Ultimate Budget Travel Itinerary for 2 Days in Marrakech
Ultimate Budget Travel Itinerary for 2 Days in Marrakech

Ultimate Budget Travel Itinerary for 2 Days in Marrakech

Although a travel destination oozing with culture, after just 2 days in Marrakech, you can get a good taste for its rich history and tourist attractions.

For example, there’s the grand Koutoubia mosque, bustling Jemaa el-Fnaa square and the Mellah Jewish quarter—to name but a few—all within walking distance to each other.

This is convenient and means that even if you only have little time in the city, or if you don’t like spending too much time in urban areas when you travel, you can still get the full experience.

The thing about Marrakech, though, is that lots of the main attractions charge entry fees and the prices in the immediate vicinity of these are inflated for tourists.

Entrance fees and tourist prices are the worst enemies of budget travelers and in Marrakech they will quickly eat into your daily allowance.

I spent 2 days in Marrakech and had the best time without spending the amount of money that tourists typically do when visiting the Red City.

I did this by making the most of all the free things on offer and only paying for things when there was no other option. And when I did pay for something, I kept the cost to a minimum. 

In this article, I’ll share my budget itinerary for 2 days in Marrakech. I’ll include the best free things to do along with suggestions for paid attractions.

You’ll find out all that’s on offer in the Moroccan capital and can pick and choose what to do and how much to spend.

The Medina of Marrakech

A painting of a traditional Moroccan man wearing a turban. His eyes peer at the camera.

So where in Marrakech will you find the attractions? The Medina…pretty much. 

Marrakesh has 3 main regions, these are Sidi Youssef Ben Ali, Marrakech Menara and Marrakesh Medina. As a traveler, it’s Marrakech Medina that you need to know about.

Dating back to roughly 1,000 years ago, the Medina or ‘old city’ is a UNESCO world heritage site and where almost all of the attractions in Marrakech are located.

It’s characterised by chalky red buildings and narrow streets bustling with street vendors and colourful shops.

Pretty much every picture ever taken of Marrakech depicts the Medina.  

Budget-friendly activities for 2 days in Marrakech

There are many things to do in Marrakech for free or little money. Let’s look at what I think are the must-do’s and my best tips to make sure that you keep your costs as low as possible. 

Experience Jemaa el-Fnaa Square

A tall man posing for a picture in a busy city plaza. There is a moroccan flag in the background.

First up, we’ve got Jemma el-Fnaa. This the main square in Marrakech and it’s the centre of all the hustle and bustle. During the day you’ll find cart stalls selling fruit and vegetables, tourist gifts and clothes, for example.

But more excitingly, you’ll find locals putting the traditional Moroccan culture on display for the tourist. I saw Guerrabs (traditional water porters) and an acrobatic group showing off some impressive moves.

However, as interesting, entertaining and friendly as these people are, know that this is their work. So, if you want to take a picture with them, or seem to be enjoying the spectacle, they will ask you for money.

Keep this in mind as sometimes, for example, they will offer you to take a seemingly free picture, and only after the picture has been taken do they then ask for a few dirhams (the local currency: MAD).

Therefore, if you want to keep the daytime attractions of Jemma el-Fnaa free, say no any photos or invitations to be involved in any acts.

If you do take pictures and are asked for money, you could just say no. However, I think it’s better to offer to delete the photos there and then.

For example, I took a photo of the Guerrabs and they saw me. They then asked me to take another and posed for it, only this time they wanted money.

I explained that I didn’t want to pay and gestured to delete them. On this occasion, the Guerrabs were kind about it and let me keep the pictures.

Three men in traditional moroccan clothing pose for a photo.
Guerrabs: traditional water porters

In a similar vein to declining pictures, I also recommend saying no thanks to shop workers offering you ‘free’ gifts or to ‘sample’ their products. More often than not, this leads to them trying to rope you into a sale and can sometimes end in a request for money.

If you’re offered a sample of something that you’d actually like to try, I recommend clarifying that it’s free before you accept it.

During the day, Jemma el-Fnaa is also home to animal acts. These include snake charmers and monkeys doing tricks. Unfortunately, the monkeys are chained around their necks. It’s always better not to give money to any kind of animal act.

Jemaa el-Fnaa is busy during the day, but it’s at night when the square comes alive. It completely fills with food stalls serving delicious local cuisine and cart stalls selling all sorts.

Market stall carts at night in a city centre plaza. This is Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakech.

At night, it’s easy to see how Jemma el Fnaa is truly the heart of the Medina. All the major streets that wind through the Medina lead to it. These bring masses of people and the square becomes its most lively at around 01:00.

