There are so many Must-See Sights in Marrakech, from mosques and palaces to shopping in the souks and dodging snakes in Jemaa El Fan Square. There won’t be any one guide that will tell you everything you need to see, as we all have our own interests in what we consider a must-see or not. And by no means have I listed everything that I think you should add to your Marrakech list, but instead I’ve highlighted a handful of my favourites.
In my next blog post I’ll list my favourite food and drink spots, but for now this list is to help you explore the city….
(Images above not my own)
The Majorelle Garden is a two and half acre enclosed wall garden, bought from it’s original creator in 1980, by Yves Saint Laurent. Inside the walls, you’ll see the very Insta famous blue villa, and the most amazing collection of cacti, it’s really a mindblowing sight to see.
This was my second visit here, and maybe I’m getting old or something, but I really enjoyed this visit! It’s full of so many beautiful plants, ponds with koi fish and frogs, winding paths that lead you through bamboo forests, and bougainvillea spilling out in bright colours.
If you’re a fan of Yves Saint Laurent, you’ll find the fairly new YSL museum next door to the gardens. We didn’t visit, but I’ve heard good things.
Le Jardin Secret aka The Secret Garden, is located inside the medina behind 30 foot walls. It’s a stunning spot and a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the medina and its souks.
Inside there are two gardens, one being an exotic garden and the other an Islamic garden. There’s a cafe you can climb the stairs to and look out over this tranquil spot, whilst resting your feet. I loved this place, the plants are amazing and it does feel like you’ve discovered a secret as soon as you step off the busy street through the entrance.
La Mamounia Hotel, located just outside Marrakech’s medina is an unbelievably palatial sight to see. There are 17 acres of gardens that surround the hotel and don’t get me started on the swimming pool, which is the largest hotel pool I’ve ever seen. Our first visit wasn’t successful, with a high standard dress code, we found out at the entrance that males cannot go inside if they are in shorts (even dress shorts don’t count) after 6pm. We returned later in the evening, walking through the gardens, and then visiting the Churchill Bar (named after Winston Churchill who adopted Mamounia as his winter home) for a glass of wine. My next visit to Marrakech, I am planning on booking the spa day pass, which includes lunch, a spa treatment and use of the hotel pool.
Jemaa el-Fna is a memorable and sometimes overwhelming destination. You’ll witness everything from storytellers and dancers to snake charmers and monkeys in football shirts. During the day it’s a little more subdued, but come dusk the square fills up with people and food stalls.
You can’t go to Marrakech and not visit Jemaa el-Fna. It’s fascinating, but you need to keep your wits about you too. As a tourist you’ll be seen as a beeline to potential cash. You’ll have men trying their best to drape a snake over you or place a monkey on your shoulder. If you have no interest in this (raises my hand) you need to be firm with your no. No giggly, smiley no’s. Firm but polite. But don’t let that put you off, it’s a must see. The food stalls in the evening are fascinating, and the stall owners are friendly and entertaining.
(Images above not my own)
Shopping In and Out of the Souks
The souks, a labyrinth of shopping stalls inside Marrakech’s medina, are a must-visit. You’ll get lost. But don’t worry, just embrace it and wander through this slightly mad, sometimes irritating, but fascinating shopping mecca. From leather shoes and bags, to woven baskets and hats, it’s a fun place to visit, but you need to be prepared to barter.
You’ll get a good deal in the souks eventually, no doubt, but as I discovered on this trip, shopping outside of the medina and visiting the manufacturers directly, was a much more enjoyable experience. No hassle from the shop owners, no bartering, and amazing prices that you’ll never achieve in the souks.
I recommend asking your riad/hotel to book you a tuk-tuk and decide on what it is you want to buy. We went to ceramic manufacturers and bought back some beautiful pieces.
Last but certainly not least. Walk. Don’t worry about the direction too much, just wander. On this last trip in Marrakech, we wandered through the medina and found ourselves in a tourist free area, where all the locals were buying their food and whilst some of the sights might be disturbing to some (bunnies and chickens jam packed in cages at the butchers), it was fascinating to see a more authentic part of the city.
Keep your wits about you, sometimes (read most of the time), an offer of help to show you the way when you’re lost does result in a demand for money. Look confident, be confident, give a polite but firm ‘no thank you’ when you’re not comfortable with a situation, and keep going on your way (even if you’re lost).
Enjoy this magical city, it’s such a special place, I hope you love it as much as I do!