Marrakech is an ancient but cosmopolitan city in Morocco, full of life. Religious, cultural and economic center of its region, it is also famous for its open-minded people.
The medina is the old city and extends within the mud walls that gave Marrakech the nickname of the Red City. It is characterized by its network of narrow and winding streets, with markets and bazaars that operate at a frenetic pace. Modern quarters surround this old town, giving the city a more contemporary feel.
Marrakech is situated in the shelter of the Atlas Mountains. The chaos of the markets coexists with the serenity of the spas and green areas that are located in the surroundings. There are still many gardens, such as those of La Menara and Majorelle.
- Top 5 reasons to visit Marrakech
- What to do in Marrakech
- When to visit Marrakech
- How to get to Marrakech
- Where to stay in Marrakech
- How to get around Marrakech
- Cost of living in Marrakech
- Where to eat in Marrakech
Top 5 reasons to visit Marrakech
Example of the golden age of the Berber Empire
Marrakech is one of the four capitals of the former Berber Empire of Morocco, which ruled since the eleventh century. Today, some monuments from that glorious era are still preserved, such as the walls built in 1122 or the Koutoubia Mosque of 1199.
Shopping in the souks
The Semmarine souk and Rue Mouassine are examples of the magical world of traditional bazaars in the medinas. To the north of the Place de Yamaa el Fna you will find souks where you can buy everything: carpets, clothes, silverware, leather, antiques, etc.
As a crossroads between Berber, Arab, Andalusian and Mediterranean cultures, Marrakech’s gastronomy is rich and tasty. Couscous is the basis of everything, along with olive oil and spices such as mint, cinnamon or ginger. Some traditional dishes are the tajín, a meat stew with spices in an earthenware dish, or the pastilla, a puff pastry with meat.
Relaxation in a spa
The spas or hammams are traditional baths in Marrakech that are still used today for relaxation, well-being and beauty. They are available in luxury hotels and riads, but you will also find public baths such as the Hammam Dar el-Bacha, the largest in the city. However, there are often restrictions on entry.
Marrakech is located in the north of the Atlas Mountains, where you can go hiking and even skiing in winter. To the south is the valley of the Ourika River, a highly recommended place for excursions in nature.
What to do in Marrakech
Immerse yourself in Jemaa el Fna and its spectacular life
In the vibrant Jemaa el Fna square you will discover the true social life of the city. Its ubiquitous vendors offer food, orange juice, henna tattoos, etc. You will also find amazing trades, such as fortune tellers or snake charmers.
Getting lost in the medina
The great medina of Marrakech is a real labyrinth full of alleys, which seems to go back several centuries, with souks and traditional tanneries. Don’t miss the Madrasa Ben Youssef, an ancient school with spectacular architecture and decoration.
Take a break in the Jardin Majorelle
Garden and museum at the same time, the Majorelle Garden has 12 hectares and a beautiful native flora surrounding the cobalt blue walls. It is also home to a great variety of bird species. Here is the Museum of Islamic Art of Marrakech, with masterpieces of local art.
Visit the Bahia Palace
In the Bahia Palace, built in the 19th century, the Islamic architecture reaches a spectacular level. Its beautiful symmetry of mosaics and engravings will enchant you, as it did its inhabitants: the grand vizier and his harem composed of countless women. The El Badi Palace is another unmissable monument, even older than the Bay Palace.
Explore the Toubkal National Park
Berber communities have inhabited the intricate valleys of the Atlas since time immemorial. Dare to go on a hiking tour from Imlil that will lead you through villages where time seems to have stopped. And if you are a more demanding mountaineer, the summit of Toubkal, the highest in North Africa, will be an interesting goal to set yourself.
When to visit Marrakech
Marrakech has a semi-arid climate, with a huge temperature variation between day and night. In July and August, temperatures can easily exceed 40ºC during the day, so it is not the most advisable period to travel to the city. Spring and autumn are, with more pleasant averages, around 25 ºC. Please note that if you visit Marrakech during Ramadan, daytime activity will be drastically reduced.
How to get to Marrakech
Marrakech-Menara International Airport (RAK) is located about 10 kilometers from the medina. There are direct flights from the main European capitals, although connections from America usually stop over in Casablanca. A taxi ride to the centre should not exceed 120 درهم. Bus 19 also takes you to the city, the ticket costs 30 درهم.
The central station, called Gare de Marrakech, is served by direct lines from Casablanca, Tangier or Fez by the ONCF company. From the capital of Morocco, Rabat, the price of the cheapest ticket is around 127 درهم.
Marrakech is connected to the rest of Morocco by major roads and highways, such as the N8 and N9. The A7 is the fastest road from Casablanca, which also reaches Agadir.
are CTM, Pullman du Sud and Supratours. Buses from cities such as Rabat, Fez, Tangier, Agadir and Casablanca arrive at the large bus station of Bab Doukkala. From the latter, tickets are available from 90 درهم.
Where to stay in Marrakech
Marrakech offers rooms in picturesque riads in the medina, i.e. traditional houses around a central courtyard. One example is the Riad Amira Victoria, where a room costs just over 500 درهم per night. But it is also possible to book all-inclusive luxury stays at the Pullman Resort and Spa, whose rooms cost up to 2000 درهم.
At the opposite end of the scale, the cheapest rooms are offered by 1 or 2 star hotels, such as the Hôtel Narjisse, with an average price of 380 درهم per night.
Popular districts in Marrakech
The medina. It’s the real heart of the city. Declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, it is full of life with its monuments, mosques, cafés and craft shops. Next to it is the Mellah, the old Jewish quarter.
Gueliz. It is, without a doubt, the most renovated face of Marrakech. Here you can find the Royal Theatre and the new train station, as well as the Majorelle Garden and the Museum of Islamic Art.
Hivernage. Another district with a modern air located in the Ville Nouvelle district, where you will find night clubs and the city’s trendy restaurants. Many of the luxury hotels are located precisely here.
How to get around Marrakech
By public transport
The company in charge of managing the city’s public bus network is the Spanish company Alsa. The standard fare for a ticket is 4 درهم. However, there are 24 and 48 hour tourist tickets at affordable prices.
Grand taxi fares are negotiable through classic bargaining. You may find several drivers who want to take you at the same time, so you will have to bring out your best negotiating skills. The petit taxi, for urban use, does have a meter, although sometimes it “doesn’t work” and its driver will try to negotiate. The normal flag drop is around 7 درهم, the same cost as the price per kilometre.
You will find rental cars in companies like Sixt or Medloc Maroc. In Marrakech you will pay about 190 درهم a day for a compact vehicle. But be patient and careful, because Moroccan roads are often chaotic.
Cost of living in Marrakech
In addition to the lively souks of the medina, you will discover modern shops along Avenue Mohammed V in Gueliz. The large Carré Eden shopping centre and the Menara Mall are also located there. Another modern option is Al Mazar, near the Agdal Gardens, with theatres and children’s areas.
Food and others
The main supermarket chains in Marrakech are Metro, Marjane, Carrefour and Aswak Assalam, all reasonably priced: a dozen eggs can cost about 14 درهم. Also very common are the street shops where basic products such as oil, flour or sugar are sold.
Where to eat in Marrakech
In Marrakech you can eat like a king, with affordable multi-course menus. Al Fassia, run by women, offers traditional Moroccan dishes such as tajines, with prices from 140 درهم per person. Gastro MK, in the medina, offers a more European experience with five dishes, at a price that is also more European: 650 درهم per person.
And if you want to eat something on the fly, you can do it in establishments like the Bakchich Café, with salads or sandwiches for 15 درهم.