I highly recommend going for a late-night meal in Jemma el Fnaa to experience the atmosphere. To get the local prices, stick to the eateries on the ground level.

These have long tables lined with benches and you can share a meal with other tourists and locals alike. In these places, a tagine—Morocco’s most famous dish—should cost around 40 MAD.

A busy market plaza at night. Fruit stalls are lit up ny lights.

If you want to see the whole square at night, then you’ll need to grab a table at one of the restaurants with a terrace. These restaurants charge tourist prices. A coffee is around 20 MAD, for example, when elsewhere you’ll pay no more than 10 MAD.

A mosque in the background lit up by lights. A silhouetted couple are are sat in front of the mosque in the foreground.

I paid the 20 MAD because I wanted to snap a few pictures of Jemma el Fnaa from above. But unless you also really want to take these pictures, I recommend saving yourself money and sticking to the ground level for food and drinks.

Admire the Koutoubia mosque

A masque. The tower is lit by sunlight on one side. This is Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech.

Located at the end of Avenue Jemaa el Fna, the Koutoubia is just a few hundred metres outside of the main square. The largest mosque of all Marrakech’s holy buildings, it’s what drew me to the city in the first place.

The tower dominates the Marrakech skyline and the surrounding gardens enclose the mosque in a serene, tranquil space that includes picturesque palm trees and fountains.

Being a mosque, you can’t go inside. But you can enjoy the beautiful architecture from afar or from up close in the gardens.

A fountain in front of a mosque tower.

On a clear day, the Koutoubia looks amazing at sunset. The golden light complements the mosque’s red-brown bricks and the sun will pass behind the tower before dropping below the horizon.

You can enjoy a Koutoubia sunset from a restaurant rooftop terrace or from Avenue Jemaa el Fna.

The sun setting behind a mosque. The tower is silhouetted as are the people crossing the road in front of it.

Visit the Mellah Jewish quarter

Two young men ride a motorcycle. Both are looking over their shoulders towards the camera. The driver makes a peace sign with his fingers.

Nestled within the Medina is the small Jewish district called the Mellah. Historically a mellah was a region of a city within Morocco where only Jews lived.

Today, the Mellah is no longer a sector of the city reserved for Jews. The majority of its inhabitants are Moroccan Muslims and most of the buildings are simply housing for locals or tourists.

The architecture within the Mellah isn’t much different to the rest of the Medina. The real draw to this part of the city is the market and the fact that it adds a cultural mix to what is otherwise a Muslim city. 

However, if you’re checking out the Mellah, keep an eye or your belongings and avoid venturing away from the main streets into the back alleys.

Parts of the Mellah are pretty rough; a guy working at one of the hostels I stayed in explained to me that the the dirstrict has a reputation for robbery and even locals are targeted sometimes.

You should stay out of the Mellah if you’re exploring Marrakesh at night.

This is the largest Jewish cemetery in Morocco and is split into 3 sections: men, women and children. The site is vast and each burial plot is marked by a white stone prism or cuboid.

The cemetery is open 08:00 – 18:00 every day except Friday and Saturday. On Friday it opens at 08:30 and on Saturday the cemetery is closed.

Although the 10 MAD entrance fee is worded as a ‘donation’,  it is a fixed entry fee.

An active place of worship and a museum sharing the story of 2000 years of Jewish culture in Morocco, the Lazama Synagogue is both a holy building and a tourist attraction.

Inside you’ll find beautiful tile-clad walls, an open courtyard and small exhibitions detailing the long history of Moroccan Jews.

It costs 10 MAD to enter and the opening times are 09:00 – 19:00 every day except Saturday.

Get lost exploring Marrakech Medina

A motorbike parked in a narrow street.

As a tourist who doesn’t know the Medina, the best way to discover it is to simply get lost in it. The Medina is a maze of narrow streets and with each twist and turn you encounter friendly locals, new smells and interesting shops.

There are all sorts of shops in the Medina. For example, you’ve got bakeries selling your classic Moroccan sweets like m’hanncha and baklava, and art shops selling paintings and sculptures of traditional Moroccan culture.

Leather goods are also popular in Marrakech so you might come across tanneries too.

I recommend downloading an offline map of the city for your 2 days in Marrakech. I relied heavily on mine to navigate the Medina. Without my offline map, I definitely would’ve struggled to find my way back to my hostel.

Enjoy the vibrant colours of the souks

large piles of dried spices forming the shape of a cone.

