The high/low guide to Marrakech
No matter the budget you’re working with, the spirited streets of Marrakech have something for everyone. Travel photographer and Morocco expert Holly Farrier outlines how best to experience this colourful city, from lavish spa treatments to sensational street food.
High: Situated in the acclaimed Royal Mansour hotel, La Grande Table Marocaine (above left) is one of the leading dining experiences in the city. Let three-Michelin-starred head chef Yannick Alléno take you on an unforgettable journey of discovery through traditional Moroccan cuisine with a fresh twist, while marvelling at the impressively palatial dining room.
Low: The thriving street food scene of Marrakech is not to be missed and, with so many stalls in one place, Jemaa el-Fna square is a great starting point. Begin with the snail soup, a local delicacy rumoured to have restorative benefits, before heading to the streets of the Medina in search of vendors selling chebakia (above right) – deliciously sweet sesame pastries coated with masses of syrup. Wash it all down with a cup of steaming mint tea.
High: High fashion enthusiasts and nature lovers will delight in the exquisite Le Jardin Majorelle and its adjoining Yves Saint Laurent Museum. Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé famously restored the garden, and Saint Laurent used the striking, Instagram-famous blue villa (above left) as his sketching studio. This two-and-a-half-acre garden houses more than 30 species of cacti, alongside other exotic plants and trees.
Low: Wandering around the striking streets of the ancient Medina is like going back in time and offers up endless hours of exploration in a condensed, walkable area – and it’s free. Be sure to include a visit to Koutoubia Mosque to admire its monumental tower (above right).
High: To experience the height of luxury when it comes to hammams, look no further than the opulent La Mamounia spa (above). Its turquoise pool, surrounded by enchanting mosaics and marble benches, is a blissful spot to unwind and escape the chaos of the city. Treatments here use local ingredients including orange blossom, argan oil and honey. Splash out on a La Mamounia Divine Experience for a lavish 90-minute massage.
Low: For an equally authentic, but more affordable hammam experience, head to a local steam room, where you can absorb the local culture and renew your body, mind and spirit for just ten dirhams (around £1). Pay a little extra for a vigorous scrub that will leave you feeling rejuvenated. There are countless spots dotted around the city, but Hammam Dar el-Bacha is the largest traditional bathhouse and one of the most impressive.
High: Hidden amidst the energetic souks are luxurious boutiques for those in search of unique homewares, clothing and jewellery made by local designers. Search out chic fashion and lifestyle brand Max & Jan (above left) or shop in style at Rue de Majorelle, a gallery concept store opposite Le Jardin Majorelle housing designs from more than 60 local makers.
Low: Finding great bargains in the renowned souks is all part of the Marrakech experience. Visit the labyrinth of alleys lined with traders selling their wares and soak up the bustling atmosphere. Whether you’re on the hunt for traditional Moroccan spices or a beautiful handwoven carpet, with some haggling you can be certain of finding a handmade treasure to take home. Just make sure to leave room in your suitcase.
High: Just beyond the city, in the shadows of the Atlas Mountains, lies the enchanting tented Scarabeo Camp (above left), offering a wild yet luxurious base from which to experience the surrounding lunar landscape. Try quad biking on the dunes or take a sunrise hot air balloon ride. Or, for a truly memorable experience, rent out the entire camp for an exclusive family adventure.
Low: No visit to Marrakech is complete without a visit to Jemaa el-Fna square (above right). During the evening it comes alive with storytellers, dancers and a host of interesting characters. The square has an electric energy and is an integral part of the city’s history. It is free to roam around, although be prepared to tip if you want to photograph anyone.
High: The Four Seasons Resort Marrakech (above left) offers superlative luxury and family-friendly amenities rolled into one. With a Kids Club and Young Adult Centre, as well as meticulously planned excursions for children of all ages, parents will be able to relax in confidence while youngsters stay amused for hours.
Low: Take the family to the charming Cafe Clock (above right), which serves up delightful food and hosts free Moroccan storytelling sessions that mesmerise audiences and keep this prominent tradition alive. These are hosted twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays at 7pm and are translated into English.
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