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The Bucket List: Marrakech

Six things you can’t miss in Morocco’s most exciting city

Le Grand Café de la Poste
Corner of Boulevard el-Mansour Eddahbi and Avenue Imam Malik, Marrakech

On any trip to Marrakech, you’re going to eat your fill of couscous and meat cooked in a tagine. It’s what people do. Still, make the time to enjoy the top-notch French-Moroccan fare at this popular, classically designed café in the Gueliz neighborhood. After a day in the souks, there’s nothing like a glass of surprisingly good local wine in a 1920s-inspired dining room to wash down what might be the best meal of your trip.

Jardin Majorelle
Rue Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakech

Plenty of people will tell you to visit this garden, which once belonged to Yves Saint Laurent, during your visit to Marrakech. None of them are wrong. Whether you pop in for a quick visit or stay for the afternoon—the garden itself is complemented by a wonderful museum focused on Berber culture, a can’t-miss gift shop and a café with especially good ice cream—this is the rare tourist trap that’s absolutely worth your time.

Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech, Morocco

Riad el Fenn
Derb Moullay Abdullah Ben Hezzian, Bab El Ksour, Marrakech

The city is studded with incredible riads to stay in, but this art-filled stunner should be at the top of your list. If you can’t book one of the rooms—two of which boast private pools—stop by anyway for sunset drinks on the rooftop, which offers an impeccably designed space to take in an incredible view of the nearby Koutoubia Mosque and the teeming Jamaa el Fna square. The gift shop on the lobby level has some of the most unique pieces you’ll find—from traditional slippers to hand-woven baskets and exceptional tapestries—but stop in before your second round of drinks to avoid a blurry splurge.

Marrakech International Film Festival

The Marrakech International Film Festival draws talented filmmakers and an A-list jury from around the world and is a fine reason to plan a trip. Not only can attendees snag free tickets to films in competition—the 2014 slate included impressive movies from Serbia, France, India, Azerbaijan and more—but the city itself comes alive around the fest, which is sponsored by the royal family. During the weeklong festival, venues from the grand Palais Des Congrès to the hip Le Colisee cinema, the So Lounge nightclub and any number of restaurants and lounges show off the city at its finest. 

Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech, Morocco

The Spa at La Mamounia
Avenue Bab Jdid, Marrakech

It makes sense that what’s widely considered to be of the world’s most luxurious hotels would have a spectacular spa. But in a town renown for its baths, Mamounia goes above and beyond by offering a high-end version of the traditional Moroccan treatment called Hammam. The process begins with a steam bath before moving on to a full-body scrub and an orange oil treatment. It’s over in an hour, but guests could be forgiven for lounging in the adjacent areas—the delightful pool, the relaxation room with seemingly unlimited mint tea—for an entire, restorative afternoon.

Ensemble Artisanal Marrakech
Avenue Mohamed V, Marrakech

Part of any trip to Marrakech is the shopping. And while it’s undeniable that you must take at least one trip to the souks, where vendors hawk everything from batteries to housewares and traditional garb, that might be all you need. Forego endless trips through the labyrinth of stalls and hit this market—not far from the Jemaa el-Fnaa square—where local artisans showcase their handmade wares and the prices are not up for debate. Everything from teacups to textiles and musical instruments is for sale, and without the bustle of the nearby medina it’s a much calmer place to stock up on souvenirs.