Morocco has always been on my top travel list to go to, so you can imagine my excitement when I finally got to see this place with my own eyes! Marrakech is known to be the country full of colour and contrast, there is so much to take in from its rich culture, cuisine, customs and traditions. My boyfriend and I flew to Marrakech from Dusseldorf and it was an approximate 4 and 1/2 hour flight. We decided to go in early November where it is supposedly the best time to visit with the perfect weather to discover Morocco. Temperatures average at 20-25 degrees in the day time but cooler at night, it’s not too hot or cold for tourists to explore the city either. I have put together a full guide here on some helpful tips before you go and also cover where to stay, eat and what to do in Marrakech.
TIPS + THINGS TO AVOID
Moroccan currency is in Dirhams, this can be exchanged at the Marrakech Menara airport upon arrival or in the Medina. Euros are widely accepted but expect to pay higher if you choose to purchase with this currency.
- Sim card
Sim cards can be bought at the airport with a few phone company who set up booths for you. I got my 5 GB data sim from Inwi for 50 Dirhams and it was very quick and easy to set up. I find it especially helpful to get sim cards before you enter the city to contact your driver if you can’t locate him or make use of google maps to get around.
- Time Change
No day light savings! Morocco has no time change in 2018. The government decided to not follow day light savings like the rest of the world only 2 days before it was meant to change. Meaning supposedly official and reliable clocks like your phone and even the local Moroccan banks will still show you are 1 hour ahead instead of the correct time. Don’t make the same mistake as us when we only realised the time different (or lack of) only 3 days into the trip! Make sure to check at the airport upon arrival or with your local hotel or riad just to make sure you’re not late or early for a trip you booked or even your return flight!
Apart from pick pockets in busy touristic areas, Marrakech is mostly safe. Pay attention on the streets and make use of google maps to get around- even in the Medina. Be careful of potential scams where locals will mostly offer to help or pretend to be your guide, just be aware that most of they will require payment afterwards. We have learnt not react to their offer since showing even some interest in them might end up more difficult to loose them as they continue to persist.
As a tourist, I would advise to dress appropriately and modestly. With the vast majority of Moroccans being Muslims, locals are usually seen very covered up. I’m not suggesting for women to cover their entire body, but to not draw attention to yourself, wear items that cover your shoulders and knee.
Day tours and desert tours are widely available in the medina and prices negotiable. So if you haven’t yet arranged your any excursions, you can still do so when you get to Marrakech.
Negotiation is encouraged when shopping. We were recommended by a local not to pay more than 30% of the price presented at the souks. A good tip is to allow the shop keeper to name their price and negotiate from there. Continue reading to see what you can buy in Marrakech.
- Opening Hours
Check with local on opening hours for certain tourist landmarks. We found out that one of the most popular touristic spot called Ben Youssef Madrasa was just recently closed for renovation that will take up to 3 years. Another one we wanted to go to was Bahia Palace which was also closed due to a film shooting on the day we planned to visit.
WHERE TO STAY
Just as traveling to any country, hotels are widely available in Marrakech. What’s unique about Morocco are the riads you can stay located mostly in the medina of the city. A riad is a traditional Moroccan guest house, usually consisting of 5-10 different rooms with a garden or courtyard in the center of the wall enclosed property. I have included a few riads and hotels you can book via booking sites such as Airbnb, bookings.com and hotels.com. The budgets for each are also indicated with the dollar sign ($) for your reference!
$- HK$ 400-1000 $$- HK$1000-2000 $$$- HK$2000 and above
Pure Riad $
Consisting of 3 different riads around the medina of Marrakech, each beautifully capture the essence of a Moroccan home away from home. We had the pleasure of staying in Riad Tzarra, and the best thing about it was the traditional bathroom and breakfast mornings on the rooftop. What stood out to us was the personal service we were offered from their Riad manager who advised us on our itinerary and suggestions in Marrakech!
Kech Boutique Hotel & Spa $
Located outside the Medina and closer to the airport, this hotel consists of very spacious bedrooms and a wide selection of cuisine to choose from during breakfast. What’s great is the huge swimming pool also located in the center of the hotel to cool off during a hot summer day.
