Have you ever seen pictures of Marrakesh and immediately thought of crowds and chaos? Fun chaos of course, the sort of chaos that probably leads to an amazing experience but not something you’d want to attempt with children? If so, carry on reading because we completely recommend Marrakesh as a place to travel with the little ones. Of course, there are crazy moments but that’s what makes it so exciting. And the kids will love it: a natural, exotic mix of adventure, intrigue and wonderment which will stay with them (and you) for a long time.
So here is our quick guide to a day in Marrakesh – jump in and seize the day…
07:00 – 08:00 : Breakfast
One of the many delights of Marrakesh is that you are never far from a street-side vendor selling delicious fresh bread. Join the locals and head for your nearest stall and pick up a cheap, healthy and hearty breakfast of baguette, fruit and juice.
08:00 – 09:30 : Walk around medina
The medina in Marrakesh is a vast labyrinth of alleyways, shops, motorbikes and chaos, interspersed with traditional souks, calm tea-houses and relaxing restaurants. If you visit earlier in the morning you will be able to enjoy it without too much of the stress which can be a feature later in the day. It’s not especially buggy-friendly so a back-carrier is ideal here to allow your little one to get a great view and for you to feel more relaxed that they won’t be anywhere near the hundreds of mopeds which buzz around.
09:30 – 11:30 : Horse and cart ride around city
If we had to choose the number one child-friendly activity in Marrakesh then it might just the be the horse and cart rides around the city. You’ll have to put on your best haggling coat initially but once you have agreed a fare you’ll be whisked away from the main square and taken on a magical journey around the city. The kids will love the horses, sat in the beautiful carriage with the wind rushing through their hair. You’ll have the option of choosing the length of the journey so you can pick the trip which suits your kids.
11:30 – 13:00 : Lunch at a child-friendly restaurant
Moroccans adore children and our two were usually the centre of attention wherever they went, especially in the multitude of restaurants scattered around the medina. Some of them will be able to provide a high-chair but we got a lot of use out of our portable high-chair harness which you can attach to most ‘normal’ chairs found in restaurants. The menus are fairly extensive with bread, tagines, couscous, salads and chicken featuring in almost all of them. Top-tip, be aware that couscous has the ability to get very messy, very quickly, if left in the hands of a one year-old. Use caution but the locals didn’t seem to mind the clearing up anyway. It’s likely the little ones will be whisked off to the kitchen for a tour while you finish your meal. The restaurants overlooking the main square are particularly cool and provide a perfect view of the masses below, accompanied by a beautiful sunset over the Atlas mountains if you also visit later in the day.
13:00 – 15:00 : Chill time at the hotel
15:00 – 16:30 : Jardin Majorelle
Jump in a taxi and head over to the Majorelle gardens; part museum, part gardens and part gallery. Here you’ll find a small botanic museum, plant-lined walkways and striking blue doorways waiting to be explored. In a city that can sometimes feel like the volume button is stuck on max, spend an hour or so here to remind yourself what silence sounds like.
16:30 – 17:30 : Rooftop snacks
If you need a quick break during the day then the answer is right above your head. Marrakesh is blessed with dozens of rooftop restaurants where you can escape the busy streets for a few minutes and grab a drink. The kids will appreciate the time-out and can enjoy either a fresh orange juice (mint tea for the grown-ups) or a simple snack, usually dispensed with a smile by the owner. The rooftops range from five-star luxury to basic, cheap and cheerful – find one that takes your fancy and climb the stairs (be warned though, the staircases are often almost vertical and can be missing the odd piece of tiling – see it as part of the adventure and hold onto the banister and kids tight).
17:30 – 19:00 : Visit Jamaa el Fina
Chances are, if you’ve seen one picture of Marrakesh, it’ll have been of Jamaa el Fna; the beautiful square in the centre of the medina which showcases all that is magical about Marrakesh and Morocco. It might look chaotic when you’re standing on the sidelines but once you’re in the mix you’ll soon realise it’s actually not unlike a medieval children’s play area with a myriad of activities to entertain your little ones: snake charmers, dancing troupes, musicians, juice stalls and food vendors selling gorgeous Moroccan food. A good time to arrive is about half-an-hour before sunset; you’ll get to see the square change personality as the daylight disappears and the evening crowds begin to arrive. It’s also very popular with Moroccan tourists, some of whom might find your kids the most interesting thing in the square – prepare for lots of hugs and kisses!
So there you have it: twelve hours in Marrakesh that’ll feel like twelve minutes. There is so much to do here, with many different areas to explore, people to meet and food to taste that you’ll not want to limit yourself to a day. Spend a few days here, soak up all the city has to offer and when you leave, you and the kids will have experienced something spectacular. You may also enjoy a trip to the Atlas Mountains (only a few hours drive away and highly recommended) or if you fancy something even further afield then check out fabulous Essaouira on the Atlantic coast – our blog entry has all the details.
Useful Travel Info:
Best time to visit: Mar-May & Sep-Nov
How to get there: easyJet fly London Gatwick to Marrakesh daily.
Where we stayed: www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/3780672
Currency: Dirham (Dh) divided into 100 centimes (as of Jan 2017 – £1=Dh12.55, US$1=Dh9.98)
ATMs: Plentiful and easily accessible in the medina
Visas: Not required for most nationalities for stays of up to 90 days. Passports must be valid for 6 months beyond date of entry.
Language: Morocccan Arabic (Darija), Berber and French
Government travel advice: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/morocco
We also recommend reading this great post by Mt Feet Will Lead Me for tips on how to avoid scams in Marrakesh.
Where would we be without our trusted Lonely Planet.