The First Timer's Guide to Marrakech Morocco
The sprawling medina of Marrakech rings out with the sound of the Call to Prayer, and instantly you know you've entered another world. Morocco's well-loved city is filled with endless adventure, odes to an iconic history, and traditions that transcend a postcard.
Marrakech is a city that is beautiful in moments of raw emotion — something worth embracing. Never have I felt completely okay with getting lost as I did in the winding streets of Marrakech, it was part of the experience. It's a city that beckons a traveler to truly be immersed in another country's tradition. Hot mint tea in a riad, rooftop views with sizzling tajin, bartering over a handmade rug, daring to try street food, taking a left hand turn in hopes it will return you home; all of this and more is Marrakech.
The city is indeed charming, providing an enchantment that I couldn't help but go back for more. It's a destination that has become famed for those looking to escape winter, and enjoy almost year-round sunshine. The ever-so-chic lodging in the form of traditional riads are a staple of a visit and can cost a fraction of equivalent lodging at home.
The powder-pink walls provide an adventure to those who are willing to step in and not look back. Marrakech's brilliant architecture and way of life is a gateway to a cultural expereince.
The First-Timer's Guide to Marrakech, Morocco
What to Know Before Visiting Marrakech, Morocco:
- English is widely spoken, with Arabic and French being the main languages.
- Cash is almost always needed, with plenty of ATM machines readily available throughout the city.
- A local SIM can be purchased at tobacco shops (noted with three white circles on a blue sign). Pick Maroc Telecom (orange packaging) and have the shop owner help you top up. It's incredibly cheap and best way to have access to data for less than 30 USD.
- The medina is very walkable, with everything accessible by foot.
- Friday is considered a Holy day, where most shops will not be open during the day.
- The left hand is considered unclean, be sure to eat and direct with your right hand.
- Haggling is completely acceptable and never pay the asking price!
- When taking photos, some will ask for a few dirham, it is not welcomed by others, and a few will be happy to jump in the photo with you! Be sure to ask before taking anyone's photo.
- Be mindful of how you dress (especially women), covering up with long skirts/dress and t-shirts is both respectful and minimizes verbal harassment.
- Always carry toilet paper, as public restrooms often will not have them.
- I'd personally recommend traveling with a friend here, and that walking solo at night is not advised. I never felt unsafe, but indeed more comfortable with another traveler.
- If someone comes up to you and offers "help" you will need to give a few dirham if you accept. Be mindful of "guides" who will offer a tour and then ask to be paid.
Where to Stay in Marrakech, Morocco:
- Riad Yasmine: A quaint riad in the heart of the medina, this boutique hotel is well-appointed and incredibly cozy. It's perfect for those looking for an intimate stay and a traditional Moroccan riad. Read the full review here.
- La Mamounia: An iconic luxurious hotel just outside the medina, it is a large hotel with beautiful gardens, full spa, and beautiful pools. The rooms are spacious, stunning in design and provide an escape in the heart of the city. Read the full review here.
Where to Eat in Marrakech, Morocco:
- Nomads: This is a trendy, multi-level restaurant in the heart of the medina. The food is incredible, the views are great for sunset. Be sure to reserve in advance for lunch or dinner.
- Le Jardin: Set in a quiet corner, this restaurant is an elevated dining expereince for either lunch or dinner.
- Café D’Espices: A great lunch spot for traditional fare.
- Café Arabe: A classic spot for drinks or tea.
- Latitude 31: A modern restaurant with wonderful ambiance for dinner.
- El Fenn Riad: Come here for drinks with a view and a snack.
- Churchill Bar inside La Mamounia: This is a classic spot for drinks, come here to be taken back in time.
- Atay Cafe Food: Ascend the stairs to the top terrace, grab a fresh squeezed juice and take in the views!
- Le Marocain inside La Mamounia: A fine dining experience, with a prefixed menu that explores regional cuisine. It is a splurge meal but completely worth it!
- High tea at Royal Mansour: Come to the hotel, and ask for high tea. At a great price, it comes set with pastries and tea, all inside the beautiful hotel.
What to Do in Marrakech, Morocco:
- Ben Youssef Mosque: Step inside the walls and be amazed by intricate detail from 1100.
- Dar Mejbar’s rugs: Great spot to browse rugs and find one to take home. (Read more: How to buy a traditional Moroccan rug in Marrakech)
- Yves Saint Laurent Majorelle Garden: If you're looking for a walk in beautiful gardens, head here for an afternoon escape.
- Medina: Getting lost is part of the experience, and with plenty of souks to shop, this is a great place to explore for the day.
- Bahia Palace: A collection of houses that was turned into a palace built in the 19th century, this is a beautiful exploration of gardens and detailed rooms.
- Maison de la Photographie: A museum featuring photographs from both locally and internationally.
- High tea at Royal Mansour: If you're looking for a treat, head here for a well-priced and luxurious experience.
- Spa at La Mamounia: A traditional hammam is definitely an experience to have in Morocco, and when at La Mamounia, you can pay a bit extra to have access to the facilities for the afternoon. A great city break for those looking for some down time.
- Fellah Hotel: Come here for an afternoon and with lunch you get access to the pool. The Atlas Mountains are a beautiful backdrop.
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