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World Travel Guide > Guides > Africa > Morocco > Marrakech

Marrakech Weather

32°C

Local time Marrakech

Currency

Dh

Marrakech Travel Guide

About Marrakech

Marrakech is an intoxicating city known for its souks, spices, snake charmers and hidden palaces, though these days it’s prized as much for its trendy art galleries, hip hotels and elegant hammams. Offering a tantalising taste of Africa within easy reach of Europe, it certainly lives up to the hype, and not only thanks to its fabled ancient medina.

It is to the medina, however, that most visitors will gravitate. The ageless city of blushing pink stone has waylaid desert caravans since the 11th century, with travellers succumbing to the charms of its bluesy Gnaoua music, calls to prayer and elaborate feasts. Its dark, narrow alleyways are full of artisan workshops, shrines and sprawling markets, and riads. These traditional courtyard guesthouses range from palatial oases to smaller, more intimate affairs.

Once you’ve had your fill of getting lost (not to mention the relentless street sellers and reckless mopeds), head to the open space of Jemaa el Fna. Thronging with locals each evening, the legendary central square hosts dozens of stalls serving up sheep's head soup from vast cauldrons, as well as grilled aubergines, ubiquitous mint tea and spicy cakes. Meanwhile, a mix of musicians, fortune-tellers, dancing cobras, storytellers and acrobats keep the crowds entertained until late. Towering over the scene is the stately minaret of Koutoubia Mosque, built in 12th century.

Beyond old Marrakech, a modern, 21st-century city is fast developing, particularly in the pulsating district known as Guéliz, and the wider Ville Nouvelle. Indeed, the city that lured hedonists and idealists in the 20th century now attracts fashionistas and trendy couples in search of luxury spas, chic bars and clubs. A flourishing arts and music scene is also firmly stamping Marrakech on the cultural map.

It’s this contrast that makes today’s Marrakech so interesting. With its maze of lanes and entrancing past, the medina will always have its appeal. But as you sip cocktails on a rooftop terrace watching the sun smoulder behind distant peaks, remember Marrakech’s legacy. This is the gateway to the immortal Atlas Mountains, and the vast Sahara beyond.

Key facts

Population:
794620
Latitude:
31.627575
Longitude:
-7.998990

Featured Hotels

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Les Jardins de la Koutoubia

Tucked behind the Jemaa el Fna, this lovely hotel has 100 rooms and suites, clustered around a palm-filled courtyard with a large pool, decked out in a modern Moroccan style. Other major draws include the serene spa, offering traditional hammam treatments, and the piano bar and rooftop terrace, perfect for that evening sundowner.

La Mamounia

Set within lush gardens (once the royal grounds of the Saadians) and with fine views of the Atlas Mountains, this art deco luxury hotel has been the place to stay in Marrakech since it opened in the 1920s. Winston Churchill was a frequent visitor and has a bar named in his honour. Expect beautiful rooms, succulent on-site dining and world-class spa facilities.

Du Pacha

Expect friendly staff, a warm welcome, simple breakfasts and clean rooms at this good value hotel located close to the city's main train station. Rooms offer TV and free Wi-Fi, while on-site amenities include a concierge, a safe-deposit box and a 24-hour reception. Guests can also sit and relax in the hotel's tranquil grounds.

Riad Dar Aby

Situated just outside the Medina, Riad Dar Aby houses a number of en-suite rooms circled around a bright, tiled courtyard. The daily breakfast of Moroccan pancakes with lashings of jam provides a homely touch, while free Wi-Fi access, optional specialised tours and friendly staff complete the package.

Riad Cherihane

Notable for its vibrant rooftop garden where tortoises laze in sun, the well-priced Riad Chrihane is situated near the northern edge of the Medina, roughly a 15-minute walk from Jemaa el Fna. Though it can be tough to track down, due to its location down a quiet side alley, complimentary Moroccan tea and biscuits greet wearisome guests.

Riad L'Etoile D'Orient

Restored in 2010, this tastefully appointed riad mixes the modern with the traditional, meaning guests can upload snaps of the refined Moroccan decor using the speedy free Wi-Fi service. Just minutes from Jemaa el Fna, rooms here include flatscreen TVs and gorgeous bathrooms. There's also a rooftop terrace to enjoy.