How to Plan the Perfect 48 Hours in Marrakesh

by  Emily Zemler | Mar 7, 2023

How to Plan the Perfect 48 Hours in Marrakesh

Marrakesh is one of Morocco's most popular destinations, welcoming travelers with its lively atmosphere, vibrant culture, and labyrinthine souks. Although it has a lot for visitors to experience, Marrakesh also makes for an ideal weekend away or a two-day stop on a longer Morocco itinerary. If your time is limited, there are several things to consider when planning your trip, including where to stay, what to do, and where to eat. Each person's perfect 48 hours will vary, but consider this a good starting point when creating your ideal itinerary. 

Where to Stay in Marrakesh

Most travelers tend to book a stay at a riad (a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard) or one of the city's many luxury hotels. Marrakesh is home to dozens of colorful boutique riads, which often surround a swimming pool. Riad Melhoun & Spa, located near Bahia Palace, offers a relaxed, classic feel, while El Fenn pairs Moroccan style with a sense of effortless cool. Select your riad based on location, amenities, and budget — many are surprisingly affordable. 

Those who prefer a hotel will find a vast array of options, from the ornate, historic La Mamounia, to the sumptuously beautiful Royal Mansour Marrakech, which is worth the splurge for a special occasion. Unlike the centrally located riads, Marrakesh's hotels tend to be more spread out, which is something to consider when planning a trip. While things may not look far on the map, the intense traffic can make transportation slow. If you prefer to walk from place to place, a riad in the medina might be a better choice. 

What to Do in Marrakesh

There is so much to see and do in and around Marrakesh, which can be overwhelming. If your trip is short, plan two days' worth of highlights (and then schedule a return trip to see everything else).

Known for its mosaic tile, Bahia Palace, built in the 19th century, welcomes visitors daily. Start your first day in Marrakesh with a tour of the palace and its grounds before heading to the nearby Dar Si Said Museum, which exhibits both historical and contemporary Moroccan objects. The museum itself is set in a mansion and gives first-time visitors a taste of Marrakesh's vast culture and history. In the afternoon, venture into the medina. Here, you'll find one of Marrakesh's famous souks, the Souk Semmarine, which twists and turns through narrow streets filled with vendors. 

No visit is complete without a stroll through the Jardin Majorelle, an Instagram-worthy botanic garden attached to the Pierre Bergé Museum of Berber Arts and adjacent to the Yves Saint Laurent Museum. Start your second day with a visit to the garden and/or the museums before doing a little shopping at the outdoor mall, M Avenue, or back in the souk. If rushing around the city is wearing you out, fear not: Marrakesh is known for its many hammams. Slow things down with a treatment or two at the expansive Es Saadi Spa, or try a traditional hammam experience at the Heritage Spa Marrakech

Those who dream of the Moroccan desert have a few options for half- or full-day trips out of the city. Camel rides are very popular and easy to book, and most take place less than an hour outside Marrakesh. Look for a reputable tour company — ask your hotel if you're unsure — and remember that you get what you pay for. Since not everyone is comfortable with animal tourism, you may instead opt for a hot air balloon ride to enjoy panoramic desert vistas. 

Where to Eat and Drink in Marrakesh

Marrakesh's culinary scene boasts an array of options, from traditional Moroccan food to modern, global restaurants, to acclaimed cocktail bars. For classic North African dishes, grab a rose petal-covered table at Le Tobsil (which is located in the heart of the medina) to enjoy an authentic Moroccan dinner with live music in the background. Arriving at the restaurant — which is set around a two-level courtyard — is an experience in itself. Also in the medina is L'Mida, a more recent opening. Its trendy menu of Moroccan dishes is perfect for a casual evening meal. Meanwhile, those looking for a romantic dinner should head to the rooftop restaurant Le Foundouk, which offers some of the city's best views. 

Within only two days to see the best of Marrakesh, visitors are best to keep their daytime meals casual and quick. For lunch, head to NOMAD, a modern eatery with fresh, vibrant dishes and views of the souk. Alternatively, visit the artsy, more casual Café Clock, which is especially friendly to vegetarians. Le Jardin Marrakech is another favorite for breakfast or lunch (don't miss Morrocan dishes like chicken tagine and grilled lamb chops), as is the rooftop Atay Café. 

While there are a variety of bars and pubs throughout Marrakesh, the city is best known for its cocktails. The top cocktail bars here can be found in the Royal Mansour, which boasts a selection of options: its namesake bar, the Fireplace Lounge, and the Cigar Bar. Inside La Mamounia, Churchill Bar serves British-inspired drinks and snacks. Beyond the hotels, there is Le Baromètre, a contemporary cocktail bar with a speakeasy vibe, and Le 68 Bar à Vin, which offers wine and cocktails alongside French dishes. Finally, for a fun-filled night out, head to 555 Famous Club, the go-to spot for dancing.

Want to take that trip for free — and score some valuable miles for your next excursion? Check out our top pick travel credit cards for the best welcome bonuses, perks, and plenty of cash back. 

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