Marrakech, probably the most famous of Moroccan destinations – souks filled with spices, textiles, leather and glassware; beautiful architecture covered in brightly coloured tiles and carved plaster; an abundance of rooftop cafes and bars. All of these things meant I was sure Marrakech would swiftly become one of my favourite destinations, but in reality I found it quite tricky to travel as a solo female.
Stepping into Marrakech feels like a sensory overload that took me a few days to get used to and I found how disorientating the Medina was to be quite stressful – something that threw me a lot as I’m usually like a homing pigeon! There is of course the extra unwanted male attention you’ve probably heard about, though I do think this can be minimised by wearing culturally appropriate clothing (as you should do anyway) and simply not reacting to it. I’m quite good at blocking this sort of thing out – let’s face it, if you’re a woman you’ve probably been heckled in your home town on the reg. It’s crap, but it’s par for the course a lot of the time. I do want to state that I never felt unsafe, but I did feel like I needed to be more alert than I might be in Europe. Overall, I simply think that Marrakech would be more fun with a few pals, and would advise that if you’re not a practised solo traveller to choose somewhere else for that adventure.
Throw in some disappointing restaurants and a bad bout of food poisoning, it certainly wasn’t my favourite destination, but despite the negatives I’ve listed (I really just want to be honest!), there are lots of great things about this city. Wonderful architecture, great sights and museums, far too much good shopping for my baggage allowance and oh my, the riads! Just beautiful.
FOOD AND DRINK
Food and travel are intrinsically linked to how much I enjoy a place. Disappointing food has really hindered my experience of a place in the past (Philippines) and elevated others beyond my dreams (Italy, Mexico, Thailand). I can’t sugar coat it, the food in Marrakech really fell short of my expectations. I definitely found my groove with places as my time there went on, so I’m not sure if I simply don’t love Moroccan cuisine or whether I was going to recommended places that just weren’t my cup of tea – maybe a bit of both.
I will mention a bit about places I didn’t rate as highly as everyone else seems to here, because they will come up as recommendations a lot and I’d rather give you my honest opinion on them rather than not be thorough.
Given a lot of places don’t sell alcohol in Morocco, I’ve also listed this where relevant as I know for many people that may dictate whether they have lunch or dinner there. There will certainly be no judgement from me!
Kissariat Ben Khaled R’Mila, 1 Rue Fatima Zahra, Marrakech 40000
I really liked this spot! I only went for a drink and a small plate (cigarettes of feta in filo with honey and pistachio – banging) but would absolutely book for a full sunset dinner here next time. It’s not the cheapest – one cocktail, aforementioned small plate/starter and a large water cost me around £30 which was a bit of a shock for the opening drink of the trip, but given how a lot of places I was recommended didn’t live up to my expectations, I would say this place is worth it. It’s got a great vibe and the rooftop is beautifully designed – well protected from the sun with plenty of parasols in the day and the misters periodically cooling you down. The sun sets in the distance behind Koutubia Mosque, so it’s one of the better rooftop views you’ll get in Marrakech.
Derb Moulay Abdullah Ben Hezzian, 2, Marrakesh 40000
Very much one of those places that make you queue and then it appears there was no need when you actually make it inside, El Fenn is just the right side of A Bit Pretentious – the kind of place that you can forgive because it does what it does well, and has a lovely vibe in a gorgeous setting. A beautifully designed rooftop with a bar in the middle and an inviting pool to one side (only for hotel guest use unfortunately, I checked), this is a lovely spot for drinks. I had a great raspberry mojito and the popcorn chicken from the bar bites menu (banging), rounded off with a Moroccan white as the sun set over the Kotubia Mosque. I would have stayed longer had I not had another reservation to get to (one that was totally not worth going to, a reminder to myself to sometimes go off piste and go with whatever flow I’m feeling). One for a full meal next time, or maybe spend a few hours grazing on small plates and working through the cocktail list in the early evening sun.
