Snake charmers, magic potions and hidden palaces: Marrakech brings the most outlandish travellers' tales to life
Marrakech, known as ‘the red city’ due to the way the light catches the rose-tinted walls of its buildings, has long been an enchanting destination. From its origins as a caravan trading post in the 11th century to it’s heyday as a ‘hippie’ destination in the 1960s and 1970s, its appeal is still as strong; more recently, UNESCO awarded it status as a World Heritage Site.
Top of any visitor’s itinerary has to be a wander around the vibrant medina, which in parts feels like it hasn’t changed at all over the centuries. Each section sells different wares, from exotic spices and herbal potions to handcrafted woodwork and carpets. For advice on what to buy, see our Shopping Guide to Marrakech. Take a break in the city’s famous central square, Jemaa el Fna, which especially comes alive at night with street vendors, musicians and entertainers.
Escapes from the city are surprisingly easy, too. The Atlas Mountains are only a couple of hours away, and offer walking and hiking trails; a bucket-list experience has to be a camel trek into the Sahara with an overnight stay in a village.
Nobody comes to Marrakech for a cheesy, thumping nightlife, and the city is all the better for it. Drinking options are limited in the medina, as alcohol can’t be served in view of a mosque, but plenty of options exist in the new city. A highlight has to be the Churchill Bar in the La Mamounia Hotel – named after its most famous patron, this stylish art deco piano bar is just the place for an elegant cocktail. Check out our Marrakech Nightlife guide.
When it comes to where to lay your head, many options abound: although the big-name international brands can be found here, many people choose to stay in a riad, a traditional house where rooms fan off a central courtyard. Les Jardins de la Koutoubia is surrounded by lush gardens and also has a hammam, a typically Moroccan steam room that will reinvigorate your body and mind. There are plenty of choices for those on a limited budget, such as Riad Cherihane, which has a rooftop garden. See recommendations at Marrakech Hotels page.