Marrakech is a vibrant city, one that is bustling, noisy, colourful and vibrant. It is filled with markets, known as souks, and one can literally wander and explore the markets for days. They are filled with food, drink, jewellery, silver, gold, rugs, leather, art, clothing, souvenirs and everything in-between. They are a real highlight of Marrakech, and while everyone will get lost in a souk at some point, everyone will love them!
The Medina is the old city and it is alive with markets. When entering the Medina, there are many gates, all ancient. Traders used to make their way to the Medina to sell their wares, and one market grew bigger and bigger, today known as Marrakech’s main market. You can walk and wander for hours, looking, shopping, bargaining, eating and drinking, meeting the locals and wandering some more.
With time and as Marrakech grew, smaller markets starting springing up. None of these are exactly small, and they are all worth exploring. Some souks had specialities, and today you can visit the carpet souk, the leather souk, the shoe souk, the gold souk and the spice souk. We would suggest you visit them all and they are literally named after what they sell. It’s a good idea to visit the Medina and main souks with a guide, especially for the first time. You can join a guided walking tour, private or in a group, and get a real sense of Marrakech’s narrow alleys, colourful markets, interesting architectures and incredible people.
If you make your way to the Jemaa el Fna Square, you will find the souks branching out from the square, mostly in a winding labyrinth of narrow alleyways. It can be confusing. The main souk is called Souk Semmarine, and from here you can just wander and come across all the other souks. Spice Square will be recognisable by the colors and aromas, Souk el Attarine will be recognisable by the antiques, silver teapots and lamps. When you start seeing shoes, you’re at Souk Smata and when everything smells of leather, you’ll be in the heart of Souk el Kebir.
Don’t get too hung up on which souk you are visiting, rather, go with the flow. Keep landmarks in mind so you don’t get too lost, and make sure you always know which direction to head back. If you do get lost, ask shopkeepers as they will always be happy to offer help, and a cup of refreshing mint tea too. You are never under obligation to buy anything, although Moroccan shopkeepers can be persuasive.
If you are nervous, join a walking tour and visit the souks of Marrakech with a guide. Then, explore on your own. Wear good shoes because you are going to walk a lot, carry water with you, have sunscreen and a hat. It gets hot in Marrakech, although you can also pick up fabulous freshly squeezed juices which are hugely popular. Always know the name of your hotel so you can jump in a taxi to go home when you’ve had enough, and carry cash because it’s easier to shop in the markets with cash.