A complete guide to visit Marrakech, Morocco
The Red City, The Ochre City, The Daughter of the Desert – Marrakech in western Morocco has many names. Established in 1062, Marrakech has gone from being the capital of the kingdom to one of the most visited cities in Morocco. Prepare your trip with this complete guide to visit Marrakech.
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Marrakech has decided not to switch to summer time in 2019. Double check the time difference before you go and make sure your watch and phone are set correctly when you arrive in Marrakech. I made the mistake of trusting my phone so I was off by an hour for the first two days.
The local currency in Morocco is Moroccan Dirham (MAD or Dhs). There are lots of exchange bureaus in the city but check the exchange rate before you go. If you decide to exchange money in Marrakech do it at Hotel Ali by the main square Jemaa el-Fna. They usually have the best rates for Euros and USD.
Shopping & haggling in Marrakech
If you’re planning to bring home a piece of Morocco check out my tips for finding the best souvenirs. The best tip for Marrakech is to haggle when you want to buy something. The rule of thumb is to offer 1/3 of the asking price and to never pay more than half.
Marrakech is a completely different culture and it’s considered rude if you touch things that you don’t end up buying. Be aware that looking is okay but once you touch things they see it as closing the deal.
The good news is that you can haggle in almost any language. You’d be surprised how many languages most of them speak, and quite well too.
The official languages for the almost 1 million people living in Marrakech are Arabic, French, and in the High Atlas Mountains also Berber. Each year during high season from March-May and October, over 2 million tourists add their languages to the mix.
How to dress when visiting Marrakech
Since Marrakech is in Morocco, which is a Muslim country, dressing modestly is important. Nothing happens if you don’t but it’s just polite since you’ll be a guest in their country. You don’t have to cover your head with a hijab or wear a full-body cover, but wearing crop tops or short shorts is not the greatest fashion choice. The best fashion tip for Marrakech is to go for loose fitting clothing, flowy dresses and most importantly, comfortable shoes.
When you’re walking through the endless streets of Marrakech you will hear the prayer call six times a day.
And yes, that includes early in the morning around 5:00 am. If you think this will interrupt your beauty sleep you’ll want to check where the mosques are located and not pick a riad right next door.
The first prayer, Fajr, starts off the day around 5:00 am, followed by Dhuhr around mid-day at 12:00 pm. The next one, Asr, is in the afternoon around 16:00 pm, closely followed by Maghrib around 19:00 pm. The second last one is around 20:00 pm, called Isha, and the day ends with Qiyam at around 1:30 am.
Where to stay when visiting Marrakech
The best tip for staying in Marrakech is one of the many riads.
They are traditional houses in all sizes, from small 2-3 bedrooms to spacious 8-10 bedrooms with added luxuries like restaurants, indoor pools and spas.
“Riad” means garden in Arabic and the name comes from the inner courtyard garden all these houses are built around. They often have beautiful rooftop terraces, gorgeous tile work and impressively ornate architecture.
Most of these riads are located in the medina, the old part of the city.
Depending on how much you want to spend you can get a riad for as low as 20 € per night or up to 1000 €.
How to visit the most gorgeous riads without spending a fortune
La Sultana hotel has amazing treatments to pamper yourself, like a traditional Hammam steam sauna and body scrub. They serve mint tea and you can relax in the spa after the treatments. If you want to enjoy drinks and snacks before swapping your flowy sundress for a cosy bathrobe you can sit on the spacious rooftop terrace.
At La Mamounia you can purchase a day pass to get access to their pool, restaurant and spa.
On Sundays this pass includes a decadent brunch with oysters and lobster, and costs around 200 € per person.
During the week it’s a little cheaper, around 160 €, and includes delicious lunch.
You can also visit La Mamounia and walk around the areas open to everyone, like the lobby or the gardens.
Make sure to wear nice clothing and shoes, it’s a luxury hotel after all.
Plus, you will want to look your best when taking photos.
Things to do when visiting Marrakech
There is lots to see in the city but don’t worry, with this perfect 3 day itinerary you can keep your step counter from exploding. Everything in the city is within walking distance but if you want to take a taxi make sure to negotiate and agree on a rate before getting into the car.
Marrakech has an incredible history given that it’s been around since 1062.
Sultans, kings and celebrities have brought money to the city and restored many of the buildings, mosques and madrasas (Koran schools), or built new ones like Bahia Palace.
Visit the Medina
Take some time to wander around the many souks and find the perfect souvenirs. There are different souks for the different trades, like metal, textiles or pottery, and they all connect to form an amazing net in the old part of town.
The main square of the city is one of the best travel tips for Marrakech. It’s bustling with life, entertainers and food stalls, and provides a fantastic view during sunset.
Escape the city
Marrakech is an amazing city full of life but you can escape by going on one of the many day trips. Do your research and pick the tour that suits you best as there are many companies offering the same ones. I booked a day trip to the Atlas Mountains through TripAdvisor and it was great.
There are many other options for day trips if hiking and mountains are not your thing.
Just a 2 ½ hour drive from Marrakech is the beautiful fishing town of Essaouira; you can either take a tour there or catch the bus or train. A tour stops twice on the way. Once to visit an Argan oil co-operative (souvenirs, anyone?) and the second time to see goats climbing trees.
Another 2 ½ hour drive to the east lies Ouzod Falls, three beautiful waterfalls nested in a lush valley.
A little further south-east of the city and you’re in Ouarzazate. It’s almost a 4 hour drive but on the way you can stop in Ait Benhaddou, a tiny village carved from the rocks.
Larger cities like Agadir or Casablanca lay in opposite directions from Marrakech but are both beautiful, and about 3 hours away.
If you want to get adventurous and see the Sahara desert plan a few extra days as it’s quite far from Marrakech. The Agafay desert however is much closer and can be done easily in a day. If you’re expecting to see great sand dunes and nothing but sand for kilometres you’re mistaken. Agafay is a rock desert and located just an hour from Marrakech. With the many tours offered to go there from the city you’ll be sure to find the right one for you.
Where to eat when visiting Marrakech
Marrakech has an amazingly rich food culture and there is lots of places in the city to try typically Moroccan foods like tajine, pastilla, couscous and more.
Moroccan cuisine is rich in meat, especially lamb, beef and chicken as religiously being a Muslim country people don’t eat pork. But there is also great vegetarian options for almost any dish, and most meals are complemented with couscous or sometimes the more western fries. Plus, almost every restaurant serves unlimited bread and sometimes olives on the side.
A lot of restaurants in Marrakech have rooftop terraces with a lovely view over the city while indulging on delicious food. The portions are usually quite generous so for lunch two people could easily split one meal if you don’t feel too hungry in the mid-day heat.
Hi, I’m Nadine
Part-time traveler with full-time wanderlust.
I explore the world one weekend and one vacation at a time and share my experiences, travel and photography tips, and food recs on this blog.
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