You all know how much I love writing these travel posts and I am so excited to bring this Marrakech travel guide to life for you all! Matt and I typically try and plan at least one longer trip a year, which usually incorporate roughly 3 different places. On this trip, we did Marrakech, Lisbon, and Amsterdam. We love being on the go, so this type of travel suits us well. As I have mentioned before, we needed to get a bit more creative this year with the whole Zika scare preventing us from going to a lot of destinations (especially warm weather), and we had heard a lot about Marrakech and were interested to check it out for ourselves.
It was the first stop on tour de Kremer and a memorable one at that! The flight was just under six hours from NYC and while we missed our connecting flight in Casa Blanca to Marrakech, we ended up grabbing a taxi to make the two hour drive (the next available flight was ten hours later). Just incase this happens to you, I would say grabbing a taxi in Casa Blanca is the best solution (I believe it was about $120). The only downfall to this is that Marrakech is a very confusing city, particularly within the city walls, and our cab driver was not familiar with it and basically dropped us off at the entrance (as he did not know how to maneuver the streets to properly get close to our hotel). Matt and I aimlessly walked around trying to find where we were staying for close to an hour carrying all of our luggage (it is still a miracle I packed for almost two weeks in this weekender bag, a travel bag + this tote). We were warned that people will tell you they know where they were going and to follow them (they are harmless, just trying to make an extra buck), but we were at at loss and gave it a shot. The fist guy who we followed really had no idea on how to get to where we were going, which led to some frustration mainly because Matt and I both felt helpless in a new city and had so many bags we were carrying. Finally he teamed up with another guy who had more of an idea and we finally made it to our destination. My Skyroam unfortunately wasn’t supported in Morocco, so we couldn’t call or pull up google maps. If we had made our connecting flight, our riad had a car service waiting for us which would have made things SO much easier. Needless to say I was a bit flustered upon arrival, but the moment we walked into the riad all nerves were put aside and I knew it would be an amazing trip.
Before jumping into the details of our trip, I also wanted to touch a little bit on clothing as I had a few of you asking about what is appropriate and respectful to the culture. While I opted for the most part to typically have my shoulders covered or at least carry a denim jacket or scarf with me that I could toss on, I never once felt uncomfortable, even if I did just have a strappy top on while walking around. However, from what I saw, it was mostly the tourist who would be showing their shoulder or wearing shorts. I did decide to not wear cutoff shorts or short dresses while walking around the city out of respect. But I did wear shorts or bathing suits while we were hanging out in the riad and that seemed completely fine!
WHERE WE STAYED:
After talking with some friends who previously did this trip and researching on our own, we knew that we wanted to stay in a riad as opposed to a hotel. Hands down the best decision we ever made. A riad is basically like a bed and breakfast that has roughly 8-10 rooms and a courtyard in the center. The riads are near the city center, and truly feel like a hidden oasis off the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of Marrakech. After a day walking around and exploring, it was the perfect sanctuary to go back to and relax. Each riad has an open air concept, most have a roof deck (where we also ate breakfast each morning), a small “pool,” and the most incredible decor I have ever seen!
The staff at our riad was extremely friendly and helpful, truly going out of their way to make sure you had the best time. Our riad in particular was in walking distance to pretty much everything. There were a few places we wanted to try (Yves Saint Laurent Garden, camel rides + a dinner outside of town) that were further away and required a cab. There are hundreds of riads to choose from, and while I only saw the inside of 2 or 3, I would definitely recommend where we stayed.
WHAT WE DID:
I am still kicking myself for not packing two more duffle bags to fill with the insane shopping you can do in Marrakech, but this backpack came in handy! The souks are packed with the best moroccan textiles, decor, treats, you name it! Matt and I went a little crazy buying all sorts of things to fill our new home, but I wanted so badly to bring back a rug or beautiful blanket, but it was too much to carry. Leave time, lots and lots of time, to check out the souks. You can get lost (quite literally) in them for hours, but it is so much fun walking around, checking out the shops, and picking up memorable pieces along the way. I also used this smaller wallet which came in handy and allowing for extra space to carry my souvenirs.
