As you’ve probably seen on Instagram, Marrakech looks like a DREAM DESTINATION. At least that’s what I thought. To be honest, it was quite a shock to see it in real life. But shocks are good. And don’t get me wrong – I still had the best time there. The trip was 10/10, but just Marrakech as a destination was more of a 5/10 (my personal opinion). So I’m going to share with you my expectations and the reality.
PS! I definitely recommend going to Marrakech – it’s an exciting place, and I truly believe that all the places in the world are worth seeing. I’m writing this so you’d go with right expectations, not like I did. 😄
Now I realise I was a bit blinded by the perfect Instagram pictures and had WAY TO HIGH expectations for the place. I imagined Marrakech to be stunning with lots of colours and patterns and with a chill vibe maybe similar to Chiang Mai or smth.
As mentioned above, it was quite a culture shock, when we first got there. The city felt hectic, chaotic, loud and made me feel anxious. Maybe the first expression was also affected by the rainy weather. But just imagine the scene: on both sides of the street people are trying to sell you something or are cooking, the road is of course, two-way and not that wide. There are pedestrians, bikers, scooters (!!), donkeys, etc. The air is filled with fuel smoke and different smells.
Okay, but let’s go over all the topics connected to Marrakech one by one:
The scene I described above sums up the traffic in Medina part. They should really ban motorcycles from the narrow streets. The whole scene would be so much calmer and more humane. Outside Medina there are sideways, which makes walking SO MUCH more comfortable. But green light does not mean a thing there. On the positive side, the traffic in Marrakech made me REALLY appreciate the traffic in Estonia and even in Barcelona – it is so organised and calm.
The old town is the most hectic place. I love how all the houses are painted in the same pink/beige tone ♥. Seems so rad to me, that they could pull this off (and no rebel decided to paint their house black or blue or yellow). But Medina really looks like it’s 1000 y old. It’s tired, dusty, broken and trashy. Of course, there are beautiful corners (and some breath-taking palaces, but the whole impression wasn’t WOW to me. Oh, and the roads are quite dusty and become lakes when it rains, so you really don’t want to wear sandals nor flip-flops in the old town.
Oh, and what was strange – with 5 days we saw like 4 dogs altogether. In Barcelona, I’m so used to seeing like 100 dogs a day. Where are all the dogs in Marrakech!? A lot of (street) cats tho.
The whole Medina area is basically covered in souks (markets). Everyone is trying to sell you something. Everyone. Or if you stop for a second to look around, they try to guide you somewhere (you don’t even want to go). I know it’s their culture, but it felt too aggressive to me and I kind of didn’t get over the feeling that I’m like a “walking wallet” to them.
Oh, and the most important marketplace is Jemaa el-Fnaa, which was impressively BIG and opened for 24/7. You see literally everything there, from clothes and food to chained monkeys and snakes (sometimes I don’t get people AT ALL). That place is as c-r-a-z-y as it sounds. We didn’t shop there much, only got OJ (0.4€) and some salted nuts (16€/kg).
I think the souks were my biggest surprise because I’ve seen all the photos on Instagram, where people taking photos in the beautiful lamp stores and spice markets etc. The truth is that it is very difficult to take photos in the souks. First, you really cannot stop, because you are expecting to buy something immediately. Secondly, most sellers ask you for money if you take photos in their store (I read somewhere it can be as much as 20€, what?!). And as I didn’t feel at all comfortable there, I didn’t even want to take my phone out in the first couple of days. Of course, the souk area is huge and from time to time we stumbled across very nice and calm streets as well. But mostly it is just HECTIC.
If you want to shop with fair prices, check out Ensemble Artisanal, which is a marketplace outside Medina. They offer the same stuff as in the souks, but the prices are fixed, so there is no aggressive selling nor haggle.
The riads are traditional Moroccan guesthouses with patio in the middle. We stayed at a really simple and nice one (link), which I can recommend with all my heart. I’d definitely prefer to stay in one rather than in a hotel because it feels much more authentic.
The hammams are traditional Moroccan spas. You can have some massages or just relax in the baths/pools. We thought to spend the one rainy day in a spa as well. And this one hotel/spa caught my eye on Instagram. It’s one of the most popular ones and looks like a turquoise dream. But the more I read the reviews, the more I understood that it’s not as idyllic as it appears. People are paying quite a lot to get the day pass and then they spend hours in line just for that one photo by the pool (look here). It sounded that it’s not worth it, but I cannot say for sure as in the end, we didn’t go there. I guess you can find a less crowded and more valuable place for the same amount of money.
