Is Marrakech Good For Families?
Marrakech is a whirlwind of flavours, colours and, err.. smells! It’s chaotic and noisy and possibly quite intense for some kids (and adults). As non crowd-loving people, my son and I both looked forward to the tranquillity of our riad (guesthouse) after dodging bicycles and motorbikes down narrow passageways all afternoon. Nonetheless, this city will pull you in and imprint itself on your memory more than many others.
Where to Stay in Marrakech
We decided to break up our stay in Marrakech with kids into two parts. We spent three nights in a family friendly resort called Aqua Mirage Club (just outside of the city). Then we arranged two nights in a traditional riad called Riad Dabachi in the centre of the medina, as we wanted to give the kids a more authentic taste of this city with two sides. I’d highly recommend both places.
Is Marrakech Safe For Families
Visiting Morocco can be overwhelming for kids. However, Moroccans adore children so it’s usually very safe for families. As a young woman travelling in Morocco without a male partner many years ago, I felt less confident about my safety (you are guaranteed to attract attention). However, both times I’ve travelled to Marrakech with children, I’ve felt we’ve been very safe and I’ve enjoyed it much more. Just remember to remain respectful of others, try to remain good-natured if and when haggling and agreeing on prices, and be patient. You should be fine.
If you’re thinking about a family vacation in Morocco, or more specifically a family holiday in Marrakech, there are a number of family friendly activities to consider.
Here are my 12 top things to do in Marrakech:
Marrakech Dune Buggy Experience
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Marrakech, this is definitely one of them. We booked our Marrakech Dune Buggy experience with Click Excursions who picked us up from our hotel. They drove us out to dunes just outside of the city, close to a Berber village. We were met by our guide who kitted us out in helmets and goggles (much needed due to all the sand and dust which will inevitably fly in your direction). I’d say this activity is suitable for older kids (6 years +). Children under 16 years old will need to travel as a passenger with an adult.
Our tour lasted a couple of hours. We stopped two thirds of the way through for mint tea and moroccan biscuits in a small village. The second part of the drive (in a Palm Grove) was where the best photo opportunities were to be had. Our guide knew just how to take the best shots. The driving itself is good fun – a little bumpy at times (but that adds to the entertainment). You have to be able to keep up with the guide and any others booked on the tour, although our guide did regularly look back to check on everybody.
An alternative to the buggy tour is hiring quad bikes. The only issue with these is that kids will usually need to be 16 years old to ride on their own quad bike. They won’t be able to ride as a passenger as they can with the buggies.
There are a couple of good options for waterparks in Marrakech and the heat in Morocco will probably push this activity towards the top of your list! A waterpark is one of my top suggestions for things to do in Marrakech with kids as it’s sure to add an element of fun to your itinerary!
First up is Oasiria, just outside of the city centre. Oasiria features slides, a wave pool, a lazy river plus smaller pools and a kids club. All set in lush green surroundings – which make it a refreshing break from the frenetic nature of the city. It’s fairly pricey at around €27 per adult and €17 per child but if you plan to stay for the whole day, worth it.
Your second option is Aqua Mirage Aqua Parc. We stayed at the resort attached to the waterpark which meant free entry. Aqua Mirage Club is a Marrakech family resort which caters really well for kids. When we went during October Half Term, they’d decked the hotel out in fantastically elaborate Halloween decorations. It’s reasonably priced and all inclusive (we found the food pretty good, as did the kids). It’s definitely worth thinking about if your kids (or you) are fans of a waterpark.
If you’re not a guest at the hotel, you can still visit for the day. Prices are marginally less than Oasiria. As this waterpark is outside of the city centre, I’d say this is only the better option if you’re staying at the hotel or locally. We were pleasantly surprised by Aqua Mirage waterpark. It has a large variety of different slides suiting all age ranges and it has a small wave pool as well.
Atlas Mountains Day Trip
Marrakech makes a good base for a day trip to the Atlas Mountains (around a one and a half to two hour drive from the city centre). We booked our Marrakech day trip with Click Excursions again.
Our first stop after pick up was a viewpoint showcasing the Ourika Valley. We stopped here just for a few minutes to take photos.
Our second stop was an argan oil store. Many of the Marrakech tours will take you somewhere like this – however there is no pressure to purchase anything. The staff gave us a demonstration of how argan oil is produced and talked about what it could be used for. Argan oil comes from the kernels of the argan tree, which is endemic to Morocco. It can be used for culinary purposes (in a spread similar to peanut butter, or for dipping bread into), and for cosmetics. A significant amount of the argan oil produced in Morocco is by womens’ co-operatives and women from Berber communities, providing them with an income. So if you see something you like, it’s great to be able to support the women from these communities.
