Hi everyone, my name is Roberta Coassin (@passport_in_my_hand) and welcome to my travel guide on the best things to do in Marrakech. I was born and raised in a town in the Northeast of Italy called Udine. I grew up in a big family with two sisters and a brother – all of them older than me.
Ever since I was little, I remember being different from my friends. In fact, I soon began to manifest a desire to explore the world. I was lucky because my family never limited my dreams. When I was a kid, I had the good fortune of being able to travel to exciting new places with my family.
My love for travel was also sparked from the documentaries I used to watch on TV, on various places around the world. I remember thinking, while watching the TV, that one day I would visit those beautiful destinations. So within me grew this curiosity to find out what the world was all about.
Today I get to travel the world with my boyfriend Massimo. He is the perfect travel buddy because we have the same ideas and want to discover the same things. I think it’s important to travel with someone you connect with so you can have experiences and create memories that last a lifetime.
Four Amazing Days in Marrakech
One amazing country that we visited recently was Morocco. This destination was on our bucket-list for a while. I remember seeing beautiful photos of Morocco on Instagram and deciding to visit. Besides that, I had never been to the desert and I couldn’t wait to experience this in Morocco!
Our trip started in Marrakech and what an introduction to the country! We stayed for four days in Marrakech and it was the perfect amount of time to explore the city. But if you have more time then that would be even better.
Marrakech is divided into two parts – the older section called the Medina and the newer section. The Medina is the heart of the city where you can discover interesting people and places. It’s all about losing yourself in the souks – traditional markets – because the streets create a labyrinth.
My Favourite Place in Marrakech: Bahia Palace
Marrakech is one of the most photogenic cities I have ever visited. If I had to choose my favourite place in the city it would be the Bahia Palace. It was opened in the year 1900 and is spread out across 20 acres of land. Bahia Palace is located southeast of the Medina and is easily reached on foot.
We went there early in the morning before the tourist crowds. In doing so, we were able to appreciate the palace in all of its majesty. From the intricate interior gardens, to the white fountains, to the typical Moroccan architecture – this palace made for plenty of photo opportunities!
Top 10 Things To Do in Marrakech
1. Get Lost in the Beautiful Medina of Marrakech
The Medina is the beating heart of the city. Getting lost will be just as easy as falling in love with this place. I think it’s one of the few places on earth where not even Google Maps can help you! You will get lost countless times down the narrow and winding streets. That’s the beauty of it.
2. Shop at the Souks of Marrakech
Discover a labyrinth of streets full of stalls at the various souks of Marrakech. At these places you can find shops selling spices, perfumes, handcrafts, clothes and souvenirs. You will find artisans at work and merchants ready to sell you anything. Arm yourself with one idea before going: bargaining!
3. Wander around Jemaa el-Fna Square
The central town square and a meeting place for locals and tourists alike. Jemaa el-Fna undergoes a transformation from day to night – giving the square ”two faces” as I like to call it. During sunlight hours, the square is stormed by tourists who very often end up victims of snake charmers.
In banal ways, they try to take money from the unfortunate. But at sunset the square transforms and becomes an open-air theatre where the actors are locals who improvise with games of fire and enchanting story-telling.
There are plenty of street food stalls where you can eat the unmissable tajine and other typical dishes. At Jemaa el-Fna square you can immerse yourself in an atmosphere of continuous festivities and celebrations. I recommend visiting during the day and night to see the contrast.
4. Discover the Beautiful Le Jardin Secret
Located in Mouassine, inside the medina, you will find (if you look carefully) the entrance to this garden. I don’t know the name of the location but I can assure you that it’s so well camouflaged that the entrance goes unnoticed. I guess the name “Le Jardin Secret” makes sense.
Entrance to the garden costs 60 dirhams or € 5.50. Upon entering, you will be catapulted into an oasis of peace. With amazing attention to detail, the garden inside has countless lush plants, several benches and sidewalks covered in mosaics. It makes for a relaxing afternoon visit.
5. Visit the Famous Jardin Majorelle
This is the most famous garden in the city and probably in all of Morocco. Jardin Majorelle is located outside the Medina – so if you are staying in the old city you will have to reach it by taxi. The garden, a combination of plants and colours, takes its name from the French Painter who built it in the 30’s.
It then became the residence of the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent who undertook a restoration of the garden. The designer was so enchanted by the place that once he died, his ashes were distributed in the rose garden. I recommend booking for this garden as it’s a popular place!
6. Marvel at the Bahia Palace Masterpiece
The Bahia Palace is surely one of the most important architectural buildings of Marrakech. Construction took more than a decade and was started with the intention of creating the most impressive palace in history.
This fact should entice you to visit and see for yourself! Inside you will find several courtyards and gardens. The palace is so incredible that along its corridors you will be transported to a different time than the 21st century.
7. Take Photos of the Koutoubia Mosque
Amazing! This is the first word that comes to mind when thinking of the Koutoubia Mosque. A place as sacred as this is always fascinating to see. The minaret stands in the sky from which the muezzin enchants the city with his words when it comes time to do the call to prayer.
Even if you don’t belong to the Muslim faith, the call to prayer is still a wonderful thing to experience. The Koutoubia Mosque is situated just 300 metres from Jemaa el-Fna, in an area with fantastic bars and restaurants.
8. Experience a Local Hammam (Spa)
Moroccan hammams consist of a wellness path where you wash yourself by pouring cold and hot water on your body and then conclude with a massage carried out with a back scrub and soap. The hammam (the real one) is not just a common massage but a real ritual of purification.
