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Morocco: Top 10 things to do in Marrakech

Morocco: Top 10 things to do in Marrakech
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This week we’re on a bit of a mission to tempt you to put Marrakech on your bucket list. Why, you ask? Only because everything about Marrakech – old city walls, riads, crumbling palaces, noisy souks, skilled artisans – is unique. The ambience lends it a distinct character, different from most African and European capitals. Moroccan people are warm and the food is amazing. This mélange makes Marrakech stand out.

 

Here are Bruised Passports’ Top 10 things to do in Marrakech :

 

#1 Have the best Orange Juice of your life

Orange trees are omnipresent in Marrakech’s tangled alleys and exotic courtyards. Moroccan oranges are famous the world over, so it doesn’t comes as any surprise that Djemaa-El-Fnaa, Marrakech’s central square, is choc-a-block with vendors selling orange juice. A glass costs 5-10 Moroccan dirhams (approx. $1). A number of juice sellers also sell the juice of deeply-pigmented blood oranges, but charge a premium for it.

We prefer the original – it is refreshing and its crisp, citrusy flavour is hard to beat. We know it’s prudent to carry a bottle of water while sight-seeing but you can skip that ritual in Marrakech. Just head to the nearest cart and have a glass (or four) of orange juice – you will never want to go back to bottled water. Ambrosia = Moroccan Orange juice.

Marrakech things to do Orange Juice

Orange Trees in Marrakech, Morocco

Orange Juice

Juice carts by the dozen

Marrakech things to do Oranges

Blood Oranges, a local speciality

 

#2 Stay in a Riad

The number of hotels in Marrakech continue to increase with the city’s popularity as a tourist destination. But nothing beats the feeling of staying in a Riad – a traditional Moroccan house within the Medina (Old City). Checking into a Riad is probably the easiest way to familiarise yourself with Morocco. Expect walls embellished with traditional Moroccan rugs, shelves adorned with ethnic glassware, and breakfasts served in intimate central courtyards.

Irrespective of what you’re looking for – romantic getaway, luxurious weekend, or backpacking holiday – it is easy to find a riad to suit your budget. We stayed at Riad Al Idrisi, a mid-range Riad and got a cosy little room with a fireplace. Perfect.

Marrakech things to do Riad

Ethnic furnishings inside a riad

Marrakech things to do stay

Breakfast at a riad with Jean Genet for company – perfect!

 

#3  Explore the ruins of the El Badi Palace

The ruins of the El Badi Palace do not feature prominently on most itineraries of Marrakech – you will find more storks than people in the compound.

The El Badi Palace, literally translates as ‘The Incomparable One’. It was commissioned by the Saadian King Ahmad al-Mansur in the sixteenth century, built using precious materials like gold and marble, and looted and torn-down by his successor. The bare ruins, left-over mosaics, and stark walls have such tales to tell. It is easy to spend an hour or two walking around the complex. Make sure you go to the terrace – the view of the Atlas mountains is stunning.

The entrance fee is 10 Moroccan dirhams (approx. $1). You can enter for free if the disinterested guards at the entrance are not around.

Marrakech things to do Badi Palace

Storks at the ruins of El Badi Palace

 

#4 Visit the Bahia Palace

A far cry from the ruins of the El Badi Palace, the Bahia Palace is an elaborate architectural wonder. Made in the nineteenth century, it is a stunning example of Arab and Islamic architectural styles. The elaborate ceilings, colourful tiles, and stained glass lamps are gorgeous. Its peaceful courtyard is the perfect antidote to Marrakech’s chaotic souks.

The entrance fee is 30 Moroccan dirhams (approx. $3). More information here.

Marrakech Itinerary

The Bahia Palace

Marrakech things to do palace

The interiors of Bahia Palace

 

#5  Take a Calèche Ride

Marrakech is saturated with drivers persuading tourists to sample the delights of their city on a horse-drawn carriage. Bargain and settle on a price beforehand. The ride might be a tad cheesy but it is extremely enjoyable. If only commuting was always this much fun!!

Marrakech things to do Carriage

Calèche

Carriage Ride Marrakech things to do

Calèche rides make Savi a happy bunny

 

#6  Unwind at the Menara gardens

Take a calèche ride from the Djemaa-El-Fnaa to The Menara Gardens. They are located towards the west of the city, at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. The artificial lake is surrounded by fruit orchards and olive groves. There isn’t much to see but it is a good way to escape the hordes of tourists that throng the Medina.

