Marrakesh Travel Guide

Marrakesh Overview

Marrakesh (or Marrakech) is an absolute whirlwind of a city and Morocco’s prime tourist destination. From the moment visitors land, to the minutes before boarding their plane or train out, they are bombarded with the sights, sounds and smells of a city that has been captivating travelers for centuries. Whether bargain hunting or dodging donkey carts in the bustling souks, marveling at majestic mosques, sampling delicious street food whilst double taking a snake charmer, partying at an internationally famed nightclub or relaxing in the shadow of the Atlas mountains, a true spirit of adventure and ability to expect the unexpected are a must.

 
Start out at the infectious Djemaa El Fna, the true heart of the city and without doubt one of the worlds most vibrant central squares, alive with street performers of every imaginable description. As entertaining as it is, dont stay too long as it is known to be somewhat of a twilight zone and a few hours can easily turn into a whole day. Make a move north into the labyrinth of souks, a shoppers paradise and prime location for visitors to hone their bargaining powers. This is also a city of exquisite architecture and the Medina and Mellah are both awash with remarkable palaces and ancient religious houses. There is no doubting that Marrakesh is an energetic city, however step outside the tourist traps and enjoy the casual atmosphere of the Ville Nouvelle or find refuge in the stress-busting parks that lay within walking distance of the main action.
 
Blessed with balmy North African temperatures the year round, Marrakesh is a destination for all seasons, although be prepared for crowds if thinking about visiting over Christmas or Easter. Spring and autumn provide the optimum conditions, when the days are a comfortable 25°C and the nights remain cool but never cold. As Morocco’s most traveled city, getting in and out is an easy task. Those traveling to other parts of the country will find frequent trains to Casablanca and the countrys capital, Rabat as well as to Fes and overnight to Tangier. For the nearby coastal town of Essaouira there are numerous bus services running throughout the day.

Things to do in Marrakesh

Sightseeing in Marrakesh - There are a ton of things to see and do in Marrakesh with the best action to be found amongst the streets of the Old Medina, the traditional heart blessed with lively souks and medieval mansions, and Ville Nouvelle (New Town), the place for leafy gardens and boulevards lined with chic boutique stores and an array of cafés. Start out in Djemaa El Fna, arguably the most colourful main square on the planet, a place to see snake charmers, musicians and hawkers and where an hour easily turns into a whole day. Be sure to check out the dazzling Koutoubia Mosque and fine El Bahia Palace before exploring the remnants of the original city at Almoravid Koubba and El Badi Palace. It is also worth spending an afternoon at the Mellah, the old Jewish quarter, home to synagogues and market stalls and a glimpse into Marrakesh life away from the tourist traps.

 
Museums & Galleries in Marrakesh
Maison Tiskiwin - North of the Mellah is a splendid townhouse housing a journey from Marrakesh to Timbuktu and back, a fine collection of national and Saharan artefacts. Open daily, 9.30am - 12.30pm & 3.30pm - 5.30pm.
Matisse Art Gallery - Exhibitions showcasing the talents of local Moroccan artists. Open Monday to Saturday, 9.30am - 12.30pm & 3.30pm - 9.30pm.
Musee de Marrakech - Housed in a restored 19thC palace are excellent rotating exhibitions of traditional and contemporary Moroccan art. There is a nice onsite café and entrance fees include entrance to nearby Ben Youssef Medersa and Almoravid Koubba.
Saddian Tombs - Besides the Kasbah Mosque are a collection of elaborate tombs, originally used as the burial site of the descendants of Prophet Mohammed and today home to the crypts of Saddian princes.
 
Souks & Markets in Marrakesh - No visit to Marrakesh is complete without a day of shopping and bargain hunting at the colourful and bustling souks. Remember to never accept the first price as engaging in a bargaining battle is fundamental and an important part of the culture. The twisting alleyways of the souks start north of Djemaa El Fna with stalls offering everything from jewellery to rugs to clothing to animals to fresh produce. Two of the busiest areas are Souk el Kebir, for leather goods, carpets and Moroccan clothing, and Souk el Attarine, the place to pick up ceramics, metalwork and spices. The best way to go is to just wander at will, weaving in and out of the stalls and soaking up the sights, sounds and smells. Its almost impossible to not get lost, but when it happens simply ask to be pointed back to Djemaa El Fna or look for the soaring tower of Koutoubia Mosque. Most souks are open daily from 9am to 7pm apart from Fridays when many close at midday.
 
