Marrakech is a city that is often portrayed as highly glamorous on TV and in the movies. I had this dreamy vision in my head when I arrived in May for a vacation, in desperate need of sunshine after a gloomy London winter, and was not disappointed. Here are some tips and a few of my favorite must see spots in Marrakech.
Here are some pointers to help you navigate:
- The resorts in Marrakech are gorgeous, and they will be your oasis from the dusty, often chaotic streets outside in the city.
- Start slow in the souks — spend some time browsing before you try to find a particular store or start buying.
- Always ask before taking someone's photo — it's only polite and can avoid misunderstandings over possible payment, as happened to me when snapping a shot of an entertainer on Jemaa el Fna.
- Never ask directions from someone just walking on the street; it's no guarantee that you will be led to the correct place, and sometimes payment will be expected in return.
- Jemaa El Fna: The main square in the center of Marrakech's old city is filled with a chaotic cluster of orange juice vendors, snake charmers, and even the local tooth salesman.
- Koutoubia Mosque: Located in the center of Marrakech, this gorgeous mosque provides a great navigation point while lost among the souks.
- Jardin Majorelle: A garden oasis in a desert city, created by Jacques Majorelle in the 1930's and restored back to its original beauty by Yves Saint Laurent in the 1980's. It's filled with plants, and also contains the ashes of Yves Saint Laurent. The most famous element of this garden is the heavy use of a bold cobalt blue color specially created for this space.
- The Souks: You could enter the souks and never come out — at least, that is how I felt in a moment of panic during my first night in Marrakech. Once you get used to this idea, the souks are a lot of fun to mill about and discover some treasures for the home.
- Bahia Palace: Built to be a place of brilliance where Moroccan and Islamic styles converged, this is a place to take inspiration from the gorgeous tile work that Morocco is known for.
- The Souks: You can't leave the souks without making at least o
ne purchase. Some must buys are the moroccan poufs in every color of leather imaginable, beautiful pottery in traditional Emerald green shades, and Moroccan tea glasses.
- 33 Rue Marjorelle: A must stop for shopping and lunch after a visit to the Jardin Majorelle. 33 Rue Majorelle is a concept shop specializing in housewares and clothing, mostly by Moroccan designers.
- Jardin Majorelle Boutique: Don't think of skipping out on this gift shop, located in the Marjoelle Gardens, especially as it was curated by Yves Saint Laurent and continues to carry on his style. I snagged some brightly colored bangles for around $10, and was very tempted by the hand embroidered cushions and deep Emerald green pottery. The only thing stopping me from buying up the whole shop was my carry-on sized luggage.
Eat + Drink:
- Cafe Des Epices: Take a break from the souks and get a bird's eye view of the vendors while sipping a refreshing juice drink.
- SkyBab: Located in the Bab hotel and set against a minimalist chic all-white canvas, this outdoor lounge bar is laid-back and very easy to spend an afternoon in.
- Les Trois Saveurs: The perfect restaurant for a romantic Moroccan evening dining al fresco next to the pool at the Maison Arabe. Start with a drink in the piano-jazz bar and move out into the courtyard for a fine dining experience blending French and Moroccan cuisines.
- Djellabar: A happening bar/restaurant in the uber trendy Hivernage area of Marrakech, filled with artwork of famous people wearing fez hats. Cocktails and great music are their specialty, but their food is also worth checking out.
- La Mamounia: An art-deco landmark built in 1923 — the place where foreign dignitaries stay when in Marrakech. If you can’t pony up the cash for a room, which runs about $500-700 per night, the next best thing is a day pass to the spa, which allows you access to the gorgeous pool all day long.