48 HOURS IN...

Marrakech, Morocco

This corner of Morocco is the perfect mixture of ancient and modern. And don't worry about getting lost here, it's all part of the fun

Click here for 48 Hours In... Marrakesh map

WHY GO NOW?

Spring is the best time to visit this wonderfully exotic and hip-yet-ancient city. Visitor numbers thin after Easter, and you'll enjoy optimum conditions, with balmy days and astonishingly clear skies.

TOUCH DOWN

Fly non-stop to Marrakech from Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton on GB Airways (on behalf of British Airways), easyJet, Ryanair, and Royal Air Maroc and its no-frills subsidiary Atlas Blue. Fares of £114 return are available for travel in May via www.opodo.co.uk.

Marrakech's Menara Airport is handily located about 6km south-west of the city centre. Bus no 11 runs erratically to the old town's hub, Djemaa el Fna. The ride costs Dh20 (£1.25) and takes about 20 minutes.

A taxi is more reliable. Marrakech has two sorts: a shared "grand taxi", usually a Mercedes, takes up to six passengers and is not allowed far within the walls of the old town, or medina; a "petit taxi"(yellowy-beige coloured and often a Peugeot 206) takes three passengers and can travel further within the medina. From the airport the 15-minute journey to the centre of the medina by grand taxi costs around Dh100 (£6.25) and by petit taxi around Dh70 (£4.40) - though drivers often quote much higher fares to new arrivals.

GET YOUR BEARINGS

Dating back about a thousand years, and inevitably much rebuilt over the ages, the red walls of the medina form a 10km circumference around a map-defying labyrinth of medieval-like alleyways. In the south is the kasbah, or royal quarter, with the King's palace (1) and two former royal residences, Palais El Badi (2) and Palais de la Bahia (3). West and slightly to the north of these is the city's most striking landmark, the minaret of the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque (4); like all mosques in Marrakech, non-Islamic visitors are not allowed in. It towers over Place Djemaa el Fna, the vast triangle that is the city's great meeting point, just to the east. The religious heart of the medina is around Ali Ben Youssef Mosque (5) further north, with more dense alleyways beyond.

To the west, outside the medina walls are the newer areas of Gueliz and Hivernage, their leafy avenues built during the French Protectorate from 1912 to 1956. Somewhat perversely, Marrakech's tourist office (6) is in this part of town, far from the most popular visitor sites: set on Place Abdel Moumen Ben Ali on Avenue Mohammed V (00 212 44 43 62 39; www.tourism-in-morocco.com), open 8.30am-noon and 2.30-5pm Monday-Friday.

CHECK IN

Exquisite Riad Farnatchi (7) at 2 Derb Farnatchi, Qua'at Ben Ahid (00 212 24 38 49 10; www.riadfarnatchi.com) lies in the northern part of the medina and offers some of Marrakech's best service and decor. The nine suites cost from Dh3,900 (£237) including breakfast.

In the south of the medina, near the royal palace, Palais Calipau (8) at 14 Derb Ben Zina Kasbah (00 212 24 37 55 83; www.palais-calipau.com; doubles from €220/£157 including breakfast) opened in March last year. Comprising three old riads (townhouses) that have been revamped, it offers 12 bedrooms, small pool, hammam and ample roof terrace.

Leafy Gueliz, to the west of the medina, has plenty of hotels. For example, the Kenza (9) on Avenue Yacoub El Mansour (00 212 23 44 8330) is around €61 (£44) per night for a double, including breakfast.

TAKE A HIKE

Try the main souk, or market, area. The most colourful part of town is the web of bazaars stretching from the north side of Djemaa el Fna more or less to Ali Ben Youssef Mosque (5). Meander these narrow lanes lined with stalls selling pottery, woodcraft, spices and endless varieties of baboush, or slipper-like shoes, and you'll feel as if you've walked back in time. The densely packed alleyways bustle with donkey carts, traders with barrows, pedestrians - and motorised bicycles. Attempting to follow a map is pointless, just go with the flow.

