Whether it’s your first time visiting Marrakesh or you want to explore more of the city beyond your hotel swimming pool, then here’s my guide of 8 things to do in Marrakesh.
Of course, keeping it real I’m gonna tell you 2 more things that you should probably swerve altogether.
1. Stay in a riad
A riad is a traditional Moroccan style house with an interior courtyard garden. The courtyard tends to be the central feature of the property, accentuated by traditional Moroccan print tiles, plants and a fountain.
Riads tend to be available in a variety of budgets. We stayed at the Riad Andalla, a stone’s throw away from the buzz of Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. Although Riad Andalla didn’t have a large courtyard with a pool like some of the more extravagant riads, it did have a rooftop terrace overlooking the square where we could enjoy our breakfast. We also chose to have a wonderful tagine dinner there in the courtyard in the evening.
2. Visit the Jardin Majorelle
Marrakesh’s top tourist attraction is this vibrant blue and yellow oasis. Designed by French artist Jacques Majorelle, the garden has a connection to fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent who purchased it in 1980. There is also a cafe and Berber museum on site and in 2017 a museum dedicated to Yves Saint Laurent opened nearby.
3. Take a trip to the Atlas Mountains
During our stay in Morocco, the weather was a bit on the cool side for sunbathing so we spent much of our time exploring the city. One day we decided to book a trip to the Atlas Mountains. Travelling in a group convoy of 4x4s we stopped at a traditional Berber village, enjoyed lunch with a view and took a few selfies in the snow. Given that we thought Marrakesh was going to be scorching hot, you can probably guess we weren’t as appropriately dressed as we should have been for our trip to the mountains!
4. Sample some Moroccan mint tea
Moroccans love their mint tea! Loaded with lots of fresh mint and sugar then served in traditional glasses. There’s even a knack for pouring it from the ornate teapots that it is brewed in. I developed a bit of a taste for it while I was there but as it is the country’s drink of hospitality you are sure to try it at some point during your visit.
5. Go shopping in the souks
The souks are a labyrinth of small shops just off of the main square. Here you will find a variety of goods being sold from spices and tagines to jewellery and pashminas. Haggling is expected, although I wasn’t very good at it but it’s a fun experience. Just be mindful as the souks are a bit of a maze so you can easily lose your bearings!
6. Visit Bahia Palace
Bahia Palace is a beautiful piece of architecture. It was built in the 19th century, originally commissioned by the Grand Vizier of the Sultan, Si Moussa. Sitting at 8000-sq-metre, it may be worthwhile paying for a guided tour if you are really interested, but for those on a budget entrance fee alone is a bargain.
7. Visit El Badi Palace
Much like with Bahia Palace, we made our way to El Badi Palace without booking an overpriced travel agent tour. Entrance fee at both sites is affordable. Built in the 16th century, El Badi Palace is another fine example of Moroccan culture. More ruins than palacial, El Badi is now home to nesting storks. In fact, the storks were the most memorable part for me as an animal lover!
8. Experience Jemaa el-Fnaa Square
Jemaa el-Fnaa is Marrakesh’s central square. It is busy and bustling and has a completely different ambience depending on whether you visit during the day or at night. The square is home to a variety of attractions – from storytellers and circus performers to the food stalls and souvenir sellers. Just watch out for the motorbikes whizzing past and the ethically questionable snake charmers and monkey handlers.
9. Don’t be tempted by a henna tattoo
There will be people lurking in Jemaa el-Fnaa ready to give henna tattoos to anyone who wants one – and even those who don’t want one! But it’s well-known that the black henna these ladies use isn’t real henna and can cause severe skin reactions. You may also find yourself paying over the odds for one of these tattoos.
10. Give the tanneries a miss
Morocco is famous for its leather tanneries and sometimes tourists are tempted to pay them a visit. If you google “Marrakesh tannery scam” you’ll find many blog posts written from first hand accounts of people hustled by fake tour guides. We didn’t bother with the tanneries but met a couple who did and found themselves locked in a rug store unable to escape until they have forked out £100 for a rug they didn’t want.
If you liked this post you might like my Sex and the City inspired Girl’s guide to Marrakesh.