Marrakech Tips and Great Places to See
In a country rich with history and culture, Marrakech is a city with unbelievable diversity, vibrancy, culture and a hint of Medina madness.
In this Marrakech Tips article, we’ve included practical travel tips on what to do and not to do plus our recommendations for visiting some really interesting attractions in Marrakech – including a couple of unforgettable day trips.
This medieval city is filled with exotic sights, sounds and smells and if this is your first visit to Marrakech, then it may feel unfamiliar and sometimes even overwhelming.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We learnt by trial and error, but you certainly don’t have to. Use these Marrakech tips to enjoy the sights and rhythm of this 1000-year-old city much more hassle-free.
Colourful spice stalls add to vibrant feel of Marrakech
Getting up to speed on the ‘right things to do‘ and the ‘no, don’t do that‘ stuff, is extremely useful. At least remembering a few of these Marrakech tips will help you act and respond in the proper manner. Below are some important and useful tips that you should have up your sleeve when you visit Marrakech:
1) Learn a few Local Words – Ok, you aren’t expected to rattle off sentences in either of the 2 official languages of Arabic or Berber languages but knowing some basic pleasantries will go a long way. Throw in a smile and you’ll generally find that people quickly warm to you. Morocco was a French protectorate up until 1956 so speaking French will also bring rewards.
Here are a few local words that we used successfully:
Hello – Salam Alaikum
Thank you – Shukran
No, thank you – La Shukran.
2) Cash is King – When you hit the streets for shopping or buying food from the small local vendors then take smaller denominations of the local currency, the Moroccan Dirham (MOD). Cashpoints are not on each corner but there are enough around and were always operational. Ask at your hotel or riad where the closest ATM is.
3) Tipping – Tipping is a normal way of life in Morocco. When eating or drinking out, you can use 10% of your bill total to figure how much of a tip to leave. It’s customary to leave a cash tip on the table as you leave.
4) Souvenirs – If you’re unsure of the quality and authenticity of the products offered in the souks then a government-operated group of stores called ‘Ensemble Artisinal Marrakech’ offers a variety of goods. Here you are not asked or pushed to buy anything. The prices are a little higher but there are some exquisite designs on offer. Shelley bought herself a leather handbag here.
5) Don’t Drink the Tap Water: Buy bottled water. It’s cheap as chips. Also be mindful that cold salads, ice cubes and fruit are washed using local water.
6) Scammers – be wary of scammers. We were approached by a really friendly guy on the street asking us where we were going. We told him where. He then said that he was off to this hotel job but he could quickly show us a short cut to where we needed to go. He started to lead us away into some back streets but our ‘gut-feeling’ told us that this was not right. We stopped him and said that we were going back but he repeatedly tried to talk us into following him. We kept politely saying no and left.
Apparently these ‘guides’ lead you part of the way then pass you onto another ‘travel guide’. Once you reach your destination, a fee is charged and requested. The lesson here was that if you are not sure where you are going, be wary of strangers offering to take you somewhere. It’s preferable to go into one of the local shops and ask for directions. Another of our Marrakech tips: if it just doesn’t feel right, don’t do it!
7) Be Prepared to Bargain – it’s the way of life here. Sure, you won’t get the local rates but it’s customary to haggle backwards and forwards on the price. If you consider the final price too high, then politely say so and leave with a smile and goodbye. No feelings are hurt.
8) You Don’t Have to Enter Every Shop When Asked – you’ll be asked many, many times by the shop owners to ‘come into my shop, not buy, just look’. It’s ok to refuse but it’s the manner in which it is done. Smile and say ‘La Shukran’ and no offence is taken.
9) Taking Photos – you may be requested for money if taking photos of the locals. We were quite careful not to do this and when in the Medina, if we found a shop front or take a photo inside the shop, to save any unintentional offence, we would simply ask the shop owner if we could take a photo. We were never refused. So our Marrakech tip would be to just ask first! Street and open scenes were no problem.
