Before I arrived in Morrocco, I was worried that I hadn’t given us enough time to explore the city of Marrakech. I’d become so fixated with our three days of excursions that I couldn’t possibly give any of them up!
More worry set in when it took us HOURS to get through security at Marrakech airport. I mean hours. The security queues were so long, officers examined everyone’s entry cards and passports in the greatest detail (for a moment, we thought that we weren’t going to be allowed into the country because the security officer didn’t believe that Callum was the same person as the photo in his passport)! So in the end, we got into Marrakech at about midday and we were left with closer to 1.5 days to explore the city.
Thankfully, (almost) two days in the city was absolutely perfect for us and I wouldn’t have structured our trip any other way!
Here’s what we got up to in our two days in the city (with some bonus options if you have 3 days in the city)!
Check into your riad and enjoy some mint tea
More kerfuffle arose as we couldn’t find the man that was meant to pick us up from the airport. Luckily, a lot of the men doing hotel pickups know each other and when I questioned where he was, another man phoned him and told him to come back (that’s how long it took us to get through airport security – our pick up man had left)! At this point, I was already in love with the welcoming hospitality of the Moroccans.
Once we were in the riad, we certainly weren’t disappointed. The staff sat down with us and drew all over a map to make sure that we knew where we wanted to go and how to get back to the riad – Marrakech is a crazy maze of winding roads after all!
After this, we were shown around the riad and treated to complimentary mint tea on the roof terrace. I quickly became obsessed with the mint tea in Morocco and if you visit, you’ll definitely be offered some during your stay!
After finishing our tea and dumping our belongings into our room, we set out to explore!
Jemaa el-Fnaa (The Main Square)
Our first port of call was to have a wander and get our bearings – I had intended to do a guided walking tour, but with the delays of the morning, we had well and truly missed the start time! So instead, we took some time to weave our way round the back alleys of markets and shops around our hotel to the main square of Marrakech.
The square comes alive at night, whereas in the day the square was mainly filled with orange juice carts. But we stopped off for lunch at Cafe France (a very popular restaurant in the square for tourists. Not the most authentic Moroccan cuisine, but it was quick and easy).
We continued our self guided tour of the square with a trip to the nearby Koutoubia Mosque. We didn’t enter the mosque (it isn’t open to tourists) but we definitely took the time to admire the architecture. I am a huge fan of Moroccan style architecture apparently!
Our riad was in the perfect position to visit Jardin Marjorelle as it was only a 20-ish minute walk away (the garden is outside of the Medina walls and we were staying by one of the exits closest to the garden).
The garden is famous for its bright blue and yellow building which was once home to the incredible designer Yves Saint Laurent. We overheard a fellow tourist sum up the area perfectly – “looks like this bloke had a shit tonne of money but bloody good taste”.
It was beautiful and an oasis of calm in the bustling city. This is the perfect place for photos and we saw a few professional photo-shoots during our time here – that’s how pretty the area is!
Entry is 70 MAD which is much more expensive than many of the other attractions in Marrakech but it was well worth it. Callum would say that it was worth it purely based on the free WiFi and amazing Pokémon Go spawns…
Dinner at Latitude 31
After heading back to our Riad to freshen up, we spent a lot of time on TripAdvisor deciding where to eat. Our Riad wasn’t located directly off the main square and we were absolutely exhausted after a day of travelling and exploring, we wanted somewhere close and easy… alas, we stumbled across latitude 31.
This is a pricey restaurant by Moroccan standards however, we had 3 courses with soft drinks and it came to 520 MAD (about 41 GBP) for both of us, which isn’t bad at all by English standards!
The restaurant menu is filled with traditional Moroccan foods with a modern twist and all of our courses were out of this world.
We were first presented with a complimentary amuse-bouche. The three appetisers were a small creme brulee, a chicken dish and a fish dish. The two I ate were amazing (I gave my fishy one to Callum as I don’t eat fish).
Next up, I had a dish that at first looked like a tagine but was a refreshing twist on the traditional tagine. The chicken was layered with caramelised tomatoes which were so sweet and delicious! Callum had the mixed grill platter and raved about it for the rest of the trip!
Finally we both had a “chocolate sphere” (pictured above) which consisted of a hollow ball of chocolate filled with fruits which were then covered in warm chocolate sauce – yum!
After successfully filling our stomachs, the restaurant owner treated us to a complimentary cocktail which were also gorgeous.
Our first port of call was the Saadian tombs which I’m quite aware sounds a bit depressing, but I promise it wasn’t! The area is really beautiful.
A common theme in Marrakech attractions is that information is given in Arabic and French with no English translation, so it might be worth researching the attractions that you want to see before you visit.