While you’re meandering around the Medina, make sure to head into one of its several souks. These are market places within the Medina; they typically occupy their own little cul de sac or section of a street and will have a sign on the wall as you enter.

The average souk is bursting with colour and quirky crafts. What makes some of the souks particularly interesting is that they specialise in specific products. For example, there is:

  • Souk Haddadine dedicated to lanterns and lampshades
  • Souk El Attarine specialising in spices and perfumes
  • Souk Cherratine where you’ll find leather goods galore
  • Dhabi Souk selling all sorts of jewellery
A wall with an arch passageway. A sign on the wall says 'Souk'.

Gaze upon the High Atlas Mountains

A mountain behind palm trees. The mountain is in the distance and the palm trees in the foreground growing from the ground in a city.

The High Atlas is a mountain range within Morocco. It contains the highest peaks within the country and is epitomised by Djebel Toubkal, the tallest mountain in North Africa, at 4,167 m.

The mountain range stretches from the Moroccan Atlantic coast all the way to the border with Algeria, made up of 100s of individual summits.

From Marrakech, the High Atlas mountains sit on the south-eastern horizon. It took me a day or 2 to realise they were there. But once I did, I was astounded by how amazing of a backdrop they create for the city.

Whether or not you can see them from the city depends on where you are and the weather. On a clear day the absolute best way to view the High Atlas Mountains from Marrakech is to find a rooftop terrace facing in their direction. 

bird fly in front of a mountain peak. The mountains are in the distance and the birds in the foreground above city buildings of Marrakech.

I snapped my pictures of the High Atlas Mountains from the terrace of Hotel Afriquia. It’s a hotel that I recommend for budget travelers who don’t want to stay in a hostel in Marrakech. I’ll talk more about why I recommend it later in this guide.

Small country flags arranged on the roof cover of a market stall cart. Several flags can be seen. A mosque is in the background.

If you’re happy to pay entrance fees, then there are a bunch more attractions for your 2 days in Marrakech. I recommend arriving early because these attractions get swamped with tour groups.

Bahia Palace

  • Entrance fee: 70 MAD (30 MAD children)
  • Opening times: 09:00 – 16:30

When translated to English, bahia means beautiful, and Bahia Palace is just that. The palace is quite literally a work of art with walls covered in decorative designs.

At 8000 m2 and with 150 rooms, Bahia Palace is grand to say the least. Although, not all of the grounds and rooms are open to the public.

Grand Vizier Si Moussa—the personal advisor to the Sultan andhighest-ranking government official—built Bahia Palace in the 1860s. After his death, his son and successor, Abu Ahmed, expanded the palace making it even more glamorous.

Jardin Majorelle (botanical garden)

  • Entrance fee: 70 MAD
  • Opening times: every day 08:30 – 18:00 (last entry 17:00)

Jardin Majorelle (Majorelle Gardens) is both a botanical garden and an artist landscape garden just outside of Marrakech Medina. The 1-hectare space boasts colourful plants and trees, and artistic buildings.

The beautiful garden was created by Jacques Majorelle, a French Orientalist artist over a period of close to 40 years. The key feature, the blue Cubist villa, was designed in the 1930s by French architect Paul Sinior.

Saadian Tombs

  • Entrance fee: 60 MAD
  • Opening times: 09:00 -17:00

Moroccan royalty were buried at the Saadian Tombs for generations following its construction in the 1500s during the Saadian dynasty. A sacred and historic necropolis, the mausoleums are lavishly decorated with intricate tiles and patterns.

Ruins of El Badi Palace

  • Entrance fee: 70 MAD (children free)
  • Opening times: 08:00 – 17:00

Another of Marrakech’s famous attractions created by royalty, like the Saadian Tombs, the now ruined El Abdi Palace was also constructed during the Saadian dynasty.

The palace has an interesting history. It was built towards the end of the 1500s by Sultan Ahmed al-Mansur as an epic way to celebrate his victory in battle over the Portuguese.

But the next sultan, Moulay Ismail, was responsible for the palace’s downfall. He plundered Badi Palace and essentially left the grounds in ruins.

Ben Youssef Medersa (Ben Youssef Madrasa)

  • Entrance fee: 50 MAD (adults) 10 MAD (children under 12)
  • Opening times: 09:00 – 18:00 every day

Once the largest Islamic college in all of the Maghreb (the western part of the Islamic world), nowadays Ben Youssef Medersa is a historic site and tourist attraction.

Along with its rich history, the building boasts some nice architecture including a reflective pool in the middle of the main courtyard.

Tour guides in Marrakech

People walk in a narrow street. This is Marrakech Medina.