10) Dress Modestly – 99% of Morocco’s population practice the Islamic faith. So dress to respect Islam’s emphasis on modesty. For men and women, clothes and accessories are not meant to attract attention or excessively to reveal the body. For non-Muslim women, it is not necessary to wear a hijab, a veil that conceals the woman’s hair. For Moroccan women, they may choose to either cover themselves or not.
11) Watch for Traffic – you might be thinking that the Jemaa el-Fna market place is a pedestrian-only area. Wrong! Besides the odd donkey, its motorbikes that you won’t even be looking out for. They are driven quickly past the narrow shop fronts with the riders quite skillfully dodging the passers-by. Keep an ear to the ground!
13) Stay in a Riad within the Old Walled City – If you can, definitely choose to stay in a Riad, a traditional Moroccan house with an inner garden courtyard. You’ll want to find a Riad inside the Medina (the old historic walled city) so you can properly immerse yourself in all things Marrakech. Plus, it is easy walking distance to most of the great attractions we mention below.
From the outside, Riads don’t look anything special but behind those closed front doors, you are enveloped into a world that is quintessential Morocco. We stayed in the fabulous ‘Dar Touyir’ which also included breakfast. An added bonus is that if you don’t feel like going out for dinner, then you can enjoy a really delicious traditional meal at the riad which is what we did a couple of times.
14) Try a Tagine – This traditional style of cooking involves placing the meat (chicken, fish, lamb or beef), vegetables and spices into an earthen clay pot and then slow-cooked. Absolutely gorgeous food!
14) Indulge in Mint Tea – This gorgeous tea is made from spearmint leaves with added sugar. It is not only a traditional drink, but a sign of hospitality and friendship. Worth remembering in case you are offered!
15) Day Trips from Marrakech – If the pace of Marrakech is getting to you then consider a visit, like we did, to the famous Ait- Benhaddou, the earthen fortified Ksar or traditional village accessed over the Atlas Mountains. Or, if monkeys and waterfalls are more your forté, then a visit to Ouzoud Waterfalls will not fail to amaze you. We talk more about these fabulous day trips further into this article.
16) Have a Sleep In – Marrakech buzzes with busy-ness late, late into the night and then slowly starts to pick up momentum in the late mornings. If you’re a shopper then take the opportunity to rise late however if you’re a photographer, then the early morning is definitely your friend. It is the perfect time to strike out for photos with the streets quiet and pretty much empty of people.
If you’re travelling the whole of Morocco, then these Marrakech tips can be applied to any city. A good article to assist with your planning also detailing things you need to know about driving in Morocco is Atlantic to Sahara – A Morocco Road Trip Itinerary. If you are able to spend more time in Morocco, and in particular if you have children, then I recommend checking out this two and a half week Morocco with kids itinerary by the TraveLynn Family.
If you’re considering catching the Ferry from Spain to Morocco with a campervan, then this article has plenty of handy information.
An old-styled Moroccan building in Marrakech
Great Places to See: Tips for Visiting Marrakech
Marrakech Attractions – Movie
To get an even better feel for Marrakech, take a look at this short movie showing the essence of Marrakech and its best attractions which are outlined further down in this article.
Map: Marrakech Attractions
Zoom out on the map to locate the day trip locations: Ait Benhaddou and Ouzoud Waterfalls.
The Medina is the old fortified part of Marrakech and lies inside the walls of the city. The Medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the heartbeat of historical Marrakech. Here you’ll find many types of souks selling their own specialised products, hawkers selling photos and cheap-looking lamps, restaurants with waiters beckoning you in, age-old cafés and a mass movement of people to-ing and fro-ing below the ancient earthen fortress walls.
The business of Marrakech was a shock to the system after leaving the orderliness of Europe
Jemaa el-Fna Square
Jemaa el-Fna Square is Marrakech’s central square and market place in Marrakesh’s Medina quarter. By day snake-charmers, monkey handlers and fruit stalls inhabit the square. As the sun begins to set though, the square undergoes a transformation. Locals start drifting towards this central meeting place making it a lot busier than during the day. The animal handlers retire and make way for food stalls, storytellers, performers and musicians start their routines. The energy really ramps up.
