After seeing it all over Instagram and various blogs for the past couple of years, Marrakech has found its way on top of my travel bucket list. Thus, I was really looking forward to this trip. Marrakech is home to a thriving medina, stunning handcrafted goods being sold in the charming Souks and some of the most gorgeous architecture you will ever encounter.
However, leading up to the trip, I have also heard a lot of bad things about the city. People have told me that it was dirty, unsafe and totally different from what you see on social media. And I must admit I cannot fully agree to that. Yes, it is completely different from what you might expect if you only see gorgeous pictures of your favorite travel influencers posing in expensive Riads. However, I did not experience the city as unsafe or dirty. You have to be aware of the fact that Marrakech, as an African city, does not resemble what we, as Europeans, are used.
There are some corners of the city that are not that beautiful and if you get lost in the Souks you will find yourself in a labyrinth of dark alleys and the most diverse group of people. But if you stick to the dress code and act confident, you do not need to be frightened at all. The city certainly is different. But it made me fall head over heels in love with its gorgeous architecture, amazing cuisine and mixture of oriental, African and European culture.
Be aware of the snake charmers and their cobras on the main square (Jemaa el-Fna). There are also monkeys on leashes and all sorts of exotic things that you would never encounter here in Europe. It all seemed very safe for tourists, though.
Good to know
- Language: Arabic and French are the most common languages spoken in Marrakech. In touristy spots, you will most likely be able to get by with English as well.
- Currency: The currency in Morocco is Dirham. Be prepared to carry cash on you at all times because the market stalls only accept payment by cash. You are not allowed to bring money into the country, so make sure to get your money at one of the ATMs at the airport before departing into the city.
- Dress code: As Morocco is a Muslim country, it is best to adhere to the cultural values and pack loose-fitting clothing that covers shoulders and knees. I personally wore maxi dresses and midi skirts every day and that was absolutely perfect for the weather.
- Best time to travel: During winter it can get really cold in Marrakech. Likewise, summer is incredibly hot. The most popular and best times to visit Marrakech are spring and autumn. However, we found Morocco in summer to be amazing due to the fact that accommodations are cheaper and there are not as many tourists on the streets.
Getting around Marrakech
Getting around Marrakech can be confusing and tricky. Lots of people recommended getting a local guide to help navigate through the city. We decided to try it on our own, though and downloaded Google maps to our phones. We saved all the landmarks and streets we wanted to go to and let the city guide us. The medina is confusing, yet. But it is certainly manageable.
From the airport to the city we had arranged airport pick up offered by our Riad. Most Riads are hidden in the corners of the Medina so it’s easier to pay for the driver to get you to the door, rather than trying to navigate the way on your own. Be aware of locals on the street trying to direct you one way or another. They often will offer directions and ask money in return. Politely decline and move along confidently.
Where to stay in Marrakech
Marrakech is famous for its stunning Riads. They are former private houses/city palaces that have been converted into guesthouses and boutique hotels over time. During our five-day stay in Marrakech, we checked into two different Riads in the city. I can 100% recommend both of them and would definitely book either one again. The rooms were spacious and clean. The food was incredible. The staff was incomparably welcoming and charming. And of course, the house itself was breathtakingly beautiful. If you are looking for accommodation in Marrakech, make sure to check them out.
Riad & Spa Azzouz 4 derb Azzouz – Quartier Mouassine Marrakech 40 000 www.riadazzouz.com
Riad Le Rihani 52 derb el Arsa – Kannaria Marrakech 40 000 www.riad-rihani.com
Where to eat in Marrakech
AT THE RIAD: We had dinner twice in our hotel – once at Riad & Spa Azzouz and once at the Scarabeo Camp. Both times we were surprised with a local three-course menu consisting of Moroccan salad, Tajine as the main course and a dessert to finish it up. And both times we were swooning over the dishes, asking for recipes and getting seconds.
