Marrakesh may be quite busy and hectic, but it’s indeed one of the most beautiful Moroccan cities. As soon as you step into its pink colored Medina (Old Town), you’ll realize there’s something pretty magical about it. Just around the corner of the endless, busy souks you’ll find the serene gardens of the riads (guest houses) and the towering cafe terraces with the most spectacular views. Getting lost in Marrakesh is pretty easy, but that’s the only way to truly explore it. Even if you have no more than one day in Marrakesh to spend, you shouldn’t miss it for a world!
What’s the best time to visit Marrakesh?
As one of the most touristic Moroccan cities, Marrakesh is busy all year around. And while it can be a great place to visit from autumn to the late spring, especially if you want to escape the cold European winters, you’ll better skip it during the summer. The summer temperatures can really go extremely high and the heat is almost unbearable.
Few facts about Marrakesh:
Even though Rabat is a country’s capital and Casablanca the biggest Moroccan city, Marrakesh holds the title of the most beautiful one. It’s known as a red (sometimes called pink) city, due to the bright red plaster that’s the trademark of the architecture in Marrakesh and the area around it. While the region was inhabited by Berbers since the Neolithic, the city was founded in 1062 by Abu Bakr Ibn Umar. In the 12th century many mosques and madrasas (schools) were built inside of the city walls. Today Marrakesh is the cultural, religious and tourist centre of the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa.
One Day in Marrakesh Itinerary:
Top things to do in Marrakesh, Morocco
Drink a fresh mint tea
Instead of a morning coffee, while in Marrakesh, start your day with a fresh mint tea. There’s no bar or a restaurant that doesn’t serve the mint tea, and even if your hotel offers breakfast, there will be the mint tea. Moroccans have the whole procedure of preparing a mint tea, so don’t be surprised when you see them pouring your tea from the pot that’s high above the glass – they do it to make the tea foam.
Visit the Majorelle Garden
Start your one day in Marrakesh at the Majorelle Garden, enchanting landscape garden made by a famous French painter Jacques Majorelle. Actually, it took him 40 years to make this garden look both lush and artistic as it looks today. The great collection of cactuses and the architecture painted in a bold cobalt blue color made the garden look pretty recognizable. Since 1980 it was owned by Yves Saint-Laurent, whose ashes were scattered there after his death in 2008.
It’s quite important to come as soon as the place opens as it can get pretty busy during the day and the huge crowds can pretty much ruin the whole magic of the gardens. Not to mention the queues later in a day. The place opens at 8am during the whole year, except during the month of Ramadan when it opens at 9am.
Relax at Atay Cafe
Great vibe, great food and amazing views of the city – Atay Cafe deserves to be visited even just for drinking a coffee or Moroccan mint tea. It’s nicely decorated and cozy on the ground floor, but their top terrace is definitely the best part of this bar. If you’re, hungry they have a range of the traditional Moroccan dishes on their menu. While their tajine is just good, their couscous and Moroccan salad are amazing. Don’t miss trying their cucumber fresh juice.
Explore the gardens of the Bahia Palace
The Bahia palace and its amazing gardens and fountains are one more must-visit while in Marrakesh. They are quite spectacular, full of the colorful ornaments and architectural elements common for the traditional Moroccan architecture. The palace was built from 1984-1900 designed by El Mekki, the Moroccan architect, on behalf of the Grand Vizier Ba Ahmed ben Moussa said Hmad. Only the best workmen and craftsmen of the country were working on this masterpiece of Islamic and Moroccan style. It’s an amazing place for capturing some great photos.
Check out El Badi Palace
The grandiose El Badi Palace that was commissioned by the Saadian king Ahmed El Mansour, will surely leave you with the high impressions. Even though some parts are left in ruins, it was the most luxurious palace in Marrakesh upon its construction at the end of the 16th century. The whole site is quite big, with the beautiful pavilions, gardens and the basins. Don’t miss a visit to its underground parts and finally visit the terrace on the left side of the entrance for the nice bird’s eye view of the city.
Check out the area around Koutoubia Mosque
Koutubia Mosque is the largest mosque in Marrakesh with the traditional Minaret tower built in almohad style, that became one of the main landmarks of Marrakesh. And while the mosque itself is not really opened to non-Muslim, you shouldn’t miss checking out the area around. Besides the square in the front of the mosque, there is a nice lush park on a side that is a great place to rest for a bit and people watch.
Spend some time on the Jemaa El Fna square
This lively square is surely the busiest place in the whole Marrakesh. There’s no such a thing you won’t find here. Food and spices stalls, souvenirs, storytellers, henna tattoo spots, snakes, monkeys and dozens of cafe bars and restaurants – it’s all there. As a tourist, expect a lot of attention from the vendors and keep in mind that everything they do they do it to sell the things their selling. The square is an amazing place for people watch, just get on one of the many terraces that are overlooking the square and enjoy the hectic but amazing atmosphere.
Drink a fresh fruit juice from the stalls
It’s hard to miss all of those fruit juice stalls on the Jemaa El Fna square. Orange, lemon, ginger, pomegranate, avocado, watermelon, strawberry and many other seasonal fruits make variety of juice options. It’s a great and super healthy refreshment, especially during the super hot days. However the orange juice is a must try and it costs only 4-5 dirhams (50 euro cents).
Relax at Le Salama Bar
Le Salama bar is a nice western bar, pretty close to Jemaa El Fna square is Salama bar. It’s a nice spot to drink some coffee, juices and even some alcoholic beverages (which is not easy to find in Marrakesh). They may seem quite expensive but they have a happy hour “2 for 1” that instead of an hour lasts during pretty much the whole day. It’s beautifully decorated and the view from the top floor is quite amazing.