4 Rue Riad Zitoun el Kdim, Marrakesh 40000
DarDar was GREAT. I made a booking two weeks in advance and yet still could not get a space on the roof, so make sure to be super organised with this one. I had a table inside and had two of the small sharing plates, with the intention of having at least four as the menu read so well. Sadly the small stomach/solo travel issues kicked in and I was full after a stunning plate of tuna tataki and some excellent duck spring rolls. This would be a surefire return on another trip and I wouldn’t say no to two sittings given the calibre of the food.
8 Place des Ferblantiers, Marrakesh 40000
Great little cafe to stop for lunch before or after exploring Bahia Palace and El Badi. I ate a fresh pita stuffed to the brim with delicious pulled lamb and mint sauce, washed down with a fresh lemonade. Lovely spot, good for people watching – and cheap, too.
Place des Ferblantiers, Marrakesh
Cute shaded rooftop near to Bahia Palace and El Badi. I didn’t eat here as I’d just eaten at Mazel across the way, but enjoyed a couple of glasses of white Moroccan wine whilst reading my book and hiding from the blazing midday sun.
Dar El Bacha, Rte Sidi Abdelaziz, Marrakech 40000
Set in the Museum of Confluences, Bacha Coffee is super famous and expensive for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of. The museum (and therefore the Bacha Coffee Café) opens at 10am, and by 9.30am there will be a fairly sizeable queue at the door, so factor that in. Should you rock up later, say at 2pm like I did, you may be told that the wait for the café is 3 hours (!!) long. You do get a buzzer so you don’t have to actually hang around that long in person, but I decided seeing the museum (more beautiful Moroccan architecture) and grabbing some Bacha Coffee from the shop would suffice. I always buy coffee abroad to take home, but definitely check which one you’re going for at Bacha as I very nearly accidentally parted with £60 for a 250g bag of beans. They do come in a pretty bag though.
1 Derb Aarjane, Marrakesh 40000
Nomad is one place that comes up repeatedly when you ask around for recs for Marrakech. I could be convinced to re-visit if my travel companions were super keen, but given the amount of people raving about it, I did think it was a little overrated. It’s one of those places that’s seemingly difficult to get a reservation, but then have plenty of space when you actually arrive (which I found with a few places in Marrakech). It’s a beautifully designed restaurant with gorgeous inside space and a terrace set over two levels, overlooking Souk Epices. I had the beetroot, goat’s cheese and lentil salad which was good, but honestly I wasn’t that enthralled by the menu, and I missed having an alcoholic drink at this spot. Had they been one of the places that serve booze and had it not been 38 degrees, I may have stayed longer and Nomad may have warmed to be a little more – certainly enough people seem to really rate it given how much it comes up. But sometimes the vibe is just not vibing!
Cafe des Epices
75 Derb Rahba Lakdima, Marrakech 40000
Cafe des Epices is from the same group of restaurants as Nomad but I enjoyed it more than the former. Although in fairness, the more I think about it, the more I think the 38 degree heat may have hindered my enjoyment of Nomad somewhat. Anyway, lovely spot for lunch, set over a few floors with a rooftop overlooking Souk Epices. The hummus and salads are good!
Rue Koutoubia, Marrakech 40000
Narwama is tucked away really well, but when you reach it you’ll find a beautiful open air restaurant set with tables all in the round, focusing on the centre of the courtyard where you will be periodically entertained by traditional musicians and belly dancers. It’s a lot of fun! Be sure to arrive for a later sitting to catch this part, as whilst the food is decent (the menu is a mix of Moroccan and Thai), the real draw is the entertainment.
Rue Riad Zitoun el Kdim, Marrakesh 40000
A wrap-around rooftop bar that looks down onto the pool of the riad it’s built at the top of, La Pergola is a lovely shaded escape. They have a long list of cocktails on a happy ‘hour’ running from lunchtime to early evening, and around 9pm onwards they have live jazz wafting up from the poolside to entertain you.
