You arrive in Morocco and know you aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. If you are coming from the developed world, you will at once be taken aback by the scooters whizzing past, the vendors shoving goods at you, and the intense African sun. But once you adjust, you will properly open yourself to the wonders of the Red City.
Check out our video to see for yourself:
Getting to Marrakech with Kids:
Marrakech-Menara Airport is an easy direct flight from London, Paris and many other major cities in Europe. If you are flying from North America or Asia, you will have to transfer in Casablanca. It’s possible to take a train, car, or flight to Marrakech from Casablanca. When you fly into Marrakesh, it’s best to pre-book a taxi so you know you are getting a legitimate driver and rate. If your hotel can organize a car for you, all the better. You will pay a higher rate but if you are traveling with kids, you will be happy for the reliability as some of the hotels, particularly in the Medina, are hard to find.
Getting Around Marrakech with Kids:
Taxis are easily available to get around Marrakech. It’s important to negotiate a rate first. The longest distances within the city should be no more than 50 MAD (approximately 6USD). If you are staying in the Medina (which you should if sightseeing is your primary goal – see below), then you will walk to most places.
Where to Stay in Marrakech with Kids:
If you are visiting Marrakech to sight-see, it makes sense to stay in the Medina, which is home to many of the tourist destinations such as Jamaa El Fna Square, the Bahia Palace, the Medrasas and the Souks. The Medina feels like the most authentically Moroccan part of the city.
Accommodations in the Medina are riads, traditional Moroccan houses or palaces with an interior courtyard. There are hundreds of little riads around the Medina for all budgets so choose wisely.
We stayed at Riad Si Said, part of the Angsana Riad Collection. It’s one of the few five-star riads in the Medina and we couldn’t have been happier. We had to book the 2-bedroom heritage villa (they wouldn’t put us in a smaller room even though my younger one was only 2) but we were glad for the space after long days out in the dense Medina.
The riad is exquisitely decorated and showcases Moroccan art and architecture better than some of the palaces do to be honest. The atmosphere is enchanting with drapes and little nooks dispersed over its three levels. The riad has two small pools, one on the ground level and one on the rooftop which were not being used much (we had to ask to have one cleaned, which it was promptly). Even then, they were too cold to swim in. Breakfast in included in the room rate and is taken in the beautiful main courtyard.
The service is what made this riad truly stand out. The concierge was outstanding, giving us perfect recommendations for excellent but family-friendly restaurants, helping us plan a day trip to the Atlas mountains, and even organizing a horse carriage ride around the city (recommended). There is no way our trip would have been half as successful without his wise assessment of our needs. Highly recommend staying here!
If you are looking for another view of Marrakech, stay in Gueliz, aka the new town, where things look much different from the Medina. Modern construction, wider streets and a much more prominent European influence offer a more international flavor for those looking to discover that part of Moroccan culture.
Things to do in Marrakech with Kids:
- Jardin Majorelle: Where the fusion of French and Moroccan art is best displayed in my opinion, the Jardin Majorelle was created by french artist Jacques Majorelle and later maintained by designer Yves Saint Laurent. This oasis in the city is like a canvas itself, splashed with elegant plant specimens, shady trees, and magnificent colors. Entrance is more expensive than other sights (50MAD per adult) but it’s absolutely worth it.
- The Bahia Palace: Built in the late 19th century, the Bahia Palace is a great example of typical Islamic architecture, with rooms opening to a central courtyard. You can tell of its grandeur from the intricate artwork in its doors, ceilings, and windows. The kids particularly enjoyed looking at the beautiful orange trees.
- Madersa Ben Youssef: This Islamic college is the largest one in Marrakesh and a really fascinating perspective for students of any age. It was built in the 1500s and at its peak housed upto 900 students.
- Place Jamaa El Fna – This main square in Marrakech’s medina is where all the action is. Snake-charmers, henna artists, fruit vendors, and stalls of all kinds will tempt your wallet and overwhelm your senses. Keep the kids close by and beware of people trying to shove toys into their hands. It’s a fun place to visit but my guess is once will be enough. If you dare, try some freshly squeezed orange juice from one of the many stalls offering it.
- The Koutoubia Mosque: This prominent structure can be seen from many parts of Marrakesh. It is the largest mosque in the city and dates back to the 1100’s. You cannot enter the mosque but can walk around it.
- Atlas Mountains: You can spend 3 days in Marrakesh and see it all, so if you have a little more time it’s a good idea to take a trip out to the Atlas Mountains to get a little closer to nature and to learn more about the traditions of the local Berber people.
