Make the Most of Marrakech
Exotic, colourful, historic, bustling, gastronomic and packed with culture – Marrakech is a feast for all the senses! I visited for the first time last November, and couldn’t help but return for some winter sun earlier this year. While it tends to get incredibly hot in peak summer (it’s been known to reach 40+ degrees) it’s the perfect city break when temperatures are a little cooler in the UK.
Many people worry whether it’s safe. My answer – yes, it’s just as safe as any other foreign city so long as you use your common sense. Some are concerned that it will feel like too much of a culture shock. While it can feel a little overwhelming at first, for me that was all part of the experience – and what made the city so charming.
At just over three hours from London, and with plenty of budget-friendly flights each week, isn’t it time you visited Morocco’s red city?
From art and music, to the city’s historic buildings, there is plenty to occupy your time in Marrakech. I loved wandering the streets in the centre, constantly stumbling across vibrant tiled courtyards and impressive Arabic décor.
When you reach Jemaa el-Fna Square you’ll feel like you’ve found the city’s heart. As the sunset call to prayer echoes, it really starts to come to life, with street performers, henna artists, belly dancers, snake charmers, and plenty more.
Koutoubia Mosque is the main landmark. The largest mosque in the city, it’s famous for its towering minaret. Only Muslims are allowed to enter, but it’s a beautiful building to see from the outside. I’d also recommend visiting at night when it’s illuminated.
Head back to the 16th century with a trip to El Badi Palace followed by the Saadian Tombs. El Badi may not be as opulent as in the past, when it had a sunken garden, vast courtyard and over 300 rooms, but it gives a great flavour of the city’s history. Resting place of 16th century ruler Sultan Ahmad l al-Mansur, the ancient Saadian Tombs are one of the most visited sights in the city. I loved looking around the intricate chambers, taking in the details of the carved cedar doors and marble columns.
From delicious lamb tagines to top seafood and high-end international cuisine, Marrakech has something to satisfy every palate!
When visiting Jemaa el-Fna Square at night, it’ll be hard not to be enticed by the sizzling street food. While I can’t vouch for how it’ll make you feel the next day (!) you’re guaranteed an authentic, reasonable meal, and the buzz of the square will make the experience extra special.
For tasty Moroccan food with a French twist, head to Fouquet’s. Fresh fish, delicious tagines and a dash of spice make it the perfect restaurant for a relaxed meal with friends. Or for something a little different, head to the city’s top Asian fusion restaurant Buddha-Bar Marrakech. With photogenic cocktails, a gastronomic menu of Thai prawns, black cod and tempura chicken, and nightly shows, it’s one of the coolest nightspots in the city.
Hit the open road and it won’t be long before you’re winding your way through the spectacular Atlas Mountains. Huge jutting peaks, red valleys and incredible views make this somewhere you have to cram into your trip.
Just 30km from Marrakech is the Ourika Valley – a hotspot for those wanting to escape the scorching summer temperatures in the city. Along with the amazing scenery, it’s a Berber region, so culturally very interesting. If you have time, be sure to stop off at a few roadside restaurants to try some authentic Berber cuisine.
Getting lost in the labyrinth of stalls in the medina is all part of the fun! Before visiting, I felt like I’d had a million warnings about it being dangerous and full of intimidating stallholders. I entered rather apprehensively, but what I found was a lively market, full of colourful items – from leather slippers and silk scarves to enormous heaps of spices and silver tea sets. Most shop owners were happy to negotiate a good price, and I never felt in danger while there – in fact, I loved it!
If you look beyond Marrakech’s hustle and bustle, you’ll find a really calm side to the city.
Escape to Jardin Majorelle – a beautiful twelve-acre garden filled with exotic cacti, beautiful fountains and colourful mosaics. They’re often referred to as the Yves Saint Laurent Gardens, as the designer bought them in the 1980s. I loved the exhibition to his work in one of the brightly coloured art deco buildings.
For the ultimate in relaxation, visit one of the city’s top spas. My favourite was at Es Saadi Gardens and Resort, where the spa is centred around a 100 year old eucalyptus tree. I enjoyed a massage with special ambient lighting and soundtrack. For a true Moroccan experience, book in for a traditional hammam. After days in the dusty medina, you’ll return home squeaky clean!
Chloe Gunning is the blogger behind Wanderlust Chloe. She’s a pint-sized Londoner with a passion for solo travel. She’s enjoyed plenty of adventures including hang gliding in Rio, enrolling in Spanish school in Mexico and volcano boarding in Nicaragua! Wanderlust Chloe loves sharing her latest tips, adventures and more on Twitter and Instagram.