What to see in Marrakesh in 3 days
Of Morocco’s imperial cities, Marrakesh is the one that offers travellers the best experiences. Its monuments, its buzzing souk, and its sumptuous cuisine make it the perfect destination to discover authentic Moroccan culture. Relentless, but organised chaos reigns in the city’s streets. A three-day stay in Marrakesh will also allow you an opportunity to escape the hubbub, as the beach and several other natural spaces are just a short distance away. Follow the advice in our guide to make the most of your time, to find the best places to eat and to make certain you don’t miss any of the attractions of the Red City.
Itinerary day 1
Wherever you start in Marrakesh, you’ll end up in Jemaa el Fna Square, in the heart of the Medina, and at the vibrant 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. The best approach is to go with the flow and absorb the atmosphere of the square, during the day but also at night.
Plunge fearlessly into the network of streets that comprise Marrakesh’s Souk constitute Morocco’s largest craft market. It is divided into different souks, depending on the products for sale. You cannot fail to be drawn to the souk’s newly hand-dyed fabrics. Breathe in the aromas of the spices, buy some leather slippers, and sample the confectionery made from almonds and honey — don’t forget to haggle!
No doubt your shopping expedition to the souk will have given you an appetite, so it’s time for your first taste of superb Moroccan cuisine. At the Café des Épices restaurant, you can enjoy wonderful views of Jemaa el Fna Square and the Atlas mountains while you try some of the most typical dishes.
You’ll find this beautiful building very nearby: it is an annexe of the Ben Youssef Mosque. 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.
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. The most exciting moment is when the muezzin makes the call to prayer.
You really must come back and see this square, because it undergoes a transformation at night. As the sun sets, it becomes a veritable open-air restaurant, with hundreds of stalls selling dinner. It is best to opt for the smaller stalls, which specialise in just one dish, such as the stall selling snails. If you prefer a more peaceful dinner, Nomad or Le Jardin are perfect.
Itinerary day 2
Take advantage of the cool, early morning to visit this Islamic garden with its fruit trees, a large pond, and a pavilion. This simple oasis dates from the twelfth century, and will set your mind at peace while you admire the snowy peaks of the Atlas mountains in the background. Admission is free; you do need to take care if the weather is very hot, as there is little shade or protection from the sun.
Now it’s time to pass through the Bab Agnaou, one of the most graceful gateways in the wall surrounding the Marrakesh Medina. This is the southern part of the Medina, known as Kasbah, the fortified space. The highlight of this area are the Saadian Tombs, a mausoleum holding over 60 tombs from the Saadi dynasty. Inside, there is a garden with three pantheons.
You can recharge your batteries at this restaurant while enjoying the amazing views of the Kasbah from its terrace. On the menu, you will find typical Moroccan dishes, including a delicious cous-cous or a tagine,, along with more Western alternatives, and even vegetarian options.
This luxurious palace and its splendid gardens were built in the late nineteenth century. At the time, it was intended to be the most luxurious palace in the world. Inside, the star attraction is the harem, with its lake and a richly decorated courtyard. On the way to this monument, you may like to visit the esplanade on which stand the ruins of the former El Badi Palace, once one of Marrakesh’s most sumptuous palaces.
If the heat becomes oppressive, the best place to escape it is in the Majorelle Gardens, named after the French painter, Jacques Majorelle. The leafy trees and bamboo bushes will provide the shade and coolness you are yearning for. The house where the artist lived is the most remarkable building, painted in a deep shade of blue. The designer Yves Sant Laurent acquired the garden, and also opened a Museum of Islamic Art.
After a day’s sightseeing, a Marrakesh hammam is essential. These traditional baths are a perfect way to pamper both body and mind. The hammam is not mixed, so men and women have to go into separate rooms. The wide range of treatments offered at the Les Bains d’Azahara and the fabulous spa at the Barceló Palmerie will make you feel totally refreshed.
For the evening, we recommend you explore Guéliz, the most modern area of Marrakesh. This district was built during the time of the French Protectorate, and offers a more Westernised style of leisure. It’s a great place to have dinner and then go for a drink afterwards. The Grand Café de la Post and Azar are two restaurants where you can have an enjoyable evening. Then you can go on to the clubs and discos.
Itinerary day 3
Now that you’ve seen something of Marrakesh, we suggest that you take a trip out of the city for your last day. If you’d like to explore Morocco’s countryside, you could visit the Ouzoud Waterfalls, the largest waterfalls in the north of Africa and just over 150 km from Marrakesh. This is one of the country’s great attractions, with waterfalls up to 100 metres in height. You can spend the day here, and have lunch in one of the many restaurants offering excellent views.
If the beach is calling to you, then you need to discover Essaouira and its lovely walled city. You can reach Essaouira in under three hours by car, and enjoy a marvellous day out. The city’s Medina has been declared a World Heritage Site, and in the port you can enjoy freshly caught fish while watching the sunset. Discover the fabulous, almost totally unspoilt beaches.