Marrakech city guide: the bustling red city
Welcome to the red city. The city of a thousands sights, smells, and sounds. The city that will take you along in its whirlwind. Welcome to Marrakech! The moment I arrived in Marrakech I was completely overwhelmed. So many people, so many things going on, so many impressions… I had no idea which way I had to look. If you look left, you’re definitely missing out on something on your right, and the other way around. Of course you could spends days just wandering through the souks, but there’s more to Marrakech than just that. And with a zillion things to see and do, a little help wouldn’t hurt right?
What to do
When you look up Marrakech, you’ll be able to find an endless list of activities. I think you can spend weeks here and still discover new things. But with only a few days around, you gotta make choices unfortunately. One of the places you definitely shouldn’t miss is Madrasa Ben Youssef. This might be one of the most beautiful architectural buildings I’ve ever seen. This old muslim school has so many details, you simply don’t know where to look. From top to bottom and back again, the mosaics and carving skills are just insane.
Sometimes the guys in Marrakech will drive you utterly crazy. Trying to sell you things, luring you in their shops with “only looking” (yeah right…), or pushing you to take them with to show you directions. However, sometimes you get lucky. So one morning, getting properly lost again in the souks, this guy came up to us asking if we wanted to see the tanneries. This was definitely not the plan, but I’m very glad we tagged along.
The tanneries are the place where all the leather gets prepared for using. With a branch of fresh mint under our noses (that smell!!) we conquered the tanneries. So the skins gets drenched in pigeon poo (with high ammoniak) to get the hairs off, and in the end are dried in the sun. In summertime this is a great sight, since they color the skins as well. In the middle of the city you’ll find all these colorful pools at different levels. Definitely a must see!
Outside of the walls of the medina you’ll find Jardin Majorelle. The house of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. There’s no doubt about it that Yves Saint Laurent had style. The master of the french Haute Couture left Paris in the 70’s to spent some time in Marrakech. While living in the red city, he bought a beautiful bright blue house with a huge garden around it, which is now open to the public. Although Yves Saint Laurent unfortunately no longer gets to enjoy this beauty of an estate, we can do it for him. A true beauty!
Where to eat
If there’s one thing I love about Morocco it’s the food. They sure know how to do breakfast, lunch and dinner. When in Marrakech try all their local delicacies like pastillas, tajines, couscous, and tabouleh. You will be one happy camper, I promise you. So, first of all you gotta head to Nomad. Anyone who has ever been to Marrakech will tell you to visit this place. With a rooftop terrace like that, the envious interior and their light and tasty menu, who can you blame? Try their veggie pastilla, calamari or the lamb burger, I guarantee you’ll come back the next day for lunch.
Another great spot is Le Jardin. Le Jardin is a green oasis in the middle of de madness of the souks. The moment you enter Le Jardin you’ll start wondering if you’re still in Marrakech. This beautiful green garden has little turtles walking around, birds and parakeets, and an incredibly delicious menu with even more delicious desserts.
While all the tourists head en masse to Nomads, Atay Cafe actually is a bit more of a hidden gem. With three different rooftop terraces this place has amazing views over the medina. On a clear day even the Atlas mountains will appear on the horizon. The food here is amazing, try the Lamb Tajine, a real winner. With tasty fresh juices, incredibly friendly staff and a beautiful decor, this truly is a great lunch spot.
Where to sleep
There are so many options to sleep in Marrakech that it’s almost impossible to chose. The good thing about the Marrakech hotels is that they invented the boutique-concept. So most of the hotels, or riads as they are called here, only have 6 to 10 bedrooms, beautiful courtyard gardens and rooftops with stunning views. In the middle of the souks you’ll find Riad Dar Rbaa Laroub. It’s a true mission to find this place, but when you do, you’ll fall in love. Owned by a french man, this place really has this typical french je-ne-sais-quoi vibe. Rooms with fireplaces, stunning bathrooms and nice music. So incredibly beautiful and relaxed, and their rooftop is probably one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
Another great option is Riad Tizwa. A little bit more away from the madness of the souks, this place got big rooms with loads of true Moroccan details (look at their ceilings!). The staff is incredibly friendly and always willing to help you out with anything. To top it off they got breakfasts that can feed a village, so so tasty…
Another beautiful riad is Riad BE. This place is a dream. If I could, I would move here. Covered in mosaics, this place is truly unique and so beautiful. Every room is different, their rooftop is perfect for sunny breakfasts and the staff will greet you in any language possible.
Beautiful Marrakech got my heart
Marrakech won me over completely. I love everything about this city. Make sure you have enough time when you visit, cause you need some time to take it all in. Oh, and don’t forget to bring an extra suitcase. Or as my cousin said; when going to Morocco, bring a truck. I couldn’t agree more.
Photos by: M. Barends