Marrakesh Travel Guide

It is impossible not to be enchanted by Moroccan art and architecture, so give yourself plenty of time for cultural things to do in Marrakesh. Sandy, white building exteriors belie stunning bursts of intricacy and wonder inside each riad, palace, bathhouse and restaurant. For botanical meditation, visit the Majorelle. Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent once owned the Majorelle Garden and his last request was to have his ashes scattered there. When you’re finished with the garden tour, check out the New Town neighborhood. There are many boutiques to browse, like the concept shop 33 Rue Majorelle, and the area has more of a French influence than the Old Town with many tasty patisseries to try.

To get your fill in a historical setting, do not miss the Ali ben Youssef Medersa. The theological college was founded in the 14th century and has remained a splendid example of classic Moorish architecture--carved cedar latticework, patterned archways, and glittering walls of mosaics.

Wondering what to do in Marrakesh when the heat has driven you to perish? Visit the hammam. It’s a different experience than a Western spa, so be ready to strip down to your skivvies for a good scrub. Warm water will be poured over you before you’re buffed, soaked with a clay mask and finally massaged with scented oils. You’ll leave feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. For a very local experience, head to Hammam Dar el-Bacha, the city’s largest traditional hammam. The schedule is divided between women’s hours and men’s hours, so plan ahead. For more private options, try Hammam de la Rose in the historic Medina or go for top of the line luxury at Spa La Mamounia.

For those looking for more adventurous things to do in Marrakesh, book a driver to take you to Ouarzazate, which is a three-hour drive through the Atlas Mountains and into the Sahara desert. Catch a glimpse of what life used to be like when this Kasbah was merely an outpost for Berber traders crossing the desert from Africa into Europe. These days it has become quite a Hollywood hot spot, featuring in Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, and even Game of Thrones.

Intensité Nomade sells brightly colored caftans by owner Frédérique Birkemeyer, as well as soft leather pants for women, raw-silk pants for men, and Casablanca designer Karim Tassi’s jeans, slinky suits, and sweaters.

KIS (Keep It Secret) is a hidden boutique on the upper story of a tiny medina house that carries more caftans, as well as jewelry and gorgeous bags designed by Brazilian globe-trotter Adriana Bittencourt and her French partner, Caroline Constancio.

The shop has a loyal following of travelers who come just for the latest models and colors of its Tod’s-like loafers (most less than $50 a pair).

One of Guéliz’s newest boutiques, Moor, is the creation of Yann Dobry (who also owns the stylish little shop Akbar Delights, in the medina). Dobry’s new outpost, hung with distinctive lacquered lanterns, features his beautifully embroidered linen, silk, and cotton tunics.

This tiny boutique Beldi dresses some of Marrakesh’s most fashionable residents in linen shirts, mandarin-collared cashmere jackets, and embroidered silk caftans.

Place Vendôme carries top-quality Moroccan leather goods, from $10 men’s wallets to $200 jackets.

In the heart of Marrakesh’s new city, Gueliz, this huge gym and spa has treadmills, recumbent bikes, stair climbers and a 20-meter pool. You can also partake in their signature slimming, wellness and anti-aging spa program. Sounds almost like a vacation in itself.

With a day pass (for about $50) you can get a workout at the fitness center of one of Marrakesh’s most famous hotels, set in incredible gardens.  Access to the pool is an extra charge, but well worth it.  Just be sure to wear some chic workout gear, because everyone else will be, too.&

Don’t be fooled by the chandelier in the entry—you can get a serious workout here. This is a full-service fitness club with a swimming pool, but if you’d like to indulge, there’s also a spa with massages, facials and other treatments.