This is something we told out hotel we were interested in and they were able to arrange for us very easily (and cheaply, I think it was only like $17 a person). It was a fun experience and only about 15 minutes outside the city. I know a few people that did a more “authentic” fuller day experience which looked amazing, but it is far to get to the Sahara to experience this from Marrakech. Due to our short time we had, we opted for this! To be honest, I liked it but wouldn’t rave about it, particularly since you are not really in the desert (you are right off a main road, and there are houses nearby, although it’s hard to tell from the photos). But for the price and time, I certainly did not regret it.
A little side note to any fellas out there, I would recommend wearing pants for this activity. My husband learned the hard way and in a lot of our pictures it looks as if he borrowed a pair of my shorts due to how much they bunched up when on the camel. Needless to say, those pictures didn’t make the blog, but gave me a good laugh!
Check out the other riads
El Fenn quickly became our go-to for a pit stop after exploring the city. It’s another larger riad, which had the most incredible roof to watch the sunset, enjoy a cocktail and grab a bite to eat. We loved it so much, after coming for a drink one night we went back a second time for lunch and to sun bath on the roof. While not all riads are open to the public (like ours) there are a few that have a more restaurant/cocktail bar vibe that allow outsiders to come in. I wouldn’t definitely recommend checking those out as the riads (unlike the other big resorts) still have the more traditional feel and have SO much character.
We took a cab here, but it was a very quick cab ride outside the city walls. I would say we spent about an hour to an hour and a half here checking out the gardens and beautiful landscape. Definitely worth a visit and I would suggest getting in early to avoid the crowds (there was a pretty long line to buy tickets) and to beat the heat.
Walk around, explore!
Walking around the streets of the city is like nothing I have ever experienced. There are so many people around, many flying by on mopeds (watch out!), and often selling the craziest stuff! Definitely something to experience. I loved seeing it. But not all of it – I had some trouble seeing live chickens in little cages, oh and the live snakes freaked me out! But walking around and getting out of your comfort zone, is what travel is all about.
The streets are also VERY confusing! Matt is great with directions, but it even took him about 24 hours to get the hang of the windy streets. Have a map on hand and be prepared to ask locals for advice.
Check out the Tombs, Palaces, and Mosque
We also did a bunch of the traditional tourist sites including the Saadian tombs, Koutoubia Mosque, Bahia Palace, and el Badi Palace. All of these sites were beautiful, and worth a visit. These are not like large museums that take a long time to conquer – many of these sites are located close to each other and can be seen in several hours (leaving more time for that famous Marrakech shopping!).
WHERE WE ATE:
We opted for lunch here on a day we spent exploring the souks. It is right in the hear of the main square and the perfect location to sit out of the roof and overlook Marrakech. Also great for snapping an Instagram!
SUCH a romantic spot outside of the city (about a 15 minute drive). We literally sat under the stars, surrounded by lily ponds, flickering candles and soft music in the background. Little did Matt and I know that after dinner, the bar started to gain a crowd and it was a lively night life spot. We went to check it out and grab a night cap and it ended up being such a fun atmosphere. Musicians, dancers and music that was full of life filled the room. Just FYI, Matt made reservations here before our trip which I would recommend doing!
I talked about El Fenn earlier, but we had a delicious pre fixe lunch spread here on one of our last days. A great way to try local cuisine and enjoy a glass of rose on the roof.
We ended our trip with dinner at this spot and it was great! Make sure to book a later dinner as the entertainment, which includes traditional belly dancers, starts around 11pm. It is a dimly lit restaurant with a quintessential Moroccan vibe. Make sure to ask to sit on the upstairs level as I felt it had the best views of the show. Overall, this place really knew how to get the crowd going and was such a fun way to experience the culture and city.