As the season transitions to grey skies and rain now is the perfect opportunity to jet off and explore a new city. Every few months I get the travel itch and I am always thinking of my next travel location, I just cannot help myself. I have just returned from a three night trip to the Moroccan city of Marrakech. I fancied some autumn sun and wanted to explore somewhere other than Europe.
From the UK Marrakech is the perfect city break, as the flight is just over three hours and there is no time difference. On landing I was greeted by scorching sun as I exited the plane. At this time of the year the temperature is still in the high thirties and low forties. Basically the weather is blazing!! So if you want that autumn sun kissed glow Marrakech is the place to head to.
I had never considered Marrakech as a city break location in the past as I thought you would require a longer time within the city. But speaking to friends and fellow travelistas, the recommendation was that a few days is the ideal time frame to see and do most things. Three to four days is the perfect amount of time to explore the city sites, venture beyond Marrakech, shop and even squeeze in some time to relax.
Keep reading to find out what I got up to on my North African city break.
I stayed in a Riad, which is a traditional Moroccan house or palace. My Riad was called Riad Ambre et Epices and it was absolutely gorgeous with a stylish Moroccan vibe and design. It was located in the old town, known as the Medina. The location was close enough to walk to the main tourist areas, but it still had a tranquil atmosphere away from the bustling central areas of the souk as it was on the outskirts.
From the outside most riads have a basic appearance, nothing more than brick wall and a door, but once you step through the doorway you are transported into another world of detailed architecture, water features, and roof terraces all stemming from a central courtyard. Riad Ambre et Epices provided excellent service with a personalised touch at all times. The Riad offered a hamman spa, cooking lessons, and Jacuzzi amongst other facilities.
If you are looking to emerge yourself in the city and the culture, then a riad is the perfect accomodation as it allows for the ideal balance of relaxation with city authenticity. Before travelling to Marrakech it did cross my mind about safety in the city for females. When staying in the old town walking down the winding alleys of the souk it can be slightly unnerving at first, but I found the area safe and never encountered any issues at night. However like all unfamiliar cities I would not recommend a female travelling alone for safety.
The old city and especially the souks are a maze of narrow winding roads; the streets are so small that cars are not able to travel down them. So if you do choose to stay in a riad most likely it will be away from the main road, however once on the main streets there are always numerous taxis.
Activities and Sightseeing
One of my top places to visit is Jardin Majorelle aka The YSL gardens. This is a small but picturest gardens in Marrakech. It’s a perfect place to relax and chill out amongst lush tropical plants and also get some shade from the sun’s rays. Also located in the garden is a chic café where you can stop for a quick bite to eat. The only downside to the gardens is you have to pay to enter, the ticket is not pricey but because the garden is really small I don’t think it is value for money.
What I was most looking forward to was an excursion to the Atlas Mountains. These mountains are located one hour away by car from Marrakech. I took a private tour in a 4X4 for the day and the experience was amazing. As it was a private tour the guide was able to tailor the experience to our party and we got exactly what we wanted out of the day. A highlight of the trip was going to an Argan oil factory to learn how the oil is produced; the oil is great for promoting hair growth so of course I had to purchase numerous bottles of organic Argan oil.
We also got an insight into how the traditional Moroccan inhabitants live by visiting a Berber house and interacting with the locals throughout the day. If you are planning a trip to Marrakech definitely visit the Atlas Mountains for a real experience of Moroccan culture. The scenery was so stunning and peaceful on the top of the mountains, truly a magical experience.
Also worth a visit is the main square in Marrakech. This is a very busy area full of tourists and locals. Here you will be able to wonder around the markets and get to see the famous snake charmers. You can even take a picture with the snakes if you are feeling brave.
How can you go to Marrakech and not try out a spa. The city is filled with numerous Hammam spas; you are actually spoilt for choice. I chose to spend a few hours at Les Bains d’Orient spa located within the Medina. Les Bains d’Orient spa offered a high standard of service and the building is so light an airy with a calming atmosphere.
I did not try the actual Hammam experience, as I was not feeling brave enough to go the Full Monty in a room full of strangers. Instead I chose to have a relaxing massage and to just chill out on the last day of my trip.
Food and Shopping
I was really looking forward to shopping in the souks, but surprisingly I did not buy anything. You can find some nice decorative plates, kaftans and sandals at a great price if you are willing to haggle; it was just unfortunate that most things were not to my taste. I did however purchase a few items while shopping in the local boutiques in the new town.
If you are looking for larger chains you need to head to Mohammed Avenue V. Also in this shopping area are loads of restaurants and it is situated in the new town, which is the modern part of the city.
Before travelling I did not research any restaurants to try out, as I wanted to go with flow and find places naturally or by recommendations from locals. The food I ate was flavoursome in most places, but I found it was usually in the restaurants were the menu was slightly pricier. By far my favourite place to eat was a roof top restaurant called La Terrasse by Dar Marjana; the menu was a combination of Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine. The food was so tasty that I went back a second time.
If like me you think that dessert is the best part of the meal. Then you should try out a café opposite Jardin Majorelle that sells amazing flavours of ice creams and pastries. A great place for lovely Moroccan food is Al Fassia; the mixed grill kofta hit the right spot.
The most memorable place we ate was in the Atlas Mountains. The food was standard chicken kebab, but the setting was so beautiful. Lunch was actually in a river, as the dining tables were set up in the gentle flowing Ourika River with amazing views. To sit down with your feet dipped in the cooling water was an experience.
Let me know if you have been to or plan on visiting Marrakech?
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