The constant traveller: Marrakech
The Handbook / Culture / A city guide to Marrakech, Morocco

A city guide to Marrakech, Morocco

The constant traveller: Marrakech

Words— Kaitlyn McInnis

The sights, the sounds, the smells… Marrakech is swirling with enough sensory treats to pull you in and never let go, between the bustling, motorcycle-flooded medina market to the handfuls of relaxing spas and riads, here’s where to go for an equally thrilling and relaxing vacation. The North African city and capital of Morocco is just an hour south of Spain, and a quick direct flight from Canada, but it feels like a whole new world to eat and shop your way through.

 

Here, we’re highlighting exactly where to spend your time during a long weekend in Marrakech. We recommend taking the time to relax and refresh while making time to get into the heart of the cultural pulse of the city.

 

 

 

Where to eat and drink

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Nomad

Nestled into the top few floors of an unassuming side street in the medina, Nomad boasts handfuls of delicious Moroccan and Italian fusions; it’s great for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, and offers gorgeous panoramic views of the surrounding souks and rooftops. We recommend booking a spot on the terrasse far in advance⁠—while reservations are not required, you want to make sure you’re sitting outside to admire the views.

Note that Nomad⁠—and the majority of restaurants in Morocco⁠—do not serve alcohol. Because Morocco is a Muslim country, finding a glass of wine with dinner or even stumbling upon a mainstream bar is not common.

 

 

Café Des Épices

This coffee shop and restaurant in the middle of the medina draws locals and travelers like moths to a flame⁠— and for good reason. The main floor and terrasse remains super casual, and a great spot to people watch, while the rooftop level is a modern Moroccan restaurant. We recommend the vegetarian tagine, which is packed with potatoes, turnips, fennel, carrots, green beans, and onion⁠— and will only run you about $6 CAD.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Dar Yacout

Quite possibly one of the most romantic restaurants in Marrakech (don’t even try booking for one, they literally won’t let you), Dar Yacout is a real institution, serving up traditional Moroccan fare in an intimate indoor-outdoor setting. Make sure it take it slow, and maybe even skip lunch, as the sheer amount of food is enough to feed you for a few days.

 

 

 

What to see and do

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Jemaa el-Fnaa

The main square in Marrakech is frequented by both locals and tourists, and although sometimes it can become overwhelming (watch out for snake charmers and other animal performers), it’s well worth a trip during the day⁠—make sure to get a fresh orange juice⁠—and at night, when the square shifts from a market to a centre for street performers and food stalls. It became a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001, to help preserve the storytelling and heritage performances that take place daily.

 

 

Agafay Desert

It might be tempting to head out to the Sahara Desert while you’re exploring Morocco, but if you’re only in the country for a few days, consider skipping the eight-hour commute and head out to the Agafay Desert instead. You’ll still get the bedouins, free-range camels, and endless desert landscape, but it’s only a forty-minute drive from the city centre. Check into a glamping resort, (we particularly like the White Camel Lodge & Tents for its sustainability efforts), and take in all the vastness of the desert.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Jardin Majorelle

Created by the French Orientalist artist, Jacques Majorelle, over almost forty years, this botanical garden in the middle of the city features a sprawling Cubist villa, which is now the home of the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech, the Berber Museum and the Yves Saint Laurent Museum. The gardens themselves cover two and a half acres, which include important collections of cacti and sculptures.

 

 

Heritage Spa

When you’re in Morocco, it is your moral imperative to go to a spa and get a hammam service. Heritage Spa, right in the centre of the medina, is a welcome escape from the bustle of the city, and while it’s cozy, it offers a range of treatments⁠ from facials to rehydrating post-hammam massages.

 

 

 

Galleries and museums

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Yves Saint Laurent Museum

Whether you consider yourself a high fashion fiend or not, a trip to the Yves Saint Laurent Museum is well worth the trip. It’s well known that YSL considered all of Morocco to be his muse, the designer visited and lived in the country for most of his life after falling in love with the place during one fateful trip. The museum includes an exhibition hall featuring the work of Yves Saint Laurent, a sprawling research library and a charming outdoor space.

 

 

Musée du Parfum

Focused on the art of perfume, aromatherapy, and well-being, Musée du Parfum showcases the history of fragrance through artifacts, rare olfactive objects, and interactive workshops and exhibitions. Morocco is known for placing major emphasis on fragrance; from its healing properties (think essential oils), to traditional cosmetics.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Marrakech Museum

Visiting an art museum in a foreign city is a truly exceptional way of getting a peek at its historic and contemporary culture and history. Marrakech Museum, housed in the Dar Menebhi Palace, boasts an impressive collection of modern and traditional art, pottery, and ancient artifacts. The house itself represents an example of classical Moorish architecture and is worth taking a stroll by, even if you don’t plan on going in.

 

 

 

Where to shop

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Medina of Marrakech

A word to the wise: budget at least a few days to explore the Medina of Marrakech. This sprawling marketplace in the heart of the old city has something for everyone⁠—from traditional Moroccan pottery and cookware to handcrafted shoes and bags, and more. The twisting, turning street market is easy to get lost in⁠—and trust us, it’ll happen, just embrace and enjoy it. We also recommend bringing cash and being ready to haggle. It’s common in Moroccan street market culture to go back and forth on the final price until both parties are happy.

 

 

Max&Jan

Loved by the likes of Karlie Kloss and Chiara Ferragni, Max&Jan is a more contemporary concept store located down a quiet alley of the medina. The charming open-air boutique offers a curated selection of sustainable souvenirs, ethically made clothing, and a handful of homeware essentials, like candles, books, and kitchen gear. Shoppers can also head upstairs to the rooftop cafe for a refreshing iced tea and vegan snack.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Menara Mall

Menara Mall is one of the largest shopping centres in Marrakech, boasting a theme park and a luxury hotel on the interior, as well as over ninety boutiques and stores. While we recommend heading to the medina before the mall, it can be a great spot to pick up some last-minute souvenirs while escaping the afternoon heat.

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