Marrakech – a city with a unique culture and a stunning old town marked with the 4000 meters high Atlas Mountains in the back. In the past year the number of tourists visiting Marrakech raised increasingly and I guess everyone I know who went there, absolutely loved it! I’ve always wanted to visit Marrakech and we finally realized this trip this January. As the city offers a lot of cultural experiences, museums and sights, but also numerous beautiful hotels and small Riads (little townhouses), I would like to share my best tips and tricks with you guys.
First of all: How to get there?
From most of the European countries, it is possible to find some direct flights to Marrakesh which are not too pricey. We actually had a 70€ flight with Ryanair from Stuttgart to Marrakech. Additionally, it is pretty easy to get into the country as there are no special Visa requirements for Europeans. Only a short document must be filled out on arrival or during the flight.
Where to stay?
Like every city, Marrakesh offers all types of accommodations – very cheap hostels, famous luxury hotels like la Mamounia and just normal hotels. But, additionally to that, it is also possible to stay in so called Riads, some small townhouses located in the Medina (old town), with only a low number of rooms to rent. Normally, these Riads are all built with a small courtyard in the middle, filled with plants, seating possibilities and a pool. I can highly recommend you to stay in one of the Riads when visiting Marrakech, as most of them are beyond beautiful! There is no better place to relax and to get away from the very busy and chaotic medina. The number of Riads in Marrakesh is overwhelming, so it was a pretty hard decision to choose one (or two). We decided to book two different Riads, one pricey and traditional and the other cheaper and modern. In the end, I would have rather stayed at only one Riad instead of two, but I can give a recommendation for both of them.
Accommodation 1 - Le Riad Yasmine: Located in the northern part of the medina, this small place is just what I would call “charming”. I guess many of you have seen some pictures on Instagram of the famous pool. The beautiful courtyard in the middle of the house is the perfect spot to relax and drink a traditional mint tea. If the weather isn’t too hot, the large rooftop terrace offers many places to sit, sleep or eat. From there you have a great view over the city and can spot the high mountains of the Atlas region in the distance. Side note: All sights and museums are “walkable” from the Riad. Unfortunately, since the Riad had become a little Instagram star and hot spot, prices did rise and it belongs to the more expensive Riads in Marrakech. Nevertheless, the cost for a double room are still affordable (around 110-150€/ night for one double room- breakfast included). In my opinion the price was worth it as Riad Yasmine has a unique design and the staff was absolutely friendly and helpful!
Accommodation 2 - Riad Zebrakaro: Our second Riad was located in the western part of the medina. Same as from Riad Yasmine all sights were reachable by walking (10-20 minutes). Compared to other traditional Riads, the Zebrakaro has a newer and more modern design. It was way cheaper than our other Riad (60€ per night for a double room – breakfast included) and in my opinion the price-service ratio was excellent! The rooms were all comfortable, pretty big and very clean. Additionally, the staff was just beyond excellent! They helped us out with every question and provided us with valuable tips and recommendations for a perfect stay in Marrakesh We stayed there only 2 evenings but on one of them the house lady cooked a traditional Morocco meal for us which, was very delicious!
Where to eat?
First of all: I might not be the best in recommending restaurants during my travels at all because I try to eat as much street food as possible, especially when I am outside of Europe. It always tastes very good and it’s much cheaper (One of my tricks on how I save money while travelling). This time we only tried two restaurants for lunch, both had traditional Morocco food but with more European prices. After read through some restaurant guides, I would conclude that in the Medina you can find three fancy and very good restaurants.
Number one - The Nomad: This restaurant is located at the place Rahba Kedima (My favorite place in Marrakech, there are all the bast retailer). Depending on the weather, you can decide to eat inside or on the large roof top terrace. The food there is absolutely delicious (I’m still dreaming of the zucchini puffs) and not too pricey. Comparing to the other places in Marrakech I would call this as one my favorite place for lunch to get your energy back.
Number two – Café des epices: Located just on the other side of the place Rahba Kedima you can find this cute little spot with three floors and a famous rooftop. The café des epices is well known for its unique coffee and tea specialties (we had some of the famous mint tea there). Additionally, when visiting this place, I highly recommend you to try its famous, with cinnamon, cardamom or ginger flavored, coffees.
Number three – Le jardin: The third restaurant has a very green and relaxed atmosphere as the restaurant is in a backyard with a super cute surrounding. Like the other two restaurants above, le jardin has European quality standards and prices. But here I have to mention that I was absolutely not happy with the service, they were really unfriendly and we waited 40 minutes for our food! I am not quite sure if I would go there a second time. Concluding, all three places are very good spots to eat and recover from sightseeing but all of them are higher priced and have a fancier and designed ambience. In front of every restaurant is a security guide as these are more places for tourist and not for locals. The cheapest and most traditional eating experience is the street food at local food markets, where you will find less tourists and more locals than anywhere else. One of the places where we grabbed some food is located directly next to the Riad Zebrakaro. There you have a large offer of fruits, different breads, meats, honey and typical Moroccan food for a very low price. For those of you who are concerned about the hygiene and food quality of street food: When I was traveling around Thailand for a month, I only had street food and the one time I ate at a restaurant, I got sick from it, Chris had the same experience. For sure there is no guarantee that the food is 100% okay but I guess getting sick from it can happen anywhere. Most of the time the food markets have fresher quality (at least that’s what I experienced).
