If you are traveling to Marrakech and only have few days to explore the city, then this article might help you plan your trip. Located in the northwest of Morocco, Marrakech is a hectic city, rich in history, culture and traditions. So if you want to see and experience as much as possible, you have to plan your trip precisely. As you probably know me by now, I usually do not visit the most known touristic places, but I try to find the most beautiful, picture perfect places wherever I go. And this time Marrakech was no exception. So if you are my kind of romantic soul, that seeks for beauty in the world, you will love exploring Marrakech with me.
Things to know before your trip:
- OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Arabic, but French is very common too. They say French is unofficial language, as every cab driver, merchant and a lot of locals speak fluently. If you don’t speak any of these two language, English is understood by most as well.
- LOCAL TIME: UTC +0
- POPULATION (2018): 839,296
- CURRENCY: Moroccan Dirham (MAD)
- PAYMENT: In hotels paying with credit card is no issue. Although in the city, especially in Medina, I would advise you to bring some Dirhams with you. Some places as well accept Euros, but the exchange will not be in your favour. So make sure, you exchange the money to Dirhams at the airport or at the hotel.
- SAFETY: Like in every big city, if you travel wisely, you should be fine. Petty crime is common in the city, especially in tourist areas, like Medina. But overall, Marrakech crime rate is low. Nevertheless there are few things every visitor should know:
If you are exploring the city with travel guide, make sure that he is operating with agreement off local authorities. As well, agree on the price before setting off a tour. Even though we knew that, we had a problem with unofficial guide on our last trip. They are pretty smart and they know exactly how to pursued you into helping you, but at the end we paid for 3 minutes walk with the guide, 10 Euros.
Always check where you are going, and avoid streets that are empty. If you see a group of local kids coming near you, try to avoid that, as they tempt to rob in small groups. Streets in Medina are a real labyrinthine, so if you get lost, always stick to the main path and soon you will reach the landmark. Never ask for directions locals on the streets or kids, always ask in corner shops or restaurants.
Always keep your belongings in safe places and keep the valuable things at hotel. Be vigilant when withdrawing money at ATMs.
There is a medium risk for terrorism, even though the last one was in 2011.
I would say it is safe for solo female travellers to explore Marrakech, but you might get some unwanted attention from men. I’ve been there twice (once in 2011 and in 2018) with my friend, and we had no problems, but you need to be aware especially during the night.
- HAVE IN MIND: Morocco is a Muslim country, so respect Islamic religion, traditions, customs and laws at all times. Especially if you travel there in time for Ramadan, from May 15 to June 14 2018.
- PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: In general public transportation in Marrakech is safe but the best parts of Marrakech are generally best explored by foot. But if you are not staying in old town, taxi would be the best option to get to old and new city or in between. I was told that the best taxis are beige color that have taxi meter. Although, I use the method ”give me your best price” before I set in the car. Always bargain when in Morocco. There is a bus option as well, but I never used it, since our hotel staff didn’t really recommend it. You can also try the new addition to the city, which is the extensive tram network.
- BEST TIME TO VISIT – Best time to visit Marrakech is from March to May and from September till November, when the city is blessed with the desirable weather. Although Marrakech is popular turist destination all year-long, try to avoid visiting in hot Summer days.
Marrakech was found nearly 1000 years ago not far away from Sahara and it is famous for its natural red pigmented buildings that gave the city a nickname, ”The Red City.”I would describe it as the city of beautiful chaos, colors and traditions, full of gardens and stunning buildings. Marrakech is the city people love or hate, but it kind of convince me in 2011 to come back and see what has changed through the years.
MEDINA AND SOUK
Medina is the heart of the old city and it is the place every visitor must experience. Cobras, monkeys, henna tattoo artists, street food and carpets. Yes, a lot of carpets that together with silver lamp shops make you feel like you have entered the Land of Aladdin.
The pulse of Marrakech is at the main square in old town, called Jamaa el-Fna, where you will find many entertainers during the day, and countless stalls boasting the traditional lamb at night. From the square you can also see the famous Koutoubia Mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakech. It is a spiritual center for locals, but attracts many tourists as well.
But now, to the part that you are probably most exited to do, shopping in old Medina. Seven days a week, no matter how early you arrive to the market, there is going to be at least one market craftsman to greet you and try to sell you their products. From carpets, shoes, food… there are no rules. The only rule is, that you always have to bargain for the price.
