Marrakech, just whispering this name makes you travel far away to mystical and exotic places…
If you’re into city-exploring-craft-shopping-culture-wondering-lush-gardens then Marrakech is bound to be on your travel radar.
The city has been on my bucket list for years and a few weeks ago I finally got to visit the “Red City.” I spent three days there (well actually two and a half), which is the minimum I would advise in order to get a proper feeling of the town.
Marrakech is only three hours away by plane from Switzerland but what a complete change of scenery!
- Day 1:
Although it’s not easy to wake up at 4am it allowed me to land around 10:30 am in Marrakech, giving me almost an entire day to start getting familiar with the city (hence the 3 days…).
After a less than 30 minutes taxi ride I arrived on Jemaa-el-Fna square, the vibrant heart of Marrakech’s old city, the Medina. Stepping out of the taxi, all your senses are solicited by sounds, fragrances and colours!
First stop on my Moroccan journey: our adorable and very stylish riad in the middle of the Medina (Marrakech’s old city), Riad Bab54.
TRAVEL TIP: If you have limited time in the city and you don’t want to have to keep commuting back and forth, book a riad as they usually are smack in the city centre – right next to the famous souks (markets aka shopping heaven), and sight-seeing landmarks such as the Medersa Ben Youssef (more on that later) or Jemaa-el-Fna square.
So after getting cosy in my riad, I decided to brave my anxiety and step into the tiny alleyways of the Medina to get a taxi to my first landmark: “la Menara“. What is la Menara? It’s a pavilion by a basin used by former sultans to host get-togethers, surrounded by a vast garden planted with hundreds of olive trees. I would however recommend visiting this place late afternoon when the sun is not at its fullest and hottest!
TRAVEL TIP – Taxis: Because you are a tourist local taxis will try to ask you for more money than a ride would cost to locals. Our riad’s manager shared with us the ultimate tip to avoid getting “ripped off”: before entering the taxi tell the driver you’ll only give him 20 dirhams (local currency & the cost of a ride from Jemaa-el-Fna to the “Gueliz”/”Jardin Majorelle”/”Menara”). Usually it works unless of course your journey takes you further than the “Gueliz”, the newest part of Marrakech.
After getting acquainted with Marrakech, I went back to my riad, with a stop at the “Café des épices”, cosy café in the heart of the Medina, on my favourite square – Place des épices – to savour my fisrt traditional Moroccan mint tea and baklava (pastry). Yummy!!
An not-to-be-missed Marrakech experience is the Jemaa-el-Fna square by night, when it comes alive with traditional musician coming from different ethnic tribes, snake charmers and plenty of local food trucks!
- Day 2:
After a delicious Moroccan breakfast, we stepped out of our little corner of paradise to explore the medina and especially the souks aka shopping heaven. Souks are buzzing with life, colours and a wide variety of people. Whether you are an interior decoration-addict or in search of the perfect little bowls for your “apéros” or even looking for the ideal clutch bag to accessorize your outfit, the souks are the place for you!
TRAVEL TIP: Souks are genuine mazes and you might get overwhelmed to start. Feel free to ask your way around/out to any of the street vendors who will be happy to assist you.
After the souks, we went to the Medersa ben Youssef, a Koranic school built in the 14th century and a welcomed relaxing stop – the sun was at its warmest – in the midst of the Medina. If your thing is architecture, this monument is a must-see! It’s a magnificent example of the Arab-Andalusian architectural style (like in Grenada, Spain).
On our way to the Medersa we got however lost (the Medina is really like an intricate labyrinth!). At first I didn’t want to ask a local for help, solely relying on my travel guide and when I finally “surrendered” the typical “scam” happened :-s : a random guy told us that as he was anyway going towards the Medersa he could walk us there for free (he said). Arriving at destination he then asked us for money (of course). So be aware, in Marrakech if you ask a local for help they might charge you (except shop owners in the souks). Anyway, this mishap allowed us to visit the “quartier des tanneurs” aka the tanners’ quarter where leather is being manufactured. It’s an impressive sight, if you don’t mind the mud and smell.
To end our day, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at “Nomad” a restaurant specialised in fusion cuisine mixing Moroccan and French flavours. Yummy!
- Day 3:
Our last day in Marrakech was dedicated to relaxation! After an entire day at the souks we were literally shopped out so we decided for a more chilled out day…
First stop: « les Bains de Marrakech » for a traditional Moroccan spa treatment. Though I enjoyed the hammam and black soap scrubbing, I was very disappointed by the experience due to the staff’s behavior. They’re obnoxious, even stopping my treatment 15 minutes before the 45 minutes it was supposed to last. So, I would absolutely not recommend this place. But as there are plenty of other spas in Marrakech, this shouldn’t be an issue.
After the spa, we went to a big item on my “Moroccan” bucket list, the “Jardin Majorelle”, Yves Saint Laurent’s former villa and lush gardens. My oh my they were beyond my expectations! And what about this flamboyant blue color…?!
And after spending more than an hour and a half wandering around those exquisite gardens, what better way to end the day with a drink at lavish hotel “La Mamounia”?
During this final day we also had a glimpse of “le Gueliz”, Marrakech newest part. Not as charming as the Medina but if you want to have a full picture of this city, you can go.
Marrakech had been on my bucket list for quite a while and after spending these (almost) three days I can only recommend a short trip to the “Pearl of the South”!
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