(with 15 Ideas for a 2-Day Marrakech Travel Itinerary)
What is the best way to describe Marrakech in Morocco? This city is a blend of European, African, and Middle Eastern charm. This is a love-it or leave-it location, with no compromises in between. To give you a spoiler of how everything is in the city, you will probably forget about the “What to do in Marrakech?” question as soon as you step into its medina.
Why Travel to Marrakech?
On the very first day that we went inside through one of many of the city’s gates, we got lost. Constantly being lost is just something we accepted as we were making our way through this and other old cities of Morocco. (The most merciful out of all of them was probably Essaouira, a travel itinerary for which we have also shared).
The very first acquaintance we made was with a traveler from Australia. We were looking for an ATM. She was loading up a dray with everything she said she haggled and bought over the last two weeks that she spent in Marrakech. She was happy. We were on alert, dodging all the motorbikes rushing towards us, while at the same time trying to overhear all the useful information this girl was sharing with us.
On that very first morning, we went into the medina to follow the Marrakech must-do list (at least 10 items on it, of course). But we took the wrong turn. Found a street vendor with ripe and sweet prickly pears, which we ate right there, by the cart. Stumbled upon a small courtyard with the artisan lanterns. Made an acquaintance with the owner of the shop, and chatted for at least 40 minutes. Then got caught in the numerous turns of the souks…
….and remembered about our plan only in the evening.
By that time, we were sitting on one of many terraces of Jemaa el-Fna, sipping on the mint tea, and digesting the day. If there is at least one reason why travel to Marrakech, it is this – the city is full of life. And this life is exciting. So, here are some ideas on how to plan this life while in the Red City.
1. What To Do in Marrakech: Start with Some Orange Juice
During our stay in Morocco, our go-to joke was that we will end up building an underground tunnel with a pipe leading straight to Ukraine to get our daily portion of fresh, cold, and sweet Moroccan orange juice.
It won’t be hard finding it in Marrakech. The street vendors on every corner will offer it. Most of them will use juicers. However, on some of the quieter streets of Marrakech, older vendors will squeeze out the juice almost manually.
But wherever you go, you can be sure that the juice will be delicious. It is dirt-cheap, too, between 0.8 cents to 1 US dollar.
2. Be Patient. And Get in Line to the Saadian Tombs
The entrance to the Saadian Tombs is somewhat tricky to find. The navigator will lead you to the Kasbah Mosque, and from there on, just follow the flow of tourists. You will see that the people head to a small gate south of the main entrance. A narrow route squeezed between the two walls will lead you into the royal necropolis.
Tip: The entrance fee to the Saadian Tombs is 8 USD. Opening hours are Monday to Sunday, from 9 am to 5 pm.
Travelers share mixed reviews online whether this place is worth the time. Some say that a 45-minute queue under the sun is frustrating and it is better to prioritize in favor of the other activities in the 2 days in Marrakech itinerary. Others admire the colors and architecture of the royal burial site and say that this is an unforgettable experience.
What we can say with the utmost certainty is that you should definitely schedule a visit early in the morning. The line is real. A bottle of water, a hat, and sunscreen are a must. A guided tour is probably a good idea because the place is so rich in history. So while you’re standing in line waiting to have a quick look inside the main room with the tombs, why not spend this time with value?
The tombs are truly impressive. Sultan Ahmed el Mansour did an outstanding job of turning a burial site into the work of art to honor and celebrate the lives of the members of his family. The mausoleums display decorations in imported Italian marble. The abundance of mosaic and colorful patterns surprises and impresses. In addition to the main mausoleum, the site also has a garden with tombs of other prominent figures of the Saadian era.
3. Put the Bahia Palace on Your Marrakech-What-to-Do List
This palace has a long and rich history. Initially, the two generations of the Grand Viziers were the sponsors of the construction site. The intention of these men was to build the lush and glorious palace-garden that would become the greatest one in its times.
As it usually goes, the palace did not remain in the hands of one family. It changed several masters and went through a chain of dramatic events. Today, the royal family may occasionally attend Bahia Palace, but most frequently, there will be tourists in its halls and courtyards.
Tip: Entrance to the Bahia Palace costs around 7 USD. Visitation hours are from 8 am to 5 pm daily.
The rooms of the palace are mostly empty, and there is almost no original furniture left, but the site itself survived the tests of time. It is well-preserved, with its bright courtyards and the lush gardens. Among some of the rooms opened for visitation, you will be able to see the chambers where the wives and concubines lived. These are a display of carved cedarwood, quaint mosaic patterns, and skilled decorator’s work.
4. Treat Yourself to Some Mint Tea
In Marrakech, time stops for mint tea. We discovered that many roofs of the city have open terraces. And that there is nothing better than to escape the loud and hectic life of the city under the shadow of a canopy atop any of such buildings and to have some mint tea.
