After visiting Marrakech during the Christmas holidays, I came home with lots of new impressions and experiences. Although opinions on the city are various, I was positively surprised. I do think that it is best to travel to Marrakech at least a bit prepared, to just have an idea of where to go and not to go. If you go entirely clueless, you might bump into unpleasant situations which leave you a bit nervous and unsettled. For me personally, I feel more comfortable having an idea of which districts the city consists of, having a few identification marks like main tourist attractions or tall buildings to help determine my location, and having an overall overview of the city. Marrakech, and especially the medina, is a maze of small streets with impressive doors with an unknown paradise behind them, and all though I am sure you'll find perfection around every corner, it helps to have a few addresses which are always good and which you can rely on, in case getting lost and wandering around don't turn out for you! In this post I assembled my fave Marrakech spots, including mostly cafés and restaurants. In general, I would recommend to explore the Medina, and stick to the Northern Medina and Southern Medina. Both are different, the Northern Medina is quite structured and clean with lots of luxurious hotels, riads and museums. You would expect a western atmosphere, but I thought the area was actually authentic and non-touristic. It is the most quiet area of the Medina which I really enjoyed. The central Medina is very focused on tourists which influences everything; the products the shops offer, the way the salesmen talk to you and so on... Not the best area to spend your day in my opinion. The Southern Medina is a bit poorer than the Northern Medina, but shows the local life of Marrakechi best in my opinion.
Terrasse des Epices, 15 Souk Charifia Sidi Abdellaziz
This modern roof café right in the centre of the Medina, is a nice getaway from all the buzz going on downstairs in the souks. It is mainly visited by tourists, but the food is reasonably priced, the atmosphere is relaxing and the service is good.
Dar Cherifa, 8 derb Cherfa Lakbir
This little palace is a little hidden away, but following the directions on your map, not too hard to find. The interior of the restaurant is beautifully set up and if you make your way to the top, you can enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea on the terrace roof. I think the pictures tell the story best.
Riad el Fenn, 2 Derb Moulay Abdullah Ben Hezzian
Definitely don't skip the riads while visiting Marrakech! Staying in one is an exotic and luxurious experience, but expensive. If you aren't willing to pay so much for a room, then you can take up the opportunity to go for dinner or a drink. We had a delicious French three course meal in Riad el Fenn and then walked around the hotel a bit to take in all the beautiful interior design. Riad el Fenn is definitely one of the best and biggest in town, and highly recommended on all review websites and in travel journals!
Maison de la Photographie, 46 Rue Bin Lafnadek
A must for us bloggers and lovers of photography! The main theme of the exposition is the traditional Berber culture of Morocco and all the photos were taken between the 1850's and 1930's, which is great to get an idea of Marrakech was like in the old days! And again, the museum has a rooftop terrace with a magnificent view over the Medina.
Henna Café, 93 Arset Aouzal
Of course, I didn't want to leave Marrakech without getting henna done! Do not get your henna done on Djemaa el Fna, which is the big main and touristic square! The product the ladies use there there contains alcohol and other chemicals which aren't good for your skin. The ladies at Henna café make their own organic henna each day and take their time to apply it. They have a great selection of patterns to choose from, and the prices range from a couple of euros to 40 euros. Mine cost about 15. In Summer, the café is also a sweet place to hang out and rest since it is very shadowed. And don't forget cute little Mr. Turtle!
Jardin Majorelle, Rue Yves Saint Laurent
This garden, where Yves Saint Laurent spent lot of his time, is presented everywhere as one of the highlights of Marrakech and definitely worth a visit! Of course, highlights go hand in hand with mass tourism, but if you go early in the morning or late in the afternoon, these masses can be avoided a bit. The garden is harmonious and very well maintained which certainly determines a great deal of its charm. I fell in love with the prominent blue colour, majorelle blue!
L'Ultimo Bacio, Angle rue Tarik Ibn Ziad & Moulay Ali
We had dinner at this Italian restaurant twice, including New Years Eve. The setting is modern and very easy going, The meals are fresh and prepared with good ingredients; I had risotto one night and ravioli filled with salmon the next. Both were delicious! It is a good place to go if you ever get fed up with the couscous and tajines, and feel like going Italian for a night, in a familial atmosphere.
Café du Livre, 44 Rue Tariq Ibn Ziad
This café located in the relatively new neighborhood Gueliz is a bit of a search and a favorite among expats in Marrakech. It is popular for lunches and evening dinners and offers a big selection of alcoholic drinks (including cocktails), which can't be consumed everywhere in the city! The fun part of this café is the corner in the back which functions as a library where you can read and buy secondhand international books, in many languages such as English, Dutch, German and French. A nice stop for when you are on a shopping tour through Gueliz!
Riad Isis Hammam, 12 Derb Dabachi, Derb DJdid
Like rooftop terraces hammams are typically found throughout the whole city as well. Going to a hammam is a weekly or monthly routine for most Arabic woman, and very founded in their culture. I had never experienced going to a hammam or even getting a massage, and it was a very interesting one, that I can conclude! I do recommend it, if only for experiencing an important life component of Arabic women for a few hours! Hammam prices range a lot; of course there are very expensive and beautiful hammams, However, my mum and I chose for Riad Isis, which was a bit cheaper and I would say medium price range and that was fine.
Aïcha Number 1, Djemaa el Fna
Although I wasn't impressed by the heart of Marrakesh, Djemaa el Fna, as all the travel guides describe it, I did like the dozens of food stalls which fill the square in the evenings. My favorite was number 1 which is popular among tourists and locals because of the good quality of the food, but mostly because the owner Aïcha is the only female owner of a food stall on the square. Talk about girl power! That is a good enough reason for me to have my dinner at her place! The food is cheap, simple and typically Moroccan; calamari, chicken and tajines, yum :)
Kechmara, 1 bis & 3 rue De La Liberté
This restaurant, specialized in burgers, is located in Gueliz and embodies the modern and West-European vibe going on in several parts of Gueliz. The food isn't especially tasty or interesting, but fine! I would recommend to go for a drink since we terrace is a nice place to lounge.