Picture this: you are slowly making your way through the sprawling labyrinth of alleyways that make up Marrakech's famous souq, all hope of finding your way back the way you came is lost. It's now just a case of going with it and soaking everything up because 36 hours in Marrakech is, essentially, an exercise in sensory overload. Street vendors spout their merry manifesto from every direction, invading your ear drums, the noise so omnipresent it feels like it's somehow reached your soul. The atmosphere is punctured by mingling aromas of incense, leather, spices and myriad other unknown fragrances while sparks fly overhead from a nearby ironmonger as you meander and wind your way past craftsmen, snake charmers and soothsayers. Anyone hoping for muted tones and unassuming sophistication is either never leaving the hotel, or has boarded the wrong flight...
Marrakech has got to be one of the ultimate city break destinations; where else can you reach in less than four hours from the UK that has its exoticism and mystery? I can't think of anywhere. Autumn is also the perfect time to travel as the sun is all but guaranteed while the temperature is completely bearable. Hop aboard an early morning flight from the UK and by mid-morning you'll be sipping fresh mint tea in your riad, which will freshen you up nicely before heading out to explore. So here goes... 36 hours in Marrakech:
12pm: you've arrived on the early morning flight from London and settled in to your riad (and had your fresh mint tea), but the tummy is probably a rumblin' so stay and enjoy an early lunch (lamb tagine anyone?) while soaking up some much-needed sun. And relax...
Head out to explore the historic district of the city, the Medina. A guided tour on foot or bike is a great introduction to the hustle and bustle or you can simply wander through the streets and alleys, going with the flow of everyday Moroccan life. Keen shoppers head straight to the souq where you'll be in seventh heaven as you haggle with street vendors over all manner of things - rugs, shoes, leather bags, teapots, spices and much, much more. It's a city that demands you just dive in and embrace your surroundings.
As dusk approaches, head down to the Djemaa El-Fna, which comes to life in the evening. Locals and tourists alike are entertained by acrobats, musicians and storytellers. Get in amongst the thick of it and walk around or watch in awe from the numerous café balconies dotted around. Food stalls pop up all over the place selling weird and wonderful delicacies - for all you adventurous foodies the spleen kebabs and goat heads come highly recommended (not by myself, might I add).
9am: Gastronomic globetrotters step this way because we're off to a cookery class! I'm a firm believer that the way to the heart of a country is through its collective stomach; you can learn as much about the culture, history and tradition of a place from its food as you can at any museum. Not only that, but mastering a couple of signature local dishes (maybe not the spleen kebabs, though) and adding them to your dinner party repertoire will only serve to make you look terribly cultured and well travelled to your friends. Bonus. There are numerous great cookery classes to do in Marrakech and it's a great way to spend a morning.
2pm: No trip to Marrakech would be complete without having a traditional Moroccan hammam where any and all stresses will melt away and you'll leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Time to soak up some afternoon sun and enjoy spectacular views of the Atlas Mountains from the rooftop of your Riad, before grabbing an evening flight home.
If you're going for longer...
- Be sure to take a day trip out to the Atlas Mountains where you can go trekking, horse riding, dune bugging and biking.
- Spend an afternoon exploring the Jardin Majorelle - an oasis of exotic plant life, shady walkways and burbling streams and pools.
Where To Stay
There are some fabulous riads and hotels in and around Marrakech to cater to various requirements. For an authentic Moroccan experience, Riad Kniza is a charming, family owned and run boutique riad which produces some truly spectacular food. Vanessa (sister of Richard) Branson's El Fenn is a funky and stylish riad located just minutes from the Djemaa El-Fna. It's home to a particularly fabulous rooftop bar and restaurant, complete with rooftop pool - very rare in Marrakech. If you want something along more classical luxury hotel lines, Villa des Orangers is the place for you. A Relais & Chateaux property, it's all calm luxury and chic interiors.