There is an entire process of serving tea in this country. Green tea is a base, and added to it are fresh mint leaves, as well as sugar.
Pay attention to how the tea will be blended in front of you. Whoever brings it, will lift the teapot high above the tray, pouring the liquid vigorously inside the small glass. Then, that glass will be tipped back into the teapot, and the process will be repeated. This is both a tradition of hospitality, as well as a way to properly mix the tea.
Tip: One of our most favorite terraces to head to for tea (apart from Jemaa el-Fna), was the Kasbah Cafe opposite the Saadian Tombs.
This vigorous blending results in a glass of tea with a foam. Drink it slowly, while enjoying the well-deserved rest after an active morning.
5. Master The Art of Haggling in One of Many Souks of Marrakech
Overwhelming, but enjoyable – this is what most of us think when returning from the souks, an absolute must-do on a Marrakech travel and leisure list. What can be better than scouting for artisan shops and small vendors with unique ceramics, fabrics, or other goods in the busy trade center of the Red City? Believe it or not, but by the end of our three-day trip to Marrakech we even figured out a way to get in and out without being lost somewhere in the middle.
Just as in any other Moroccan town, here the souks originally received names by the main commodities that the vendors were selling. Not much has changed since.
The list of souks includes, among others:
- Souk Semmarine, which specializes mostly in fabrics.
- A go-to place to shop for lanterns and metal-based products: cutlery, lamps, and mirrors is Souk el Attarine.
- Souk des Bijoutiers, as one might guess from the name, is perfect for jewelry-shopping.
- Head to Souk Cherratin for everything leather-related.
And wherever you go, do not be afraid to haggle. Haggling is as much an art, as it is a witty conversation. In our experience, it worked the best way to immediately name 60% off the stated price, and to then meet somewhere in the middle, while exchanging thoughts about the weather, country, and travel plans.
6. Stop by a Street Vendor to Have Some Prickly Pears
This is a one-of-a-kind experience. We strongly recommend to not look for a shop or a big vendor and to simply stop by any of the small and simple carts.
Most likely, its owner will not speak any foreign language. But with a cart filled with only the recommended fruit, it should not be a problem to explain what it is exactly that you want, and what is the quantity.
The seller cleans and cuts the fruit right there, in front of you. We ate ours while still standing by the cart, with juice from those prickly pears running down our arms and to our elbows. The sweetest part is, the seller will then offer you some water from a small bottle to rinse your hands.
7. Rest In the Shadows of Le Jardin Secret
Le Jardin Secret is a perfect contrast to the loud, dusty, and fumed streets of the medina. The garden can be easily missed as from the outside it looks very simple and inconspicuous. Hiding behind the walls, though, is a green oasis of tranquility that deserves a spot on the 2 days in Marrakech itinerary.
This is a big and lush garden in the center of the town, and an absolute highlight of the Marrakech to do list. There are two parts to the garden. The first one is the Persian Paradise garden, with its olive, pomegranate, and fig trees. When walking through the second part of the garden, you will be able to enjoy all sorts of exotic plants.
In addition to the gardens, the territory also has exhibitions of photography, fountains, and an old Hamman.
The entrance fee is 6 USD. The gardens welcome visitors daily, from 9:30 am to 19:30 pm.
8. Dress Up for the Museum of Yves Saint-Laurent
This is the main reason why thousands travel to Marrakech every year. A short tuk-tuk or cab ride away from the medina is this sanctuary of fashion. Not only are its expositions worth visiting, but most of the visitors themselves are worthy of being mentioned.
Never in my life have I seen such an elegant crowd in a museum (this does not necessarily mean that my museum experience is big)! True fans of fashion find that the best way to pay their respects to the maestro is by cleaning up nicely. Long dresses with trains, long gloves, elegant jackets – you name it.
No worries, you do not need to pull out your tuxedo or a gown to visit the museum. There will be plenty of visitors who believe in casual as much as most of us do.
The exhibition itself consists of some of the most iconic designer dresses and accessories, as well as displays videos from runways. The building also has a small movie theater where you can watch a documentary. At the end of the exposition, there is a small souvenir shop. Some of my most favorite ever travel postcards are from there.
These are replicas of the “Love Series”. Each December, Yives Saint-Laurent drew custom Love-themed card with a year and an original pattern and sent its replicas to his friends, partners, and clients. The hardest thing about these postcards is to know when to stop when adding all these colorful pieces of the carton to the shopping cart.
9. Spend Your Afternoon at Jardin Majorelle
Next to the museum of Yives Saint-Laurent are the famous gardens of Majorelle. They were founded back in 1923 by the artist Jacques Majorelle. Many years later, the French designer and his partner, Pierre Berge, restored the gardens.
