My Top Marrakesh Tips
Let’s get this out of the way. Marrakesh is crazy. Haggling with taxi drivers is NOT FUN. The main square — Jemma-el-Fnna — is NOT my kind of place. Monkeys, snakes. (Least favorite animals.) Thousands of people. There’s just a lot of chaos that comes with a weekend in Marrakesh.
But then — Marrakesh and Morocco in general is astoundingly beautiful. What is the Pantone color of the country, the rosy pinkish orange that everything is painted in? (I tried to Google this but was unsuccessful.) The color is stunning all day long but especially in the evening light when everything becomes just a little more rose-goldy. Plus, the tile work! The light fixtures! The door hardware! (This country really likes an externally mounted door bolt.) The fabrics! All so so beautiful. I wanted to buy it all.
And I haven’t even gotten to the food yet. The food is fresh and flavorful and served in extremely large portions. I’d like a platter of mixed Moroccan salads served before every meal, please. You will not go hungry during a weekend in Marrakesh, that much is certain.
How to Prepare for Marrakesh
- Check the weather and plan accordingly. It’s HOT. We thought it would be cooler in May but we were wrong. Bring hats and plenty of sunscreen. Also, hydrate.
- Be prepared to negotiate with taxi drivers. Ask your hotel or riad what a taxi should approximately cost and stand firm, respectfully.
- Be ready to negotiate the price of anything you buy. A good rule of thumb is that the price is basically about 1/3 of what they are asking.
- Have small change available when paying for anything. (Are you sensing a theme here?) Seriously, this is a country where no one has any small change. (You can read into that what you’d like.)
- Research riads and book your stay in a riad! There are so many in the city and they have so much character.
- Get ready to get lost. This is one of my top Marrakesh tips! On our way to dinner one night, we got hopelessly lost in the medina and it seemed like absolutely no one knew where we were going! It’s not that hard once you get used to it but definitely be prepared to get lost and a little frustrated. Just keep asking for help! Someone will show you the way!
- Plan your outfits wisely. Cover your shoulders, don’t wear short shorts. Marrakesh is pretty used to Western tourism, but don’t be that person.
Marrakesh Tips: Shopping
Here are a few places I’d recommend should you find yourself in Marrakesh…
Souk Cherifa: After doing a ton of research, we knew this was the one shopping place we definitely wanted to visit. We had a little trouble getting our taxi driver to understand where we wanted to go, but eventually it all worked out. This is a small (quite small actually) u-shaped shopping complex with a mix of higher-end clothing, housewares, fabric and beauty products. We picked up a bit of everything here. Recommended if you’re in the area.
Arganino: Argan oil is the thing to buy in Morocco and there are all sorts of warnings online about making sure you buy the real thing. At Souk Cherifa, we ran into Moad, who told us all about his partner’s Argan products. I was sold and bought it all. Just kidding. I bought one container of facial oil and then Moad gave me some free argan butter. Very small shop but worth a visit if you want the real deal. (Apparently, the argan oil comes’s from Moad’s partner’s grandmother.) I’ve been using the oil pretty religiously since our visit and I definitely feel like it has positively impacted the texture of my skin.
Route Sidi Abdelaziz: I really liked the street that Souf Cherifa was on. The shops seemed a bit higher end than what we saw in the market and it was a LOT less manic and with more upscale shops. it’s a nice pedestrian area too so worth a stroll if you are nearby. I would go back here and in fact, if I planned another weekend in Marrakesh again, I’d try to stay around this area so I can do more SHOPPING.
Mustapha Blaoui: All the guides say you should go to this place and while we had a lot of trouble finding the entrance, once we made it in, I kinda wished I needed a carpet. It perhaps wasn’t as large as I was expecting it to be — or maybe we missed a floor or something — but interesting to visit nonetheless. Yup. Now I want a carpet.
Marrakesh Tips: Restaurants
NOMAD: All the internets talk about this place and it was nice. The positives: great views of the city if you have dinner on the rooftop. The negatives: Lots of stairs and man do I have a new appreciation for US and UK building codes. Also, NO BOOZE. This was a bit of a downer, but booze and stairs are probably a bad combination anyhow. Service was professional but not overly friendly. The food here was good overall, but we were spoiled by the food at the riad we had rented.
Al Fassia: We were attracted to Al Fassia because it’s run by all women. I’m glad we went because in this day and age, the world needs more girl power. This is good hearty simple food. (But again, I think we were spoiled by the great food at our riad.) Worth a visit as I very much admire what they’re doing.
Marrakesh Tips: Bars
Barometre Marrakesh: Before dinner at Al Fassia, we dropped into this basement cocktail bar and had the place to ourselves. Service was super friendly and gave us all the necessary insights into Marrakesh taxi drivers. (Yes, they even try to rip off the locals.) I can imagine the bar is not fun when it’s crowded so get there early, especially on a weekend in Marrakesh. The bar itself is not very big. The restaurant next door looks pretty cool.
Terrasse des espices: After shopping our hearts out, we headed up to the roof of Souk Cherifa for some drinks. Water misters help beat the heat, there’s free wifi, and the service is pretty friendly. Also, they have hats that you can wear to protect yourself from the sun! This was a nice little pause.
Where to Stay in Marrakesh
Our Riad: We rented Dar 118 through Villanovo and LOVED IT. Really, words cannot express how much I loved this place. And the food! And the staff that came with the villa! (Airbnb seriously needs a way to search for properties that come with staff.) If I plan another weekend in Marrakesh, I would definitely rent Dar 118 again. The only challenge is that we did to take a lot of taxis but really, the medina wasn’t too far.
Uh if you notice, we didn’t do much cultur-ing while we were in town. Reason to return! Especially now that the Yves Saint Laurent museum is open. Seriously, I loved Marrakesh and would love to go back. (And yes, I felt safe. Even with the taxi drivers.)
What are your top Marrakesh tips?