alternative weekend guide to marrakech

Marrakech is a popular long weekend destination for us Brits. Forget Paris, spending a weekend in Marrakech is always a good idea. There’s an abundance of cheap flights and it only takes three hours of being at 35,000 ft to arrive somewhere that feels a million miles away from home.

I spent the entire duration of the transfer from the airport to our Riad in Marrakech with my eyes wide open. The things I love most about travelling; the numerous new sights, smells and sounds were all present on that short drive as we began to wound our way through the Medina.

If you’re looking for a weekend adventure not too far away from home then a weekend in Marrakech is the answer.

However, it also seems like EVERYONE and their Aunt is visiting this Moroccan city for the weekend nowadays. Therefore, trying to find something different to do, something your friends haven’t already done can be difficult.

The best moments of our weekend in Marrakech were the moments spent doing things no one else had told us to do. The things we just happened to stumble across.

So, whether you’re revisiting or are visiting Marrakech for the first time, here are my alternative suggestions for a weekend in Marrakech.

Swap a fancy hotel with a pool for a luxurious and authentic Riad

riad alwachma marrakech

When I began searching for somewhere to stay in Marrakech I knew instantly that I wanted to stay in a Riad. Why stay in a hotel that could be anywhere when I could be amongst the madness, the action, the craziness?

Riads, the equivalent of a boutique hotel, are beautifully decorated and furnished. They’re usually found in amongst the maze of streets in Marrakech’s Medina (the old city). I’d highly recommend getting a transfer from the airport to the Riad so you don’t have to rely on your own navigation skills. GPS doesn’t work that well in the Medina and you’ll be approached by many entrepreneurial Moroccans offering to show you the way for a hefty sum. Most Riads offer transfers and it’ll make that welcome to the city so much nicer!

I can see the pull of staying in a more westernised, luxurious looking hotel in the “new city”, I really can, but you only get amazing looking Riads like Riad Star and Alwachma in Marrakech. Hotels with pools and cocktail bars can be found anywhere.

There’s also no need to be worried about your slumber being disrupted by the noise of the Medina. Sure, the Medina is loud but the Riads seems to have some magical ability to cancel all the noise out. In fact they’re almost eerily quiet!

Still need convincing? Riads tend to come with amazing rooftops! So, if you are after some sunbathing while in Marrakech you need only head to the rooftop of your Riad.

Stay clear of Jardin Majorelle. Wander down Rue Bab El Arhdar

Rue Bab El Arhdar Marrakech

Whilst we did visit Jardin Majorelle, favoured by late fashionista Yves Saint Laurent, however I’d much rather point you in the direction of an altogether prettier, calmer, less touristy and cheaper garden towards the south of the city. Jardin Majorelle was nice but I thought it would be so much better. The mass of tourists there day in and day out makes it less attractive. The 70 dirham entry fee even more so.

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If I’m honest a visit to Jardin Majorelle felt like a bit of a rip off and I’d highly recommend taking a walk ablong Rue Bab El Arhdar which runs adjacent to one of the Palaces. The latter is free, quieter, prettier and you’ll get to feel quietly smug about having discovered something secret. Our evening walk around the gardens was one of our favourites.

Swap a sunset drink at La Mamounia for one at Nomad

nomad marrakech
When looking at things to do in Marrakech, La Mamounia will crop up time and time again.

La Mamounia is a five-star palatial hotel just within the Medina walls. It’s known for opulence with Winston Churchill being a fan in his time.

Sure, La Mamounia is pretty, but if you want to feel a bit more in the middle of the action you should visit Nomad.

nomad marrakech

The souks are almost impossible to navigate but every now and again they open up slightly into squares where sellers sell their wares be them cumin, live tortoises, lamps or leather goods. The rooftop at Nomad looks over onto one such square and is both close enough, yet far enough away, to the action for a relaxing sunset cocktail. Yes, an alcoholic cocktail at that (you’ll quickly discover that many places in the Medina aren’t licensed to sell alcohol)!

The brain child of well-known eatery Le Jardin, Kamal Laftimi, is behind Nomad; a Brazil meets Morocco oasis courtyard restaurant with stunning views of the Katouia mosque. Rumour has it the food here is pretty special too, but make sure you book as it can get pretty busy!

Escape the souks and head to the Kasbah

Tinggly Moroccan Cooking Class

As much fun as exploring the souks can be, sometimes getting lost, haggling or having people constantly try and take you somewhere you don’t want to go, gets tiring. If you want a break from it all then head south and visit the Kasbah (if you happened to go to Warwick or Coventry uni, or live there, don’t worry it’s nothing like the nightclub!).

The Kasbah is a much less busy version of the souks. You’ll feel safer from motorbikes and will find the initial price given to you bet the seller that little bit less than in the souks!

One of our favourite shops of the whole trip was an apothecary type store. We were treated to a guided tour of all the spices and treatments. We learnt about how a good sniff of nigella seeds can cure all ailments; including blocked noses and headaches, and walked away with some pretty looking (and smelling) tea and a freebie – Berber lipstick!nomad

Berber lipstick is in the format of a teracotta pot and is made from poppies and pomegranate. Learning about how the herbs and spice in the shop are used was fascinating and even better that it didn’t come across as a hard sales pitch!

Don’t just eat tagine, learn how to cook it!

Tinggly Moroccan Cooking Class

I love eating new food when traveling, but I love trying new recipes and finding out where food comes from even more.

Whilst in Lima we took the Sky Kitchen cooking class and we’ve since tried to recreate that amazing banana milkshake we had on the beaches of Mancora.

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Whilst in Marrakech it almost goes without saying that you have to try a tagine (the vegetable ones were actually my favourite!). Why not take it one step further and learn how to cook it yourself? That way you can bring back holiday memories at home when the wanderlust hits or hold a Moroccan feast for friends.

The tagine cooking class with Tinggly was great fun as you’ll have read here.

If you’ve been to Marrakech I’d love to know what alternative things to do you’d recommend doing!