Marrakech is a travel destination where many tourists pay for a tour guide.

It’s not something that I did or particularly recommend, but if you really like to delve into the local history and culture, then paying a guide to take you around could be a good idea.

There are registered guides in Marrakech who can take you on walking tours of the city. The easiest way to find one is to ask about it at your accommodation. A quick Google search will also bring up tonnes of results.

Fake ’guides’ to watch out for

A cityscape with mountains in the background. A mosque is at the centre of the scape. It is the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech.

The locals in Marrakech know that many tourists seek guides for the city. Unfortunately, a small minority try to take advantage of this by using some pretty sneaky tactics.

It usually goes like this:

  • They stop you in the street by asking where you’re going
  • If you know where you’re going, they’ll start walking with you and might quickly mention something about ‘a guide’
  • If you seem unsure at all about where you’re going, they’ll tell you that the road you’re heading along is closed, and then try to convince you to go elsewhere with them. Again, they might say they’re a ‘guide’

Anyone who does this is not a guide, but somebody trying to make quick money from unsuspecting tourists. They approach you confidently and can seem convincing. This happened to me a few times during my 2 days in Marrakech.

It’s unlikely that one of these fake guides will lead you somewhere dangerous or do you any harm. After all, they are trying to make money.

However, it’s the fact that they purposely don’t make it clear that they want money until they’ve ‘guided’ you somewhere that creates an awkward situation. The best thing to do if approached by someone claiming to be a guide is to just say no and keep walking to where you were going.

If, by chance, you are lost, then I recommend asking someone else to point you in the right direction. It’s better to avoid getting any sort of help from these fake guides as it’ll only end in a request for money.

Bartering in Marrakech

A shop with its doors open displaying handbags and jewellery. This is in Marrakech Medina.

Some local shop owners will also take advantage of tourists by whacking their prices up. You can’t paint all Marrakech shop owners with the same brush, but there are definitely a number of them who won’t think twice about doing it.

In fact, the city has a bit of a reputation for this sort of thing. So, if you want to make sure you stick to your budget in Marrakech, be prepared to barter.

Bartering is something that takes a little bit of confidence. At first, it can be intimidating to try and get the price down. But if you think that you’re getting ripped off, then you may well be, and you shouldn’t feel shy to have a crack at getting a better deal.

In the end, the worst that can happen is that the shop owner won’t budge on the price and you can decide to take it or leave it.

A building with large carpets draped over its side from the rooftop terrace.

But how do you know when you’re getting the tourist price? Well, you won’t always know, but finding out the typical costs of things before your trip will give you baselines to work with.

For example, here are the maximums you should be charged for some typical food and drinks in budget restaurants and by street vendors/shops in Marrakech:

  • Americano coffee (10 MAD)
  • Pastry/sweet treat (1 – 3 MAD depending on what it is)
  • Basic tagine (40 MAD)
  • Shawarma wrap (25 MAD)
  • Can of soft drink (10 MAD)
  • 1.5 ltr bottle of water (10 MAD)
  • Apple (1 MAD)
  • Banana (1 MAD)

In my experience, you’ll most likely be charged tourist prices in the busiest streets of the Medina.

For example, I bought 2 sweet treats from a small shop on Derb Debacha, which is basically an artery through the Medina to Jemaa el-Fnaa. The guy in the shop tried charging me 20 MAD.

I immediately knew I was getting the tourist price because the previous morning I bought 3 pastries for 5 MAD on a quieter street away from Jemaa el-Fnaa. So, I told him I’d pay 10 MAD and he immediately accepted it.

I’m pretty sure that the fact he was fine with this meant I was still getting a tourist price, but it was much better than the initial 20 MAD.

Where to stay for a 2-day trip to Marrakech

There are plenty of budget accommodation options in Marrakech. Many include breakfast in the price and have rooftop terraces great for hanging out on. Here are my top picks for a cheap yet comfortable stay in the city.

Ultra budget hostel: Nelya Kech

A living room with a sofa and table. There is a bedroom in the background.
  • $10 US/night
  • Address: 61 Derb Saabatou Rijal, Médina, 40000 Marrakech

I stayed here for a few nights and had a great time. The staff were friendly and the service was top. A good breakfast was included in the price and the mint tea was lovely.

The hostel is tucked away down a narrow street away from the touristy areas of Marrakech Medina. This is great if you want a true local experience, but not so great in terms of walk times to attractions.

This is the most budget-friendly accommodation option in Marrakesh and you’ll do well to find cheaper.

