A city trip to Marrakech takes you into another world full of color, flavor, fragrance and rich culture. Of course, it is wonderful to walk through the souks, to (dis)wander and let all the senses work, but the city has more attractions. Stroll through the old town, the Medina and thus visit the souks, walk to the large Jemaa el Fna Square, visit Jardin Majorelle in the Guéliz district, rest on one of the many rooftops, admire the architecture of the Koranic school Medersa Ben Youssef, visit one of the many museums and mosques, and if you have time take a trip to the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. For a city trip, you can certainly have fun in Marrakech for 4 days.
Medina and souks
The old town of Marrakech, the Medina, consists of many small streets and alleys that cannot even be found on Google Maps. Chances are, the first time around, you’ll quickly lose track of where to go. Memorize a few fixed points and you will find that after a few times you will soon know which direction to walk. Also, look around you especially for the atmosphere and culture that the Medina exudes.
Souks are often the most cool places to be. Like the souks in Jerusalem, the souks in Marrakech are wonderful places to wander, taking in all the smells and colors and feasting your eyes on the beautiful carpets, lamps, pottery, the colors of the spices and the beautiful textiles. Bargaining is not out of the question here, however, so keep this in mind if you see something beautiful that you do want. You can find many negotiating tips on the Internet, but above all keep in mind for yourself what you would like to spend. Keep that amount in mind as you negotiate, and also compare prices from different places. Many sellers will always want to ask you to come and see. That can feel like you need to buy something too or negotiate, but often the sellers also just like it when you pay attention and show interest in their wares. Look at the items calmly and then thank them kindly if you don’t find anything you want and walk on quietly. No hard feelings. The atmosphere and the cozy streets mean that you can spend hours in a souk.
TIP: In Morocco and also in Marrakech, tourism is an important source of income. There is a great culture of negotiation and an attempt to gain from every favor. That means it’s best not to respond to people who want to give you directions or unsolicited advice. They will always ask you for money after that and keep pushing. Thank kindly once, then walk away and ignore it.
Jemaa el Fna Square
Jemaa el Fna Square in the middle of the city is not to be missed. From the souks you often walk out onto it. The square is surrounded by restaurants and cafes, and is filled with stalls in the evening. You’ll find snake charmers, street performers, women doing henna, animal acts and lots of people. You’ll look your eyes out, but be sure to watch your stuff and don’t let yourself be persuaded to do or buy anything. Stay nice, but clear. There are many stalls in the middle of the square where you can eat the most delicious things, so plenty of choice.
From the square you can also walk very easily to the side streets and others smaller squares nearby. There you will find many restaurants with a rooftop where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a while. Prices vary greatly and you will obviously pay more in the places close to the center. But they are wonderful places to watch the sunset and see how the quiet lives on.
This district in the city dates back to the time when the French began to rule in Morocco. They built their own district of Guéliz just outside the center, where European influences are still noticeable today. In both architectural style and prices, you’ll imagine yourself back in Europe for a while, with wide boulevards, and large and modern buildings. Behind one of the walls in this district is the botanical garden of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, Jardin Marjorelle. In the garden you will not only find colorful buildings, there are also plants and trees planted from 6 different continents. A quiet, but very popular oasis in the middle of the neighborhood. If you really want peace and quiet in the garden then it is best to come as early in the morning as possible. During the course of the day, you can expect to get in a line. Admission to the garden costs about €6.50 and you can certainly enjoy yourself there for at least 2 hours. Tickets can also be reserved online in advance at the Jardin Marjorelle website, where combination tickets with, for example, the museum are also possible. The garden is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. with the last visitors being let in until 5:30 p.m.
Koranic school Medersa Ben Youssef
This 14th century and originally the most important Koranic school in North Africa no longer serves as a Koranic school, but it does have beautiful architecture that can be viewed. Also, this place is a popular spot and the times at the beginning or just at the end of the day are the least crowded. During our visit to Marrakech, the school was unfortunately closed for a large-scale renovation and it should reopen in 2020. It is not yet clear to us whether this is the case.
The Atlas Mountains and the Sahara
We traveled to Marrakech in December and were in the Sahara Desert for New Year’s Eve. A trip outside the city is definitely recommended, as the region around Marrakech is beautiful. The rugged Atlas Mountains followed by the sand hills of the Sahara bring you back to another world. Space, views and vast plains with lots of sand, but also the most beautiful sunsets. It can get very cold in the desert so keep that in mind with your clothing. Even in summer, it can cool to below 10 degrees Celsius. But at night you are accompanied by a sky with thousands of visible stars, a special experience. We traveled with a tour from Get Your Guide because we had limited time and this way we could still get to places we wanted to go. The tour cost €110.00 per person, for 3 days, including 2 nights in a hotel and Bedouin tent in the middle of the desert, breakfast, dinner, transportation, tours of the towns of Ouarzazate and Merzouga and visit to the Aït-Ben-Haddou film setin Tinghir. In a short time you see a lot, and celebrating New Year’s Eve abroad is a must anyway.
From & to the center
This also applies to the moment you land in Marrakech. Most hotels are located in the Medina, which is largely pedestrianized. That means you often can’t be taken all the way to your hotel, the last bit is to be walked. An alternative is a hotel outside the Medina, as often you can walk to the city center from there. It is best to arrange your private transportation from the airport in advance, either through your hotel or booking a pickup. If you come by car, you can find secure parking just outside the Medina.
TIP: Also, before you leave the airport, try to make sure you withdraw money at the airport. Finding an ATM in the Medina is difficult and there is a chance that boys on the street will walk with you and ask or give unsolicited advice in exchange for money.