Where can you drink mint tea with a mountain guide, haggle over jewellery with a friendly-faced street merchant and get up close with a snake charmer all in a few days? Well, Marrakech obviously; the Red City in the desert which transports you to a world of noise, heat and imitable charm. Here are our guide to Marrakech tours that you can’t miss!
Ideally mid-March to May (spring) or September to November (autumn) since summer in Morocco can be brutal, with temperatures soaring to 45C, that’s over 110F! Either way, do make sure you pack both summer and maybe some warmer clothes – if travelling into the mountains or overnight it can be pretty chilly, particularly if you’re out on a desert tour!
1) Experience Jemaa el-Fnaa
It’s the stuff of legends – a central square filled with hawkers, monkey tamers, snake charmers and musicians, all crammed into one chaotic, amazing space. Just watch out for the henna artists – they have a tendency to grab your arm (I was a victim!), draw their design on your skin and then demand an extortionate fee for a poor design. Although we did find them relatively negotiable on price.
2) Visit Villa Oasis and Jardin Majorelle
Just what it says on the tin – a garden and an oasis in central Marrakech. This bold garden houses the private residence of Yves Saint Laurent, and is worth a few hours walking around and taking a few snaps of its renowned blue home.
3) Drink mint tea in the Atlas Mountains
We’ve listed it third but this was our #1 experience in Morocco. Generally organised by your hotel or riad as a private tour (no need to book online), you travel 2-3 hours out of Marrakech into the mountains for a day trip. We hired two donkeys for the trek, since it was a little arduous, and it was well worth it. Stops can include a quiet waterfall, traditional tea with a Berber tea merchant on the top of the mountain (a must-do!), and lunch hosted in your guide’s home, giving you a very authentic Moroccan experience. It’s also ideal as a camel ride.
If you’re more keen on deserts than mountains, we would suggest venturing out of Marrakech and try desert camping in Morocco instead.
4) Bargain hard in the souks
Regardless of whether you are keen on shopping in Morocco, you have to visit the souks. It’s a maze of wares on show and if you are willing to barter, you’ll walk away with some hard-won but affordable gear. Try to go after midday and get lost in the warren.
5) Have a hammam
You might be familiar with them, but a hammam is a body treatment where you go into a steam room or bathhouse, and are scrubbed within an inch of your life! It’s an incredible (and slightly icky) experience, but something you’ll never forget. You can get one for a relatively inexpensive price in your neighbourhood (about 10 dirhams) but you’ll need to bring your own kit or ask your accommodation to help you. Alternatively, we’d recommend the Hammam Mouassine, one of the oldest and most authentic in town.
6) Pose for pictures at Bahia Palace
One of the masterpieces of Moroccan architecture, the 19th century palace is an Instagrammers dream. One of the best-preserved historical sites in Marrakech, the palace has numerous rooms and courtyards, as well as stunning gardens to explore.
For more details, check out this great photo guide to Bahia Palace!
Marrakech has options for all budgets – from cheap eats on the square to a luxurious night out. Want more than our recommendations? Try the Best Restaurants Maroc site which has a great searchable directory.
Your three must-have items for any Marrakech tours are mint tea, couscous and tagines.
1. Jemaa el-Fnaa
Yes, it makes it onto the list twice! During the day you’ll find a few food options and lots of orange juice stands but it’s truly at night that the square comes alive – think traditional tagines, delicious local pastries and an authentic food experience with rave reviews.
This restaurant makes it onto many Must Eat lists, for good reason. The rooftop restaurant provides a welcome respite from the chaos of the medina and offers up a modern take on Moroccan food (not just tagines and couscous!) using lots of delicious local meat and veggies.
3. Le Comptoir Darna
Got some money to burn? This incredible restaurant is worth a visit if you have the means to do so. Think tuxedo-clad doormen, chandeliers and a more European-style menu selection to salivate over. That said, the restaurant also offers up some entertainment: generally belly dancers and traditional music which is a great experience but could get a few people ‘hot under the collar’ since its pretty sultry. Don’t have the cash to cover dinner? Le Comptoir Darna is great for a pre-dinner cocktail.
4. Café Clock
A Moroccan institution since the original café is in Fez. We liked this café since it had great service, live music and even offers cooking classes. The menu is quite exotic – try the camel burger if you dare!
The ultimate thing to do in Marrakesh is to stay in a riad which is a traditional Moroccan house or palace, generally which has a stylish garden or courtyard. Here are a few of our favourite options…
Luxury – La Mamounia – it’s the ultimate place to stay, frequented by celebrities and influencers, for good reason. About 15 minutes from the heart of the city, and is known for being the stuff of Instagram dreams – hidden terraces, a breathtaking pool and a world-class spa.
Mid-range – Les Jardins de la Medina – we are probably biased but we absolutely loved our stay here. In the heart of the medina, Les Jardins has some very special touches that make it close to our hearts. From your welcome with mint tea and dates, to sunset dinner on the terrace and choosing your own ‘scent’ for your stay, we can’t recommend it enough!
Budget – Riad Matham – a good option without all the fuss. Its pretty small – only 6 rooms – but has air conditioning, a simple setup and a lovely roof terrace. Or, if you need an even cheaper option, consider Backpackers Grapevine, an award-winning hostel which even offers free breakfast!
|Local Time||UTC +1 hour|
|Tipping||Around 10% is standard in restaurants|
|Key Phrase||"Afek/ Shukran" Please/Thank you|
Some handy tips
Hygiene Helen – drink bottled water (even to brush your teeth if possible), take antibacterial gel and please don’t use the straws; there are rumours that they’re used more than once, but they’re also terrible for the environment.
Get lost – The streets are a little tricky to navigate and are not only confusing but generally full of people, animals and noise. While you could use trusty Google Maps, it’s best to memorise the route to your riad or accommodation.
The chicken that crossed the road – traversing the main streets can also be a little difficult, particularly near the square itself. Like other North African cities, the trick is to stick with a local! Stand next to them and cross when they do; else you might find yourself stuck on the side of the road, waiting for a gap…!
The best things in life aren’t free – when offering a service to you, most of the locals will expect a small fee. So think twice before asking directions (that local might expect to become your paid guide), or accepting a gift from a hawker, or taking a photograph of an artist.
Looking to explore beyond Marrakech? We love this 10 day itinerary for Morocco!
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