In the beginning of July, I visited Morocco for the first time with three friends. I have heard so many good things about the country and couldn’t wait to see for myself. Moroccan culture is completely different from what we’re used to in Europe and yet, I found many similarities with many places I’ve seen so far.
However, planning a trip to Morocco can be a hard decision, especially if you don’t have much information to base your planning on. From where to eat, what to see and where to stay, here are some useful tips for your first visit of Marrakesh.
What to see in Marrakesh
We only have one day and a half in Marrakesh because the other day we spend at a wedding of a good blogger friend of our group – congratulations again, Sara in Dubai (what a gorgeous wedding, by the way!).
So it is hard to see a lot in a day and a half especially if you plan to visit other cities in Morocco as we did. Here are some ideas for your first trip to Marrakesh.
Bahia Palace in Marrakesh is a masterpiece of Moroccan architecture from 19th century. The name “Bahia” actually means beautiful, brilliant which perfectly describes what you will see inside. The palace has many inside gardens and courtyards and is richly decorated with colourful mosaics. The entrance fee was only 10 DRH.
This is the largest mosque in Marrakesh and is located in the Medina as well. The minaret is 77 meters high and the whole mosque is ornamented with beautiful decorations. There is a large plaza with gardens where you can take a rest.
Stroll along the markets & souks
Shopping and bargaining are big part of every trip to Morocco. Even though you may think that you don’t need to buy anything, you may quickly change your mind. You will find many streets full with shops for leather goods, clothes, souvenirs, bags, etc. Even only walking around is a big cultural experience you should have in Marrakesh.
Go to Jemaa el-Fnaa square at night
Jemaa el-Fnaa is the main square in Marrakesh’s Medina where everything is happening. During the day, it looks like just a “normal” big plaza. During the night, it’s a whole stage of entertainment for locals and visitors. There are many street musicians and other entertainers trying to get your attention. It is something you should definitely see. You can also find plenty of street food stalls where you can have your dinner.
Where to eat: Restaurants in Marrakesh
Eating in Marrakesh is a real pleasure. If you love rich and distinguished flavours, you are on the right place. I absolutely loved Moroccan food and there are plenty of restaurants in Marrakesh where you can satisfy your belly. Here are a few suggestions for nice places to eat in Marrakesh that we tried during our trip:
- Café Restaurant Cingfeur (map)
Located in the very center of the Medina in Marrakesh, Cingfeur was a great spot for our first traditional lunch in Morocco. It is situated on a rooftop terrace with a nice view towards the city and the markets. With selection of couscouses and tagines, you can try out various traditional meals. And, of course, you can’t miss the famous Moroccan mint tea with lots of sugar. The prices are very low – 35 DRH for a veggie couscous, 55 DRH for chicken tagine.
You’ll recognize this restaurant by the Beatles silhouettes painted out front. The owner is a huge fan of the band and he even puts their songs inside. Koulchi Zine has a good selection of Morrocan and Mediterranean food, good design and service. There are several floors and separate spaces where you can find privacy or enjoy the open rooftop terrace.
- Jama Restaurant (TripAdvisor)
Jama is a good, simple and cozy little restaurant located on a main market street (Rue Riad Zitoun el Jdid). You can try traditional food on affordable prices in a nice patio.
- Street food on Jemaa el-Fnaa square
The food stalls on the main square in Marrakesh’s Medina are another great option for eating out in the city. There are plenty of option to choose from and they look delicious as well. On top of that, the main square is very alive during dinner time.
Where to stay in Marrakesh: Riad 17 Dar Chamar
For our trip to Marrakesh, we stayed in a riad inside the Medina of the city. Riads are traditional Moroccan houses that usually have big walls, small windows in the outside but big interior gardens.
We found Riad 17 Dar Chamar on Airbnb. It is located just around 3 minutes from Bahia Palace, and around 8-10 minutes from the central square Jemaa el-Fnaa.
The Riad was everything I would ask for. It has 3 bedrooms with double beds located on first and second floor, a kitchen, a small pool in the patio and a spacious living room. Riad 17 Dar Chamar can accommodate 6 people.
The cleaning is included in the price. You can also order breakfast to be cooked for you in the morning for 5 Euros per person. There is a good Wi-Fi connection, but it’s mostly available on the first floor.
The rooftop terrace with a couch is also a good touch and a place to take a rest in the afternoon.
*You can get $29 off your first booking with Airbnb, if you use my referral link to sign up (only if you don’t have a profile on Airbnb yet).
Tips for visiting Morocco for the first time
Many people are still uncertain about whether or not to visit Morocco. I think this is maybe due to the lack of information available to the public. Here are a few places online where you can find more info about visiting Morocco for the first time:
- MarocMama – Amanda’s blog has plenty of information and guides about the life and travel in Morocco.
- How to dress in Morocco (The Hostel Girl) – this article by Katie is really helpful in understanding the how it is okay to dress in Morocco.
- What you need to know before booking your trip to Morocco (Owl Over the World)– practical travel tips from Bilyana who traveled in Morocco for three weeks last year.
- Travelling Morocco as a solo female (Neverending Footsteps) – many women are wondering if it’s safe to travel in Morocco solo. Here are some stories to read from Lauren. I recommend you to read the Essaouira experience as it is something I saw in most of the places we visited (especially Fes).
And some practical tips from my trip to Morocco…
- On the airport – Upon entering Morocco you have to fill a small document with the details of your visit. The documents are located at the airport. Make sure to take one and fill it before you start queueing for the passport control. This applies for entering and exiting the country.
- Local SIM card – there are people handing free SIM cards on the airport. Make sure to take one. Before you charge it with any data, you can use the SIM card for calls only. You can find kiosks in the city where you can charge with mobile internet. We paid 50 DRH for 5GB of data.
- Be aware of scams – they are happening everywhere and all the time. Even if you think you can trust the person talking to you, be aware that most of the time, they’ll ask for something in return, most likely money. People will try to help you or offer you something and they are not afraid to lie to you in order to “help” your decision. Locals also don’t take “no” for an answer very lightly, so they tend to become verbally aggressive sometimes.
After Marrakesh, our trip continued to Imlil valley with a trek in the High Atlas mountains. Then we visited Casablanca and Fes. Stay tuned on Facebook to get updated when the next posts from Morocco are up.
You can also watch this short video I made as part of Mastercard’s cashless travel campaign from our trip to Morocco:
Plan your trip to Morocco
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