2. EXPLORE JEMAA EL-FNAA
The Big Square i.e. ‘Jemaa El-Fnaa’ is the main market of the old city. Filled with street performers, snake charmers, musicians, henna tattooists, food stalls and endless vendors, the square can feel a little overwhelming, but is definitely worth the visit. However, be aware that seeing the animal cruelty (e.g. monkeys dragged by chains around their necks and snakes being forced to perform) can be very difficult.
3. VISIT THE SAADIAN TOMBS
4. VISIT EL BADI PALACE
The El Badi Palace is just minutes away from the Saadian tombs, so these can be combined into a single outing. The shear size of the ruins of the palace is impressive, combined with the underground prison cells and artefacts. Like with the Saadian tombs, it is worth reading about this place in advance to make the most of your visit. Make sure to watch the short film (in English) which explains the details of how the palace was build and then destroyed. Note, the palace is very open and there is very little shade, so it is worth trying to avoid the middle of the day when visiting.
5. VISIT THE PALAIS BAHIA
Situated close to the Saadian tombs and El Badi Palace, the Palais Bahia is huge and incredibly beautiful (especially the ceilings). There is an atmosphere of peace throughout the palace and makes for a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. Like with many other archeological sites in Marrakech, there is a definite lack of information provided on the site itself, but can easily be enjoyed without it.
6. VISIT A SHOP OF SPICES AND HERBS
Many of the shops in the medina of Marrakech specialise in spices, herbs and oils. Some spices are definitely worth taking home with you and the most commonly recommended ones are: cumin, sea salt, paprika and saffron, the latter of which is extremely expensive. It is worth remembering that the prices in the souks will be extremely high due to the expectation that you will bargain with the seller. The shop-owners are usually very knowledgable about the origins and uses of spices so it is worth having a conversation with them, even if you do not intend on buying large quantities of spices. We learned that mascara (in powder form) was believed to protect your eyes from the desert sun when applied to the eyelids and eyelashes.
7. TANNERIES OF MARRAKECH
Marrakech is known for its leather goods and as such, is home to tanneries run by locals for generations. The tanneries are definitely worth a visit, but be aware that you may be offered/taken on a tour that you did not ask for (usually by a group of young men) and then asked for a payment. Although we were lucky not to have this experience, I have heard of people being threatened with violence when refusing to pay. Try to make your own way there and REFUSE those offering to take you there (even if they say it is for free). Also, the smell is… strong. Many shopkeepers will offer you some mint to offset the smell and while this does help a lot, they many ask for a payment in return.
8. MAISON DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE
For any photography or art lover, this small gallery is a must go. The collection gives you a unique view of the history of Marrakech over the last hundred years through the eyes of various photographers. Aside from the gorgeous and striking photography, the riad-like architecture of the building itself if very interesting. The terrace offers a perfect view of Marrakech from above with a little cafe on the roof.
9. MARRAKECH MUSEUM
Home to collections of modern art as well as historic Berber exhibitions, the Marrakech museum is great place to see some local artwork and artefacts. Although there is not much to see, with many empty rooms, the design of the main courtyard and hidden away arches makes for some incredible photographs. The whole museum can be explored in its entirety within about 30 minutes to 1 hour. There are no explanations in English (all are in French from what I could see), so this is worth taking into consideration before visiting.
10. KOUTOUBIA MOSQUE
Although entry to the mosque is off limits to all non-Muslims, the exterior is definitely worth admiring. Surrounded by gorgeous gardens and cafes, the mosque is the biggest in Marrakech and serves as a landmark of the city.
11. JARDIN MAJORELLE
Situated right next to the Yves Saint Laurent museum (which I’ve heard is also is also worth visiting, but we didn’t end up going), the Jardin Majorelle is a gorgeous garden tucked away and completely different from the neighbouring area. Stepping through the entrance gate feels like entering a different part of the world with hundreds of exotic plants and bright colours. Although it can be a little overcrowded (we had to wait about 20 minutes to get a ticket), it’s worth visiting with a fully charged camera.
12. STAY IN A TRADITIONAL RIAD
A riad is a traditional Moroccan house with an inner garden/courtyard and often has two or more stories. In fact, the word itself originates from the Arabian word for gardenStaying in a riad was of the highlights of our trip to Marrakech. We stayed in the Riad Karmela Princessa, located in the centre of the medina just minutes away from the souks and restaurants. Style with traditional decor and colours, it was a rich and authentic way to experience the Moroccan culture, while having some quiet and privacy.