Planning a trip to Morocco and wondering what to do in Marrakech with kids? Marrakech is a vibrant, colourful city. Rich in culture and life it is a great place to experience North Africa with kids. Here are some recommendations to make your trip to the cultural capital of Morocco a family-friendly trip to remember.
1. STAY IN A RIAD
When I first started booking our trip to Marrakech with the kids I knew I wanted to stay in a riad.
A riad is a small boutique hotel often with only a few rooms. The cool tiles and a water feature of the inner courtyard make you feel like you are stepping into an oasis off the busy, hot streets of the Medina.
Riads are the main form of accommodation within the Medina. Staying in the Medina makes it easy to take kids back to rest and have a break from the hectic pace of the souks.
Many riads will provide meals if you request it. One of the reasons we chose Riad Gallery 49 was because of the quality and authenticity of the food.
Eating our evening meal in the riad suited us perfectly. The kid’s tastes were catered for and once they had finished eating we were able to pop them into bed and take time and enjoy the selection of Moroccan dishes that had been prepared just for us.
Fair warning, not all riads accept children. At a smaller riad you can get around this by booking out the whole riad, this is what we did. You will also hear the call to prayer at sunset and sunrise. It doesn’t last long, but it is loud enough to wake all except the heaviest of sleepers.
2. EXPLORE THE SOUKS
Visiting the labyrinth of souks (market stalls) is a must during a trip to Marrakech. The narrow streets wind through the Medina and are lined with merchants selling a variety of products. Carpets, spices, leather, copper and ceramic homewares, local products, cashmere scarves, handbags and shoes are all on sale here. The souks are chaotic and busy but new experiences are what travel is all about.
When visiting the souks in Marrakech with kids I would recommend you take a gradual introduction. Pick an area that doesn’t look too busy. Wander and watch, be firm and say no often, some of the merchants can be quite pushy. Motorbikes and carts frequently hurtle past so hold children close and to the side of the lane.
Exploring Marrakech with a baby: The souks are not stroller friendly, use a carrier instead.
Don’t try to buy anything during this first look. Now take refuge somewhere, in your riad, a restaurant or coffee shop and process. When you are ready, head back to explore some more and try your hand at bartering with some of Morocco’s best negotiators.
3. HIRE A GUIDE TO EXPLORE MARRAKECH WITH KIDS
The Medina is a honeycomb of narrow streets and it is very easy to lose orientation. It is not impossible to find your way around. Using the GPS on your phone will allow you to check if you are heading in the right direction. There are also signs which will point you back to the main square of Jemaa El Fnaa.
To really make the most of your time in Marrakech, if you are travelling with kids, hire a guide and you will be able to see so much more than you could by tackling the Medina alone.
We took a guide for a half day tour around the Medina, our first stop was to a communal bakery.
Those living in the neighbourhood would bring uncooked loaves of bread and pay a small amount for them to be baked in the large wood fire oven. The smell of fresh bread cooking was delicious.
Palais de la Bahia was built to be the most beautiful palace of its time. With ornate carving, colourful mosaics and intricately painted walls, doors and ceiling it is everything a Moroccan Palace should be.
Ben Youssef Madrasa the dormitory for the Koranic university at the nearby mosque. The building housed students for over 400 years. The small rooms, changing levels and narrow halls make a fun place for kids to peep across the courtyard at each other.
The main square in the Medina, Jemma El Fnaa really comes alive at night. During the day it is a place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Spend some time here watching street performers and avoiding snake charmers.
Koutoubia Mosque the largest in the Medina and can hold upwards of 2500 people for prayer.
Visit a Herbalist in the Kasbah. Herbalists train for years to prescribe herbal preparations made from spices, fruits and oils. Many locals will visit a herbalist before going to a doctor.
4. EXPERIENCE A HAMMAM
A Hammam is not your usual beauty treatment; it is a cultural experience and kids can participate as well. If you are interested in visiting a public Hammam check out this post.
Our riad provided their own Hammam experience so we chose this option. Lying on a warmed marble slab my Hammam started with a vigorous exfoliation with the traditional Kiis (Scrub glove). Next was a full body mask of freshly pressed fruits followed by a massage with heavenly sweet and nutty argan oil. To finish was a thick, dark lathering wash with black dyed henna soap. The kid’s version was a little shorter and gentler.
The treatments were intense and best for people that can let go of inhibitions and embrace a new experience. I left feeling I was walking on a cloud with skin and muscles that had been stripped of any signs of stress or worry that come with motherhood. Bliss!
5. VISIT A LOCAL MARKET
One of our favourite places to visit was a small market street around the corner from our Riad.
My mother came across this area while taking a walk. It was on the outskirts of the Medina. Only locals seemed to be shopping there and we bumped into Fatima, the cook from our riad buying tomatoes and large bunches of fresh mint.
Whole sheep carcases hang in refrigerated cabinets, tables were laden with fresh fruit and vegetables and chickens clucked in cages at the back of the poultry store. Other stores displayed everything that would be needed for food preparation, knives, terrines and baskets.
We went back a number of times to take photos, people watch and try some local produce.
6. TAKE A CALECHE TO MAJORELLE GARDENS
A Caleche is a horse-drawn cart usually decorated with velvet and brass bells. There are Caleche stops all over the city. Ask your accommodation for the one nearest you, as well as what price you should expect to pay since some haggling is always involved. Using the horse and cart is a great way to explore the Majorelle Gardens which is outside of the Medina.
The Majorelle Gardens were a labour of love of the French painter Jacques Majorelle. Planted over many years with plant specimens he collected during his travels.
Opened to the public in the 1940’s the gardens fell into disrepair over the next 2 decades. Yves Saint Laurent saved the garden from real estate developers and restored the gardens back to their former glory.
The gardens are compact with gardens of cacti, bamboo and palms and a central pond. The star of the garden for me was not the plants but the Majorelle blue which has always been a prominent feature within the garden. This powdery blue with undertones of lilac is strikingly vivid but calming and has become the essence of outdoor Moroccan design.
The small gardens are serene and kids will enjoy hiding behind oversized pots, spotting coy carp and marvelling at giant cacti.
7. STAY AT A RESORT
If the idea of a 5 am call to prayer and busy narrow streets with motorbikes whizzing past your precious cargo sound all too much, don’t despair. Marrakech has some great resorts where you can relax, enjoy a clean pool, well tended grounds and maybe even a kids club.
Many are located in the Palmeraie area on the outskirts of Marrakech in a desert type landscape with views up to the Atlas mountains. We stayed at the Pullman Marrakech prior to moving to the Riad in the Medina.
We met my parents in Marrakech and they had come off a long flight from NZ so it was important for us to have somewhere to relax and spend time together before continuing on our adventures.
The Pullman has a complimentary shuttle into the Medina which goes a number of times a day and many of the resorts offer a similar service. The mix of the time in the resort and the time in the Riad was perfect for us and is an option I would recommend. The Pullman is one option but there are many other resorts to consider to suit your own taste.
Marrakech can be a busy, lively place to visit but there are also ways to find peace and calm in and around the city. Consider taking a road trip out of the city to the Atlas Mountains if time allows. A trip to Marrakech is best suited to school age and older children, it is one of the harder places to travel with a toddler or baby.
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