Sight Seeing in Marrakech
Upon entering the heart of Marrakech, an astounding sight will immediately strike you – the Medina City Walls. The huge terracotta-coloured stone stretches for 12 miles around the Medina, giving it the appearance of an ancient fortress. As a former imperial city and capital of a historic Moroccan dynasty, Marrakech has a legacy that reaches right back into the medieval ages. Incredibly, the walls date to the city’s very beginnings, at grand 12th century gates, such as Bab Aganou and Bab Ksiba, coated in swirling Arabic inscriptions.
You can also see a relic of the city’s earliest era at the Koutoubia Mosque. This richly detailed 12th century structure is of huge religious significance to local people, and you’ll feel all its gravitas when you stand under its sky-scaling 77m tall minaret. Towering above all structures around it, up close you’ll see the astonishing beauty of its symmetrical stonework, topped by a glistening gilded spire.
Marrakech is infused with yet more amazing historic sites. The Saadian Tombs are perhaps the finest example you’ll see of Arabic artistry in Morocco. What makes this 16th century mausoleum all the more beautiful is that it remained undiscovered until 1917, resulting in perfectly preserved stonework. Almost every inch of the tombs’ cedar wood and Italian marble is coated in exquisite etchings and geometric patterns.
There is much to allure you at the city’s elaborate palaces too. The sprawling site of El Badi Palace was first founded back in 1578, and today you can still appreciate its courtyards of neat green squares and glassily calm ponds. You’ll also see the elegant decay of the palace’s weatherworn ochre stone.
Not to be confused, the similarly named Bahia Palace was actually only built in the late 19th century, yet it harks back to the greatest era of Islamic Art with a fine display of intricate architecture. Its main courtyard opens into a huge expansive square, but it’s the interiors that will really capture your attention. Mosaics, frescoes and tiling resplendent in rainbows of colour will engulf you from all angles.
Beyond the beauty of its buildings, Marrakech offers you a constant source of fascination at its myriad museums. One of the most intriguing is the Dar Si Said, or Museum of Moroccan Art. Wander through leafy open-air squares and you’ll see the astonishing depth of variety to the country’s art, from the angular paintings of the Byzantine period to finely woven carpets and shimmering sapphire and amber jewels.
Fun Seekers in Marrakech
The fun starts at the very heart of Marrakech, in its UNESCO-protected Medina. That’s because it’s the site of the Jamaa El Fnaa, one of the world’s largest market squares. This huge, open space is alive with activity both day and night. As the sun rises, you’ll see a vibrant concoction of street traders selling their wares, from salt-sprinkled orange juice to fresh mint tea and clay-baked lamb tagine. Not only will you have great opportunity to try all kinds of exotic food, but you’ll be entertained too. Dancers, storytellers and magicians all come to perform on this open-air stage, and it’s likely you’ll also see the daring antics of snake charmers!
Just a short walk from Jamma El Fnaa is another of Marrakech’s timeless attractions that has endured since the medieval age – the Berber Souk. Shaded from the dazzling midday sun with strips of timber, this covered market offers you an amazing array of authentic handicrafts, such as woven baskets, tailored carpets and scarves spun from cactus silk. You’ll also catch the aroma of vibrant spices overflowing from huge barrels, and get incredible bargains for camel leather crafted at the city’s tanneries.
It doesn’t have to be all about shopping for fun in Marrakech – some great golf courses let you have a swing at sport too. No less than three different courses are all conveniently located on the southeastern outskirts of the city. One of the most famous is the Golf Royal Marrakech, which is lushly lined with palms and cypresses, sharp doglegs and huge water features. The Amelkis lies just across the road from the Golf Royal, and it offers perfectly pristine greens and manicured fairways, all capped off with the snow-topped Atlas Mountains in the distance.
If you’d prefer to party the night away over playing sports, Marrakech is just as magical. That’s because Pacha Marrakech places the world-famous clubbing brand in a truly exotic location. With plush crimson and gold furnishings, the club carries all the opulence associated with Pacha and adds a touch of the enchanting atmosphere of the African continent. As well as dancing to incredible international DJs, you’ll have the chance to savour the flavours of its classy gourmet restaurant.
