Table of Contents Hide
- Why travel to Marrakech?
- Djemaa El-Fna – North Africa’s Most Famous Square
- Medina – Get Lost in the Alleys
- Koutoubia Mosque
- Bahia Palace
- Bab Agnaou – The Oldest City Gate
- Saadian Tombs – Visit the Moorish Cemetery
- Jardin Majorelle – Yves Saint Laurent’s Inspiration
- Yves Saint Laurent Museum
- Menara Garden
- Madrasa Ben Youssef – Quran School in the Medina
- Excursions In the Region
- More tours and activities
- Travel tips for arrival, accommodation and activities
- Which language is spoken in Marrakech?
- Experience of Marrakech
Marrakech sounds like a fairy tale from 1001 Nights. The streets and alleys are teeming with people who want to advertise their wares to you. Unknown scents are in the air, everything is colorful and lively.
The former capital of Morocco is located in the center of the country. Head into the old town (Medina) of Marrakech and explore markets, mosques, museums, and colorful gardens. Unfortunately, Marrakech is becoming more and more touristy, and the traders in the streets are becoming more obtrusive. Don’t let that stop you from exploring the “Red City” of Morocco. I just have to point this out, otherwise, you’ll be disappointed or horrified when your blond-haired friend is constantly approached.
In this article, you will find my tips and all the highlights that you should not miss on a short trip to Marrakech!
“Marrakech is not a touristic destination, it’s a destination where anybody wants to live.” You’ll have to find out for yourself whether it’s right.
Why travel to Marrakech?
Marrakech is situated between the Sahara Desert, the Atlas Mountains, and the ocean. The “Pearl of the South”, as the North African city is called, is only a 4-hour flight from Germany. Sumptuous restaurants and lively pubs complement the snake charmers and fortune tellers on Jemaa el-Fna, in the souks, and in the winding old town.
My stay in Marrakech is like a study in contrasts. A fusion of old and new. On the one hand, the Marrakech want to preserve their old traditions, on the other hand, they are striving towards modernity. Therefore, there is currently no better place than Marrakech to experience and observe this change.
The city will also cast its spell on you. A mix of European, Far Eastern, and African cultures is overwhelming. Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Berbers live together peacefully here and are proud of it. Also, don’t be surprised if there is a kind of camel and dromedary parking lot opposite a 5-star hotel. Totally normal.
Top Sights You Should Visit
If you want to immerse yourself in the culture, religion, and customs of Morocco, you should not miss the following sights:
Tip: If the city is too big, too lively, or confusing for you, you can book city tours with locals at Get Your Guide (also, in German). Ideally, reserve before your trip.
Djemaa El-Fna – North Africa’s Most Famous Square
If you ask locals about sights in Marrakech, the eyes of the Marrakech will light up: the undisputed magnet for visitors and an absolute must-see in Marrakech is the Djemaa el-Fna, the square of the jugglers with its central souks and the market. Some say: way too touristy, others say: totally irrelevant. The heart of the city beats here.
Nobody can avoid the pulsating center. Even if the place is becoming more and more commercialized. come at sunset
Thousands of Marrakech then flock to the city’s meeting place and tell traditional stories while magicians, musicians, acrobats, and snake charmers entertain onlookers. The stalls offer first-class food and freshly squeezed juices for little money.
Read more here: This is Djemaa el-Fna, North Africa’s most famous square
Note: You have to be careful of pickpockets, especially in the Jemaa. Find a café to watch the action. Pay no heed to the people with monkeys, snakes, or emaciated carriage horses. Please consider that with every dirham you increase the suffering of the animals. If you want to photograph snake charmers, you have to pay money for it. It’s not worth it, no matter how exotic it may be for you.
Cafe El Wafa
The cafe can be seen well from the square itself. Many just don’t find the entrance. Because this is really hidden. The tower is on the right side of Djemaa, and right next to it is a small city gate. Here you have to go through and then on the right, you will find the tiny and unobtrusive but labeled entrance.
Medina – Get Lost in the Alleys
In North Africa, Medina simply means Old Town. Marrakesh has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. Due to the color of the houses made of red clay and the ocher city walls of the medina, it is nicknamed “Red City” (La Ville Rouge).
Lose yourself in the maze-like alleys. Believe me, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t keep getting confused. You can get to the medina via the Jemaa, because from here countless alleys lead into the maze of the medina.
There are no street maps, finding your way around is an art that I have not mastered. At some point you will be spat out again at Djemaa el Fna. You can also organize a guide for a few dirhams. But will that lead you to the goal or only to the relatives of the leader? Rather the latter.
