Our complete Marrakech travel guide includes transportation, where to stay & where to eat, plus a detailed 3-day itinerary.
But as you’ll find out, there are enough activity recommendations in this Marrakech travel guide to keep you busy for a week! We hope it makes your trip-planning process that much easier.
Marrakech is a wonderful mixture of chaos and tranquility. Our 10-day Moroccan adventure began here, and we quickly fell in love. After only 72 hours, we left with the feeling that we had truly been immersed in Moroccan culture.
Marrakech has it all: rich history, beautiful architecture, lodging & dining options to accommodate all budgets, and a lively medina to explore. Stay for at least 3 days to fully experience the character & charm of this vibrant city.
Click the 3 yellow category headers below to jump to different sections of the guide.
- Marrakech: 5 facts
- Getting there
- Getting around
- Where to stay
- Where we slept
- Dining & imbibing
- The Souks & El-Fnaa Square: Day 1
- Tour the medina: Day 2
- Majorelle Gardens & Berber Museum: Day 3
- What we missed (& other things to do if you’ve got more than 3 days)
Marrakech: 5 facts
- The city reflects Spanish, French & North African cultural & architectural influences
- The 1st of Morocco’s 4 Imperial Cities (the other 3 being Fes, Meknes & Rabat)
- Morocco’s 4th largest city (population 1 million). Top 3 are Casablanca, Fes & Tangier
- Protective walls stretch 12 miles (19 km) around the city, enclosing the medina (“old city”)
- The Medina of Marrakech was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985
Though the origin of the name Marrakesh is widely disputed, the city has many globally-recognized nicknames:
- The Red City: referencing the orange-red (ochre) clay walls of the medina
- The Ochre City: see #1!
- The Land of God: from the Berber words amur (n) akush
- The City of Seven Saints: honoring the 7 Patron Saints of Morocco (all reside in tombs in the medina)
- Fly to Ménara International Airport (RAK)
- Fly to Casablanca or Fes, and take a take a train
- Ferry to the port of Tanger-Med in Tangier, and take an overnight train
Marrakech is very much a walking city. Most of the main attractions are within walking distance. If it’s too hot to walk, taxis are always available. But certain parts of the medina aren’t accessible to vehicles larger than a motorcycle.
Other modes of transportation in and around the medina:
- Buses (outside the medina)
- Horse-drawn carriages (many are stationed near the entrance to Le Jardin Majorelle)
In 3 days, the longest drive we made was from the airport to the gate of the medina, which was 4 miles.
⌲ Accommodation & Satiation
Where to stay
To get the complete, authentic Marrakech experience, stay inside the medina. You’ll find countless options ranging from budget backpacker hostels to the iconic luxury hotel La Mamounia, and everything in between.
The most traditional approach is to stay at a riad, which is similar in concept to a “Bed & Breakfast.” Moroccan riads are homes that feature an interior garden, courtyard and central fountain on the bottom floor. The upper levels have been repurposed to accommodate travelers. Most will offer between 4 and 15 rooms.
travelhelix tip: when booking your riad, ask what’s included in the room rate: some offer complimentary breakfast, dinner, or both. Others might offer breakfast or dinner for an additional fee. Either way, a home-cooked meal with a personal feel is one of our favorite parts of riad hospitality.
Where we slept
We stayed in the northwest part of the medina at Riad Kheirredine, the top-rated riad in Marrakech (as of this writing). The design is exquisite. The rooms are luxurious. All the amenities—from the restaurant to the pool to the spa—are world class. But what truly sets Riad Kheirredine apart is their approach to hospitality.
Read our complete review for the full scoop on Riad Kheirredine…and the overall best hospitality experience of our travel lives!
Dining & imbibing
Depending on where you choose to dine, multiple courses may be involved. Some of these recommendations are simply places to grab a meal. Others are complete culinary experiences.
travelhelix tip: for #1 and #2, eat as little as possible on the day of your dining experience. If you must eat, eat lightly, and come hungry.