62 rue amsafah, Rte Sidi Abdelaziz, Marrakech
Set over a few floors, with two levels of terrace with sweeping views of the Atlas Mountains, Atay Café is a really great lunch spot in the medina and the perfect place to break from shopping. Their cheese briouats were fantastic (definitely order a multiple plates of these if there are a few of you – at least two servings), and although their chips were a little anemic, the chicken skewers were well marinated and served with a good harissa mayo. After so many disappointing meals Atay Café felt like a real win, and somewhere I would definitely return to.
40 Rue Diour Saboun, Marrakesh 40000
No alcohol (officially..?)
In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have persevered with my dinner plans at Limoni when battling food poisoning, but it was my final night and I had to try. A genuinely good Italian, my tagliatelle with Bolognese was gorgeous, even if I couldn’t finish it due to aforementioned illness. The pasta was clearly freshly made and was served with a ‘help yourself’ bowl of parmesan, which is always an insant way to my heart. I hear the chocolate fondant is really fantastic too. Limoni is technically a no alcohol zone, but I’ve heard there is booze available off menu, and I know an Aperol spritz when I see one, even if it is served in a tumbler. I can also spot the difference between a coke and red wine, even from a distance. Good Italian food and sneaky drinks served under big lemon trees in an old riad, through an unassuming antique door? This is essentially a perfect dining experience to me. I need to go back to Marrakech to do Limoni justice.
Terrasse des Epices
Sidi Abdel Aziz، 15 souk cherifia, Marrakesh 40000
I’m including this place at the end to say my piece on it, because it comes up in all recommendations, even from the riads I stayed in. I don’t usually write about places I don’t rate, I’m not a critic. But this place disappointed me hugely. I paid £20 for an overcooked piece of salmon that was served with grated parmesan (ew), which on the menu said would be goat’s cheese. I should’ve complained, I was too tired to bother. Other people rate this place highly, so give it a go if you must but definitely do not order the salmon, and be prepared to pay a higher price than a lot of other restaurants in Marrakech.
The following are a few places I didn’t get a chance to try but have been recommended to me. Hard to know whether to include these given a lot of recs didn’t work for me, but they are on my list for next time. Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried and rated any of these!
Cafe Chez Zaza
Bab Ftouh, 40000, 21, Marrakech
An Insta friend recommended this place for traditional home cooked Moroccan food after I lamented how lacking I was finding the food scene in Marrakech, but I was about to hop off on my Sahara tour so didn’t get to try it myself! I do trust her though, and given she ate there at least three times on her last trip, I think you should trust her too.
Dar El Bacha, N° 110 Rue Fatima Zahra, Marrakech 40000
I’m really gutted I didn’t fit in eating at Sabich! It’s a tiny hole in the wall place in the medina, and sells really fantastic looking pita sandwiches with fillings like chicken, tuna and saffron slow cooked beef. Good fuel for your shopping afternoon as it’s right by a lot of the souks. Next time for sure.
Rue Harroun Errachid Quartier de, Marrakech 40000
Le Jardin serves a mix of traditional Moroccan dishes such as tagine, chicken couscous, briouates, and western food like chicken sandwiches, burgers and lamb chops amongst – you guessed it – a peaceful garden setting tucked away in the Medina. I feel like I missed a good one here – definitely one I’d like to try for lunch on a future trip.
Au 1er étage du Medina Mall, 91 Avenue Homman Fetouaki, Marrakesh 40000
Bit of a random addition here, but somewhere that came up repeatedly during my research for the trip. The burgers from Medina Burger look absolutely fantastic – could be a great alternative for lunch when you’re bored of tagine, or overdid it on the overpriced booze the night before.
I originally booked about eight different riads to stay in when in Marrakech, on the basis of endless shining recommendations and the fact they are just the most aesthetically pleasing of places to stay. I eventually settled on Riad Le Limoun and Riad Raffaele for my split time in Marrakech, but given the research I put in I’ll include some of the others I found that I nearly opted for.
