• Nick and Elen

A quick guide to Marrakesh

Updated: Feb 28, 2021

Although not Morocco's capital (despite popular belief), Marrakesh is most probably the country's most visited city and almost always the getaway to the rest of Morocco.

Things to know before you go Marrakesh is one of the most touristy destinations in the world, right now which means that it's rather liberal compared to other cities not only in the country but in the Arabic world, in general. However, you still need to remember that it's an Islamic cultured city, so dressing and behaving respectively is a must.

Money wise, Morocco's official currency is MAD (Moroccan Durham) which equals a bit less than 0.10 €.

Communication will most likely not be a problem, as most people who work in the tourism industry speak English. French is also widely spoken and quite a lot of people also speak Spanish.

Getting there and around If your flight lands in Marrakesh Menara Airport, you'll need some sort of transfer to the city and you can choose between a 30 minute bus ride for 30 MAD (less than 3€) or a taxi ride, unless of course you're picking up a rental car. If you take a taxi, don't hesitate to haggle and make sure to agree on the price beforehand. Also, keep in mind that taxis and cars in general, can't reach beyond the beginning of the medina's central square, Jemaa el Fna. From there, you will need to carry your luggage to your booked accommodation. Beware of men and young boys who will approach you and offer to carry your suitcases and/or show you the way, as some of them might be frauds.

During the rest of your stay in Marrakesh, your feet will be all you need to commute, unless you wish to visit more remote places, especially if located in the modern part of the city.

Apart from exploring the city on your own, you can always pay for a local guide who will show you around Marrakesh, while giving you interesting information about its fascinating history. We explored Marrakesh with Mustapha, from Private Tours of Morocco, which we can only recommend!

Where to stay Not only in Marrakesh, but all over Morocco, you'll find an abundance of riads. Riads are traditional houses, built around a yard, which almost always is centered around a fountain or small pool /pond. Most riads have turned into hotels and guest houses nowadays and we can only suggest that you choose to stay in one too! We were more than happy to check in at Riad Oriental and experience the Moroccan hospitality.

What to see and do

Jemaa el Fna Almost all of your days will start from and end in Jemaa el Fna, medina's central square, which never seems to sleep. Snake charmers, local vendors, tourists, fortune tellers, tattoo artists and street performers are all there. Our personal favorite memory from the square, is climbing up to the terrace of Café du France and getting panoramic views at golden hour. The never ending noises of the bustling square, only stopped for a few minutes when the muezzin proclaimed the call to prayer: such a precious moment to observe! Tip: beware of your belongings in the chaos of Jemaa el Fna and never take pictures of people without asking them first, as they will most probably ask for money or sometimes get a somewhat verbally aggressive.

The souks All around Jemaa el Fna, you'll find the city's famous souks (covered markets), where you can find all kind of goods. From local herbs and spices, to rugs, silverware, ceramics and much, much more, feel free to haggle (it's part of the experience!) and get some souvenirs for back home.

Koutoubia mosque This is undoubtedly Marrakesh's iconic landmark, where the muezzin calls to prayer 5 times per day. Located a 10 min walk away from Jemaa el Fna, you can't enter it unless you're Muslim, but you can admire it from outside and take pictures of it. The mosque's minaret is 77 meters tall and no other building in Marrakesh can be taller than that!

Bahia palace Meaning the brilliant or the most beautiful, Bahia used to be the residence of members of the Alaouite dynasty, back in the 19th century. Today, you can visit it for less than 3€ and we'd suggest doing so with a guide, who will also educate you about the palace's history.

Majorelle Gardens A green oasis, in the middle of dusty Marrakesh is all you need for a break of serenity (if you avoid rush hours) and cool air. Majorelle, is basically a botanical garden, and was named after Jacques Majorelle, the French artist who designed it, back in the 1920's. The garden was later bought by Yves Saint Laurent until 2008, when the famous fashion designer died and his ashes were scattered in the Garden.

Saadian tombs Another must see site of Marrakesh, is the Saadian Tombs mausoleum, where members of the Saadi dynasty, which ruled Morocco during the 16th and 17th century, are buried.

What to eat and drink Couscous, chicken, red meat and vegetables are on the Moroccans' daily menu, usually served in a traditional pot called tagine. Pastilla or Bisteeya pie, is made of pigeon meat and was definitely the most unusual and interesting meal we had in Morocco. Other than that, we also enjoyed eating kefta tagine, sesku and dates to name a few. Oriental syrup pastries are also in abundance, as well as mint tea, which has to be Morocco's national beverage, judging by how often the locals drink it!

Suggested day trips If you have some extra days, you can escape the chaos of Marrakesh and visit the coastal towns of Essaouira and/or Agadir, get a glimpse of the High Atlas Mountains, or discover Morocco's natural wealth at Ouzoud waterfalls.