Everything you’ve ever wanted to learn before visiting Marrakech, and then some. Yes, I realise this guide is loooong. But, if there’s one thing I always do before a trip, it’s come up with guidebook-worthy-itineraries that are targeted to fellow foodie-proud, boutique-shopping and hotel-dwelling travellers (like yours truly). So far on Wolf & Stag, I’ve been a bit terrible about putting together actual travel guides. one of my big blog goals is to star writing these for you guys. Something that’s easy to read and to refer to when you’re planning a trip. No time like the present, right? Here’s my first for you: our Marrakech travel guide.
Marrakech is a place of extremes, unlike any other city I’ve had the fortune to visit. From bustling medina streets to tranquil, empty riad rooftops; delectable smells of street food to the rotting smell of carcasses; and from modern, high-end restaurants to haggling on the streets. It feels like a macrocosm for the city’s riads themselves, at once plain and crumbling on the outside turning into quiet, luxurious escapes on the inside.
It’s a city that both forces you to be on your guard and — when you let it in, even just a bit — enchants your spirit. Sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s the best choice of words I can find to describe this place. It’s one that definitely takes a bit to get used to. But, once you do, you fall in love. Simples.
Wolf & Stag Adventures: A Guide to Marrakech, Morocco
// Good to Know //
- Language || While the official language is Arabic, French is spoken widely. English is also widely spoken; however, it’s good to brush up on your French, as this is more common.
- Can I drink the water || No. Make sure to stock up on bottled water, for drinking and for brushing your teeth.
- Do I need a travel vaccine || Yes and no. We did quite a bit of research and found no real consensus. We decided to in the end, as the NHS does technically recommend having boosters for Tetanus, Typhoid and Hep A.
- Take stomach medications with you. Pretty much everyone I’ve met has had some form of ‘funny tummy’ in Morocco (myself included). Better to be safe than sorry.
- Currency | technically Moroccan Dirhams are not allowed to be exchanged anywhere outside of Morocco. Wait until you get to Marrakech airport to take out money. There are also Bureau de Changes within the Medina that give surprisingly good rates.
- While many restaurants do accept credit card, the shops in the medina and taxis will not. Make sure to bring plenty of cash with you.
- What to wear || Be respectful. Muslim culture is one that encourages modesty, both in flashy items and in how you dress. Leave the designer handbags and blingy jewellery at home.
- In general, it’s good to avoid wearing anything above the knee (for both men & women), and women should cover their shoulders. Unsure about what to pack? I’ve written a full guide about what to pack for Marrakech.
- Check for any Islamic holidays. When we went, it was the start of Ramadan, meaning many restaurants had different opening hours.
- The left hand is considered ‘unclean,’ and it’s quite rude to show the bottom of your feet to someone. So when shaking hands, make sure to use your right hand, lefties. And keep your feet down!
- Always haggle. Always. Especially in taxis and the souks (not nicer restaurants).
- Taxis || If possible, ask taxi drivers to use the meter, rather than quoting you a price. It’s considerably cheaper. If they won’t, haggle a price.
// Where to Stay in Marrakech //
Our stay at Riad Kniza. Read the full review here.
Hotel Capaldi || This is perfect if you want a night away from the intensity of the city while not being too far remote. Hotel Capaldi is a 45-minute drive from the airport and a bit under an hour from Marrakech’s Medina. And the breakfast. THE BREAKFAST. Read the full review here.
Riad Kniza || A luxurious 5-star riad located in the more ‘local’ part of the Medina. The rooms are everything you’d want from a Moroccan stay, and the rooftop is an calm oasis of relaxation. Read the full review here.
El Fenn || Another reviewer and blogger favourite, this place looks incredible and has amazing reviews. Where Stag and I would have stayed if we hadn’t gotten a deal for Riad Kniza.
Riad Yasmine || Everytime I see a blogger post a picture of a beautiful riad in Marrakech, nine times out of ten, it’s Riad Yasmine. Highly recommended and, of course, beautiful
La Mamounia || If you have the budget, this place is fabulous. You can literally see the famous stars of old sashaying their way down the corridors. Stag and I only came for a drink, as it was way out of our price range. One if you’re making a big splash of your holiday.
// Where to Eat in Marrakech //
Rooftop dining at Nomad. Make sure to book for when the sun sets.
Nomad || We had a bit of a mixed experience at Nomad. The modern, fresh decor and ambience was exactly what we’d hoped to find. Our meal, though, was a series of highs and lows. However, that rooftop made the meal oh-so worth it. Make sure to book for a bit before sunset, so you can watch the sun go down as you dine.
