Marrakech, the fourth largest city in the Kingdom of Morocco, is one of the most sought after tourist destination in Morocco. A brief history of this city takes us back to Marrakech being one of the important imperial cities that dated back to the 9th century. Throughout the long history, Marrakech became a significant city as it evolves to be one of the busiest cities in Africa that serves not only as a tourist destination but also a major economic centre. Marrakech was also a favourite place for Yves Saint Laurent, a renowned European fashion designer.
Just like every other city in Morocco, the city layout are split into the Old City known as the Medina, and the new city which was built hundreds of years as the city prospered. As you imagined, the Medina contains historical sites and is the main attraction. In the new cities, you will find infrastructures like bus stations, modern restaurants, etc.
During my 3 days stay in Marrakech, I have visited the must-see sights in this wonderful ancient city and I am here to share my first-hand experience in the form of a 2-day itinerary. Feel free to adjust and change the locations to your liking. I have also included personal experience in this post!
No Drones Allowed
First, you will arrive at the Menara International Airport, and to my surprise, it is reflective of what modern Morocco is capable of. Upon clearing the customs of Morocco, you are greeted with ample sunlight through the glass rooftop and the interior of the airport is clean! Do take note that the Kindom of Morocco does not allow the import of drones! This also means that you are not allowed to use drones for private purposes!
Upon exiting customs, you will find many booths set up selling SIM cards. After a brief check across the 3 to 4 booths, I opted for Orange’s plan for a 10 Euros Internet Plan. They offer free SIM cards, which in my opinion would be part of their marketing plan to attract customers. It is the cheapest (at least what I’ve found) and lasted me well for my 10 days in Morocco.
Getting to Marrakech
Airport Transport to Marrakech
After you have equipped yourself with 4G on your phone, the next thing to do is to find transport towards your accommodation. I arrived from Madrid at about 10.20 am local time and was clueless. A brief check on Google Maps showed me that there was an airport bus but to be honest, I could not find the bus-stop. The airport bus was in fact at weird time intervals and pricier. There were also petit taxis available, but touting was rampant here. The driver charged my girlfriend and me about 200 Dirhams (20 Euros) to get to the Old Medina. This price might be a price that some are willing to pay, but not to a travelling student. We then found a simpler but adventurous way to travel. Simply key in your final destination on Google Maps and you can see ALSA bus services and routes available. We ended up taking a bus to our hotel/hostel at just 4 dirhams. While this may seem like the cheapest option, do note that we had to walk about 15 minutes to find the bus stop! All in all, an airport transfer would save you the hassle, but if you are budget-conscious like me, do consider taking the cheaper local bus services.
Our hotel was booked through Booking.com and was situated in the Medina of Marrakech. The bus dropped us off at the Jemaa El-Fna stop and we had to walk in! Do note that public buses do not enter the Medina, so prepare yourself.
Jemaa El-Fna & Medina
This should be the first stop any travellers should make in Marrakech. Just outside the city walls is a large open square, better known as Jemaa El Fna. Jemaa El Fna is also just a stone’s throw away from the Medina! In fact, you can spend almost a full day here.
Littered with tons of fruit juice stalls, snake charmers playing the nasal sounding flutes to cobras and many other small stalls selling trinket, this is the main place for the hustle and bustle. In the morning and afternoon, there isn’t much to see and it would be really hot! You can consider hiding in the cool shade of the alleyways and exploring the labyrinth of the Old Medina after where there are tons of shops selling many items. You can find headscarves, clothing, lamps and many others. Do note that touting is really rampant here and you got to practice your bargaining skills to the maximum here. There are a lot of smooth talkers who can converse in English and charge an exorbitant asking price. With good bargaining skills, I am sure you can get the price you want to pay for. Otherwise, just smile politely and decline. When the night falls, the square would evolve into another level of business. Traditional Moroccan drums will echo across the square, smoke from food stalls will make your mouth water and dozens of makeshift stores will appear (presumably form the stores in the Medina) selling everything.