The souks (also spelled souks) are located in the medina. These are the market and handicraft districts of the city. These souks are divided into sections: clothing, spices, medicines of all kinds, wood, lamps, and dyers’ souk. Everything here is designed for tourists, so you can also buy souvenirs and postcards.
My highlight was the area of the tanners and dyers. Fabrics and wool are hanging out to dry everywhere!
Don’t let yourself be fooled into bargaining, because tourists are asking for significantly higher prices. Also, don’t let yourself be put under pressure, you will always and constantly be spoken to. Remain friendly and assertive. Just say “no”, even if it gets tiring at some point.
Note: Don’t pay a guide to lead you out of the tangle, he’ll rather take you to your own family’s shop to earn a commission. Take it with humor or book a guide directly who will lead you and have some background information ready.
Even if two-wheelers are forbidden in the narrow streets, you will encounter a lot of mopeds and bicycles here in addition to the crowds, and dog ears. Be careful or you will be knocked over.
Read more about the souks and Djemaa el-Fna
The Koutoubia Mosque (Mosque of the Booksellers) is the symbol of the city. It is only 200 meters away from Djemaa and shows you the way from a great distance. The Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in the city.
No building may be erected in Marrakech that is higher than the 77-meter-high minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque. Therefore, you can see the minaret from afar. The mosque was consecrated in 1158. Unfortunately, only Muslims are allowed inside the building.
The Bahia Palace (which translates to “the radiant one”) is located on the southern edge of the medina. On a spacious area of over 8000 m², you can visit more than 160 rooms in the Moorish-Andalusian style. The complex was commissioned by the Grand Vizier at the end of the 19th century and is one of the most beautiful places in Marrakech for me.
Later the palace was expanded with its own mosque, a hammam, and a great garden! It is worth coming here, one of the must-see places.
Note: Hollywood blockbusters such as “The Desert Lion” or “Lawrence of Arabia” served as the backdrop for the Bahia Palace. State guests are often accommodated here.
Tip: book a tour of the Bahia Palace with a visit to the Saadian Tombs. Takes about 3 hours but it’s worth it! View the tour here.
Information about the visit
- Opening times: Daily from 9 a.m. to 4.45 p.m.
- Plan at least 1.5 hours to visit
- Tickets: 70 dirhams
- French name: Palais de la Bahia
Bab Agnaou – The Oldest City Gate
The oldest surviving city gate of Marrakech is located at the royal palace, the el-Badi Palace. Especially here you can see the beautiful Moorish architecture very well. The gate was built in the 12th century and connects the medina and the kasbah.
Take a lookup. Here you can still find storks and their nests everywhere!
Saadian Tombs – Visit the Moorish Cemetery
The Saadian Tombs are another top attraction in Marrakech. There are two mausoleums in this magnificent necropolis, set in beautiful gardens. The most beautiful tomb in the larger mausoleum is that of Ahmed al Mansur, who had numerous new magnificent buildings built in Marrakech as his new capital. The arrangement of the graves is interesting.
The interiors of the property are furnished with opulent stucco, mosaic and cedar wood decorations. Outside there are about 100 more graves. The Saadian Tombs are on Rue de la Kasbah.
The Moorish Saadian tombs are located right next to the al-Mansur Mosque in the Kasbah and, like the entire old town of the metropolis, are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Information about the visit
- Opening times: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m
- Admission: 70 dirhams (10 dirhams on my first visit)
Jardin Majorelle – Yves Saint Laurent’s Inspiration
The exotic botanical garden – designed by French painter Jacques Majorelle – offers a welcome respite from the bustle and chaos of Marrakech’s medina. In addition to the bougainvillea (triplet flower) and countless palm trees, you will find numerous plants such as cacti, bamboo, and aquatic plants in the garden. Inside there is a small Berber museum.
In 1980 the garden was bought by the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who found inspiration here.
Information about the visit
- Address: Rue Yves St Laurent
- The garden is a bit outside, so I advise you to take a Petit Taxi
- Admission: 70 dirhams for the Jardin, another 30 dirhams for the Berber Museum inside
- Opening times: October to April from 9 am to 6 pm (last admission 5.30 pm)
- More information: jardinmajorelle.com
Yves Saint Laurent Museum
Right by the garden is the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, which is a must for fashionistas. The clothes on display alone are worth the visit. Architecturally alone, the building has a lot to offer. The color and shadow play of the windows are great. It also contains a lot of information about YSL. A great museum for adults, but rather boring for children.
