What to see in Marrakesh in a weekend
Arab culture is one of the most fascinating to travellers. Rich, flavourful and colourful, it captivates everyone who discovers it. And Marrakesh is the perfect place to start any exploration of this culture. As you wander the city’s bustling streets over a weekend, you will be transported to another world. In a very short time, you can immerse yourself in this intriguing city. Remember that, as they say in Morocco, “Haste kills”. So take a deep breath, approach it calmly, and let our guide lead you through this labyrinth of sensations.
Itinerary day 1
You are in the most amazing place to see the sun set over Marrakesh. And it’s so much better if, at the time, you’re sitting on a flat roof, enjoying a cup of tea — one of Morocco’s most time-honoured traditions. One of the possibilities around the square is Dar Cherifa, which is located in a traditional Arab house. Watching the sunset, tea in hand, from its gorgeous terrace, will provide the best possible start to your weekend.
Life in Marrakesh revolves around this square; rather than just visiting historical monuments, let yourself go with its particular flow. By day, the square is a home to all kinds of fascinating characters, from fakirs to snake charmers. But at nightfall, the square becomes an open-air restaurant. Make for the smaller stalls, the ones that specialise in one particular dish.
Itinerary day 2
We start where we left off last night, as the streets around Jemaa el Fna Square are all a part of the labyrinthine Souk. This heaven on Earth for lovers of craft work is the country’s largest market. Here, over 2,600 craftsmen and -women are organised into 40 corporations, with souks selling different products. Approach your visit calmly, and don’t forget that you’ll need to haggle with the stallholders.
You’ll find this beautiful building very near the Souk: it is an annexe of the Ben Youssef Mosque. It was once a Muslim school, where pupils studied the holy texts of the Quran. It is one of Marrakesh’s most popular tourist attractions, mainly thanks to its interior architecture. 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 tiles.
The heart of the Medina offers some of the finest culinary options, a golden opportunity to try Moroccan cuisine. Among the huge choice of restaurants, you could try Chez Chegrouni. This restaurant has a terrace with spectacular views of Jemaa el Fna Square, which you can admire while you enjoy a delicious tagine or a plate of cous-cous.
You are arriving at the perfect time to begin exploring the heart of Marrakesh’s Medina. Among the buildings that edge the vibrant Jemaa el Fna Square, the undisputed star attraction is the Koutoubia Mosque. Although only Muslims are allowed to enter the mosque itself, make sure you don’t miss the exterior of the building and the lovely gardens. The outstanding attraction of the exterior is its minaret — almost 70 metres tall.
After such a hectic day, your body will no doubt welcome a few moments of calm. The hammam is the ideal place to relax both body and mind. However, be aware that the hammam is not mixed, so men and women have to go into separate rooms. The wide range of treatments on offer at the fabulous spa at the Barceló Palmerie will make you feel totally refreshed.
Many Marrakesh restaurants have amazing terraces, so you can have dinner while wrapped in a cocoon of stars as you gaze out at the city. Within the Medina, there are countless options, such as the Terrace des Épices. Also recommended are Le Jardin and Nomad; both offer the perfect setting for a romantic dinner with typical Moroccan dishes.
Itinerary day 3
We recommend you visit this well-known Islamic garden early in the morning. It was built in the twelfth century, and has fruit trees, a large pond, and a pavilion. It is a simple, peaceful oasis with the snowy peaks of the Atlas mountains in the distance. Admission is free, but you need to take care if the weather is very hot, as there is little protection from the sun.
This is the southern part of the Medina, known as Kasbah, the fortified space. The highlight of this area are the Saadian Tombs, a small mausoleum holding over 60 tombs from the Saadi dynasty. It comprises a small garden with three pantheons dating from the sixteenth century. The central room is the most opulent, with its Carrara marble columns and a truly magnificent cedar wood cupola.
This restaurant has a superb flat roof, the perfect spot to recharge your batteries while enjoying wonderful panoramic views of the Kasbah. It offers a varied menu, ranging from tasty typical Moroccan dishes to a take on European cuisine, and even vegetarian options. A picturesque spot with a thoughtful décor.
This magnificent palace was built in the late nineteenth century and was one of the most luxurious palaces in the world. Its buildings and magnificent gardens are spread over eight hectares. Pay special attention to the harem area, with its lake and richly decorated courtyard. On the way to this monument, you may like to visit the former El Badi Palace.
This botanical garden bears the name of Jacques Majorelle, the painter who designed it. Enjoy some respite from the heat as you stroll among its leafy trees and bamboo. 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 to prevent it being destroyed, and also opened a small Museum of Islamic Art here.
Are you ready for your last night in Marrakesh? We suggest you spend the evening in the Guéliz neighbourhood, the most modern part of the city. This district was built during the period of the French Protectorate, so the menus of many of its elegant restaurants feature a mixture of French and Moroccan dishes. The Grand Café de la Post and Azar are two establishments to be recommended. Round off your evening at one of the clubs or discos.