Well. How can you describe Marrakech? Is it a mix of colourful spices, wrinkly faces that tell more stories than 1001 nights and an array of smells that keeps you eating the whole… night… long… Or is it a combination of staring eyes, piled up lamb heads and the honking of dozens of scooters pushing you out of the way? One thing’s for sure. If you visit Marrakech, you’ll experience both. It’s up to you to find out which memory will stay.
Food & Drink
Straight away, here it is: The best food is on the street. If you want to eat authentic and have a meal with the locals, don’t go for the well known restaurants. Get away from the sights, wander the streets and follow the heavenly smell of Moroccan cuisine. Honestly, I had the best bites out of the smaller hole-in-the-wall places that wouldn’t dream of putting a name on their wall. They are just there, reaching out goodness in a bowl. One of the most delicious things I ever had was a Kofta for 4 dirham. Yes, that’s roughly 60 cents. Of course I had three on the spot and one to go. The guy sold it from the tiniest take away grill on wheels. I can tell you where he was (in front of this pharmacy), but chances are he and his patent-worthy creation of perfectly spiced meatballs moved the day I left (because I ate it all). Then again, you might be lucky and I’d recommend trying that luck of yours. If he’s there, you’ll feast. To get back to the actual point. If you walk past a tiny stall, shop or hole with an inviting smell and a bunch of locals hanging around, you should join them and go for it. Try it out.
Nevertheless, Marrakech has plenty of known food options that are still worth visiting. Here my favourites from gold to only-go-once.
When you pass this place, you probably just squeezed yourself through a cramped little alley leading off the Jemma el-Fna, or you’re coming from a full day of sightseeing in the south. Either way, it’s time to get your caffeine fixed. Do it here. This is, where I had my best cup of coffee in Marrakech. Take it black, leave the sugar sparkling in the sun and nip on that Moroccan brew whilst watching tourists and locals pass in hordes. Apparently, they also have a cosy upper floor worth checking out. I didn’t make it that far. Oh – and the shop next door is also worth a stop.
If you grew tired of the hectic of the Jemaa el-Fna, and believe me it won’t take long, this is the perfect place to climb up the three floors, grab one of those tiny tables on the terrace, order a deliciously sweet mint tea and enjoy the whole scene from a different perspective. You’ll see a lot of people munching away on steaming tajines and it’s hard to decide where to look at – the bustling square below or the food all around you. So if you’re peckish, why not have one as well? Yet beware, this should not be your main incentive to go, it just won’t knock your socks off. Btw – this place is way cosier than the more popular Grand Balcon.
If you want to get a Henna and support a good cause at the same time, you found the place to do so. If you are with someone who wants to get a henna and you want to watch, snack and drink, you also found the place to do so. All the profits go to local residents in need. Greetings to Bobby and Jack, if they are still running around on the floor.
As a general note about hennas – avoid the Jemaa el-Fna! The henna ‘artists’ over there literally force their hennas upon you before you can say no. If one of them comes close, run for your life or you will have a poisonous mix of chemicals on your hand before you can count to one.
This is vegan heaven. After probably eating the 5th dry tajine with rice only (don’t get me wrong, they have fantastic vegetarian tajines, but I’m making a point here…), here’s where you can go nuts (see what I’m doing). Your vegan playground. Even if you’re not vegan, go here for a good bite. Honestly, it’s different food than elsewhere, but stays within authentic possibilities of Moroccan cuisine. Oh – and the location is gold anyway. You know these places that you have trouble finding, because they are in some abandoned alley that you walked past 5 times but never noticed? Yep – this is one of them.
There’s one thing, that places on top of all the major tourist apps and platforms scream to me: Avoid by all means. This might be one of them. Yet, there is a reason to go up here. It has a darn good view over one of the most famous squares in the world. Here’s the thing though. If you go up for the view, go late. Hang around other places and just before you want to leave for good, go up for one last coffee or mint tea. Enjoy the view. Go down. Smile. And walk away. Some places are famous for a good reason. No need to feel guilty.
I still have to decide what to think about these places. They look picture perfect and you can have a wonderful time, if not everyone and their grandma would know about it. I don’t think any local ever set foot in here, yet it still is enjoyable for a cup of mint tea. Decide for yourself.
Another opportunity to get your caffeine fix is this turquoise hideout. If you’re lucky, you can grab one of the small tables out front and watch the daily life stream by. Otherwise do pop inside and have a cup of their strong brew. And please, no sugar!
