What to see in Marrakesh in 2 days
Marrakesh has earned many sobriquets, mainly linked to the city’s remarkable colour palette. The Red City, or the city of Four Colours, relate to the city’s predominant colours: its red soil and architecture, the green of its palm trees, the blueness of its sky, and the white peaks of the Atlas mountains. We invite you to spend two days in another world, a place full of aromas, palaces, hustle and bustle, and exotic flavours. Follow our guide’s advice to enjoy Marrakesh’s many charms to the full.
Itinerary day 1
The best place to start exploring Marrakesh is in Jemaa el Fna Square, in the heart of the Medina, and at the buzzing core of the city. This square, which has been declared an Asset of Intangible Cultural Heritage, provides a stage for all manner of characters: acrobats, musicians, fakirs, and snake charmers. Let yourself be seduced by the atmosphere here, and you won’t regret it.
The network of street that comprise Marrakesh’s Souk constitute Morocco’s largest craft market. It is divided into several souks, depending on the type of product on offer. Step into this fascinating labyrinth, and you cannot fail to be drawn to the souk’s fabrics, newly hand-dyed, or by the aromas of the spices, the leather slippers, and the confectionery made from almonds and honey. Don’t hesitate to haggle.
The most authentic culinary options are to be found between Jemaa el Fna Square and the Souk. Among the huge choice of restaurants, you could try Chez Chegrouni. The restaurant has a terrace with spectacular views of the square, which you can admire while you enjoy your first taste of Morocco’s intense flavours. Don’t miss the tagine, or the cous-cous. An excellent alternative is the Café des Épices.
Non-Muslims are not allowed into the building itself, but make sure you don’t miss the exterior and the grounds of the Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakesh’s largest mosque. This edifice, with its impressive minaret, almost 70 metres tall, dominates Jemaa el Fna Square. Built in the twelfth century, its name means ‘Booksellers’ Mosque”. The most exciting moment is when the muezzin makes the call to prayer.
An adjunct of the mosque with the same name, this was a Muslim school, where the sacred texts of the Quran were studied. Nowadays, it is open to the public, and its architectural details are exquisitely delicate, particularly the decoration of its central courtyard with marble, cedar wood and colourful tiles. After this visit, you can watch the sun set and have a cup of tea. We can recommend the terrace of Dar Cherifa, which is located in a traditional Arab house.
The square undergoes a transformation at nightfall. As the sun sets, it becomes a veritable open-air restaurant, with hundreds of food stalls. It is best to opt for the smaller stalls, which specialise in just one dish, such as snails. If you prefer a more intimate dinner, Nomad or Le Jardin offer a romantic setting and rich Moroccan flavours.
Itinerary day 2
We recommend you visit this Islamic garden, with its fruit trees, pond and pavilion, early in the morning. It is a simple, peaceful oasis dating from the twelfth century, with the snowy peaks of the Atlas mountains in the background. Admission is free, but you need to take care if the weather is very hot, as there is little protection from the sun.
The Bab Agnaou is the gateway in the wall surrounding the Marrakesh Medina. Crossing it will bring you into the southern part of the Medina, known as Kasbah. The highlight of this area are the Saadian Tombs, a small mausoleum holding over 60 tombs from the Saadi dynasty. Inside, there is a garden and three pantheons dating from the sixteenth century. The central room has Carrara marble columns and a magnificent cedar wood cupola.
The area around the Saadian Tombs has fantastic Moroccan restaurants, including The Red House. The place has an air of classical elegance. Try some of the traditional dishes from the menu; the quality is first class. And perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to see a belly dancing show.
This luxurious palace and its splendid gardens were built in the late nineteenth century. The palace covers eight hectares of land, and the star attraction is the harem area, with its pond and its richly decorated courtyard. On the way to this monument, you may like to visit the esplanade on which stand the ruins of the sixteenth-century former El Badi Palace, once one of Marrakesh’s most sumptuous palaces.
If you’re looking for somewhere to escape from the heat, make for the attractive Majorelle Gardens. This botanical garden bears the name of the French painter who designed it in the early twentieth century, Jacques Majorelle. The leafy trees, the ponds and the artist’s house, painted in a deep shade of blue, were acquired by Yves Sant Laurent. The garden is extremely popular, so try to avoid the most crowded periods.
After a day packed with sightseeing, your body will be yearning for a hammam. These traditional baths are a perfect way to replenish both body and mind. The hammam is not mixed, so men and women have to enter separate rooms. The wide range of treatments offered at the Les Bains d’Azahara and the fabulous spa at the Barceló Palmerie are just two that can be recommended.
A good plan for your last night in Marrakesh is to explore Guéliz, the most modern part of the city. This district was built during the time of the French Protectorate, and offers a more Westernised style of leisure. The restaurants have a sophisticated air, but remain true to their roots. The Grand Café de la Post and Azar are two outstanding examples. This is also where you’ll find the most famous discos and clubs, where you can have a drink after dinner.