My boyfriend organised a holiday to Marrakech as a birthday present (I know, best boyfriend ever!) The city massively exceeded all expectations and we didn’t even get a chance to see everything we wanted to. Click here to see a video I made of the trip.
From London the flight is about 3 and a half hours long. I’m not sure about the exact cost as my boyfriend booked, but always check SkyScanner for the best fares. I just had a quick look and with RyanAir you can fly for as little as £200 return.
We stayed at 2Ciels Boutique Hotel in Gueliz (the newer, more upmarket part of Marrakech).
The room was nicely designed, very spacious and had a great view. Whilst it would’ve been cool to stay in a riad (guesthouse) in the centre as most travellers do, the Medina is incredibly chaotic and so it was nice to stay away from the mayhem.
It has two gorgeous pools for you to enjoy, one on ground level and one on the rooftop!
Again, I’m not sure about exact cost, but I checked on booking.com and you can book the a room with breakfast included for just over £100 per night (which is incredible value for what you get).
The currency of Morocco is the Dirham – £1 = just less than 13 Dirhams.
Make sure you have cash as the souks and some shops / cafes don’t take card.
We arranged an airport transfer with our hotel for about 200 Dirhams. I’d definitely suggest booking advance as taxi drivers will try to rip you off. Journeys around the town should only be about 30 Dirhams each… make sure you barter / check with your hotel / riad how much journeys should cost.
The city itself is fairly small so we got to most places on foot.
*TOP TIP* – go to the app store and download MapsMe!
You can download a map of the area, plug in all the places and restaurants you want to visit, and then you can use it to map your journeys without using any data!
I’d read a few blogs before travelling which said Marrakech isn’t the nicest place to visit for women. Fortunately I didn’t have any bad experiences – locals were all very friendlyand addressed me as an equal (I’d read men often ignored women if a male was present). Having said that, be smart. Respect their culture: cover your shoulders and legs (men too) and don’t show too much affection in public.
People are out to make money out of tourists so be aware and don’t get lured in or show interest in something if you don’t want to buy it. Most people speak French so it might be useful to have a few phrases handy. Hopefully you won’t have any problems.
What we did…
1 – Jardin Majorelle
Gorgeously designed gardens away from the chaos of the Marrakech Medina. The gardens were created by French Orientalist artist, Jacques Majorelle over nearly 40 years (starting in 1923). In the 1980s the property was bought by fashion desingers Yve Saint-Laurent and Pierre Berge who restored them.
I have read that during busier times of the year it might be wise to book tickets in advance as there can be long queues. We went in February which I believe is just before peak season starts and didn’t spend anytime waiting in line for any of the attractions. Tickets are 70 Dirhams (£5.50) per person so not too expensive. You can buy a combined ticket combined with the Yves Saint Laurent museum if you’re doing both (they’re right next to each other).
Visiting the gardens might not be an ideal rainy day activity as I think the sun needs to be out for you to appreciate the colours. Lots of Instagrammable opportunities!
There’s a memorial to Yves Saint-Laurent in the gardens too (see above).
2 – Yves Saint Laurent Museum
In all honesty I thought that this museum was slightly overrated. If you’re really into fashion then it might be your thing, but even then there isn’t a massive amount to see.
The museum houses a small collection of dresses and accessories as well as a selection of drawings / artwork. A ticket costs 100 Dirhams (£8) so not ridiculously expensive if you want to tick it off your to do list.
3 – Bahia Palace
We used MapsMe to wind our way to this gorgeous palace. Built in the 19th Century, it offers some quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the Medina.
It cost 70 Dirhams to (£5.50) to go inside and walk around the grounds. There are some beautiful courtyards and rooms with magnificent ceilings. It might be worth going on a guided tour; as much as we really enjoyed exploring ourselves, we didn’t necessarily know what exactly we were looking at.
It’s a must see if you like architecture as there’s lots of intricate tile, paint and woodwork.
4 – El Badi Palace
These vast palace ruins offers fantastic views of Marrakech – from the terrace you can even see the Atlas Mountains on a clear day. It was commissioned by sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (Saadian dynasty) in around 1578 and was funded by a hefty ransom paid by the Portuguese after the Battle of Three Kings.
