Lancelot (3), Ysé (8), Balthazar (11)
and their parents in Marrakech
Enjoy the vibrant city of Marrakesh with kids, strolling through the lively streets of the historic medina, getting lost in the colorful souks, resting in the old mansions’ shaded courtyards, sipping a mint tea, eating honey pastries…
To stroll on the Djemaa el Fna (Jamaa el Fna) Square: the heart of the old town, a must-do! You can spend hours in this huge square, watching with the kids everything that’s happening. Quiet in the day, the square comes alive in late afternoon: snake charmers, henna tattoos, fire eaters, musicians, monkey trainers, water carriers … You will be solicited from all sides, but what an experience for the kids! (Expect to give some coins for the pictures you take). All roads lead to Jemaa El Fna square. Even if (like me) you have a poor sense of direction, don’t worry: even before you have asked the question, the locals will tell you the direction!
To get lost in the souks: a maze of narrow streets in the Medina, full of small shops grouped by handicraft specialty: leather slippers (babouches), carpets, pottery, textiles and jellabas (local long tunic), jewelry, forged iron lanterns… If you are sensitive to odors, avoid the tannery district, the smell is unbearable! Of course, no fixed prices: haggling is not optional! Anyway, that’s where to find plenty of treasures to bring back home… (Souks in the Medina are north of Djemaa El Fna).
To get a traditional henna tattoo: a nice, original and ephemeral souvenir to bring back home! Kids can choose the design on a booklet, or ask for anything else (scorpions for boys, a name transcribed in Arabic…). Discuss the price before. Made in a few minutes, the gesture’s accuracy is impressive! You must wait a while after to let it dry well. I found the women’s work on Rahba Qedima a little neater than on Djemma El Fna. However, the tattoo fades after about a week. Warning: always select traditional red henna (green paste), never the black one that can cause severe allergic reactions.
To discover the most exotic apothecaries, in Rahba Qedima Square: a blow of colours and flavours! Besides providing the “classic” spices (pepper, cumin, saffron, cinnamon… ), these herbal stores are selling snake skins, goat horns, or hedgehogs and chameleons that children can even touch! Guaranteed hit with the kids (and any Poudlard’s student!). It’s also a nice place to drink a mint tea or a fresh orange juice on the terrace of Café des Epices, while the children play with their new cold blood friend. (Medina, Rahba Qedima Square, a little west behind Jemaa El Fna).
To take a caleche ride (horse-drawn carriage): don’t miss the opportunity to give your legs a rest, when everybody is tired of walking! Of course, this is very touristy and you may not be huge fans, but the kids love it! You can ride around the ramparts, or go to the Menara Gardens or the Majorelle Garden. You must negotiate the rates before: divide the price offered by the driver by at least 2 or 3! The drivers are waiting on the Djemaa el Fna, west side.
To have a camel ride! If the kids are looking for a camel ride in Marrakech, head to the Menara Gardens or to the Palmeraie. Taxis know well these spots and will drop you in the right place. This is obviously very touristy, so avoid agencies and improve your bargain skills by negotiating the ride’s duration and price! Once this done, fun for all family! (Menara Gardens are 3 km from the medina).
Jardin Majorelle (Majorelle Gardens): originally owned by a French painter, the place later belongs to the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. Famous for its striking blue, the villa is surrounded by an enchanted garden with plants from around the world: cactus, bamboo, water lilies, jasmine … In the midst of lush vegetation, ponds and basins: a serene and shady retreat in this bustling city! We remained daydreaming while the kids watched the turtles and played hide and seek among the bamboos. Prefer the morning and fly away when the buses arrive in the middle of the afternoon. The place loses a bit of its charm … (outside the medina by taxi from Jemaa El Fna square, or much more fun for children, by carriage!)