- Dinner at Dar Yacout: this was a wild experience from beginning to end. Before being seated, you’re escorted to the rooftop to enjoy some relaxing live music, breathtaking views and an incredible beverage of your choice (spirits included). Downstairs in the restaurant, you’re given the seating option of “on a couch” or “by the pool.” We ate our first 3 courses on a couch…and our next 4 by the pool. All of this came for a fixed price–wine included. Very well worth it.
travelhelix tip: if you like the idea of a location change mid-meal, do the opposite of what we did! By round 6, we wished we were back on a couch again. But we truly cannot complain…
- Dinner at Dar Moha: OK, so we didn’t actually dine here. We have been told from other friends who DID eat here, that it was an incredible overall experience–dining & ambience–similar to what we found at Dar Yacout.
- Pre-dinner drinks at El Fenn: thanks to the recommendation of some friends, we enjoyed a refreshing beverage on the relaxing rooftop while admiring a beautiful sunset over Koutoubia Mosque.
- Latitude 31: another recommendation that comes highly rated by friends and other travelers online.
- Henna Art Café: delicious couscous (customary to eat on Fridays) and fresh fruit juices!
⌲ Suggested Itinerary
Marrakech Travel Guide — Day 1: the Souks & El-Fnaa Square
Have a haggle in the Souks
Marrakech is home to the largest traditional Berber market in Morocco: the souks (“souk” → “market”). The souks are a sprawling network of artisans, vendors & storefronts, spread throughout countless streets & alleyways, organized by section: carpets & rugs, clothing, leather goods, baskets, perfumes, jewelry, pottery, knives…spices, dried fruits, fresh fruits, olives, nuts…camel heads?!
Temptation lurks around every corner. And as you navigate these narrow streets by foot, watch out for motorcycles.
We left the souks having acquired some fun Moroccan pants (D), a men’s leather satchel (A) and a leather backpack (D’s sister). Additional purchases were made in the Medina of Fes, several days later!
The ancient art of haggling (negotiating) is encouraged throughout Morocco. Quite simply, it’s the way deals get done. Vendors will expect you to engage in a friendly negotiation with them. Smile, be polite, refrain from outrageous “low-ball” offers–and have fun doing it! If the idea of haggling in an unfamiliar land makes you uneasy, there are plenty of resources online to guide you on what is and isn’t acceptable.
time of day: morning will be less crowded than midday, and most souks will be open until ~8:00pm. On Fridays, some vendors may only be open in the morning, then close their shop for the rest of the day following the afternoon call for prayer.
Explore the deceptive beauty of Moroccan architecture
Deceptive beauty is a phenomenon we first experienced in Marrakech: the contrast between the plain exteriors of buildings and the vibrant, ornate interiors. Our guide describes this phenomenon as blind architecture: the beauty hidden behind every wall.
Check out our article on Moroccan architecture for an in-depth look at this intriguing style of design:
Get some Henna!
The best place in Marrakech to get authentic Moroccan henna is Henna Art Café. D got a henna tattoo here, and rocked this gorgeous Moroccan goodness for the next 2 weeks.
The overall experience was awesome: the staff were warm & welcoming and the food was fresh & delicious. While we waited for D’s henna artist to finish with her previous client, we enjoyed a plate of couscous (customary to eat on Fridays) and fresh fruit juice.
In total, we spent about an hour and a half here (30 minutes for the actual henna process itself).
travelhelix tip: you may encounter women in El-Fnaa Square (and other areas) who will offer you henna right there and then, at an attractive price. We were advised against this, due to concerns surrounding the quality of the product (remember: henna is a dye that comes from a plant!). Take the safe route and visit Henna Art Café or another reputable establishment that you’ve researched.
