Prior to my trip to Marrakech, I spent hours online browsing the colorful pictures of the souks and luxurious photos of girls lounging at riads. Real Marrakech was much more intense than I had imagined in every sense.
Although I spent five days in Marrakech, I felt that three days in Marrakech was the perfect number of days to see the city without feeling overwhelmed. Keep reading for a laid-back itinerary with a slower pace for your long weekend trip to Morocco. This guide comes with a free map of things to do in Marrakech.
I’ve designed this three day itinerary for Marrakech to minimize walking and maximize relaxing in between sightseeing. The pace is slow, so you can linger over those delicious mint teas and delicious tajines. Warning: gratuitous cat photos ahead!
Day 1: Explore the Medina and the main sights of Marrakech
Land at Marrakech Menara Airport
It’s best to have Moroccan dirhams on you, so be sure to bring a little cash to exchange at one of the counters or use the ATMs just before you leave the airport. There is a local bus that goes between the city and the airport that comes every thirty minutes.
Don’t be discouraged by the taxis and it’s possible to get a fare for as low as MAD40 with some haggling skills. However, if you’re keen on getting into the city as quickly as possible, you can ask fellow travelers to share a taxi for the cost of bus fare (MAD30) per person with some haggling. More tips for negotiating taxis here.
Arrive at your hotel
Arriving at your hotel may be a bit more complicated than you realize. Most taxi drivers will leave you off at a few major stopping points outside of the Medina. We were dropped off outside of the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa. From there, you can hire someone to help you with your bags or to find your hotel. Although everyone tells me that it’s impossible to find an address within the Medina without a local guide, I did it successfully without any help.
Be sure to download Google Maps offline with the map of the Marrakech downloaded. You might not always see street signs, but you’ll see your live location. Your location is enough to help you navigate through the narrow alleyways of the historic Medina to find your hotel. I stayed at Riad Dar Mouassine, a budget riad with flair.
Explore the Medina
The Medina can be a bit overwhelming at times, but it’s a must to explore its narrow alleyways. Be aware that you should avoid taking photos unless you purchase something at a stall as it can get you into trouble as many Moroccans don’t want their photo taken without permission.
Avoid strangers who offer to show you around for “free.” They’re going to ask for something in return. That said, there’s no harm in looking and haggling if you love something. If you want to take photos, you’ll need to be quick and subtle, so I recommend not bringing your big DSLR as it will attract attention.
If you’re really set on buying something (e.g. a lamp ), use Google Maps to save the locations of the vendors you like rather than buying an item on the spot. I spent days looking at every stall that sold lights in Marrakech, but I ended up going to the original vendor for a high-quality Moroccan lamp that I visited as the quality was higher.
I ended up buying my lamp from Art Decor on Rue Sid El Yamani, Number 50 Mousassine. The lamp that I ended up buying was far more ornate, thicker, and well-priced than the ones that I had seen earlier in the Medina.
Stop for lunch/tea at NOMAD or Terrasse des épices
These favorite cafes of insta-darlings has a fantastic view over the heart of the Medina and well-priced food that is considered “Modern Moroccan.” The interior is gorgeous and the menu is suitable for vegans (as well as non-vegans). Although I can always drink mint tea, I enjoyed having a break from more traditional foods at NOMAD and Terrasse des épices.
Madrasa Ben Youssef [Closed until 2020 for renovations]
This former college dating back to the 16th century has stunning architecture as well as courtyards. It will be crowded, but it doesn’t dull the appeal. it’s best to visit Madrasa Ben Youssef towards the end of the day when the tour groups are done sightseeing.
Over 900 students lived at the college at its peak and the stunning tiles will transport you instantly to a different world. Even with going slowly, it should take a maximum of two hours to visit Ben Youssef. The pace for this three day itinerary is meant to be slow, so it might be nice to take it easy at a nearby cafe afterwards. Sadly, it’s closed until 2020 for renovations. 🙁
Dinner: Restaurant Kui-Zin Marrakech
This restaurant was a recommendation by someone that we met and the food was absolutely delicious. I especially enjoyed the tajine! The restaurant has a few friendly cats who come up to the table for a pet and the views from the rooftop just enhance the experience. Although this restaurant is in the middle of the Medina, the atmosphere is certainly part of it. There’s sometimes musicians.
