Marrakech is so vibrant. The colours, smells and tastes are intoxicating; the architecture, both religious and non-religious, is stunning, and the people are warm and friendly (maybe a little too eager in the souks!)
THINGS TO DO
Places: Jemaa el-Fna: a large public square just outside the main souk with lots of small merchant, food, drink, snake charmers, the works! Jardin Majorelle: the outstanding garden that was discovered by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé during their first stay in Marrakech in 1966; Bahia Palace: Bahia meaning ‘brilliance’ the Palace was intended to be the greatest palace of its time; Ali Ben Youssef Madrasa: the stunningly tiled former Islamic boys’ school; Koutoubia Mosque: the largest mosque in Marrakech; El Badi Palace: a ruined palace in the centre of Marrakech
Shopping: THE SOUKS!! Start at Jemaa el-Fna square and get lost in the many alleyways leading off; Kissaria: this is just north of the the Jemaa el-Fna square and is a covered market where you will find more local shops away from all the tourist traps; Gueliz: is the more modern part of town, filled with stores that are more familiar to Western culture, like Zara.
Top tip: when you’re bargaining in the souk make sure you go in at least half of what they’re asking you for. And always, ALWAYS walk away if they say they won’t meet you in the middle. They always, ALWAYS do.
Day trips: Atlas Mountains: if you go to the Atlas Mountain range, make sure you take a pit stop at the beautiful Kasbah Tamadot Richard Branson’s Moroccan retreat; Essaouira: get lost in this charming fisherman’s village. On the way you’ll be able to see how Argan oil is made and watch goats climb an Argan tree (I’m not kidding!)
Hammam: Whilst in Morocco, you have to get the full hammam experience, which literally means, ‘Turkish bath’. It invovles a steam room, rigorous body scrub and massage. They massage everything outside of your knickers, so be warned!
Make sure you spend one evening walking around the food stalls in Jemaa Al-Fna – the main square in the Medina. Pick one and looks good and eat. Seriously cheap. Seriously delicious.
Le Tobsil One of my favourite restaurants in Marrkesh. An expensive (for Marrakech prices), set menu but some of the best food in the whole of Marrakech – be prepared to eat! The live music and charming riad setting makes this spot very intimate and romantic.
La Famille A boho-chic vegetarian lunch spot tucked away from the craziness of the medina, only a 2 minute walk from Palais de la Bahiaa.
Gastro MK In the Riad MK, have a drink on the roof upstairs first, then move into the restaurant for a delicious dinner with multiple courses
Pepenero Delicious food. You can eat like a King here, for nothing!
Terrasse des Epices A lovely hidden away spot from the bustle of the souks. Great in the daytime for a quick bite and cooling drink, or a romantic spot in the evening
Le Comptoir Local flavours and belly dancers. You go here more for the belly dancers than the main courses, but a fun night out with an excellent DJ.
Al Fassia Book one of the tables with a cushion-strewn banquette for a more relaxed meal. And make sure you go to the one in Gueliz and not the out of town branch.
Nomad Modern Moroccan menu is a modern, trendy setting. They don’t serve booze and have two sittings (7pm and 9pm). Try and book the 7pm spot to watch the sunset as you eat.
Neither tried nor tested, but researched & recommended…
Le Royal Mansour Hotel An absolutely stunning and extraordinary hotel built in traditional Moroccan style. There are two restaurants – one French and the other Moroccan, both expensive but excellent.
The Bab Hotel New York-style restaurant in a small, luxury hotel in the Gueliz area. Gorge on their all include brunch offer before heading to the shops
Le Fandouk An amazing restaurant in the middle of the medina located on three floors with a great terrace. The menu combines Asian, Moroccan and French flavours. Go when the weather is good and ask for a table on the terrace.
Bo-Zin This restaurant/bar/lounge in new-new Marrakech (as opposed to the 1930s, French-built Ville Nouvelle), some three miles from the old city walls, occupies a big house, and without a crowd it can feel empty. Come later in the evenings, especially at the weekend, and you’ll find a party.
Chez Ali The ultimate show during dinner.
Palais Jad Mahal Just opposite the gate into the Medina, this place has excellent decor, food and belly dancers and fire eaters every night at 10pm.
La Yacout You’ll be taken to the roof for a drink to see the view over the Medina, then you’ll be served a five course set Moroccan menu in the beautiful courtyard.
Le Jardin de Marrakech Entering through an unassuming door, one comes into a lush garden dotted with tables and lights surrounded by the majestic building and the terraces above where one can lounge in the evening and watch the occasional open air projected classic films.
Moroccan mint tea is amazing. I’m not sure if it’s the quality of the leaves or the amount of sugar they put in it, or an entirely secret ingredient, but whatever is it, it’s like no other mint tea I’ve ever had.
Le Bar Churchill is one of the most famous bars in Marrakech, and can be found in the La Mamounia Hotel. Go one evening after dinner to have a drink, as it’s a pretty dark and leopard print filled room! If you go before dinner and it’s still light outside, take your drink into their beautiful gardens.
Grande Café de la Poste Lovely little French 1920 place. A great pit stop for a cup of coffee or for steak tartare and frites when you need a break from the tagines. Careful, though, it’s pricey for what it is!
Café Arabe Not the best food, but really cute hide-away in the thick of the Medina’s small street. Lovely rooftop terrace which overlooks the nearby mosque. Great spot for a drink outside
Riad Zolah An absolutely beautiful riad (a riad is a large traditional house built around a central courtyard, which in this case, as is often the case, has been converted into a hotel, so super traditional). Riad Zolah is a close 10-minute walk from markets in Jamaâ El Fna square. The rooms are big and beautiful. The staff are also incredibly welcoming and the breakfast spread is brilliant.
The Beldi Country Club The Soho Farmhouse of Morocco, except beware: the food is dire! The setting though, makes up for it. Just have the chocolate ice cream for all your meals, and you’ll be safe! If you don’t want to stay there, you can always go for the day to relax by the pool if you don’t have one in your riad in Marrakech.
Neither tried nor tested, but researched & recommended…
Royal Mansour One of the most expensive hotels in Marrakech, owned by the King.
La Mamounia Possibly the most famous hotel in Marrakech. You don’t need to stay there – just go for a drink at the Churchill and/or sit in the gardens (see under ‘DRINK’ above)
El Fenn A trendy hotel with a modern twist. They have a rooftop bar which is super cute, so if you don’t end up staying there, definitely go for a drink
La Masion Arabe Luxury boutique hotel
Villa des Orangers Beautiful boutique hotel
La Sultana Signature Hotel Stunning five star-er
Le Riad Yasmine Beautiful boutique in the heart of the medina
Riad BE Marrakech Hidden riad in the souk
The Royal Palm 20 minutes outside of the city of Marrakech – a stunning and grand hotel