It cost 70 Dirhams to (£5.50) for entrance to the grounds and a small museum. You’ll see many storks guarding their nests on the highest points of the ruins.
There are large pools and orange trees in the centre of the ruins and it is incredibly peaceful considering just outside it’s mayhem!
There is also a museum that houses a minbar that was once used in the Koutouba mosque.
5 – Koutoubia Mosque
This is the largest mosque in Marrakech and located right by Jemaa el-Fnaa (see info below). You can view it from the outside and walk around the gardens, but you cannot go in unless you’re Muslim. It’s the tallest point in the Medina (new buildings are not allowed to be taller) and so provides a good focal point.
6 – Jemaa el-Fnaa / souks / Medina
Jemaa el-Fnaa comes top on a lot of websites telling you about things to do in Marrakech. It’s definitely an experience and worth seeing, but it certainly wasn’t my favourite part of the trip. It’s a very busy market in the main square packed with stalls selling local wares / food. There are also snake charmers and men with monkeys chained to them trying to get people to pay to pose for a photo. Cruel animal tourism really breaks my heart so I would suggest you don’t encourage these types of people by paying to pose with this animals.
Keep your wits about you. As the streets are usually packed, it’s the perfect place for pickpockets. There are also a lot of people trying to make £££ so don’t be too complacent.
The Medina of Marrakech is the heart of the city. You will absolutely get lost walking the winding streets.
I actually wish we had spent more time looking at the stalls as there were a lot of interesting and very reasonable items to purchase. We regret not buying a traditional Moroccan tagine!
7 – Saadian Tombs
Sepulchres dating back to the Saadian dynasty, only discovered in 1917. We didn’t have time to go inside but I’ve seen pictures online and they look impressive – worth visiting if you have a spare hour.
8 – Gueliz
This is the newer, more upmarket area of Marrakech (our Atlas Mountains tour guide said it’s not much like Marrakech at all really). There are wide, French-style streets with upmarket restaurants and a couple of different places for shopping. You’ll also find some well known shops / food chains like Zara, KFC, andMcDonalds here (avoid these at all costs and order tagine for breakfast, lunch and dinner).
ACTIVITIES / TRIPS
1 – Moroccan cookery class
We booked a Moroccan cooking class with TripAdvisor (£44.15 per person) which was a great way to spend half a day.
The class included a visit to a souk and various shops to get ingredients for the meal. I literally saw a chicken killed in front of my eyes! Quite hard to watch but it was over in seconds. The feathers and insides were removed and the chicken was cut up within about a minute… freshest chicken I will ever eat.
We walked to a riad and were served mint tea when we arrived which is a common occurrence in Morocco (we pretty much got given it everywhere we went).
Our guide helped us wash our hands in the traditional Moroccan way (via hot water in a teapot) and then we got to work preparing our tagine…
*TOP TIP* – if you want to avoid having yellow hands for a couple of days afterwards, DO NOT choose to use them to mix the ingredients together… use a spoon!
We also prepared a Moroccan salad and pudding – lots of colourful and fresh foods.
The riad has a roof terrace which you can enjoy whilst you’re waiting for your tagine to cook. When it’s ready, you head back into the courtyard and enjoy the delicious 3 course meal you just made 🙂
2 – Atlas Mountains
We went on a fantastic day trip to the Atlas Mountains with a tour of the four valleys. I booked this excursion with getyourguide for £62 per person and would definitely recommend you make time to do it as this was a real highlight of our trip.
We were picked up from our hotel at 8am by the tour company and set off towards the mountains (about a 1 hour drive away from Marrakech).
There were shacks containing restaurants with colourful tables and chairs put out in the shallow water. We arrived quite early in the day so they were empty, but were told they get really busy with tourists. Would have been cool to sit for a bite to eat here.
We stopped off at a shop in the first valley which produced and sold Argan oil products. It was interesting so see and learn about the process. We bought some 100% Argan oil which you can’t buy in the UK (it’s usually mixed / watered down).
The village in the second valley was a little bigger than the first. Again, colourful restaurant furniture by / in the water.
We stopped in this village and met a local who took us on an hour and a half trek up to a waterfall.
