Marrakech is without a doubt a must-see on everyone’s Moroccan itinerary, but if you’ve traveled all the way to this North African country on holiday, chances are you’ve packed a couple of other destinations into your schedule. Luckily if you do it right, you can get a great taste of this cultural hub within a quick 2-day window, leaving you plenty of time to discover a different side of Morocco in say, Chefchaouen or the Sahara. Not sure what to do with your short time in this magical city? Read on for my suggestions of the experiences not to miss if you only have 48 hours in Marrakech.
STAY IN A TRADITIONAL RIAD
First thing’s first. You’ll need a place to stay during your time in Marrakech, and I can’t recommend booking a traditional riad enough for your first Moroccan experience.
A riad is a traditional house in Morocco that feels more like a boutique hotel and is built around a courtyard or garden, which acts as the focal point of the property.
We stayed at El Fenn, which is now one of my favorite hotels of all time, but other places that come highly recommended (and looked adorable during my research) are Riad BE, Riad Yasmine, Riad Jaaneman, Riad de Tarabel and Le Riad Berbere.
Staying at a riad inside the medina will give you easy access to most of the top things to do and see in Marrakech AND will save you money on taxis since you’ll be able to step outside your front door to explore.
Just make sure to schedule in some time for rest and relaxation at your riad of choice — most feature pools which you’ll definitely want to utilize to escape the heat!
GETTING LOST IN THE MEDINA
This is a non-negotiable. Make sure to shut down your offline Google Maps temporarily and just get lost (disclaimer: it’s not hard to do)!
The medina souks can feel like an endless entanglement of alleyways and shops as you stroll through the cobblestone streets, but I found that that was the fun in it all — not knowing exactly what was coming around the corner!
At any point if you start to actually feel lost (to a point where it’s causing you stress), just turn back on your Google Maps that you’ve saved offline before your trip and be on your merry way! Piece. Of. Cake. This is how we navigated around Marrakech the entire trip and it worked like a charm.
RELISH IN THE MOROCCAN TILEWORK AT BEN YOUSSEF MADRASA
If you’ve done any research on Marrakech, then you’ve undoubtedly seen pictures of this stunning madrasa that was once used as an Islamic college housing as many as 900 students!
Upon entrance into the building’s main courtyard, you’ll be blown away by the detailed tile work featuring colorful mosaics that create the most photogenic backdrops. Some of my most liked photos on Instagram are from this place, which I can’t take credit for at all because it’s just that stunning.
Pro tip: Make sure to take a tour of the upstairs portion of the building as well for unique viewpoints down into the courtyard.
The main square in Marrakech, Jemaa el-Fna, is where you’ll find the quirky characters of the old city — the snake charmers and henna scammers, dancers and medicine men…the list goes on.
This is a place to be visited both during the day and in the evening for a completely different experience — but always have your guard up. You can get scammed here easily if you partake in anything that is seemingly “free.”
If you watched any of my Instagram Stories during this trip, you probably saw my Story about Hannah from The Sunny Side of Things getting caught in a henna scam. Needless to say, she unwillingly ended up with an armful of black ink and was followed for 10 minutes while being begged for money.
You should always be aware of your surroundings while traveling in Morocco, but especially when visiting this area!
GET A HIGHER PERSPECTIVE
After you’ve experienced the chaos down on the streets of the medina with its rug hawkers and spice sellers, stray kittens and motorbikers, there’s nothing like retreating to a rooftop to take in the city from above. Here you’ll discover a peace and quiet you can’t quite find anywhere else.
My favorite place to do this during our stay was Nomad Cafe, which is a delicious lunch spot that features two levels of terraces. Make sure to take the extra set of stairs to the top terrace to get an incredible view of the city and the medina from above.
Jardin Majorelle is one of the only spots we left the medina for during our time in Marrakech, but it’s well worth the $5 taxi each way. Definitely go right when it opens if you want to escape the crowds as this is one of the most visited tourist attractions in all of Morocco and gets packed quickly.
Inside you’ll be met with a botanical oasis of over 300 different types of plant species including beautiful cacti, agave and bougainvillea.
The property was famously saved by Yves Saint Laurent in the ’80s from being destroyed and converted into a hotel — and thank God! It’s a gorgeous (and super colorful) sight to behold.
One of the most popular traditional Moroccan dishes is tagine — and it’s pretty much on every menu. Tagine is typically offered with several different options of meat or veggies, making it a safe bet for all different types of eating restrictions.
You’ll notice that tagines come served in a cone-like shaped earthenware dish, which is used to cook the dish over charcoal. I would personally describe tagine as a hearty stew with a higher concentration of delicious spices.
Done right, tagine can be intoxicatingly flavorful and give you that full 360 degree experience of sight, smell AND taste.
GO RUG SHOPPING
With only 48 hours in Marrakech, you need to set a few of those aside for rug shopping — even if you don’t end up bringing anything home. You literally can’t go ten feet in Marrakech without stumbling upon a shop selling beautiful rugs of all sizes, colors and patterns, and partaking in haggling is all part of the Moroccan experience.
I sadly had no room to bring one of these beauties home in my suitcase, but just having the pleasure of perusing these gorgeous handcrafted works was enough for me to know I’ll be back one day with my wallet ready!
Quick Tips for Rug Shopping in Marrakech:
- Never, ever accept the full price — start by haggling to as low as 2/3 of the original ask and go from there. About 50% of the original price is a good landing point!
- It is standard for shop owners to offer you mint tea as a welcome into their store, so don’t be alarmed or off-put by this gesture.
- Avoid carpet shopping during any guided tours as your guide is almost always getting a cut of the deal and therefore won’t have a better bargain in your best interest.
- You can find out if a rug is real wool with the fire test using a lighter. Synthetic materials will catch a flame, while a real wool rug will not.
- People often ask how much to expect to pay for a Moroccan rug, but that’s impossible to answer since there are so many variables that go into it like age, style and design. That’s why the most important thing is to shop around, do your research and haggle, haggle, haggle before finalizing your pick.
PARTAKE IN A TRADITIONAL HAMMAM
A Moroccan hammam is a traditional bathhouse/steam bath that has been an integral part of Moroccan culture for hundreds of years. Not until more recently in modern times did many homes in Morocco have their own showers, so the hammam was a place for communal bathing, not to mention a place for socializing.
These days, there are many luxury hammams that cater to tourists and this often includes a body scrubbing ritual which has puzzled many a visitor to the country. It’s all part of the experience, right?
I really wanted to partake in a traditional hammam, but sadly we didn’t have enough time to experience one for ourselves. It’s definitely something I won’t be missing next time I visit!