Morocco, specifically Marrakech is one of my favorite places I’ve traveled. It’s hard to describe. It feels SO foreign and far away but getting there from New York is about the same distance as London! The culture is so different from ours, which is one of the reasons the trip was so special.
The biggest questions I got was whether we felt safe and the answer there is a resounding YES. That being said, we stayed in a great location, so I definitely can’t speak to all parts of Morocco – I’m sure like anywhere you travel, there are definitely parts that aren’t safe. I wrote more about where we stayed in Morocco; but I would definitely recommend staying within the Medina (the walled city) in a nicer hotel like La Sultana if you are able to. The staff there was so helpful and attentive, gave us great advice with dealing with the markets, and helped us make reservations for all of our meals.
The minute you walk out on the street it’s bustling with excitement. Everyone is trying to sell you something. I learned to not make eye contact and just continue on. But once I stopped feeling overwhelmed/overstimulated it was actually sort of charming.
Here is everything we did. Keep in mind we were only there for three full days and nights. I wish we went for longer!
Marrakech Travel Guide
One of the best things we did was visit a Moroccan “pharmacy.” It was so cool. There are women there actually making argan oil and I bought so many oils (orange blossom, lavender, cactus oil – aka “natural botox,” and this amazing blend for sore muscles. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip shopping wise as I’m such a beauty junkie. I loved all of the different smells and talking to the women there. I would recommend either Medina Herbal or Al Farabi Herbaristerie but these little shops are all over the markets and they’re just amazing.
Theres’s A LOT of great shopping in Marrakech. Becca and I both joked that the dream would be to visit and have an empty apartment to decorate. I had no need for new rugs, tapestries, lighting or china but MAN if I did, this would be the perfect to go.
Where to Shop in Marrakech
Joykech Bazaar had the prettiest kaftans and robes, all around $35 or so.
Sarah Maj – a tiny boutique with gorgeous printed dresses.
Max & Jan – this is a really cool concept store with tons of brightly patterned kaftans and clothing for both men and women.
Lalla – beautiful leather bags, I bought a touristy (but still kinda cool) Morocco tee!
Atika – gorgeous loafers and driving mocs, very similar to Tod’s!!!
Intensite Nomade – I got a gorgeous yellow floral dress here that looked just like Ulla Johnson. They have SO many gorgeous kaftans here.
One of the best things we did on this trip was wake up early (we got picked up at 5am) to watch the sunrise in the desert – via hot air balloon with Marrakech by Air! This was by far the most expensive thing we did (it was around $250 each) but really, really special and something I will never forget.
We got picked up in a car around 5am and drove around an hour out into the desert of the Atlas Mountains.
When we arrived, it was still completely dark as they expanded the balloon. While we waited we had orange juice (so good in Morocco), and pastries. When we got into the balloon, they told us to crouch down low for about a minute and when we stood up we were so far off the ground. It was really cool. The ride lasted probably an hour or so – we saw the sun rise over the mountains and could see for miles and miles. The photos are beautiful but don’t do it justice!!!
A crew met us upon landing to level the basket onto the bed of a truck. From there the balloon was deflated and we all took cars back to the base camp, where we were served a traditional Moroccan breakfast (MMMM Moroccan pancakes, which are a lot like naan + fresh honey.)
After the balloon ride they then took us to another spot in the desert for a camel ride.
In all honesty I was terrified – I am scared of horses (I had a bad experience as a kid), and camels are even taller! I didn’t want to be “that girl,” and sit in the car while everyone else did the ride so I just went along with it. Getting up was scary (the camels are all sitting down and then they get up all at once), same with getting down, but really – I had a great time. The ride itself wasn’t scary at all (there was a six year old girl in front of me so… I felt a little lame being such a scaredy cat!). Besides the photos (that “selfie!!!”) were totally worth it. Again, something I will never forget!
