48 Hours in Marrakesh
Hike in a desert, unwind in a hammam, and get lost in the souk marketplace.
Marrakesh overflows with rich history. But along with the centuries-old buildings and traditional souk marketplaces, Morocco’s fourth-largest city also boasts modern museums and cultural hotspots. While you could spend weeks scouring the city's cobbled streets and medinas, it’s possible to experience the best that Marrakesh has to offer in two days.
September is the perfect time to visit when the intense heat of the summer has cooled and before the high tourist season of the winter. From September 14 to 16, the Oasis Music festival hosts international DJs and bands, plus culinary, spa, and wellness experiences.
Here, your itinerary for a perfect weekend trip.
WHERE TO STAY
The most authentic accommodation is a riad, a traditional house built around a courtyard that’s operated like a small boutique hotel. The Riad Jona is within an easy walk of the famous Jemaa El-Fnaa square, and has a rooftop pool, hot tub, and bar.
If you’d prefer a larger hotel, La Mamounia blends modern amenities with Moroccan style. Contemporary art and antique sculptures fill the opulent entrance area, while the 17 acres of gardens have 700-year-old olive trees, roses, orange blossoms, and cacti. A 10-minute drive from the airport and five minute-walk from the Jemaa El Fna Square, La Mamounia features two pools, clay tennis courts, a gym, and a full spa with hammams.
Fuel up for the day with a traditional breakfast on the roof of the Jona, which includes crepes, jam, fruit, cheese, and Moroccan pastries. Marrakesh is a walkable city, with sights to soak in with every step.
Choose Your Afternoon Adventure
OPTION 1: CULTURE
The Musée Yves Saint Laurent is dedicated to the famous fashion designer. The building itself is a work of art and was inspired by the movement of fabric in YSL’s clothes, while an exhibition room displays some of his most iconic looks over the decades. Be sure to walk around the Majorelle Garden, where Saint Laurent’s ashes were scattered.
OPTION 2: FITNESS
About six miles from the old city is the tranquil Beldi Country Club, where you can swim laps in the pool, take a tennis lesson on the clay courts, or play a game of pétanque (similar to bocce).
Afterwards, regenerate with a traditional hammam, sea salt scrub, and massage combo at the bath house-style spa.
For lunch, check out 16 Café across the street from the Musée Yves Saint Laurent. Try the quiche, avocado tartare, or scallops.
With its colonial-style décor, La Salama looks like it’s straight out of scene from Casablanca. For dinner, order the lamb tagine with couscous.
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Start the morning with breakfast on the terrace of Café des Epices overlooking the souks. Try a traditional "beldi breakfast," which comes with a crepe, omelet, flatbread, amlou (similar to peanut butter), olive oil, honey, and fruit salad. Pair it with a beetroot, apple, and ginger juice and a spiced coffee.
Choose your Afternoon Adventure
OPTION 1: CULTURE
Built in the late 19th century, Bahia Palace has 150 decorated pieces of mosaic tiles, marble, carvings, and paintings in a labyrinth of rooms flanked by orange, lavender, and hibiscus trees. Then step even further back in time at the El Badi Palace, constructed to celebrate victory in the battle of the Three Kings over the Portuguese army in 1578.
OPTION 2: FITNESS
Take a taxi or hire a car for an hour drive to the Agafay Desert, where you can hike, mountain bike, or ride an ATV, through the sand dunes and hidden canyons. Cool off with a swim in Lake Takerkoust. If you have more time, Mountain Bike Morocco has half- or full-day tours around the Atlas Mountains and Berber valleys.
For a modern twist on Moroccan cuisine, dine at the Nomad for lunch. Order small dishes to get the full experience, such the briouat (a filled puff pastry), mezze plate, and shaved cauliflower and fennel salad.
For your final dinner, enjoy the tasting menu at the La Sultana hotel. Start with the pigeon pastille and eggplant quenelles, then on to tagine of Oualidia mussels and monkfish medallions, ending with traditional mint tea and petits fours. La Sultana also offers cooking classes if you want to take some of their culinary secrets home with you. Afterwards, take time to linger in the Jemaa el Fna and wander through the food stalls, snake charmers, story-tellers, and magicians, and then pick up any final trinkets or spices from the souks.