Beautiful souks and markets, stunning architecture, and a very drunk driver. This was my recent experience in Marrakech. Having been to Morocco twice in the past year, I have gotten many questions about traveling to and staying in Marrakech. Instead of responding to each individual person with extensive details, I decided to put together a blog post giving you guys a complete travel guide for your next trip to stunning Morocco!
Flying into Marrakech:
It was nearly 1AM when we landed in Marrakech. No cell phone service and no SIM card vendors in sight, we had to wing it. Something didn’t seem right about our taxi driver, but exhausted from a four hour flight without many other transportation options, we hopped in the taxi and asked him to take us to our Riad.
“You speak english?” was the first thing he asked. Of course, we said yes. He followed up with a “Welcome to Marrakech!” How sweet. Except he said this four times. That was when we realized he completely intoxicated. My family nervously looked at each other and laughed it off. Thankfully, the Riad was only ten minutes away.
First, he almost backed into the taxi parked immediately behind him. After a verbal altercation, the taxi driver behind us let us out of our parking space. What a start to our vacation!
Binish’s Travel Tip #1: Always be smart when traveling and make sure to take a flight that will get you to your destination at a reasonable hour, whether Marrakech or anywhere else. It is very difficult to coordinate transportation past midnight. You also don’t have the flexibility to be picky. Have the exact address of your hotel handy because most taxi drivers will not know where your hotel is from the name.
Transportation around Marrakech:
Because our hotel was situated in the Medina, we walked almost everywhere we visited. It was the most convenient and reliant form of transportation. On occasion, we did take a touk touk when we were too tired to walk back. The touk touk was very cost effective and could travel up and down the tiny alleys so we were dropped off right at the door of our Riad.
If you’re staying near the markets or Medina, it might be difficult to flag down a taxi or they may just not fit into the small streets.
Binish’s Travel Tip #2: It’s worth paying a bit more to be centrally located. You’ll make the money back when you’re not paying for cabs everyday, and you’ll be able to get some steps in while exploring the city on foot!
Both times I visited Marrakech, it was for about four days. This was more than enough time to visit all of the attractions and get some shopping done.
Binish’s Travel Tip #3: Unless you plan on visiting other cities or doing an overnight desert trip, you don’t need more than three or four days here.
If you do plan on leaving Marrakech to visit other sites, there are a lot of amazing organized tours you can book. A lot of companies are set up near Jemaa el-Fnaa and can offer you great discounts and advice. Remember to negotiate prices for everything – everything is ALWAYS negotiable!
Attractions and Things to do:
1. Jemaa el-Fnaa. This is the main square in Marrakech used by both locals and tourists. Charming and magical, you will be transported into a different time when you enter the square. You’ll see everything from snake charmers to dancers and henna artists setting up shop.
Binish’s Travel Tip #4: Unless you’re willing to pay for every interaction you have in this square, it’s best to keep to yourself in here.
We had some pretty interesting experiences here that we did not sign up for and ended up paying for anyway. The snake charmers wanted us to pay for watching as we walked by. A man placed two monkeys on my dad’s shoulders and then demanded that we pay him for photos even though we didn’t take any. These unsolicited interactions come at a price so beware unless you are genuinely interested in engaging. That includes asking for directions..
Binish’s Travel Tip #5: DON’T ask anyone for directions unless you are willing to pay them to show you the way.
Showing lost tourists the way was the number one way of making some extra money, according to a local we met. While there is nothing wrong with this, it does get frustrating when you DON’T need directions and people latch onto you, insisting that you are going the wrong way. We did pay a few locals when we were lost or cell phone service was patchy. If someone is going out of their way to help you, and you know they expect money in return, you should pay them.
2. Souks. The edge of the square will lead you into the beautiful markets and shops where you can buy gorgeous trinkets and souvenirs. My favorite shops were the light and lantern shops with the amazing storefronts that you have probably seen all over instagram.
Binish’s Travel Tip #6: Ask for permission when taking photos of the beautiful storefronts.
Some shop owners throw a fit when you take photos with their items or storefront. If you are going to take photos anyway, they prefer that you pay them. You can also buy something from the shop for photo privileges. I bought a beautiful tea set (I was going to buy one anyway) and got to take photos for free! And speaking of shopping..
Binish’s Travel Tip #7: Everything is negotiable! Never pay the first price you are given, or even the second or the third. I always tell them I can only afford half of what they initially quote me, sometimes even less than that. From there, the fun game of negotiating begins.
3. Le Jardin Majorelle. Beautiful and peaceful, you’ll find so many amazing bit of nature here. It’s so serene and you could probably spend hours here just walking around the garden in self-reflection.
Binish’s Travel Tip #8: If you plan on visiting Le Jardin Majorelle, go early in the morning otherwise you will not be able to enjoy all this place has to offer when its crawling with tourists.
It was impossible for me to take even one decent photo here because there were so many people running around. It was also not very enjoyable to compete with the hundreds of tourists to find a place to sit down and soak in the beautiful surroundings.
Address: Rue Yves St Laurent By A-Maps? Marrakesh 40000, Morocco
Cost: 70 Dhs (~$7)
4. El Badi Palace. This was one of my favorite places to visit. It was so grand, beautiful and very peaceful. We went at 4pm (they close at 5pm) so we did not see many people there. There were so many beautiful corners to explore. It was any instagrammer’s dream location for that amazing shot.
Binish’s Travel Tip #9: Do not go downstairs to where the orange trees are. We didn’t see any signs there, but it is not allowed and you may get escorted out.
Binish’s Travel Tip #10: DO explore all of the corners and areas of this place. It is a bit of a maze with lots of hidden beauty, you just have to spend the time to find it all!
Address: Ksibat Nhass, Marrakech 40000, Morocco
Cost: 10 Dhs (~$1)
5. Bahai Palace. Another beautiful location for photos, this one was extremely crowded when we visited. This was my least favorite place not just because of the crowds, but I just felt that it was a bit overrated. I think you can find similar beauty anywhere else in Marrakech. That being said, if you are going to visit, make sure to get there early enough to enjoy the beauty before the tourists rush in.
Address: Avenue Imam El Ghazali, Marrakech 40000, Morocco
Cost: 10 Dhs (~$1)
6. Le Jardin Secret. If you are tight on schedule and can’t visit the two palaces listed above, I think Le Jardin Secret is a great alternative. It has beautiful Moroccon tiles throughout the garden. It is also incredibly peaceful for being in such a central location. They also have a small cafe where you can enjoy some mint tea and snacks while you soak in your beautiful surroundings.
Binish’s Travel Tip #11: Enjoy some mint tea and delicious french fries here! I have to get fries everywhere I go and the ones here were surprisingly delicious!
Address: 121 Rue Mouassine, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco
Cost: 30 Dhs (~$3)
7. Koutoubia Mosque. This mosque is absolutely stunning, especially in the evening when the sky turns orange and pink. The call to prayer (azan) five times a day puts the whole city in awe and everyone is at peace. It is a MUST visit.
Binish’s Travel Tip #12: Across the road from the mosque, there are lots of cafes and ice cream shops with the perfect views of the sun setting behind the mosque. We sat there for hours and listened to the azan while munching on snacks. It was a perfect evening!
Address: Medina Jamaa El Fenna, Marrakech 40000, Morocco