Weather in Marrakech
Marrakech has a nice warm climate from September to November. Temperatures drop to around 12 degrees from mid November to mid January and they get some rainy days then but after January it warms up again from February right through until August. Ideal time to visit is September through to mid November and February to April after that it gets too hot and the month of Ramadan usually falls in the hottest months so I would avoid this period if you can.
General Travel Information
I would advise anybody travelling to Marrakech for the first time to do some research first. I have often got on a plane to a place I have never been before without a plan or having done any research, and sometimes no plan is the best plan but this is not the case with Marrakech. Most people I know who have visited this city and not liked it, is for this reason. You need to know where to go, if you have friends who have been there, get recommendations or check out some of mine below. Otherwise you will find yourself lost and frustrated the whole time and although Moroccans are generally good souls, you will come across a lot of people in and around the Medina who will offer to help but for a price. It’s best to have a good idea where you are going at all times. Make sure to download a map that you can also use offline because even now I still get lost in the Souks. I use the app Citymaps 2 Go as you get a free map to download so you can use it to navigate your way through the medina and as it’s an offline map there will be no internet charges.
Marrakesh is made up of the medina, the kasbah, the mellah which is the Jewish quarter and Gueliz is the new town which is filled with western style office and is a residential area. Rising above the medina is the famous Koutubia Mosque, which is the largest building in the city. Jemaa al Fna is the centre of all the activity here and this leads on to the souks which are located within the medina.
Jeema El Fna by day
You can only get around the medina and the souks by foot. You can reach other parts of the city by car. The best and most inexpensive way to get around the city is by the yellow petit taxis. Don’t go for the larger taxis as they charge per person in the taxi so if you are on your own, you will have to pay for rental of the whole taxi which will be much more expensive. Make sure you agree a price before you get in. Generally it shouldn’t cost anymore than 20DH around the city. You can also hire a horse and carriage as a nice alternative. You can pick these up around Jemaa El-Fna.
Sights to visit:
- The Souks, you cannot possibly visit Marrakesh without this being one of your first ports of call. Even if you hate shopping this is a must do. It’s such an amazing experience but keep alert at all times because you will have mopeds and bikes coming from all directions and you will be harassed by 99% of the souk sellers all at the same time. Be firm when going into the souks to browse, otherwise you will find yourself annoyed and upset by it all. Know what you want and what you want to pay. Start off haggling at a third of what they offer and the price is somewhere in between. Be strong and firm, that is the key to success in the souks. The souks are not for the faith hearted but once you stand up to this labyrinth of craziness you too will love it.
- Place Jemaa El fna as mentioned previously this is the hub of the city and it is where you most likely will start your trip into the souks of the medina. The hustle and bustle of this square reaches its peak from sunset. The air fills with aroma of spices and grilled meat and the square is full with story tellers, snake charmers, dancers, musicians drawing a crowd. It is just like stepping back into medieval times.
- Koutoubia Mosque is the largest building in the city and it can be seen throughout Jemaa El Fna and makes a beautiful photograph. This mosque is not open to non Muslims but it is worth a close up look as the architecture is stunning. It is one of the largest mosques in the Western Muslim world.
- Ben Youssef Medersa, Place Ben Youssaf (in the medina) is one of the finest and largest Koran schools in the Maghreb. The Architecture is simply stunning. The walls are decorated with zellij tilework (this is also the design used in the Bohemian lifestyle logo) which is always associated with Morocco and a very typical bohemian style. The main entrance is a bronze doorway which is often seen in photographs of Marrakesh.
- Majorelle Garden, Avenue Yacoub el-Mansour, this stunning garden is a piece of paradise within the city and it is a great escape from the madness of the city. I love to combine it with a visit to the souk, it is an ideal place to relax afterwards. The painter Jacques Majorelle fell in love with Morocco and built himself a villa in Marrakech. He decorated the outside of the house in tones of bright blue and yellow which it is now infamous for. The gardens were opened to the public in 1947, which are separate to the house. The house was later bought by Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge. The garden has over 400 varieties of palm trees and 1,800 species of cactus and anyone that knows me knows I’m obsessed with cacti and so I am in my element here. It is open from 8am to 5pm daily.
- Hammam – If this is your first time to Morocco make sure to experience a Hammam. Ask your Hotelier for recommendations.
Jeema El Fna Square by night
There are many fabulous luxury 5 star hotels around Marrakesh. However I have only ever stayed in a riad when I have visited Marrakesh, the reason being is that it just enhances the cultural experience for me. Riad is an Arabic word which means ‘garden’. It is a traditional house converted into a guesthouse with an interior courtyard or garden hence the name and they are found within the medina. In Morocco strict rules apply in all accommodation regarding unmarried couples, a Muslim man cannot sleep with a woman if they are not married; however allowances are made for western couples.
