The unforgettable experience starts the moment you enter the doors of Marrakesh. This city has an exceptional vibe and it’s one of the most walkable friendly I’ve been to. Best things to do in Marrakesh I can give you is to spend a day following tiny little streets of the souks and simply get lost in Medina (the Old Town) in Marrakesh. You’ll find here plenty of information on how you can make your stay in Marrakesh unforgettable.
Get lost in the streets of Marrakesh.
Every traveler is able to find these narrow streets of Marrakesh I’m talking about – you don’t need a guide and tons of guidebooks. I heard few people saying there’s nothing interesting to find in Marrakesh, although they had read something different before coming here. That may happen, if you only follow the main streets, you will end up in the middle of laud souk squares and touristic streets markets, which you definitely find annoying!
Don’t be scared to step aside the main streets to discover the hidden beauty of the narrow pink alleys of this ancient Maroccan city. You will notice lots of heavy wooden carved doors, which are inherent part of the pink Maroccan architecture. At first I didn’t know where this pink colour is coming from, until I visited Atlas Mountains on the west of Marrakesh. It’s the colour of the Atlas Mountains rock that is turned into an infrastructure building material.
Riad – Best places to stay in Marrakesh
Riad – what is it and why it is worth staying there? This is a traditional Moroccan house. Architectural elements of riads are breath taking. The place is a typical Moroccan house with a common area in the middle and number of rooms around the courtyard. There will usually be a swimming pool and a pleasant garden in the middle section. Nowadays, most of the accommodation offered to tourists are riads. Staying little outside the main square has lots of advantages..
You will able to observe a real local life scenery, where the pace of living is much more quiet, far from crowded touristic spots. You’ll find it different in every single element of the architecture, outfit and ordinary life scenery. I was staying in riad located 20 minutes walking distance from the main square in rural streets of Marrakesh and it was a perfect choice just for that reason.
Arab and Berber society are very conservative. Sometimes I felt some of them were making a huge effort tolerating me walking in a short sleeve and a camera, while others were very pleasant and opened. Try to be respectful with your outfit and general behaviour. Be prepared for hundreds of questions from local people: Where do you go? Where’re you from? What are you looking for? If you share you destination details, they will usually tell you it is located in the opposite direction. ;))) It is because they are willing to escort you for small money. If you accept their advice or favour you will be definitely forced to pay for it at the end!
Avoid young guys who offer help to show you the way, they will charge more than small amount of cash.
Safety in Morocco
Since this terrible tragedy in Atlas Mountains, involving two Scandinavian girls being killed in their tent while trekking Toubkal, safety in Marocco may remain under a big question mark for backpackers or hikers. But we all know it was probably one time incident. I was traveling through Atlas Mountains mountains 2 days before this tragedy happened. From my perspective the country is safe. First thing I always do after landing in a new place – is asking locals about the safety! Ask everyone, your reception Guy, people in hotels, other travelers. There isn’t a better source of information but local people or people who are onsite. Generally tourists are safe in Morocco, as the government is well aware how important tourism is and that travelers bring money.
Walking at night in Marrakesh wasn’t a problem for me. Pick-pocketing barely happens, as the police is quite efficient in chasing the robbers and they usually got caught within few hours. Most likely you would be hit by a moped. Mopeds drive full speed even in tiny little streets – stay safe and always try walking on the right side of the road!
Hammam Spa treatment – why you have to try?
Why Hammam is so exceptional? HAMMAM – is a traditional Moroccan massage. You’ll be able to find lots of spa saloons in the city. Not all of them are good, so be careful when picking the right one and definitely stick to Riads. It’s a very pleasant experience and an amazing body treatment at the same time. At first a black Moroccan soap is applied to sit on you for 15 minutes while you are in the hot steam room. Afterwards they wash and scrub your body to remove epidermis layer. All this is followed by a great massage. It’s an old traditional cleansing ritual in Morocco nowadays but has it’s grassroots in ancient Greece. It’s also possible to buy typical black Moroccan soap on the market.
Best places to eat in Marrakesh
Moroccan street food is the best meal you can have!
Street food aroma will lead you to try different types of local cuisine. Street food gores live around 5-6 pm. I tried it every day and had no stomach problems in case you wonder. /But I have to say it’s been years of street fooding for myslef ;)))) so perhaps I’m well used to it/. I know it’s a cheap food but believe me the best one everywhere I go!