In our stay in the Medina, I would really recommend Cafe Kessabine! The only reason why we chose this cafe without researching was it included my girlfriend’s name, Kess. However, we were taken aback by the spread of the menu. A must-order is their Mint Tea ( Thé á la Menthe) and Chicken Tagine which comes with complimentary bread. We would spend quality time talking about life, while still being close to the noises of Jemma El Fnaa. They offer a nice panoramic view of the square, especially during sunset. (*there are 2 Cafe Kessabine, choose the one that says “Cafe Kessabine Medina” and has an entrance on the ground level. We tried both and still like the first one better)
Yves Saint Laurent Museum & Jardin Marjorelle
After experiencing the nightlife and turning in, the next day would encompass a more modern tourist sight. Drawing much of his inspiration for fashion works in Marrakech, a tribute was paid to Yves Saint Laurent in the form of a museum. Just beside the YSL Museum is the Majorelle Garden which boasts tropical plants, clean pathways and breathtaking colours and architecture. You can get a combined ticket for both YSL Museum and Majorelle Garden, and remember to show your student card for a significant discount! I would encourage to get the combined ticket as both attractions are very worthy to pay a visit. Tickets can be bought online or at the counter!
Yves Saint Laurent Museum
The museum paid tribute to the designer as well as showcase the unique culture that Morocco has. A temporary exhibition was set up showing the art of weaving by showing specially curated carpets from the nomadic Berber families from camel, goat and sheep’s wool. You can also visit the permanent exhibition devoted to showcasing Yves Saint Laurent’s work! For a fashionista, this would be the place to visit to see the evolving trends! If you are a fashion idiot like me, it is still nice to visit to see the intricate architecture and learn about this renowned designer. The best part is that this is one of the rare places that have strong working airconditioning to escape from the heat of Africa.
Jardin Marjorelle or Marjorelle Gardens houses a garden filled with tropical plants not only from Morocco but also Chile, Argentina and many more! It also includes the Berber Museum and the Garden of the Villa Oasis. Follow the footpaths to observe the different floral and fauna that was specially curated towards the Villa Oasis. Soak in the quiet atmosphere and experience the unique colours of blue, white of the Villa Oasis along with the greenery of the garden. End your trip to learn more about the nomadic Berbers in the Berber Museum, which you will find out, plays a big part in the Moroccan heritage.
After spending about half a day at the Marjorelle district, you can consider a visit to the Saadien Tombs. I personally have not visited this place, mainly due to the scorching 40 degrees weather. However, the history of the tombs, as well as its beauty, has placed it as one of the must-see sides. With unique Islamic engravements on the walls and arches, it is a must-see for anyone who has not seen Islamic architecture in reality.
We then headed back to the Medina and Cafe Kessabine to enjoy our last night in Marrakech. Even though we have explored the shops in the Medina, we managed to see new sights, shops and architectures that we have missed on the first day! We strongly urge everyone to pay at least 2 visits because it would is truly a unique experience for each visit.
Tips for travelling by bus in Marrakech
In addition, we visited these sites using Moroccan public buses which only cost 4 dirhams 1 way. Don’t give too big a note, but you can expect change! Simply use Google Maps for your destination, and follow the bus stops and route. I simply showed the driver the bus stop I am dropping off and have not faced a problem. Do note that the timing on Google Maps may not be accurate, so some waiting time is expected! Some of the Bus stops are simply a pole or none at all, so proper advice is to follow Google Maps location or wait with locals.
I understand that there are very little sites to visit on this itinerary, but it would mean that you can take your time to explore and take beautiful pictures. Coupled with the heat up to 40 degrees as well as the scorching sun, we decided to spend most of the time exploring a place than travelling.
That’s the end of my Marrakech itinerary, it may not be a perfect itinerary but I was satisfied with what I saw especially at my first Moroccan destination. Feel free to share more places that you have visited in the comments below. Also, if you have a favourite shop or dining place to recommend, let everyone know here!