End the night with a drink
Cafe Árabe is the perfect place to unwind after a day of shopping. This Western-style cafe in an old riad has a gorgeous atmosphere, reasonable prices, and delicious cocktails.
It’s the kind of place that you can sit for hours in sipping on a glass of wine. After the Medina, I ended up heading here multiple nights to relax. We saw a couple of people playing games at the tables, a great idea.
Day 2: Relax outside of the Medina
Getting outside of the main part of the Medina is essential if you’re going to stay sane in Marrakech as the hustle and bustle becomes too much sometimes. I absolutely loved visiting some other areas of Marrakech.
Although you’re still going to need to get return to the Medina at some point, a good massage makes a world of difference. Don’t be afraid to say hi to the many adorable kitties you’ll meet.
Lunch at Fox art food
This artist collective runs a cozy cafe in Marrakech with lunch food in a unique setting. You’ll have lots of tajine and I think that it’s nice to have something different while supporting the local artist community.
Pick one (or two): El Badi Palace, Bahia Palace, or Tombeaux Saadiens
El Badi Palace
El Badi Palace is surprisingly empty compared to many other tourist attractions in Marrakech. These palace ruins were commissioned in 1534, however the palace was stripped of most of its contents and walls. It’s still a massive site with some tiles and a few friendly kitties. I enjoyed imagining the history that took place there. You’ll probably spend 1-2 hours here.
The Saadian tombs were built in the late 1500s, however they were only discovered in 1917. The tombs are exquisite with intricate tiles and carved columns. I didn’t end up visiting the tombs as my parents were more keen on visiting the palace, but if you’re interested in traditional architecture, the tombs are a good bet.
Bahia Palace is an absolutely stunning building that shows off the opulence of modern day palaces. I think it’s actually interesting to visit both El Badi and Bahia Palace as it allows you to imagine what El Badi must have looked like prior to the palace falling into ruins. This ornate palace and gardens date back to the 1800s and the intricate woodwork really impressed me. The tour groups can be a bit intense here.
Les Bains de Marrakech
Definitely book a relaxing massage at Les Bains du Marrakech. Although this definitely falls under luxury travel, it was worth the splurge for the calming atmosphere and the gorgeous cut-outs within the interior.
I admit that I chickened out on doing the full hammam experience, but the massage was very relaxing. They use organic argan oil, which makes your skin super soft the next day. The little touches were great, including the mint tea and sweets served after the message.
Have dinner and spend the evening dancing at Cafe Clock
Someone tipped me off to Cafe Clock and I fell in love with this local cafe/gathering place for Moroccan youth and tourists alike. The food is phenomenally tasty, different, and affordable.
They feature local artists, musicians, and poets. (Check their events.) I was lucky enough to hear a group of talented female musicians and to dance along with a lively local crowd.
On the way, you’re likely to pass back through the craziness of Jemaa el-Fna at night. It’s a spectacle that one should definitely witness although it’s definitely stressful.
Be aware of yourself in this main square (especially at night) as
Day 3: A little sightseeing and relaxing
Start off your morning early at the Jardin Majorelle as this insta-favorite gets quite crowded later in the day. I was worried that the Majorelle would be overblown and just too crowded, but getting there early meant that we had the place to ourselves for a little while. The gardens are just absolutely beautiful and unique.
We walked there through a local market, but many people choose to take a taxi there from the Medina area. They have a cafe within a picturesque part of the garden with some adorable cats, so you can have a tasteful lunch in a beautiful setting if you’re down for a little bit of a splurge.
Dinner/Lunch at a riad (or your riad)
If you haven’t had the chance yet, be sure to book a lunch or dinner at one of the riads in the area. Unlike at restaurants,you’re likely to try home cooking.
Check a local blogger, MarocMama, for more tips for eating in Marrakech. If you’re wondering where the insta-darlings are taking their gorgeous photo, they’re often going to riads for a lunch prior to taking a photo in the lobbies of the riads. Click for the instagram guide to Marrakech.
Last minute shopping in Marrakech Medina
Although you might be tempted to buy all your Moroccan souvenirs on the first day, you’re best leaving
I ended up purchasing a handmade leather cushion and a beautiful bronze lamp. My husband ended up purchasing two traditional Moroccan instruments.