Medersa Ben Youssef: a beautiful place, which was once the Maghreb’s largest Koranic school. Built in the sixteenth century, it could accommodate up to 900 students in the 150 cells of the “campus”. Students ate and slept there, while education was provided in the nearby mosque. Today, wandering through the tiny cells, you can easily imagine the Spartan furnishings, and this sanctuary of faith breathes austerity. In the central courtyard paved with marble floor, admire the stucco walls and decorations carved on cedar wood. (Medina, Place Ben Youssef, daily 8h-17h)
Bahia Palace, the “Beauty’s Palace “, which dates from about 1880, was a gift from the grand vizier to his ‘favourite’ among his 80 concubines: 150 rooms, all on the ground floor (because he was impotent and could not climb stairs), fountains, patios, several hectares of beautiful gardens … a spoiled woman! A beautiful example of Islamic architecture to visit with kids. (Rue de la Bahia)
+ Daytrips around Marrakech with kids: to get out of the souks and to discover beautiful landscapes!
The Ourika Valley: a verdant valley enclosed by the snowy peaks of the Atlas Mountains, Berber villages, and terraced gardens. At the end of the valley, last stop is Setti Fatma, from where you can admire the first of the 7 famous waterfalls. Located south of Marrakech, the extreme point of this valley is 65 km from the city. It takes about 1:30 to get there. Most tours offers a day trip: it’s doable, but it’s also nice to stop there for the night. We recommend Ourika Garden: a peaceful place with a beautiful garden, a family suite, a pool and delicious meal.
Ouzoud waterfalls: a beautiful natural site, with several waterfalls, surrounded by lush vegetation. You can swim down the waterfalls, accessible by a shaded path of olive trees. You may see whole families of heckling monkeys in the trees, they live nearby in the cliff caves! It takes about three hours to get there (170 km from Marrakech): a day trip a bit long for kids… To spend a night there, we recommend the charming Riad Ouzoud. They can organize an excursion by mule to the waterfalls, even providing homemade picnics!
First of all, in which area: the palm grove or the medina? My point: the Palmeraie, slightly off the center, offers restful surroundings (except when your kids are doing a jumping contest in the pool). The medina is more authentic. You are right in the city’s beating heart, with the muezzin, the craftsmen at work, the small lively markets … Less relaxing but much more atmospheric!
- Riads in the Medina (old town)
The Medina is full of “riads”, traditional mansions with several rooms around a central patio. When you pass the thick doors, leaving behind you the medina’s hustle and bustle, you find an hidden gem: a bright courtyards fill with orange or bananas trees, a water basin, terracotta tiles… Magical! The house staff can cook or babysit upon request, and the kids loved to feel like home. Our favorite, as you guessed! Here is our selection for families, featured with our partner VillaNovo.
-Low prices, with a plunge pool:
Dar Cheref: A lovely place, decorated with light colors. Nice patio with a plunge pool, beautiful terrace surrounded by the trees of the neighboring palace, 3 bedrooms, can sleeps 6. A very good cook at your disposal (ask to have your first dinner at your arrival “at home”, this is great with kids!).
Dar Essakaya: an intimate and lovely riad, full of charm, with 3 bedrooms (one master bedroom + two others with twin beds, up to 6 persons), a small swimming pool, overlooking the Koutoubia Mosque from the terrace. Very nice too!
Riad Mazagao: Ideal if you are a large family or with friends, 6 bedrooms, small pool on the patio.
-Elegant and refined, with a heated pool (which is nice during a sunny winter), but still affordable:
Riad Kerkeden: We liked a lot the simple and elegant decoration. A very neat house with 4 bedrooms and a nice little heated pool in the courtyard.Very well equipped, the riad is really beautiful and very comfortable. Access to the last terrace at the top is for adults only (the view of the medina is perfect). Very good cook here too.
Dar 118: We had a crush on the terrace where stands the pool, with its amazing view of the Mamounia’s gardens and Koutoubia Mosque… The decor mixes traditional and contemporary furniture design: really elegant and beautiful! 3 bedrooms, perfect for 5 people. And above all, a fantastic cook!
Dar 5: As in Dar 118, the terrace overlooks the gardens of La Mamounia! A beautiful house with a heated rooftop pool and many refinements. 5 bedrooms.
Riad Vania: A lovely riad with a swimming pool on the sun terrace. The place is charming, decorated in warm tones with great taste. And the riad got its own “hammam” (Turkish bath)! Delicious breakfasts … 5 bedrooms, perfect to share for two families.
