Don’t have much time in Marrakech? Here’s an express guide to the city
Morocco has been on my travel radar for a while now, after hearing great things about it from several friends who have visited over the past few years. So when the chance to step foot on the African continent for the first time in my life came up, it’s no surprise that I jumped on that opportunity like a subway rat on a slice of pizza.
How to get to Marrakech and how to get around
Because we only had a week in Morocco and planned on spending a few days by the coast in Taghazoute, we opted to skip Casablanca and head directly to Marrakech. Getting to Marrakech from Hong Kong was no easy feat; two long-haul flights and a long drive from the Casablanca airport later, we arrived at our beautiful riad, Riad Dar Mouassine, in the heart of the medina (not before being scammed out of $20 by a hoodlum who led us through the winding paths to find the hotel. Note to self: use the phone’s GPS function more). Depending on where you live, it may be easier to fly directly to Marrakech instead of Casablanca.
We rented a car at the airport in Casablanca, and I would highly recommend this option if you are planning on visiting a few different cities – the highways are brand new and very easy to navigate if you have a local SIM card (which you can pick up at the airport) and Google Maps. Tip: take a few photos of the rental car before you drive off to document existing scratches and dents.
Looking for the best prices for rental cars around the world? Click here to book your rental car in Marrakech. Bookings can be cancelled or amended if your plans change!
Parking within Marrakech is a 7/10 on the pain-in-the-ass scale as parking is limited and streets are narrow and busy: some shop owners will rent out the space in front of their shop or there are informal “car parks” scattered around outside the Medina. Ask around to find the closest parking spot, and expect to pay around 50 Dirham for the day or overnight (approx $5 USD). While we did not encounter any issues with parking, take all of your belongings and valuables with you.
Within Marrakech, it’s relatively easy to walk from place to place or hop in a taxi – make sure you negotiate and agree on the price before the ride!
Where to stay in Marrakech
My advice? Skip the major hotel chains and head to the medina as it is chock-full of beautiful riads with stunning courtyards and gardens. We stayed in two sister riads during our two nights in Marrakech: the Riad Dar Mouassine, and the Riad Palmier.
Both riads were equally stunning and had sun-soaked roof terraces where we sipped on our morning coffees and orange juice (Moroccan coffee = to die for). Click here to book your stay at Riad Dar Mouassine and here to book your stay at Riad Palmier.
What to pack for Marrakech
Ladies, this one’s for you. The key is to use common sense. It can get hot during the day, but luckily it’s a dry heat so much more bearable than humid climates: t-shirts, comfortable trousers (joggers FTW), jumpsuits, thin cardigans, and maxi dresses or long flowy skirts are perfect for walking around Marrakech. Bring a thin scarf to drape over your shoulders so they aren’t exposed, and leave the low cut tops and short skirts at home.
It does tend to get quite chilly in the morning and in the evenings, so bring a sweater or hoodie. In line with the “common sense” theme of packing, bring a small cross-body shoulder bag or handbag that you can zip up to keep your valuables safe.
Things to do in Marrakech
Wander and weave around the souk; it’s an experience in and of itself, even if you leave empty-handed. There are hundreds of storefronts selling anything from argan oil to beautiful Moroccan tiles, and whilst I had gone in half expecting to have to elbow my way past pushy salesmen, the souk seems to have mellowed over the years and pricing is clearly displayed in most storefronts (though still negotiable – don’t feel as though you need to settle on the first price you’re offered).
During the day, Jamaa El-Fna, the main square in the medina, is hustling and bustling with rows upon rows of juice trucks (each and every one selling orange juice) and snake charmers; head upstairs to one of the many second story or rooftop restaurants to sip on some sweet mint tea and people-watch. By night, the square fills up with dozens of pop-up food stalls (try the mini sausages and peppers) and local Moroccans huddle around traditional storytellers reciting and acting out animated tales and fables. Looking for more expert tips on what to eat (and avoid) in Marrakech? Check out this article!
If you have a few hours to spare, indulge in a visit to a traditional Moroccan hammam. If you’re comfortable with hot saunas and some nudity (hello paper g-strings), you’ll love sitting in the hammam as you’re scrubbed down and lathered in argan oil, leaving your entire body baby smooth. After an hour or so in the hammam, treat yo’ self to a long massage. We visited the Rosa Bonheur Hammam and had a great experience there, but do call ahead as the top spas in Marrakech do book up quickly.
Marrakech is a multi-dimensional city to visit, and any photographer’s dream. Our two-day stay in Marrakech was, in my opinion, the perfect amount of time to spend there. There’s a lot we didn’t get to do this time around, but I’d go back in a heart beat and also venture over to Casablanca, Fez, Essaouira and Chefchaouen; at least we got a first taste of what the country has to offer (although I can’t physically stomach another tagine).
Have you been to Marrakech? What was your favorite thing to do there? Share the details with me in the comments section below!
Next up: Driving down to Taghazoute by the coast to get our surf on. Check out my Instagram for more photos!
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