A weekend in Marrakech
Marrakech is magical. It dazzles the senses. With its unique blend of culture and chic, the city has always enticed travellers. The Medina is a UNESCO world heritage site and is home to a selection of sensational sights.
Here’s what you need to see in a packed weekend in Morocco’s bucket list city:
Jemaa el Fna:
This massive space in the centre of the city is our all time favourite square. During the day, it’s home to a mix of musicians, acrobats, medicine men, dentists (complete with pliers), snake charmers and storytellers. At night it transforms, the circus like attractions are joined by hundreds of food stalls that light up the square with gas lanterns. Smoke and the scent of spice fill the air. It’s the most atmospheric place to eat, we advise eating at a stall the locals go to.
Have a mint tea in one of the cafes overlooking the square for the best views.
Our favourite site. The Jardin Majorelle is a 12 acre oasis of calm and design. The surfaces of this ornamental garden are painted intense blue to enhance the lily ponds and cacti collection. The Majorelle was created in the 1920s and 1930s by French painter Jacques Majorelle and then owned by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. Even if gardens aren’t your thing, this is one not to miss.
Get there when it opens to avoid the long queues. Or if you want to visit the YSL museum next door aswell, buy a joint ticket and avoid the garden queue.
The souks of Marrakech are the largest in Morocco. They can be bewilderingly busy and it’s easy to get lost. We rarely recommend guides, but if you hire one for your first visit, you will avoid constant hassle and be able to relax. Once inside, the bazaars are a maze of alleyways with areas of each souk specialising in different wares: carpets, spices, lanterns, pottery, jewellery and antiques. Be prepared to haggle.
If you go early morning or late afternoon, the dappled light shafts from the sun add to the exotic atmosphere.
Ben Youssef Madrasa:
The Ben Youssef Madrasa is the largest madrasa in Morocco and one of the most important in North Africa. The medieval Koranic school was founded in the 14th century and is possibly the most beautifully decorated building in the city. The central courtyard is a marvel of delicately carved cedarwood, colourful mosaics and stucco plasterwork all surrounding a central pool.
The Saadian Tombs:
The Saadian Tombs were discovered in 1917 and date back to the 16th century. The gardens contain over 100 tombs decorated in intricate mosaic. The centrepiece is the main mausoleum of three rooms and the spectacular twelve columned chamber – where the Saadian Sultan Ahmad el-Mansur and his children are buried.
Throughout Marrakech, keep a look out for interesting doors and gates. They are everywhere.