Marrakech is definitely one of the most visited cities in Morocco, a touristic destination by excellence. With all the great restaurants, clubs, museums, riads, galleries… Marrakech can satisfy each traveller: an undeniable history and architecture, a wide variety of festivals, cultural events and artistic expositions all year round, so many green spaces and gardens, lots of breathtaking natural views only few kilometers away from the center (Ourika, Lalla Takerkoust and Oukeimden to name a few), hundreds of outdoor activities such as marathon running, trekking, ziplining, hiking, skiing (during winter)…
And because I live in Marrakech for about 5 years now (yes, I survived the crazy weather) and because I know many travellers who travel on a budget, I thought I could help by sharing few ideas on the top 10 things to do in Marrakech for free/cheap when travelling on a tight budget to Morocco.
1) Stroll around the streets of Gueliz. The main Gueliz street is usually packed and looks superficial to me with its Carre Eden Mall, brand shops and another shopping Plaza. That’s not the Gueliz I like to visit, the real Gueliz, the one I love is behind the main street, just enter any side street and you’ll feel the real vibe of the ancient neighbourhood with old buildings, small shops, locals… Real gems are hidden in these beautiful post colonial streets of Gueliz: three old Movie theaters (only one of them is still functional, the Colisee), small coffee shops packed with fifty something old men watching football or reading the newspaper and drinking coffee or tea but where you can get almost everything for almost nothing; then you have some bookshops that you just can’t afford to miss, many trendy restaurants and bars such as Le petit Café (my favourite spot in Gueliz, highly recommend: chilled back & calm place, amazingly friendly owner and staff, delicious food…), Café du livre (a really great pub), Kechmara, Chez Paul… hanging out in downtown Gueliz is just great, having a little chat with the owners is always valuable since they’re usually very nice and helpful. Then I highly recommend you to go behind the Plaza and look for the mosque of Gueliz and the Church of the Saint Martyrs (or Holy Martyrs). Such a beautiful contrast of peace and coexistence especially when we see that the two buildings are facing up with grace and beauty since the 30’s.
2) Visit “La maison de la photographie” House of photography in Jamaa Lfna, the entry isn’t free but it’s worth every penny, you just can’t miss it. Not only does the house own some of the oldest photographies of Marrakech, host great art expositions from artists from all over the globe and Morocco, but it’s also a cultural center of it’s own, with seminars, workshops… Ask to see the rooftop once in the building, which is by far the coolest thing about La maison de la photography.
3) Watch Jamaa Lfna come to life at night while having a drink at Café France rooftop, the place is amazing, the people are great and the food is cheap and delicious at the same time. But it can be packed, so make sure you come early to guarantee yourself a table with a nice view. The place hosts Couchsurfing events on Saturdays and small concerts or exhibitions once and then, so there’s always plenty of interesting things to see and talk about. The servers can always guide you towards the best activities, shops and places in the Medina since it’s kind of their playground so just ask, and you’ll be served. I also recommend the food stands in Jamaa Lfna as they’re delicious, cheap and quite different, so you should give it a go.
4) Visit the Cyber Park Arsat Moulay Abdeslam, sometimes compared to the Majorelle Gardens (which I think are too mainstream and not even that great compared to how much you pay to get in) so the Park A M A is a greater deal since it’s totally free, less packed with guided tourists, bigger than Majorelle Gardens and full of charm. It’s a very peaceful place, so you can eat, relax and wander for a while.
5) Buy pastry for as cheap as 3 or 5 dirhams (O.4 or O.5$), just enter a clean-looking, not so fancy bakery and you’ll get tons of delicious snacks for few dirhams only, i highly recommend Amandine Bakery. It can be a great alternative for breakfast if you’re travelling on a budget even if most cafes have very cheap mediterranean breakfast combos for you to enjoy. Saving on food isn’t really a problem in Morocco, you just have to avoid touristic spots.
6) Visit the tannery district at the Medina. Pretty self-explanatory, ancient, beautiful and mysterious all in once. A must see. The smell can be a little bit hard but the place is definitely worth the visit.
7) Walk around the beautiful Hivernage park and spot as many statues as you can. The park is by far my favourite. Give the Menara Gardens a visit, which is one of the landmarks of Marrakech.
8) Visit an art gallery. They’re usually free for visitors during the day, unless there’s a special event going on. My favourites would be Gallery David Block (contemporary art), foundation Dar Bellarj (next to the Café Arabe in the Medina where you can grab a delicious cup of tea for 10 or 13dhs only – 1.2 or 1.5$), Noir sur Blanc… Don’t forget to go to Marrakech museum and Museum Dar Si Said, two amazing places you can’t miss.
9) Have a trip to Ourika, the valley is few kilometers away from Marrakech so you’ll definitely need a ride, many taxis and buses go there during the day, just make sure you discuss the price with your cab driver before he starts driving so that you don’t get any bad surprises once there. There are many traditional restaurants in Ourika but I wouldn’t recommend them as the food there is dedicated to the ‘dumb’ kind of tourists who usually can’t make the difference between an authentic food taste and a ridiculous scam. Plus, they usually overcharge and aren’t that clean. So make sure to bring your own food, and don’t forget the hiking shoes as the place is perfect for hiking and nature-bonding.
10) Take a Koutchi ride all over La palmeraie to see the sunset, the most known neighbourhood in Marrakech after Jamaa lfna and Gueliz. Stories say that soldiers and caravans passing by Marrakech in ancient times (when travelling the world or being a bad ass was a job) all camped in the wild under tents in the region and they used to eat dates as a dessert so as to endure the desert climate, and the seeds of the fruits they used to leave behind in the sand, with time, gave palm trees and eventually an oasis which later on turned into the city we now know. Anyhow, you can take the Koutchi earlier in the morning or at sunset, but definitely not mid day since the sun is at its peak. The ride can get cost’y sometimes depending on your driver, your barging skills and the distance covered but in most cases it will vary from 80 (cheap) to 300dhs – 9$ to 32$, but definitely ask many drivers to see who can give you a ride at the best price. Bring along a camera and some drinks or snacks to enjoy the beautiful view. It’s also a very romantic scenery for couples.
So that was the top 10 free&cheap things to do in Marrakech, I hope you enjoyed the post. If you have any suggestions, tips or questions feel free to comment down bellow. Peace out xx.