Medina Square night-time stalls, Marrakech
Medina Square snake handlers, Marrakech
Hotel Restaurant Café de France
This cafe has a prime location with elevated views overlooking Jemaa el-Fna square. If you want to get above all the action in the square then go straight to the rooftop area that has plenty of seating and gives amazing sunset views of Koutoubia Mosque and surrounding Medina.
Overlooking Jemma El-Fna Square to Koutoubia Mosque as seen from Café de France at sunset, Marrakech
Café de France – The best vantage point for Jemaa el Fna square at sunset
Close by Jemaa el-Fna square sits the imposing 77m high Koutoubia Mosque and minaret, Marrakech’s largest mosque, built in the 12th century. This towers above Jemma el-Fna Square and is beautifully lit during the night.
Unfortunately, non-Muslims are not allowed entry.
Koutoubia Mosque is close by the Jemma El-Fna Square, Marrakech
At one end of Jemaa el-Fna square, you will find yourself skirting the entryway into the souks and the maze of market streets that stretch into this different world. Is it your first time? Then prepare yourself for a sensory overload.
The multi-coloured wares, noisy motorbikes and bicycles whizzing by in the narrow souk alleyways along with the numerous strange smells all compete in a race to try and overwhelm your senses. On top of this, the vendors ask you ‘Where you are from?’, ‘Come into my shop!’, ‘Just take a look’! All vying for your attention.
It feels pretty hectic for the first couple of days and then you begin to fall into the rhythm of Marrakech and it is no longer that ‘strange, foreign feeling’.
Colourful but hectic markets in Marrakech
Pair of slippers or two even?
Azure coloured ceramics are eye-catching
Le Jardin Secret
The magical gardens of Le Jardin Secret date back to the 16th century and are found a short walk north from Jemma el-Fna Square but still within the Medina. These fully enclosed gardens represent an oasis of peace after you’ve left the souks. A large wooden portico with beautiful murals takes pride of place in the centre of the gardens surrounded by exotic plants sourced from around the globe.
At the far end of the gardens is a small tower housing exquisite interior designs. A separate fee is paid at the entrance to this tower. Take advantage of some great views over Marrakech and the distant Atlas Mountains.
Main Entrance Fee: 60 dirhams for non-Moroccan citizens (reduced pricing for Moroccan citizens)
Tower Entrance Fee: 35 dirhams for non-Moroccan citizens (reduced pricing for Moroccan citizens)
February to October: 9.30 am – 6.30 pm
From March to September: 9.30 am – 7.30 pm
From November to January: 9.30 am – 6.00 pm
Le Jardin Secret, view from the tower base over the exotic gardens, Marrakech
Inside view of the entrance to Le Jardin Secret, Marrakech
Medersa Ben Youssef
Located inside the Medina, the Medersa Ben Youssef Islamic school ceased to function as a school in 1960. It has been known as a jewel of architecture in Marrakech with its intricate designs and impressive decorations. Unfortunately, the school was closed for renovations during our visit which was a real shame but that’s a good reason to plan a return visit.
Cyber Park Moulay Abdessalam
Just 500m walk from Koutoubia Mosque will have you arriving at Cyber Park Moulay Abdessalam. Here you can escape all the busy-ness of the Medina. This beautiful six-hectare park is full of citrus and palm trees and makes for the perfect place to take a break and enjoy the serenity of the quiet surroundings. The park was not at all busy and there are plenty of park benches to while away the time. The gardens back onto the old fortress walls which makes for an interesting walk.
Cyber Park, a lovely and well-maintained park inside the old city walls, Marrakech
Cyber Park where the green gardens back onto the old city walls, Marrakech
A kilometre walk south of Koutobia Mosque, is Bab Agnaou, one of Marrakech Medina’s 19 gates. This is an impressive 12th-century gate forming part of the ruined, walled Badi Palace. This once royal entrance is now home to storks who have taken up residence by building huge nests atop the Bab Agnaou gates.
