Magical Marrakech, the Pink City of Morocco.
There are SO many blog posts about Marrakech and you can learn so much which is TOTALLY RAD. If you’re not convinced to go, or you’re wanting some inspiration, just jump on Pinterest and with one search, you’ve got places to eat, where to stay, what to do, what to expect, full itineraries, guides, what to wear, reviews and more. With so much to squeeze into your short stay I realise it can become a little overwhelming (it did for us anyway!) So based on what we got up to, I’m going to tell you how you can experience Marrakech and if you get to do some of it too, then you’ll be as happy as we were during our 3 night stay.
WHAT’S IT LIKE UPON FIRST ARRIVAL?
One word…chaos! Here’s our experience:
Cars, busses, trucks & scooters swerved across the roads as we entered the old town walls of the Medina. Men walking with trolleys full of rugs, fruit, rubbish and more, god I can’t tell you how many people were just out, going about their life. Men riding donkeys, people carrying luggage, soccer balls flying with kids chasing behind. I could smell spices oozing from food stalls, hear laughing kids walking home from school and feel bodies of people swarming as they tried to make a quick sale.
The scene around us was pretty full on I have to say, but going into Marrakech we were expecting it. I can imagine the locals having a laugh at us two westerners standing there, luggage in hand, looking like a couple of stunned mullets. After confidently saying “no thankyou” to about a hundred thousand people then taking a million wrong turns, we finally found our Riad for the 3 night stay.
SO…HOW CAN I GET TO MARRAKECH?
Flying – Being the second busiest airport in Morocco behind Casablanca, flying into Marrakech is super easy. If you’re coming from Europe, most big cities will get you there in one flight and these should be pretty cheap if you book in advance. From the airport you can hop in a taxi which will take you into the old Medina (remember to agree on a price first). Once you’re inside you’ll have a hell of a culture shock which I’ll explain a little further below, but unless you’re happy tipping the people who try to take your bags and give you directions, then its time to get stern.
Bus – As explained in our “first timers guide to Chefchaouen, Morocco” Busses are the easiest and cheapest option while travelling around Morocco. But remember…they’re definitely the least comfortable. If you’re going to bus anywhere in Morocco, the CTM or SUPRATOURS busses are the way to go. By using the busses, you can pretty much reach Marrakesh from just about any city in Morocco. An experience for sure, many of these are on bumpy roads with no air conditioning, but hey, welcome to Morocco!!
Private taxi/Transfer – This is a good option for those coming from somewhere reasonably close or if you’re coming in from a tour. We entered Marrakech after day 3 of our Sahara Desert Tour (blog post coming soon) so our driver drove us through the old city walls and into the busy Medina. If you’re a nervous traveller, you have a bigger budget or you’re within a couple of hours from Marrakech I’d totally recommend this, it’s deff the most comfortable and probably the quickest way to get around. Tangier Taxi is a good website to book private transfers at a set price and with door to door service.
WHERE DO I STAY?
We stayed in two different Riads (owned by the same person) during our time in Marrakech. We actually had a miscommunication when booking and the amazing team put us up in their “little sister” Riad (which was just next door) for our third night. Both Riads were absolutely amazing and dreamy AF, I honestly can’t recommend them enough. Please, if looking into accom for your stay in Marrakech, don’t look past these 2 stunning Riads.
Le Riad Berbère – pretty popular on “the gram”, Le Riad Berbère has the cutest rooftop terrace to escape the madness that is Marrakech. We spent our late afternoons up here, drinking a bottle of red and watching the sky turn pink across the city. The inside courtyard is also a dream, there are so many cosy spots to curl up with a book, a friendly cat for 5 will join you too. Classic Moroccan breaky each morning, it was our slice of paradise inside the old town Medina. Photos speak louder than words so I’ll post a bunch below.
Riad Ennafourna-Tango – The baby sister of Le Riad Berbère, we stayed here for first night. Upon arrival we sat in the courtyard drinking mint tea and the French speaking staff gave my French skills a run for it’s money. Our room was huge and painted white, the pink clay bathroom was something out of a country magazine with dual showers heads and no shower walls. After travelling the desert and the Atlas Mountains, this place was a haven just to relax in. Again the rooftop here was the cutest thing ever and the view out and across the Marrakech skyline was the perfect way to watch sunset. Free Moroccan style breakfast in the morning, I would stay here again 100%.
Other Riads if you’re a little fatter in the budget: Riad Yasmine (An Instagrammers dream), La Mamounia (very luxurious 5 star resort) and Riad Be Marrakech (little cheaper than Yasmine but just as insta-famous)
WHAT SHOULD I MOST DEFINITELY DO?
Visit the Yve Saint Laurent Majorelle Gardens – One of the most visited sites in Marrakech, we cruised here on day one, but the line to get in was absolutely manic so instead we came back at 8am on day 3 and…BINGO. Hardly a person insight, we were able to wander the gardens in peace with our friends Ben, Ruby, Laura and Andrew. Filled with mostly the largest cacti ever know to man, it took artist Jacques Majorelle 40 years to create the enchanting space. Standing right in the centre is the electric blue Yves Saint Laurent house, in which he and his partner Piere brought, along with the gardens in memory of the original owner. Now gifted back to the city of Marrakech, it stands as a tourist hub across the whole of Morocco.