- VIllas in the Palmeraie
If your looking for relaxing family holidays with a twist of luxury, check-out these beautiful villas for rent exclusively, at very reasonable prices! (Breakfast included):
Villa Marion (3 bedrooms, sleeps 6): charming house with a lovely (heated) swimming pool, decorated in a contemporary style, surrounded by a large garden. From the room on the 1st floor, great view of the Atlas plain. There is even a donkey for walks! Excellent meals upon request with products from the market.
Villas Aida (3 or 4 bedrooms, sleeps 6/8): A private villas located in a secluded residence with a beautiful garden. Small private pool in the villa’s patio, and large swimming pool in the residence. CookIng service included in the rental price. Very good quality/price ratio … and it’s near the golf course, for lovers!
- Hotels (off center, with a pool):
Hotel Marrakesh Le Semiramis: a modern and comfortable hotel, set in a huge park planted with palm trees. Nice room for 2 adults and 2 children at a competitive price. The pool is really big, with a shallow section, kids will enjoy! (10 min drive from the center)
La Ferme Berbère, a restored farmhouse among olive groves, offers a nice room for 4 at a very low price. For children, workshops to make bread and Moroccan pancakes, donkey rides, a large garden and a swimming pool … A very friendly and relaxing place for families! (9 km from the city center)
First of all, Moroccan’s cuisine is a pure delight, from the appetizers (briouat, salads), to the tagine and couscous, not to mention the desserts, sweet and pastries! It is aromatic and flavored but not spicy, and kids liked it a lot.
- To have lunch:
Café du Jardin Majorelle, in a lovely shaded little courtyard. A simple food, fresh, and delicious fruit juices in an enchanting setting. (in the Majorelle Gardens)
Le Jardin (Medina area): an old house from the 17th, happily redesigned with a 60′ twist. Refreshing harmony of green tones, and of course a lovely garden (hence the name)! A very nice place to have a salad and a light lunch … we had a very relaxing break there and spent more than a lunch time! 32, Sidi Abdelaziz, Souk El Jeld, Medina
On Rahba Qedima Square (Medina): Café des Epices. A charming little cafe in the heart of the souks. Fresh salads, Moroccan bread sandwiches, delicious orange juice and a lovely terrace.
- To have lunch and chill at the swimming-pool:
The Beldi Country Club, located 5 km from the center of Marrakech, in set in a beautiful garden. You can enjoy lunch under the olive trees’ shade, then lounge by a beautiful black tiled pool. There is also a hammam (must be booked before coming), the cherry on top of a relaxing afternoon!
- To treat yourself:
Marrakech is the right place to eat the best world’s “gazelle horns” (Kaab el Ghazal), almond paste flavored with orange blossom water, in a crescent shape: go straight to Patisserie des Princes, Rue des Princes (pedestrian street, south of the Jamaa El Fna Square: Bab Agnaou, 32). Really delicious!
Drink a mint tea at the Café de France, at the 2nd floor’s terrace. Sunset is the most perfect time, when the Koutoubia Mosque’s minaret stands out in the orange sky… The right place to enjoy the wonderful “gazelle horns” purchased at the Pâtisserie des Princes! (on Jemaa El Fna Square)
- To have dinner in the Medina :
Our crush, the Foundouk : a very nice decor, soft prices for an elegant spot, and delicious tagines! (one is enough to be shared with kids) You should book for dinner, the place is popular and it’s deserved. We loved the atmospheric arrival, with the guide who leads us with his lantern across the medina’s narrow streets, from the Place El Mokef (where the taxi stop) to the restaurant entrance…
Another charming spot in the Medina: La Terrasse des Epices (same owners than the Café des Epices). Set on a vast roof terrace, under the stars, moroccan food at reasonable prices. A nice place for families, relax atmosphere. 15, Souk Cherifia
To enjoy the atmosphere of the Jemaa El Fna Square, we recommend Chegrouni, next to the Café de France. The second floor’s terrace is very nice: it’s good, typical, and really cheap (no alcohol). On the square itself, you’ll find plenty of food stalls, but hygiene is poor, at least for children.
Enjoy your trip to Marrakech with kids!