NOMAD: Nomad serves a fresh take on classic Moroccan cuisine and has to offer one of the most stunning views over the Medina. The lentil salad at Nomad was incredible and we sat there all evening, enjoying the view and watching the sunset over the beautiful city.
CAFÉ ARABE: Right across the street from Le Jardin Secret this rooftop restaurant offers a quick break from exploring and delicious mint-tea. We did not eat at café Arabe as we visited in the afternoon but saw people around us eating Tajine and other Moroccan dishes that looked delicious.
What to do in Marrakech
The only thing you really cannot miss when visiting Marrakech is wandering through the Souks of the Medina. Marveling at the market stands with their beautiful handcrafted goods, spices, and treats certainly is a Marrakech must. If you lose your way in the Souks, keep your head up and look for the way-signs pointing towards Jemaa el-Fna, the main square. We always found our way back by doing so and used our phone navigating our way back to the Riad or to our destination from there.
- Ben Youssef Mosque: Sadly closed due to renovations until 2020
- Bahia Palace: A stunning 19th-century palace to roam around and explore (Entrance fee: 70 dirham)
- Palais El Badi: A ruined palace most famous for the recent Dior show being held there. I loved to wander around this palace and try to grasp the size and beauty of what it must have once been. (Entrance fee: 70 dirham)
- Le Jardin Secret: A marvellous garden with palm trees and stunning architecture in the middle of the medina (Entrance fee: 70 dirham)
- Le Jardin Majorelle: The famous “YSL garden” located in the new part of the city. It is beautiful to wander around and take pictures in and features the Berber Museum and the YSL memorial to visit. (Entrance fee: 70 dirham)
- YSL Museum: I personally did not like the museum at all, it was nice to see and a good way to escape the heat. However, I personally expected way more for the price than just one collection of YSL clothing and a few hand-drawn pictures. (Entrance fee: 100 dirham)
- Spend a night at the desert of Marrakech (read my review here)
A FEW MORE QUESTIONS ANSWERED:
How did you avoid food poisoning? Honestly, I just ate whatever they gave me and was absolutely fine. Apparently, you can even eat from the street vendors and it’s fine. I’ve heard that they have very strict hygiene regulations because it’s such a touristy place. I would say sticking to the more established restaurants and your riad will be a safe choice. Do not drink the tap water and you’ll most likely be fine.
How vegan-friendly is it? Not very I must admit. We got served a dish with meat in it twice without being asked. I’m not vegan so I didn’t care and did not want to offend them. There are some vegan restaurants in Marrakech, such as Earth Café. Vegetarian is probably the way to go, though.
Which vegetarian Moroccan dishes can you recommend? One night we were served a warm Moroccan salad called Taktuka. It was absolutely incredible. The mezze platters are usually vegetarian as well. Then there’s lentil salad, couscous salad. We had the traditional Tajine with chicken and once a vegetarian one. It was incredible as well.
Is it dangerous for women traveling alone? How did you feel as a young woman in the city? As mentioned before, I did not feel unsafe at all. I traveled to Marrakech with a girlfriend and we were not treated much differently than we were in Rome or Paris. There is a lot of cat-calling, yes. But apart from a few instances in a really dark and narrow alley, I did not feel unsafe at all. I would suggest you stick to the dress code and walk confidently. Do not flaunt your riches and don’t shove your camera into people’s faces and you should be fine.
What kind of transportation is safe? We had our shuttle services arranged from the hotel and that was 100% safe and perfectly fine. Walking is safe as well, as long as you can navigate offline maps and find your way back to the hotel. We once tried to take a taxi outside town (at the YSL museum) but didn’t feel safe doing so. We walked the 40 minutes back to the Medina along the street and that was fine as well. The taxi drivers don’t always speak English. It might be easier to stick to the transport service recommended by your Riad. We had the experience that they are always happy to help. Public transportation we did not try but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking the bus as far as I have seen. Walking is fine as well.
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