Marrakech is a city of two halves; the Old Town and the New Town, both are beautiful but they’re very different. In the chaotic Medina you’ll find Moroccan music, culture, food and architecture whereas the modern town offers a more Western atmosphere with designer shops and sophisticated restaurants.
With so much on offer, what should you see and do? Here is my list of the top 10 things to do in Marrakech…
1. Ride A Camel
Whether it’s a short camel ride in Palmeraie or a four day epic trek in Fez, it’s worth exploring your surroundings in Marrakech. I would definitely recommend enjoying a camel ride at sunset to get the most beautiful views. My camel was called Jamila and she was very friendly (but very easily distracted by eating nearby plants). After our ride we enjoyed some fresh mint tea with the guides and I had the opportunity to practice my French (in Morocco they speak Arabic and French)!
If you want to really experience the Sahara desert you can book tours that include a stay in an authentic Berber tent and home-cooked food around the campfire.
2. Trek In The Desert
The nearby Atlas Mountains provide a stunningly dramatic landscape to explore. On your journey you can visit the nomadic Berber tribes that live there. If you’re only staying in Marrakech for a few days then be sure to schedule a whole day for the Atlas Mountains. We planned our itinerary using the guide in my trusty Marco Polo Guide.
You can book trips on a daily basis from the city and visit places like Kasbah Ait Benhaddou, Ouarzazate and Todra Gorge. If you have enough time you can even spend a night in the Sahara under the stars at a Berber camp.
3. Shop In A Souk
The twisting paths and passageways of the souks can seem pretty scary but don’t worry, just follow your feet. Part of the fun is getting lost so enjoy the sights and smells of the markets and see where you end up. The souks are full of beautiful things (it’s a little bit like being in a big Anthropologie store and wanting absolutely everything) but avoid Jemaa el-Fnaa as it’s very touristy. We went magic carpet shopping on Rue Sidi el Yamani and I bought a handwoven rug for my home which is hanging as a tapestry on my wall.
Locals might offer to guide you places but beware as they’re likely to take you to their uncle’s spice shop or a tannery. Haggling is essential – offer half of what they suggest and negotiate from there. Go on… I believe in you.
4. Stay In A Riad
There are hundreds of Riads to choose from in Marrakech so choosing your oasis of calm in a city of hustle and bustle can be pretty. Instead of a modern hotel choose a traditional Riad for an authentic Moroccan experience.
‘Riad’ comes from the Arabic word for garden so they have stunning open courtyards at their centre. We stayed in Riad Palais Sebban which is a beautiful riad in a quiet (but amazingly central) part of town. My favourite thing about our accommodation was the roof terrace which was the perfect spot for relaxing with a drink and a good book in the evening.
5. Relax In A Spa
After a busy few days of sightseeing it’s the perfect time to relax at the spa. The Royal Mansour hotel has two beautiful pools and a stunning spa. There’s a magnificent honeycomb structure – isn’t this the most Instagram-worthy spa reception you’ve ever seen?
If you’re visiting a spa in Marrakech then you MUST try a hammam (see number 9).
6. Visit Jardin Majorelle
If you want to escape the chaos of the city, head to the shady retreat of Jardin Majorelle. Famed for its use of cobalt blue and lemon yellow painted walls, it’s an outdoor Instagram-heaven. It was created by Jacques Majorelle, a French painter then bought by Yves Saint Laurent in 1980. It’s hard to believe this sanctuary of exotic plants exists in the centre of Marrakech.
The palm trees, soaring cacti and multicoloured planters, seduce visitors in their thousands to this sanctuary in the Ville Nouvelle so expect to queue outside but don’t worry… it’s worth it, I promise.
7. Eat Moroccan Cuisine
Marrakech is home to some seriously delicious food. Tagines are a traditional dish cooked in a clay pot (you can buy your own in the market so that you can attempt to replicate it at home). My favourite is the deliciously sweet Tagine Mech Mech which is made of lamb, apricots and walnuts.
You should also try a Pastilla which is a sweet and savoury Moroccan pie – the traditional filling is pigeon, roasted almond, sugar, cinnamon, eggs wrapped up in a filo pastry pie… mhmmmm.
8. Visit Ben Youssef Medersa
The Ben Youssef Medersa is a Quranic school founded in the 14th century. The main courtyard is beautifully serene and decorated with zelije tiling, stucco and carved cedar. Local guides can bring the surroundings to life for a few dirhams so be sure to book a tour.
9. Enjoy A Hammam
Moroccan hammams are a must for your trip to Marrakech! After a long day of walking in the dusty streets the perfect remedy for all of that sightseeing is hot scrub in a steam room. After soaking in the steam, you’ll be lathered up with ghassoul (black soap made from natural mineral clay) and then scrubbed down thoroughly with a kessa (a sort of rough glove).
Hammam de la Rose was recommended to me by a fellow travel blogger and didn’t disappoint. The masseuse was exceptional and the ‘Royal Hammam’ package was heavenly. Just 450DHS for 50mins it was the best deal we found for a luxury spa.
10. Take Time For Tea
In Marrakech people drink Moroccan mint tea everywhere and at any time of day so you’ll enjoy it lots on your trip. It’s made from a mixture of green tea and fresh mint leaves along with lashings and lashings of sugar – if you’re used to mint tea au naturel then you’ll be going home dreaming of this sweet treat!
Travelling to Morocco soon? Be sure to pack a Marco Polo Marrakesh Spiral Guide. With travel tips, detailed maps and recommended itineraries it’s the perfect travel companion and I used mine every day for finding these hidden spots.
Have you been to Marrakech? What were your highlights? Comment below to let me know!