Where I stay in Marrakech:
Riad L’heure D’ete - This pretty little riad is situated in the back streets of the medina less than a 5 minute walk to Jeema El Fna square so it’s an ideal location for exploring the souks. It is great value for money. I got this last minute on my last trip to Marrakech as the one I had originally booked had over booked but that was actually a stroke of luck in the end or I would never have discovered this little gem. The staff are so friendly and accommodating. They have a beautiful roof terrace where you can sunbathe and also have your meals there al fresco as they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also have a bar. I won’t stay anywhere else now. http://www.lheure-dete.com/
Food and Drink
Moroccan food is among the best in the world. The most famous dish is of course the tagine which is a slow cooked stew often served with couscous. I could literally have a tagine for every meal when I am there. There are many fantastic restaurants in Marrakesh; I’ve listed some of my favourite ones below both budget and high end. Morocco is a Muslim country but you can still get alcohol although it is on the expensive side. Morocco produces its own wine which I was very surprised about and it is actually quite good, which I was even more surprised about. It is also a lot cheaper than the imported wine so it’s a good option if you are on a budget. Most 5 star hotels have bars and serve alcohol in the restaurants but it is best to check first as there are also quite a few hotels and restaurants that are dry. Also some of the riads will provide wine and beer so make sure to ask. Green mint tea is the national drink of Morocco and is absolutely delicious. You will be offered it for free everywhere you go from the Souk sellers to your hotelier but beware if you are having tea with the Souk sellers you will be expected to buy something and it is very frowned upon if you refuse. Moroccans are also fond of their coffee and I have had probably my best coffee there, the Cafe au lait is so nice!
Where to eat:
Café Nomad, 1 Derb Aajrane - I cannot recommend this restaurant enough, the food is top notch and the view from this roof top restaurant is just perfect. Make sure to book before you go as it’s very popular. It is probably mid range price wise but worth it. No alcohol served here. https://nomadmarrakech.com/
Café Arabe, 184 Rue Moussine, Medina - This is on the more expensive side but it also very worth it. The food is great and it also has a beautiful roof terrace and is located in the Medina. It is also perfect if you are just looking for somewhere nice to have a drink as it is a bar too so they serve alcohol. https://www.cafearabe.com/en/
Le Comptoir Darni, Avenue Echouhada – If you want a big night out in Marrakech inclusive of belly dancers this upmarket spot is where you need to be. Top quality dishes with top quality service and top end prices but again worth it if you are not on a budget. http://uk.comptoirmarrakech.com/
Café Roti D’or, Rue Kennaria, Medina – This little café is cheap and cheerful and does the best falafel wrap I’ve ever had. It’s located right in the middle of the Souks. Great spot for lunch and to refuel for more haggling in the souks. No alcohol served.
Café Atay, 62, Rue Amsefah Sidi Abdelaziz, Medina - For something a bit more substantial for lunch in the souks or dinner after a day’s shopping, this café is great little spot with a pretty roof terrace and arguably one of the best views in the medina.
Café Chez Zaza, Jeema El Fna - another cheap and cheerful spot just off Place Jeema El-Fna.
Place Jeema El Fna food stalls – Every visitor to Marrakech should visit the many food stalls here in the evening, the aromas in the air will have your mouth watering instantly and the whole square becomes your entertainment. Make sure you experience the square not just in the day but in the evening as I think it becomes more dazzling and exciting when the sun goes down.
Where to go for a drink in the Medina:
Kozy Bar, Place des Ferblantiers, Rue de Berrima, Medina - This bar was my favourite in Marrakech and the perfect place for a sun downer after the souks with a great roof terrace and lovely view. Open 11:30am to 1am. It can be hard to find a bar in the Medina if you are not familiar with the city so this bar is a good one to remember if it’s your first trip. http://kosybar.com/
La Salama, 40 Rue des Banques, Jeema el Fna – This restaurant has a bar on the roof top, although the roof is covered, it still has some good views over the medina. It is open from 12am to 12pm and just off Jeema el Fna square, so it’s easy to find if you are in need of a strong drink after the hustle and bustle of the Square.
Café Arabe, 184 Rue Moussine, Medina - as mentioned above in places to eat it is also great to go for a few drinks at night.
Most major cities fly direct to Marrakech. Outside of peak times (New Year, school holidays etc.) return flights are very reasonable from the UK and Ireland. Ryanair, Easyjet and British Airways all fly direct from the UK and Ryanair has a direct flight from Dublin. Roughly a 3 hour flight from both the UK and Ireland. It is the perfect city break destination.
I hope my blog helps you make the most of this vibrant city and you love it as much as I do. Bon Voyage!