Travel Guide: 3 Days in Marrakech. What to do, see and experience.
If you ask me "is 3 days enough in Marrakech?" I'm going to tell you "No - of course it's not!". But if that's what you've got - I've got you covered with the Nouvelle Nomad travel guide to Marrakech with what to do, see and experience in your few days in this magical city.
From the dusty pink streets and winding souks, to it's famous palaces, rooftops and sunsets. Marrakech is a city bound in tradition with a proud heritage of architecture and artisan craft. With a thriving creative community of young up and coming artists and designers breaking the old moulds.
Over the last 8 years I've both visited Marrakech as a solo traveler for weeks and months on end in the beginnings of Nouvelle Nomad, and eventually moved and set up a home here. Living my daily life amongst the hustle, bustle and unique flow of this city and it's Marrakchia - the affectionate name for Marrakech's locals.
This is not my full "Marrakech list". It would be too long... This is just the must-do highlights for a first time visitor - to see Marrakech's incredible interiors, old world architecture, the best places to shop, my favourite rooftops to sip a mint tea and places to relax to make your short visit as enjoyable as possible!
Get Lost In The Souks of Marrakech Medina
Getting lost in the medina (the old walled city) is the biggest highlight of all when visiting Marrakech. It *can* also be your biggest time sucker if you don't have a little bit of a plan of what you'd like to see.
Different souks or market areas of the medina are hubs for the various artisanal specialties - the carpet souk, the basket souk, the leather souk, the babouche (shoe) souk, the lighting and brass work souk, the iron workers souk.
Wandering through these areas watching the artisan makers tinker with their craft is a joy. Going about their daily life, proudly sharing their products, knowledge and skills with passing tourists and locals alike.
Sure there's a bit of old-school hustling to get tourists into the stalls - most shop owners are just making friendly conversation, not out to hassle and annoy you. So stop for a conversation or a mint tea and learn a thing or two about the local wares.
You could honestly spend your full 3 days just visiting the different areas of the medina and still not have seen it all. So to get the best and leave the rest, make sure you've ticked these areas off your list and enjoy discovering all the unexpected bits in between.
Jmaa El Fna
The heart beat of Marrakech. Whether you're passing through The Big Square in the early morning, during the day or at night time, each time of day has it's own energy and flow. So try and wander through here a few different times of day to get the full experience.
Heaving with pastry carts, orange juice stalls, snake handlers, food vendors, Berber music troops and street performers. Night time is when all the local families are out and about and the most action happens!
Try to catch a meal at a terrace restaurant or a sunset on one of the rooftops here to get the full magic.
Zeitoun Cafe is a great spot for lunch or dinner with a view over the square if you can get a spot on the balconies.
Then head up as high as you can for a roof top non-alc drink to catch the call to prayer and sunset view to the Katoubia Mosque. Magic!
The largest and busiest under-cover souk. You'll find every type of jewellery, antique, carpet or ceramic shop, traditional sweet stall or mint tea stall you could imagine.
Be prepared to loose all sense of time and direction. Don't panic! Just know you'll eventually pop out *somewhere* near a main point of interest to catch a breath and your bearings.
Google used to be useless for getting around the medina - but it's gotten much better in the last few years. Download the Google map to use offline on your phone or Maps.me app before you head out. While it wont be perfect and may get you stuck down some dead ends it will give you enough to go off if you do get lost.
Rahba Kedima (The Spice Square) and the Souk De Tapis (The Carpet Souk)
Always the centre point for me for a day in the souks. Start with a café nous nous (half milk half coffee) or lunch at Cafe Des Epices before heading into the artisan stalls, the basket weavers souk and the carpet souk.
If you're shopping for a rug this is a good place to start. Just be prepared to spend a few hours being shown all the options, negotiating prices and sharing mint tea with the shop owners!
Route Bab Doukala, Dar El Bacha & surrounds
Getting in early to the Dar El Bacha museum for a coffee at Bacha coffee house is a great starting point to kick off a day in the medina, before following the slightly more relaxed outdoor routes full of fondouks, artisan work shops, homewares stalls and boutiques lining the streets.
