Marrakech Travel Guide
I recently visited the beautiful city of Marrakech - a colour and interiors lovers dream city break destination. It was one of the best mini breaks I have had with some of the most delicious food, stunning tourist spots and Instagram-worthy interiors at ever turn. Therefore I thought it might be useful to share some of the highlights for anyone planning a trip...enjoy!
Where to stay
We stayed at a small riad right in the heart of the Medina called Riad Jardin Secret. Transformed into a holiday spot by two Parisian artists, the riad is of course beautifully styled, retaining some incredible original features such as hand-carved nooks, beautiful tiles and a rooftop which looks over the city. Breakfast was another highlight, with fresh fruit, juice and the most amazing Moroccan pastries.
The vibe at the riad is very relaxed, and its more of a 'home away from home' than a hotel, for example if you wanted to enjoy a meal there you had to order that morning and it was likely that you would be the only one eating so their was no atmosphere on an evening. Similarly there is no bar, and so if you needed anything you sort of had to hunt staff down if you wanted anything. However, these things aren't bad - as I say, it has a very homely feel - but if you are looking for that pampered, hotel, 'don't worry about anything' vibe then this probably is a bit too bohemian.
Where to visit
We visited two tourist spots which really stood out, and which I would strongly recommend adding to your list whilst you are in the city. The first is the Marjorelle Gardens and YSL Museum (part of the same ticket price so you do them in together). We were advised to get to the gardens early as the queues can get pretty out of hand. We arrived at 10am (when the gardens open) and even then we queued for 45 minutes. However you queue just once - when you have looked around the gardens, you can skip the queue at the YSL museum which is around the corner, so overall it wasn't a problem and it was definitely worth it. I would recommend seeing the gardens before the museum (you can do it either way round) because the gardens were a huge inspiration for Yves Saint Lauren, and when you see his work at the museum you can really see the inspiration he took from it. For example, in the garden there is the most amazing bougainvillea plant, and later in the museum you see an incredible jacket created by YSL named after the plant, which is just stunning. Gives you a really good insight into the designers creative process, as well as the inspiration he took from the colours and shapes of the city.
The second place we visited which might be my favourite spot in the city was visiting the Le Jardin Secret. If you've been to the city before, you may have missed this gem as it has only recently opened after a full renovation. Nestled amongst the bustling souks, you enter the two gardens through the most stunning atrium with huge glass doors, Moroccan tiles and a bubbling foundation - total serenity in an otherwise crazy city. There is a restaurant in the gardens which has a stunning view. We didn't go, but it was recommended to us for a perfect lunch spot.
Rosmary, lavender, cacti and the most vibrant green glazed tiles - it truly is a magical spot and a perfect pit spot in between your haggling and souk mooching.
Of course you can't go to Marrakech and not visit the colourful world of the souks. Of course rugs is a popular item, but the wool cushions and throws, baskets and leather slippers are also work a look. These are my tips when buying items...
- You know you have to haggle, but seriously you need to haggle HARD. I bought a rug on this visit and the original price we were quoted for it was the equivalent of £200 - we got it for £40 with a cushion thrown in. So don't be shy and definitely don't be afraid to come back with an offer which is hugely below their first price. Be fair - its not about getting something for nothing - but decide what you want to pay for it and don't waver. When you start to walk away, its amazing what they will be willing to come down to.
- Check the quality, especially if you are buying rugs. From the ones I visited, they all seemed to be genuine wool rugs, and the good sellers will be willing to prove it by burning some threads to show its not synthetic
- People can be worried about being hassled, but honestly this doesn't happen very much - the sellers are just trying to make a living. If you are polite and say that you are not interested, they will respect that (most of the time!)
- We decided to check in our luggage on the flights there and back so we had the freedom to buy a few things. Rugs and blankets pack down much smaller than you think so you can take them on as hand luggage (depending on the size on the rug of course!).
Where to eat
Probably the most beautiful riad in Marrakech where we were lucky enough to stay in for my sister's wedding last year. Book in for their set lunch menu which is served on the roof terrace and includes a selection of deliciously fresh salads and meat dishes, perfectly accompanied with some Moroccan Rose wine.
This rooftop spot was reasonably priced, offered a great drinks menu and some lovely tagines. Not the best food we ate, but good enough and the perfect sundowner option with its beautiful views and vibey atmosphere.
Everyone bangs on about this lunch spot. Although the food was lovely, it was chaotic and the staff were overrun and slow. Definitely go if you can book a spot on the roof terrace, otherwise expect the same frantic atmosphere as in the souks below! Best thing about it though is the little shop, Chabi Chic just at the foot of the entrance of the restaurant - lovely ceramics at a fairly reasonable price.
One of the oldest hotels in the city, La Masion Arabe is a classically styled Morrocan hotel which would be a lovely place to stay, and also features a jazz cocktail bar - perfect margaritas! We ate in the Moroccan restaurant of the hotel and I have to say, it was the best tagine I have ever had (and I'm not normally a fan!). Exceptional food and a lovely atmosphere - we had two classical guitarists playing throughout dinner which was mind-blowing. It is a bit pricey, especially if you are drinking alcohol but that is the same everywhere as alcohol is imported and not widely available.
One thing to note with all these spots is that you have to book in advance (the day before or even that morning should be fine) because they get so busy. Your hotel or riad will be ale to do this for you, or you can pop in and book yourself in person.
SO there you have it - a few of our favourite spots in the city. Are you planning a trip soon? If so, I'd love to here any other must-see spots for when I next go, which I absolutely will!