What to see?
Marrakesh has plenty sights and places to visit and first of all it might be important for you to know that Marrakech is kind of spitted up into the old town (Medina) and the new town. The old town is very traditional with many small streets whereas the new town is modern with a western style. We clearly preferred the old town, as it fascinated us the most to stroll around the Souks and dive into the Moroccan culture. The Souks is an area in the media where all the traditional shops and factories can be found. It’s a huge bazaar where you can buy carpets, silk kaftans, spices, antiques, lanterns, pottery and jewelry. Historically, the souks are divided in different areas, based on the products which are sold there. Overall, the souks are a labyrinth of dusty narrow lanes. The sun shines throw corrugated sheets which are spending shadow at hot summer days. Even though cars are not able and allowed to drive on these small streets, be aware of the locals driving their motor cycles and scooters through the crowds. They do not really care if you’re not going out of the way…
Considering the sights, the most famous one is probably the mosque Ben Youssef Madrasa. It once was the largest Islamic college. The central courtyard with a large pool is surrounded by open galleries. The architecture at this place is very traditional and intricate ornaments are one of the most pictured spots of Marrakech. Right next to Ben Yousef you can find the Marrakech Museum. The old palace is a perfect example for Moorish architecture with fountains, central courtyard, hammam and beautiful tileworks and carvings. Besides the traditional and modern art exhibitions, it’s the wonderful mosaics that catches every visitor’s attention. Both sights are a must see from my point of view!
Furthermore, a very known sight is the big place Jemaa el-Fnaa, a busy market for every kind of stuff and different attractions. Being a bit more quiet on the early afternoon, the market really comes to life in the evening. Magicians, storytellers, snake charmers and dancers tries to catch the attention of the tourists. There are also plenty of little market stands and places to get some food. If you want to get away from the crowds, many restaurants around the place offer nice roof top terraces to overlook the busy lively ambience. My personal opinion about this place: Too touristy, crowded and chaotic. There are like a hundred of other charming places in Marrakech to spend time at, but I would still recommend you going there once. Another thing that really shocked me was the animal treating. The snakes and monkeys were in horrible conditions and they treated them without any care. It’s everybody’s own decision to which degree you want to support those people by giving money to take picture of the animals, but for me that is a no-go!
Next sight I would recommend: Le jardin secret, a green oasis located in the very center of the Medina. It’s a perfect hideaway to escape the dusty and busy streets of the old town. When visiting this place, you can stroll around the beautiful garden, and drink a tea in the shades. The above mentioned sights were our favorite and most impressive ones, but for sure that is not all you can see in Marrakech. Additionally, I would recommend you visiting the following sights as well: - Kasbah quarter and Kasbah mosque
- Saadier graves
- Koutoubia mosque
- Mosque Mouassine and the Musée Mouassine
- Dar Cherifa
- Gerber quarter- Bahia palace
- El Badi palace
- Mella – Jewish quarter
- The new town: Guéliz and Hivernage
- Jardin Majorelle
- Menara garden
Side note: For non-Muslim people it is not possible to visit mosques from the inside!
Is Marrakech safe?
I guess that was the question I got asked most after visiting Marrakech. Even as a girl with long blonde hair, I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe in any situation! For sure, most of the Marrakech men starred at me because of my blonde hair and German look, but after a while I got used to it. Try to not look into the men’s eyes and just go straight ahead. In the beginning the medina can be very shocking and it is possible to feel unsafe the first moment, but Marrakech is also known as a safe city. For sure you should be careful with your bags and stuff, especially at night. I would not really recommend walking alone (as a women) during night in some deserted streets in the medina, as there is a possibility to get robbed (take a taki instead). Some Riads are located in very small streets in the medina, which cannot be reached with a taxi, but most of the hotels will pick you up right where the taxi left you – just give them a call and ask them. Concluding I would say: Yes, Marrakech is safe, but you should still act with a common sense and try to avoid potential uncomfortable situations, such as walking around at night in the lonely medina.
Last but not least: Useful tips
Trade: Considering the prices in Marrakech you have to be ready to negotiate. Generally, it can be said that you should not pay more than 50% from the originally mentioned price. Especially in the souks it is possible to even pay only 30% of the original price, if you are good at discussing and arguing.
Orientation: The souks can be a pure labyrinth but do not worry to sometimes walk into the wrong direction. You will always find a way out and to get some orientation back you can use the Koutoubia mosque tower, which will be seen above the roofs of the other houses.
Showing the way: As soon as you are giving the sign that you are somehow lost, the inhabitants of Marrakech will show you the way – or let’s say they pretend to show you the way! Be very careful here and never listen to these tips, as they will only lead you to their shops or want money because the showed you the way. The most common sentences are: “This way is closed; you have to take that way” or “There is the Jemaa el-Fna” while pointing into the complete opposite direction.
Taking Photos: Be aware that taking photos might cost something. Some sellers will try to give you a snake or a monkey and after that they will charge you. Additionally, always ask before taking photos! We took some photos in the souks and after asking that was not a problem at all. If they want you to pay for a photo, you should give around 1 up to 5 MAD, but not more than that. I really hope I was able to provide you with some useful tips and you are now more or less prepared for your Marrakech trip. In case you have any questions feel free to message me anytime!