Spending a weekend in Marrakech? Whether Marrakech is your only destination or your starting point for travelling Morocco, this Marrakech weekend travel guide reveals the best things to do in Marrakech, the most delicious restaurants in the city and the most beautiful riads. Let’s go.
Marrakech is an assault on the senses. You’ll find yourself in chaotic streets, crowded with people, motorbikes zooming past a little too close for comfort and bicycles swerving in between. Fruits and veggies pour out of stalls along the streets, round breads are stacked up high on wooden carts and there are flies everywhere, on everything. Cats queue up underneath hanging limbs of raw meat hoping to get some scraps.
Scratch the surface though and Marrakech is a rewarding destination for a weekend break. For the best weekend in Marrakech, book into a beautiful riad (Moroccan guesthouse), eat in restaurants with roof terraces so you can see across the city and plan your walking route to the city’s palaces and museums.
Top Ten Must-Dos for a Marrakech Weekend:
- Wander the Ben Youssef Madrasa
- Gaze at the Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret
- Discover the Saadian Tombs
- Explore the ruins of the Palais El Badi
- Marvel at the Palais El Bahia
- Visit Dar si Said
- Haggle at Jemaa el-Fna and the Souks
- Cool off with Yves Saint Laurent in the Majorelle Garden
- Enjoy the Photography Museum of Marrakech
- Relax in a Riad
Marrakech Walking Route and Day Plan
For a Marrakech weekend, you’ll likely only have one full day to explore the city. When you arrive, we recommend spending the first day relaxing in your riad because Moroccan riads are amazing. On your second day of the weekend in Marrakech, crack on with seeing the best of the city outlined in our map below.
What to Do with a Weekend in Marrakech?
Start early while it’s still cool. Have breakfast at your riad or one of the cafes, then do the tombs, palaces, Dar si Said and the main square. Stop for lunch and a mint tea at Cafe Bakchich. In the afternoon, browse the souks on your way to the madrassa and the museum of photography. If you have the energy left, visit Garden Majorelle and the Berber museum. Return to the main square for sundown and dinner at the beautiful Cafe Atay.
Saadian Tombs (9AM to 6PM, 10 dirham)
The Saadians were the last Berber (desert people) rulers of Morocco. Though the conquering Arabs destroyed almost all evidence of this once mighty empire’s existence, these beautifully tiled tombs were left virtually untouched.
Palais El Badi (9AM to 5PM, 10 dirham)
The ruined Palais El Badi, once home to the Saadian kings, is now occupied only by a number of nesting storks. The palace also houses a small underground museum where you can learn more about Marrakech’s past.
Palais El Bahia (8AM to 5PM, 10 dirham)
A series of exquisitely tiled rooms, gardens and courtyards make this palace unmissable. The palace was home to the Sultan’s powerful Grand Vizier (prime minister).
Dar si Said (9AM to 4:45PM, 50 dirham)
An old house that has been converted into a “museum”. An excellent place to see zellij — the distinctive Moroccan tiles.
Marrakech’s frenetic main square is teeming with vendors, hustlers, snake charmers and all manner of exotic wares. It’s busy round the clock, but the fun starts at sundown.
It’s impossible to miss the Koutoubia, which is Marrakech’s tallest Minaret (a minaret is a tower, attached to a mosque, with a balcony for the call to prayer). Note that the attached mosque, like most mosques in the country, cannot be visited by non-muslims. You can get a great view of the Koutoubia from Cafe Kif-Kif or Cafe Atay.
A souk is a Middle Eastern market — think narrow labyrinthine streets, rugs, lanterns, lucky charms, spices and persistent salesmen. Inside the souks, men laze in chairs outside their shops and then frantically invite you in when you walk by. Hundreds of Hands of Fatima dangle on the walls of each shop, Moroccan lamps send shards of light across the pavement and herbs and spices are stacked in baskets. Souk Semmarine, just north of the main square, is one of many such souks that you could spend hours exploring if you wanted to.
Ben Youssef Madrasa (also spelled Medersa) (8AM to 5PM, 20 dirham)
A madrasa is a religious school. This one, dating back to the 16th Century, is well worth visiting for its intricate plasterwork.
Maison of Photography (9:30AM to 7:30PM, 40 dirham)
A collection of photographs of old Morocco and Marrakech, housed in a beautiful riad. There’s a cafe on the rooftop terrace.
Garden Majorelle (8AM to 5:30PM, 70 dirham)
One of three large gardens outside the Medina (old city centre). A refreshing change of pace from the heat and concrete of Marrakech. Donated to the city by Yves Saint Laurent. Inside the garden there’s a cafe and a Berber museum. Right outside the garden, the air-conditioned Kawa 16 cafe is a welcome break from the heat.
Where to Eat in Marrakech
Cafe Andalusia – Right by the Saadian Tombs, the cafe is opposite the Moulay El Yazid Mosque (just round the corner from where you enter the tombs). It’s a great place to enjoy breakfast outside with a lovely view of the mosque. Expect a Moroccan breakfast of msemen (square flat breads) and homemade yoghurt with coffee and orange juice for 38 dirhams. If you’ve only got a weekend in Marrakech, make sure you try these traditional Moroccan breakfast foods!