Wander in the direction of Le Jardin Secret (The Secret Gardens) and then back towards Le Jardin restaurant and then up towards the old Max & Jan store (for those who've been to Marrakech before will know this landmark) with the rooftop restaurant which is now called Soul Food.
You'll pass a number of small local fashion boutiques, cafes and homewares stores along the way that are home to up and coming local Moroccan fashion designers, brands, jewellery makers and artists.
I have another article on the way for Best Shopping In Marrakech. Stay tuned!
Marrakech's Best Rooftops
A day in the medina is not complete without a fresh mint tea or a tagine on one of Marrakech's fabulous rooftops to get a view of the action below.
My favourites for a pit stop during the day
Cafe Des Epices - the iconic rooftop cafe high above the Spice Square. My favourite to take first time Marrakech visitors and friends to for a mid-souk lunch.
Shtatto - for rooftop coffee, a refreshing cold drink or quick lunch stop to get the best view of the other side of the Spice Square
Cafe Atay - for a coffee stop or rooftop lunch. The sunset here is really lovely if you can time your dinner with sun down and the sounds of the call to prayer.
Nomad - for a special and memorable lunch or dinner on one of their glorious sun terraces also above the Spice Square
L'Mida Rooftop - the newest of the Spice Square rooftop restaurants
Alcohol is very scarcely found in the medina. Generally where there is a mosque in sight, there will be no alcohol available. Although this is changing and a number of newer restaurants and rooftop bars are now offering beer, wine and cocktails with meals within the medina walls.
Kabana - for a fun rooftop dinner or drinks at the bar, often with DJs later into the evening.
El Fenn - if you can't afford the price tag to stay here, you can still head here for a sun downer on the lounges and a view over the Katoubia mosque.
Dar Dar - a new addition to the medina rooftop restaurants. Book a table for a sunset cocktail and dinner, or a beer with lunch and a view over the rooftops.
Discovering The Old Marrakech
Marrakech is full of royal palaces, museums, gardens and UNESCO heritage listed sites to discover.
I have another article here A Step Into The Old Marrakech that goes into more detail with photos of all the ancient sites you can visit.
First tip - don't try and see all of Marrakech's old world sites in a couple of days. It will be exhausting, time consuming and difficult to get around if you try to do it all.
If you've only go a couple of days in Marrakech - pick 1 or 2 of the heritage places that you're most interested in seeing and visit one a day on your visit.
Second tip - go early in the morning. Beat the crowds, get in and out before the masses and then head off to enjoy the rest of your day in the souks and the cafes.
If I had to pick 2 I would choose the Dar El Bacha Museum and the recently renovated and re-opened Ben Youssef Madrasa. They really are even more incredible to see in real life than they already are in the photos.
And while you're there - just around the corner from the Madrassa, I love visiting the Marrakech Photography Museum for the view into the lives of the people of the old Marrakech and it's waves of royalty, migration, colonisation and commerce.
Exploring Marrakech's New City
This is where a lot of the night life, art galleries, boutique shopping and European influenced restaurants and bars are located. It's also where the French have had an influence on the architecture and the more liberal way of life in Marrakech compared to other cities in Morocco.
It's not going to make or break your Marrakech experience - but it's worth heading into Gueliz and the Majorelle area in the new city for a look around, some dinner and a breather from the crazy energy of the medina.
Or if you need to pick up supplies from the pharmacy, groceries or wine from the Carrefour supermarket, or clothes from the likes of H&M or Zara.
Look out for the flagship boutiques of local European and Moroccan brands Chabi Chic, Marie Bastide Studio, Some Slow Concept, Moro, Lalla Marrakech, Lrance and plenty of other new up and coming brands popping up.
Plus 61 - Aussie owned restaurant with modern shared plates and cocktails. Cassie the founder and Andrew the head chef from Sydney have created a beautiful dining experience that consistently earns it's spot amongst the top restaurants in the Menara region.
Petanque Social Club - the latest addition to Gueliz. Named after the Petanque games played here back in the days of the French. Previously a drinking hole for locals has been given a swish make over with a beautiful interior, tranquil garden setting and cocktail bar.
