Marrakech is a beautiful city, with a million things to do, eat, and visit. We were unfortunate to find a lot of places closed when we visited Marrakech, so the below will not detail all the classic sites you should visit, but more some key moments and experience that you should miss while Marrakech. This is what I liked the most in Marrakech and what I would recommend to my friends as the top things to do there.
STAY IN A GORGEOUS RIAD
When it comes to picking accommodation, Marrakech is a nightmare … because of all its incredible options! Staying in a riad, the traditional Moroccan villa, is a must and you can find rooms at any prices. Bonus points for all the places with a pool and a rooftop.
After long hesitations, I picked Riad Talaa 12… and loved it! Riad Talaa 12 is basically everything I appreciate about a hotel: it is small enough to feel very cozy and personal, the decoration is traditional but amenities are modern, there is a gorgeous rooftop overlooking the city, breakfast is delicious, the staff is super friendly and finally the location is perfect, right in the heart of the Medina.
I mean … what else could I ask for. The only thing I regret was not spending more time. I wish I could have just soaked up some sun there for a few days!
Just a little note though. Unlike most of the other riad, Riad Talaa 12 doesn’t have a pool.
Other riads that I had in mind but were fully booked :
- Riad Berbere: Looks absolutely perfect. I want my bedroom to look just like this.
- Riad Farhan: Gorgeous decoration, rooftop, and pool.
- Riad & Spa Dar 73: A modern take in Moroccan traditional decoration.
- Riad Dar Les Cigognes: Check out a full review of this beautiful riad here
EAT , SLEEP, REPEAT
If you are on any kind of diet, I would strongly recommend you NOT to visit Morocco. Moroccan food is heaven and heavy, so getting fat should definitely hit the list of top things to do in Marrakech !! We had a few very good meals there, and below are the one I recommend (very well known, but approved by yours truly!)
Disclaimer: All the pictures in this paragraphs come from the restaurants directly. I am still practicing my food photography skills!
Cafe des Epices: Overlooking Rahba Kedima square, it’s straw bags sellers, and carpet shops, the Cafe Des Epices is kind of a touristic institution. The menu is simple, (a few salads, sandwiches, tajines, and fresh juices) but good for a lunch break. To score a table on the rooftop you will need to be patient. This prime location is very popular!
Nomad: Right across Rahba Kadima is Nomad, another rooftop restaurant, a little more chic and trendy. Definitely book ahead to get a table on their rooftop. The view is lovely, the sound of the prayer call is very typical and the food is delicious. Bonus point for the Chabi Chic shop downstairs selling super cute decoration, beauty products, prints etc …
To book : +212 5 24 38 16 09
La Terasse des Epices: This beautiful decorated massive terrace is perfect for a sunset dinner … and everyone knows about it. The menu of La Terasse des Epices is simple but everything we ate was really tasty, the lighting at night is romantic, and the live bands creates a great atmosphere. They also employ a few men to help customers walk back to their hotel at night. I really loved that because for a couple of reasons:
- You feel so much safer walking back through the dark alley of the Medina with someone local
- You contribute to the living of someone much less fortunate than you.
The man that walked us back was very kind and we chatted to whole way. Although the restaurant made it clear that we didn’t have to pay anything, we were happy to tip the man directly for his help and kindness. A similar kind of service is offered by many hotels and restaurants.
To book : +212 5243-75904
There is a very lovely painter that has a studio downstairs … he is very (very!) chatty, but I loved his paintings.
Le Jardin: The last restaurant we visited in Marrakesh was probably my favorite. This is the beauty of Marrakech: You enter Le Jardin through a very unassuming door, and behind the high walls you find the most beautiful courtyard, with banana trees everywhere, turquoise tiles on the floor and some turtles roaming around (yes, actually, real-life turtles!). Although very popular and busy this is the nicest place we have been to in Marrakech.
To book : +212 5 24 37 82 95
TRY MOROCCAN HAMMAM
We couldn’t be in Morocco and miss the traditional hammam! I went to a hammam in France years ago and I only had a vague souvenir of the whole thing. Most of what I remembered was a bunch of ladies hanging out naked, and a woman scrubbing me so hard I thought all my skin would be gone!
It was the end of the trip and I felt like I deserved a little princess moment, and therefore decided to book into a fancy private hammam. Sadly the first few hammams I had in mind (like Les Bains de Marrakech) were already fully booked but I eventually came across the Heritage Spa, and booked for two.
The first thing I found weird was that they confirmed my boyfriend and I could be together in the “private” hammam … right there I knew it would be nothing like my previous experience but I had a hard time picturing how it would actually plays out.