Where to Eat in Marrakech with Kids:
- Terrasse des Épices: Marrakech is known for its rooftop terraces and Terrasse des Épices is one of its most popular ones. Located deep in the heart of the Souks, you will need to ask people how to get there; everyone knows it and signs will guide you as you get closer. Once you reach the restaurant, enjoy the laid-back atmosphere, the view of the mountains and the good food, both Moroccan and international.
- Café Arabe: We had dinner at this enchanting restaurant one evening, also on the rooftop. The kids enjoyed a penne while I had a fantastic beef tagine, gazing into the Marrkech skyline. Those with a fear of heights can enjoy one of their lounges or the courtyard on the ground floor.
- La Table du Marché: If you have a desire to see how the affluent lot does it in Marrakech, at La Table du Marché in the upscale Hivernage area you will find excellent food and service . Kids are welcome even though it feels like they almost shouldn’t be, given the elegance and peaceful atmosphere of the restaurant. I would recommend the tagine here, definitely the best we had in Marrakech. There’s also a small kiosk at Marrakesh airport, which we were happy to see!
- Café La Renaissance: If you are visiting the Jardin Majorelle, take a quick taxi ride over to the Renaissance Hotel. We enjoyed sitting at their restaurant overlooking the pool, and had dessert over on the (yet another) rooftop. The service was excellent (the kids really stretched out – see below) and the vibe, trendy and pleasant. A non-touristy option in Marrakesh.
Where to Shop in Marrakech:
Depends on where you are coming from, you will either love or hate all you see in the souks. For a small country, Marrakesh has a lot to offer by way of wearable art and homewares, leather, clothes, and cosmetics (Argan oil, in particular). The problem is finding the best quality amongst the scores and scores of stores and sellers in the markets. Here are some of the places I’d recommend:
- Rugs: If you are looking to buy a traditional Moroccan rug, make your way to Artisan du Sud at 100, Rahba el Kdima sidi ishak (200 metres from Jamaa El Fna). You will be taken up a narrow staircase to a showroom housing hundreds of rugs of every color and size. Since they make the tapis right here, they have access to much more variety and you are likely to get a better bargain than on the main streets of the medina. Email: email@example.com TEL:+ 212 06612 42544.
- Lamps and homewares: If you have fallen in love with Moroccan filigree work and the romantic aura produced by its beautiful lamps and tealights, make your way over to see Jamal at Oumamass Said at 6 Souk Lamdamia el Hadaddine. I literally spent 2 hours in this store and a fair bit of money as well. They have their own production and a 2-level showroom to show for it, of the best quality work in brass, copper and metal. They ship all over the world, but also have goods small enough to take home in your suitcase!
- Trendy clothes and accessories: 33 Rue Majorelle just outside of the Jardin Majorelle has some great contemporary Moroccan clothing, art, and accessories. It’s a bit of a tourist trap given its location and the prices are definitely high, but it’s worth a look at least.
If you are looking for good quality Argan oil, the female cooperatives just outside the city on the way to the Atlas Mountains are a great place to buy it as the production takes place right there. Essouira is also a good place as there are a larger number of Argan trees there.
If you have limited time and want to find the best stuff, I would recommend enlisting the personal shopping services of Khadija Benbourahel of Morocco Private Experience. Khadija and her husband run a boutique travel company that organize customized tours and trips around Morocco as well as help eager customers like me find the best products Marrakesh has to offer. I left the kids with my husband one morning, and Khadija and I had a very productive four hours exploring art, homewares and personal effects in the medina and new town. Highly recommend, and let her know Momaboard sent you.
Other things to buy in Marrakesh: Dates, kaftans, traditional Moroccan slippers (baboush), and spices!
Tips for Traveling to Marrakesh with Kids and General Information:
- Most people here speak French, Arabic and English, in that order.
- The local currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD) and 1 MAD= 8USD (approximately).
- When walking around the Medina with babies or toddlers, it’s best to have them in a stroller as the streets are very narrow and open to scooters, carts, donkeys, and pedestrians alike.
- Like in any developing country, avoid water and food off the streets
- The Moroccans are a wonderfully warm and hospitable people, and they love children. Don’t be offended or surprised if people actively engage with your kids or even want to pick them up (stay close at hand, of course).
- Nothing is for free, particularly in the Medina. Be firm about saying no to aggressive salespersons, without being rude.
- Morocco is very European in its vibe and approach but it is still an Islamic country so it’s best to dress on the more conservative side, which means avoid short shorts and skimpy tops. Flowy linens, scarves and kaftans do just as well in the heat.
- Keep the kids hydrated and well-protected from the sun, it’s strong!