Things to see
I 100% recommend the Yves Saint Laurent museum (ticket ∼10€). It was one of the best museums I’ve ever seen – not even the exhibition (which was super-awesome as well), but the rooms and the way it was built up. BIG applause to the creators of the exhibition.
The Majorelle Garden (ticket ∼7€) seemed like a must, when in Marrakech. Inside there is also a historic Berber museum (ticket ∼3€). The line outside was the LONGEST I’ve ever seen (I guess people waited for hours to get in). We got in quickly because we bought the tickets together with the YSL ticket, which I recommend to do (the combined ticket for the 3 things was ∼18€). Inside the Majorelle garden it was nice. But VERY crowded. The place definitely isn’t as calm and peaceful as it might seem on the photos and there is a line to take photos of the most important “spots” (like the blue wall, water fountain etc). The Majorelle garden didn’t blow me off my feet, because we have a botanical garden here in Barcelona as well, which is much calmer, nicer (and free).
I recommend checking out El Badi Palace (ticket ∼2€), which is a palace complex now in ruins. But it is very interesting to wander around the area and imagine how people lived there centuries ago.
We tried quite many traditional places at first, but to be honest, Moroccan food is not my cup of tea. It mostly consists of couscous and stewed vegetables, not really flavoured. But the fruit is good and the drinks, oh boy. The orange juice there is the best I’ve ever had. It is sold everywhere and costs around 1-2€. It is just SOOO sweet and refreshing. The other good thing was the Moroccan mint tea made with fresh peppermint. Reminded me of Estonian summers. So food – meh, drinks YEAH.
There are very many rooftop places (so cool). My 2 favourite ones were Atay Cafe and Nomad. So if you are there, check them out.
Ah, this post is going long, but I want to be thorough so it actually helps some of you planning to visit Marrakech.
I read a lot of forums before my trip about how women should dress in Marrakech. There are a lot of different opinions – some say to cover up, others that it doesn’t matter. I even read about a couple of incidences, where women got spit on or yelled at because of what they were wearing.
Positively I can say, that I didn’t feel ANY kind of harassment – no weird looks nor inappropriate comments. I was mostly wearing long things as there wasn’t that warm. PS! Maxi-dresses and kimonos suit very well there. I wouldn’t be comfortable wearing too revealing clothes there, not that I do that anywhere else…but I mean strappy tops and mini dresses/shorts. But hey, in the end, it’s everyone’s own decision.
Ah, I promise I stop real soon with this post, but I just wanted to add, that we met a really nice couple in Nomad, that just came back from Essaouira. And as we were feeling kind of same emotions about Marrakech, we trusted their opinion about the little seaside town.
Essaouira is like an undiscovered treasure. All the houses were painted white with blue details and walking in the old town there, it just looked so pretty and felt so relaxing for the eyes and the soul. Music was playing in the streets, people were not so aggressive with the selling and everything felt much more peaceful. We were both saying that we would rather come back to this town then to Marrakech.
We went there for a day trip (arrived 11 AM, left 5 PM) and mostly wandered around the town and the beach. I’m SO GLAD we went there, it was totally worth the long bus ride (and it was cool to see the outside of Marrakech). The trip to Essaouira is 3 hours by bus from Marrakech (one-way ticket is around 10€). I’d recommend the Supratours company because they stop right at the city center. And oh, we came back with the comfort bus (that was a couple of € more expensive), AND I’VE NEVER BEEN MORE COMFORTABLE IN MY LIFE. So totally recommend this option. Btw Essaouira is quite windy, so a jacket doesn’t hurt.
HIGH-5, really proud of you if you’ve made it this far in this post. I wanted to talk about all this because I know Marrakech is a popular destination and I wanted to give my perspective on it, so if you plan to go, you know what to expect.
Would I go back there? Mmm, maybe. If I’d want to decor my house then yes, haha. But otherwise, I would prefer to check out other Moroccan towns because we were so positively surprised by our little escape to Essaouira. Oh, and I would definitely love to go to the desert!
To end this post (finally, I know) I just want to repeat that although I felt that Marrakech might be a bit overhyped and TOO MUCH for my taste, it is still totally worth checking out.
If you’ve been to Marrakech, I would LOVE to know your opinion on it in the comments. And if you have any questions, I’d be happy to help! I truly truly hope that this post helped at least one of you planning to go there.