How to spend a two day weekend in Marrakech
As a former imperial city with an ever-changing set of rulers, Marrakech and the surrounding area is a hodgepodge of different cultures that have left their stamp. Centuries later and the Marrakech region is still one of Morocco’s most important cultural and economic centers.
Because of its complex cultural identity, Morocco’s “Red City” has seemingly endless activities for all ages. Riding graceful camels, soaring above the desert on a hot air balloon, exploring ancient mosques, practicing your bartering skills at crowded bazaars and escaping the chaotic city life in beautiful gardens are among some of the most popular things to do.
Make sure you get in touch with Weekech to tell us about how you want to spend your time and money in Marrakech. Our local experts will tailor an itinerary to your suit your interests and budget.
And though you could spend weeks wandering one of the nation’s largest cities, if you are on a tight schedule and only have a two day weekend (not including travel days) in Marrakech, here is how you should spend it:
Day one of exploring the “Ochre City”
Start your day by visiting Marrakech’s thriving cultural center, Jemaa el-Fna square
Recommended to go in the early morning and before the sun grows hot
Jemaa el-Fna square should be one of your first stops when visiting Marrakech.
It is located in the heart of Marrakech’s medina, the old quarter in North African towns, and is home to one of its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which is considered one of the most important cultural and historical places within the city.
The square attracts thousands of tourists each year because of its intricate architecture and fascinating examples of life from a seemingly distant time: alluring snake charmers, elaborate henna tattoos and dazzling acrobatic shows.
Jemaa el-Fna will give you a different experience depending on what time of the day you go — we recommend the early morning, though you can’t really go wrong.
As cool morning turns to scorching midday, the snake charmers leave and are replaced by traditional Berber and Arabic storytellers, Chleuh dancing-boys and time-honored medicine peddlers.
Though you could spend hours soaking up the square’s unique cultural experiences, most people spend around three hours there.
And despite its title as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, admission to Jemaa el-Fna square is free.
After visiting Jemaa el-Fna, take some time to learn about Marrakech’s unique history outside of a museum
Recommended to go in the late morning to early afternoon to escape the hottest hours of the day
Beyond Jemaa el-Fna, Marrakech is home to dozens of historically important UNESCO World Heritage Sites that highlight the city’s grand and tumultuous history.
Though Marrakech is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Jemaa el-Fna, some of the top ones to visit if you are on limited time (this self-guided tour will take a few hours) are:
Mosquée Koutoubia (Koutoubia Mosque)
Start your tour at Koutoubia Mosque because it is closest to Jemaa el-Fna.
Koutoubia Mosque is the largest — and often considered grandest — mosque in Marrakech, if not all of Morocco.
It was built toward the start of the second millennium and later developed into an identical complex of mosques after it was discovered that the original didn’t perfectly align toward Mecca.
Entry to the actual mosque is not permitted to non-Muslims and admission to the surrounding area is free.
After visiting Koutoubia Mosque, head to the Saadian Tombs, which are the tombs of Saadian Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour Dhahbi — a man who spared no expense on his final resting place.
The tombs are a mausoleum complex that houses al-Mansour, some of the most important princes, at least 170 of his chancellors and wives and his mother’s mausoleum. The intricate mausoleums are filled with imported Italian marble and gilded decorative plasterwork to commemorate Al Mansour’s reign.
However, the complex is now a hidden treasure and can only be accessed by a small passage in the Kasbah Mosque, which is part of the Koutoubia Mosque complex, because Alawite Sultan Moulay Ismail, who ruled Marrakech decades later, hid the Saadian Tombs behind a wall to help diminish his predecessor’s former power.
Admission is 10 Moroccan dirhams (approximately USD$1) for the Saadian Tombs.
Palais El Badi (El Badi Palace)
From the Saadian Tombs, make your way to the El Badi Palace. It is the former palace complex of Saadian Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour Dhahbi, which was solely created to “celebrate the victory over the Portuguese army.”
Though many consider it a jewel of Islamic art, it was heavily influenced by Spanish architectural styles that were popular in Marrakech during that time.
The only thing that remains from the grand palace are the giant esplanade carved gardens, which are lined with orange trees and enclosed by high fortress walls.
Admission is 10 Moroccan dirhams (approximately USD$1).
Palais Bahia (Bahia Palace)
Finish your tour at Bahia Palace, which is the 19th-century palace of Si Moussa, the chamberlain of Sultan Hassan I of Morocco. At the time, it was considered one of Morocco’s most luxurious palaces.
The complex is still considered one of Morocco’s masterpiece architectural sites and a major cultural and heritage monument.
It is home to various Arab-Andalusian concerts and art exhibitions, and the Moroccan royal family is known to occasionally stay there in private quarters when an important event draws them to Marrakech.
Admission is 10 Moroccan dirhams (approximately USD$1).
Refine your bartering skills and grab souvenirs in one of the souks before the day ends
Recommended to go in the early to late evening because the desert heat is weak
A trip to Marrakech is incomplete without visiting one of the souks, which is a North African market and a must for tourists of any age.
Souks are traditional markets and bazaars that sell a variety of goods and are often found in medinas. Marrakech is home to both local souks that sell spices and household items and tourist souks that sell souvenirs to bring back home.