However, the super low price means that something’s got to give, and that something is the toilets and showers. They weren’t the cleanest and sometimes smelt bad.

Budget hostel: El Boussouni

A hotel reception area looking upwards to the roof opening.
  • $12.5 US/night
  • Address: El Boussouni, 10 Derb, Rue el Gzza, Marrakesh 40000

This is a nice-looking and clean hostel conveniently located about 5 minutes walking from Bab Doukkala bus station. There’s also a money exchange place offering good rates and plenty of restaurants/cafes just 1 minute around the corner.

It’s a fairly new hostel with spacious, uncrowded dorm rooms, a comfortable reception area and a good self-catering kitchen. Breakfast comes included and the roof terrace has great views of the city.

My only gripe about El Boussouni is that it was understaffed. You could be waiting a few minutes for someone to open the door for you. Hopefully they’ll sort this teething problem by the time you visit Marrakesh as its a great place to stay.

Budget hotel: Hotel Afriquia

A rooftop terrace. There are views over the city to mountains in the background. This is the view from Hotel Afriqui in Marrakech.
  • $12.5 US/night
  • Address: 45, Derb Sidi Bouloukate Place Jamaa El Fna. Marrakech, 40000

Unlike the 2 hostels mentioned above, I didn’t stay at Hotel Afriquia. However, I met someone in Marrakech who was staying here, and he showed me around the hotel. My friend’s room was a simple single room that looked clean and comfortable.

The building is beautiful, decorated in classic Moroccan-style ceramic tiles. And it has an open courtyard with fruit trees reaching the upper levels.

An orange tree in the middle on a hotel courtyard. The tree has grown to reach the upper levels of the building. There are unripe oranges growing on it.

The hotel is in a great location just off Jemaa el-Fnaa. The rooftop terrace has the best views of the High Atlas Mountains and seemed like the perfect place for hanging out in the evenings.

The only thing about Hotel Afriquia is that breakfast is not included and there isn’t a self-catering kitchen nor a restaurant.

How to get to the Medina from Marrakech airport

A person looking towards mountains in the distance behind a city.

You can get to the Medina from the airport by taxi or bus.

The bus is cheaper option and it costs 30 MAD. You’ll need to take the number 19 from the airport to Marrakesh city centre. The first 19 bus is at 06:00 and the last is at 22:00. They run every 20 minutes and the journey should take about 40 minutes.

However, taxi is by far the most convenient and feasible way. It’s around a 7 km journey depending on where in the Medina you stay and the drive time is roughly 20 minutes depending on traffic.

Taxis leave from the car park in front of the airport and you pay at a kiosk just outside the entrance to the airport. You’ll receive a ticket and will then be directed by staff to an awaiting taxi in the rank.

Taxis in Marrakech must operate using fixed rates. Currently, depending on what time you travel from the airport to the Medina and the distance you go, you’ll pay between 70 – 150 MAD.

The night rate for taxis is much higher than the day rate so you’ll pay towards the higher end of the above price range if taking a taxi after dark.

Key things to know about taxis in Marrakech

Two yellow taxis parked on the side of a road.

Like some of the shop owners, Marrakech taxi drivers also have a reputation for being cunning. Some of the tactics include saying that the meter is broken or simply charging you an inflated rate.

Be sure to agree on the price for the journey before you set off. If the driver wants more than the official rate and won’t budge, then get out and find another taxi.

The Marrakech airport website has the latest rates for taxis along with info about the rules they need to abide by.

Taxi drivers can also be quick to ask for a tip. For example, when I arrived at Marrakech, the taxi driver wasted no time in explaining to me how good service means tips. I wasn’t a fan of this as we’d barely left the airport.

It’s your choice whether you tip taxi drivers and you shouldn’t feel pressured into it.

Is one day enough for Marrakech?

A mosque seen through a stone archway. The mosque is in Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakech.

One day in Marrakech is enough time to check out the main attractions such as Jemma el-Fnaa, the Koutoubia Mosque and walk around the Medina in general. However, this would be a rushed day.

Having at least 2 days in Marrakech would allow you to enjoy these activities slowly and also explore other sites in the city.

You could even use the extra day to escape the city on an adventurous day trip to somewhere like the Agafay Desert.

More travel inspiration on A World Over

So, is 2 days enough for Marrakech? Yes, it is. With 48 hours you can do a lot in the Red City and keep your costs down by choosing the many free activities.

Let me know in the comments if you found this guide helpful. I’ve got more Morocco travel guides coming soon, so stay tuned for those.

You can head to my Morocco landing page for all my travel advice for this amazing country.

 

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