(1) Take a horse carriage ride around the city
There’s no better way to get yourself oriented to Marrakech than by taking a horse carriage ride around the city. We started our horse carriage from Riad Farnatchi inside the old city, “galloped” around the walls of the new city and ended our ride in the Koutoubia Mosque. On a hot day, I recommend taking the horse carriage ride in the late afternoon to avoid the sun beating down on you and ruining the experience.
(2) Experience the Jemma el-Fnaa
If there’s one place you absolutely must visit in Marrakech, then it’s the Jemma el-Fnaa, the main square in the old city. It’s not just a place to see, visiting Jemma el-Fnaa is an experience by itself. Bustling with locals and tourists right after sunset, the street artisans are sure to entertain you as you amble through this marketplace. From snake charmers, to dancers to storytellers to henna artists to handlers having monkeys do tricks (yes, it’s very cruel) and the street performers attract both tourists and locals alike.
I found the people by the food stalls the most exasperating because they stand in your way and won’t stop bothering you until you eat there. But don’t give up; just be quiet, look elsewhere, pretend like you are deaf and keep walking. I have read mixed reviews about the quality of food in these stalls and the last thing you want while on vacation is be food poisoned. We just couldn’t take any risk by eating there. Beware of pickpocketing in the Jemma el-Fnaa.
(3) Get lost in the Marrakech souks
For hand-made Moroccan products, including oils, creams, spices, leather goods, clothing, wood work, head over to the Marrakech souks. The souks are easily accessible from the Jemma el-Fnaa. The key to buying things is by haggling and they expect you to bargain. The locals absolutely know you are a tourist and there’s no way to get around that. They always start with an enormous price tag, but don’t afraid to ask for one half or sometimes even one fifth of the asking price. If they don’t budge, just walk away. They will almost always sell things for the price you ask for (provided they can afford it). You will absolutely get lost in the narrow streets of the souks; be prepared for that. Ask for directions, but don’t entirely trust them to lead you in the right direction.
(4) See the Koutoubia Mosque
About a block away from Jemma el-Fnaa is the Koutoubia Mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakech. The Minaret Tower, which is 77 meters in height is the most significant architectural structure of this mosque and is quite ornate. Note that only Muslims are allowed inside the mosques in Marrakech.
(5) Admire the architecture of Ben Youssef
Once upon a time an Islamic college in Marrakech, Ben Youssef is now a historic site and open to tourists. The courtyard has the most impressive architecture with doors carved in great details and the walls painted in symmetric and colorful geometric patterns. Allow an hour to walk in the courtyard, admiring all the lovely details and walking by the rooms that were used as dormitories by college students a long time ago.
Tip: If you are visiting Marrakech on a hot day, save this visit for the hottest time of the day because it is mostly shaded.
(6) Visit the Majorelle Gardens
Outside the old city, the Majorelle Gardens is one of the most touristic spots in Marrakech. We went in with very low expectations and were quite taken aback by the exotic flora and the vivid colors. Reserve an hour to explore these gardens.
(7) Go quad biking
We did a private tour of quad biking in Terre et Moto, about 45 minutes away from the city of Marrakech. This was our first time quad biking, and we were super excited and initially super scared as well. Once we got the hang of it, it became so much more fun. Almost 40 kms of quad biking through the desert terrains, passing through villages and oasis was fun. At the end of our 2 hour quad biking experience, we had lunch at La Parenthese, a private guesthouse beautifully set up with a pool and romantic seating area in the large grounds.
(8) Take a Hot Air Balloon ride
Wake up before the crack of dawn to take a hot air balloon ride over the Moroccan desert. Watch the sun rise as you’re flying high in the hot air balloon basket, as the desert looms to a distance as far as the eye can see and High Atlas mountains border the country.
(9) Eat Moroccan Tagines
Morocco is popular for their tagines. For locals, it’s a staple. For tourists, it’s a fascinating meal. Cooked in an elementary manner and served in a traditional Moroccan tagine with a side of freshly made bread, the dish is sure to delight your taste buds. We’ve tried chicken, lamb and beef tagines and loved how the meat is cooked to perfect tenderness. The sauce in the tagine is to die for, and perfect as a dipping for the bread or even to slurp if nobody is watching ;).