Al Fassia || By far my favourite meal we had in Marrakech. This traditional restaurant run by a team of all women is exactly what you want to eat when visiting Morocco. After 4 days of nothing but tagines, I can comfortably say this tagine was the best I had ever had. It tasted like cinnamon and glory. Also, make sure to order the salad starters; the most delicious array of tiny dishes you’ve ever spooned into your mouth. As one review put it: “Local people tend to eat Moroccan food at home and look for something more exotic when they go out. But they make an exception for Al Fassia.”
Latitude 31 || You find this hidden oasis of a restaurant down some particularly narrow, winding Medina streets, full of locals, dogs and nothing else. The food was good — modern with a Moroccan twist — but I’d only go here after you’ve been to Nomad and Al Fassia.
Le Jardin || The perfect spot for lunch after visiting the Secret Garden. This outdoor restaurant makes you feel like you’ve discovered a tropical oasis in the middle of the desert. The food is delicious, too; try the pastillas and the date milkshake. Watch out for the turtle wandering his way under your feet!
Atay Cafe Food || We didn’t get a chance to go to this place, but many have raved about the rooftop views and out-of-this-world juices. The place we wished we had made it to.
Cafe Clock || Again, we never made it out to Cafe Clock, but from what I’ve read, this is the closest you can get to a ‘hipster cafe’ in Marrakech. Delicious food, cool event space and a ‘local hangout’ kind of vibe.
// What to Do in Marrakech //
Have a drink at the Churchill Bar, La Mamounia || This bar is steeped in old-fashioned luxury and history. Named after the famous Churchill, this is where he used to drink when visiting Marrakech. Perfect for an after-dinner drink to soak up La Mamounia’s glamour.
Escape the sprawl at the Le Jardin Secret || This secret garden (literally) is — like most of Marrakech’s gems — behind a thick Medina wall. A small fee allows you to enter what I can only describe as ‘what I imagine The Secret Garden from the book would look like… in Marrakech.’ Stroll the gardens and soak up the tranquillity. Make sure to climb up to the cafe, sip one of their delicious iced teas and gaze at the garden below.
Appreciate history at Ben Youssef Mosque || Wondering where all those bloggers get their beautiful Moroccan shots of mosaic tiles and intricate details? It’s probably inside the Ben Yousseff Mosque. This place is steeped in Moroccan history, and we found it very useful to hire a guide to really get to know it’s 1,000-year story.
While away the day at the Majorelle Garden || We didn’t have time to go here in the end (traded it in for about an hour of sunshine), but I wish we had. Another spot for a beautiful garden escape, made even more special by the fact that it was loved and frequented by Yves Saint Laurent himself.
Taste the local cuisine || Moroccan food is glorious. Because #foodies, we managed to try most of the local dishes, which I recommend you do, too: lamb tagine, pastilla, mint tea and a traditional Moroccan ‘salad starter.’
Climb Every Rooftop || The riads and restaurants in Marrakech are known for their rooftops. Make sure to see the city views from a rooftop at least once in your stay. If you’re not staying in a riad (most riads will have a rooftop lounge), then head to Nomad for the breathtaking views.
Get lost wandering through the Medina || You’ve not truly experienced Marrakech until you’ve gotten (almost) lost at least once. The Medina streets are narrow, winding, and never-ending, lined with shop after shop, snake charmers (legit), locals feasting and everything else you could imagine. Appreciate its less-than-pristine charm and soak in the atmosphere as you wander.
Indulge in a traditional Hamman & Gommage treatment || This traditional bathing and scrubbing treatment is is not kidding around. But I have never been so exfoliated in my whole life. There are local spas and hammams all over Marrakech. Find out with good reviews and ask for the full traditional treatment. Your skin will thank you.
Shop, Shop, Shop || From leather pouffs and straw handbags to lamps and apothocarys, Marrakech’s souks are filled with every treasure you could want. Like a maze, you ever know where you’ll end up. We wound our way to the Ironmonger’s District (true stuff), where local sellers were welding in the middle of the street.
When shopping in the souks, always haggle. Do your research, and name the starting price. Otherwise, they will start at a super high price, and it’s hard to haggle down from that (we learned the hard way).
Another necessary stop? Chabi Chic has the most beautiful homeware. Not the haggling sort of place, but the most adorable items imaginable.
Inside the Ben Youssef Mosque.