A guided itinerary of 3 days with some key information to best organize your next trip there
Before Marrakesh everything was black, this city taught me colour, and I embraced its light, its insolent mixes and ardent inventions.Yves Saint Laurent
That’s what the iconic designer Saint Laurent said about this magic city and I could not be more on line with him. That’s what also Marrakesh was to me: an explosion of colours.
I did spent a long week end in there, visiting a few places, honestly one of the most amazing trips of my life and hope to come back and visit all the rest that I didn’t have the time to in my first visit. So I would like to give you some tips and suggestions to make you next journey there easier.
How to reach Marrakesh :
The best way to travel there is with no doubts the airplane. I flight from Milan, there are many international companies (also low coast) that travel there from the main Italian and European cities. By the way flights to/from the airport of Menara are not very frequent especially with low coast companies, so an alternative can be to fly to Casablanca where flights are more frequent and than take an internal flight to Marrakesh. Flight times: From Milan/Rome to Marrakesh 3hours and a half, to Casablanca 3hours; from Casablanca to Marrakesh 50min. From Menara, which is the main airport of Marrakesh the city center is only 6km away and most of the Riads I suggest organize transfers there, or otherwise you can take a regular taxi.
For those who do not really like the air option, it is possible to reach Tangeri main port from most of the European Mediterranean harbors. From Tangeri the drive to Marrakesh is around 6 hours.
In Marrakesh I wont really suggest hiring a car as you can easily move into the city walking or with cabs, even Uber. Most hotels and riads organize day trips and longer excursions to the main attractions of Morocco, the coast and the desert. Otherwise you can have a rental car and explore Morocco on your own, but if you stay for just 3/4 days my suggestion is to stay in the city and have just one or two day trips.
Where to stay:
Marrakesh is a very touristy city, multicultural and multi-ethnic is more open minded than other Muslim countries. Women take very much care of their look and some of them do not wear the hijab in the streets. European tourists are more than welcome here and everyone you will meet on your way will try to be accommodating and will make you feel welcome, of course trying always to make some money from it, but in a sort of genuine way. Bear in mind, that you are still in a very different country, with different rules and attitudes so be respectful and careful with what you do and how you do behave.
I suggest sleeping in a Riad which is a typical Moroccan house composed by an internal garden (riad means garden in their language) whit the rooms on the sides, which in the past used to be the manor house while nowadays most of them have been converted to hotels. Ordered by price range:
Riad Tamarrakecht – in a very strategic point, this riad is located in an area of the old Medina which is inhabited predominately by locals, but at the same time, walking distance from the main attractions. The B&B is family owned and the family lives in there, in the morning you can see some women cooking your breakfast and kids running around. They do also have a dog which walks freely around the garden. They will welcome you with meant tea (“before tea after check in”) in their beautiful courtyard by the swimming pool. Rooms are pretty nice and the style is very traditional. I felt very welcome and the people there were very helpful.
Riad Al Jazira – on a different area of the city, closed to the main turisty attractions there is this lovely riad with Spa. The place is beautifully decored and the room very spacious. They also have a beautiful terrace overlooking the city and as part of a small chain you actually have different options. They are sister hotel with restaurant Dar Zellij where we had dinner on our last night, few steps away, very nice. To arrive there you have to walk in a pedestrian area which seems scary at first but taxis actually call them so they come to pick you up and transport you luggage from the point where the taxi have to leave you.
La Maison Arabe – higher price range for the room per night but in case you can choose just to visit the riad and have dinner at their gorgeous restaurant. In my opinion one of the most beautiful riads at a still affordable price. The style is an elegant typical Moroccan style which I find absolutely lovely. Dinner was delicious, with some live traditional music, and they also have a nice selection of wines from the area if you would like to try them.
La Mamounia – here we are talking about five star luxury proper hotel. Nominated best hotel in world by Conde Nast in 2017/2018 you will absolutely understand why when you walk that door. It is out from the old Medina, right in the new residential area of Marrakesh. If you are not willing to spend such prices for a room there, you can still treat yourself at their restaurants. We made a memorable brunch by the pool.
Restaurants and food/alcohol tips:
I have already mentioned a couple of restaurants when talking about riads but there are also other nice restaurants which we tried while there.
La nomad – very cool restaurant located in the center of the Medina souks, for both lunch and dinner, always pretty crowded so reserve in advance to avoid not finding a table. The menu is a mix of traditional with a more international influences.
Street food in Place Jamaa el Fna – Most local people will tell you to try the street food there, I have to be honest with you I did not. You will hear conflicting views on this matter, if it is safe to eat there or not, so it is your choice. Anyway also if I cannot report my experience, you will see many people eating there outside, mainly grilled meat, any kind of meat.
Food – the food in Morocco is generally delicious, traditional dishes are cous cous (with vegetables and chicken or mixed, and with raisin and chicken – that one is so delicious) and the Tajine, a tipical moroccan dish that takes name from the spacial terracotta plate they use to cook it, can be with lamb or chicken and vegetables.
Wine and alcohol in general – consider that is not allowed to sell and consume any alcohol in the old Medina, as Muslims should not drink alcoholics. Of course being a modern and open minded city with a lot of tourists from all over the world, some restaurants and riads can sell wine or beer inside their places, but most do not.
Maybe you do not know yet that Morocco is the second producer and exporter of wines in Africa after South Africa. They produce around 35 millions of bottle per year. I tasted one of their white Le Clos des Vignes and I was pretty surprised by the quality of this white wine. Unfortunately I did not explore more about Moroccan wine this time.
Things to do in 3 days:
First day: explore and get familiar with the Medina visiting their markets called souks and the Secret Garden (Le jardin secret) a beautiful garden inside an old artisanal neighborhood full of antiques shops. Stop for a coffee at Henna art cafe, close to the main square, Place Jamaa el Fna, to make a fantastic henna to your hands.
Second day: Jardin Majorelle and Yves Saint Laurent museum. The amazing museum with its beautiful gardens will lead you to the new and more modern side of the city. You can visit also the Ensemble Artisanal which is a huge manufacture market. You can easily walk there, enjoy the life in the streets of Marrakesh. Remember that bargain is part of the culture here so never buy at the first price they tell you. This rule is not valid in the Ensemble where you are not supposed to bargain but in any other case feel free and enjoy this part of their culture.
Third day: we did hired a driver and went to the coastal city of Essaouira. Along the drive we stopped to visit an Argan oil cooperative, as the area between Marrakesh and the coast is full of Argan trees, they are like olive trees in Italy, everywhere! In Essaouira we enjoyed a nice lunch by the beach, which compared to the chaos of Marrakesh streets was pretty calm and we were happy about having some res. You can also buy some fish at the fish market and ask the locals to cook it for you. We had a walk into this small town which is really magnetic and poetic.
I really hope you enjoyed the reading, let me know in the comments if you have been there or if you are planning to go ! It has been one of the most beautiful trips I have made in my life, Morocco is a magical country, with a colorful mix of cultures and colors.