Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a one day in Marrakech itinerary! One of the only problems with a one day in Marrakech itinerary is narrowing down the number of things to do. Should we visit The Jardin Majorelle, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Morocco? Should we find the best Marrakech shopping? Or should we just stuff our faces with Moroccan goodies until our heads explode?
Well fortunately, you don’t have to make a decision, Internet Stranger! I’m here to make the decisions! You’re here to follow along and have a good time. And I say on this One Day in Marrakech Itinerary we will see the Jardin Majorelle, get into Marrakech shopping, and eat until we explode. Who’s with me? Your appropriate response should really be “ARRRR!” because I like to imagine my readership is entirely made of pirates.
One Day in Marrakech Itinerary
What to Pack and Where to Stay
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Morocco can get very hot, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
And if you’d like to explore great deals on over 3000 hotels in Marrakech, click here!
One Day in Marrakech Itinerary
Morning: Jardin Majorelle
My G Adventures tour ended in Marrakech the day before I created this itinerary. Many of us were asking our G Adventures guide, Omar, what we should do with our One Day in Marrakech Itinerary on our own. The first thing he suggested was a visit to the Jardin Majorelle. Many of us in the group were fond of taking photos, and Omar said that we could spend all of our One Day in Marrakech Itinerary snapping pictures in the Jardin Majorelle.
Well, he might have been exaggerating about the all day part, but not about the amazing photo ops. The only difficulty you might have when it comes to take sweet snaps in the Jardin Majorelle is all the tourists blocking your way. Just shove them into a nearby cactus. Then as they’re screaming in pain, you can take a beautiful picture. No one on Instagram will know you had to commit misdemeanor assault for the photo.
Once you’ve had your fill of pictures, fill your brain with knowledge! I’ll get you started with…
Three fun facts about the jardin majorelle
1) Its beginnings were mildly tragic
The Jardin Majorelle was the brainchild of a French artist unsurprisingly named Jacques Majorelle. It is almost a cliche to hear about a French artist who fell in love with Morocco, but Majorelle was a little different. Instead of just painting Morocco, he decided his masterpiece would be to create a whimsical garden containing plants from all over the world right in the middle of Marrakech.
Unfortunately, once the Jardin Majorelle was finished, the troubles began. That’s been the way with gardens since the Garden of Eden, I believe. Majorelle got a divorce and needed money to pay alimony. Then he was in a terrible car accident and needed to pay his medical bills. You can probably guess that his paradis on earth needed to be sold in order to pay for his troubles. And if the story had ended there, none of us would be visiting the Jardin Majorelle today.
2) Majorelle invented a color
Apparently Majorelle was so obsessed with making his garden as gorgeous as possible that he invented his own shade of blue. It is that bright cobalt blue you see on the fountain in the picture from the Jardin Majorelle above.
I have to assume Majorelle had a bit of an ego because he named the shade Majorelle blue. He said that the color reminded him of Africa. I’d really like to dig into that a little bit more. How can the color blue evoke a whole continent? What about Africa says cobalt blue? Is it the sky? The ocean? I’d ask Majorelle himself, but he is definitely too dead to answer my question.
3) Yves saint laurent is still in the garden
After the garden fell into disrepair, it was set to be demolished and redeveloped into a hotel. Fortunately the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé discovered the place in the nick of time. They purchased the Jardin Majorelle and saved it from being developed by Snidley Whiplash or whoever would try to turn a priceless garden into a hotel complex.
After Yves Saint Laurent’s death, he was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the rose garden at the Jardin Majorelle. I heartily approve! Readers of this blog, listen carefully. When I die, it’s very important that my ashes be scattered around a major tourist attraction in my hometown NYC. I would prefer the Metropolitan Museum, but I’ll settle for the Brooklyn Bridge or Statue of Liberty. Thanks in advance!
24 hour tip
There is a museum of Berber art and fashion in the Jardin Majorelle. (Berbers are an indigenous people of North Africa, including Morocco.) This is an optional part of the One Day in Marrakech Itinerary. The collection is extremely impressive but photography is not allowed inside. Also the signs are all in French, so you might find that frustrating. I speak French, so it wasn’t a problem for me. I do think it’s worth it to see the intricate designs on the Berber clothing and jewelry and how they influenced Saint Laurent’s own work.
