Marrakech, the rose city, is the obvious destination for your first visit to Morocco, and with nine UNESCO World Heritage sites there is so much to see and explore. With its wide Parisian-style boulevards in the new part of the city and its narrow rabbit warren-like alleys within the old walls of the Medina, it is a bustling and energetic city.
Stay in a luxurious riad-hotel, for a central base, these elegant, whitewashed villas, remain peaceful and cool even in the bustle and heat of the day. From here you can wander along the winding covered streets and alleyways in the old historic district of Medina to discover the souks and sounds of the city!
The main square of Jemaa el Fnaa is just a big open space during the day with snake charmers, medicine men and tooth sayers to entertain you. However, come back at dusk and the square becomes an open-air theatre of storytellers, acrobats, musicians and entertainers. It has been like this ever since this plaza was the site of public executions around AD 1050 – hence its name, which means ‘assembly of the dead’. When you want to escape the bustle, head up to a rooftop terrace, like the Café du Grand Balcon, for a great view over the square.
The area of the Medina, just north of the Jemaa el Fna, is a network of souks, the endless alleyways with their tiny retail cubicles become more interesting the further you delve in. This is where Berber tribes once traded slaves, gold, ivory and leather. Now tourists and locals barter for everything from carpets to kaftans, cooked snails to spices, and clothing to baskets. The two main routes into the heart are Rue Semarine (aka Souk Semarine) which is the full-on bazaar route or Rue Mouassine which is calmer and leads to boutique shops (with their fixed and fair pricing).
The area south of Jemaa el Fna is quite different from that to the north, it is more open and is home to the royal place – Dar el Makhzen, Bahia Palace also the Kasbah (old inner citadel), and the Mellah (former Jewish quarter).
The world-famous Arset El-Mamoun gardens just outside the Medina were established in the 18th century by Crown Prince Moulay Mamoun. Designed in traditional style with walkways, flowerbeds, orange groves and olive trees, non-residents who want to enjoy the gardens can visit by having a buffet lunc
h at the poolside restaurant, afternoon tea at Le Menzeh tea and ice-cream pavilion in the gardens, or on the back terrace overlooking the gardens.
Le Jardin Majorelle, in the grounds of the former home of designer Yves Saint Laurent, is amazing too. The colours and the cacti in this botanical garden are incredible.
El Badi Palace, which although predominantly in ruins, and entirely reduced to its red pisé walls, is still breath-taking. The scale of the palace, its sunken gardens and impressive mosaics are well worth visiting.
The minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech’s most famous symbol is visible from near and far. It’s still an active place of worship, and non-Muslims may not enter. But it’s possible to get a good view of the exterior by walking around either side.
Next to the Kasbah Mosque, the Saadian Tombs were forgotten about until 1917 when they were rediscovered by aerial photography. The lavish tombs were built in the 16th Century using pure gold and Italian marble.
It’s worth leaving the old city occasionally for dinner, drinks and art galleries in the Ville Nouvelle (new town) – and if you’ve got time you could also head to the coast for a wonderful beach break or an adventurous trek in the Atlas mountains.
We have some beautiful hotels available to make your Marrakech holiday memorable, speak to one of our experts today and start planning your perfect getaway!