In Marrakech, you will find hamman centres where this art is practiced. However, I must point out that you will find many hammams that are similar to Western spas. Let’s just say if you want to immerse yourself in the purest tradition then you will have to go to a public hammam!
This is where the locals go and where tradition has it that washing and massaging are done on the ground. Women also have separate spas to men. The hygienic conditions of the latter made us turn towards the most comfortable and clean hammam: Isis Spa. I highly recommend them.
9. Admire the Architecture of Ben Youssef Madrasa
Unfortunately, we were aware of the closure of this place during our travel planning phase. There was a major renovation work in progress. Those who have visited it say that inside you can admire the highest expression of Arab-Andalusian architecture. For us it will be the reason for our next trip!
10. Rent a Car and Explore the Surrounding Areas
If you have time, rent a car and head outside the city. Wherever you end up you can’t go wrong! When Massimo and I were planning our three days outside of Marrakech we had no doubts about where we wanted to go. We pointed east towards the desert – the one and only Sahara Desert.
We had to cross the Atlas Mountains – a mountain range made up of red earth and canyons. It was a crazy trip! We were immersed in the Berber culture, stayed in beautiful kasbahs (typical houses) and met genuine people. Get out of Marrakech even just for the day if you can!
Immerse Yourself in the Culture of Marrakech
To immerse yourself in the culture of Marrakech the first thing to do is to stay in a riad inside the Medina. We stayed in two riads, one more beautiful than the other. Staying inside the Medina meant we met everyday people.
With some of the locals that we met, we had the chance to talk about their culture such as the various rituals and rules of Islam. A key point of our travel style is to always immerse ourselves as much as possible in the culture of the place we visit. We love nothing more than relating to locals.
We met people who were connected to the earth and especially to their religion. It was obvious to see the difference between the Moroccans in Marrakech versus the Berbers in the desert areas. The former have a very sales-related or interest-related approach to tourists and visitors.
Berbers, on the other hand, love to talk about their land and way of life. In many ways, Marrakech is just like other big cities around the world that rely on tourism. There is always some downside to these tourist places.
I advise you to stay away from the so-called fake guides. They are people who, without any expertise, approach you kindly and offer to help you find your way around in the maze of the Medina. They take you down closed streets and then ask you for money in a more confronting way than before.
But don’t worry! They tend to be harmless. Or rather, as far as we know, no tourist has ever had any serious problems apart from being annoyed and scammed a bit for some money. Just keep your wits about you, that’s all.
Incredible Food Scene of Marrakech
Another important thing for us is eating local food at a destination. And in Marrakech we were very satisfied. There are several typical Moroccan dishes to enjoy which depend on the area you are in. We really enjoyed perhaps the most typical dish of Morocco known as the tajine.
The tajine is a dish of Berber origin that is made with chicken, lamb, meatballs or vegetables. They are served in a traditional cone-shaped dish called Tajine where the meal completes its cooking. There are also other amazing dishes that deserve a mention such as couscous, pastilla, etc.
Whether in the morning, lunch, mid-afternoon or evening – it’s always the right time to enjoy some mint tea. Without a doubt the most consumed beverage in Marrakech and in Morocco in general. Drinking mint tea is a real ritual which follows precise rules. One of these is in the service.
When the tea is brought to the table, it’s poured several times into the glass and then put back inside the teapot. This is a very scenic procedure which allows the tea to cool down first. You can take amazing photos of the pouring done by the serves who can pour it down from great heights!
Staying in the Riads of Marrakech
The first piece of advice I would like to give is to stay inside the Medina. My second piece of advice is to choose a typical riad. This way you will fully appreciate the real Moroccan spirit. We stayed in two different riads.
The first one was called Riad Tamarrakecht. It’s run by an Italian girl who has been a resident of Morocco for years. She is married to a Moroccan boy. Riad Tamarrakecht is a beautiful riad complete with everything. The room was slightly small but clean. The common areas were charming.
Our second riad was called Monriad. This place is run by two Italian sisters. They have nice rooms with a bit more space. The highlight of the riad, without a doubt, was the common area characterised by a beautiful little pool decorated with flower petals and stunning Moroccan designs.
Favourite Memories from my Visit to Marrakech
Looking back on my time in Marrakech, I have two stand out moments. The first one was when we spent hours at a carpenter’s house. The man was carving us a coffee table we had commissioned. In addition to witnessing the carving, we had the honour of entering his home and talking with him.
We talked about a few issues and the only interruption was when the call to prayer occurred. It was lovely to meet this local carpenter. The second experience was the trip we took from Marrakech to Merzouga – located at the gates of the Sahara Desert. We took a journey of more than 600 km.
We crossed the Atlas Mountains and travelled along many dirt roads. It was a wonderful adventure that led us to see fantastic places such as the Dades Gorges, Todgha Gorges and finally to the infinite majesty of the Sahara.
Need to Know Before you Go
In addition to the advice given previously regarding where to stay, eat and visit – I recommend walking around Marrakech in order to be overwhelmed by the life on its streets. There are so many things to see on a long walk.
I also recommend learning at least a little bit about the Muslim culture and the history of Morocco. There are some things you can’t do in parts of Morocco like drink alcohol and wear revealing clothing. People won’t say anything if you walk around in shorts and a tank-top but they might stare.
These limitations in Marrakech and in Morocco should not be criticised but rather accepted as you are a visitor in an enchanting land full of wonderful people, places and cultures. Thanks for reading and enjoy your visit!