Marrakech has emerged as one of Morocco’s major financial and tourist centres fairly recently, experiencing exponential growth and making for an intense experience. The manic atmosphere, sights, sounds and smells can be overwhelming, but embrace them and you will fall in love with a city where it can seem like anything is possible.
Marrakech has become the go-to place in Morocco, beating out even Casablanca, and so getting there is very easy from anywhere. Direct flights, trains and buses all service the city regularly, among any other method you could imagine. Fancy transport by donkey? Anyways, we arrived in a car courtesy of our tour guide (see Merzouga blog), who dropped us off in the main square and tourist hub; Jemaa El Fna.
Flights from London Stansted with Ryan Air start from around 920MAD (£65) return, and probably get even cheaper if you time it right. It’s 17km from the airport to the Jemaa El Fna so you will need to jump in a taxi or wait for a bus to get into town. A petit taxi might set you back 80-120MAD (£5.50-£8.50) for the journey, and the number 19 bus will cost you 30 dirhams (£2.10) and stops in the main square.
Trains from Casablanca to Marrakech take 3.5 hours and cost around 140MAD (£10). If you are coming from Fez via train, you need to go via Casablanca anyway, and add five hours and another 100MAD (£7) to the cost.
Buses are widely available, but honestly, if your journey is longer than five hours on a bus, find another way. Domestic flights around Morocco aren’t expensive and will be much more comfortable. Unless you love extended unknown periods of time stuck in a sweaty, unpredictable box with no toilet.
Grand taxi is another option for getting to Marrakech, check out the taxi guide HERE.
Marrakech was our ‘cheap night’ since we only had the single night to spend in the city, so we booked the cheapest decent riad we could find close to the square. Again, Airbnb provided a wide range of options and we paid 405MAD (£29) for a double room. As always, you get what you pay for, but even at a low price our accommodation wasn’t bad, just a little musty. They of course had the obligatory roof terrace and breakfast included, so in our opinion it did the job and was a bargain ahead of two more expensive nights to follow.
I would say book close to the square to avoid getting lost on your way home, but maybe that’s your thing.
Hostels start from around 70MAD (£5) for a dorm room and 170MAD (£12) for a private.
Hotels/Riads start from 140MAD for a twin room, rise to around 350MAD (£25) for something decent, and can go as high as your budget. There is luxury in Marrakech.
The Jemaa El Fna square is famous around the world, and for good reason. A manic, otherworldly amalgamation of food, drink, arts, music, storytelling, begging, fire, snakes, monkeys, and people. A lot of people. Barely 30 seconds go by without being approached, haggled, heckled and sold to at every turn; this is an environment that requires your full attention. It’s almost like some scene from a film, anything goes, and you actually find yourself slightly thankful that no one is drinking booze (shock horror!). Aside from this, it is a one of a kind experience and you can be happy wandering in and out of the crowds taking in the sights. Just remember that if you stop and look/listen, you will be expected to pay. Always.
The main attraction here is the food stalls, lined up and bunched together at one end of the square. Great wafts of smoke decorate the night sky and enhance the party atmosphere, enticing you to try some local cuisine, and you definitely should. Choose a stall, take a seat and order anything and everything that takes your fancy, from grilled seafood and meats, to deep fried delights, breads, salads and more traditional fare like Harira (lentil/chickpea soup) which you can get for around 5MAD. Or £0.30.
The restaurants and cafes surrounding the square and attached streets are perfect places to grab a tea and people watch, or eat something more complex. Ask around for the hotel Tazi which has a bar that serves beer on their roof terrace with a great view, one of the only places in the city where you can get an adult drink.
You can spend a day wandering the markets and souks, visiting Mosques and cafés, and if you have time; visit Jardin Majorelle, a beautiful garden gifted to Marrakech by Yves Saint Laurent and home to his ashes. Admission to the garden is 70MAD (£5) and is well worth your time. Take a petit taxi to get there.
Marrakech for one night;
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