People-watch at El-Fnaa Square
Jemaa el-Fnaa (el-Fnaa Square) is one of the main attractions in the Medina of Marrakech, and the busiest square in all of Africa. The best way to people watch is from an elevated position. If you’re hungry, visit one of the street vendors to try some very local & authentic Moroccan snacks.
travelhelix tip: the square is surrounded by cafés. Most will not serve alcohol. If imbibing is your motivation, you may not find an option directly on the square. Simply choose a café that looks good, with a nice terrace overlooking the square.
Marrakech Travel Guide — Day 2: Tour the medina
Now that you’ve got some aimless wandering under your belt, it’s time to crack open those history books and soak up 1000 years of knowledge. Or at least, a few interesting pearls. For your 2nd day in Marrakech, we recommend hiring a guide for either a full-day or half-day tour.
travelhelix tip: walking the streets, you may be approached by people offering to give you a tour. In Morocco, the tourism industry is regulated by the government. Your riad or a local tourist bureau can help you hire an official, licensed tour guide.
Below are 6 highlights that we explored during our 4-hour tour:
- This map will take you from point #1 through point #6.
- If you choose to follow this route by foot, the total distance is just under 3 miles (4.6 km).
- Depending on the season, the day of the week, how often you stop to take pictures, etc. this tour could take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours.
1. Ben Youssef Mosque
Famous for its green tiled roof and minaret, the 12th century Ben Youssef Mosque is the oldest in Marrakech.
2. Koutoubia Mosque
Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in Marrakech. It’s also a source of international architectural inspiration → Giralda of Sevilla.
3. Saadian Tombs
This 16th century mausoleum for Saadian rulers & their families is a beautiful blend of cedar wood, stucco and Italian marble. The tombs and the surrounding garden form an architectural masterpiece for all to enjoy.
4. The Kasbah of Marrakech
A kasbah is most simply defined as a “fortified house.” Historically-speaking, sometimes a kasbah was a palace under the control of a single family. Sometimes, it was a group of fortified structures in the same area (like a medina). The lines are a bit blurry between the definitions of medina, kasbah and ksar (for example: Ait Ben Haddou).
The kasbah of Marrakech is most simply defined as the oldest part of the medina. It resides very close to the Royal Palace (southeast section of the medina).
5. The Mellah of Marrakech
From the Arabic meaning “salt spring” or “salt marsh,” a Mellah is a walled Jewish quarter of a Moroccan city, analogous to the term ghetto used in European cities.
Like the kasbah, the Mellah of Marrakech is also situated near the Royal Palace. This served to protect its inhabitants–a Jewish community consisting largely of bankers, jewelers, metalworkers, tailors and sugar traders–all of whom played a vital role in the local economy.
At one time, there were 35 synagogues in Marrakech. Today, only 2 are active:
- Beit El Synagogue: built in the 1950’s
- Lazama Synagogue: built in 1492; today, the primary site for prayer. Also known as The Synagogue of the Deportees, referring to Jewish refugees that fled Spain & Portugal at the end of the 15th century.
6. Bahia Palace
Widely recognized as one of the finest in Morocco, the Bahia Palace features a 2-acre garden of rooms connected by passageways that open onto courtyards. Construction began in the late 19th century and took 7 years to complete.
The word Bahia means “brilliant” and “beautiful.” This exquisite palace certainly embodies both of those meanings.
If you’re able to visit all of these landmarks in one day, consider it a success! From here, stroll back to El-Fnaa square for some refreshing juice or a snack, or head back to your riad for an afternoon nap.
Marrakech Travel Guide — Day 3: Majorelle Gardens & Berber Museum
Both Le Jardin Majorelle and the Berber Museum are absolute must-see sights in Marrakech. French painter Jacques Majorelle spent 40 years creating this enchanting garden just outside the medina. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself mesmerized by his lush & colorful landscape.
- Schedule: the gardens are open every day of the year, even during Ramadan. Hours vary by season.