We preferred the Menara gardens to the vastly overhyped Jardin Majorelle, maintained by Yves Sant Laurent. The latter were preened to perfection and a bit too artificial for our liking.

Marrakech things to do Menara

Menara Gardens with the Atlas mountains in the backdrop

 

#7 Go for a Day Trip

If you visit Marrakech during summer months, then a day trip to the Atlas mountains provides an ideal reprieve from the heat. You can read more about what’s in and around Marrakech by visiting here. For the culturally inclined, the fortified city of Essaouira is 2.5 hours away by bus. It is also possible to do a desert safari in the Sahara if you have 2-3 days to spare. Don’t book your side trips in advance – get to Marrakech, find a travel agency, and bargain (it is the norm) to get the cheapest deal.

#8 Have a glass of mint tea

If all that sight-seeing has left you a wee bit tired, Marrakech has the perfect solution. Visit one of Djemaa-El-Fnaa’s roof-top cafés and sip on a cup of sweet Moroccan mint-tea as you inhale the aromas wafting from the food market below.

Marrakech things to do mint tea

Roof top cafes

Mint Tea Morocco Things to Do

 

#9 Binge on Street Food

Food is definitely the highlight of a trip to Marrakech – it’s cheap, cheerful, and very tasty. Sample Moroccan delicacies like tagine, cous-cous, kebabs, and Harira soup at local restaurants.

The Djemaa-El-Fnaa transforms into a food market every night. Dozens of stalls sprout all over the square as the sun sets. All sorts of local delicacies are on offer. On our first night there, we were offered snails, sheep’s head, and fried aubergines in the same breath – take your pick ;-)

Tagine Morocco Things to Do

Tagine at a local restaurant


 

#10 Marvel at the Koutoubia Mosque

If there is one word that defines the souks of Morocco and the food market at Djemaa-El-Fnaa, it is chaos. There are people everywhere – dozens of vendors pawning their wares, gypsies, wandering minstrels, and the ubiquitous owners of food stalls.

It is easy to get overwhelmed but one look at the magical minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque at sunset, standing tall amidst all the commotion, suddenly makes everything ok. The sharp cries of hawkers begin to seem rhythmic and the spires of smoke arising from the food market seem strangely reminiscent of an exotic fairy-land. The sight of Koutoubia Mosque at dusk puts everything into perspective – it makes Marrakech seem free, easy, uncomplicated…

Marrakech things to do food market

Djemaa-El-Fnaa

 

If you’re wondering why we didn’t mention the souks of Morocco here, it’s because we wrote a whole article on it. For an introduction to the Souks, read our Ultimate Guide to the Souks of Marrakech :-)

 

If you’re looking for a nice website to book flights, hotels, and/or car rentals based on your budget, have a look at GeniusTravel here. You enter your maximum budget, and the website tells you where all you can fly to, which hotels you can stay at, and what type of a car you can rent. Simples !
 

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49 Comments

  1. It’s among the top places on my list to visit:) great post guys. Thank you do much :)

    • Shilpi plan a trip soon- Marrakech is on its way to become a bit too touristy

  2. Amazing highlights! Marrakech is an absolute dream destination of mine! I can’t wait to try that orange juice!
    Karisa recently posted…7 Facts About Traditional Ethnic Groups in LaosMy Profile

    • You must go there soon Karisa- that orange juice is quite something :-)

  3. I have been in Marrakech a couple months ago and loved it.
    The orange juice is indeed one of the best I ever had. The street food is awesome and the Riads indeed very charming.
    Freya recently posted…The Taj Mahal, a true masterpieceMy Profile

    • The orange juice, street-food, and riads top our list as well Freya. It’s good to hear we were not the only ones drooling over that orange juice ;-)

  4. Would love to go here! :D

    • Hope you visit Morocco sometime soon Aditi :-)

    • Commentyou are welcome

  5. These pictures are gorgeous! Did you feel safe traveling in Morocco? I am traveling as a single woman and slightly nervous about the culture and being harassed. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Cheers!

