For too long now I have wanted to lose myself in the sights, sounds and smells of Marrakech. From meandering the labyrinth of narrow streets and souks while dodging speeding mopeds and donkey drawn carts, to relaxing with a refreshing glass of mint tea while sampling some delicious local delicacies, and taking in the aromatic aromas from the souks. Marrakech, the ‘Red City’ is a melting pot of cultures, cuisines and traditions, and for too long it has languished on my to-do list. The time had come to put a change to that and book a Marrakech city break.
Getting to your Marrakech City Break
Getting to Marrakech couldn’t be easier, with a range of direct flights from London with British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair there is plenty of airline choice, as well as days and times to suit all requirements. I booked my trip as a package deal that included flights and accommodation directly with British Airways. British Airways offers 3 night Marrakech city break packages from as little as £131 per person.
Somewhere to Stay
Once I had decided to book my Marrakech city break I spent some time searching online for somewhere to stay. I wanted to be quite central, ideally within the medina, and I also wanted to stay in a traditional Riad. A Riad is the traditional Moroccan home of the more wealthy citizens, usually built on two or more floors which surround an Andalusian-style courtyard, commonly containing a fountain or water feature. After a lot of searching I came across a very traditionally decorated Riad with just four beautiful, but unique rooms. When I found Riad Dar Zaman I knew at once that this was the perfect place to stay for my Marrakech city break.
Great Places to Eat and Drink
La Jardin is located about a 5 minute walk from Djemaa El-Fnaa. Le Jardin is mainly an outdoor restaurant where you can eat in the lush green courtyard, or choose one of the small intimate inside rooms, or just relax on one of their sun drenched roof terraces. I choose one of the roof terraces as it was such a lovely day. They have an extensive menu of traditional Moroccan dishes such as tagines and couscous, as well as salads and a Moroccan delicacy, pigeon pie. I started with pigeon pie and an assortment of Moroccan salads, followed by a traditional couscous dish, washed down with a cool refreshing Mojito. Although Le Jardin is one of Marrakech’s top restaurants, the prices are very reasonable.
Also located just a 5 minute walk from Djemaa El-Fnaa is Café Arabe. Café Arabe is spread out over a three floors of an elegant, yet traditionally decorated building. You can visit Café Arabe for a meal, or just a drink. I just visited for a pre-dinner drink and I’m glad I did as their cocktails were fantastic. I started with my usual Long Island ice tea, but then decided to try something different, a brandy based cocktail called a sidecar. I can’t comment on their food, but from what I saw it looked delicious. This place comes very highly recommended for drinks while in Marrakech, a great location, and very reasonably priced drinks.
Café Des Épices
Café Des Épices is located on the side of the main spice market, about a 2-3 minute walk from Djemaa El-Fnaa. You can come here for just a drink and snack, or for a meal if you wish. I enjoyed a delicious meat and sardine tagine here one evening, while sitting on their rooftop terrace absorbing the bustling atmosphere in the spice market below. The food here was very good, and the prices here were very low indeed.
Food Markets in Djemaa El-Fnaa
While in Marrakech everyone will tell you that you should spend an evening wandering the 200+ food stalls in Djemaa El-Fnaa, which open for business every evening. This was an absolute must on my to-do list, and should be for every Marrakech city break. The smells from the stalls are enough to tantalise everyone’s taste buds, but what do you pick with all this choice? The staff in our Riad suggested a few stalls to try, so I tried these, but I also picked a few others as their food looked simply divine. From kebabs and couscous dishes, to fresh seafood and even snails. There really is such a range of dishes to try, all prepared freshly in front of you. You can eat like a king in the markets for very little cost, and the food will definitely not disappoint.
Located on the edge of Djemaa El-Fnaa, Le Marrakchi is a fantastic location for an evening meal. With stunning panoramic views spanning the square and beyond, you can soak up the atmosphere from the comfort of your table. Le Marrakchi has a wide range of foods from couscous dishes and tagines, to kebabs and also some lighter dishes. They are also one of the only restaurants around the square which serve alcohol. I enjoyed some beautiful kebabs here on my last night in Marrakech, along with a couple of cocktails, we even watched a traditional belly dancing show after our meal. To finish your meal you can enjoy a Sheesha if you want! The food here is extremely good value for money, given its excellent location right on the side of the main square.
See and Do Marrakech
Cooking Course at Riad
From when I first checked out our Riad online I noticed that for €50pp they offered traditional Moroccan cooking classes. I just knew I had to do this during my stay. I decided to do this on the last day as I needed to be at the airport early afternoon so it would work out perfectly. After breakfast, Peter, the Riad owner took us on a tour of the local markets where all the ingredients for the recipes are sourced. He also showed us the local community bakery where for 1Dh you can drop off your dough in the morning and the baker will bake your bread for you.
Upon returning to the Riad, Karima and Hassan first teach you how to prepare a trio of Moroccan salads, followed by a tagine for the main course, and then a delicious refreshing orange dessert. After the cooking course Hassan also teaches you how to prepare the perfect cup of mint tea. The cooking course takes place in the kitchen and courtyard of the Riad, and I must say it was one of the highlights of the trip
Majorelle Gardens & Berber Museum
Just a short 10 minute walk outside of the medina are the Majorelle Gardens, and Berber museum, which includes the Yves Saint Laurent memorial. These beautiful botanical gardens are a haven of peace and tranquility and you will forget you are in Marrakech when you are deep in the heart of the gardens. The wonderful art-deco buildings in the gardens are decorated in a stunning vivid blue, with contrasting yellow. Entry to the gardens and museum is 100Dh per person and worth it for a relaxing trip away from the hustle and bustle of the medina. The Berber museum is also an interesting insight to the Berber people, and their way of life.
Maison de la Photographie de Marrakech
A wonderful little gem in Marrakech is the Maison de la Photographie. Located in the heart of the medina this converted Riad is home to three floors full of photographs taken from when cameras were first invented until now, showing Marrakech, as well as Morocco in general. For the small fee of 40Dh it’s worth visiting for an hour or so to see how Marrakech and its inhabitants have changed and progressed over the years.
Souks and Main Square
One thing that should be on the top of everyone’s list on a Marrakech city break is a visit, or two, to the main square (Djemaa El-Fnaa), and also the souks that surround the square. If you visit Djemaa El-Fnaa during the day you will see people with monkeys, and also snake charmers. Visit by night and you will be spoilt for choice with 200 or more stalls serving up delicious Moroccan treats. If you want to try your hand at bartering then visit the souks near the main square full of so many treasures from leather goods, textiles and silverware, to wooden items, spices and much more. First ask a price and then counter them with your offer. There is a fine art to it and you want to aim at offering them about a third of what they originally ask for, then after a few minutes you will end up about midway and agree your price. Once you get the hang of it your purchases will seem better and better!
For Another Time
Even though I enjoyed my three night break in Marrakech, this just wasn’t long enough as there was so much that I didn’t get to see or do. On my next visit I would like to visit the Koutoubia Mosque and minaret, and have dinner at Nomad restaurant – as I had been recommended to eat there but just simply ran out of time. I would also like to take a trip to the Atlas Mountains and visit the Berber villages.