For easier orientation, you can visit the apothecaries square full of multi-colored spice stalls – RAHBA KEHDIMA, CREIEE BERBER the main carpet souk and the LEATHERWORKERS SOUK near Place Ben Youssef.
Opening hours: Generally from 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM from Monday to Saturday
HAVE A LUNCH AT CAFE ARABE
I was looking for a typical Arabian cafe place for a break in between, but not just any. I looked for a beautiful cafe shop in Marrakech and Mr. Google took me to Cafe Arabe. When I arrived there, I knew immediately I found a new Instagram gem. After taking few photos on the first floor, we moved one floor up, to a unique terrace for a lunch. We had pasta with gamberi and it was delicious. But a mix of traditional style with modern influence made our lunch even more memorable.
Location: 184 Rue Mouassine, Marrakech
Opening hours: Every day from 10:00 AM – 12:00 AM
EXPLORE THE RIADS IN THE CITY
Marrakech’s riads are full of history and known for Moroccan traditional design diversity. Glazed ceramic tiles, painted wooden ceilings and bright decor create a pleasant atmosphere you should not miss. Have in mind riads are private properties, so if you think you can just visit them to take few photos, you are wrong. That is why I would advise to those, who want to check this experience from their bucket list, to book at least one night in riad while staying in the red city. There are many of them, but my favorite are RIAD BE, RIAD JASMINE and RIAD SECRET GARDEN.
BEN YOUSSEF MEDERSA OR SAADIAN THOMBS
Morocco is a home to plenty of visually stunning buildings and architectural gems, like Ben Youssef Medersa. Well, this was the place that I was most looking forward to see. But when we arrived to the location, we found out unpleasant news – IT IS CLOSED FOR 2 YEARS due to renovation. Ben Youssef Medersa, built almost 500 years ago, has been home for students for more than four centuries, but even now it looks like it has changed very little from that time. Today it is a popular historic site in Marrakech, an eye candy for those who enjoy tile art.
If you are traveling to Marrakech in next two years, the best alternative to Ben Youssef Medersa are the Saadian Tombs, build in a similar impressive mosaic style that kind of resembles of former college. It is a large complex, containing the remains of royalty and those held in high regards by the Sultan, located near the Kasbah Mosque.
Location: Rue de la Kasbah, Marrakech
Opening hours: Open daily from 8:30 – 11:45 AM and from 2:30-5:45 PM.
Entrance fee: Approximately 10 MAD (around 1 EUR)
CAMEL RIDE IN PALMERAIE
Finish your day with one of the most memorable experiences I had in a while – Riding Camels with the view of snowy peeks of Atlas Mountains. Read more about my experience here…
VISIT NEW TOWN
Wake up early and experience the new breeze of Marrakech. If you have started your trip with old Medina, then visiting new town will shock you. You won’t be able to believe that there is such a big development and lifestyle difference just 4 kilometers away. Apart from modern architecture, the Gueliz area has all the stores you will find back home, but be aware that you can not bargain here.
HOTEL MAMOUNIA GARDENS
If you need a relaxing break from the wild city, then continue your day to Hotel Mamounia. Hotel Mamounia became an iconic spot for visitors in Marrakech. Not only because of the luxury estate, but mostly because of beautiful tiling details and blossoming gardens.
Location: Avenue Bab Jdid 40 040, Marrakech
Entrace fee: 70 MAD (approximately 7 EUR)
TRADITIONAL MOROCCAN SPA OR HAMMAM
When in Morocco you have to try their traditional Hammams or Spas, after all, for locals it is a weekly must do. The traditional Hammam is a traditional ritual that starts with glazing the body with ghassoul, a natural clay extracted from the Atlas Mountains. After, the black soap is applied to the body, made from olive oil and eucalyptus leaves, that soften the skin. Next step is rose-water, used to calm the skin. And finally they use argan oil to moisturizer the skin. After the treatment you will feel rejuvenated and relaxed and prepare to get back home to your everyday life routine.
ARE YOU CONVINCED BUT STILL LOOKING FOR A HOTEL
If you are looking for luxury stay outside of the chaotic city of Marrakech with the view of Atlas Mountains, then Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech is a perfect fit for you! Read more…
I hope my 3 day itinerary will inspire you to visit Marrakech. Hopefully my favorite places will make you fall in love with the Red city and convince you to book a trip.