It may not be the capital of Morocco nor the largest city, but Marrakech is seen by many to be the unofficial cultural center of the country. The “Red City” (named for the color of the walls in its old town district) is rich with culture and artisans. Considered the hub of Morocco, offering some of the most breathtaking architecture, delicious food, and shops selling all the unique Moroccan wares that you are looking for, Marrakech is the most popular tourist destination in Morocco.
Where is Marrakech?
Marrakech is the 4th largest city in Morocco. It is located west of the foothills of the Atlas mountains. The city was one of Morocco’s four Imperial cities, and now it has established itself as a cultural, religious, and trading center for the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. Jemaa el-Fnaa is the busiest square in all of Africa!
What to do and see in Marrakech ?
Your best bet for exploring the city is to start on foot. Wander down the curving streets, and take in the beautiful buildings, and stands filled with lanterns, rugs, and spices.
The city is divided into two districts: the old city (or Medina), with a more old-style world, relaxed atmosphere, and the modern area, Guéliz, which offers a bit more energy and high-end shopping. In Guéliz, you will find many big chain restaurants and shops like Mcdonald’s, Zara, Stradivarius, and Mango. This part of Marrakech is more westernized and not at all like the old city.
Jemaa el Fna, an ancient market square, is a focal point of Marrakech and is open day and night. During the day, stop here for fresh-squeezed orange juice and some dates. At night it really comes alive with street performers, entertainers, and musicians. The snack stalls are replaced with more substantial offerings.
Be prepared for performers to ask for money if you take their picture. If you get tired of the merriment, there are cafes along the edges of the square where you can relax and watch the festivities.
One particular place of interest is the Medrasa Ben Youssef. This is an Islamic college in Marrakech and is used today as an Islamic historical site. The beautiful architecture is something not to be missed.
Bahia Palace is another example of Moroccan architecture. The name means “brilliance,” and it certainly lives up to its name! Be sure to walk around the fantastic gardens.
There are many beautiful gardens in the city that you may want to visit. Majorelle Garden is another garden that is not to be missed. It is one of the country’s hotspots for tourism, due to the cobalt blue facades and its location is in the heart of the city. Get there early to avoid the crowds!
Learn a little bit about Moroccan history by visiting El Badi Palace. These are the ruins of the once majestic structure, constructed in the 1500s. It now houses a museum that you can visit to learn more about the city and country.
Maison Bagan, one of our artisans that makes beautiful trays, recommends Dar el Bachaa at Le Musée des Confluences, another beautiful palace in the Medina.
You may think visiting tombs would be morbid, but it’s quite fascinating and a look into history from a unique perspective. The Saadian tombs were not discovered until 1917.
These are tombs dating from the 16th century, and they house the bodies of around sixty members of the Saadian dynasty, a Sharifian Arab dynasty that ruled Morocco between 1549 and 1660. They spared no expense, decorating with imported Italian Carrara marble and gold.
The beauty of the tombs is breathtaking. It is not a long visit so you can easily fit it into your day, although there may be a line to the mausoleum, as the passages only have room for 2 people at a time. The garden plots are also worth a visit.
If you are more adventurous, take a trip into The Jbilets desert, a stunning area that looks like a moonscape. You can take a buggy ride, ride on a camel, or even go in a hot air balloon!
Where to Eat in Marrakech
If you are looking for a typical Moroccan restaurant in Marrakech try Restaurant la Famille.
For more contemporary cuisine, go to Nomad. This restaurant has a wonderfully decorated interior, friendly staff, and good food. They also have rooftop dining with a magnificent view of the souks.
In the same genre, the Grand Café de la Poste, located in Guéliz, is a place where you will eat very well.
Maison Bagan recommends a couple of restaurants. Le Jardin Du Lotus is a beautiful place with dusty pink walls and organic, Mexican-inspired cuisine.
Le Jardin Marrakech is a cafe/restaurant in the Medina. Tucked behind old walls, you’ll find an oasis of lush greenery and delicious food.
Did you know that Marrakech was one of the top-ranked places for street food by CNN? Once you’ve been in the city for a couple of days, take your adventure to the Jemaa El Fna square and try kebabs, escargot in a spicy broth, and more unique delicacies.
Finally, the last address to eat is the Dolce Vita in Marrakech: La Trattoria. The restaurant welcomes you in one of the last Art Deco villas, in the heart of Guéliz, decorated by the famous architect Bill Willis. Choose to have lunch in the pretty garden or dine by the pool for a romantic moment. The "Art Deco Bar"; and the "Garden Lounge" are also pleasant and will extend your experience.
What to Buy and Where to Shop
You can find pretty much anything in Marrakech. Be prepared to browse through tiny shops and markets, and get ready to haggle prices.
In the Medina, you will wander the winding streets, finding souks (markets) for shopping. Here you can purchase spices, lanterns, pottery, leather items, and more. The haggling is intense here - be prepared to offer ¼ the price that is asked initially, and stand firm (but with a smile). Have a list of shops to visit, so you don’t waste time at the less favorable ones.
Outside of the souk, there are many shops worth visiting. Go to Au Fil d’Or for kaftans, tunics, and jackets. Bazar Jouti has well-priced carpets. El Abidi Nasser Eddine is an antique and jewelry market for a distinctive clientele.
In Guéliz, the new city, many of Marrakech’s best shops are found on its main street, Avenue Mohammed V, as well as a few piazzas such as Place de la Liberté, Place 16 Novembre and Place Abdelmoumen, Ben Ali.
Of course, we offer many items from Marrakech that you can order and have delivered to your home.
Visiting Marrakech is a treat for all your senses.
From the majesty of the Atlas mountains to the explosion of greenery and flowers in its many gardens, Marrakech will capture your spirit. Take time to plan your trip, so you get to see your top destinations. It’s easy to spend 3 or 4 days in the city, and even then, you will not be able to see everything.