Three days in Marrakesh. This is the average most travelers manage to spend in the Red City. Whether you’re coming for work or pleasure, it’s almost impossible to not spend at least a couple of nights in Marrakesh. And for good reason! Marrakesh is a delight, a feast for the eyes as well as all your other senses. It’s familiar and exotic. Decadent and humble. Rustic and opulent. And it manages to be all these things, and much more, all at once. It’s a place that has to be seen to be believed. For whatever reason, two nights seems to be the magical number to spend in Marrakesh.
Whatever the reason, it seems inevitable that most people end up with just three days in Marrakesh. With so many restaurants to choose from and attractions to see, it’s difficult to figure out how to pack it all in! That’s where this little blog post comes in. Here is an outline of what we suggest to squeeze the absolute most from what Marrakesh has to offer.
Your First Day in Marrakesh
First things first, you’ll want to settle on accommodation. There is something to be said about the all-inclusive resorts largely located in the Hivernage neighborhood outside of the old medina, but we encourage you to travel more sustainably and consider one of the many riads (traditional Moroccan homes) that have been transformed into cozy, architecturally wonderful little boutique hotels. Not only will service be extremely personalized, but you’ll have a chance to get a real feel for what living in the old city is like. There are options at all price levels, though if you’re going to splurge, this is definitely one place to strongly consider. The nicer riads rival, and often out-shine, local five-star hotels.
Most people arrive in the late afternoon, whether you’re arriving by plane, train or automobile. Plan on being greeted at your accommodation with a sweet Moroccan mint tea. Settle in and then head out to explore the neighborhood. This is a good time to find your way to the Djemma el-Fna, take in the festivities just as the sun is setting, and then head back to your accommodation for a splendidly prepared dinner that is as close to home cooking as you’ll find in Morocco! Just make sure to request dinner the day before, if not earlier, as the chef will prepare your dinner from seasonal ingredients found in the local markets. If the weather holds (which is amazingly usually does), dine on the rooftop. Plan on a slow, easy dinner that will leave you nice and drowsy… just the perfect thing to lull you into a cozy sleep in your Marrakesh home.
Your Second Day in Marrakesh
After a good night of sleep, you’ll wake up to a Moroccan-style breakfast. Fresh-squeezed orange juice will undoubtedly accompany some Moroccan crepes and copious amounts of breakfast pastries. Don’t feel guilty about filling up on all those carbs. You’ll need them today! More than anything else, Marrakesh is a walking city… and you are going to get your steps in today.
Around 9:30am, you’ll meet your guide. Just so you know, in Marrakesh you can find both private guided tours and group tours. Private guided tours, like those offered by Journey Beyond Travel, offer you a chance to have an experience that is more customized to your interests. It also allows you better access to ask questions of your guide and you’ll be able to go at a pace that is best suited for you. That said, groups tours, like those offered by outfits like Marrakesh by Locals, can be a lot of fun! It can be a good chance to meet other travelers who share similar interests.
Anyway you look at it, a guided tour is the best way to cover the most ground in a short amount of time, while also getting historic and cultural information along the way! Your guide will expertly navigate you through the confusing maze of medina streets, all the while telling you stories of the neighborhoods and the various sites. A great way to begin a tour is to start at a popular destination, like the Saadian Tombs, before the lines get too long. Afterward, you can tour the streets of the Mellah (the old Jewish neighborhood) and visit the ornate Bahia Palace.
Amazingly, you’ll have worked up an appetite. Make your way to the other side of the medina, across the Djemma el-Fna and duck into Nomad for lunch. With its cycle of “guest chefs” that have been cooking up some delicious eats since 2014, it’s no wonder it is on every foodies “must dine” list. Lunch is a great way to pop in for a sampling of Moroccan fusion food that can be lighter on the tummy (and the waistline) than some other fare scattered through the old city. The emphasis here is on fresh local produce. There are numerous options for vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and voracious carnivores, all tucked into deceivingly simple modern Moroccan cuisine and a few select international dishes served with a local twist.
Afterward, you’ll continue your tour of Marrakesh. It makes a lot of sense to stop into the Medersa Ben Youssef, originally built during the Almoravid period. You can also consider stopping into the Marrakesh Museum next door. You could also consider popping into Dar Bellarj (literally, “Stork House”), a beautifully restored animal clinic that now serves as a business front for local artisans. The Maison de la Photographie in this area houses mostly black & white photos of Morocco and changes its theme every three months while the newly opened Perfume Museum and Women’s Museum also make for very interesting stops to understand more about the culture and people of the region.
If you the sights and sounds get a bit too much, duck into the Secret Garden to discover the charm of Islamic gardens and, thankfully, a bit of quiet.
Before dinner, you’ll want to head back to your riad, freshen up, and likely relax for a bit… maybe with another one of those mint teas. Just remember to reserve your table at Ksar Essaoussan for dinner! Succulent Moroccan tagines in an incredibly authentic, noble vision of what Moroccan fine dining can look like. Though you’ll likely want to take a digestive walk back to your riad, feel free to contact either your riad or restaurant staff to help you navigate your way back. If energy allows, you could consider a night cap at the world-famous Churchill Bar in the Mamounia Palace. It’s a good idea to book a table here ahead of time, though often times you can sneak in for a drink without reservations without issue.
Your Third Day in Marrakesh
Wait! Your three days in Marrakesh are already coming to a close?!?! That’s impossible! There’s still so much to see and do!
If you’re smart, you’ve not booked your departure until later this afternoon, giving yourself a bit of time this morning to dive into the souks for some bartering. Nibble on a bite at your riad and guzzle down that orange juice before darting out. You’ll want to give yourself at least a couple of hours for shopping. It might help to read up a bit on how shopping in Moroccan souks works. If you can, consider getting to a reputable coop, such as the Amal Center. This can ensure that women producing the good get their fair share of the proceeds and goes to help a sustainable economy, in general.
If you were really smart, you’d probably just make sure you had one more day in Marrakesh. There are a lot of good reasons for this. With the rising popularity of the Red City, as a destination, many of the nicest boutique hotels are requiring 3-day minimum stays. That one extra night means you could hopefully find lodging at some of the choicest accommodations in all of North Africa! This also would leave you more room to explore the palm groves on the Russian sidecar motorcycle tour, take a fun street food tour that winds through the old city, and even find time to relax for a Moroccan spa treatment in a local hammam. This is to say nothing of the various gardens, museums, restaurants, cooking courses and more that await!
No matter how many days you end up with in Marrakesh, there is only one thing for certain: You’ll leave wishing you had more!
About the Author
Written by Morocco expert, award-winning author and photographer Lucas Peters. Lucas has spent over a decade traveling Morocco. He is the writer and photographer of the popular guidebook Moon Morocco as well as the editor of our award-winning blog. He lives in Tangier with his wife and family.