Honestly, I am a big food person and was a little meh on the food in Marrakech. Moroccan food isn’t my favorite and I got really sick at one point, so it was a little rough. I will say that the decor at the restaurants more than made up for the just so-so food. Everything was spectacularly designed – so beautiful. It’s also worth nothing that a universal thing was the painfully slow service! You just get used to it!
I will say that breakfast was my favorite meal every day. The orange juice is so good (it’s made from the whole orange so it’s very pulp-y) and I loved all the fresh fruit, pastries, honeys and spreads. Our hotel had like 8 or 9 different breakfast spreads (things like chocolate, orange blossom honey, all TO DIE FOR).
Where to Eat and Drink in Marrakech
This is an ultra chic hotel; I had followed their instagram feed for YEARS (does that floor above look familiar to you???) and was so excited to finally go. We went for dinner and it was good. The cocktails (epic mojitos) and appetizers were amazing but in all honesty our dinners (I had the lobster and Becca had the chicken) were a little dry. I think if I were to go back I would go more for drinks and snacks. They have a gorgeous boutique downstairs as well; though it is very very expensive. If you go for dinner, definitely make a reservation. There are two seatings; early and late.
This is an old post office. We went for drinks and a snack before dinner one night. It’s a beautiful spot and we had this really delicious cheese toast with truffles.
This is a really beautiful spot but it’s worth noting that they do not serve alcohol. I was meh on the food but LOVED the decor. I think I’d go for lunch instead of dinner. I’m pretty sure that this is where I got sick.
This is a GORGEOUS Italian restaurant. It’s where I took this instagram photo. If you go, make a reservation and ask for a table by the pool. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. The food was great (probably my favorite meal which bums me out as it’s Italian and I always pride myself on trying all the local flavors) but the food was very good. The portions are huge and it’s pretty affordable.
This is one of Marrakech’s most beautiful and expensive hotels – we went for drinks (dinner is extremely expensive – they have a seafood plate that’s a few hundred dollars!) at one of their four bars (The Italian Bar) and were a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong – it’s an absolutely beautiful property but I don’t feel any need to go back or to stay there. Maybe we’d hyped it up too much but as glamorous and fancy it was, it didn’t feel like we were in Morocco – we felt like we could have been at any really upscale hotel; even Vegas.
Visiting the YSL museum (and garden – Jardin Majorelle) was really really special.
We weren’t allowed to take photos at the museum (so above is a photo of the cafe, haha) but if you are a Saint Laurent fan or just love fashion, you will die seeing the archives of his designs from over the years. Everything is set against a stark black glossy backdrop which makes for a really dramatic and luxe display. Highly recommend.
The gardens are beautiful as well. That blue color above is “Majorelle Blue,” named for (and trademarked by!) Jacques Majorelle the painter. You can read more about that here, but it might be my new favorite color after this trip. (Separately, I got a lot of questions about my caftan. Sadly it’s a few years old. The brand is called Gallabia and I wore it in this post!)
(After visiting, I was inspired to pick up this book… I’m currently reading it and learning so much about Saint Laurent’s life and rivalry with Karl Lagerfeld. I’m only about 25% in but love it so far.)
Things to Know before Visiting Morocco:
- Friday is the Moroccan Sunday, so a lot of things are closed!
- Don’t eat street food or drink the water. Be really careful; you shouldn’t even brush your teeth with the water.
- If you are bartering in the souks, the tip we got was to ask for 60% off the price they ask for and settle for half off. Don’t take my word on this though, we failed miserably at bartering!!!
- The orange juice is delicious. Be sure to have some. (This is so random but I had to include it!!)
- A lot of restaurants do not serve alcohol, so if you want cocktails or wine, ask ahead!
- Marrakech is HUGE! We were blown away by how big the city is outside of the Medina. We really didn’t spend enough time there; if I were planning another trip I would probably have gone to Marrakech for four or five nights, exploring more outside the city, and also giving ourselves a rest day at the pool.
- Driving is crazy here. Just be prepared for a few wild cab rides!