Marvel at the Ben Youssef Madrasa – While wondering around the Medina we stumbled across this beauty. Totally hidden in the teeny tiny streets of the Medina is a place of pure magic. A Madrasa is place of education, so like a school, a college or a university. Many of the Madrasas across Morocco have been transformed into public museums, like this famous one in Marrakech. Totally full of people when we visited, the space was still electric, even will all the bodies. I would recommend going at the very start of your day to catch it in absolute silence.
Shop the souks – Wow are the souks of Marrakech an experience. Souks (also known as shops or markets) literally fill the entire streets of the Medina. There is an incredible amount to look at, so much colour, tiny streets leading to even smaller wee lanes, men in every shop sitting patiently awaiting his next sale, or persistently inviting you to enter his shop. If you’re going to shop in Morocco…well you’d better do it in Marrakech, there’s something for everyone. I brought myself a jewellery box, a brown leather pouf, two coffee mugs and some camel earrings. Next time I visit, I’ll bringing an empty suitcase just to fill back up. Rugs, cushions, decor, furniture, shoes, leather goods, bags, crockery and the list just goes on and on. A shopaholics dream, a very intense one, but still a dream. Ps – never pay the full price, bargaining is half the fun!
Watch the sunset over Plaza Jemaa El-Fnaa – Plaza Jemaa El-Fnaa is the main square in Marrakech. In the early evenings it transforms into one of the most hectic markets I’ve ever been too, an experience I’m not sure I loved. As we walked around, we felt pestered more so than we ever had. Maybe because the square is such a tourist hub? I’m not sure…but with every step, there was someone new trying to haggle us for a quick purchase. The worse were the snake charmers and the monkeys on chains, this was hard to watch and a little scary to be honest. Instead of spending too much time here, we headed to Cafe Glacier which overlooks the whole square. Watching the square come alive down below was a lot more comfortable for us thats for sure. At one point we saw a monkey escape his cage and start playing his own game, running from his owner. 3 Moroccan men chasing him around was pretty funny from above. “GO MONKEY GO BE FREE,” we were yelling, but soon enough he was captured, smacked on the head and shoved back into his cage 😥
Get lost walking around the Medina – The Medina, like all across Morocco, are a maze of tiny alleyways that interlink within the old town walls. You will inevitably get lost in here, so just roll with it and have fun. Finding A to B and you’re sure to come across hidden gems, interesting smells, wary people, lost tourists, beautiful souks and most of the sights I’ve mentioned in this post. We followed this one guy into his wool factory, purely because I had such a sore tummy and he told us he’d give us a special Moroccan remedy if we visited his shop. This sort of thing will happen ALL THE TIME, people following you and doing all they can to get you to visit their shop, buy their hash or take you to their restaurant…so just have fun with it.
Wander past the Koutoubia Mosque – A beautiful mosque standing tall in the heart of the Medina, this muslim only mosque is the largest in Marrakech and a landmark to check out. The pink stone of the building adds beauty to the already pink city and come sun down, floodlights light it up which becomes a cool spot to stop and chill.
Last but not least, eat, eat and eat – read on below…
BEST PLACES TO EAT
At your Riad – Our first dinner in Marrakech was part of our accommodation package and yum this shouldn’t be overlooked. A wonderfully cooked meal by the team in your Riad, this was traditional Moroccan food done well. DELISH.
Nomad – A pretty popular wee spot for lunch or dinner, we booked one night and were in love straight away. Less traditional, more of an Instagram hot spot, the food portions were big, the date milkshake was YUM and it was good to eat a dirty lamb burger after so many Moroccan tajines.
Cafe Atay – The BEST spot for lunch after a morning spent haggling your way through the souks. Go all the way up to the top terrace to take in the view of the Marrakech skyline. We came here with a group of 6 and spent a few hours just chilling, eating and ordering mint tea. The chicken sandwich was epic, as was the muesli and fruit but mostly the setting and the view made this place special.
Café Des Épices – Again head right up to the terrace and enjoy a great dinner. Burgers and tangines this place can’t be missed.
Cafe Clock – A bit of a mission to get to, but with the help of the “petit taxis” totally doable, Cafe Clock is new to Marrakech, but loved by many in Fes. The camel burger is something different to try for sure! Oh and the milkshakes too!
Plaza Jemaa El-Fnaa – Many people feast at the incredible amount of food stalls in the main square Jemaa El-Fnaa. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t feeling so adventurous after struggling with bad tummies. Not keen to trust any more side-of-the-road stalls, we didn’t actually spend a lot of time here. Many people do get amongst so as I’ve been told, is deffs an experience.
BEST PIECES OF ADVICE?
Here are some useful tips & tricks that might help you along the way:
- When bartering with store owners, offer a price 1/3 of the original
- Get used to saying “NO THANKYOU” as the haggling can sometimes feel overwhelming
- Before buying something at the first shop you see, have a look at a few others. You’ll see differences in both quality and prices
- You can buy a local Moroccan simcard from any store that says “TELECOM MAROC”
- You will inevitably get lost in the Medina but thats half the fun. Maps on iPhone don’t even show the little streets
- Before jumping in a taxi, agree to a price with the driver first
- Woman dress appropriately – I always had my knees and shoulders covered but I did see people with shorts & singlets
- Take toilet paper everywhere – most toilets (even in the restaurants) had none
- Hand sanitiser is your new friend
- If you’re experiencing tummy cramps etc – cumin and honey does the trick…sort of…well it helps a bit
So Marrakesh, what a chaotic & magical experience you are. With so much more to see and do during your visit, I hope this guide gives you some excitement for your upcoming trip or just some inspo to one day go. We loved this crazy pink city and will be back one day for sure 💕
Leah | FREE & ADDICTED
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