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The Charm of Marrakech

Marrakech Travel Tips - Marrakech is a fabulous city, but it is chaotic and can be intimidating when you visit for the first time, so here are my top Marrakech travel tips! Including what to expect, where to go, what to do, how to dress, how to find your way around and how to handle the medina.

If you want to read my top tips for Marrakech, click here. If you want to read about my first trip to Marrakech (I’ve been a number of times now), read on…

“It is very easy. Turn right out of the alley, walk down the street and at the mosque turn down the alleyway and you will come to a road, turn left and then go straight and you will arrive at Jemaa el Fna.”

Street art in Marrakech

It was our second day in Marrakech, Morocco and my friend Lisa and I were stood in the courtyard of our riad listening to instructions on how to get to the main square. It sounded pretty straightforward. However, having taken a few wrong turns the day before, which resulted in us wandering aimlessly for what felt like an eternity to find the Jardin Majorelle, we weren’t too convinced.

Marrakech is made up of two main parts, the new town, and the old town which is known as the medina. As we only had two days, we pretty much stayed within the medina walls, wandering and getting lost in the alleyways and souks.

On the surface, Marrakech is a crowded, hot, hectic maze that occasionally makes you want to scream. But then you walk through a doorway and find yourself drinking fresh mint tea in a cool, tranquil courtyard, where the outside world and all your troubles seem like a distant memory.

We’d briefly visited Jemaa el Fna on our first day, but by the time we got there,after being pointed in the right direction by about 20 different people, hailing down a cab, driving around the city, being dropped off at a random spice shop because our cab driver thought it was too hot for us to go to the square and have a guy pee right in front of us whilst we were having a Coca-Cola break, we were a bit jaded and tired and decided to head back to the sanctuary of our riad to drink some wine and catch up.

Marrakech Jemaa el Fna

By our second day, we came to the realisation that we were fighting a losing battle with our sense of direction, plus theMarrakech weather had gone a little crazy when we were there and they had a heatwave, so we decided to take a walking tour in the morning with someone who knew exactly where they were going.

We were shown around by Mohammed, a guide arranged through the owner of our riad. He took us on a wonderful trip, expertly navigating the streets and taking us to places we never would have found on our own.

He took us to the beautiful Museum of Marrakech, the Ben Youssef Medersa Koran School, through the souks (markets) that sell anything and everything and on my request, to the place where they filmed Sex and the City 2 (Souks and the City?), the bit where Carrie bumps into Aiden in the market (old Abu Dhabi was really old Marrakech)!

But after lunch, we were alone again. And lost. I could tell that Lisa was feeling anxious and even though Mohammed gave us directions back to the riad, what he said seemed to have no actual bearing on where we seemed to be.

Marrakech Travel Tips

We eventually found our way back, thanks to a tuk tuk driver and a couple of local kids who showed us the way through the last few alleyways, then held out their hands out for a tip and got annoyed when we didn’t give them enough dirhams.

After a shower and a rest, I was keen to see Jemaa el Fna at night and try out a restaurant I’d heard about but I could tell through her jokes that Lisa was really worried about being lost in the medina. I never once felt unsafe in Marrakech, there were always lots of people about and not once was anyone unfriendly towards us. But, our riad was down a very quiet, unidentifiable street and I wouldn’t want to be lost in any strange city at night and we didn’t have a great track record with this one.

Lisa agreed to come out with me on the condition we got back in one piece.

So as we were told, we walked out of the alley onto the street and we arrived at the mosque and walked into the open courtyard. We went down an alley (there were a few so we took a guess) and onto what looked like a main street and turned left. We walked. But then the road went off in different directions, there was no ‘straight’ anymore.

Jardin Majorelle Marrakech

We pulled out the map and discreetly tried to make sense of where we were. I like to think I’m pretty good with maps, but Marrakech is the kind of city that refuses to be defined by a map.

After a few more directions were asked for we eventually found the square.

Jemaa el Fna is the heart of Marrakech. By day the square is home to traditional Water Sellers, Snake Charmers and men with monkeys on chains (best avoided – animal lovers you may find this upsetting) who urge you to take a picture with them. Women sit around in groups on low plastic chairs and call “Henna? Henna?” flicking through their little plastic booklets full of designs.

Side by side, day after day, street hawkers set up their almost identical carts selling freshly squeezed orange juice, a bargain at 4 dirhams a pop. The sellers called to us, wanting our business, sulking when we don’t pick them. I choose the stall with the most locals.

Jemaa el Fna Marrakech

We watched the sunset from Le Grand Balcon du Cafe Glacier. The place quickly filled up with people and thesound of frantic drumming mixed with the Snake Charmers piping and traditional Berber music filled the air.