You’ll see lots of different ways this amazing street food is cooked – grilled, baked in stone oven or cooked in huge clay vessel. Best fried food I tried is onion pancakes (10 Dirhams), fried eggplant and traditional vegetarian soup with lentils and bean are incredibly tasty (25 Dirhams). Moroccan bread is amazing too. One of the best things sold on every corner is fresh fruit juice, especially pomegranate (10 Dirhams). That must be a God’s drink! Another story are original spices, it is something you need to bring with you back home. Try to avoid buying them in the most crowded touristic souks, any place far from this is fine. You’ll definitely find the difference in taste.
On the first photo – Moroccan tagine /tajine/, second – fried eggplant.
Moroccan street food is the best meal you can have!
Tajine – it’s a traditional Moroccan dish, slow-cooked stews braised at low temperatures with vegetables, all cooked in aromatic herbs and spices. There’s number of tajine options available in every restaurant menu: stew, chicken, vegetable. If you want to buy a dish for yourself do not pick the colourful one – they are fake and you won’t be able to cook in this. The only real tajine are clay ones, with no painted patterns.
ATMs – are mainly located in biggest squares. There’s lots of them near Yves Saint Laurent museum. It’s possible to pay by card in almost every restaurant, shop, riad or hotel.
Jemaa el-Fna – the night market
Jemaa el-Fna – the main stage of Moroccan halqa- street theatre. Located in the main square of Marrakech. Jemaa el-Fna id the night market, which comes to life with more music and dancers after sunset. It’s worth walking through this biggest soukin Marakesh, mainly to experience traditional music and local performances. You should also be aware of the other side of this place, which is very visible once you get there – a lot of things there are fake and some of them is a red flag – monkeys in chains, the nicked dancing cobra, both used only for street entertainment, exhausted exotic lizards overused for photo purposes.
Very sad knowing how much pain there is behind the scene. Be prepared that if someone from the crowd notices you are taking a photo they will immediately scream pointing at you to ask for money. I got frozen when suddenly half of the crowd started starring at me because I just took one picture. I got really confused at first that I did something wrong. But don’t worry, everything is only about money. 🙂
Traditional performances in Jemaa el-Fna
The souks – street markets
Bargain on everything you want to buy! Usually start from a very low price, cut the zero off from the original price and divide into two to get a real price of the item. I wanted to buy a mask and was asked for 250 dirhams, I finally bought it for 100 only because I was tired having a longer conversation with the seller, but good people told me it’s still way to expensive.
French society is a majority in Marrakesh. Their fashion world interfuse hundreds of local attractions, small cafes, nice boutiques and handcraft shops, their modern magazines are bringing stylish life. Be careful with that!! I found a very stylish shop with masks and sculptures exhibited behind the glowing glass with extremely expensive prices – see a picture below – this gallery is fake! I couldn’t believe when I discovered the same masks sold in a small street stand in the city suburbs for extremely small money!!! I’d say a lot of of the items sold in these fancy French shops are available for a very small money in other rural parts of the city.
Berber language, modern Arabic and French are the official languages of Marocco. As the importance of English has increasing it has replaced French in schools nowadays.
Best places to see in Marrakesh!
- Jemaa el-Fna Square (see description above),
- Museum of photography – great place, enjoyed it very much.I prefer to visit such places in the mornings. 70 Dirhams entrance fee. There’s a very nice restaurant on the top floor.
- Yves Saint Laurent Museum – which attracts people from all over the world! For me attraction number one!! No chance you miss it!! The place tells designer’s history, helps you understand why he was so fascinated by Moroccan colours. The street along the museum has transferred into a luxury valley with French cafes and fashion boutiques. Leather bag costs here 3500 DH. Not my thing, posh and fake. The queue for the museum is app. 30 minutes. But guess what!!? Pass the entrance and walk another 100 metres to find a second entrance with NOBODY in the queue. Yes, this entrance /ticket point/ is located just near the starting point. The entrance is 100 DH but if you combine Jardin and Berber Museum (all can be purchased separately) you’ll pay 180DH. Exceptional place in every way! Exceptional artist! Don’t miss it!
- Everyone will be sending you to the leather market, saying there’s a festival and you’re lucky to be here that day. Bullshit!! The place is unpleasant, dirty and smelly. I’m trying to avoid any kind of leather clothing it’s not a place I would recommend.
- Walk the streets of Marrakesh they are full of temporary exhibitions – breathtaking riads coloured by art.
- Women’s Museum – if you want to understand Women’s culture and traditions it’s the right place. Entrance is something like 25 DH.
- There’s lots of museums in Marrakesh so it’s up to you how much time you want to spend inside rather then outside. Other quite interesting options are Orientalist Museum and Museum of Marrakesh.