Marrakech is one of our most exotic, beautiful and interesting destinations, and the best part is that you don’t have to worry too much about having a good time there even if you’re watching the pennies – it’s a city where you get a lot of bang for your buck.
But in case you’re going to Marrakech on a budget and you’re looking for a little inspiration, here’s a list of ten really cool things you can see, do and eat there for under a tenner.
Start the day in Morocco with American style pancakes and Italian coffee. Café O2 is a friendly and chilled little café on rue Tariq Ben Ziad that serves up a breakfast of champions at a seriously good price.
They do fruit pancakes – but more importantly they do Nutella and Snickers pancakes – that you can have with a coffee and some orange juice for 45 Dirham (just over €4).
They’re really friendly (even to children and cats) and they also serve great, cheap burgers, pizzas and panini if you felt like taking a break from Moroccan food at any point.
The Jardin Majorelle is one of Marrakech’s most famous and beautiful attractions, consistently topping lists of ‘things to do’ in the city. In a famously hectic city, the gardens are a genuine oasis of beauty and calm.
They are beautifully designed – but then, what else would you expect from a place that was developed by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé?
As well as the impeccably kept, colourful gardens, there’s a museum about the history and culture of the Berber people which is worth seeing. Admission to both the gardens and the museum is 100 Moroccan dirham (MAD), or €9.15. Go smell the flowers.
Ahhh the souks! Marrakech is a sensory overload no matter where you are in the city, but it’s in the hectic, bustling, jam packed souks that things get really intense.
Some people like a certified guided tour, but as long as you’re prepared to get lost and enjoy wandering around trying to get ‘un-lost’, you’ll be fine without one (just bear in mind that if you ask for help or directions, you’ll be expected to pay. Instead, use the Koutoubia Mosque as your ‘north star’ to find the djemaa).
You really don’t have to buy anything to enjoy the souks – but if you feel like spending a tenner there, don’t forget the golden rule – haggle like you’ve never haggled before.
If you’re a fan of architecture and design – in fact even if you’re not – you’ll be blown away by the Medersa Ben Youssef. It was once North Africa’s biggest centre for Islamic studies, and is now open to the public. It’s an incredibly impressive building.
The courtyard is probably the most impressive part; everywhere you look is adorned with painstakingly carved cedar wood and marble, beautiful zellij (little tiles) mosaics and decorative plasterwork. It costs 10 MAD to get in, which is about 90 cent. You’d be silly NOT to.
The Amal Centre in Gueliz, Marrakech, is an excellent place to go for three reasons. The main one is that it’s a place where disadvantaged women are able to go and train in cooking and waitressing, giving them practical skills that will help them to find employment.
The second reason is that it’s also a really good restaurant, serving some of the best tasting and best value Moroccan and fusion food in the city.
The third reason is that you can eat really well here for well under ten euro, and eating there helps support the centre and the women. There’s no reason not to go here.
The Djemaa is the big square that marks the epicentre of madness in the Marrakech souks. It’s a completely captivating place, with street performers, snake charmers and dancing animals, palm readers and henna artists…
One particularly nice way to experience it, either before or after you’ve been down there in the thick of things, is to go to one of the many cafés surrounding the square just before dusk, and sip mint tea while you watch the sun set over the square, and view the bustle of the square from a distance, and a thankfully relaxing vantage point.
But not a fancy, luxury one. Keep it real, and go get scrubbed at a public Hammam. It costs about 10-15 Dirham (around a euro) to enter, and another 15-30 to have someone scrub you a new layer of skin.
If it’s available and you have enough change from your tenner to get a tub of “sabon beldi” – black olive oil soap – do it. Don’t expect soft music, luxurious slippers and candles with the public hammam experience – it’s just not like that.
But DO expect to feel like a new person when you leave (and not just because you lost a layer of old skin). It’s a proper Marrakech experience.
Sitting in Amandine with a coffee and a cake or pastry in front of you, you could easily be forgiven for thinking you were actually in one of Paris’ finest patisseries.
Exquisite glossy tarts; soft flaky breakfast pastries, great coffee, impeccable little macarons, and mille-feuille made with such precision that it would make the most OCD pastry eater in the world happy. You will not believe what you can get for a tenner here.
It’s just fantastic, and to top it all off, the staff are absolutely lovely. The raspberry tart is heaven, and try the ‘corne de gazelle’, because it’s a Moroccan specialty and it’s yum.
The Maison de la Photographie on rue Ahal Fes (in the Medina) came to be when two collectors of vintage Moroccan photography decided tell the story of Morocco using some of the beautiful images in their collections.
The photos were taken between 1870 to 1960 – and what a story they tell. They’re organised over three floors, by region and date, giving you a really engaging insight into the history and evolution of Morocco and its people since the end of the 19th Century.
What makes the 40 Dirham entrance fee extra worth it is the beautiful rooftop terrace and great value café. The panoramic view is incredible and you can sit here, sip tea and eat tagine until the sun goes down over the Medina.
You’ll smell the tanneries of Marrakech before you see them. This is where Moroccan leather and fleeces are beaten and soaked into submission using a delightful concoction of cow’s urine, pigeon poo and acids.
It’s an ancient curing process that is fascinating to see happening – so much so that you might just forget all about the smell of it. Actually you probably won’t; it reeks. But it’s well worth seeing.
You will have people offering you guided tours – these can actually be helpful, but if you decide to go with someone, make sure you decide a price beforehand – and make it clear that you will not be held under any obligation to buy anything, should they decide to take you into a leather shop at the end of the tour.
If you’re feeling inspired, check out our flights to Marrakech!
- Dee Murray