In theory, Marrakesh should have had everything I really dislike in a travel destination: overwhelming numbers of aggressive hawkers and vendors, tourists unable or unwilling to respect local culture, and massive crowds. However, after just a day in the city I realized that there was much more to Marrakesh than I may have believed before visiting. Perhaps I was still a little bit wary of the big Moroccan destination after my time in Fez, but at the end of the day it was obvious to me that there is something magical about this city. Marrakesh is frantic, chaotic, and yes there are vendors and hordes of tourists, but unlike most places in the world all that doesn’t detract from the place but rather enhances its style. I spent 5 days in Marrakesh and at the end of it all I left with some very fond memories and a desire to someday return; and I didn’t expect that at all.
Time Needed: 3-5 days
Backpacker’s Budget: 35-45 USD a day
Things to do in Marrakesh
You certainly won’t find yourselves starved for activity in Marrakesh. There is something to do around nearly every corner and for nearly every type of traveller.
- Djemaa El-Fna: This is chaos at its best. You have snake charmers, monkey owners, men dressed in traditional Sudanese robes, orange juice vendors and everything in between in this incredible space. In many ways it feels like every scene of every Indiana Jones movie rolled into one square.
- Shopping: Head into the alleys off of Djemaa El-Fna for some shopping. If you’ve visited Fez before you’ll be happy to know that the experience is much less “aggressive.”
- Ali Ben Youssef Medersa: An absolutely beautiful bit of architecture and likely Marrakesh’s one “can’t miss” tourist attraction aside from the square itself.
- The Palace: This is another absolutely stunning building. You can only visit a portion of the palace, but what you can visit is spectacular.
- Koutoubia Mosque: After all the churches in Europe, the sight of mosques is something almost out of this world for me. The only shame is that as a non-Muslim you can’t go inside. Koutoubia is nearly impressive enough to want to turn non-followers just for a look inside.
- Marrakesh Museum: I’m not sure it’s all it’s cracked up to be, but it’s likely still worth a visit if you have the time. Maybe I was just more interested in the craziness of the streets, but the museum didn’t really inspire me.
- Jewish Quarter: The Jewish part of town is decent stroll and offers an interesting look at not only the history of Jewish people in Morocco, but the Iberian Peninsula as well.
- Cooking: There are a number of cooking courses available in Marrakesh. If you’re like me and you love Moroccan food, it’s worth taking one of them.
Where to Eat in Marrakesh
The thing about Marrakesh is that you can pretty much eat based on any budget in the world. You’ll find some of the fanciest meals on the planet as well as some of the best budget deals. There are no shortages of choices and Moroccan food is delicious!
- Djemaa El-Fna Food Stalls: It might not be as cheap as it should be, but it’s almost like a Moroccan version of the tapa, and should not only be on your dinning list for Marrakesh, but your bucket list as well.
- Café France: Above the Djemaa El-Fna square this place doesn’t have the world’s most delicious food, but the view alone is worth the stop.
- Villa Flore: This is not only one of the best places to eat in Marrakesh, but likely the whole country. It’s more expensive, but easily worth the price.
Where to Stay in Marrakesh
When I was in Marrakesh I managed to find my way (somehow) to the Hostel Riad Marrakesh Rouge, and I’m glad I did. Not only is the hostel really good and well located, but the staff is amazing. Personally, if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Marrakesh I’d say look no further.
Getting out of Town
On the ground Marrakesh is connected to the north-east by train and everywhere else by bus. There are regular trains to Rabat, Fez and Tangier and if you are heading south to Dakhla or to the beach of Essaouira there are buses. That being said, if you’re planning on travelling via bus I recommend you book a day or two in advance as the buses fill quite quickly.
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