Do some shopping in the Souk Semmarine and Rahba Lakdima Square
You’ll surely bump into many souvenir stalls along your way, but the best place to shop for Moroccan products are the souks. The best souk, so called Souk Semmarine can be found on the North-East end of the Jemaa El Fna square and it goes all the way to the Rahba Lakdima Square.
Anything from spices, clothes, jewelry, rugs and artworks can be found there. Make sure to shop for an argan oil and its beauty products as it is one of the best Moroccan products. Keep in mind that you MUST bargain, otherwise you’ll end up overpaying the stuff.
Check out the Iron works and leather souks
North of Souk el Maasi square you’ll find the Iron works and leather souks. As the name says it, they sell pretty much all the leather and iron made products you can find in whole Marrakesh. Whether you want to buy Babouche (Moroccan slippers), wallet, bag or a jacket that’s made of a real leather – you’ll find a wide selection of all those products here. Iron works souk offers some nice lamps and lanterns, teapots and jewelry.
Visit Ben Youssef Madrasa
Another amazing palace to visit is Madrasa Ben Youssef. It used to be an Islamic college and was named after the Almoravid sultan Ali ibn Yusuf . The college was closed down in 1960 and 20 years later it was reopened to the public as a historical site. The building is quite impressive cause of its plaster work, wood carvings and colorful zellige tilework. Don’t miss the student living quarters and the student rooms on the upper floor.
Buy at the fixed price at Ensemble Artisanal
If bargain truly isn’t your thing, make sure to visit Ensemble Artisanal with lots of different shops with the products at the fixed price. They may be 30% more expensive than the final price at the souks, but if you’re not good at bargain it’s still a great deal. It’s also a great place to escape the sun, since there are many small squares with the shades around the Artisanal.
Have a dinner at Café Arabe
While it surely isn’t the budget option, Cafe Arab still shouldn’t be missed cause of the amazing culinary experience. It’s also one of the few restaurants where you can order a bottle of wine. Their menu consist of a traditional Moroccan dishes prepared in a modern way, but they also have some Italian dishes on their menu. Don’t miss their eggplant salad – it’s really super delicious!
Where to stay in Marrakesh?
Marrakesh is home to the most beautiful and inspiring hotels, apartments, but most of all – riads. Riad is a traditional Moroccan palace with an interior courtyard with the fountain or a pool. With their stunning architecture and furniture, some of them really are one of the most impressive places to stay in the whole world. If you want to stay closer to all the attractions, choose those located in Marrakesh Medina.
Here’s the selection of the most beautiful riads and hotels in Marrakesh:
Located only 150m from Jamaa El Fna Square, Riad Kechamara offers panoramic views of the lively Medina. They serve traditional Moroccan breakfast each morning in the living room by the swimming pool or on the shaded terrace. Guests can also enjoy local Gnawa music and oriental dancing while dining.
El Fenn is a boutique Riad in a traditional former palace that combines grandeur and historic architecture with hideaway nooks, terraces and gardens. It’s only five minutes walk from Jemaa El Fna and it features a rooftop terrace with a pool and views of the famous Kotoubia Mosque. This riad has a collection of art, a piano bar and a spa.
Hotel & Spa Riad El Walaa
Hotel & Spa Riad El Walaa is another beautifully designed riad inside of the walls of the historical center – Medina. This riad provides a sun terrace and views of the pool, and services such as SPA and amazing dining experience.
Dar Rhizlane, Palais Table d’hôtes & SPA
Dar Rhizlane, Palais Table d’hôtes & SPA is a very nice retreat with the stunning decor and outdoor spaces. Beautiful pool area with the lush greenery is a great place to relax away from the busy souks, but it’s still quite close to the historical center.
Riad Be Marrakech
One of the top riads in the city, Riad Be Marrakech is one of the most inspiring examples of traditional architecture, design and decoration overall. It is located in the historical Medina, only 10 minutes from Jemaa El Fnaa square.
Extra tips for visiting Marrakesh:
As both male and female, it’s advised to dress modest while visiting Morocco. It doesn’t mean you need to be fully covered but it’s in culture to cover your knees and shoulders, and of course cleavage.
Insist on the taximeter
When taking a cab, make sure to insist on the taximeter. The ride around Medina usually costs no more than 10 dirhams. If you find it hard to find the driver that uses a taximeter, give no more than 20 dirhams. Keep in mind that their initial price would be more than 50 dirhams.
Use offline maps
There’s no way you won’t get lost while in Marrakesh. And while you can always ask locals for the directions, it’s not always a good idea since there are many people that will either ask for a money for helping you or just give you the wrong directions. Therefore, the best thing to do is to download the free offline map. One of the best offline maps services is definitely Maps.me, that’s available for both iOS and Android.
When it comes to bargain, the most important thing is that the both sides are satisfied with the final price. The initial price could be 2 to 10 times bigger than the final, but at the end all that matters is how much would you like to pay or how much that product is worth to you. If you’re fine paying 5 euros for a magnet, you can be sure the vendor will take that opportunity. Even though they are going to set up pretty high price, don’t make a mistake by setting up extremely low price cause they’ll easily get offended and maybe even won’t be talking to you anymore.
Rough prices of the Moroccan souvenirs that can help you with the bargain:
Pashmina scarf – 70-100 MAD, Babouche – 40 MAD, Magnets – 5 MAD, Imitation earrings – 5-20 MAD, Imitation necklaces – 20-40 MAD, Argan oil – 50 ml – 15-30 MAD, Leather wallets – 30-60 MAD
In case you have more than just One Day in Marrakesh check out Tripadvisor for detailed list of all the top things to do in Marrakesh.
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