SHOP THE LOOK
I’m sure you’ve seen them– the millions of Instagrams featuring perfectly tiled riads, colorful markets and the pinkish hues of the medina (old city).
Morocco had been on my travel radar for a while, but seeing all these perfectly curated Marrakech Instagram photos popping up over and over again quickly propelled the city towards the top of my travel wish list.
A unique mix of African, European and Middle Eastern culture, this 1,000-year-old city is definitely one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever been to. It always felt like there was so much to discover!
Maybe that’s because most of the city’s beauty is tucked away. The mazes within the medina reward you for getting lost with some of the most intricate and gorgeous architecture you’ll ever see — often hidden behind worn, nondescript doors.
We started our trip in Marrakech and after exploring other Moroccan cities, I was really looking forward to returning for a few more days.
Here’s a look at the best things to do in Marrakech for the ‘gram.
Stay at a gorgeous riad
If you’re staying in the medina, it’s likely you’re already staying at a riad, or local guesthouse. Entering one is like entering a whole other world filled with gorgeous tiles, refreshing pools and bright colors. These are the best spots for that perfect Marrakech Instagram.
My favorite was easily Riad Yasmine — it’s easy to see why it’s one of Instagram’s most popular spots with every inch being picture perfect. Make sure to book well in advance if you want to stay here, otherwise just pop in for a quick mint tea to have a look around.
If you are staying here, make sure to check out Il Limone just around the corner for fabulous food with a charming atmosphere.
Get lost in the souks
Enjoy wandering through the souks and spice markets to do a little shopping. Make sure to leave ample time as there’s a good chance you’ll get lost in the maze, but just embrace it and bring your camera!
I loved looking at all the cute tea sets, lamps and carpets. This is definitely the colorful part of Morocco that you see in all of the guide book photos. If you are going to buy anything, you’ll need to bust out your haggling skills and bargain with the shop owners. Expect to pay around 1/3rd the starting price but always have a price in mind and be ready to walk away!
I highly recommend downloading maps.me, which is basically an offline map app. You’ll be able to track where you are when you get lost via GPS as even celluar isn’t very reliable in the souks.
Pro tip: if you really are lost, stop into a shop or restaurant to ask for directions. Don’t take directions from anyone on the street as they’ll often lead you to their friend / uncle / counsin’s shop instead, or tell you the road is closed, get you further lost and then demand money to get you to the real location you need.
Check out Jemaa el-Fnaa
Wander the souks long enough and eventually you’ll be dumped into Jemaa el-Fnaa, the world famous square in the center of the old city.
This area is always chock-full of people, vendors, henna artists, orange juice stalls and more. It can be pretty overwhelming. When you need to escape, quickly disappear into the souks or head to one of the many rooftop cafes to take in all the action from a distance.
Try and avoid the snake charmers, monkeys and any other animals that pop up for animal cruelty reasons– these poor animals are just exploited for tourism.
Keep your belongings close and probably avoid bring anything of value into this area. After continually declining a persistent henna artist, he proceeded to squirt me and my day-old YSL purse with henna. Watching the brown goop appear on my brand new bag I was ready to burst into tears– luckily a few alcohol wipes and 20-minutes of frantic rubbing later I was able to remove most traces of the stain.
Rub elbows at La Mamounia
This palace-hotel is place you’ll want to explore every inch of. With its gorgeous art-deco design, not only is the hotel a visual treat, but it’s also historical. This is the place to see and be seen, as a long list of celebrities have stayed here and Winston Churchill once said, “It is the most lovely spot in the whole world”.
If you can’t afford to stay here as a guest, just dress the part and walk in to have a look around. If anyone stops you, just say you’re there to eat at one of the many restaurants or shop inside.
Be sure to stroll around the gardens, which are original to the palace. Follow them off the grounds and to neighboring Koutoubia Mosque, which is another site you shouldn’t miss, especially at sunset!
Unwind at rooftop cafes
One of my favorite things about Marrakech is all the cute rooftop cafes. The city seems to have an endless supply of restaurants to choose from and a great selection of traditional and fusion restaurants serving up their take on tajines and couscous.
I visited the Insta-famous Nomad, Cafe Atay and Cafe Kif-Kif, which didn’t disappoint! Make sure to show up early if you want a table at sunset or call ahead to make a reservation.
Feel like royalty at Royal Mansour
Want to live like a Moroccan royal for a day? Visit Royal Mansour Marrakech.
I first saw photo of this hotel on Instagram and instantly fell in love. From the delicate white architecture in the spa to the pink hues of the private riads, everything about this place is gorgeous. I guess it should be since the rooms here start at over $1,000 nightly, but much like at La Mamounia, you can just stop by for a quick visit even if you’re not a guest.
Retreat to Jardin Majorelle
Head out to New Marrakech to take in the beautiful blue hues of the famous Yves Saint Laurent garden. I’d recommend getting here early or really late to avoid the crowds. We waited in a pretty long queue (in the sun) to get in and when we left the queue was even longer.
The garden is a bit pricey, but for 180 DHS you can get a joint ticket that also gets you into the YSL Museum next door. The exhibitions were beautifully curated and it was really interesting to see how much Morocco had influenced his work.
As one of my favorite design houses, it was definitely worth the trip outside the medina!
Morocco’s tea game is strong. It’s hard to come to this country and NOT have any tea whether it’s sipping traditional mint tea with the locals or indulging in high tea at one of the city’s 5-star hotels.
With tea being an important part of culture, the price of a cup was pretty cheap wherever we went. As a lover of high tea, we definitely took advantage of this when in Marrakech. Even at the fanciest of hotels the price was less than half of what you’d usually pay in the US.
Wander Bahia Palace
Once enjoyed by the sultan, Bahia Palace is only a 10 minute walk outside the medina from Jemaa el-Fnaa and about 5 minutes from the Saadian Tombs. The word “bahia” means brilliance so it’s no surprise that inside you’ll find a rainbow of mosaics, elaborate ceilings and colorful stained-glass windows.
We went right around noon and it was already swarming with people. If you’re tight on time I’d probably say you could skip here, but for only 10 DHS I was still glad we went. The palace a great example of Andalusian and Moorish architecture– and while so is Ben Youssef Madrasa (which is also more accessible being in the medina), that site was closed for renovation during our trip and will remain closed for a total of two years.
Get out of the city
Depending on the types of activities you enjoy, 3 full days is actually plenty in Marrakech to get a good overview. If you have any extra time, consider venturing out of the city to the mountains, the dessert, or the seaside.
Essaouira is a fishing port town on the Atlantic coast only around two and a half hours from Marrakech. There are plenty of tour companies offering private transfer with a guide for reasonable rates. Wander around the Jewish Quarters, explore their much smaller and stress-free medina and eat the freshest seafood in the country.
Along the way you’ll see completely different landscapes and the region where all of the world’s argan trees are grown. Make sure to ask your guide about stopping to stock up on argan oil and to see the goats who love to hang out in the trees!