Next, we travelled to the Ourika Valley, where we took a trek to the Ourika waterfall (around 45 minutes). The terrain is rocky but our guides were great and supported those who needed it. There are small shops, stalls, restaurants and cafes along the way – including a cafe at the top by the waterfall, where we were able to stop and have a drink. Our descent took a different route; this was steeper and the paths narrower. My daughter was a bit nervous about this, but our guide came to the rescue again and ensured she got down safely.
Once we’d finished our trek, we were taken to a local restaurant for lunch (a set menu: rather pricey; the food was ok). Then on to a working Berber village and a Berber house where we were given a tour. This was a really interesting part of our Atlas mountains day trip and a great opportunity to learn about the Berber way of life.
This tour is a chance to leave the city and see the beautiful terrain that surrounds it. It’s a must for your Marrakech family holiday.
Marrakech Food Tour
Moroccan cuisine has become really popular over recent years and it’s not hard to see why. If you’re familiar with tagines and cous cous but would like to find out more about Moroccan food, then a Marrakech food tour is a great choice and a real family adventure. We booked with One Trip Life.
We met our guide outside the post office in the Djemaa El Fna and once all our group had arrived, we ventured into the medina. Our first stop was to try some traditional moroccan snacks (nuts covered with various sweet and savoury toppings, such as sesame, aniseed, sugar and cheese). Olives, moroccan macaroons and pastries followed, before we made our way into the backstreets for pastilla (sweet moroccan pastry with a savoury chicken filling) and msemen (moroccan pancakes). By this point, we were pretty full – but a glass of moroccan mint tea at a local tea shop helped, and our final stop was a local restaurant where we were served moroccan salad and lamb tangia (slow cooked in traditional clay pots).
I’d really recommend this tour for a Morocco family holiday. It’s such fun and our guide was extremely warm and welcoming. Be aware though, that much of the food on this tour is street food from street vendors and so with this comes some risk. Unfortunately, three out of the four of us did have upset tummies at the end of our Marrakech trip – but of course, I can’t say it was from the food tour as we could have got sick from anywhere.
Djemaa El Fna
The central square Djemaa El Fna (meaning ‘Assembly of the Dead’: the heads of traitors were displayed here centuries ago), is street theatre at its best. You’ll see monkeys dressed in trousers (on chains, sadly), snake charmers, performers, ladies offering henna tattoos and, in the evenings, lots of food stalls. It’s like nothing else – but of course, you need to have your wits about you and keep your kids close. Unless you want a photo taken with a snake round your neck, steer clear of the snake charmers – and the monkeys. They don’t seem particularly well treated (the kids picked up on this too). I’d also recommend you keep a distance from the ladies offering henna tattoos as they can sometimes take your arm and start tattooing you before you have agreed to it, then request money from you.
There are many different types of food stall in the Djemaa El Fna and you can try anything from brochettes (kebabs) to snails. My advice would be to keep it simple and avoid plates or cutlery if you can – they’re not always washed particularly well between uses. Eating at one of the food stalls in the Djemma El Fna is an experience worth having, however. You’re in the middle of the action and it’s a great atmosphere.
If you’d prefer to have a birds eye view of the Djemaa El Fna (and I think this is one of the most mesmorising sights you’ll see, so I really recommend it), head up to one of the restaurants with terraces. We popped up to Le Grand Balcon Cafe Glacier – for a drink only. You’re paying for the view, of course, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend eating here. The food is better (and much cheaper) at the stalls down on the ground.
These quirky and colourful gardens opened in 2017. They are designed by Austrian artist Andre Heller and are the perfect combination of art and botany! Anima garden is outside of the city but you can book a free shuttle bus (via the Anima garden website) which leaves from the Koutoubia Mosque car park. There are two shuttles each way every day and you only need to book ahead for the shuttle going to the gardens.
You’ll be better off booking your tickets online if you plan on getting the shuttle. Otherwise, if you’ve got your own transport, you can buy your tickets at the gate. Kids under 12 years old are free.
Anima garden contains over 250 different plant species and art works by Pablo Picasso and Keith Haring. There’s a small museum and a wonderful cafe (Cafe Paul Bowles) which makes a lovely spot to grab a snack and drink. The rooftop has great views of the Atlas mountains.
We all loved Anima garden – the kids particularly loved the hammocks and all the hidden spots. It’s almost like a maze (and mazes are always popular with kids). Luckily, the garden is not too huge and all paths are connected – so you’ll always end up back together! This little oasis is a Marrakech must-see if you’re travelling to Morocco with children.