Riad Le Limoun
66 Derb Sidi Lahcen O Ali, Marrakech 40000
This riad was just so cute, so well run, and a really good price. I booked the smallest cosy room which came out at £327 for 4 nights. It goes without saying that the aesthetics were gorgeous, but the staff were wonderful and couldn’t have been more helpful. The roof terrace is tiered with some sunbeds, a plunge pool and seating where you can watch the sun set over Marrakech and eat breakfast looking out to the Atlas Mountains beyond. A gem of a place.
Riad Rafaele & Spa
derb el Ghanjaoui, 2, Marrakesh 40000
I wanted to stay somewhere a little more pricey for the end of my trip, and after weighing up Riad Rafaele and Riad Kasbah, opted for the former. Truly stunning interior design happening here, and the French couple who own the place, Valerie and Thomas, are lovely. It’s a random one in the sense that the entrance is down what initially looks like a very dodgy alley, but that’s just the Medina and once you’re in, it’s a beautiful oasis. I stayed in room 7 and it was stunning, with a ridiculously comfortable bed and bedding, but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Riad Rafaele set me back £ 275 for two nights.
NOTE: Both riads I stayed in were open to the attached bathrooms. Obviously fine for me as a solo traveller, but if you’re pals or shy about your bowel habits, bear this in mind. I don’t know what the other rooms were like but I think in future trips to Marrakech I would enquire with the accommodation on the bathroom set up. All very aesthetic but not the one if you’re an IBS girlie!
Riad Be: Marrakech
à côté de la grande mosquée، 23 Derb Sidi Lahcen O Ali, Marrakesh 40030
This place was actually always my must stay place, but when going to book, there were no dates listed and no one came back to me. So, not great on that front, but apparently they post availability quite late online (maybe they have filming and shoots there a lot? I dunno) and maybe more perseverance would help. Be: Marrakech actually ended up being around the literal corner from the first riad I stayed in, and I popped my head in and got given an impromptu tour. There’s no two ways about it, it’s one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen. The gentleman on reception told me they have an outpost in the Agadir Desert too, so if you’re heading that way, one to look into.
101, derb Harbil Quartier Kasbah, Marrakesh 40000
Riad Kasbah was the runner up choice for the last couple of nights of my trip. The courtyard pool at Kasbah looks stunning, the sunbed mattresses may be thicker than my mattress at home, and the reviews are excellent. I preferred the location of Raffaele in the end, but Kasbah looks like one of many good shouts.
215 Arset Aouzal Rd, Marrakesh 40000
This was one of the front runners before I decided that with a cost of living crisis, I could probably spend less given I was travelling solo. Stunning design with a gorgeous rooftop pool (which isn’t as common as you’d think), so you can really catch the rays and have a proper afternoon chilling at the riad. Excellent location.
09 Rue Ank Jemel, Marrakesh 40000
With rooms in with a neutral palette (and a minimum of 2 nights stay), a rooftop terrace and a pool that is instagrammable beyond comprehension, Riad Yasmine is booked out months in advance. If you want to experience the beauty of the place but couldn’t get a reservation, you can book to dine for lunch – orders must be placed 24 hours before (as with most riads).
THINGS TO DO
Ben Youssef Madrasa
This 15th century college has been restored to its former glory and is without question my number one place to see in Marrakech. The detail in the tiles, carved walls and doors that surround the courtyard with reflecting pool in the middle is among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. I was the first person there and for a while had the place entirely to myself before the influencers inevitably turned up. Take your time to go inside and upstairs to explore the rooms (former bedrooms, so small!) that wrap around the building and look down into the courtyard.
The House of Photography
A small but perfectly formed museum of the history of photography in Morocco in an old Riad, with a lovely courtyard, tumbling plants and a gorgeous terrace. The museum is a short walk from Ben Youssef Madrasa, so a good one to combine and stop for a refreshment at their rooftop cafe with sweeping views across Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains.
It kind of blows my mind that you can pay someone to soap and scrub your naked body down within an inch of its life. Getting a hammam in Morocco is a must – I went to Les Bains D’Orient for a traditional hammam and a back massage and both were absolutely excellent. Even for someone who did not grow up in a naked house.
