The Only Marrakech Travel Guide You Need to Read
Marrakech is one of the most magical places you will ever visit. Bursting with color, history, and a welcoming population, the eclectic city has been a muse for creative talent from around the world. Rock royalty The Rolling Stones, fashion empress Tory Burch, and iconic designer Yves Saint Laurent are some of the few who have traveled to (and sometimes never left) Marrakech. We’ve put together an insider’s guide so you can enjoy this glamorous jewel of a city as much as legends past.
First things first, before you arrive, be sure to have your hotel arrange airport transfer for you. Cabs are available, but after a long flight, the last thing you want to do is negotiate with a foreign driver. Definitely withdraw dirham from the airport. In Morocco, cash is key, and you don’t want to be left asking locals where the nearest ATM is. Most often they will demand payment for their assistance. FYI, the conversion rate is little over three and a half dirham to one dollar, and you’re going to need a lot of small bills to shop at the souk! We recommend spending time in both the luxurious, calm palm grove known as the Palmeraie as well as the bustling maze of streets in the Medina, or “old city.”
What: Known as “the Beverly Hills of Morocco,” the Palmeraie is an expansive, dry palm grove, home to most of the luxurious, private hotels in Marrakech. One such hotel is Le Doux Tours Palmeraie. This colorful jewel offers a relaxing refuge, quite similar to a Palm Springs getaway, but definitely kicked up a notch in terms of elaborate décor.
Who: Riad el Fenn
What: Nestled in the heart of the Moroccan medina, this seductive retreat used to be an actual palace. In 2004, Richard Branson’s sister Vanessa Branson opened her eponymous art gallery in the space and helped redesign the interiors. The result? An eclectic blend of old-school Moroccan charm and contemporary art.
Who: La Mamounia
What: You may recognize La Mamounia from Poppy Delevingne’s gorgeous wedding Instagrams. But this Moroccan palace is even more exquisite in person—definitely one of the most enchanting places we’ve ever seen. Its grand architecture is decorated with the richest of detail, and somehow the magnificent retreat feels expansive and intimate at the same time. While the dining and spa services are on the pricier side, they are outstanding. If you’re going to splurge on one thing while in Morocco, let it be the classic Hammam at Spa la Mamounia. This archaic treatment involves being scrubbed with Moroccan black soap and wrapped in mineral clay before a heavenly massage.
Who: Dar Yacout
What: Tucked away in a secluded area of the Medina, Dar Yacout is like the Garden of Eden, complete with white linen tablecloths, candlelight, and outstanding service. It’s also Calvin Klein’s favorite restaurant. Be sure to make a reservation in advance, as this gorgeous dinner favorite is pretty selective with its seating plan. When you arrive, a host in traditional Moroccan dress will greet you at an unmarked intersection and guide you through the maze of cobblestones until you uncover the garden that is Dar Yacout. Get excited for one of the most memorable nights of your life.
Who: Le Tobsil
What: Reservations are also recommended for this pre-set dining experience. Le Tobsil is also hidden in the dark streets of the Medina, but this two-story restaurant is as glamorous as can be. The two-story restaurant resides in a former palace, and the head chef, Fatima Mountassamim, is known for having the most traditional Moroccan fare.
What: You don’t need to make a reservation for this alfresco dining experience. Grand Café de la Poste is a favorite for locals and expats, so your ears will be ringing with an exotic whirlwind of accents. Having lunch en plein air in this French-Moroccan eatery makes you feel like you’ve gone back to the days of Hemingway. Linger until dusk, as this is the best place for an aperitif before your night begins.
Who: The Jardin Majorelle
What: The garden was originally planted by the French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1930s, but Yves Saint Laurent made it his own when he moved to Marrakech in 1980. You can understand how Laurent used the majestic oasis as inspiration for many of his iconic designs. A stroll through the gardens takes about one to two hours, depending on how leisurely you stroll. Unfortunately, Laurent’s home and studio are not open to the public, but his lush, vibrant garden is more than worth the trip.
Who: Shop the Souks
What: You’ll covet things you never knew existed before your visit. Bronze rhinoceroses, embroidered pointy-toe slippers called babouches, silk rugs—no surface is left uncovered. Rather, there are piles upon piles of glistening Moroccan wedding blankets, tapestries, rugs, and barrels upon barrels of spices. The leather goods are also a steal, especially if you find a pouf that works with your décor at home. Just beware of faux treated leather. Always give your picks the sniff test before making the purchase.
What: The chic, one-of-a-kind boutique opened by legendary personal shopper Laetitia Trouillet (Sarah Jessica Parker and Gwyneth Paltrow have her on speed dial). Originally from Bordeaux, Trouillet lived in London before finding her home in Marrakech. Her worldly history is evident in her excellent vintage collection. Visiting Lalla is an absolute must.
In Marrakech, Friday is their Sunday, so everything is closed. Never, ever ask a taxi driver “How much?” Always suggest an amount before they can give you a number. Really, any ride within the city shouldn’t cost more than $10. Rug shopping (or just looking) is something you definitely have to do while in this epic city. But never purchase one for more than a third of the original asking price. And shipping back to the U.S. is relatively easy and should only cost $100 to $200. Marrakech is a beautiful place filled with beautiful people. Make sure you respect their culture by watching those hemlines and deep V-necks. And, most importantly, bring a camera (or at least make sure you have a good adapter to charge your phone). This is a trip you’re going to want to remember!
Are you ready to book your tickets yet? If you've been to Marrakech before, share your tips for the ultimate experience.