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  • Writer's pictureLes sources berbères Riad & Spa Maison d'hôtes

First Time in Marrakech Activities

Updated: May 25, 2023

Marrakech skyline with snow-capped Atlas Mountains in the background
Marrakech skyline with a view of the Atlas Mountains

Make your first time in Marrakech an amazing adventure! Marrakech is often referred to as the Red City because the color of the local clay used in buildings is has a rosy hue to it. Famous for the labyrinth of souks, luxurious gardens and the vibrant colors and energy found in the Medina it's an absolute must to visit Marrakech. With all of these charming attributes held within the city walls Marrakech has the allure to attract travelers from across the globe.

Follow our journey through Marrakech to gain some insight on finding your own adventure and getting the most out of exploring this vibrant and bustling city.

Stay in a Riad

Staying within a riad instead of a conventional hotel offers you a real Moroccan hospitality experience and is highly recommended. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house (sometimes even a palace) that has a courtyard or garden at the center that offers an oasis from a hectic day in the crowds. The word “riad” actually came from the Arabic word for garden, “ryad”.

A swimming pool shown in the riad courtyard with lounge chairs, palm trees and colorful tiles
Riad Be in Marrakesh

Oftentimes situated within the Medina, they often meet you at a designated rendezvous location (taxi drop-off), offer baggage courier service upon arrival and lead you to the riad with little hassle. Staying in a riad offers easy access to the popular shopping areas on foot and you’re always able to come back for an afternoon nap much easier than if you’re outside of the area. Oftentimes breakfast is included, and most have swimming pools or rooftop terraces for relaxation and offer a multitude of services including spa treatments and catered meals.

assorted color of wicker baskets and spices on display in a souk shop in Marrakech Medina
Colorful spices sold at a souk shop

Visit the Souks

The souks of Marrakech are absolutely one of the most iconic things to do in the city. This should be one of your first stops for really getting a feel of Marrakech. It may sound a little too touristy, but even the locals shop at these as well. Find yourself mesmerized by all the colors, smells, textures and treasures to be discovered along the narrow pathways. Meander through the streets and be led down off the beaten path corridors to discover home décor and fashion shopping, delight in the quiet corners amidst the maze of shops, spend time perusing in family owned businesses and rest for a spell at one of the many cafes around every corner.

Navigating Your Way: Be sure to download maps onto your phone before you enter the souks, as sometimes cell phone service and GPS doesn’t work well deep within the buildings and alleyways. If you are truly lost and need a kind soul to point you in the right direction, always locate a shop owner that can navigate you to the right area, as people offering assistance on the streets may often demand payment for their help once you reach your destination.

Bargaining Tip: Be prepared to haggle if there’s something you’re wanting to buy. Never pay the first price the shop attendant gives you, or else you’ll be overpaying! If you see a certain style of pottery you’re interested in, ask for prices at several locations to get an idea for what may be a fair/average starting price. Once you’ve heard a few initial prices, pitch lower than that average when you’re ready to purchase Always be ready to walk away if the bargaining is getting nowhere.

Discover Le Jardin Secret

Le Jardin Secret is a riad-museum located within one of the most ancient palaces in the heart of the Medina. This hideaway allows you to take a moment of refuge from your shopping expenditures within this tranquil space.

A aqua tiled floor leads to a gazebo within a garden courtyard lined with bushes, flowers and palm trees
Le Jardin Secret courtyard

Le Jardin Secret consists of beautiful sitting gardens, ancient Arabic hydraulic systems on display, a bookshop and two cafes for you to enjoy. This location is steeped in Moroccan history, including a mysterious death that led to a change in ownership! The property was only recently renovated in an epic labor-of-love project which took 8 years to complete, and it is now restored to its former beauty and tranquility for the public to enjoy. Watch turtles nap in the ponds and sip on a cool drink while overseeing the rooftops of Marrakech.

a reflection pool in the courtyard of the decorative Arabic Moorish styled Medersa Ben Youssef building
Courtyard of Medersa Ben Youssef

Visit the Medersa Ben Youssef

Known to be one of the most stunning attractions in Marrakech, the Medersa Ben Youssef is was the largest Islamic college in the Maghreb at its height and is now a historical site for visitors to wander through. At its height, the campus would hold over 900 students within its dormitory rooms. Gaze at the handcrafted details of the walls and tiles that adorn the courtyard and winding hallways of the dormitory, every turn offers a great photo opportunity.

