Marrakesh is the number one tourist destination in Morocco. Though a trip to only Marrakesh and not the rest of Morocco would be a missed opportunity, Marrakesh does have spectacular sites that can be enjoyed nowhere else.
You can find general Morocco travel information here, but keep reading to hear about Marrakesh specifically.
Guidebooks – Must have! Our go to travel book was Fodor’s Morocco” target=”_blank”>Fodor’s Morocco. The newest edition is 2012, but I would recommend the 2009 edition if you can still get it. I think it provided much more information.
Transportation – If you are staying in the heart of the city you will be able to walk most places you will want to see. If staying outside the city you will need transportation into the city center. You can rent a car, but I wouldn’t recommend it solely for Marrakesh. Additionally your hotel may provide a shuttle or be able to arrange a car for you.
Lodging – It’s all part of the experience. There are too many options to even know where to start. I would start with deciding if you want to stay in the city center to walk everywhere or if you are looking for more of a resort feel you can stay outside the heart of the city. I have done both and would not recommend one over the other as they represent two different priorities. If your goal is to see as much as possible stay in the city center. If you want to spend some of your time sitting back relaxing around a pool and don’t mind eating many of your meals at the hotel then outside the city is right for you.
The next question I would ask before trying to narrow down all the options is what level of lodging are you looking for? Are you looking for a quaint family owned 4 bedroom Dar or a gold plated luxury hotel; or most likely somewhere in between. Once you figure out what you are looking for I would recommend Tripadvisor.com. There are just too many hotels for any book or single article to cover.
Much like the options there are more sites to see in Marrakesh than time. I’m going to cover some of my favorites, but this is not an all-inclusive list. Please see your guidebook to come up with your full plan.
Souks – You can’t go to Marrakesh and not wander through the souks of the Medina. Take in the colors, textures, shapes, and style of all the different offerings from pottery to leather goods to wood-working. You could furnish and decorate your whole house or pick up a small trinket to remember your trip by. – Must See
Warning – if you pause, make eye contact, or look approachable you will be approached! Don’t let this stop you from entering a shop and looking around when you are interested, and also don’t be afraid to nicely say no thank you (firmly) as often as need be. I’m sure you have also been warned about the haggling over everything. This is true in every city you are going to visit, but most extreme in Marrakesh. I’m not going to give you any hints on getting the right price, there aren’t any. I will give you hints on making a purchase you are happy with. First, know going in you are not going to get the lowest price. Don’t try to figure out what price you think a local would pay for any item; decide what value the item has for you. Is it an item you are only interesting in if it’s very inexpensive or is it an item you would be willing to pay for to bring it home with you? Also, know that you can always walk away; don’t ever feel you have to buy it because you have spent so much time with this person; because he has told you about his family and about how he will remember you and you are friends now. But don’t ever counter with a price that you are not willing to pay; that is guaranteed to get you in trouble, especially if he accepts your price. Don’t be afraid to negotiate in English (if it’s your native language) because you think it will hurt the bottom line. Unless you speak Arabic or French well enough to pass yourself off as a native speaker in either of those languages, use whatever language you are comfortable with because it won’t help anyhow. – Lastly, negotiating doesn’t happen quickly, be prepared to settle in for a while if it’s a high value item and most importantly be willing to walk away, (don’t get attached to it until it’s in your living room, you can always find something else).
Djemaa el Fna – If you only get to do one thing in Marrakesh this should be it. During the day Djemaa el Fna is filled with artisans, street performers, and carts of fresh squeezed orange juice, nuts and dates,. Every afternoon an amazing number of carts full of benches, tables, and tents come out like a parade announcing the evening’s events; and at sun down smoke fills the sky from stall after stall of everything and anything you can imagine being cooked. It’s a sight to see, and can best be seen from above, before jumping into the mix and trying some of the dishes for yourself. – Must see!
Ali ben Youssef Medersa – Many Medinas in Morocco now have Medersas, (religious schools), u that are open for tours. There is normally a minimal fee and it’s well worth it. The medersa is a showcase of Moroccan craftsmanship from floor to ceiling. You should see at least one during your visit and this one is beautiful. – Should See
Majorella Garden – This garden within walking distance from the medina is a welcomed break from the hustle and bustle of the souks. It’s a wonderful place to take a break on a nice day and wonder about. – Nice break location
Koutoubia Mosque, El Badi Palace, La Bahia Palace, Saadian Tombs – These are only a representative sample of all of the many historic sites to see in Marrakesh. I don’t recommend seeing everything, they will start to all look the same. Pick the few that interest you the most and enjoy visiting them. If you do want to see as much as possible I would recommend doing it via a tour. Wherever you are staying they should be able to arrange a tour guide for your family or group. They will be able to accommodate exactly what you are looking to see at whatever time frame you are comfortable with.
Watching Djemaa el Fna come to life. On the southern corner of Djemaa el Fna there is a several story building with a rounded corner and café on the first floor and roof top terrace. There are many places that you can watch the night unfold from but this is my favorite because you aren’t required to buy dinner or even food to be there. You can have cold drinks and watch the sunset over Djemaa el Fna and watch the night come to life.