What to see in Marrakesh in 4 days
Marrakesh is considered the gateway to Morocco. It is also one of the country’s four imperial cities, a place that it sure to captivate you with its myriad attractions and historic monuments. Its Medina is a veritable hive of activity, a place where you can absorb the bustling atmosphere and savour the intense aroma of mint. The great thing about having a four-day stay in this exotic city is that it will give you time for an excursion into the exciting Merzouga desert, or to the fabulous beaches of Essaouira. Our guide will help you to orientate yourself step by step, so that you don’t miss out on any of Marrakesh’s essential experiences.
Itinerary day 1
Jemaa el Fna Square in the heart of the Medina, and thus the vibrant core of the city, is the perfect starting point for an exploration of Marrakesh. Here, it’s not monuments you’re looking for: it’s experiences. This remarkable square has been declared an Asset of Intangible Cultural Heritage. All kinds of characters are drawn to this place: acrobats, musicians, fakirs, and even snake charmers.
Dating from the twelfth century, the Koutoubia Mosque dominates Jemaa el Fna Square. With its impressive minaret, almost 70 metres tall, this is Marrakesh’s largest mosque. Non-Muslims are not allowed into the mosque, but you can walk around the outside and admire its architecture, while the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer.
The square offers a superb selection of culinary options. 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.
A labyrinth of streets makes up Marrakesh Souk, the country’s largest market and heaven on Earth for lovers of craftwork. Here, over 2,600 craftsmen and -women are organised into 40 corporations. The area is divided into souks each specialising in different products. The streets are overflowing with colourful leather slippers, newly-dyed fabrics, spices, and carpets. Immerse yourself in the art of haggling.
This graceful building, an adjunct of the Ben Youssef Mosque, was formerly a Muslim school where the sacred texts of the Quran were studied. It no longer has that function, and is now open to the public. This is a unique opportunity to admire the decoration of its central courtyard, wrought in marble, cedar wood, tiles, and arches.
Shopping is truly an exhausting business. So take a break to enjoy one of Morocco’s most time-honoured traditions: a cup of tea. As you’re in the souk area, you could choose a truly authentic spot, such as Dar Cherifa, located in a traditional Arab house. Its gorgeous terrace, where you can watch the sunset with your cup of tea in hand, is a real treat.
As the sun sets, Jemaa el Fna Square becomes a veritable open-air restaurant, with a huge number of food stalls. It is best to opt for the smaller stalls, each specialising in just one dish, such as the one selling snails. If you prefer a more peaceful, romantic dinner, Nomad or Le Jardin will provide just the setting you are looking for.
Itinerary day 2
Start the day by passing through the Bab Agnaou, one of the most graceful gateways in the enormous wall surrounding the Marrakesh Medina. You will find yourself in the southern part of the Medina, known as Kasbah, the fortified space. This is the location of the Saadian Tombs, a mausoleum holding over 60 tombs from the Saadi dynasty. It comprises a small garden with three pantheons dating from the sixteenth century.
This palace and its splendid gardens were built in the late nineteenth century for one purpose only: to be the most luxurious palace in the world. The palace covers eight hectares, and has over 150 rooms. Of particular fascination to tourists is the harem area, with its large, richly decorated patio and its pond. On the way to this monument, you may like to visit the ruins of the former El Badi Palace, built during the sixteenth century.
As you head for the Menara Gardens, you could stop off at one of the Moroccan restaurants on the way, such as The Red House. This is a place with an elegant, classical style, where the focus is on traditional dishes; occasionally, the restaurant puts on belly dancing shows.
Here you will find a typical Islamic garden with fruit trees, a large pond, and a pavilion. Built in the twelfth century, it is a simple, calming oasis, with the snowy peaks of the Atlas mountains rising in the distance. 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.
On your tour of Marrakesh’s gardens, it’s now time to visit one of the city’s most beautiful examples, the Majorelle Gardens. This botanical garden bears the name of Jacques Majorelle, the French painter who designed it in 1924. The designer Yves Sant Laurent acquired the garden to prevent it being destroyed, and opened a small Museum of Islamic Art here, which is also open to visitors.
After a busy day’s sightseeing, a visit to a Marrakesh hammam is essential. These traditional baths are a perfect way to pamper both body and mind, and to relax. However, be aware that the hammam is not mixed, so men and women have to go into separate rooms. The wide range of treatments offered at the Barceló Palmerie’s fabulous spa will make you feel totally refreshed.
It’s now time to discover Guéliz, the most modern area of Marrakesh. This district of Guéliz 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 excellent places to spend an enjoyable evening.
Itinerary day 3
Now that you have discovered the charms of Marrakesh, there are also a number of attractive options for excursions. One of the most highly recommended is the early stages of the Route of the Thousand Kasbahs, which eventually reaches the Sahara desert. During the first day, you will take in the remarkable Ait Benhaddou kasbah, the Dades Valley, and the Todra Gorge, exploring the astounding cliff landscape in a 4x4 vehicle.
10:00 - 20:00
If the beach is more appealing to you, then make for Essaouira, where you will find some of Morocco’s most beautiful, unspoilt examples. Essaouira is a walled city by the sea, where the high point of the local cuisine is the fresh fish from the port.
Itinerary day 4
If yesterday you opted for the Route of the Thousand Kasbahs, today you will glimpse an even greater treasure: the Sahara Desert. The Merzouga desert with its red sand, a camel ride to see the sunset, and a lively evening accompanied by Berber drumming, all beneath a sky teeming with stars, will be the highlight of your holiday in Marrakesh. Another possibility, the Zagora desert, is nearer.
On the other hand, if you’ve decided in favour of the coast, after experiencing the unspoilt beaches at Essaouira, you can continue on to nearby Agadir. This city has some of the country’s largest beaches, and they are perfect for surfing. Spend your last night at the Allegro Agadir Barceló hotel in the heart of the city. With its all-inclusive package, this hotel is the perfect place to relax.