Just outside is the public and free Menara Garden. The pavilion and the pool in front of it are surrounded by a large olive grove. When the weather is clear, you get a fantastic view of the snow-covered Atlas, which stretches optically directly behind the pavilion and the water basin.
Madrasa Ben Youssef – Quran School in the Medina
In the middle of the old town is Ben Yousseff, the largest and most important Quranic school in northern Africa. The school was built in 1340 and was actively used until 1960. Since then, the former Koran school has been open to the public as a museum.
Before your trip, please check whether the old Koran school has reopened. Because it has been thoroughly renovated.
Information about the visit:
- Opening times: Daily from 9 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.
- Admission: 50 dirhams or book a tour with other sights in Marrakech (my tip)
Insider tip: Souk El Khemis in the north of the medina
I would never have found my way here alone. In the maze of alleys, I strike up a conversation with a local, who takes me to the very authentic El Khemis market. Here are the Blue Man – Berbers from the desert every Sunday to sell their carpets for 1-2 hours. I didn’t buy anything, instead, I drank tea and talked to the Berbers.
By the way, I didn’t meet any tourists here. Exciting and not boring at all.
Excursions In the Region
Visit the saffron farm Paradis du Safran in the Ourika Valley
The Paradis de Safran is ideal for learning how to recognize real or fake saffron. The wonderful place was built and expanded by the Swiss Christine. She personally guides us through the fields, her herb garden, and foot baths.
The ideal travel time for the blooming of the saffron crocus is November. Then the saffron is also harvested. Now you know why we went to Marrakech in November. So don’t be disappointed if you don’t find flowering plants outside of this time.
- Address: Route d’Ourika Douar Takaterete/Ait Touchente, km 31, Ourika 42452 Morocco
- Wednesday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m
Excursion to the Atlas Mountains
Since Marrakech is located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, it is worth at least a day trip there. Here you get great views of green slopes, raging streams, or barren plateaus. What is also noticeable on the journey is the poverty that prevails here in the mountains.
Unfortunately, it rained so heavily during the visit that we had to turn around at some point and returned earlier. Because some roads were no longer passable.
If you don’t have your own car, I recommend the tour to the Berber villages in the Atlas Mountains
More tours and activities
I visit a hammam
The traditional bath is an experience in itself. Tips include La Bain Bleu and Les Bains de Marrakech. Two hammams were recommended to me. Many hotels have their own hammam on the hotel premises.
You can book your spa and hammam experience here
I discover Marrakech by bike
I love bike rides through cities. So, you can discover cities from a different perspective. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for me in Marrakech. A reason to come back. Riding a bike in Marrakesh is definitely a challenge.
Note on camel rides
For many tourists, a camel ride is one of the highlights. To be honest, I don’t think camel riding is very cool. The animals may be desert taxis, but they are not made to transport tourists for pleasure. moreover, it is extremely boring and uncomfortable.
Travel tips for arrival, accommodation and activities
Arriving by plane
The most convenient and quickest way to get here from Germany is by plane. Marrakech is located in the southwest of Morocco and at 3,000 km from Germany, it is too far away for many to reach by car. Depending on the season, there are direct flights from Germany from several German cities with Air Arabia Maroc, Lufthansa, Eurowings, and Ryan Air.
A direct flight from Germany takes 3.5 to 5 hours and can often be booked quite cheaply. I usually book my flights through Skyscanner.
A big bonus for Marrakech is that not only is it close and easy to get to, but there is only a 1 hour time difference in winter.
Marrakech-Menara International Airport is just 15 minutes from the city center.
This is how you get to the center
From Marrakech-Menara Airport, either bus line 19 will take you to the center every 30 minutes (approx. 3 euros). Alternatively, you can take a Petit Taxi, which will take you to the center of Marrakech in 15 minutes (depending on traffic). The trip costs 70 dirhams to the center of Palmeraie is about 100 dirhams.
If you want to treat yourself to a private transfer, you can book it here (about 13 euros for up to 4 people)
Accommodation in Marrakech: Hotel or Riad
There are tons of accommodation options in Marrakech. Also, I advise you to stay in a riad. In hotels that meet international standards, you know what to expect, but a riad is really authentic.
In the middle of the medina, you will find many of these Moroccan accommodations. The former houses of wealthy citizens with courtyards, pools, and roof terraces have been converted into tourist accommodations in large numbers. Here, too, there are offers for every budget. You can find cheap ones at Airbnb.
The AnaYela is a true oasis in the maze of the old town. When our taxi driver lets us off in a dark corner of the maze of alleys, I think it’s a joke. Suddenly a heavy wooden door hidden in the wall opens and the Anayela opens to us.