24 hour treasure
My favorite plants at the Jardin Majorelle are the cacti. Some of them look straight up like space aliens. In fact, this gaggle of cacti rose up as one and devoured the whole blue and yellow house you can vaguely see in the distance. I had no idea cacti are so majestic and terrifying.
One Day in Marrakech Itinerary
Afternoon: Made in Marrakech Shopping Tour
I’ve mentioned many times before on this blog how I enjoy the international tour company Urban Adventures. I find that their day tours provide a very interesting local experience and a good way for me, as a solo traveler, to find discerning and amusing people with whom I can spend time. So as soon as I learned that Urban Adventures did a Marrakech shopping and a food tour, I knew I wanted to take both of them as part of my One Day in Marrakech Itinerary.
First came the shopping tour. Marrakech shopping can be disturbingly overwhelming. There are a million dudes attempting to entice you to buy their product, and it’s so hard to tell if their merchandise is good quality. On the day before, one young man had attempted to speak to me. When I ignored him, he shouted at me that I was a chav.
I should have continued to ignore him, but instead I started yelling that he was wrong to call me a chav because I am not British. This startled him, and he left me alone. I suspect he didn’t actually know what a chav was and didn’t want to admit it.
Anyway, the shopping tour will expertly help you avoid both shoddy merchandise and men who want to call you chavs alike. Please join me for…
Approximately top 5: marrakech shopping edition
1) Local Artisans
One thing I would never have been able to find without this tour were the local artisans at work in the souk. Even though I was enjoying my One Day in Marrakech Itinerary on New Year’s Day, there were some tanners hard at work, curing and dehairing animal skins. My guide, Youssef, explained that this tanning business had been in the family for generations. That’s why the people who work there are motivated enough to come in on a holiday.
I think there is definitely something to be said for having a family business. After all, certain traits or talents sometimes run in a family. I was free to choose whatever career I wanted, but my mom was an English teacher and my dad is a writer. And I ended up becoming an…English teacher AND a writer. So you could say I ended up in the family business too.
There wasn’t a preset itinerary on the Marrakech shopping tour, which I appreciated. Youssef asked me what I wanted to buy, and I said I was most interested in jewelry, beauty products, and a Moroccan teapot. Our first shop stop was at the teapot store where the shopkeeper showed me how to find the mark of authenticity on a Moroccan teapot. (It will be a symbol on the bottom of the teapot and it will also tell you if the teapot was made in Fes or Marrakech.)
There are two kinds of teapots: fancy ceremonial ones and the plainer ones that can be actually used for making tea. Of course I wanted one I could really brew tea in! I chose a very basic style because it reminded me of the teapots I’d been served tea from all over Morocco.
Then it was time to bargain! The shopkeeper and I haggled back and forth for a short while until we agreed on a price. He called me a “hard Berber woman”, which I gathered was supposed to mean I drove a tough bargain. Finally I walked away with my adorable silver teapot. I use it every night to make my tea.
I was able to test the authenticity of the silver of my pot when I got home with a simple trick. Place an ice cube on the object you want to test. If it’s real silver, it will melt right away. The ice cube trick worked on my little teapot, so I was extra satisfied that I got my money’s worth.
As we explored, Youssef showed me where to spot these hidden caravanserai all over the Marrakech medina. Caravanserai were inns where travelers and merchants could stop on their travelers.
Of course many merchants stopped at the caravanserai in Marrakech because it has been a merchant town for such a long time. I felt like I was stepping back four hundred years in time just by walking into the caravanserai courtyard.
Now merchants can just stay in regular hotels and the caravanserai isn’t home to anything but a roving band of ninja cats. Don’t believe me? Observe!
Do NOT mess with the ninja cats of Marrakech.
4) Herboriste la famille
Of course it’s not a Marrakech shopping trip without going to an herbalist. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s worth visiting one during your One Day in Marrakech Itinerary just to watch the show explaining all the different products in the store. They’ll make you a cup of mint tea while you ponder the goods. I was joined here by a couple from Zurich who said they come to Marrakech once a year and visit this herbalist every single time.