As the sky turned dark, the street performers took centre stage, surrounded by huge crowds who looked on appreciatively. But the real action was at the food stalls, each selling an array of Moroccan cuisine such as tagine (my favourite), meats, kebabs, snails, sheep’s heads, and little French cakes. I’ll let you guess which ones I didn’t try. The food stalls are cheap, cheerful, and full of both tourists and locals alike.

Once we’d had enough of the Jemaa el Fna, we made our way back to the Placedes épices (with some more directions) to one of Marrakech’s most famous restaurants, Nomad.

We hadn’t booked but they squeezed us in and we sat on the rooftop as little lanterns twinkled above us and the square below began to wind down. I had the Nomad Burger, a spiced lamb burger with aubergine, caramelized onion, and harissa mayonnaise and I would highly recommend it.

Morocco Small Group Tour

We finished eating around 11pm, and asked the manager if one of the staff could walk us back to our riad. They weren’t sure where it was, so they said they could perhaps walk us back to the square and we would get a tuk-tuk from there.

The waiter was probably no more than 20-years-old and chatted to us as we walked through the souk, which was still pretty busy, so I think we would have found our way back to the Jemaa el Fna by ourselves, but it was nice to be escorted and not have to worry about it.

Lisa asked him how on earth he found his way around? He’d grown up within the medina, so he knew it well. We told him how lost we’d been over the last couple of days, and how frustrating it had been.

He turned to us and smiled.

“But that is the charm of the city,” said the boy, “to always be lost.”

Marrakech Souk

Here are a few ideas on how to spend your time in Marrakech:

  • Get lost in the medina and souk.
  • Take a walking tour when you get tired of getting lost.
  • Go shopping in the souks for rugs, harem pants, jewellery, tea sets, and anything else you can find.
  • Haggle and haggle hard.
  • Shop for spices.
  • Go on a food tour.
  • Visit the Koutoubia Mosque, although it’s not open to non-Muslims, you can appreciate from the outside.
  • Watch the sunset and madness from a balcony at Jamaa el Fna and stay until it’s dark to eat street food, drink fresh orange juice, and try some snails.
  • Avoid the guys with the monkeys.
  • Eat tagine.
  • Get a henna tattoo.
  • Stay in a riad.
  • Drink Moroccan Mint Tea – preferably on a roof terrace.
  • Visit the Museum of Marrakech.
  • Explore the Ben Youssef Medersa Koran School.
  • Take thousands of pictures. Marrakech is very photogenic, and acceptable to take photos pretty much everywhere – but ask if you want to take pictures of people.
  • Catch your breath back at Jardin Majorelle.
  • Learn about Berber culture.
  • Visit the tanneries.
  • Go see an exhibition at the Maison de la Photographie.
  • Get scrubbed down at a hammam.

Have you been to Marrakech? How did you find it?

READ MORE: My Top 23 Essential Marrakech Travel Tips

Read More About Morocco

Morocco Travel Guide
Africa Travel Resources

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About Author

I'm a travel blogger and tour operator with a passion for Africa travel. I love the great outdoors, going on epic trips around the world and helping others travel!

29 Comments

  • Colleen Brynn
    July 1, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    I’ve been to Morocco a couple of times on day trips from Spain and always enjoyed myself there. I would love to spend a few nights somewhere like Marrakech; I crave places where I can wonder and get lost like you’ve described!
    Colleen Brynn recently posted…Through A PinholeMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      July 2, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      Yes, Marrakech is a wonderful city! I’d like to go more north as well, which I guess is where you went on your day trips?

      Reply
  • hassan
    July 2, 2015 at 1:29 am

    Readable and pleasurable of a good itinerary. Are you in your city have a
    motor fruit vendor like the beautiful picture?

    Reply
    • Helen
      July 2, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Hey Hassan,

      Thank you!! We do have some food vendors and market traders. Not usually every day like here, but sometimes! Liverpool is quite different to Marrakech! 🙂

      Reply
  • hassan
    July 2, 2015 at 6:55 am

    How do you evaluat Moroccan Muslim life? how about urban tissue?

    Reply
    • Helen
      July 2, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      Hey Hassan,

      I really liked Marrakech and the people, so yes, very good! By urban tissue do you mean the set up of the city? I found the medina confusing to navigate, but I found it bustling and full of life. It reminded me a little of Stone Town in Zanzibar. I liked it.

      Reply
  • Brenna
    July 2, 2015 at 11:51 am

    I love this, Helen! As you know I’ve been to Morocco a couple of times, and I really loved Marrakech. I, too, got hopelessly lost many times.

    Lovely words and photos xxx
    Brenna recently posted…Our Rainbow Panorama in AarhusMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      July 2, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      Aw, thanks babe! Yes I think I knew you loved Morocco!!! At firts getting lost was tough, but once we relaxed into it, it wasn’t so bad!

      xxx

      Reply
  • Jasmin Charlotte
    July 14, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    I’ve heard mixed things on Marrakech but definitely think I still want to visit! I can imagine how easy it is to get lost but it does look beautiful! Thanks for such an informative post x

    Jasmin Charlotte

    Reply
    • Helen
      July 20, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      I had too, but I loved it. I have had some friends have negative experiences, but I didn’t – I don’t know why. Maybe because I walk around with my ‘don’t mess with me’ face on! I think it’s definitely a place everyone should experience!