Fresh mint placed into Moroccan styled tea glasses before the tea is poured hot into the glass
Fresh mint placed in tea glasses

Enjoy Moroccan Cuisine

paired with Mint Tea

Absolutely get outside your comfort zone and try traditional Moroccan cuisine while you are here. Marrakech is the heart of Moroccan culinary culture, so what better way than to take your taste buds on a trip than to visit the food vendors in Jemaa el-Fnaa (the main square of the Medina) or find a rooftop terrace restaurant specializing in flavorful tagine dishes. Moroccan mint tea is an absolute must when dining in Morocco, as it is a truly traditional menu item poured for you at your table with finesse as part of the spectacle of your dining experience.

a stone cobbled road filled with colorful wares for sale as a woman in a jilaba walks away from the photographer with a basket on her head
A Marrakech street outside the Medina

Venture Out Beyond the Souks

Rue De La Kasbah is known to be one of the prettiest and most tranquil streets in Marrakech, and is a less crowded shopping experience than what you witness within the souks. You’ll have the chance to quietly take in the more historical sites of Marrakech from here as well.

The Saadian Tombs are a collection of ornate tombs within a royal family garden of remembrance filled with rose bushes blooming, wafting perfume into the air. This space provides tired adventurers a place of quiet contemplation after a long day of navigating the Medina.

Bab Agnaou is one of the most ornate and famous gates of the royal kasbah. Completed around the year 1190, it served as a main public entrance into the royal kasbah and is now adorned with decommissioned cannons from previous war eras on the main street.

The Jardin Majorelle cactus and iconic blue buildings
The Jardin Majorelle cactus and iconic blue buildings

Relax Within Jardin Majorelle

Outside of Medina located in the Geuliz neighborhood is a very famous destination, Jardin Majorelle. Designed by French painter Jacques Majorelle, this Instagram-ready lavish garden location is filled with Art Deco and Moorish influence in its design and offers beautiful views around every corner. One of the most famous attributes to this location is the bright blue walls that adorn the property and give all photographs a pop of color from every angle.

Tickets must be purchased in advance online, and we suggest getting the combination entry ticket that gives you timed access to the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, the Pierre Bergé Museum of Berber Arts and the Jardin Majorelle all in one visit. The surrounding area offers wonderful boutique shops and cafes to explore once you exit the grounds.

five camels and riders led through sand dunes in the desert by a local in traditional garb
Camel rides through the desert sands

Explore the Sands of Two Deserts

A short drive from Marrakech and you’re at the Agafay Desert. The Sahara desert is also a popular destination, although it is much farther away from Marrakech and often would require long driving hours or an overnight at a desert camp. The Sahara desert may have the picturesque sand dunes similar to those in your imagination, but keep in mind the Agafay desert also has a stunning landscape of sand and volcanic rock deposits formed millions of years ago. Both destinations offer atv adventures, camel rides, overnight glamping and even sandboarding activities. Whether you’re interested in visiting the Agafay or exploring the Sahara, we can help you book the best tour so you can get the best Morocco experience.

Contact Native Morocco for all of your planning needs, and we can build a dream itinerary that covers everything on your wishlist. From guided shopping, to traditional craftsmen tours and historic site excursions into other areas of our vast Kingdom - Native Morocco offers authentic experiences that exceed normal tourism platforms, and we look forward to sharing our adventure planning with you on an unforgettable journey of learning about Morocco through its people.

Schedule a call with us today:

Photo Credits: Le Jardin Secret, Unsplash, Shutterstock

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