Our honest opinion: the markets of Marrakech

Jemaa El Fna - a culture experience

One of the streets off Jemaa El Fna

So picture this: street vendors yelling at you and pulling you into shops, snake charmers walking the streets hypnotizing their reptiles, mopeds speeding down the narrow cobbled paths where pedestrians walk, locals hand crafting unique items on the floor as you walk by. These markets are one not to be missed - but also prepare yourselves for a cultural awakening. This is what it is actually like visiting one of Marrakech's most popular markets.


Millions of tourists fly to Morocco each year for sun, sand and shopping - in fact Morocco had 12 million tourists visit the country in the year of 2023. Marrakech has a population of 1.5 million people - with a lot of the locals working at the souks and markets. We decided to take a trip out to the most well known market in Marrakech - Jemaa El Fna. We headed to this market via an organised coach trip from our hotel, this cost us £5 one way -  we were dropped off at a bus stop which was a 5 minute walk from the square. We were not told which way to walk, and probably would not have found the market if not for some really helpful hotel guests who walked with us the whole way to the market square. As we were walking to the square they gave us some great advice: don't make eye contact unless you want to buy, make sure you haggle with the seller and be firm. They gave us a brief warning about being vigilant at the markets, watching our phones, camera and money at all times. 


We arrived at the market square at around 1:15pm. There must have been thousands already shopping and working at this market - with a constant buzz of noise from everywhere you look. Police cars, horses, snakes, people, shops, fake designer goods, food, there was so much going on all in one place! 


Firstly we had a walk around the main square, here they had snake charmers, monkeys walking round on leads and other interesting reptiles. One thing to remember is that if you take a photo of any of these animals then expect them to ask you for money. This is how they earn money and make a living - so even if you don't agree with it or want to take a picture of them, respect them and their way of living. The best thing we advise would be to just steer clear of them and leave them in peace.


After walking through the square, there are at least 10 roads leading off into different directions, all overloaded with independent market stalls and shops selling a variety of goods. We went into many of these shops, instantly as you walk in you will be asked where you're from, if you like a certain item and what size do you need. They are friendly people just trying to make a sale, if you are just looking then just tell them - there is no need to be rude or ignore these people. One thing we found, is that if you ask how much an item is then they only seem to tell you it's a 'good price' until you're fully ready to buy. We also found that if you don't haggle then you will end up paying much more as they like to increase the prices and then work their way down. We just bought a few things from the market; some souvenirs totally up to around £5, a handmade leather dog collar for £10 and a handmade belt for £5.


We would also suggest not to eat from these markets. We wandered off to the markets where there were more locals than tourists and we saw all the food being sold directly to customers - no refrigeration, lots of flies all over the food and things stored and sold from the floor. They also wash a lot of the prepared foods using the tap water, which generally speaking isn't safe to drink for everyone. Even though we really wanted to try some of the local food, we would suggest sticking to the hotel or preparing yourself for a night on the toilet!


We found that the streets do look very similar and there aren't many significant buildings to remember to prevent you from getting lost around the souks. We got lost several times, and each time we were told to follow people and they will take us back to the market square. After being lost for what felt like an eternity, a younger guy said he would take us back to the main market square, but after walking for 15 minutes he tried to take us down a suspiciously dark side street with lots of locals staring at us so we decided to leave it and walk back. He came after us shouting to follow him but we proceeded to walk back and eventually (with a stroke of luck) managed to find our way back to the main square. At this point it was getting late and we were ready to call it a day.


We stayed until around 7pm - but by the time we'd found out where to catch the bus from we'd already missed our last bus, so we had to get a taxi. Now this was interesting. We called a taxi down and asked him to take us to our hotel which was just a 15 minute drive away from the markets. The driver could not understand which hotel we were travelling to, but luckily we had printed off our hotel name and address in our backpack so we could show him where we were heading to - we agreed on a price of £12 for the journey home. For some strange reason, instead of driving us to our hotel he drove to another location in the centre and told us to get out and get into another car, asking us for money for that journey. We refused to pay him for the journey as we were just taken to another location in Marrakech when this is not what we asked for. We got into another taxi whilst the previous driver and our current driver were having a heated debate outside of the car trying to get us both back into the other taxi. Luckily for us, the second taxi driver was very friendly, took us straight back to our hotel without any issues. We paid around £15 for our journey, we didn't haggle with taxi price (even though we believe you can do.) We were just so relieved to be back at the hotel.


It was safe to say this trip to the markets is not one for the faint hearted - but at least we can tick it off our list. Would want to visit Jemaa El Fna? Marrakech has a lot of history and culture to be explored, great hotels, tasty food and the majority of people are extremely friendly. If you are looking to visit Marrakech, then check out the links below for some good places to stay in Morocco.


Be Live Collection Marrakech Adults Only All Inclusive


Iberostar Club Palmeraie Marrakech All Inclusive


Kenzi Menara Palace & Resort

Jemaa El Fna

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