Yves Saint Laurent Museum - While this is at the top of all the travel blogs and Marrakech recommendations lists, I wouldn't say this is a must do in Marrakech. Unless you're into fashion and interested in YSLs fashion legacy you could give this a miss. If you are into it, it's fabulous.
Majorelle Gardens - The gorgeous iconic Yves Klein Blue coloured villa and cactus gardens. If you do visit make sure you pop into the Berber museum too for a history lesson in Berber crafts.
Le Grand Cafe De La Poste - colonial era French dining room in a beautiful art deco building. Turn up for apero on the breezy balcony in the early evening and watch the well trodden roll in for traditional French style dining.
Bloom House - A lovely new yoga studio and wellness centre in the new city with healthy breakfast bowls and fresh juices.
Relax In A Hamam Or Spa
If you're staying in a riad that offers in house hamam services - book it in for an early afternoon treat after a day in the souks.
But you'd like to make a booking to check out come of the spectacular spas and wellness experiences in the city there's a few I can recommend. You'll need a to book ahead and block out an afternoon or evening to get the full experience
Tarabel - this stunning riad hotel has a gorgeous day spa where you get to check out the stunning hotel courtyards too
Les Bains Du Lotus - a newer style spa with central swimming pool and tiled courtyard. One of the new breed of 'iImstagram friendly' spas popping up around Marrakech.
Heritage Spa - good value more traditional style hamam and spa with moody interior and older world feel.
La Mamounia - this iconic palatial hotel has a bath house and day spa can be combined with a swim in the hotel pool. Not the best spa treatment in the world... but worth visiting for the sneak peak at how the other half live when they visit Marrakech. Enjoy a walk around the cactus gardens and have a drink in the hotel bar while you're at it.
Where to Go For A Night Out In Marrakech
A night out in Marrakech can be seriously good fun. If you've got the stamina to keep going after a full day in the medina then there's a whole world of after-hours haunts, events and festivals to be found.
Barometre has the city's best and most creative cocktails in an intimate underground dining room
For a fancy dinner with live music shows and entertainment book a table upstairs at Comptoir Darna
For a dance and some awesome live music, soul singers and jazz bands head to Epicurien behind the Casino
And if you're still wanting to kick on after that...The Hivernage area is full of nightclubs and late night bars with DJs that close well into the early hours.
Where To Stay In Marrakech
My personal preference and advice is to stay in or close to the Dar El Bacha, Bab Doukala, Laksour and Mouassine neighbourhoods of the Medina.
I recommend this area for first time visitors for ease of walking everywhere in a short amount of time, bright and safe access to taxi points, and to be close to everything you'd want to visit.
Some beautiful accomodation options in these areas are:
Riad Helen - A sweet French owned guest house with just a few rooms so nice and relaxed
Riad Olema - A calming all white pallet over two large buildings with relaxing rooftop with day beds and plunge pools
Riad Be - for it's gloriously tiled courtyard and rooftop
Riad Le Limoun - mid range priced comfy riad with lovely fresh rooms and rooftop
Riad Jardin Secret - One of the originals of the new wave of interior design lead Marrakech riads
El Fenn - an upmarket stay for the hard-core interiors lovers, it's divine.
And plenty of other incredible riads, guest houses and locally hosted Air BnBs in these areas popping up all the time. Of course there are plenty of other great areas of the medina to stay that are perfectly safe, interesting and fabulous too.
Just keep in mind that many riads while beautiful to stay in, are located quite deep into the local neighbourhoods that are tricky to navigate. Especially if it's night time and you're on your own. So just check with your accomodation about walking distances to the main roads and taxi access before booking.
I have another article here that goes into a few more accomodation recommendations and riads that have featured in Nouvelle Nomad photo shoots.
Phew... I'm exhausted just from writing that list let alone fitting it all into 3 days...
So if you're heading to Marrakech this year like I hear so many of you are (Yay! I love to hear it!) I'd love to hear if this list has been helpful for you.
What else would you like to know about?
I've got a few other articles you may want to have a look through too
And of course if you're in Marrakech at the same time as me I'd love to hear from you! Always love meeting up and showing a fellow Aussie around town.