- Spend your time walking in the endless maze of markets (souks).
- For a trip back in medieval Marrakech, visit the tannery district. Complete with pungent smells.
- Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the souks and spend some time in Majorelle Gardens, the botanical gardens.
- Get wonderfully lost in the Medina. You can easily spend couple of days just looking around.
- Walk around the City Walls. 19 km are enough to keep you busy (and fit!).
- Trek in the Atlas Mountains.
Why you should add Marrakech to your RTW travel listOf course Marrakech wouldn’t be complete without seeing some of the sites that makes it famous. Here are some ideas on what to do if you’ve never been there or plan on staying for a while.
- Walk around Koutoubia Mosque, the city’s most famous landmark. Non-Muslims aren’t allowed inside.
- Learn the Moorish history at Koubba El-Badiyin. It’s the only surviving structure dating from the founders of Marrakech.
- Visit the ruined Badii Palace, one of the two principal monuments of the Saadian era. The other is the Saadian Tombs, located by Kasbah Mosque.
- Enjoy the local food at a picturesque location. Or try the amazing street food.
- Buy a leather bag to last a lifetime. Or until you come back.
- Dance the night way in a club.
- Take a cooking class.
- Relax at a hammam.
Why you should not add Marrakech to your RTW travel list
- Marrakech is hot. November to April are cooler months, although the temperatures usually stay above 20C during the day.
- Be aware of touts. Nothing is free, even the simple information such as location of a certain place requires you to pay.
Marrakech is a large city in Morocco and one of the country’s major tourist draws. The population of the greater area is around 2 million, but fortunately the area of interest to travelers is fairly compact and easily walkable. The city is at the base of the High Atlas Mountains, which provide a stunning backdrop as you approach. Marrakech was run by the French for decades and the new part of the city has minor French influences, but the Old City shows off the local Berber culture almost exclusively.
What To Do
The new city is very modern and was designed to blend in with its desert surroundings, but the main attractions in Marrakech are all located in the Medina, or Old City. The Djemaa el Fna Square is near the entrance to the Medina and is definitely the heart of the area. This is the largest city square in Africa and it’s little more than a concrete slab. During the day there are tourists roaming about among the locals and a few orange juice carts, but at night the place comes alive in a whole new way. Food vendors with exotic dishes fill the square as various performers and hucksters compete for the attention and money of passers-by. This is not to be missed.
Behind the square are entrances to the winding streets of the souk (market) areas. Each section has similar vendors and stalls bunched together. You’ll find large assortments of brass, leather, incense, clothing, bootleg DVDs, and on and on. If you go it alone you’ll be bombarded by attention from the individual merchants who only give up when a new one takes their place. You can cheaply hire a private guide to take you through this area and be taken inside some of the craft shops for a fascinating insider’s tour. The street dealers will automatically ignore you if you have a guide, but you’ll be subjected to various sales pitches along the tour no matter how much you beg them to stop. Both strategies are as fascinating as they are exhausting.
Many people cross into Morocco from Spain into Tangier and then move around on the trains. The rail service in Morocco is cheap and very near European standards so this is an efficient and economical way to tour the country. If you are coming from further away you can book a flight into Marrakech-Menara Airport (code RAK). A few low-cost carriers are using this airport so fares can be good, but also check fares into larger Casablanca Airport, which is only a few hours away by train.
Where To Stay
There are a few hostels in Marrakech and many hotels in Marrakech as well. The quality tends to be much higher in the new city than in the Medina. It’s probably worth paying a bit more for a nicer place just outside the city walls as this gives you the best of both worlds.