Riad Kaiss $$
A beautifully designed luxury riad designed by the the French architect Christian Ferre. This place is not to be missed to experience staying a unique property and personalised service.
Mandarin Oriental $$$
For those looking for a more luxurious experience, The Mandarin Oriental resort offers a world-class experience with top notch services and dining. With exclusive options of a private suites to pool villas on it’s 20 hecters of land, the is allows for a intimate stay at the resort.
La Mamounia $$$
Voted as the best hotel according to CNTraveller’s reader’s choice awards, La Mamounia use to be a palace served for royalties in Marrakech. You would have probably stumbled upon an image of its pool and spa that has gone viral through Instagram over the past few years. This palace hotel is a visual experience for those who want a taste of Moroccan luxury from a dining experience with incredible interior to its award-winning spa and pool.
WHERE TO EAT
Moroccan cuisine is a combination of cultures you can taste from a mix of Berber, Arabic, Mediterranean and a slight European influence. The most common dishes you can find consist of traditional tagine (or tajine) which are slow cooked stew made from vegetable with meat such as chicken, lamb or beef seasoned with multiple spices, nuts and fruits. When you arrive in Marrakech, you will also notice that mint tea is served everywhere you go. This type of mint tea is usually already sweetened when brewed, with extra sugar cubes served on the side for additional sweetness. Moroccan cuisine is suitable for most diets with meat options as well as vegetable and vegan options available.
Café des Espice
Open for lunch and dinner, this is a perfect spot for lunch on the ground floor or rooftop with an amazing view of the souk just below. This spot is perfect for a quick bite such as salads, burgers and sandwiches.
A highly recommended restaurant from my personal research and friends’ recommendation. We ended up coming here for dinner on the rooftop and it was one of my favourite meals in Marrakech! We got a table instantly without a reservation but it is recommended to make a reservation during high season to avoid disappointment.
Not far from café des Espice, Shtatto has a great rooftop lounge for you indulge in fresh produce or sip on a drink as you watch sunset.
Le Jardin Secret
This is a lovely dining experience with an outdoor courtyard in the center of the medina. We came here for dinner and they serve very well prepared traditional Moroccan cuisine.
As you enter the café, you are instantly transported into an oasis like setting. The atmosphere of this café is calming with plants places all around. This is a great place to have brunch or afternoon tea with a drink and cake.
WHERE TO GO
Filled with rich sensations, the medina is where life happens. Also where most riads are located, the medina is full of street markets and shops to zip in and out of. The most common things to purchase in Morocco include wicker bags, hats, lamps, argon oil, spices, and of course carpets made from sheep, camels and cactus.
Le Jardin Secret
A very peaceful and elegant palace complex and with a museum and a stunning outdoor garden to spend an afternoon while sipping on a drink on the ground level or the rooftop terrace.
A beautiful escape to the colourful palace if you want to appreciate some traditional Moroccan architecture. I’m a sucker for mosaic tiles so this is always up my alley.
This botanical garden was created by the French Orientalist artist, Jacques Majorelle who resided there for 30 years. In the 1980s it was purchased by fashion designer Yves saint Laurent who restored it to what is believed to be the most visited sight in Marrakech.
Sahara Desert tour
Approximately 9 hour car ride from Marrakech is the Sahara desert with many beautiful sites to see along the way. We went with Moroccan Nature Trails and had an amazing 3 day 2 nights on a desert tour and camel ride to the Merzouga desert. I will be writing a full blogpost review on this experience with them soon!
Stone Desert Camp
For those who may not have enough time to go to the Sahara desert can experience a something similar. Around 30 kilometers away from Marrakech is a small rocky desert of Agafay. With various glamorous desert camps such as Scareabeo Stone Camp or La Pause offers glamping with options to dine under the stars at night, camel rides and quad biking.
This is a popular tourist destination for day trips from Marrakech to visit this waterfall with monkey encounters along the way!