      Glad you liked the post! 🙂

      Reply
  • Rebecca
    August 1, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    Great post! What an incredible city – the food, the colours, the people, the atmosphere.

    Reply
    • Helen
      August 1, 2015 at 11:24 pm

      Thanks Rebecca! It is! Everyone has mixed opinions on it, but I had a positive experience!

      Reply
  • Jennifer
    September 3, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Really loving your Morocco posts, just booked our flights! Did you have any issues with language? I unfortunately only speak English.

    Reply
    • Helen
      September 3, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      Thanks Jennifer! I’m just in the middle of writing another one! 🙂

      Language was an issue sometimes, but it wasn’t a problem. We only had trouble once trying to describe out hotel to a tuk tuk driver and also our guide didn’t speak any English in the Sahara, but we got along perfectly!

      You’ll be fine! Many people speak English!Maybe take a French phrasebook just in case – probably easier than trying to read Arabic! 🙂

      Have a wonderful time!!!!! My next post about the Sahara will be up in a few days!

      Reply
      • Jennifer
        September 4, 2015 at 5:01 am

        Can’t wait to read that one 😀

        Reply
  • Linzi Clark
    December 29, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    Wow – great to read such a comprehensive article on Marrakesh – one of my all time favourite cities. if time permits, it’s also worth visiting the Atlas Mountains which are sixty kilometres from the city. They provide a lovely peaceful contrast to the frantic city pace.
    Linzi Clark recently posted…Top Office Breaks of 2015My Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      December 29, 2015 at 4:50 pm

      Thanks Linzi! Yes I agree about the Aatlas Mountains. I’ve been there, just not written about it yet!

      Reply
  • Sandi DiBello
    August 5, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Absolutely loved your blog post on Marrakech! I’m in the begining stages of planning a trip there in the late Fall and this was really helpful. Thanks Helen!

    -Sandi DiBello

    Reply
    • Helen
      August 5, 2016 at 9:54 pm

      Thanks Sandi!!

      Have a great time! Really loved Marrakech!

      Reply
    • Helen
      August 5, 2016 at 9:54 pm

      Thanks Sandi!!

      Have a great time! Really loved Marrakech!

      Reply
  • Ashley
    August 15, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Great post – I’m heading there in a few weeks, so I’m bookmarking this and coming back to have a look 🙂

    Reply
  • Alberto Cortes
    September 4, 2016 at 2:47 am

    Wow you write the travel details like people feel in Marakech holiday, well done a very nice refercencee for the city. Kudos.
    Alberto Cortes recently posted…SURROUNDINGSMy Profile

    Reply
  • Cynthia Pulman
    October 14, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    I stayed on my own, in a riahd in the depths of the medina – quite impossible to find. Even when I took a taxi home, the driver often couldn’t locate it, which led to fascinating journeys! Solution: a photo or postcard of the nearest notable feature – mine was a lovely old well, quite well known. I showed this to taxi driver, and made sure I could find the way home from there! Although the possibility of walking in completely the wrong direction still exists, especially when all the shops close and you can’t find your way by familiar shop displays!

    Reply
  • Mohamed Aarjane
    February 19, 2017 at 11:50 pm

    Great post .

    Reply
  • Steph
    October 18, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    We got lost in the medina too, and had the local guys “help” us get out. As in lead us (2 adults, 7 year old and 10 month old in a buggy) around in circles in the dark for an hour. They weren’t happy with how much we gave them when we eventually got to the square, and followed us for a while asking for more money. Then 1 of them pointed to his pocket where he had a knife and said, I know what hotel you’re in! A bit scary! We started shouting at them and the local food stall owners got involved, then the police came over and they ran away. It could have been a lot worse, and it wouldn’t stop me from going back to Marrakech. A good lesson learnt for future travels

    Reply
  • Orson Guertin
    May 1, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    Marrakech is a must-visit city during a trip to Morocco. I have excellent memories, others a little more controversial, but I highly recommend spending a day or two in Marrakech when you have the chance to visit Morocco.

    Reply
  • Slainie Moquin
    May 29, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    a nearby destination but a great trip with the kids! While wandering in the souks, sipping a mint tea, feasting on tagines and gazelle horns, we fell in love with the red city.

    Reply
  • Omar Alaoui
    August 29, 2018 at 9:22 pm

    Loved the article ,Thanks for the tips. I should definitely plan a stay in a Riad next time I visit Marrakech . Worth the experience!

    Reply
  • Ana
    June 19, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Hey,

    What tuk tuk company did you use when in Marrakech?

    Thanks in advance !

    Reply

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