Ideally located at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the colorful city of Marrakech (Marrakesh) is the capital of southern Morocco and one of the most popular destinations in the country. Drawing a completely different world for us, Europeans, Marrakech, the entrance to the dessert, has played a main role in the history of Morocco, which has been known internationally as The Kingdom of Marrakech.
The city’s thriving culture, the beautiful setting, the mystical appearance, the heavenly shopping and its proximity to Europe make from Marrakech a real jewel, an oriental oasis for all senses and a unique cultural experience.
There are plenty of things to do and see in this vibrant city, and once you’ve captured its charms, it would be impossible to forget them. Here are some of the main attractions in Marrakech:
Marrakech is divided in two different sides: the modern city called Gueliz or simply Marrakech, and The Medina – the old historic center enclosed by 16 km of ramparts and gates.
No trip to Marrakech would be complete without a stroll around medina. This maze of narrow streets delights its visitors with numerous monuments, gardens, mosques, traditional riads, souks (traditional North African markets) and museums. Moreover, the spicy sweet flavors, the oriental sounds and the vivid colors here will guide your every step into this wonderful world, filling your senses and urging you to dream.
Jemaa el Fna Square
Located in the medina, Jemaa el Fna is one of the busiest squares in Morrocco and maybe the entire Africa. Jam packed with various acrobats, dancers, musicians, snake charmers and all sorts of performers, the square is one of the most famous sights in town. Throughout the day, Jemaa el Fna is lined up with cafes, carts selling freshly squeezed orange juice and people enjoying the street shows in this flamboyant ambiance.
Once the sun goes down, Jemaah el Fna Square becomes even livelier. The orange juice stands are quickly replaced by various food stalls selling fresh delicious dishes. Therefore, if you really want to see how Marrakech’s heart beats, don’t hesitate to experience the Jemaa el Fna Square with its charming vibrant scene.
Located in the same fascinating medina, right next to the Jewish quarter, the Bahia Palace is a marvelous example of 19th century Moroccan architecture.
While the spectacular decorations of Bahia Palace will enrich your cultural experience in Marrakech, its lovely jasmine-scented gardens will offer you a well-deserved break away from the hustle and bustle of medina. Besides, you’ll have the opportunity to see how sultans lived like long time ago, as the place has been designed to serve as the personal residence of the sultan and his harem.
The charming collection of paved courtyards, walkaways, pavilions and walled gardens, as well as the stunningly decorated rooms, offer visitors a glimpse of the former Moroccan opulence.
Jardin Majorelle (Majorelle Garden)
Filled with rare plants, exotic trees and flowers, bright colors, quaint bridges, winding alleys, beautiful fountains, various species of birds and a quiet relaxing atmosphere, the Majorelle Garden is a must see attraction in Marrakech.
Home of the French painter Jacques Majorelle, the property has been opened to visitors in 1947, but right after the artist’s death, the getaway started to degrade. Its lost charm has been recovered only in 1980 when Pierre Berge together with the renowned designer, Yves Saint Laurent, have started the restoration.
Today, the Majorelle Garden is also home of the Islamic Art Museum, sheltering an impressive collection of ancient artifacts including jewelry, porcelains, textiles, weapons, carpets and many valuable items. Additionally, visitors at the museum will be delighted with some of Jacques Majorelle’s art works.
Other attractions and things to do in Marrakech
These are just a few things to see in Marrakech, but there’s much more on offer in The Red City. Other notable attractions include the Dar Si Said Palace with the Museum of Moroccan Art; the remains of the El Badii Palace; the Ben Youssef Medersa – one of the most impressive buildings in Marrakech; the Saadian Tombs; the remarkable mosques scattered around the city; or the delightful souks in the northern part of medina.
In addition to sightseeing, Marrakesh offers as well, a rich variety of activities including entertaining day trips to the beach of Essaouira or to the lovely Ourika Valley, golf, hiking, relaxing afternoons at one of its excellent spas or hot air ballooning over the nearby countryside.
Combining the traditional with luxury and avant-garde, Marrakech’s nightlife has a special taste, being perfect for both jet-setters as well as for travelers in search of authenticity. Unlike other Islamic cities, Marrakech prides itself with a laid-back attitude towards alcohol, which makes it a hot spot for partygoers.
The medina, with its multitude of food stalls, cafes and street entertainment, is the ideal place to start the night. For something more, however, Gueliz comes with a great selection of stylish bars, lounges and nightclubs, where you can dance or enjoy a drink with your friends.
Marrakech’s clubbing scene has experienced a rampant evolution as many classy clubs have raised recently in Hivernage and around the Mohammed VI Boulevard.
All in all, Marrakech nightlife is vibrant and sophisticated, and fortunately, it has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for live music venues, world-famous clubs, chill-out bars or luxury party spots.
Where to eat in Marakech
You will have no trouble in finding good places to eat in Marrakech as the city boasts a myriad of restaurants and traditional eateries to choose from. For an authentic experience, Jemaa el Fna square with its animated street food scene is the ideal place to taste the local delicacies.
In order to soak up the essence of the real Moroccan food, you should definitely eat at least once in a traditional restaurant or riad. They are famous for providing the most delicious couscous and tangines, and they are spread all over the city, especially in the medina.
The rich flavored Moroccan food represents one of the best cuisines in the world, but travelers who don’t like it are always welcomed to eat in one of the many international restaurants around the city.
Shopping in Marrakech
With its colorful souks, boutiques and malls, Marrakech is a wonderful shopping destination. From antiques, jewelry and hand-made embroideries to decorations, leather goods and designer’s shops, there’s nothing you can’t find in the flamboyant Marrakech.
One of the best places to buy souvenirs and traditional items is medina, famous for the Jemaa el Fna Square and its souks, where the genuine thrill of this activity comes from the pleasure of hunting and the art of bargain. Be aware though, you are expected to haggle, so don’t rush to pay the first asked price.
If haggle is not actually you strength, there’s also Gueliz, the new city of Marrakech, where shopping is more relaxing and the merchandise’s quality is almost always excellent. A wide-ranging selection of shops and designer boutiques can be found around this European-style district.
However, for an exclusive shopping experience in Marrakech, make sure you won’t miss the Galerie Serghini with its impressive collection of quality leather goods, or the Almazar Shopping Center, one of the best and most famous in Morocco.
Lodging in Marrakech
Marrakech offers plenty of lodging opportunities from exclusive royal palaces to luxury boutique hotels, rental apartments and traditional accommodations catered for all budgets and tastes, but nothing enhances your experience here more than the typical riad.
Thus, in order to get the most out of your oriental experience, I strongly recommend you Riad rental in Marrakech. That, alongside the mouth-watering Moroccan cuisine, the charming souks, the impressive Moorish architecture and the city’s mystical feel will offer you the most authentic vacation one can have in Marrakech.
For something more exclusive however, you can always look for a small luxury hotel in Marrakech, where the traditional blends beautifully with luxury, and where privacy and coziness come hand in hand with top-quality services.