Parks & Gardens in Marrakesh - Marrakesh is home to some splendid urban parks which provide both locals and tourists with an oasis of calm away from the bustle of the city. Jardins de lAgdal, south of the centre, is the largest park that dates back to the 12thC. Spreading across almost 1000-acres it is home to fruit orchards, pools and pathways and makes for a popular picnic spot. To the west of the city Menara Gardens is an extremely popular location that gets busy early evening as crowds come to marvel at the sunsets over the Atlas Mountains. Jardin Majorelle is the citys 1920s pristine botanical garden in Ville Nouvelle that also houses an Islamic Art Museum.
 
Marrakesh Festivals
Marrakech Film Festival - International film festival now in its 11th year, showcasing new productions and awarding prizes for feature films and short movies.
Festival National des Arts Populaires - The first week of July welcomes the arrival of a host of free folk music and dance performances influenced by Berber traditions.
International Festival of Salsa - Pass by in September for salsa workshops and exhibitions at the PalmeraiGolfPalace hotel.
 
Marrakesh Nightlife - With music playing a large part in the Marrakesh culture, nightly events are as lively as they come in Morocco with locations varying from belly-dancing clubs to large, avant-garde dance clubs. For traditional taverns, eateries and street performances go no further than the Medina and Djemaa El Fna, then move on to the neighborhoods of Gueliz and Hivernage for European-styled bars and clubs. This may be an Islamic dominated country but alcohol is freely available at cheap prices and until the early hours.
 
Bars in Marrakesh
Café Arabe - The best spot in the Medina serving up great cocktails on a rooftop looking out to the mountains.
Kosybar - Close to the Mellah is this Asian influenced bar with superb rooftop terrace.
Le Bar Churchill - Stylish jazz-styled bar at La Mamounia Hotel with elegant leather sofas and plush Moorish décor.
Le Lounge - Laidback lounge bar adjacent to the Diwane Hotel in Gueliz.
 
Clubs in Marrakesh
African Chic - Vibrant live music venue that jumps to the sensuous beats of samba and bossa nova bands.
Diamant Noir - Easygoing disco at Hotel le Marrakech mixing Western pop music with Moroccan classics.
Pacha Marrakech - Ibizas super-club comes to Marrakesh in style attracting big name DJs spinning tunes to the hottest clubbers in town.

Hotels in Marrakesh

Budget Hotels Marrakesh

Heart of the Medina Hostel - Basic backpackers hostel offering clean rooms, simple breakfast and nice views from the rooftop terrace. Tel (212) 721 56578.
Riad Douzi - Great value budget hotel with a top location and helpful staff to match. Tel (212) 2612 7963.
Riad Marrakech Rouge - Two hostels offering cheap and comfortable rooms close to Place Djemaa El Fna. Tel (212) 670 760149.
 
Midrange Hotels Marrakesh
Dar Vedra - Laidback hotel providing guests quiet lodgings, breezy terraces and small swimming pool. Tel (212) 524 389370.
Hotel Riad Omar - Family-friendly guesthouse a short walk from Place Djemaa El Fna. Good meals served up in a bright courtyard patio. Tel (212) 524 445660.
Riad Dar Silsila - Popular hotel with 9 elegant rooms, decent restaurant and attentive staff. Tel (212) 667 352 005.
 
Luxury Hotels Marrakesh
Dar Ayniwen - Luxury hotel with the feel of a family home and a host of romantic touches. Drivers are on hand to ferry guests to town and back. Tel (212) 524 329686.
Hotel Sofitel Marrakech - Superb hotel part of the upscale Sofitel chain. Tel (212) 524 425600.
La Sultana Marrakech - The epitome of luxury riads complete with 2 restaurants, 3 bars, gym, spa and swimming pool. Tel (212) 524 388008.

Marrakesh Weather

Marrakesh Travel Resources

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This page was last modified on 26 Mar 2011 by NomadJack