On the way back down from the waterfall we stopped at a cooperative which makes and sells various items (rugs, key-rings, crockery, ornaments, etc.) All profit goes towards the village and its people! Below are pictures of ladies from the village making a rug.
Our guide, Jamal, taught us a lot about Moroccan history and Berber culture as we went along. There were lots of stops along the way so plenty of opportunities to take in the view (and take a cheeky photo or two).
The third valley was really secluded and this is where we stopped for lunch… in a Berber house! We had stunning weather so were able to eat outside with the most incredible views of the mountains.
Moroccan food as traditional as you could possibly get! And it was delicious!
From the cooperative (mentioned earlier) I bought an elephant made with stone of the mountains (3000 ft up). It’s a special type of stone… if dropped in water it changes colour. I also bought a keyring for my boyfriend with his name written in the Berber language.
PLACES TO EAT / DRINK…
– LOLA SkyLounge
This tapas restaurant and bar is on the roof of the 2Ciels Hotel (which we were staying in). The views are gorgeous, there’s a pool, beers are reasonably priced and there are comfy beds / chairs to lounge around on. A good spot to watch the sunset and we certainly would’ve spent more time here if we’d stayed longer.
– Restaurant Dar Essalam
We stumbled upon this pretty rooftop whilst trying to find another restaurant in the same area (near to El Badi Palace).
If you’re looking for a dinner venue, you could also try the restaurant downstairs. The whole place is covered in tiles and is really beautiful. Apparently it is the oldest restaurant in Marrakech and Hitchcock film ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ was filmed there.
– Comptoir Darna
A bustling and trendy restaurant / club in Gueliz (the fancy French area of Marrakech). We decided to eat here because of the entertainment I’d read about online. It was enjoyable and the food was good, but it was expensive and I’m not sure it was worth the money.
If you’d like to go, I’d suggest booking a table at around 9pm as the show doesn’t start until 10pm.
– Kasbah Cafe
Lovely little cafe right by the Saadian tombs. If you head up to the rooftop, you have a great view of Rue de la Kasbah. We had some delicious ice-cream and the most unbelievable pure strawberry juice! YUM 🙂
– Le Salama
We popped in here for a beer and some pudding after dinner and arrived just at the right time. Entertainment (similar to that at Comptoir Darna) had just started up so we were able to enjoy that. It had a great, lively atmosphere, cool decorations, (plant pots on the roof) and a great view, (it’s located just off Jemaa el-Fnaa). Would be a lovely spot to visit for a mint tea during the daytime too.
– Al Fassia Aguedal
This hotel and restaurant is out towards the airport so about a 10 minute drive from the centre. I wanted to visit as I’d read online that it’s internationally famous and that it was mainly staffed by women (unusual in Marrakech). The restaurant served traditional Moroccan food which was very tasty (although by this point we’d eaten a hell of a lot of tagine already). It did lack atmosphere but perhaps we picked a quiet night.
– Le Jardin
This restaurant was recommended by 2 different friends and is a quite tranquil spot just outside of the mayhem of the Medina. Unfortunately I didn’t like the place at all. The idea of putting a garden just off a busy street is cool, but the food was way below average and the staff were totally uninterested in providing decent service. It’s a bit of a tourist trap. There are far better places to eat in Marrakech.
– 2Ciels Luxury Boutique Hotel & Spa
We had breakfast everyday at our hotel. There was a great buffet selection with eggs cooked exactly how you liked them.
I absolutely loved Marrakech and would love to visit again one day.
Other places we didn’t get time to visit / things we didn’t get time to do:
- Have a Hammam – spas offering intense body scrubs and massages!
Recommendations I found online:
Hammam De La Rose, Le Bain Bleu, Hammam Ziani
- Le Jardin Secret – ornate 19th century palace with gardens
- Ben Youssef Mosque – oldest and most important mosque in Marrakech
- Almoravid Koubba – small 12th century monument
- Da El Bacha – a garden
- Cyberpark – ornamental gardens (I believe right next to the biggest mosque)
- Marrakech Museum
- Musee Boucharouite – showcasing Moroccan art and stories
- Zwin Zwin Cafe – cool rooftop restaurant
- Nomad – a highly raved about restaurant online and by friends