentic Moroccan experience. The Riads can be very basic or luxurious and range from cheap to expensive. The Riads in Marrakech are the true definition on inner beauty. They do not look much to the world from the outside but when stepping in you find such immense and unique beauty. Each Riad is so different and they all have their own style. Here are a few examples of places to stay in Marrakech ranging from cheap to expensive.
Adress: 129, Derb sidi M'barek sidi Mimoune
We stayed here for our entire stay of 4 nights. We paid 30 € per night and the breakfast was included. This small Riad has 5 rooms and is located a 10 minute walk from the Jemaa el-Fnaa square. The residence has a community room, and seating on two floors of rooftops. It´s a perfect stay for the budget traveler.
Adress: 23 Derb Sidi Lahcen o Ali Bab Doukkala, Medina
There is a whole post just about this Riad. Good news it that this popular Riad has opened up several new rooms. They are often fully booked. The decor and details are so beautiful and each room has it´s own name with a unique interior. They have two courtyards with pools and a beautiful rooftop, perfect for relaxing on a warm summer day. The prices rage from 100-180 € per night.
Adress: Avenue Bab Jdid, Marrakesh 40040
The price starts from 400 € per night and goes up from there. This famous hotel is where many famous people stay or have stayed when visiting Marrakech. The hotel has a vey regal and luxurious feel. It has all the amenities you can think of: restaurants, bars, spa, garden, pool, tennis court, gym and the list goes on. Your stay will definitely be filled with luxury.
As I mentioned before if you are staying in the Medina, nearly everything is within walking distance. There are taxis and smaller tuk-tuks which will transport you around. I would recommend to prebook transportation from the airport to your Riad (preferably through your Riad). Then you are guarantied a certain price and avoid haggling upon arrival. The Riads can be very hard to get to and it´s nice to know that your driver knows where to go.
Where to eat
There is no problem finding vegan food in Marrakech, there are tons of options. Vegetable tanginess, couscous dishes, moroccan salads, hummus and many starters are vegan. When ordering you are often served traditional bread called Khobz and olives. One night we bough some food in the market, where you can find lots of juice stalls and people grilling corn on the cob. Not to mention the wonderful fruit markets filled with lots of colorful and fresh fruits. Down bellow you will find some great places to eat in Marrakech.
Atay Café Food
Adress: 62, Rue Amsefah Sidi Abdelaziz
Opening times: 10-22
This multistory restaurant offers seating both inside and on three different levels outside. The interior is splendid and feels very modern but at the same time incorporating the traditional Moroccan style. This place is worth a visit just to experience the amazing views. If you are not hungry you can always enjoy some mint tea or a fresh juice. The food was good and had vegan options. Upon ordering you receive complementary bread, olives and tomato ragu. We ordered a vegetable tangine and a vegetable couscous(served with some yummy caramelized onion). The portions were fairly large and a dish cost around 50 MAD.
Adress: 1 Derb Aajrane
Opening times: 11-23
This place can be a bit tricky to find. It´s located by a famous square but you have to look up to find the sign. Its not marked out in any other way. This place is similar to Atay with both inside seating and two floors of rooftops. This place was very hip and modern. It´s a bit pricier where a vegetable tagine will cost you 90 MAD. We did not eat here but I had their orange, carrot and ginger juice which was delicious.
Adress: 93, Arset Aouzal Souikat
Opening times: 12-20
"The Henna Cafe is a space in Marrakech to enjoy food, henna, art and classes. All income from these cultural experiences is used to give free education and assistance to Moroccan people. The Henna Cafe Marrakech is a registered cultural foundation in Morocco". You will find seating booth indoors and on two different roof tops. This place is probably most famous for doing beautiful henna. But they also have a restaurant with a full vegan, vegetarian and gluten free menu. Upon ordering you will receive bread and olives. This place is perfect for people on a budget as dishes start from 30 MAD. Many restaurants offer the same thing in Marrakech, especially when you are vegan. Here there was a bit more to choose from and some other types of dishes. Much of the food is also traditional Berber cuisine. I love the innovative way they serve their silverware, in a moroccan shoe. You can also enjoy snacks with both cold and warm drinks.
Other recommendations: Zwin Twin Café, Café Kif Kif and Le Jardin.
What to see
Jema el Fna - main square
Ben Yousef Medresa - muslim school
Museum of Marrakech - showcases art, garments, porcelain and much more traditional works from Morocco.
The souks - getting lost in the souks is a must and experiencing the hustle, smells and colors.
Koutouba Mosque - a landmark for Marrakech
Bahia Palace - This beautiful place is dazzled out to the max, filled with patterns and colors everywhere.
El Badi Palace - This was built to be the most important building in Marrakech in 1603. Today all that remains from this magnificent palace once having 360 rooms are ruins. Here you will also find lots of beautiful orange trees.
Jardin Majorelle - Home to the artist Jaques Majorelle and bought in the 80´s by Yves Sant Laurent and his partner. Yves ashes are spread in the garden.
Yves Saint Laurent museum - Showcases YSL´s most iconic pieces and teaches you about the life of Yves.
Menara gardens - A large botanical garden overlooking the Atlas mountains that was established in the 12th century. The centerpiece is a pavilion and a large pool.
City walls - The ramparts surrond the old city and consist of 19 gates, one of the most famous ones is called Bad Agnaou.
Royal palace - You are not allowed inside the premises and you can only pass it by car, however it´s very grand.
Bathe at a Hammam - the traditional spa experience can be found in many places and at different price ranges. One of the most exclusive ones can be found at the hotel La Mamounia.
Excursions from Marrakech
- Many people (including me) do not know about this place. It´s the widest and second tallest waterfall in Africa. The drive is three hours from Marrakech and will take you through the lovely countryside with wonderful landscapes. The day trip to Ouzoud we went on was booked through Viator and cost roughly 20 €/person. The trip included pick up and drop off from our riad, guided hike around the falls and a visit to a traditional Berber household.
- This costal town is also located three hours from the city. Known as the "wind city of Africa" it´s a hotspot for surfers. The cozy town is filled with galleries and markets in small alleyways.
- A trip to the Atlas Mountains usually includes visits to Berber villages and hikes in the beautiful landscape (this of course depends on the chosen tour).
- The Sahara Reser is the largest hot desert in the world covering 9,2 million square meters of land.
Ait Ben Haddou & Ouarzazate
- This big fort located in the town on Ouarzazate is a UNESCO world heritage site. One common excursion is a two day, one night trip that will take you both to the desert and to Ait Ben Haddou, on the way you will also pass the iconic Atlas Mountains.
As you can tell there are lots of excursions from Marrakech, you just have to choose which one suits you and your interests.