- When to go: this is one of the most visited sites in all of Morocco–not just Marrakech! Weekdays may offer smaller crowds than weekends, and mornings will offer cooler temperatures than afternoons.
- Stay hydrated: the walk from the medina to the gardens is completely flat, but may take anywhere from 20-40 minutes depending on where you’re coming from. Bring water for the walk, and be prepared to stand in the sun while waiting in line for tickets.
The museum is located inside the gardens, but a separate ticket is required for entry. Purchase both tickets at the ticket station outside the garden.
- Price of admission is 70 Dhs for the Garden and 30 Dhs for the Museum (roughly $10 USD total)
- As of this writing, online ticket purchasing isn’t available
Here’s an aerial view map showing the layout of the entire property.
Containing more than 600 objects from the Rif Mountains to the Sahara, the Berber Museum offers a wealth of knowledge about the various indigenous tribes of North Africa. From sugar hammers, inkwells, door locks, and Jewelry, to Mezuzahs, talismans, muskets and footwear, a lot of history is packed into this tiny, fascinating museum.
You can breeze through the museum in as little as 10 minutes if you just want to look, or you can spend as much as 1 hour in here, if you prefer to also read about stuff.
reflections from A: as we exited through the gift shop, we saw beautifully-embroidered leather items – representations of hundreds of years’ worth of Berber craftsmanship – that could be yours to take home. The most prominently displayed of all: cases for your iPhone or iPad. A not-so-subtle reminder of technology’s growing influence in today’s world.
travelhelix tip: if you prefer not to walk back after your visit, grab a taxi or a horse-drawn carriage outside the garden to take you back to the medina. Don’t forget to negotiate the price ahead of time.
Return to the Medina, through a different gate
The Medina of Marrakech has 20 gates. On your way back from the gardens, add a dash of adventure to your day by choosing a different gate for re-entry into the medina. You never know what you’ll find!
reflections from D: as we cross the busy intersection toward a new, unfamiliar gate, we stumble upon a small farmers’ market set up outside the medina walls. We had learned from our friends at the riad that it’s polite to offer money should you want to take a picture of a vendor’s stall. Communicating with my hands, my camera and a few dirhams, my request to take a picture of some watermelons was reluctantly accepted.
Relax with a Hamman Bath
Moroccan Hammam is a relaxing combination of sauna & spa. But there’s more to Hammam than steam, scrubbing & black soap. Hammam is an important tradition of Moroccan culture, and includes both social & religious elements.
Head to the in-house spa of Riad Kheirredine, or ask the staff at your riad for a recommendation inside or around the medina.
travelhelix tip: this article includes a great info on Hammam history, benefits, ritual, and etiquette.
reflections from D: do not get a henna tattoo, and then go for a Hammam 3 hours later. Harsh scrubbing of Hammam + fresh Henna = not good for D’s arm 🙁
What we missed
Yves Saint Laurent Museum (Marrakech)
Located at the former fashion house of Yves Saint Laurent–and just down the street from the Majorelle Gardens–the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech is supposedly much more than a museum. Looks very cool!
The museum opened in October 2017–just 5 short months after our trip. Thank you, Yves, for giving us another excuse to get back to Marrakech!
Essaouira (day trip from Marrakech)
This coastal Atlantic city known for its ancient medina, city walls, souks, the beautiful Moulay el Hassan square, and great seafood restaurants.
Essaouira is 119 miles (192 km) from Marrakech, and more or less a 3-hour drive each way. You’ll find many options for guided day trips, which is exactly what we would have done if we had one extra day in Marrakech. But since we chose camels & dune buggies over seafood & sandy beaches, we’ll have to save Essaouira for next time.
We hope our Marrakech travel guide has helped simplify your trip-planning process. If there’s anything we can do to help, please reach out!
P.S.–for a closer look at the sights, stories and laughter that filled our whirlwind & memorable day 1 in Marrakech, check out Morocco: First Impressions.