Family Fun in Marrakech
Marrakech is a city of endless cultural riches, yet it still manages to pack in attractions that the whole family will enjoy too! Everyone of all ages will find lots to fascinate them in the many museums just a short walk from the centre of town. For instance, Marrakech Museum will enchant children with the treasures on display, such as ancient golden coins and glittering jewels seemingly plucked straight out of the pages of a magical novel.
Children and adults alike will also learn a lot at the Berber Cultural Centre. A surprisingly interactive experience, you’re invited to learn the traditional Berber way life. That means you can expect to cook using an open fire, make the perfect mint tea, and even hike into the rising peaks of the Atlas Mountains nearby.
For a slightly more Western experience that feels a little closer to home, you could always visit the Oasiria Water Park. In sharp contrast to the historic feel of Marrakech, this water park is particularly modern. You can ride a variety of colourful waterslides or simply relax on sunbeds by the lagoon-like swimming pool.
The Arsat Moulay Abdeslam Cyber Park has a rather long title, but don’t let that put you off! This open green space close to the Medina is a perfect place to take the kids thanks to its smart combination of the historic and contemporary. After all, it’s here that you’ll find some of the oldest olive and palm trees in all of Marrakech. Yet it it’s also deserving of its Cyber Park name as you can stop off at internet booths dotted around the landscape for surfing the web outside, and the entire park even has free Wi-Fi access!
Romantic Breaks in Marrakech
An exotic destination of evocative images tinted with a warm, earthy hue, Marrakech lends itself perfectly to your romantic break. Amidst the hustle and bustle of street markets and clarion calls to prayer, it’s still perfectly possible to share peaceful moments together. You’ll find this is certainly true of the Majorelle Gardens. This tropical oasis in the heart of the city is awash with swaying palm trees and clusters of cactuses and flowers that attract all manner of African birds. Created by the French artist Jacques Majorelle, you’ll also come across the intriguing Islamic Art Museum within the 12 acres of greenery. Its buildings are daubed with a strikingly bright shade of cobalt blue, which must have caught the eye of famous French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, as his ashes are scattered here.
Marrakech proves itself to be of astounding botanical beauty, as you’ll discover many more gardens in the city. For instance, the Menera Gardens were created back in 1130, but they definitely stand the test of time. Here, you can wander hand in hand, by serene lakes lined with cypress trees and fragrant fruit orchards accompanied by the backdrop of the snow-swept Atlas Mountains.
Back in the heart of town, the Agdal Gardens branch out of Marrakech Medina with neat rows of apricot and fig trees, while swathes of open green meadows make for a romantic picnic spot.
As well as the stunning natural scenes in the city, you’ll find the local hammams offer couples just as much time for quiet reflection. The Mythic Oriental Spa is one of its most popular, thanks to its Jacuzzis and hot tubs cast in softly shaded lighting. You’ll also adore the Bains de Marrakech for its authentic atmosphere, offering Moroccan massages along with cooling mint tea.
Top tips for Marrakech
As the Medina is a compact network of narrow streets, by far the fastest (and cheapest) way to get around in Marrakech is on foot. However, if you would like to venture further outside of the city, taxis are an excellent choice, especially as you can haggle for the best price before you set off!
Be prepared to barter in Marrakech! It’s an enduring custom of nearly all the markets you’ll visit in the city. As a general rule, haggle to at least half of the vendor’s starting price and work your way up from there. Bartering can actually be great fun, and you can get a bargain in the process too!
Through its chequered colonial and imperial history, Morrocan cuisine has a rich mix of eastern, western and African influences. It’s what makes its dishes some of the most exciting and flavoursome in the entire world. Be sure to try lamb tagine, cooked in a clay pot with an infusion of meat, spices and fruits. Marrakech is also famous for the quality of its couscous, juicy skewered kebabs, and chickpeas. Be sure to wash everything down with the ubiquitous mint tea – a cooling and refreshing drink.