Oh Marrakesh, I really wanted to finally meet you! This city is so vibrant, full of colors and spices! Food stands are waiting at every corner and pinky facades are so picturesque that you can not stop taking pictures. Do I have to even mention the curing taste of moroccan mint tea served in beautiful jugs? It will all take you right to the One Thousand and One Nights stories. So let’s start preparing for your Marrakesh trip. I will guide you step by step with everything you should know before traveling there.
Know the culture and tourists traps
Marrakesh is a busy, more touristic and more sales oriented place than rest of the country. Tourism here is strongly advocated by the reigning Moroccan monarch, Mohammed VI, with the goal of doubling the number of tourists visiting Morocco. There is around 1 million of people living in Marrakesh and they are fully aware that tourists means money. Therefore you will be strongly approached many times to buy something and to pay for everything including a friendly advise on the street, if you for example ask for a way.
Before going to Marrakesh I have been reading a lot of different blog posts about this city. Surprisingly, most of them have been underlining a love-hate relationship and describing some not very pleasant situations they have experienced. And lets name it openly – real scams too. There are some tourists traps waiting for you but it does not meet you have to be the victim of it. To avoid them, please read carefully my other post about 8 important tips to be safe in Marrakesh. It will help you to stay away from some really unpleasant situations.
Book your flight
There are plenty of flights from most of the European countries offering direct flights to Morocco. We have been flying with Austrian airlines with a direct flight from Vienna. The good news is that there are also cheap flights to Marrakesh with Ryanair or EasyJet. The full list of airlines you can find here. You can also travel to other Moroccan city – Agadir and than by bus or by car to Marrakesh, but it is a pretty long way.
Book your riad
A riad is a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard. It can also have a small swimming pool, just like beautiful Le Riad Yasmine. Choose it wisely as your riad will for sure strongly influence your Marrakesh experience. First, this is a beautiful way to give you some insight into the traditional Moroccan culture of living, and second, riads usually serve really good and fresh food.
Riads are rather small and have few rooms only. If you are interested in a particular one, it will be good to book it a way upfront. Le Riad Yasmine, because of its Instagram popularity, is fully booked most of the time. To stay there I booked it 7 months earlier… But well… It was my birthday trip and I really wanted to stay exactly at this place.
If you will stay in the medina (old part of the city and UNESCO heritage) you will have plenty of riads to choose but all bigger hotels are located outside of the medina. Lots of riads are not available via booking.com so when booking your stay it is better to check this page. For the perfect choice check my selection of Beautiful and Tested Riads in The Marrakesh Old Town.
Plan your activities
Marrakesh is full of interesting places to explore. No time to get bored! What to see:
- Jemaa el Fnaa – Large public square with small merchants, hawkers & entertainers, popular with tourists & locals. It is really interesting to see how busy and vibrant it is but in this place you will particularly need my advices about the safety in Marrakesh, so remember to read it here.
- Spices market – Smaller market in the center of medina, full of unbeliaveble smell of all the spices you can only imagine.
Bahia Palace – beautiful and super picturesque old palace with a set of gardens. The name of the place means “brilliance” as it was intended to capture the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style.
Jardin Majorelle – two and half acre botanical garden that together with a blue painted house located there, has been owned by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner. Moroccan charm with a hint of Art Deco painted in vibrant colors. A must see!
- Ben Youssef Madrasa – the place was previously an Islamic college with 132 rooms for non-Marrakesh students. Now is open for visitors. Beautiful and picturesque.
Find best places to eat
I am so in love with moroccan food! Tajine was my everyday dish and I was not bored at all. They can prepare it in so many tasty ways: vegetable tajine, lamb tajine or fish tajine. All full of deliciously smelling spices. My three best spots to eat in Marrakesh:
Le Riad Yasmine – we have been told that one of the best food you can get in the Marrakesh will be in riads and that was so true! We had delicious three course dinner, including outstanding lamb tajine and a perfect chocolate mousse. Still dreaming about this…
La Maison Arab – a well known place for the best dinner in Marrakesh and I can not agree more. Traditional and elegant. It is one of the oldest hotels in town opened in 1946 and also first restaurant in town open to foreigners. Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Jackie Kennedy, they all dined here. The food is amazing and the interior leaves you speechless. Booking required.
Nomad – another must to visit. We have been there twice, for a lunch a for a sunset dinner and had absolutely delicious meals. I highly recommend couscous with grilled cauliflower. There is also an open rooftop terrace from where you can witness beautiful sunsets. The only disadvantage for me was that they do not serve wine there. They used to have it but for some reasons their alcohol license has not been prolonged. Good to have a table booked as may be full in lunch and dinner time.
Plan your shopping in Marrakesh medina
My biggest mistake during that trip was that I had a hand luggage only. There was so many beautiful things I wanted to buy! If you like moroccan interior style you will be in paradise: beautiful carpets, puffs, lamps, mirrors, and other deco pieces. Everything is really worth bringing from Morocco.
What I would buy:
- Carpets – beautiful and handmade.
- Bags, especially straw bags – basket and straw bags are a thing now and you will find a great choice of them in reasonable process. I bought a beautiful one for only 10 euro.
- Spices – you cannot leave Morocco without buying some spices. First of all they are are much cheaper and second, you will have a spectacular choice.
- Sweets – if you are a sweet tooth you will find a true paradise in Morocco.
What I would not but:
- Anything that seems to be branded – these are all fakes.
- Jewellery – you will not be able to check if it is really a fine jewellery or not, even if they will show you some certificates. Better do not but it than to be disappointed later.
Hope you will have a wonderful visit to this charming place. Let me know your impressions on Morocco and how did you like it. Would love to hear from you!
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