Marrakech is one of the most travel-friendly cities in Morocco. While maintaining an exotic feel, Marrakech offers a safe haven for expats and travelers in Northern Africa. Marrakech is the fourth largest city in Morocco, located north of the Berber Atlas Mountains. While maintaining the buzz of a large city, Marrakech is relatively low-pace compared to the bustling city of Casablanca. Marrakech has both an old city, marked by a traditional medina, and a surrounding “new” city.
Marrakech is the popular French name for the city, however it can be spelled as “Marrakesh” (English), “Mrrakc” (Berber), “Marraquech” (Spanish), or “Merreksh” (Moroccan Arabic). Marrakech and Marrakesh are often interchanged.
When to Go
The most beautiful time to visit Marrakech is between March and May, when the weather is in the 70°F range. October and November are also desirable times to go and boast similar temperatures. The months of December and January can be very cold, but warmer compared to the rest of the country.
I have only ever visited Morocco during summer between June-August. It can be sweltering hot, reaching over 100°F average many days. However, it is still absolutely worth going during this time. Nighttime will generally drop to below 70°F.
It should also be noted that Ramadan, which occurs during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, is observed throughout Morocco. People of the Muslim faith practicing this holiday will generally fast during the day. Many restaurants are closed during this time, especially during sunlight hours, and alcohol can be extremely difficult to find. Many tourists avoid visiting during this time of year. However, this can also be a good time to visit to experience the breaking of the fast at night with local families.
How to Get There
Marrakech has it’s own airport (RAK), which is incredibly convenient and is located near the new part of town. You can fly direct from Europe for relatively cheap, especially from Spain.
Train or Bus
It is possible to both train and bus from Marrakech to Casablanca for about USD$15. However, please be cautious, especially in Casablanca.
You can find relatively affordable private car and tourism services throughout Morocco for transport between cities. This is generally the safest route between cities in Morocco.
Where to Stay
Riads are large traditional houses in Morocco, typically formed around an interior garden, courtyard, or pool. Riads provide a hotel and bed and breakfast feel, typically with impeccable service. I would highly recommend staying in the old part of town in Morocco, walking distance from the Medina.
Riad Argan is my favorite place to stay in Marrakech. The service is incredible and the French expat owners (Francois and Bernard) are some of the kindest people you will ever meet.
If you choose to stay in new town, there are some incredible 5 star hotels. These typically boast incredible spas, luxury pools, gardens, and highly rated restaurants.
It is an option to use Airbnb in Marrakech, particularly to rent out Riads for large groups.
Where to Eat and Drink
…an excellent rooftop to watch the birds perch on rooftops during sunset, listen to the prayer through the city, and grab a cocktail. The mojitos are excellent. This is also right across the street from Dar Anika, so you can walk over for dinner afterwards.
…my favorite restaurant in Marrakech. You must not miss a visit to Dar Anika. Have dinner upstairs on the rooftop and try some of the best food, best wine, and best service in all of Morocco. You may need to make a reservation, so just walk in earlier in the day and ask for a place. Don’t be afraid to try the camel.
Jemaa el-Fnaa Night Market
…is a wonderful place to stop by every night for some incredible street food and bustling market scene.
Basic Do’s and Don’ts of Marrakech, Morocco
DO dress appropriately. Women, at the minimum, please cover your knees and cleavage in Marrakech. Marrakech is not as strict as other Muslim countries in terms of dress, so if it is hot outside, people will generally understand seeing your shoulders. Out of respect for the culture you are visiting, please cover your knees.
DON’T judge people by their religion, dress, or race. This should be the case everywhere in the world. Get to know everyone, regardless of preconceived notions, and enjoy meeting new personalities. Ask questions, be curious!
DO visit the neighboring Atlas Mountains and see Berber villages on a day trip or weekend trip
DO look out for street art
DO watch your bags, just as you would in any big city
DO have a sunset cocktail at Cozy Bar, followed by dinner at Dar Anika
DO get henna, but make sure to agree on a price before letting the ink touch your hands.
DO your research before going to a local spa; it is generally very different than what you are used to
DO visit the palaces of old kings and the Arabic school
DON’T talk about people like they can’t hear you, most locals speak English
DON’T be afraid to talk to locals and ask questions
DO shop in the market, but know there is a barter system
DO ride a camel, but only if they look well fed and taken care of
DON’T drink the tap water
DO climb the waterfalls in Imlil, in the Atlas Mountains
DO explore the city, get lost with someone you like to get lost with
DON’T be afraid to travel alone to Marrakech, especially if you are flying in and out of the Marrakech airport
DO stay a week or more
DO play with the abandoned kittens (however, do not take them home with you unless you plan on adopting them at some point… meet my cute kitten Luna)
DO respect the people in poverty. Be kind and smile. Story time… Back home, and pretty much everywhere I am travelling in fact, I buy homeless food instead of giving them money. However, there was an exception in Marrakech. For the first time that I can remember I gave someone begging money. Almost every night I would walk to Kosy Bar for a drink at sunset, and each night I passed a very old man with his hand stretched out, sitting against the same wall covered in street art. His wrinkled old hand would reach out, seemingly embarrassed, as his aged face looked up at you. Somehow, he was always smiling. Even better? He never once asked for money. Every night he would look up at me and say in French “Thank you for visiting my city, thank you for coming here. Have a great day, have a great night, have a great weekend, have a beautiful time in my city. Thank you for visiting. Thank you so much …” The last night I placed money in his hand, probably just enough for a week of very cheap Moroccan food, but the old frail man looked at me with the biggest smile and continued to say thank you.