Marrakech offers a vibrant welcome to travelers with its hectic souks and medinas filled with savory foods cooking on every street corner, the overflowing Jemaa el-Fnaa square, the palace gardens, markets with mounds of bright colored spices and heaps of fruit, and scrumptious glasses of mint tea. After exploring the many things the city has to offer, it is easy to continue to the east and ride camels through the Sahara Desert or head west to the sleepy surf cities lining the coast. Here is what not to miss on your trip to one of Morocco’s most exciting cities:
Stay at a Beautiful Riad- The first step for an authentic experience is staying at a local Riad with the beautiful intricate Moroccan architecture and detailed tilework. I stayed at the lovely boutique Riad Dar Dialkoum in the heart of the Bab Doukkala District which offered a quiet and safe location that was also easily accessible from the airport and walking distance from all the main attractions. The welcoming staff from the Riad, which is owned and operated by some amazing ladies with degrees in business and English and who are also fluent in French, coordinated everything from the airport pick-up to the daily activities making planning for the trip entirely stress-free.
Upon arrival we were greeted with the traditional mint tea and invited to explore the around the ornate oasis. The peaceful quiet inside was interrupted only by the small songbirds in the trees overhead which was in stark contrast to the busy marketplace just outside the walls.
Each morning was started with a beautiful spread of fresh fruit and baked pastries offered poolside in the inner courtyard or on the sun soaked terraced rooftop surrounded by potted plants. Literally every corner of the Riad looks like it came out of a travel magazine from the flowing white drapes on the balcony to the rose petals carefully sprinkled around the room and on the tables.
The beautiful plunge pool had heated water, making it comfortable to take a dip at any point in the day. While it would have been easy to never leave the compounds of the beautiful Riad, there are so many things to explore in Marrakech, especially on a quick trip!
Visit the Medina of Marrakech- the central medina is located in the sunbaked walls of the ancient city, but even the most well-oriented individuals can find themselves turned around in the winding streets. The narrow alleyways are filled with donkeys pulling carts, vespas zooming in and out, and goods from the stores in the souks spilling out into the passage way. The fragrant scents from the restaurants waft through the air and the unique Moroccan architecture and hidden courtyards provide the charm of the old walled city.
Tear up sand dunes on a 4x4- getting some adrenaline flowing is always my favorite part of a trip and taking four wheelers out did not disappoint! Cruising around the edge of dunes and around groves of palm trees was a perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Hold your breath and visit one of the tanneries- the pungent smell of the tanneries greets you just before turning the corner and stepping into the open air courtyard where leather is cured and dyed to every color of the rainbow. This is the starting point for many high end fashion brands to source their quality handmade leather products. The hotel staff assisted in coordinating a local guide who knew exactly where the tanneries were tucked away in the city to prevent getting ripped off from one of the common scams in the city for finding these colorful hidden gems.
Explore the historic sites- There are plenty of historical sites to visit around the outskirts of the medina which include the Sultans Tombs, El Badi Palace ruins, and the Museum of Marrakech, all of which help to gain a better appreciation for the foundation of the city.
Take a Camel Ride- head to the outskirts of town and go for a slow tour of the surrounding country with the beautiful Atlas mountains spanning the distant horizon.
Visiting the night market is another essential part of the experience as snake charmers, henna tattoo artists, street performers, and rows of food vendors fill the square. It is easy to spend the night wandering the busy square taking in all of the sights while snacking on various delicacies from the stands including fried calamari, fresh fruit smoothies, or a full box of dates.
While there are endless options of what to see and do in Marrakech, don't forget to relax, sip mint tea and soak up plenty of sun!