Upon arrival, a lady offered us some tea, explained what the whole experience would be, and asked us to choose the oil we wanted for the massage and the soap we liked for the bath. We were then escorted to a changing room, put on some disposable undies (I have never felt less sexy in front of my boyfriend !), locked our things and were escorted to a small private sauna room. The whole bath process takes around 45 min, and is basically a women washing and scrubbing you vigouresly, with some breaks for your skin to soften in the humid heat. If you are shy or don’t want a lady to touch your boyfriend all over, this might not be for you! Personally I though it was very funny, and I felt like a little kid the whole time … seriously when is the last time someone washed your hair, the sole of your feet and your armpits! (sexy again, I know !). Once you are clean and considerably lighter (you should see the amount of skin the ladies scrub out of you), it is time to relax with a full body massage.
Overall the experience was very nice, even though not the luxury princess experience I had in mind. We had more tea again before leaving and were offered some orange blossom soaps as we left, which was a very nice gesture.
Cost & duration : 45 min – 290 MAD (29 USD)
Full body massage : 1h – 450 MAD (45 USD)
SHOP TILL YOU DROP
Morocco is an absolute paradise for shoppers, as long as you don’t mind a little bargaining.
Of course, the souk is the place to go for all things typically Moroccan (leather poufs, Berber rugs, lanterns, etc …). You have to be very patient and ready for a hard bargain. The best strategy is to ask for prices in several shops (many of them sell the same things). Once you find a shop with a good price, start negotiating at least 50% below the initial price given (maybe even less, but I am not so good at this!), and work you way up from there. For me, the key to negotiating is quite simple: set a price in your head and don’t spend more than that. Maybe the seller is making a great deal out of it … good on him, he probably needs the cash more than you. And don’t worry about negotiating too hard .. if the deal is not beneficial, the seller will let you go. But don’t be insulting either … if you start your negation at 5% of the price, you might get some angry look and some “F*&$% off’ kinda feedbacks.
If you want to shop in a more organised environment, head over to Max & Jan a modern concept store in the heart of the Medina, selling lots of ethnic chic clothes inspired from Moroccan styles, as well as great souvenirs.
You can also stop by the gorgeous El Fenn store. Obviously the prices are nothing like in the souks , so get your credit card out and close your eyes.
For more details on shopping in Marrakech, check out this vert comprehensive Marrakech Souk guide (And it had gorgeous pictures too !)
VISIT LA MAISON DE LA PHOTOGRAPHY
Opened in 2009 in a riad in the heart of the Medina, this museum celebrates the history and diversity of Morocco, with pictures, postcards, newspapers etc … covering a relatively short period of 70 years (1879-1960). As a big fan of photography I really loved it ! There is absolutely amazing portraits but also very interesting explanations about photographic plates, an early photography technique I didn’t know anything about.
If you like photography, this is definitely among the top things to do in Marrakech.
La Maison de la Photography is open every day from 9.30 am to 7.30 pm.
Entrance fee: 40 MAD / 4 USD (free under 12 years old).
TRY GRIS WINE
You think you know all kind of wine … white, red and rose ! But did you ever try Grey Wine (Vin Gris).
Gris wine is a sort of rose wine made from red grapes, often Pinot Noir but with a white wine technic. Basically the juice is drained from the grapes and not left for maceration with the skin (which is were the red color from.). After that the wine is fermented in stainless steel and bottled, without ever seeing the inside of an oak barrel. It makes a very light and fresh wine, ideal during a hot Moroccan day!
Voila, you know everything there is to know about gris wine.
ESCAPE INTO THE AGAFAY DESERT
If you are tired of the noise, the smell, the mess, and need a relaxing time, I recommend you spend a day or two in the Agafay desert. If you are an Instagram lover like me (guilty), chances are you have seen pictures of the beautiful and boho Scarabeo camp, the exact illustration of glamping. It was already fully booked when I contacted them (yeah I am a late planner …. guilty again), and so I decided to book a similar place: La Terre Des Etoiles.
This ultimate glampling camp boasts 10 ultra-comfortable luxury tents in the middle of the Agafay desert. This is an eco-friendly place, with no wifi and no AC … So unplug, read a book and relax. You will thank yourself later on.
Voila, I hope you like this round up of my top things to do in Marrakech. Let me know in the comments below what is your personal top 10 !!
Discover more about Morocco:
- 10-day road trip in Morocco, the ideal itinerary for first-timers
- What to do in Chefchaouen, the blue pearl of Morocco
- How to survive in Fez Medina, and actually enjoy your time there