Marrakesh has been on my travel bucket list for such a long time. The beautiful riads, the hectic markets, the culture, the people, it all drew me in. If you’ve read all my previous posts, you know that I typically let a destination choose me by offering up a great flight deal. It’s not often that I pick a place and say, I’m going and I don’t care what the price is. However, after a year of no travel due to the pandemic I decided that I was going to cross a place off my bucket list to celebrate my 31st birthday.
I booked my flight with Air France for $691.74, which wasn’t completely terrible but definitely not as budget friendly as previous trips. I did sign up for a new credit card at the time of booking which scored me 60k miles with Flying Blue (KLM/Air France) after a minimum spend along with a $150.00 statement credit which helped offset the flight cost. Once the flight was booked, I was ready to begin planning for my 4 night adventure in Marrakesh, Morocco.
Here is everything I did and learned during my stay there:
If you’re visiting Marrakesh, you definitely need to stay in a riad. A riad is a traditional Moroccan interior garden or courtyard that has transformed into a style of guesthouses with palace like architecture. These are all over Marrakesh so there are plenty to choose from. I decided to stay at Riad Kbour & Chou and was so happy with my stay. Although it was further out from the main area, bordering the Old Town walls, it was absolutely stunning with greenery filling up the entire place. Each room was uniquely designed and the hospitality was simply amazing. The host was kind and helpful along with the rest of the team. Breakfast was included in the stay and they also offered lunch and dinner, menu curated daily, for an additional price. We spent a lot of our time in the riad and were completely fine doing so because of how comfortable we felt there. The total cost of our four night stay to include breakfast was 420.00 Euro which we selected one of the larger rooms to stay in.
The best way to get around Marrakech is by walking and taxi. Within the walls, you’ll find yourself walking most of the time. It may seem intimidating to walk around and at times it is a bit much with constantly being approached, but my tips would be to just ignore people and don’t be on your phone. I attempt to memorize the map as best as I can to get to my final destination. If needed, I’ll take it out quickly to ensure I’m going the right route, but never make it seem like you are lost. In Marrakech, you’ll get many people approaching you to see if you need help or they will tell you that you are approaching a dead end. Don’t fall for it. They will likely follow you until you give them money for “assisting.”
To get to new town or other further out locations, you can take a taxi. For taxis, be sure to ask about the price prior to the trip. Ask your riad host for estimates and base the acceptance of the price from that. We met a few people who told us how much they paid for a taxi trip from their hotel to new town and it was about 5 times the typical price as they were unaware of what the standard was. According to them, their hotel confirmed the price which is likely because they had a partnership with the driver.
Things to Do
I’ll be completely honest that I didn’t do as much as I had planned to do in Marrakech because we didn’t always feel like walking around or some places were closed. So, this list won’t be that extensive, but still wanted to share what I did during my time there!
Take a tour of the medina
The hustle and bustle of the medina can be quite overwhelming, but of course must be explored. I opted to take a tour and was very pleased with my decision as we were able to learn a lot about the city and not feel completely out of place while walking around. I booked the tour, Marrakech Behind the Walls, through Airbnb Experiences.
We went to various spots on the tour including Bahia Palace. During the tour we also stopped for tea while people watching outside the souks and did some shopping at the spice market. The souks were quite crowded, but a must visit especially if you want to buy items to take home. Personally, I did not do any shopping because I get a bit of anxiety when being approached while shopping or having to negotiate with prices. In this case, I’m sure the guide would assist but I decided it just wasn’t necessary for me. So, just go in it knowing that you will need to negotiate prices down as the shop salesperson will mark up the price by an extreme amount with the expectation that it will be haggled down.
have coffee at bacha coffee
While tea is the most popular in Morocco, do not miss this coffee spot in Marrakesh. The place itself is stunning as it’s located within a garden surrounded by intricate tiles. Bacha Coffee serves up a coffee from all around the world that is prepared perfectly. Enjoy a cup along with some pastries, you won’t be disappointed. The place does get busy, so be prepared to wait a little.
visit le jardin secret
One of the many beautiful gardens you’ll find in the city. Once the home to Moroccan political figures, this garden is now open to the public for all to enjoy it’s beauty and serenity. You can find all information to visit here.
walk around le jardin majortelle
This vibrant botanical garden was created by Jacques Majorelle in 1923. The grounds are grand and beautiful with sculptures and plants at every step. Well known fashion designer, Yves Saint-Laurent purchased the property in the 1980’s and helped restore it alongside Pierre Berge. There were memorial pieces located in the garden for Yves Saint-Laurent and his ashes were also scattered here. This is a must visit and there’s also a cafe at the garden that you can enjoy.
Go to the new town of marrakesh
The new town of Marrakesh, known as Gueliz, is where you’ll find more commercial shops, bars, and a completely different vibe than that of old town. You may still come across a random goat though as pictured below.
We visited a few spots here and really enjoyed being able to compare it those within the walls. While you will find places that serve alcohol in the medina, you’ll come across more establishments in Gueliz like this wine bar (Le 68 Bar a Vin) and cocktail bar (Barometre) shown below. There’s a lot of variety in this French-era district.
Enjoy moroccan cuisine
Fresh vegetables, an abundance of spices, and tender meat. What is there not to love about Moroccan cuisine? Your stomach is sure to be happy with the dishes you try, like beef tangia which is slow cooked in a clay vessel or chicken tagine served with couscous. We had two of our dinners at the riad where the chef went to the market the same day to gather the ingredients and made sure we didn’t have the same items the second time around. Everything was so fresh and delicious. They served us a soup starter, then a few vegetable dishes, the main course, and then finished it off with dessert. It was always an incredible experience and only about 25 euro per person. We visited places for lunch as well either in the medina or Gueliz, but our favorite meals by far were at the riad.
Take a tour to Atlas mountains
If you’re staying in Marrakesh for a few days, I would highly recommend taking a tour out to Atlas Mountains. It was nice to get away from the busyness of the city and see the amazing landscape surrounding it. I booked this tour on Airbnb Experiences and it was an amazing value at around $35/person. This included the transportation, a stop at the local market, a visit to an argan oil cooperative, a hiking tour at Atlas Mountains including a freshly squeezed orange juice at the waterfall, and a home cooked meal at the tour guide’s home. This experience also included a camel ride, but my partner and I opted out of that piece due to my opinion on how they are treated.
Our first stop was the local market, which only happens certain days of the week. While we didn’t go there to purchase anything, it was nice to see a market catered to the locals which is very different than the souks.
The views along the way were absolutely stunning. We stopped at an argan oil cooperative where we learned about the oil making process as well as tasting some of the butters/oil served along with mint tea which I never got tired of having.
We proceeded to hike at the mountains to take in the views and making a pit stop at the waterfall. From there we hiked further up to our guide’s family home where his mother and grandmother prepared us an amazing lunch.
The food pictured below was just for four individuals, it was unbelievable how much food came out. They prepared chicken tagine, couscous, and a vegetable mixture. Everything was absolutely delicious and a great way to end the tour day.