Le Jardin Secret
A beautiful, calm oasis in the midst of Marrakech’s Medina, this garden is full of interior inspiration – you’ll understand what I mean when you see the turquoise tiles that pave the pathways. There are two cafes inside to grab a mint tea or soft drink, one of them being on the terrace that overlooks the garden and pergola. Go early to beat the crowds.
Jardin Majorelle & Yves Saint Laurent Museum
Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic garden is full of tropical plants, beautiful landscaping and structures painted in bold green, yellow and bright blue. This is the one garden you must book online in advance and get there for your selected time slot – but it’s worth planning for. A combined ticket will get you into the small Berber museum exhibit inside the gardens and the YSL museum next door. The latter doesn’t allow photography but the dresses on show inside are a stunning example of timeless elegance and exquisite draping that is seared in my mind.
El Badi Palace
Another palace, this time dating back to the 1500s, and very much left in ruins. I didn’t make to El Badi on this visit, but I do always say you need to leave something undone to go back for, and I love history so will look forward to exploring this example of palatial history on a future trip.
Marrakech is not short of beautiful examples of architecture, and Bahia is another example of this. The former palace dates back to the mid 19th century and is absolutely worth a visit. It was crowded when I went (around midday), so as with anywhere in Marrakech, it will be more enjoyable if you arrive first things and beat the crowds.
The famous square bustling full of street food traders and snake charmers comes alive at dusk and late into the night. It’s classic Morocco, but if you want to stay out of the chaos (and risk bumping into a snake when you have a fear of them), stop for a mint tea at one of the rooftop cafes that surround and take in the square from above at sunset.
Souks and Medina
Marrakech’s Medina (ancient walled city) is full of different souks (markets) and any hotel or Riad will be able to tell you which souk to go to for spices, leather, glassware, ceramics, textiles. The shopping in Marrakech is excellent – I came home with so many beautiful pieces and I would’ve bought more had I room in my luggage. Take a look at what you think you may want to buy towards the start of your trip, and then go out near the end in a targeted shopping trip. And haggle! It’s basically law.
- Stay in a riad within the Medina rather than a hotel outside. The riads are stunning, have few rooms and a lot are family run, so personable service tends to make your stay more special, plus their location is much better than if you stayed outside of the Medina.
- Factor in time to chill in the riad. Marrakech is hectic, so time on the rooftop or by the pool is a welcome and peaceful reprieve from the outside world. You’ll want to enjoy the beauty of the riad you choose to stay in.
- Highly recommend booking an airport transfer with your riad. It’ll cost you more, but taxis won’t give you a local rate, so you’ll end up spending more anyway, and they will only be able to take you so far due to the narrow streets of the Medina, so without someone meeting you to help guide you to your riad it could get stressful.
- Download offline Google maps or Maps.Me to help navigate the tricky streets of the Medina. Trust me, I can find my way almost anywhere, but Marrakech THREW me. You can easily walk around on foot in Marrakech if you have a map to refer to.
- Dress appropriately. You will garner more unwanted attention if you’re knocking around in hot pants and a strappy top. Wear skirts and dresses below the knee, trousers and cover your shoulders. A loose shirt to throw over your outfit is a great shout.
- Be wary of scams. Locals will tell you that you MUST go to X, Y, Z and that it’s only open right now, until lunchtime for one day a month. They’re lying. I had someone tell me Le Jardin Secret was closed for prayer time. A minute later I had walked in to a very open Le Jardin Secret.
- Go in winter or shoulder season. It was unseasonably hot when I went (more like July temps for a few days) and it was incredibly trying. You can’t dictate the weather, but going between October and April will help avoid unbearable temperatures.
If you’ve found this travel guide useful and want to show your appreciation, you can buy me a coffee to fuel me through writing the next guide full of travel recommendations here. Thank you!
Want to receive travel inspiration, tips and recommendations straight to your inbox? Sign up below!