After seeing many beautiful pictures of Morocco and hearing good stories, we decided that it was time to pay Marrakech a visit. After having finished our exams, we had a long weekend off which was perfect as you don’t need a lot of time to get a good feel of Marrakech. We left on Thursday morning and came back on Monday evening, spending 4 nights in Marrakech (of which one in the desert but more about that later). Even though we sometimes had mixed feelings, it was a great trip. The city is beautiful, the food fantastic, the weather really nice (especially compared to cold and rainy Holland), and most of the people are very welcoming. We say most of the people, as to some you are still a walking ATM and they will try to scam you. However, the positive things definitely outweigh the few less fun experiences we had, so here are our tips and tricks to a perfect stay in Marrakech!
Medersa Ben Youssef
The Medersa Ben Youssef is an old Koran school and a must visit in Marrakech. It is beautiful from the inside with different kinds of tiles and a big courtyard. Besides the fact that it is a very photogenic place, it is also a good spot to cool of from the heat! (20 dirham)
Palais el Bahia
Another beautiful an photogenic must visit is the old palace. Prepare to wander around and take many photos of the different courtyards and rooms. Tip: go early in the morning as it will not be as crowded as in the afternoon and you will escape the heat. (10 dirham)
The oasis just outside of the walls of the old town; Jardin Majorelle is a garden with many different plant species from all over the world that contrast beautifully with the Majorelle blue paint. According to many a must visit, though we were not as impressed by it compared to the other places and it is relatively expensive. Nonetheless, it is a nice break from the hustle and bustle in the old town. (70 dirham)
One of the main activities in the old town is to just wander around in the souks. Get lost in the small streets, see what everyone has to offer and after you have thought about, have seen most and heard the prices, go crazy with buying yourself some nice souvenirs like we did on our last day!
Relax a bit during the trip and get a hammam! The prices range from very cheap to very expensive, but we only paid a fraction of the price we would have paid in Amsterdam while getting a good scrub and massage!
Spend a day or two in the dessert taking in the beautiful sight, riding a camel and escaping from the busy old town. We spent a night at Scarabeo camp, which was so magical that we spent a separate blog on it. Read all about it here!
Maison du Photographe
This little photo exposition close to Medersa Ben Youssef has a great rooftop terrace to have some lunch. You have a nice view over the old town, there is enough shade to protect you from the heat and the food is amazing. You will pay 100 dirham for the menu of the day, though you will also have to pay 40 dirham entrance. The photos are beautiful however and give you a glimpse of life back in the days in Morocco, so we didn’t mind.
Café des Epices
Known for the sun hats and rooftop terrace, Café des Epices is a perfect spot to view the small marketplace from a distance whilst enjoying the delicious burgers. (60-90 dirham)
From the same owners as Café des Epices, Le Jardin serves very good food in the beautiful green and lush courtyard. Make sure to reserve a table! (100-120 dirham)
If you did some research on where to eat in Marrakech, 99% chance that you came across Nomad. It belongs to the same owners as Le Jardin and Café des Epices and since we heard so many good stories are expectations were high. Unfortunately we didn’t think the food was that good, however the sunset during dinner made up for it (take the 7pm shift!) and the homemade ice cream is to die for. (100-120 dirham)
Riad in the old town
First of all, you have to stay at a riad to make your experience in Marrakech complete. A riad is a small house in the old town that has a small courtyard (often with a pool) which all the bedrooms are neighboring to. Most of the time there are only a few rooms, which makes the experience even more fun. And they are often not as crazy expensive as some of the hotels in Marrakech can be!
The first two nights we stayed at Riad Shukran, a riad in the northern part of the old town. The people are very nice and try to help you find your way through the small streets. Our room was nice, next to the swimming pool and we had a bathroom that had a sink Chris loved (see the picture below!). Even though you will have to walk a little bit longer to get to touristic hotspots like Jemaa el-Fna, the neighborhood is not touristic at all and gives you a glimpse of local life.
One of the biggest tips we can give you, is to let the hotel arrange the transport from the airport to the hotel. From experience we know that this can be a lot more expensive than arranging it yourself, however we found out the not so fun way that this does not hold for Marrakech. You will have to pay €20 or 200 dirham to get to the old town, and then you’re not even at your hotel and you will have to find the way yourself through the small streets, or get scammed by one of the guys that are very ‘helpful’ in pointing you the way (and you end up paying them way too much money). In short: arrange a pick-up by your hotel to start your trip in a good way!
Basically everything can be done by foot in the old town as well as the new part of town. You can take a taxi and we heard that it is not expensive (except for going to the airport) but since we had such a bad experience and a taxi wasn’t necessary, we walked our way through Marrakech.
Finally, some last tips:
- Know where you want to go to, because everything is hidden behind the walls or on top of the buildings. It’s not easy to see from the outside where the good spots are.
- Don’t get scammed! Be aware of people trying to ‘guide’ you to places and always discuss the fare before you get in a taxi.
- Food is delivered fast. We noticed this in many of the restaurants and heard that some people felt like they were being rushed but that’s just how they serve food in Marrakech. Also, keep in mind that most of the time there is no alcohol being served.
- Finally, dress appropriately! Cover your shoulders and wear pants or skirts over the knee. It is just a matter if respect for someone else’s culture.
What are your favorite things to see/do/eat in Marrakech? Or is there anything you would like to know? Let us know in the comment section below!