One of the most famous products in this store is the argan oil moisturizer. I had bought some of this earlier in my trip, so instead I opted for a pink lip balm called saffron creme. The herbalist told me it was good for cold sores, which I get sometimes in the winter.
I was kind of skeptical to try it, but I have to say that it works really well! If I feel a cold sore coming on, I dab the saffron creme on it and it goes away much faster than before. I do wish it didn’t say “Herpes” on the jar. I feel that’s really misleading! We don’t call core sores herpes in the US for obvious reasons!
5) Medersa Ben Youssef
One thing I really enjoyed about the tour was how they alternated shopping with sightseeing. In between stalls we went to the Medersa Ben Youssef. This used to be a Koranic school, but it has since been turned into a museum. Back when it was a medersa, only young men would have attended the school Youssef was proud to tell me that Morocco has a modern educational system now and that girls are educated as well as boys.
Youssef also very nicely took my picture in my red Moroccan leather jacket. I wonder what the ghosts of those 16th century boys who studied at this medersa would make of me hanging out at their alma mater. It would be hard enough explaining to them that I came from New York City and arrived by airplane…
6) Upcycled earrings
Not all of the jewelry you can find Marrakech shopping is expensive metal. These earrings above were made by a local woman who realized that she could turn old tires that people were throwing out into jewelry. I’ve heard this practice of taking trash and turning it into something more valuable called upcycling. I am all for upcycling! This is because I’m completely in favor of anything that means simultaneously less pollution for the earth and more shopping for me!
7) Berber silver bracelet
Now it was time for the big ticket item, a silver bracelet. The shopkeeper at the jewelry store said that he sold two main kinds of jewelry: Berber and Tuareg. I believe the Tuareg are a sub-group of the Berber people. They are famous for wearing blue clothes that sometimes turn their skin blue. Berber jewelry tends to be colorful and Tuareg jewelry is generally quite large. This information was the same as what I read at the Berber Museum at the Jardin Majorelle, so I decided to trust the shopkeeper.
He also told me that you can tell when silver pieces are made by hand and not machine because you can see the little marks left by the hammer. (You can see them on the underside of my bracelet above.) I wanted a bracelet but I have extremely small wrists so I usually have trouble finding ones that fit. The merchant showed me one that could actually bend without breaking so I can keep it on my twiggy little wrists. Truly, there is no problem a Moroccan merchant can’t solve if it means making a sale!
8) Sunset at Jemaa El Fna
The Marrakech shopping tour had come to a close, so Youssef took me to the main square, Jemaa El Fna. He didn’t just drop me off either! Instead he found me a seat at a rooftop bar, brought me a mint tea, and left me with this spectacular view of the sunset while I waited for my evening food tour to start. This is what I call service!
24 Hours: Marrakech Shopping
Evening: Taste of Marrakech Food Tour
Just half an hour after the Marrakech shopping tour ended, my food tour began. In the evening of my One Day in Marrakech Itinerary. I was joined by another American female solo traveler, an older German couple, and an entirely different guide who also happened to be named Youssef. (I joke about a lot of different things on this blog, but I wouldn’t joke about that.)
If you’re looking for a gourmet tasting menu tour, this is not the tour for you. If you’re in the mood for secret meat ovens, fried dough, and surprising herbal concoctions served out of a cauldron, this is definitely the tour for you (and for me too). Prepare to drool with envy as I display in front of you…
Approximately top 5: marrakech street food edition
1) Moroccan carbs
Some meals start light with a soup or a salad. This meal started with donuts and pancakes. The Moroccan donuts are really called sfenj. They are lighter and much less sweet than American donuts. I personally am in favor of anything that is fried dough, so I thank Marrakech for showing me another way to eat a donut.
And now if I go to eat donuts with my friends, I can tell them all that sfenj are so much better than American donuts and stare meaningfully into the distance. Pretty soon I’ll have no friends at all!
PS. I do not remember how to pronounce sfenj.