It is free to walk through the gates.
The Imposing Bab Agnaou gate, Marrakech
This ruined palace, built in the late 16th century, was once lavishly constructed of gold, onyx and marble which would have perfectly reflected the palace’s name; Badi Palace meaning ‘Palace of Wonder’. It was thought that this palace housed 360 rooms with a large courtyard and pool. However, with a new ruler, Badi Palace was later stripped of its rich trappings so a new palace.
Daily 09:00 am to 05:00 pm
Badi Palace with inground gardens and pool
The Badi Palace with its large central pool, Marrakech
Colourful parts of Badi Palace still exist
Close by Badi Palace is the Bahia Palace, meaning ‘brilliance’. This was meant to be the greatest palace of its time. Built-in the late 19th century, it combines both Moroccan and Islamic styles. Encompassing 8 hectares, including gardens, the workmanship required to produce the intricate designs is simply breath-taking. This place certainly deserves its name.
Monday – Sunday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Gardens of contemplation
Moorish influenced architecture
A short 20-minute walk outside the Medina will find you at the stunning Majorelle Gardens. This 2.5-acre landscaped garden was originally designed by French artist, Jacques Majorelle, taking more than 40 years to create. Vibrant hues of blues and green fill the garden as well as the special bold cobalt blue colour now named after the artist as ‘Majorelle blue’.
Following his death, the property went into disrepair but was later purchased by designers Yves St Laurent and Pierre Berge who breathed new life into this now exquisite garden.
Garden entry: 70 Dirhams
Museum entry: 30Dirhams
01 October to 30 April: 08:00 am to 5:30 pm
01 May to 30 September: 08:00 am to 06:00 pm
Month of Ramadan: 09:00 am to 05:00 pm
Stunning colours of Majorelle blue with green
Majorelle blue and green colours – stunning!
Exquisitely coloured artistic gardens
Day Trip to Ouzoud Waterfalls from Marrakech
There is plenty to explore around Marrakech itself but if like us, you want to experience a taste of life away from the city, then a couple of day trips to explore further afield in Morocco is just the trick.
Marrakech to Ouzoud Waterfalls is a round trip of approximately 5 hours. You not only get to visit these mighty falls but on the other side of the river, you meet and if choose, feed the inquisitive Barbary Macaque monkeys. You can read much more about this trip in our post, Ouzoud Waterfalls, Morocco: Chocolate Waterfalls and Cheeky Monkeys.
Ouzoud Waterfalls chocolate brown waters, Morocco
Super cute Ouzoud Waterfall Macaque Monkeys
Day Trip to Ait Benhaddou from Marrakech
Did you ever want to visit a remote desert trading post in a formidable African desert? Here’s your chance.
Ait Benhaddou lies in the Sahara desert, in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This remote place is the stuff of legends and inspired many a film including Gladiator, Babel, Jewel in the Nile and more recently, Game of Thrones. You can read more of our day trip from Marrakech in our article, Day Trip from Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou. Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou return trip is 8 hours.
Ait Benhaddou with its ochre coloured earthen fortifications
Ait Benhaddou overlooks the nearby river
Marrakech Tips Round Up
All up, we spent 6 days in Morocco broken into 4 days in Marrakech and the two 1-day trips to Ouzoud Waterfalls and Ait Benhaddou. We had no mishaps and we felt safe throughout the time we were there. If you do have the opportunity to enjoy at least one of these day trips, then you’ll certainly leave with a more well-rounded perspective of Morocco.
We hope you find these Marrakech tips and attractions helpful so that you’ll have the very best visit.
Have you visited Morroco before? Do you have any favourite places? We’d love to hear about it.
Good to Know
Getting to Marrakech
Find out more info here about taking the ferry from Spain to Morocco with your campervan.
We left our campervan at Seville airport parking, whilst we were in Marrakech, Morocco in North Africa.
We stayed in the Medina in Marrakech at a riad called Dar Touyir and would highly recommend it. The service was excellent and the staff could not do enough for you.
We did these day trips:
But there are many more options.