    • Hey Mariah – Vid and I were together in Morocco. To be honest, I did feel a tad uncomfortable whenever I was alone. Having said that, Marrakech is a sprawling city and locals are quite used to seeing unescorted female travellers. I’ve had quite a few friends tell me it’s different in smaller Moroccan cities and the countryside – eve-teasing seems to be quite rampant in those parts. If you’re visiting just Marrakech, be on your guard and wear clothes that don’t flash too much skin – you will be fine :-)

  6. Great photos! I am dying to get to Morocco…
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted…Tropical Slalom: Navigating Maui’s Road to HanaMy Profile

    • Thanks Raymond- Morocco is a photographer’s paradise :-)

  7. Great selection, done them all :) Only one glass of mint tea? I had this goal when I was in Morroco to count all the glasses of mint tea I had after about three days and 27 on my list I gave up :)
    To follow up with what you said in another comment, Morocco is actually quiet touristy already.
    Marysia @ My Travel Affairs recently posted…From the Road: Baku – QusarMy Profile

    • Haha totally associate with that – I think we had dozens of glasses of mint-tea and orange juice in Marrakech ;-) I agree – Marrakech is super touristy now, but the smaller towns (Fez, Essaouira) of Morocco are still relatively unexplored.

  8. This post as compared to the one where you had visited the souks looks like a mellowed-down experience but enriching at the same time. The picture in which the Atlas mountains peek from behind the structure at Manera gardens is an absolute delight to the eyes. I like the idea of replacing water with the citrusy orange juice while you are on the move. :) I particularly liked the last picture of the mosque. It reminds me of a line from one of my favorite songs- “All my designs, simplified…” :)

    • Shivangi who doesn’t like a bit of Porcupine Tree. Haha- we got a bit too carried away talking about the souks – the funny bone cometh and goeth ;-) That picture of the Atlas mountains from the Menara Gardens is my favourite too. You will love Morocco :-)

  9. Love all the photos – I would love to go
    anna recently posted…My Bucket ListMy Profile

    • Anna we hope you make it there soon :-)

  10. I’m planning on going to Morocco sometime this year! I’ll keep this list in mind! :)
    Michelle recently posted…Things North America could learn from EuropeMy Profile

    • Happy to be of help Michelle :-) Do read our Souk Guide as well- you will find it useful. Have fun in Morocco :-)

  11. Marrakech has been on my bucket list for such a long time! It is one of my big travel regrets as it was on my itinerary for my first RTW and I let it drop at the last minute! Hve been dying to get there ever since!
    Anita Mac recently posted…Portugal Bucket ListMy Profile

    • Anita you must visit Marrakech – it’s a treat to the senses (overwhelming at times, but totally worth it). Do travel to the smaller towns outside Marrakech as well, they’re incredible :-)

  12. Thank you for this post, the gorgeous photos too! We have *just* booked to go for the first time! We’ll be there in November. 4 of us are going and it’ll be a new experience for us all! We are beyond excited! 2 centre break, half Essaouira half Marrakech … :-D

    • Have fun Giselle. That sounds so exciting. Just drop us a mail if you need any help or advice :-)

  13. as always amazing took-my-heart-to-distant-lands post and stunning photos…’m so in love with what you guys are doing and of course your awesome blog.. :D
    kausambhi recently posted…Something about you & i (And that’s how it all began)My Profile

    • Thanks a ton for such a warm message Kausambhi. Hope you continue to enjoy reading Bruised Passports :-)

  14. Wow guys, your post really makes me wanna pack my bags and fly to Marrakech! Beautiful scenery and locals seem to be so happy! Moreover, I love freshly squeezed orange juice :)
    Agness recently posted…Charging Batteries At HomeMy Profile

    • Words don’t do justice to that orange juice Agness – you should definitely visit Marrakech :-)

  15. Fantastic read thanks. I’m heading to Marrakech on Sunday for a week. Just wondering if you had a tour company that you would recommend for day trips. Also what price would you expect to pay? I’ve already got a price from one but it seemed rather expensive.

    • Hey Eoghan – we didn’t have a tour company, so won’t be able to recommend any. However I can tell you that one should just get to Morocco, pick a tour company and bargain like there’s no tomorrow – it always works :-)

  16. oh Morocco, :* :* , morocco is my life, and marrakech is my city , this is my home : http://www.riadshanima.com and welcome

  17. great info and photos! I’ll be going this coming October.

    • Enjoy your time in Marrakech. We had a memorable trip :)

  18. Just read your post guys great work! Agree with all you’ve said, especially the “assault on your senses” bit! It’s our last day here boo!

    • It sure is, but a good kinda assault. Loved your photos of Morocco Raj :-)

  19. Hi, This is a great article.

    I am planning on going to Morocco this September where I am hoping to see Marrakesh, the Atlas Montaigne and even take a 2/3 days trip to the desert.
    My parents are both Moroccan (me too :) ) but I have never lived in the country and this is my first holiday where I will visit as much as I can.
    Thanks for sharing..

