Being in Marrakesh was like waking up in a dream world at another time. Marrakesh is often referred to as the “Red City” because of the red sandstone buildings and walls that date back to the 12th century. I love visiting ancient cities where many of the medieval ways of living have been preserved and interwoven into the fabric modern society. Morocco’s roots as a bustling trading post in Northern Africa are still evident to this day. You feel it as soon as you step into the historic Jemaa el-Fnaa square. I stayed in the medina, which is often referred to as the “old city” found within the iconic red walls and in the heart of the action.
A few things that struck me was the beautiful attention to detail inside the buildings from the arches to the brightly colored fabrics, intricately hand-painted walls, and ceilings. The energy of the city was bustling everywhere I went. The narrow streets of the souk were lined with shop owners, artisans, and hustlers all trying to make a living. Mules & buggies are still used to haul materials down the narrow cobblestone streets and alleyways. The beautiful aroma of Moroccan mint tea or piping hot tagine full of warm spices were staples in traditional homes and guesthouses.
Morocco is a place to go with the flow and see where the energy takes you! The city is generally very safe. Your biggest worry will be petty hustlers who may try to “innocently” offer you help and then expect cash in return or the street vendors who have to be told ‘no thank you’ a few extra times. As with any major city, play it smart and be aware of your surroundings. If you get lost and need help, walk into a local shop. The shop owners will be happy to help you find your way. As a solo female traveler, I felt very safe. I just practiced common sense when it came to safety as any traveler should.
How long I stayed: 3 nights.
I would definitely allocate more time to explore more of Morocco for a future trip, but 3 nights allowed me to get a feel for the culture of the city.
Where to Stay:
I booked this trip on a whim–an I booked Sunday and left Wednesday kinda whim😆–but I was able to find a beautiful room in a Riad in the heart of the medina at an affordable price. A Riad is a traditional Moroccan guest house/bed & breakfast which is more personal than staying at a commercial hotel. My riad was in the heart of the medina, which meant the souks and other sites were in close walking distance.
I LOVED my riad! The room was lovely, the location was central and the staff treat you like family. I would highly recommend starting your journey at Riad Lalla Manoush. I only paid $245 for 3 nights in the Annaroze suite and that was at the last minute! The riad has multiple rooms and a private house for larger parties. Click here to see all of their offerings.
- How much cash I brought: 200 Euro
- Currency: Both the Moroccan Dirham and Euro are accepted in Marrakesh. The Dirham is the national currency and currency of choice for most street vendors. However, since Spain is so close and there is a heavy presence of European visitors, the Euro is accepted almost everywhere. Since I didn’t have enough time to order Dirhams from my bank, I brought Euros and got along just fine.
- Exchange Rate Rule of Thumb: Divide the Dirham by 10 to get the Euro price (e.g. if something costs 200 Dirham, you’d pay 20 Euro). This is not an exact exchange rate down to the penny, but it’s what you can generally expect when spending cash in Morocco.
- Tip: Have cash and small bills on hand for buying anything from the souks, market, and street vendors. Prepare to negotiate. Some restaurants and shops may only take cash but ones geared towards tourists are likely to accept credit cards.
Things To Do:
- Explore the souks and main square. Wander around the different shops and narrow streets and allow yourself to get lost. This is the place to buy your spices, fabrics, argan oil beauty products, and handmade artisanal goods.
- Tip: Ladies, if you want to walk through the souk unbothered, tie your scarf around your hair like a hijab. They’re more likely to think you are local and leave you alone and it also protects your hair from dust. It worked wonders for me after my first day!
- Day trip to the Atlas mountains on a guided tour. I booked my Atlas mountain excursion via Airbnb which started at 9am and ended around 6:30pm. Our tour guide, “Potato” was so full of energy and life! I had the time of my life and met some amazing people!
- Our tour included:
- A camel ride in the desert
- Visiting a women’s collective/cooperative where they prepare natural argan oil products for sale, you are also given tea, bread and argan oil, argan butter and argan honey for dipping! I didn’t even know argan butter and honey were a thing, but they tasted delicious!
- Lunch in a Berber guesthouse in the mountains
- Light hiking through the Atlas mountain Berber villages with a stop inside a local home and so much more!
- Our tour included:
Click here to read more about the lessons I learned while exploring the Atlas mountains…
- Visit the Bahia palace and tour the expansive property with intricate details etched into every surface. This is a great place to take photos if you can catch it during a time when it’s not busy.
- If you want to party like never before, venture out to Gueli (the new city) for an incredible night at the famous Club 555. I’m not a big partier at this stage of life, but I had the time of my life! The DJ played a mix of hip hop, pop, Afrobeats and electronic music all designed to keep you moving. I’ve never seen a club put on a show quite like this!
Where to Eat:
Where you choose to eat will depend largely on where you stay in Marrakesh, as it is a big sprawling city. I highly recommend asking the staff at your riad for recommendations close to your accommodations.
Here are a few of the places I enjoyed:
- Restaurant El Bahia is a beautiful Moroccan lounge and restaurant situated near the Bahia Palace. I ordered the vegetable couscous and traditional mint tea.
- Naranj Restaurant is a chic Lebanese restaurant in the medina with great food and ambiance.
- Grab a drink before sunset at Café de France. Café de France is an iconic spot in the famous big square (Jemaa el-Fnaa) overlooking all the action. Because it is a popular tourist location, the quality of the food is known to be just ok, but it’s a perfect spot to grab a coffee or adult beverage and watch all the hustle and bustle below as the sun is setting.
Tip: Try the traditional local cuisine like tagine with varying meats or vegetables and couscous, which are staples in Moroccan cuisine. Take a local cooking class to learn how to make your own tagine filled with fresh vegetables and aromatic spices. If your riad serves dinner, I’d highly recommend partaking in a traditional home-cooked meal while there. I didn’t have a bad meal in Marrakesh, and if you listen to the locals you won’t either.
- If your accommodations are in the heart of the medina, I highly recommend arranging transportation to your accommodations through the guest house/hotel. This will take the stress off of navigating to a new area after a day of traveling.
- Tip: Local taxis are your best bet for getting around beyond the medina. Always verify the price up-front and negotiate. You can ask the host of your riad to hail a cab for you and negotiate on your behalf.
Click here for a video compilation of my time in Morocco!
I hope my experience in Marrakesh inspires you to BOOK THE TRIP and go see a new part of the world! Was this helpful? If you have any questions or tips for travelers looking to visit Marrakesh, drop a line in the comments below!