I’d love to tag this place, but it doesn’t exist on Google maps, nor does it have a website. Maybe it doesn’t even exist and my memory of drinking a delicious coffee on the terrace while the sun set and turned Marrakech into an orange fairy tale was just a distant dream. If it wasn’t, then head to Rahba Kedima (more on that further down. Btw, this is also not on google maps, I’m beginning to see a pattern…) and you’ll find it in the narrow end of the square.
Traditional storytelling and live music make this place worth a visit. It’s quite far in the south, but marks the perfect break for lunch, before heading back north. If you’re opting for food, try the chicken couscous (raisin alert).
A unique perspective on Marrakech’s incredibly uncoordinated traffic comes along with your teapot. Head upstairs and try to grab the table in the corner for the show. It’s there that you stare at the street and realise that this chaos actually does work.
If you every searched for #marrakech on Instagram, you probably came across this place once in a while. It’s an absolute tourist den, but quite cosy and in a beautiful location. So, why not go up for a teapot, but mingle with the locals afterwards when it comes to food…?
One word about Nomad. Everybody recommends it as the best restaurant in Marrakech. To be honest, I wouldn’t bother. As mentioned earlier, the best food is where the locals are. And they are definitely not here.
The new part of town – Ville Nouvelle
I read loads of ultra positive reviews about this part of Marrakech, but it I disagreed almost every step on the way. It’s like leaving a chaotic yet dreamy wonderland and being pushed into some deserted suburb that you usually only get in to when you fell asleep on the train. It’s the modern version of Marrakech’s heart minus the sweet shops and streets, plus a Mc Donald’s, which alone would be reason not to set foot into this area. Maybe I just had a bad day, but Ville Nouvelle made me miss the medina and it didn’t take too long until I was running back through the maze of small alleys and carpet shops. However, even during my short trip into the outskirts, I found two places that I would love to share.
This is where you wished you’d taken a large suitcase to stuff it full with the varieties of pastries that this patisserie has to offer. There are a lot of small pastry shops in the medina, but none of them lived up to the quality of this little slice of heaven. It’s conveniently designed to let you walk in a circle, so just take a cookie from each platter, rub your tummy and lick your lips. Beware that it comes with a price, so maybe it’s good that you didn’t take that suitcase.
Most guide books, trip advisors and Marrakech specialists will tell you that you can’t miss the Musée du Marrakech. I missed the Musée du Marrakech. I can tell you where I had the best coffee though (more on that later). But before you call me a cultural buff and close this page with a bang on the mouse pad, let me explain. There’s a way I walk a city. Whilst I love to get lost and stroll, I do have a system for the sights. But that’s not ordered from most important to least important. Long story short, I ran out of time. So, I can’t tell you if should go or not. You probably should.
This place is a little secret. If you walk through a dark covered alley and you think you’re completely lost without hope for light, you know you are right. Walk a bit further and at the end left and you reached the entrance to a beautiful little museum. Whilst the museum itself is worth the visit to experience domestic Saadian architecture, it’s home to the sweetest and most deserted roof terrace. Please do not leave this museum without drinking a mint tea here. Due to the hidden location, you’ll most certainly end up being alone. A long forgotten status in hectic Marrakech.
This bustling little square is known for its spice & carpet shops and absolutely worth a visit. By the way, you’ll find litres and litres of Argan oil being sold in Marrakech. As with all products appealing to tourists, some of them are fake and replaced with a much cheaper version. So be careful when buying it. Also, there is cosmetic and culinary Argan oil. I beg you, please, buy it! It’s an absolute enrichment and can turn a bare salad leaf into a firework of taste. Try to find Apothicaire Tuareg on 186 Pl Rahba Kedima, which is where I purchased my fairy dust. Other than that, just keep your eyes open.
One of my favourite sights in Marrakech are the ruins of the Badi palace. Whilst the ruins themselves are less impressive, it’s the courtyard with its sunken gardens that will take your breath. Don’t be like me and forget to go up the walk for the best view…
I wasn’t able to take any pictures worth its beauty, but the courtyard of this museum is a gem. Not as well known as the other major sights, it’s a bit calmer in here, but not less beautiful.
Unfortunately, the entrance fee to Yves Saint Laurent’s gift to Marrakech is quite high compared to other sights. Being outside of the medina, it’s also a walk to get here. Nevertheless, it’s worth it.
Click here for more pictures of my Morocco trip.