Nikki Marie, also known as @TheCubanCarrie on Instagram, is a Miami Native who moved to New York City nine years ago in pursuit of a dream. Since then, she’s followed many other dreams, including her biggest one yet – exploring the world. Nikki Marie has visited 47 countries and all seven continents. Using her global knowledge and expertise, she shares her love of travel helping people book and plan their own dream vacations. When she’s not travel advising, she’s creating travel content to share with her community of fellow global citizens
It feels like a scene right out of an old Hollywood film. You’re weaving through the mazes of the medina, the early morning light flickering through the alleyway openings, vendors coming at you left and right, each with souvenirs and “authentic” items to sell, the smell of Kefta wafting through the air. This is Marrakech.
For centuries, Marrakech has been a major economic center of Morocco and Africa as a whole. An otherwise otherworldly city, it’s the quintessential travel destination for those seeking equal parts luxury and authentic culture. There’s something for everyone from $ 16-a-night Riad hostels to $1,000 dollar-a-night luxury Riad suites.
There are endless options for accommodations in Marrakech, but almost anything you choose will be aesthetically pleasing since that’s the beauty of Moroccan design.
On the budget end of things are Sakkan and Ksar Kasbah & Spa. But don’t let the word “budget” fool you. Each of these options is charming and downright beautiful. Both properties didn’t spare any expense in incorporating the true Moroccan style.
A mid-range option is La Villa de Orangers or Riad Kaiss, a 16th-century building once home to the Sultan of Morocco. Both are great choices ranging from laid-back luxury to classic Moorish-inspired design. You’ll feel right at home in either of these two properties and best of all, you’ll be in the center of it all.
If you want to splurge, you can choose to stay at La Mamounia (a Leading Hotels of the World property) or La Sultana, a world-renowned luxury hotel. These opulent, old-world hotels are located in the newer area of Marrakech, Hivernage, just outside of the “walled city” better known as the medina. It’s still considered within the city limits, but these properties are expansive as they had more space available to build.
Marrakech is a very compact city situated in the western part of Morocco. Most of the areas you’d want to visit as a tourist are close to each other and easily walkable. Given that most of Morocco is a desert, the climate can vary throughout the year. While spring and autumn are the best times of year to visit, specifically, May and September tend to be ideal months. That’s when there’s the least amount of rainfall and relatively moderate temperatures.
Only have a few days to experience the beauty of Morocco? You’re in luck because whether you’re a shopping diva, a luxuriating lady, or a history buff, you can experience it all in Marrakech.
Here are some highlights you won’t want to miss:
Stroll the Jardin Majorelle
Jardin Majorelle is the former home of the late legendary fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, and it’s said his ashes are scattered around the lush, tropical gardens. But before owning the home, the property originally belonged to Jacques Majorelle, a famous French artist who came to Morocco to improve his health conditions and lived there until his death in 1962, when Saint Laurent purchased the property. It’s been preserved as a garden and museum and is a beautiful way to spend a morning or afternoon.
Shop the Souks in the Medina
Here you can spend hours, even days, shopping in the bustling souks (marketplaces) of the medina. The medina is an endless maze of colorful and dizzying alleys filled with restaurants, jewelry shops, textile vendors, and more. Your senses will be overloaded, but take the time to soak it all in. It’s truly a sight to behold. And don’t forget to buy extra luggage…you’re going to need it for the plane ride home.
Soak in a Hammam
After a long, hot day of shopping and traversing the dusty alleys of Marrakech, a hammam is a relaxing way to wind down. A hammam is a traditional, sometimes communal, bath. It’s a tradition dating back to the days of the sultans and is still performed today. You can expect a technique of steaming, washing, and exfoliating your skin. And while there are many styles of hammams, some public baths and some a bit more private and luxurious, the experience is definitely an interesting one and one you can’t miss.
Visit the Mosques
Morocco is a Muslim country and there are endless Mosques throughout the region. However, the Koutoubia Mosque, built in 1162, is Marrakech’s most famous mosque. Standing 70 meters tall, the towering building can be seen from anywhere in the city. And although non-muslims aren’t allowed to enter, it’s still a beautiful site to visit and wander around.
Take a Cooking Class
Learning how to cook Moroccan food with a local, might be one of the coolest, most authentic experiences in Marrakech. You’ll start off by going to the local farmer’s market to pick your ingredients, learn about the history of the cuisine, and then go back and learn the prepping and cooking techniques to make your own home-cooked Moroccan meal. All followed by the opportunity to properly learn how to pour and serve Moroccan tea — yes, there’s a specific way to do it!
And if that’s not enough, and you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a trip out to the Sahara desert where you can dune surf, ride camels into the sunset, fly high above in a hot-air balloon, and spend a night in a luxury tent under the Moroccan sky while listening to the beat of the Berber drums.
In Marrakech, there’s no shortage of amazing food at all price points. Whether you love simple snacks, fresh fruit, street food, or a five-star meal, you won’t be disappointed. Here are a few places to visit depending on your appetite.
Café des Epices: This cute coffee shop right in the middle of the medina is three floors of fabulousness. Offering a rooftop terrace, there’s no shortage of options where to sit and enjoy a delicious, fresh meal as you overlook the craziness of the walled city.
For a luxurious way to start your day, head to brunch at La Mamounia. Here, you’ll be treated like a Sultan and indulge in some of Marrakech’s finest offerings. But, make a reservation because it does book up quickly.
Cuisine de Terroir is a great option if you’re in search of good traditional Moroccan food. Here you can have dishes like Tagine or Shawarma, and don’t forget to wash it all down with some mint tea.
For a more elevated experience, head to the poolside restaurant at Jnane Tamsa and enjoy a leisurely lunch under the Moroccan sun. Here you’ll be able to experience a decadent lunch in the most beautiful setting while taking a dip in one of the five pools on the property to help cool off.
Just like breakfast and lunch options, the dinner experiences are endless. One of the more popular dinner options is to go to “dinner and a show” at Comptoir Darna replete with choreographed belly dancers, dimly lit lanterns, and a stunning, Moroccan setting. It’s a lively scene where you can feast on Moroccan-influenced cuisine, sip on some creative cocktails, and be entertained by the energetic performers of Marrakech.
For a go-all-out farewell meal, head to La Grande Table Marocaine at the Royal Mansour. Set in a colorful-tiled riad, this opulent dining room operated by the most attentive wait staff, is just one of the reasons it made the “World’s Top 50” restaurant list. Make sure to make a reservation well ahead of time.
How long is the flight to Marrakech?
If you’re coming from New York City, there are no direct flights to Marrakech. Some options for layovers include Lisbon, Casablanca, and Madrid. The total travel time can vary between nine and 12 hours depending on the length of the layover.