Today, it is a stunning oasis of lush greens in the heart of the city. Standing in the center of the gardens is the iconic cobalt-blue house, where the designer couple lived. Adjacent to the house is the Berber Museum, which we found very interesting. Its entrance fee is included in the price of the ticket.
Another place worthy of mentioning in these gardens is Cafe Majorelle, which has tables outside, as well as inside. Here, they serve the all-time favorite mint tea, as well as lunch and sweets.
10. What to do in Marrakech? Pay a visit to the Koutoubia Mosque
Rising over Jemaa el-Fna is the main 253-foot-tall minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque. This location is definitely one of the most recognizable in the Red City. The mosque dates back to the 12th century.
Non-Muslims will not be allowed inside the mosque, but the plaza and gardens are available for visitations and are free of charge.
11. Trade Downtown for Tranquil Menara Gardens
While all of the gardens mentioned earlier in this post can most likely be labeled as touristic, the Menara Gardens are where the locals usually go. This may be a bit of a stretch is you are simply looking for what to do in Marrakech in 2 days (as there’s enough to do in the medina), but it is also a great way to diversify the city experience.
There are almost 4 kilometers of routes in the Menara Gardens. Locals come here to relax by the water, for an enjoyable stroll, or cycling, jogging, and other activities.
12. Explore The El Badi Palace Ruins
The Saadian dynasty left a significant footprint on the city. The El Badi Palace is one of the recommended locations in a Marrakech day trip. Once a beautiful palace and fortification, it had more than 300 rooms, stables, pools, and so much more.
All that is left of former riches today is the walls, the fundament, and the remains of the courtyard. All of these elements provide a glimpse of what was once the incomparable palace, and these walls still allow feeling the grandeur of and splendor of the city’s past.
The palace also offers a beautiful view of Marrakech from its ramparts.
Tip: The entrance fee to the El Badi Palace is 1 USD. The opening hours are from 9 am to 5 pm.
13. Have Tajine for Dinner…
…(and also for breakfast and lunch).
Tajine is as authentic as the food experience gets in Morocco. Food, be it meat, fish, or veggies with couscous, is slowly cooked with spices in a cone-shaped clay dish. It is served hot. During our stay, we tried most of the variations. My companions particularly enjoyed chicken in spices and lemon, while I remain loyal to veggies.
Tip: One of the best places to have delicious tajine at in Marrakech is Al Fassia.
14. Spend Your Evening on Jemaa el-Fna
The main square of Marrakech, it is inevitable on your route as you cross the city from one attraction to another on your 2 days in Marrakech itinerary. It is busy during the daytime. By evening… it gets even busier. Entertainers, vendors, tourists, and charlatans all meet here. Speaking of charlatans, these are, unfortunately, part of the Moroccan experience, and we cover possible scam, as well as other things to know before you go, in the Marrakech Travel Advice Guide.
By evening, the square is absolutely beautiful, as well as magical, due to hundreds of lights. The best way to spend the evening is sipping on tea on one of many terraces around Jemaa el-Fna while observing the busy nightlife.
15. What to Do Near Marrakech? Escape to Ourika Valley
We first heard about Ourika Valley from our Airbnb host. By then, we spent two eventful days in the busy city and were happy to flee its hustle and bustle for a day.
The Valley is an hour’s drive from the city. back in the days, this was, most probably, a wonderful place to witness traditional Berber life. Today, however, most of the experience is staged. But even so, cafes set in the middle of the stream will leave an unforgettable impression.
The true journey begins somewhere in Setti-Fatma village. You can park the car and begin your hike to the Ourika Waterfalls. The hike is quite complex, with a steep ascent. There is a part of the route, closer to the waterfall, where you will need to move in a squatting position while holding on to the safety cable.
You may follow the tourists and head up to the waterfalls without a guide. There will be plenty of them, insistently offering their services and sometimes even simply running in front of you, “showing the way”. There is also no harm in hiring a guide if you feel like you might need a hand closer to the top. In this case, it is better to agree on the price beforehand – this is something they won’t enjoy doing, as usual, the guides prefer to first provide services and then demand a higher fee.
In our opinion, the trip is well worth it. The valley is beautiful, the climb to the waterfalls is exciting, and there are lots of viewpoints and places worthy of sightseeing on the way to the valley.
Written by Inessa Rezanova
I am a Kyiv-based screenwriter with 10+ years of experience in producing scripts. I love my job, and no, I did not quit it to travel the world. I see different countries in my spare time. As a storyteller, I believe that it is the emotional journey that matters the most. This is why together with my sister I started this blog to encourage everyone to travel and to do so with a heart and mind opened to adventures.
Images by Natalie Rezanova
I am a photographer based in Kyiv, Ukraine. I am lucky to be able to do what I love the most for a living. Photography is an endless source of inspiration for me. My mission on this blog is to inspire by sharing some of the favorite captions from my journeys. I also provide professional photography tips to help the readers bring home some beautiful photo memories.