The heart of the city, where all roads begin or end, the place that you will love and hate constantly and that has two very different faces depending on whether you visit it with the sun or the moon: this is the Jamaa El Fna Square.
This square is the most important of the city and one of the essential visits to see in Marrakech both day and night. That's where you will feel the first culture shock -and the crowds-. Sounds good, huh? Don't despair and just observe its daytime rhythm: snake charmers, storytellers, jugglers, dancing monkeys, freshly squeezed orange juice stalls, tourist scammers, constant movement... it's a show to admire!
At night the square undergoes a radical metamorphosis and becomes a huge open-air restaurant with dozens of street stalls with steaming food and locals inviting you with some insistence to eat in their delicious restaurant. It is worth having dinner there one night, filling your stomach to the rhythm of the street musicians that fill the free spaces in the square and refusing for the eleventh time to have your hand read.
My recommendation is to go at sunset and sit on one of the terraces of the cafes or restaurants surrounding the square to admire the transformation calmly with a mint tea in hand. It's wonderful! One of the most touristy places -but the one with the best views- to admire the square and its movements is from the Glacier Café.
One recommendation: beware of hustlers. They can smell a tourist for miles around and almost always concentrate on this square and will want to scam you with anything: tours, sell you products, read your future in your hands, etc.
Much of the charm of Marrakech lies in walking and getting lost in its souk. What is the souk? It is, so to speak, a large outdoor "shopping mall" arranged in narrow streets that are full of stores and where they are grouped by zones according to the item they sell. This is how you will hear about the "tanners' souk", "silk souk", "carpet souk" or "traditional cosmetics souk" among others.
The fun of the souk is that it is an immense labyrinth full of incentives for the senses: penetrating aromas, exaggerated sounds, colorful textures, colorful objects... Going through it seems like a simple task, but finding your way around is almost an impossible mission.
There is only one law in the souk: haggle. If you do not know how to do it, I have written a very complete article with bargaining tips that will come in handy.
The souk of Marrakech begins in the northern part of the Jamma el Fna Square, from there everything will be confusion until you get almost to the Madrasa of Ben Youssef (another point to visit in Marrakech Desert Tours that I'll tell you later). Spend several hours to walk around it, look at what they sell and maybe get some nice items, they have everything!
The souk is open every day from 9am to 7pm, but closes on Friday mornings (don't forget this information when organizing your trip). The best time to go? Undoubtedly, in the morning when it is the busiest and you can take the pulse of the city.
No matter where you are in the medina, if you look up you will see a minaret of 69 meters trying to touch the sky. Well, that's the Koutoubia Mosque, dating back to the 12th century, and it's the most important mosque in the city.
Do not get excited about the idea of entering, because only those who commune with the Muslim religion can do so. But do not be discouraged, seeing it from the outside is worth it, especially when they call to prayer and the faithful are approaching there and the atmosphere is transformed and it is all very unique.
Oh, and if the minaret of this great icon of the city reminds you of something and you don't know what, I'll help you: the Giralda of Seville. The reason why they look so much alike is because the one in Seville was erected using the one in Marrakech as a model. Another curiosity is that it is forbidden to build anything higher than the height of the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, which is why it is the tallest building in the city.
This nineteenth-century palace has 8,000 m2 and was conceived from the beginning to show the power of the "vizier" (minister) of the sultan, so it is no surprise that for this they gathered the best artists and architects of the country that provided it with spectacular details such as those still preserved in walls, doors and ceilings.
Although it is not very well preserved and inside there is nothing (they have looted every tiny gadget, furniture, painting and so on) is impressive to see the gardens and the harem area: an inner courtyard surrounded by more than 150 rooms where the vizier, his four wives and more than 24 concubines lived.
It is located about 15 minutes walk south of the Jamaa el Fna Square and the hours are daily from 9am to 5pm. The price is 7€. For more information, Viajes al Desierto
BEN YOUSSEF MADRASA
Surely the first thing you asked yourself when you read the title of this point about what to see in Marrakech is: what the hell is a madrasa? It is, and I quote RAE Wikipedia, "the name given in Arabic culture to any kind of school, whether religious or secular. Other expressions such as medersa or madrasa are sometimes used." In short, it is a school.
The Madrasa Ben Youssef was built by Sultan Abou al Hasan in the 14th century next to the mosque of the same name and was the largest Muslim school in the country. Until the mid-twentieth century nearly 900 students were studying the Koran and today it is possible to visit its spectacular rooms.
One of the most beautiful rooms is the central courtyard with its large iron chandelier and tiled walls. You will also be won over by the bronze door at the entrance adorned with wooden sculptures and mosaics; the more than 130 student rooms or the prayer room with its marble columns.
You can visit it every day between 8am and 6pm (although it is now closed for works until early 2020). The entrance fee is 6€. More information about the museum.