You will find everything from carpets and leather works to lamps, kaftans, dried fruits and Berber (traditional Moroccan and North African) spices. Make sure you explore the labyrinth of alleyways and courtyards while admiring silver jewelry, ironwork and more.
Depending on how much you love shopping, you could spend hours in one of the dozens of souks scattered throughout Marrakech.
And don’t forget to bargain with the merchants for the best prices.
Finish your day with dinner and a drink at one of Marrakech’s famous rooftop bars
Recommended to go after dark because the desert heat is weakest and the skyline is bright with lights
Marrakech is the type of city that is best seen from its rooftops. With hundreds of restaurants and bars perched on the highest levels of buildings, grabbing a drink is the best way to relax after a long day of exploring the winding, narrow streets.
As the sun starts to slip behind the mountains, head over to the medina for the best views of the sunset. And if you’re there during the winter, you can see the sun fall behind surrounding Atlas mountains.
Marrakech is full of rooftop terraces that offer different ambiances and drink and food selections. However, some of the best are within the medina, especially surrounding the Jemaa el-Fna square.
Rest your head at one of the city’s riads (where to stay)
After a long day of exploring Marrakech, it is important to find the right place to spend the night. Rest your head at one of Marrakech’s famous riads, a traditional Moroccan houses or palaces that have courtyards with pools and/or interior gardens in them.
Riads are popular places to stay because of their stunning architect, affordable beauty and glimpses of life from bygone days.
Weekech offers a selection of riads to stay in while in Marrakech. Go have a look you because will won’t want to miss out!
Day two of roaming “the Daughter of the Desert”
Start your morning early and see the sunrise over Marrakech from a hot air balloon
Less than one hour outside of Marrakech and recommended to go for sunrise
Seeing the sunrise over the desert and Atlas Mountains is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful things you can do Marrakech.
This is the perfect activity for people who don’t have a lot of time in Marrakech because tours start while it’s still dark — long before the sun rises — and end when many tourists are just starting the day; most tours usually last around fives hours and finish with enough time to explore Marrakech for the rest of the day.
It’s not uncommon to have traditional Moroccan snacks and tea before the hot air balloon launches and then having a more traditional Berber breakfast while watching the sun rise over the desert and mountains.
Head back to Marrakech and escape the dusty cobbled streets and desert heat in the Majorelle Gardens
Recommended to go in the afternoon to hide in the shade and escape the hottest part of the day
Vibrant cacti and tall palm trees may seem like an arid, desert mirage. However, this greenery is no trick — it is one of Morocco’s famous and beloved gardens.
It took French artist Jacque Majorelle over 40 years to complete one of the nation’s most visited gardens and tourist sites, Majorelle Gardens, whose tall and cool foliage attracts visitors from far and wide.
The garden is home to over 300 species of botanical plants that grow amidst the magical place with bright blue walls. For art lovers, there is a small gallery housed inside the gardens.
Beyond art and an escape from Marrakech’s dusty streets, the gardens also attracts fashion designers and lovers from around the world because Yves Saint Laurent rescued Majorelle Gardens from extinction over 30 years ago. Now his ashes are scattered throughout the garden, which now has a museum dedicated to him called the Berber Museum.
The Berber Museum, which is committed to educating its visitors about Berber heritage and culture, is divided into three sections that show how Berber’s make both practical and ceremonial items from raw materials, fine jewels and artistic expression. Expect to see items like clothing, weaponry, jewelry and ornamental wood carvings.
While you could rest in this desert oasis forever, most people spend around four hours wandering through both the gardens and museum.
Admission to the garden is 70 Moroccan dirhams (approximately USD$7) and 30 Moroccan dirhams (approximately USD$3) for the museum.
Unwind after the long day of exploring Marrakech’s narrow streets in a Hammam
Recommended to go whenever you have a spare hour
A hammam is a traditional Moroccan public bathhouse, though it could be described as more of a ritualistic experience.
Though luxury spas have opened to cater toward the influx of tourists, hammams remain a popular and affordable alternative for tourists and locals alike.
The experience is similar to a Turkish bath, where you sit in a hot steam bath that is separated by genders. (Your attendant will also be the same gender as you.)
From there, you are taken to another room where your attendant helps you bathe with scorching water and then leads you to yet another steam room. The experience is finished with a full body exfoliation and massage.
Most hammams open in the early morning around 6 a.m. and close around midnight, which leaves plenty of time for to visit. The average hammam experience lasts around 30–45 minutes, though you can spend as long as you want “cooling down.”
Prices vary depending on services and location. However, some of the best deals are found within the medina.
Finish your day at Jemaa el-Fna
Because Jemaa el-Fna will give you a different experience depending on what time of the day you go, you should go back to the square before you leave Marrakech.
Head to Jemaa el-Fna as the sun sets over the square, where you can sip tea or coffee at one of the rooftop restaurants that overlook the hustle and bustle of the square.
Prepare to feast when night falls because Jemaa el-Fna comes alive with food vendors who whip up sizzling Moroccan specialties. Make sure you try the salads and grilled meats at unbeatable prices.