    • Thanks for your note Habs. I’m sure you’ll absolutely love Morocco. It’s overwhelming but absolutely magical :-)

  20. HI..

    Hi..

    I’m planning my honeymoon trip from 7th Dec to 21st Dec 2014 and would love to get some advice on how to plan the destination!

    We have 2 weeks.. So we were planning to cover Morocco + Southern Spain!

    How would the weather be like Dec. first two weeks?? We want to start off with a relaxing holiday (after the wedding madness) and then head for some adventure..

    Please help with a little itinerary planning and also let us know what all adventure activities would be possible around that time in those places??

    Looking forward to hearing from you :D

    • Hey Shveta – please read our articles on Southern Spain using the top menu (Just choose ‘Spain’ in the Countries category). We’ve suggested a number of activities and excursions and written reams about our favourite itinerary as well :-)

  21. Doing a tier point run on british airways next week to Marrakech .It ll be my first time back there in 22 years .Marrakech is lovely but f**k ….do you get hassled and ripping off attempts are non stop in the old town ..Now the place is virtually suffering mass tourism can I assume it’s even worse ? Anyway wish me luck !

    • Haha true that. Hope you sailed through Marrakech this time around :-)

  22. Hi S and V,
    We want to visit Morocco during the Easter break in US. How many days do you think will be sufficient to do Marakech mainly and maybe the desert safari and if possible a bit of the surrounding. But the last bit of optional.

    Thanks in advance
    Sohini

    • Hi Sohini,

      You could spend 3 days in Marrakech, a night in the desert and perhaps a day trip to the Atlas mountains ? In all, 5-6 full days should be enough for all 3 :)

  23. My passport is battered but not yet bruised, looking forward to a nice glass of O.J, thanks for the heads up always nice to know what one is in for, I’m known to get lost in the thick of culture. I shall let you know of my findings.

    • We’re exactly the same – there’s no better feeling than getting lost in the thick of history and culture, especially when you can wash it all down with a glass of OJ or Mint tea. Will look forward to hearing what you thought of Marrakech :-)

  24. Hi am travelling to Marrakesh in 2 weeks on my – being a single female, apart from the obvious covering up do you think it is quite safe to wonder around on my own during the day and night?

    • Hey Irene – it’s quite safe, don’t you worry. Most locals in Marrakech are used to seeing single women travelling alone. You might be harassed a bit by vendors et al, but all tourists are ;-)

      Just be a bit more careful if you decide to travel outside the city of Marrakech :-)

  25. Thought I’d just post this on here, as I sit on my hotel balcony on a warm February morning here in Marrakech. Our first day here left us feeling a little uneasy, as we dropped our bags at the hotel, and took off into the main square, eager to get into the Moroccan vibe as quickly as possible. Within minutes, we are “befriended” by a guy, who says “remember me at your hotel, I saw you in the hallway”. We didn’t remember, but not wishing to sound rude, just nodded and had a strange broken conversation of pleasantries, ending up with our new”friend” saying he will show us into the old city proper, no obligation. On the way, more conversation, with him showing us pictures of his children etc, obviously a well practised ploy, and before we new it, were at a huge carpet sellers, where we were introduce to the owner, inviting us to take tea etc. Reading this will make you think as I would, oh yeah, should have seen it coming, but in all honesty, it was so quick and easy, we just let it happen. Anyhow, an hour later, and with around 50 carpets laid out on the floor, “just showing us their craft”!! out comes a pen and paper, with prices of a coupe of carpets we only remarked were nice. £1200, starting price, but make an offer!! Well trying to explain we weren’t even looking for a carpet took some doing, and I won’t go on about it, but we eventually “escaped”. Just a warning. Do not be enticed into following some guide, as it is always a ploy to get you to buy something, and when you are new to the city, is quite awkward to get out of, trust me
    However, the good part. We found a taxi driver, just outside the square, who wasn’t pushy at all, and asked him for a taxi back to the hotel. He seemed a genuine guy, and we booked him for more trips in and around the area. Three days of trips, and he took us to places we would never have found, and to be honest, ended up like more of a friend than our driver. All that cost us less than £100 which was amazing. Anyway, Marrakech is fabulous, but keep your wits about you. I wouldn’t say it is dangerous, just awkward at times, with our differing cultures. Its what we came here for, just learn the best way to deal with it.

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