The ultimate guide to Marrakesh- 10 things to know before you go

The ultimate guide to Marrakesh- 10 things to know before you go

Morrocco is a hidden gem of northern Africa, the capital city Marrakesh is home to mosques, palaces and gardens. The medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city dating to the Berber Empire, with maze-like alleys where thriving souks sell traditional textiles, pottery and jewellery.

Where is Marrakesh?

Marrakesh is the capital of Morrocco, a country in North Africa. Only a three hour flight from London it’s the perfect place for some sun and culture, year round (we travelled in November and the climate was absolutely perfect; cool mornings and evenings, and warm sunny days, plus it wasn’t rammed with tourists!)

Top ten things to know before you visit Marrakesh


1. Where to stay in Marrakesh

Stay in a Riad, not a hotel. Bypass the faceless generic chain hotels and book yourself into one of the many Riads Marrakesh has to offer. A traditional Moroccan house turned into accommodation, it’s the like having a private oasis in the middle of the bustling city.

My recommendation is Riad Kitula (book here), far removed from the noise and smells of the souks of Marrakesh- or so you would be forgiven for thinking. Mutual is actually only a 5 minute walk from the bustling centre of the media full of its smells and noise. Kitula was a green oasis, full of lush palms, hundreds of birds waking us with their morning chatter and of course the obligatory pool in the centre of the courtyard. 

The ultimate guide to Marrakesh  The ultimate guide to Marrakesh

 2. The main square (Djemaa el Fna) is an assault on the senses.

From snake charmers, to monkeys on chains to souks- loud, busy and at times overwhelming. Often referred to as the epicentre of Marrakesh and a ‘must not miss spot’ it was far from my favourite place, it was no doubt an incredible place to visit but by no means my favourite, or a ‘must not miss’. The snake charmers and monkeys on chains did not sit well with me, and there were few authentic stalls. In my opinion, the spice market (Rahba Lakdima) was a nicer and more authentic experience by far. 

The ultimate guide to Marrakesh The ultimate guide to Marrakesh

3. Learn to barter and be firm.

Bartering is an essential part of shopping in Marrakesh, and honestly all it takes is a smile and some confidence. The main things to remember are to be nice, and always maintain a smile while you’re negotiating. If you can’t get the confidence to go back and forth and really try and lower the price at first just try to knock off a little bit of the price, and build your confidence the more you buy!

Negotiating the souks, henna stalls and Markets is overwhelming and can be very frantic. If you are not interested in something say that, politely but firmly. I saw various stall holders starting to henna passing tourists and then demanding money, the same goes for taking photos of the animals, or having the monkeys climb onto you. Nothing in these situations is free, and thats something to remember while you’re there.

The ultimate guide to Marrakesh The ultimate guide to Marrakesh

4. Cats are sacred…seriously.

Cat lovers rejoice, and prepare for slight heartbreak! The streets of Marrakesh are full of stray cats with bundles of kittens around many corners! We spent most of our days buying tins of sardines, bags of cat food and asking the Riad kitchen for bowls of milk! The loveliest thing we found was the locals treated the cats as if they were their own, bowls of water and piles of cat biscuits are spread around the back alleys to keep the many strays healthy and happy. Most of the cats are very affectionate and happy to be stroked and petted (just remember to wash your hands after or carry some sanitiser with you!)

 The ultimate guide to Marrakesh The ultimate guide to Marrakesh

5. Morocco is a ‘tipping’ country.

It’s customary to tip staff; from waiters to hotel staff who help carry or store your luggage it’s expected in a way that isn’t here in the UK. This also goes for taking street photography, most of the time you can snap away as you usually would-  but be prepared for people to ask you not to, or to expect you to ask permission beforehand. While I was in the city I only paid for one photo (the princely sum of £1) but it’s the thought/ gesture that counts in these situations.

The ultimate guide to Marrakesh The ultimate guide to Marrakesh

6. Download the ‘MAPS.ME’app.

It was absolutely invaluable during our time in Marrakesh. Dowload the map area as prompted when you open the app and you are free to use it off line out and about. Forget google and apple maps, this app by far outranks them. Despite being off line you can search and direct to locations (riads, restaurants souks et al!). It saved us a lot of time and hassle- not to mention money in roaming charges

The ultimate guide to Marrakesh The ultimate guide to Marrakesh

7. Avoid the fruit juice stalls in the main square

(Djemaa el Fna) while they look very tempting and are delicious, they are often watered down. While this isn’t a problem in itself you shouldn’t drink tap water in Marrakech and these stalls are one of the biggest causes of stomach issues for tourists visiting the city!

The ultimate guide to Marrakesh

8. Enjoy a sunset on one of the many rooftop restaurants.

Our favourite was Cafe des Espices. One of the best views of the spice market below (my favourite Marrakesh souk), incredible juices and ‘mocktails’ as well as the best array of veggie and vegan food in Marrakesh. Watching the moon rise above the souks and listening to the evening call to prayer was one of those ‘pinch me moments’ and one we revisited time and time again! 

The ultimate guide to Marrakesh The ultimate guide to Marrakesh

9. Go to a carpet shop.

We chose to support one of the women led carpet shops, created to support the local families and women and to keep the money in the hands of the people who make these beautiful carpets. It was like an Aladdin’s cave, each room we entered had more carpets piled high against the walls in every single colour and pattern you can think of. Made from virgin wool these carpets are just stunning.

We ended up buying one custom rug (for the van!) one for our sitting room as we’re renovating, and two beautiful poofs… for the dogs 😂 the carpet shop will arrange worldwide shipping via DHL and vat and import duty free. The best place in the medina if you’re looking to support local women and come away with authentic pieces. As previously mentioned- bartering is an essential part of purchasing in the medina, don’t be shy to push back on prices!

The ultimate guide to Marrakesh The ultimate guide to Marrakesh

10. Don’t be afraid to get lost.

Embrace the bustle and noise Smile, and you’ll get a long way. It’s busy and noisy and smelly but it’s also gentle and kind and friendly and safe. Be respectful, remember to cover up- its easy to forget that Morocco is a Muslim country, as so much of conversations is in the second language; French. Slow down, embrace the warmth and the slower pace of life. Sit and stare as the world moves around you. Get off your phone and look up!

The ultimate guide to Marrakesh The ultimate guide to Marrakesh The ultimate guide to Marrakesh The ultimate guide to Marrakesh

One thought on “The ultimate guide to Marrakesh- 10 things to know before you go

  1. What a wonderful helpful guide . Thus would be enough to entice me to adventure there . Particularly appreciated the reminder to dress with respect for the culture .

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