Marrakesh, the heart of Morocco, the most beautiful city in the country. Filled with unique captivating culture throughout every alley, markets and breathtaking riads [traditional architecture hotels] so popular on Instagram, this is a mandatory stop for anyone traveling to this country as well as an excelente weekend getaway for those based in Europe.
Medina & Souks
World Heritage by UNESCO
“Founded in 1070 […] Marrakesh remained a political, economic and cultural centre for a long period. Its influence was felt throughout the western Muslim world, from North Africa to Andalusia, Spain.”
The medina of Marrakesh is the most beautiful in the country, even more than its competitor from Fez although not as authentic. It is more touristic with many more shops exclusively for travelers.
Marrakesh is a series of tinny streets and narrow alleys where sometimes not even the merciless sun can reach, as well as GPS signal… The center of the medina is a large square / market [Jemaa el-Fna] to which most of the streets lead to.
The souks [markets] are sections of the streets and alleys where every piece of construction is a shop showing its beautiful products, from the impressive lamps to the perfect mountains of species, everything you might imagine. If you are overwhelmed, start from Souk Semmarine [map].
The best way to explore the souks is simply to walk and get lost following anything that catch your eye. Don’t worry about loosing your tracks. Once you actually get completely lost just follow any bigger street then 10 minutes later you will have reach a mayor open street were you can get GPS signal.
Le Jardin Secret [map] is a garden in the middle of the medina charging entry fees [40 MAD = 4 USD]. We didn’t visited because it doesn’t look worth it even if it were free.
Ben Youssef Madrasa [map] is an old school of traditional architecture dating back to the XVI century, which looks interesting.
We could not visit at the time of our trip it was under remodeling (March 2020).
Jemaa el-Fna is the main market in Marrakesh. It’s located on the main square of the medina. During daytime you will find very few things, mainly juice stands (recommended), henna tattoo places [semi permanent tattoo, disappear by itself within a couple weeks] that are very popular with tourists and few more.
You will also find people with monkeys who will approach you silently until you are in reach for the monkeys to grab you and scare you to death (our case). If you don’t startle like you are about to be murdered they will try to get you to play with them and take some pictures for a fee. Warning: they are tied by chains, and when the market closes they are locked up in tinny cages.
There is also the snake charmer with its intimidating cobra snakes but don’t be afraid, their venom or teeth have been taken out. Do pay attention to the guy with a sneak in his hands!! (not a cobra). He will approach you, then offer you to touch the sneak. If you do it know this: before you realize what is happening, your hand touching the snake is already holding it and the rest of its body is around your shoulders. The guy is meters away next to your friends waiting for your picture being taken. These people should be renamed human charmer.
The market comes to life during night time when the sun gives people a break and lets them live another day. The square gets filled with food stands and many street performers as well as many crazy rarities such as the “dentist”, people who help remove bad teeth for a tip. Just like that. In the middle of the market. How to identify them? Look for the guy with a neckless of teeth.
Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier
The best panoramic views of Marrakesh. Overlooking the central market “Jemaa el-Fna”
Going one floor up, there is this balcony/coffee shop where you can get the best sunset views in town. There is a mandatory drink purchase as an entry ticket. Pay and grab a bottled drink on your way in. Done. You can also get a coffee which the waiter will bring to your table (if you manage to get one) as well as dine although nobody choose this option. Word around says the food is not worth it.
If you come for the sunset be ready to be standing the whole time or get here at least 2 hours before the sun goes down. I do not recommend any other time of the day. Earlier you will be looking at the market that basically doesn’t exist yet, just an empty square.
To sum up: consider this place a viewpoint. Not as a coffee shop.
Parc Lalla Hasna & Koutoubia
Parc Lalla Hasna is the main green park in town and pretty pleasant. Nothing crazy but just a few meters from Jemaa el-Fna market. Worth the short walk.
Koutoubia is a XII century mosque you can see from the park.
Bahia Palace is a large islamic-moroccan palace. 160 rooms all decorated with fine details on doors, walls and ceiling makes this a very Instagrammable place. To complete the luxury set: 8000m² [2 acres] of gardens.
Saadien’s Tombs are a minor attraction. The tombs and the room they are located have fine details (same as any palace in the country). You cannot enter the room, only look at it from the door. The park inside the compound is very small without anything special.
Musee Yves Saint Laurent
Le Musee Berbere
Jardin Majorelle aka Yves Saint Laurent Garden is a very popular botanical garden in Marrakesh although nothing special. Many people consider it’s pretty but nothing unique nor worth the money.
The garden is next to Musee Yves Saint Laurent for those interested in seeing… a building with the YSL logo? And for the contemporary art if you sync with some exhibition.
What completes the trio of the complex is the Le Musee Berbere [Berber: ethnic people from the desert who dress very peculiar clothings.] Those going to desert camps will get a better experience than seeing outfits in a museum.
We decided not to visit any of these.
You have to take a taxi to get here.
Staying at a riad
Staying at a riad [traditional house/hotel] is one of the main experience in Morocco and the best place for it is Marrakesh. Many people come here just for enjoying these beautiful architecture, cozy pools so popular in Instagram.
A riad is build around a small central courtyard which is the main source of light for all the rooms. The nice ones usually have a small but picturesque pool in this area.
Marrakesh has millions of riads. Almost every lodging is a riad. Excellent quality as well as value for money. You can get a remarkable place for fairly cheap. If you are willing to step up without going crazy on your budget, you will get an extremely unique experience, incomparable to anywhere else.
Riad Dar Mo’Da [Review]
Dar Mo’Da is probably the best riad in all Morocco. A beautiful building perfectly blending the Moroccan traditional style with a modern touch.
Number 1 on Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice 2019 best B&B and Inns not only in the country but all Africa. A rating of 9.9/10 on Booking.com. And I must say, it’s true to its reputation.
The riad is located in the heart of the noisy and burning medina, but as soon as you enter its doors it feels like a temple of silence and calmness with a natural cool air.
The exquisite patio and pool are a master piece and the rooftop is the most cozy one anyone could every build. It has only 5 bedroom so it will be pretty quiet and intimate. It feels like staying in a mansion instead of a hotel. The staff feels like they are friends welcoming you into their home. Lastly you can get lunchs and dinner in the dinning room or the rooftop as you wish that day.
Restaurant & Breakfast ★★★★★
Value for money ★★★★★
This review is not sponsored in any way by the hotel.