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First Timer’s Guide to Marrakesh

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  • Discover Marrakesh – a vibrant city home to mosques, palaces and mausoleums along with lush, tropical gardens
  • Barter for a bargain in the city’s souks and sample the delights of Moroccan street food
  • Explore the maze-like alleys of the medina and venture further afield to the Atlas Mountains

Almost 700,000 visitors from the UK visit Morocco every year, many choosing holidays to Marrakesh (sometimes seen as Marrakech). And it’s easy to see why. Known as the Red City, the former imperial city is a vibrant place to stay, with lots of fascinating things to see and do. On day trips you can also visit Essaouira and the stunning Atlas Mountains.

marrakesh ramparts atlas mountains

The Atlas Mountains

Marrakesh Morocco holidays: general travelling advice

UK passport holders don’t require a visa to enjoy a Morocco holiday. However, your passport should be valid for at least three months after your date of entry, and mustn’t be damaged in any way. Make sure that your passport is stamped when entering the country. Occasionally, tourists have encountered difficulties leaving Morocco because authorities couldn’t see an entry stamp.

The local currency is the Moroccan dirham, but it’s non-convertible, and you can only take a maximum of 2,000 dirhams (£170) in and out of the country. ATMs are widely available to access cash.

Morocco is a Muslim country, so dress and act respectfully. Note that public displays of affection are frowned upon.

Morocco travel health advice

Visit your GP six weeks before departure to discuss appropriate inoculations. You may be recommended to have Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid vaccines. Make sure you have adequate travel insurance.

Weather Marrakesh Morocco

If you want warm weather, but not a scorching heat, the best time to visit Morocco is between March and May or September and November. The summer months can be uncomfortable in the city. Expect six or seven rainy days in January and February.

Six great things to do in Marrakesh
Take a sightseeing tour of Saadian Tombs

One of the world’s finest examples of Moorish architecture can be found in Marrakesh. The magnificent Saadian Tombs, dating back to the 16th century, are intricately decorated memorials to the country’s former rulers. Some are covered in impressive gold leaf; others feature colourful tiles. Altogether around 166 tombs vie for your attention.

Don’t miss the most prestigious mausoleum, the Hall of Twelve Columns. And taking centre stage in the garden is a beautiful tomb dedicated to a sultan’s mother. Remarkably, the Saadian tombs were abandoned for centuries, only being renovated after they were rediscovered in 1917 when they were spotted in aerial photographs.

More grand columns, as well as splendid courtyards and gardens, are on display at Bahia Palace in Marrakesh.

marrakesh saadian tombs

Saadian Tombs

Try your hand at haggling in a souk

Marrakesh is famous for its souks or covered markets, where skilled artisans sell their wares. Stalls set up inside the city’s medieval ramparts display leatherware, jewellery and furniture, and walking around the maze-like medina is an experience like no other. You’ll find Moroccans welcoming and friendly. If you’re tempted to buy a holiday souvenir, it’s good to know that haggling is all part of the fun and culture of shopping.

After seeing something you like, walk away and no doubt the vendor will follow. Then you can discuss a ‘better price’. Keep negotiations light-hearted though, know in advance what you’re willing to pay and don’t haggle over a small amount – remember 20 dirhams equates to around £2.

Visit le Jardin Majorelle and Berber Museum

The Jardin Majorelle is one of Marrakesh’s most enchanting and mysterious gardens – a haven of peace and tranquillity with a spectacular display of bamboo, bougainvillaea, cacti and plants from around the world. Created over 40 years, the garden’s boldly coloured buildings blend Art Deco and Moorish influences. Originally the sanctuary and botanical ‘laboratory’ of French painter Jacques Majorelle, it was bought in 1980 by the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

The Berber Museum, located in Majorelle’s former painting studio, is dedicated to the Berber people, the most ancient of North Africa. Jewellery, costumes, weavings and weapons reveal more about their culture. Marrakesh is also home to a Yves Saint Laurent museum – a must-see for lovers of grand couturiers.

marrakesh jrdin majorelle

Jardin Majorelle

Watch the goings-on at Jemaa el-Fnaa square

If you want to see snake charmers, fortune tellers, acrobats, fire-eaters and a colourful spectacle of musicians and dancers, head to Jemaa el-Fnaa square. The bustling centre in Marrakesh’s old city is a showcase for traditional Moroccan life and is especially atmospheric at dusk. A whirlwind of circus activities will battle for your attention. If you can stray away – the carnival scene is quite mesmerising – there are plenty of street restaurants where you can try local delicacies.

Remember, however, to be vigilant in crowds after dark. Take a break from the hustle and bustle and head to the rooftop Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier to buy a mint tea and observe Jemaa el-Fnaa from above.

Spend a day on the coast at Essaouira

A two-and-a-half-hour drive from Marrakesh is the pretty coastal town of Essaouira. Home to a medieval castle, city wall, fairy-tale ramparts and perfectly preserved streets full of whitewashed houses, it’s a pleasant place to while away a few hours. Stroll through the fruit and veg markets, take it easy in one of the many serene squares, or wander down the harbourside and watch fishermen tending their boats and mending nets.

The charming town also has a golden-sand beach that seems to stretch for miles, making it a hotspot for Moroccan holidays. However, Essaouira is also known as the windy city, and while the tropical trade winds provide a welcoming breeze during the summer, you could end up a little sandy yourself.

marrakesh essaouira

Essaouira

Venture to the Atlas Mountains

The monumental Atlas Mountains provide an ever-present, dramatic backdrop to Marrakesh, and are best visited on a day trip from the city. The mountain range stretches for approximately 1,600 miles, separating the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from the Sahara Desert. The peaks are often covered with snow – not surprising as the highest peak, Toubkal, is 4,167 metres high.

While in the stunning foothills, surrounded by saffron-coloured fields, massive green forests and river-filled gorges, you can learn more about the Berbers, an ancient civilisation who live in remote farming villages that seem to cling to the rocky slopes. Don’t forget your camera on this day trip, as you’ll be blown away by the many spectacular vistas.

Plan your Marrakesh adventure

For anyone keen to go on an exciting and exotic city break, look no further than a Marrakesh & The Atlas Mountains holiday or our brand new tour of the Imperial Cities of Morocco. Around a four-hour direct flight from the UK, it’s a dynamic destination that seems to have one foot in the present and one firmly in the past. There are also departures exclusive to solo travellers. Marrakesh will capture your heart.


If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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