Cafe Atay – By far our favourite restaurant in Marrakech. Cafe Atay serves an incredible vegetarian couscous and a thirst-quenching lemon juice. Other menu items include tagines and omelettes. There’s a spectacular view of the city from the roof terrace. Try and make it in time for sunset.
Bakchich Cafe – Quirky, upcycled decor makes this cafe a little bit different from the usual cafes in Marrakech. Tagines and couscous are on the menu as always, but you’ll also see a variety of salads and juices too. This was one of Luke’s favourite tagines in Morocco! Well-located near the main square.
Bazaar Cafe – This restaurant is more upscale than the others and it serves alcohol. Head up three flights of stairs to the romantic roof terrace. We ate tapas of Moroccan salad, falafel and lentil soup here, all of which were delicious. Many people sang the praises of the tender, steaming tagines here. Grab a bottle of Moroccan wine from the Meknes region to try and while away the evening.
Cafe Kif Kif – For great views of the Koutoubia, head to the pretty Cafe Kif Kif. Sit on the cushioned sofas on the second floor or head up to the stalls on the top terrace for the best views. The cafe is on the corner of the busy road, so you will still feel the atmosphere of the busy city here. The food is good, though not as good as the others cafes mentioned above.
Best Riads in Marrakech
A weekend in Marrakech is all about the riads. For your weekend break in Marrakech, we recommend splurging on your riad because it’s a really special part of a Moroccan trip. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house with a courtyard and many have been converted into guesthouses.
Riads tend to be tucked away in unassuming side-streets. This means that they can be tricky to find when you first arrive, so ask for clear directions from your host beforehand. The facades of the riads bear no resemblance to the riad at all. Once you open the crumbling outside door, these marvellous, massive courtyards appear with magnificent tiling and rooms all set above.
Here are our best riads in Marrakech:
Riad Chez L’Africain – This is a great value riad. It’s well-located near to the Saadian Tombs and palaces. It’s also easy to find, which is rare for a riad! The courtyard is decorated with turquoise tiles and the rooms are a fresh white. There’s a roof terrace where you can enjoy mint tea when you arrive and breakfast if you choose to.
Riad Spa Sindibad – This upmarket riad comes with a higher price tag but you get a swimming pool in the centre of the courtyard, staff available to bring you whatever you need 24-hours and an incredible breakfast on the roof terrace included. The rooms are a good size and the bathrooms have golden sinks! The riad is the other side of the city from the Saadian tombs, so it’s a bit of a walk to reach the centre of Marrakech and the other sights.
How Much Does a Weekend in Marrakech Cost?
How much should you budget for a weekend in Marrakech? That’s a good question…
Here’s a breakdown of our expenses for 1 day in Marrakech:
|Breakfast at Cafe Andalucia||40 dirham|
|Saadian Tombs||10 dirham|
|Palais El Badi||10 dirham|
|Palais El Bahia||10 dirham|
|Dar Si Said||50 dirham|
|Lunch at Cafe Bakchich||50 dirham|
|Ben Youssef Madrasa||20 dirham|
|Maison of Photography||40 dirham|
|Garden Majorelle||70 dirham|
|Dinner at Atay Cafe||50 dirham|
|Double room at a Riad||400 dirham|
|Taxi around the city||5-50 dirham|
Total Daily Budget in Marrakech in dirhams: 550 dirhams per person per day
Total Daily Budget in Marrakech in pounds: £45 per person per day
Total Daily Budget in Marrakech in euros: €50 per person per day
The above prices are what we spent for a day in Marrakech, including food, accommodation and transport. That’s for mid-range dining and upper mid-range accommodation. The above doesn’t include shopping in souks, where you might spend a few hundred dirham depending on how much you like to shop.
I do recommend paying a little bit more for a riad (traditional Moroccan accommodation with a courtyard) as staying in a riad was a highlight of our Marrakech trip. You could cut costs by skipping the gardens and Dar Si Said and eating street food.
For the best deals on riads in Marrakech, please book through our Airbnb for a discount if it’s your first stay in an Airbnb.
Day Trips from Marrakech
If you’ve got some more time or a long weekend break in Marrakech, then consider taking a day-trip from Marrakech. The city is well-located for taking trips to the beach or the mountains. You can go to the desert from Marrakech too but this takes a minimum of 2 days.
Imlil – Just 2.5 hours from Marrakech is the village of Imlil. This is a hiking base for people wanting to hike to the Berber villages or to hike Mt Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. But it’s also a nice place to spend a day enjoying the mountain views.
Essaouira – Head west to the coastal town of Essaouira. This blue and white painted town has a medina that’s well worth exploring and a beach. Many people refer to it as ‘Marrakech by the sea’ but it’s much less frantic and far cooler than Marrakech.
Desert Tours – From Marrakech you can also take tours to the desert. If you only have a weekend in Marrakech however, it won’t be enough for this trip. The minimum number of days needed is 2 days. The 2-day, 1-night trip goes to the Zagora desert where you spend a night at a desert camp with a Berber tribe.
Are you travelling to Morocco for a weekend in Marrakech? Let us know what your plans are!
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