Marrakesh – Morocco’s most fascinating city with a trendy cosmopolitan edge.
Marrakesh is such an incredible place to visit, with its bustling outdoor markets, lush gardens, glorious palaces, and colorful sites of the old town ‘Medina’. The moment you arrive, all your senses are immediately turned on – and you feel like you’ve landed in another world!
It’s a fascinating mix of cultures and traditions merging together seamlessly – Arabs, Europeans, Africans, the local Berbers – all adding to the vibrancy of the city. The sights, sounds, smells, and colors will intrigue even the most well-travelled tourist. This is a place where you definitely want to stay for a few days to take it all in.
We’ll be visiting the many corners of this captivating city in between yoga classes on our yoga retreat in Marrakesh. Come along with us in March 2018 and we’ll show you our favorite places! In the meantime, we’ve rounded up five things we think you should definitely not miss if you’re heading over to Marrakesh.
5 things you should not miss when visiting Marrakesh:
1. Browse and haggle at the famous souks.
One of the main highlights of Marrakesh is no doubt a visit to the outdoor markets – the world-renown souks. Wander through the winding alleys filled with shops selling bright textiles, lanterns, tea sets and tagine pots of all sizes, colorful Moroccan slippers called babouches, and locally made lanterns.
There are no set prices and the shop owners expect a certain amount of haggling – it’s part of the culture. And if you have the patience, it’s also part of the fun! Always with respect of course, and a friendly smile.
The shops are vaguely organized in clusters that sell similar things – the textiles are mostly in the same area, as are the pots and tagines. However, the maze-like streets of the souk can be somewhat disorienting, so you may get a bit lost, but that’s also part of the adventure. And we promise you will eventually find your way out!
2. Take in the cultural sites of the Medina.
There are many sites not to miss in the Medina, but here are our top choices:
The central gathering spot of the Medina is the iconic Jemaa el Fna square – a large open space selling all sorts of local specialties including sweet dates, dried figs, almonds and walnuts, as well as freshly squeezed orange juice. You’ll also find snake charmers with their flutes, storytellers and fortune-tellers, acrobats, musicians and entertainers. At dusk, the square becomes a huge open-air dining area packed with food stalls selling some of the best street food in Morocco.
The Arabic word ‘bahia’ means ‘beautiful’ or ‘brilliance’, and the famous Bahia Palace is exactly that – beautiful. The palace encompasses a lovely riad decorated in an elegant Moroccan style, with intricate cedar-wood, stained glass windows, tiled floors, and surrounded by lush gardens.
The Koutoubia Mosque is Marrakech’s most famous landmark, with its tall minaret hovering over the Medina. You have to be Muslim to enter the mosque, since it’s still an active place of worship but it’s worth walking around its exterior.
Another gorgeous stop is the Ben Youssef Medersa – a school dedicated to teaching Islamic scripture and law, and another beautiful example of Moroccan architecture. You can imagine what it must have been like to study here – student dorm rooms surround a peaceful central courtyard, ornate archways and colorful tiles make this another must-see site in Marrakesh.
3. Escape the hustle and bustle at a Hammam.
A hammam is a full-body spa cleansing treatment – and well worth the experience! The treatment starts with a sauna and steam room to get your body used to the heat. A thin layer of black soap is then applied all over your body for an initial cleanse. Followed by a deep scrub with a ‘kessa’ exfoliating glove to remove all the dead skin.
Some hammam treatments apply a purifying mask and a final rehydrating layer of oil – typically argan oil – to leave your skin feeling soft and clean. It’s heavenly and such a wonderful escape from the bustling Medina!
4. Wander the gardens of the Jardin Majorelle.
These lovely manicured gardens were created originally by the botanist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s. They were then brought to fame when they were purchased by the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé in 1980. Yves Saint Laurent restored and upgraded the gardens with much love and attention.
The gardens are lined with pools and streams, flowers, chirping birds, and have a mix of Moroccan charm and European elegance. They are now open to visitors – this is another wonderful calm escape from the bustling streets of Marrakesh.
5. Have lunch at a rooftop café.
A midday lunch or afternoon drink at a rooftop café is another must while exploring Marrakesh’s Medina. There’s a wide choice of rooftop cafés and restaurants, some with lovely panoramic views, and many with very good food. After haggling the souks or pampering yourself at a hammam, this is the perfect time out.
Some of our favorites in the Medina are Café Arabe – an all-time classic with comfy couches and a very relaxed atmosphere. Nomad is a contemporary chic restaurant offering modern Moroccan cuisine and catering to trendy jetsetters. Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier has the best views of Jemaa el-Fnaa square. For a vegetarian or vegan option, head on over to Café Clock. And two others definitely worth a visit are Kosybar – indeed quite cosy, but with charm, and Terrasse des épices, with lovely views and catering to young expats and an upmarket crowd.
These are just a few of the things not to miss in Marrakesh, but there are others that we would be happy to recommend! Join us on a yoga retreat there and we’ll show you around.
Our 2018 yoga retreat in Morocco:
We’ll be hosting a yoga retreat in Marrakesh from the 3-10 March 2018 – all the details about our Morocco yoga retreat can be found on our Morocco yoga retreat page. We’ll take you to some of these places in between yoga classes, so you can discover this fascinating city within the safety and security of a group. Come along with us on this exciting adventure!
As always, happy travels….
Yoga Escapes organizes luxury yoga retreats in beautiful places around the world, offering a mix of Vinyasa yoga and restorative Yin yoga classes. Contact the Yoga Escapes team for info on upcoming yoga holidays.