Marrakech is bustling, vibrant and lively, embodying all that Morocco has to offer. This dynamic city is alive with street markets, lush green gardens and all-night parties. A historic city with a contemporary edge, Marrakech has evolved from age-old traditions to become a popular tourist destination for holidaymakers from across the globe. With narrow alleyways and winding market lanes, walking through Marrakech feels like taking a step back in time. Marrakech has regal palaces, scenic mansions and a rich heritage that is reflected in attractions like the Saadian Tombs and the Koutoubia Mosque. You can learn more about Marrakech and Morocco at one of the city’s many museums.
Marrakech is known as the ‘Red City’ thanks to its blush-hued walls, which are constructed of tabia, a mix of red mud and water originating for the Hazou plains. In the evening the walls display gently glimmering lights and shadows, setting the scene for romantic evenings. If you’re holidaying with your family, you can head to one of the local restaurants or bars for a fun and sociable evening. Whether you’re holidaying with your family, a group of friends or your partner, Marrakech has everything you could want in a cultural holiday destination for 2019.
At a glance
- Time Zone: GMT +
- Average flight time: 4h 45m
When to go
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Morocco’s ‘Red City’ has a dazzling selection of attractions ranging from the historic to the modern. Marrakech has is naturally divided into two areas, with the historical medina on one hand and the contemporary district of Gueliz on the other. Morocco is home to Africa’s largest square, the Jemaa El-Fna, which serves as a spiritual heart of the city and remains one of the most popular attractions in Marrakech. The square is always alive with the scent of spices and the bustle of people, while at the local market stalls you’ll find traditional clothing, high quality carpets and a variety of fresh and dried fruits. At night, Jemaa El-Fna hosts a number of wonderfully aromatic Moroccan food stands that all vie for your attention. Cold weather may be the last thing on your mind when you step foot in scorching Marrakech but the snow-topped Atlas Mountains are actually within easy reach, as is the sun-drenched Sahara Desert.
Marrakech cuisine embodies typical Moroccan cuisine with popular dishes like kebabs and tagines. Mealtime in Morocco begins with a thick, hearty soup made with pasta, beans and spices, or perhaps a salad for those with smaller appetites. The most popular dish in Marrakech is the kebab, which is served as either a brochette (small chunks of lamb served on a skewer) or kefta (lamb mince).
As you make your way through the streets of Marrakech you’ll come across restaurants with piles of soup bowls at the front. These are specialist soup eateries that sell soup by the bowl throughout the day. Another dish you’ll find at almost every restaurant is the tagine, a slow-cooked fruity dish of lamb, chicken or mutton. If you’re looking for a quick bite to eat as you sightsee, you can grab a half-baguette with butter, jam, eggs or cheese along with a coffee.
While it has more of a reputation as a cultural attraction and party haven for adults, Marrakech truly does have something for everyone. While many other popular tourist destinations have lost their authentic identity, Marrakech has held on to its time-honoured traditions, making it a popular choice for families that enjoy more cultural holidays. Some of the best attractions to visit as a family include the Koutoubia Mosque, as well as the Cyber Park next door. Visiting the medina gives you a sense of wonder and magic, and will be thoroughly enjoyed by older children and adults (please bear in mind that the busy streets may be frightening for very small children).
Action & Adventure
The ‘Red City’ has striking looks and dramatic surroundings that bring a sense of adventure to any activity. The city is always flowing at a great speed and pulsing with energy, helping to recharge your batteries. The city acts as a gateway to the desert, your new best friend when it comes to outdoor leisure pursuits. Marrakech has a huge array of tour companies offering trips to the sands, such as the Marrakech Desert Tours and Hip Marrakech.
Some of the best sand-based activities include trekking through the desert on a camel, making you feel like a modern-day Lawrence of Arabia. If camels aren’t your thing, you could opt to join a quad bike excursion instead. Marrakech is also a natural base point for trips to the majestic Atlas Mountains. Here you’ll find a variety of treks for hikers of all levels.
While Marrakech has most attractions in abundance, due to its inland location the one thing it doesn’t have is a beach. Luckily, many hotels and resorts here have seen to it that you won’t go short if you’re looking for a place to have a swim or lounge in the sun. Many of the hotels have lovely swimming pools, providing a welcome break from the heat of the city. With so many cultural attractions and a rich heritage to learn more about, for many people Marrakech’s lack of beaches is not a problem. Some of the hotels with wonderful pools include Le Medina Essaouira Hotel Thalassa Sea and Spa, the Tasguayan Maison de Charme, Riad Malaika and the Mada Mogador. You’ll also find beaches at the Riad Mimouna, Villa Garance, Residence Louzani and the Atlas Essaouira and Spa.
With the nearest beaches around three hours away at Essaouira, travelling to the beach isn’t really an opportunity unless you intend to travel very early in the morning or go for a few days. But Marrakech has a multitude of picturesque palaces and breath-taking gardens to explore, so you’re never far from a relaxing day in beautiful surroundings - even without a beach nearby.
Marrakech has long enjoyed a reputation as a hip destination for fine dining and evening entertainment. The city has become a favourite with the rich and famous so you’ll find plenty of world-class venues. The best nightclubs in the area attract internationally-acclaimed DJs, ideal if you’re looking for exclusive parties with a fashionable crowd. It’s worth remembering that Marrakech is more liberal than many places in Morocco, so you can find all kinds of parties and events here.
Le Comptour Darna is a celebrity haunt located in a scenic building, with late opening hours so you watch dancers and eat before catching the DJs upstairs. Other opulent nightclubs include Bo Zin and Jad Mahal, which offer up a luxurious party experience.
Couples holidays in Marrakech are best when they are based around the city’s rich heritage and culture. If you hate the idea of generic holiday destinations, Marrakech’s beautiful gardens and scenic architecture bring a sense of tradition and culture that make for an unforgettable romantic holiday. You can take a stroll through the historic medina to feel as though you’re stepping into history.
Many of the traditional Moroccan pastimes are effortlessly romantic. The numerous souks scattered throughout the city are ideal for finding one-of-a-kind jewellery, clothing and souvenirs. At Les Baisins de Marrakech you’ll find tourist-friendly baths for traditional Moroccan hammam (steam baths). Couples can enjoy a private couples hammam session, helping you to unwind and feel connected.
Marrakech is steeped in a rich heritage that has drawn in visitors from across the globe for many hundreds of years. Some of the best cultural attractions in Marrakech include the Jardin Majorelle, a scenic garden full of flowers and birds, which is owned by Yves Saint Laurent. The gardens are also home to the Museum of Islamic Art, which exhibits traditional artworks from across North Africa. Marrakech hosts an annual film festival that draws in film buffs from across the world, celebrating Morocco’s role as a film location in many Hollywood blockbusters.
Some of the most popular cultural events include the World Salsa Congress, an international salsa festival that has gained momentum over the past few years. This festival runs for a week and sees performers from all over the world showing off their skills and running dancing workshops to help you perfect your techniques.