The small riad with a great ambiance, especially the “flying carpet” – a wide divan on the roof terrace invites you to linger.
Book an overnight stay at Anayela
Hotel tip in the center of Le Meridien N’Fi
If you prefer a hotel, I can recommend the LeMeridien N’Fis. It is in close proximity to Djemaa el Fna and the Medina. You can walk to the most important places.
At night you will be lulled to sleep by the quiet, rhythmic sound of drums from Djemaa el-Fna.
Book an overnight stay at LeMeridien N’Fis
Transportation in Marrakech
One thing is for sure: I would not want to drive a car or scooter within the city of Marrakech. The streets are too narrow, it’s hectic and somehow a wild mess.
You can take a Petit Taxi from Marrakech Menara Airport to the city for around 70 dirhams. To Palmeraie it is about 100 dirhams.
For a round trip to Morocco, I recommend a rental car.
Culinary Marrakech: Food Tips
The best food you can get in Marrakech is street food. Even if many advise you to keep your hands off it. I didn’t get sick from eating in Morocco.
The street vendors offer you a variety of foods: fresh fruit, stews, skewers, sandwiches, soups, pastries, and of course tajines.
Try the food at one of the numerous food stalls on Djemaa el-Fna (I didn’t dare try the snail soup). Buy a sfenj – Moroccan donut – for breakfast. Really delicious.
As Morocco is an Islamic country, alcohol is difficult to obtain. That’s not bad either. The freshly squeezed juices, which you can get for a few cents on the Jemaa el-Fna, are delicious.
They taste even better at a dizzy height with a view of “the square”: Café de France. From here you have an excellent view of the square, the medina, and the hustle and bustle of thousands of people:
There is also delicious mint tea everywhere. It tastes particularly good fresh and very different from ours. Even the preparation is a celebration that you should not miss. By the way, you should not drink tap water here and only buy bottles.
I had an unforgettable evening with live music, a view over the city rooftops, and food, food, food (and alcohol) at:
Restaurant Tip: Dar Yacout
The Dar Yacout is tucked away around the corner of a deserted medina alleyway. Unbelievable that such a jewel is hidden behind a simple wooden door. The aperitif (yes, they have plenty of alcohol here) is served on the first floor.
The restaurant is on the ground floor. Also, in the warm months you sit in the courtyard, we were accommodated in the stately side rooms due to the cool temperatures in November. I felt like in 1001 nights. A set menu is served. Lots of different small plates of appetizers, couscous, chicken, lamb, vegetables, and of course tajine and dessert.
If you want to eat really comfortably and for a long time, this is the place for you. Also, the Moroccan “live music” was very pleasant (unfortunately I only have this bad recording of the musicians).
Address: 79 Sidi Ahmed Soussi, Bab Doukkala
Price: Menu (all inclusive): Dhiram 700.
Which language is spoken in Marrakech?
In Morocco, French, Arabic, or Berber is spoken. In the souks, everyone speaks good English or even a few words of German.
With a taxi ride, especially off the tourist track, it becomes more difficult. Also, my school’s French is very rusty, as I found out. A few words of French are definitely a must.
Money, payments, and credit cards
The national currency in Morocco is the Dirham – divided into 100 centimes. The import and export of local currency is prohibited.
Exchange offices and withdraw money free of charge
You will find currency exchange offices directly in front of the baggage carousel in the airport.
Credit cards are accepted in all good hotels and restaurants in touristy corners (and often also in souk shops). If someone steals your credit card, you always have the hotline number of the credit card company with you so that you can have the card blocked at any time.
I carry at least one “backup credit card” with me in case one doesn’t work.
How long to Marrakech?
Some think a weekend is enough. I found my four days (including a day trip to the Atlas Mountains and a visit to a saffron farm just outside the city) to be much too short. Three to five days is ideal.
Experience of Marrakech
Marrakech was a dream destination before this trip and my expectations were high. I was not disappointed and was very sad that I had to go home again after four days.
Calling Marrakech, a beautiful city would be an exaggeration. However, it is rundown and dingy in many places. It’s loud, crowded, and hectic and it doesn’t always smell of oriental spices. But often also after the dung of the donkeys and exhaust fumes from the cars.
Tourists with cameras in hand are not so welcome on every corner. We were lucky and chatting with the Berbers at the market was very inspiring.
Update: In the meantime, Marrakech and the souks have become very touristy. It has lost a lot of charm, according to friends. I’ll probably go there again soon myself and see for myself.
Do you have further questions or tips for Marrakech?
Do you have any other insider tips and highlights for Marrakech? What should I see next? Leave me a comment!