The mausoleum houses around 60 members of the Saudi Dynasty and has become popular with tourists due to the pure beauty of the site. This isn’t a huge area, so you won’t need TOO long to explore it. Even though we arrived fairly early, queues were already forming to see into the different rooms – however the queues were definitely worse as we were leaving, so this is probably a good place to see early in the day!
El Badi Palace
Next stop was El Badi Palace which I’d read to be very run down ruins and nothing in comparison to Bahia Palace (see below). In true Danielle fashion, I actually preferred El Badi Palace! We struggled to find the entrance for quite a while but it was definitely worth the wait.
For the most part, this is a ruined palace, however it’s absolutely huge and I can only imagine how grand it would have been in its prime.
There are plenty of corners, underground tunnels, nooks and crannies to explore. This is one of the fee places that appeared to have English translations on most of their information boards too!
My love for Moroccan architecture has been strengthened once more!
Now for the much more built up and stereotypically beautiful palace. If you’re a big fan of Moroccan tiles and colour, this is the place for you. Once again, the palace is much bigger than you think it will be – I’m sure Moroccans have mastered the art of making buildings 10 times bigger on the inside than they look from the outside (it definitely puts Doctor Who’s Tardis to shame)!
This is an undeniably beautiful palace and will be the background of many Instagram photos if you are that way inclined!
Lunch in the square
As we headed back up north, we stopped once again for lunch in the square, this time opting to eat at Zeitoun Cafe where we had the most delicious Moroccan style sandwiches with a view over the square for a spot of people watching!
Explore the Souks
Our Riad staff had told us that we would most definitely get lost in the Souks but I think we did quite well! Before arriving in Morocco, I had downloaded the app “City maps to go” which you can use offline and whilst no GPS companies have mapped out the winding alleyways of the Souks, it was a good way of seeing whether you were coming closer to the exit or not!
We didn’t pick up anything during our time shopping – I’m not one for bartering! But I was obsessed with their hand painted beautiful plates. Once I’ve bought a house, maybe I’ll think about buying plates!
Ben Youseff Madrasa
This is definitely another attraction that you will want to read about before visiting if English is your only language! Alternatively, I know many people have hired guides for the day and completed similar itineraries to the above without the need for research.
This was the most prominent Islamic College in the Marrakech area and led to many great scholars. This was one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa and housed up to 900 students – it’s hard to believe that 900 students stayed in the small dormitories (many of which had no windows) but that’s a small price to pay for apparently one of the best religious teachings in North Africa!
If any universities looked like this in the UK, then maybe I’d have gone to uni! This is another attraction for the instagram-holics!
Dinner and exploring the main square at night
As mentioned previously, the main square comes alive at night time, so on our last night, we opted to eat slightly closer to the main square so that we could check out the square in all its glory of an evening.
As we had been on 3 days worth of excursions prior to this day in which we had no choice when it comes to food and had been served repetitive tagine / chicken meals for the duration, we were most definitely “tagined”-out. So instead wee opted for a restaurant that was popular on TripAdvisor and served a menu of varied cuisines (if you’re also getting sick of tagines, be sure to check out Kui-Zin).
Unfortunately at our time of visit (March 2017), a large part of the main square was under construction, so I don’t think we got the full impact of the area.
With a positive outlook, the square is beautiful – stalls selling mainly handcrafted Moroccan souvenirs, beautiful women offering henna tattoos, bustling restaurants, street music. However, there is a dark side to this square; Morocco do use animals in the tourism trade extensively. I was saddened by the monkeys on chains and kept in small boxes – hopefully the world will learn!
If I had one more day
While I think my 2 days in Marrakech were perfect, if I were to spend one day longer in the city, here’s what I would do!
Morocco is famed for its Hammam style of massage/bath and if we had an extra day, I would have loved to try one! We decided to skip this activity as we have both had Turkish baths previously (which are ever so slightly different – you can learn about the difference here), so we felt more inclined to go out and explore what Morocco had to offer!
Another thing that Morocco is famed for is it’s food! We loved the food on our trip (despite getting a bit “tagined”-out towards the end) and it would have been so interesting to see the pros at work/learn how it’s done!
Guided Souk Tour
The souks are a mess of colour, winding alleyways, stalls and activity. We didn’t purchase anything whilst we were there on the basis that a) nothing caught our eye and b) we weren’t actually sure what was worth buying and for what price! You can hire guides to take you around the souks and get all of the top tips and tricks!
Overall, our time in Marrakech was amazing and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a trip to experience a culture that is completely different from their own, eat great food, meet incredibly friendly and helpful people and generally have a great time!
Have you been to Marrakech? What was your experience like?
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own.
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