The Moroccan pancake, which I believe is called baghrir, is also lighter and less sweet than an American pancake. I got kind of addicted to these in Morocco because they are so often served with breakfast. You can spread anything you like on them from savory to sweet. These pancakes were served piping hot with herbs and cheese. I prefer them with Nutella but that’s only because I prefer everything with Nutella including hamburgers probably.
2) secret meat hole
OK, now that I’ve typed out the phrase secret meat hole, it looks wrong somehow. But it’s too late to go back and change it! The secret meat hole is a hole in the ground in which whole lambs are kept roasting. This is done to make a dish called mechoui. I was delighted to make this discovery because two things I love with all my heart are meat and secrets. (I have no especial feelings about holes.
Once the secret meat was ready, we took some mechoui upstairs to have with fresh baked bread and olives from the souk. The store/restaurant/secret meat lair appeared closed to the public. Therefore we had the balcony entirely to ourselves so we could stare out over the Jemaa El Fna at night. It really kind of felt like we were committing a crime! First we took some secret meat from a hole and then we ate it in an abandoned shop. That’s a whole bunch of crimes right off the bat and the night was still young!
After the secret meat, it was time for a light interval. (This was probably the only dish of the evening that could be considered light.) We were ready to try the special harira soup made from tomatoes and chickpeas. It is sold from many vendors in the Jemaa El Fna, but we wanted the one frequented by the most locals. This is where Youssef really came in handy. He just pushed his way to the head of the line and got four bowls for our group. That is what I call a Skip the Line Soup Tour!
Just be careful in this area while you wait for the soup because there’s lots of people trying to sell you stuff. The German woman in our group got pounced upon by a lady who hennaed her hand in just the short couple of minutes Youssef was away snagging our soup. I would have told the henna lady no but then I am from New York City. Perhaps they are just more polite in Germany?
4) Beef tanjia
It was time in our One Day in Marrakech Itinerary to stop at an actual restaurant off the Jemaa El Fna for our main course. Beef tanjia is truly a specialty of Marrakech. Even though the name sounds slightly similar, it isn’t at all like tagine. The beef tanjia is cooked in a giant pot shaped like a Green urn. Then it’s covered with ashes and left to cook slowly for a thousand years. (I may be slightly off on that number.) The result is a truly toothsome piece of melt that almost literally melts in your mouth.
Also, for you vegetable lovers out there who are too tender-hearted to eat plants, do not worry! There are no vegetables in this dish whatsoever. But vegetarians on the food tour can order veggie couscous instead of the tanjia.
5) Chicken pastilla and moroccan cookies
In case that wasn’t enough food for you, we have dessert. I was a little confused because one of those desserts has chicken in it. But then I learned it isn’t really a dessert. It’s chicken pastilla, which is a kind of savory pie mysteriously dusted with sugar on top. Any new combination of sweet and savory is generally a-ok by me!
6) Galangal Drink
Since it was an authentic Moroccan food tour, we weren’t likely to get alcoholic beverages. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t get a drink. Youssef steered us to some vendors in the middle of Jemaa El Fna pouring out a hot red liquid from some metal vats.
He explained this was a drink made from galangal, which is a medicinal herb popular in Asia. But when Moroccans got their hands on it through trade, they decided to add a whole bunch of sugar to it and drink it for fun instead of medicine. This will surprise no one who has had Moroccan mint tea, which tends to be extremely sweet.
The galangal drink did indeed have a forceful personality, but I enjoyed it. I like a tea that knows how to stand up and say hello. And a spoonful of sugar definitely makes the galangal go down.
After the food tour was over, Youssef drove me back to my hotel, which was definitely not included in the price. It was a perfect One Day in Marrakech Itinerary. I left him a big tip because in Morocco, you tip big or you go home. Three out of three ninja cats agree! It was a
That’s a Perfect One Day in Marrakech Itinerary
What would you do on your One Day in Marrakech Itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Marrakech right now? At which monument would you like your ashes buried? And IS THAT A NINJA KITTY BEHIND YOU? Please leave your thoughts below.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Just because this itinerary is for a One Day in Marrakech Itinerary, it doesn’t mean you should only spend have a One Day in Marrakech Itinerary. If you have another One Day in Marrakech Itinerary, try this itinerary too!