LUNCH ON THE RUN

Bougainvillea (10) on 33 Rue el Mouassine (00 212 24 44 11 11) is a brightly coloured courtyard café serving the likes of aubergine and mozzarella panini (Dh35/£2.20) and avocado milkshake (Dh25/£1.55), which is a surprisingly tasty Moroccan speciality.

WINDOW SHOPPING

If you haven't had the stamina to haggle while walking around the main souk area, head to the Centre Artisanale (11) on Rue de la Kasbah. In this complex you can buy rugs, jewellery, pottery, slippers and more at fixed prices (although asking for a small discount may prove fruitful).

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

For a view of sublime craftsmanship and Moroccan architecture with an Andalucian twist, make for Ben Youssef Medersa. Now a museum, this Koranic school is attached to the great Ali Ben Youssef Mosque (5). It was built in the 16th century, complete with stunning stucco ceilings and carved wooden screens. The Musée de Marrakech (12) alongside is also well worth a look for the building itself, a grand 19th-century palace now housing exhibitions. Its cool café is a quiet haven for a refreshing pot of mint tea (Dh10/63p).

Both the Medersa and the museum are open 9am-7pm daily; a ticket to both costs Dh60 (£3.75).

AN APERITIF

Kozybar (13) at 47 Place des Ferblantiers is one of the few places within the medina that has a licence to serve alcohol. Make for the roof terrace for a sunset drink and watch the sky turn pink over the storks' nests and rooftops of the city. A Casablanca beer costs Dh60 (£3.75).

DINING IN STYLE

Head beyond the medina walls to Hivernage and the brand-new La Villa restaurant (14), just off Avenue President JF Kennedy (00 212 24 42 19 69; closed on Sundays and Monday lunchtime). In a gracious art-deco-style building with funky touches, French chef Didier Beckaert serves starters such as langoustine soup (Dh70/£4.40) and mains including rich pavé de boeuf à la Marocaine (Dh160/£10) which you can wash down with a glass of the surprisingly good local wine.

SUNDAY MORNING: A WALK IN THE PARK

To the north-west of the medina walls lies a real treat. Jardin Majorelle (15) was created as a private garden by the French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s. After a period of neglect it was bought by Yves Saint Laurent who restored it as an urban oasis in the 1980s. Today you can wander through palms, tree ferns, bamboos and cacti; open 8am-5pm daily, admission Dh30 (£1.90).

SPIRITUAL INSIGHT

Within the Jardin Majorelle, the artist's cobalt-hued studio has been transformed into the small Musée d'Art Islamique (same opening hours as the garden; admission Dh15/95p). This beautifully lit series of four rooms contains wall hangings, richly textured fabrics and lithographs by Jacques Majorelle as well as 14th- and 15th-century Korans and illustrated books of prayers.

OUT TO LUNCH

Back in the southern part of the medina, Le Tanjia (16) at 14 Derb J'did - Hay Essalam (00 212 24 38 38 36) opened earlier this year. This is a laid-back chic place with exotic wooden furnishings and a great roof terrace. Dishes include tagine of lamb with prunes, and chicken with lemon and olives (both Dh130/£8.15).

WRITE A POSTCARD

In the courtyard of the old spice market, Café des Epices (17) at 75 Rahba Lakdima (00 212 24 38 17 70) allows you to order a freshly squeezed orange juice (DH10/65p) and sip it on the roof terrace where you can recline on cream sofas in the dappled shade of wicker umbrellas as you compose your thoughts.

THE ICING ON THE CAKE

At dusk the Djemaa el Fnaa becomes like a medieval pageant, filled with snake-charmers, storytellers, dancers and medicine-men. Drums are beaten, pipes are played, and the west of the square sizzles with a host of barbecued-food stalls serving kebabs, sausages and aubergine salads to diners at long trestle tables. Expect to pay all of DH50 (£3.15) for a generous plate of barbecued chicken, a salad or two and a mineral water.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'