For more information about Anima Garden, read my full post on Anima here.
Agree your price before you climb aboard, and make sure all parties are clear on this. On our last trip to Marrakech, we found the price changed at the end of the tour as our driver had decided to go on a bit further (unbeknownst to us). Talk to other travellers to find out what the current going rate is. It will fluctuate, but while we were there in October 2022 it was around 200 Dhs (approximately €20).
Despite this, a carriage (or ‘caleche’ as it is otherwise known) ride is a great way to check out the city walls and its 22 gates and get a sense of the size and layout of the medina (quite different from when you’re walking around it). For a higher price, you can arrange for your caleche to take you further – out to Majorelle Gardens or The Palmeriae, for example.
A carriage ride is a great choice when travelling to Marrakech with kids. It’ll give them a chance to rest their feet and have some space from the crowds, if needed.
Majorelle Garden is a botanical garden and artist’s landscape, developed by French artist Jacques Majorelle. His work began in 1923 and it took almost 40 years for him to complete the garden. Majorelle Garden was purchased by designer Yves San Laurent in the 1980’s. His ashes were scattered in the garden, following his death in 2008.
The garden is famous for its ‘Majorelle Blue’ accents – something I immediately tried to replicate at home in our garden (with limited success) after our first family trip to Morocco years ago.
Majorelle garden is a great urban oasis in the centre of Marrakech which is definitely worth visiting for an hour or two. The Cafe Majorelle is open whenever the garden is, and offers a wonderful moroccan mint tea. Adult tickets are 70 dhs. Children under 12 years old enter the garden for free.
The souks (markets) are at the beating heart of Marrakech and are undoubtedly what this city is most famous for. You WILL get lost. But, it’s actually quite easy to find your way back to the Djemaa El Fna – you just might not end up in the same spot you started. You’ll get your bearings though and be able to make your way back to where you need to be.
You’ll find a variety of shops and stalls offering a range of items: from spices to leather shoes, from teapots to carpets. We have bought products from the souk before but if you’re not into haggling or you’d rather buy from one of the government endorsed shops such as Ensemble Artisanal, it’s still worth going to a souk for the experience. As with the Djemma El Fna, keep your kids close here – it’s easy to get separated.
You don’t need to book a guide for a wander around the souks. However, if you think you’ll feel more comfortable with one, then it’s easy enough to find one via Tripadvisor, Viator, or your riad. Just keep in mind that guides will sometimes take you to shops or stalls where they will gain a commission for something you buy. The upside is that they will take you to places you might have missed if you were on your own (such as the community oven or the most instagrammable streets).
Stay in a Riad
There are plenty of hotels in Marrakech, but I’d recommend staying in a riad as a family for at least part of your stay. They’ll provide a true sense of Morocco for kids, plus they have loads of character and charm. We stayed at Riad Dabachi on our most recent visit and have previously stayed at Riad Les Trois Mages.
The word riad means ‘enclosed garden’ in Arabic. Riads are much smaller than hotels, often with only 5 or 6 rooms, each uniquely styled. A riad usually has three things: water, a garden or plants and a view of the sky. So, you’ll tend to find that your riad has a (usually very small) pool with lots of plants surrounding it and a roof that opens up to the sky. Most riads have a rooftop where you can sunbathe, read a book or soak up the view across the other rooftops. Rooms in riads will be centred around a courtyard and a traditional Moroccan breakfast is usually included in the price you pay. Dinner can also often be arranged.
Prices vary depending on the level of luxury you want. However, you’ll find that riads are generally very reasonably priced. Many offer connecting or family rooms.
I’d say, undoubtedly, that riads are my favourite thing about Morocco! They’re what keeps pulling me back.
The Bahia Palace
The kids may not want to spend a long time looking around the palaces of Marrakech, but that usually works out ok as there’s not a huge amount of information to read if you’re on your own. Booking a guide is likely to bring things to life a bit more and I’d recommend that if you have the money and time. If you fancy just taking a look at some beautiful mosaics and fountains and getting a sense of Morocco’s rich history, then you can easily pop in for a short look around. Tickets are 70 dhs per adult; 30 for children.
The Bahia Palace was built by Si Musa, a Grand Vizier to the Sultan, in 1859 and continued to be expanded after his death. The palace is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Morocco. Its biggest draw is its decorative marble tiles and beautifully painted ceilings and doorways.
Nearby is the National Museum of Weaving and Carpets, which is a quick visit and perhaps not hugely interesting for children on the whole. However, it’s great for a fleeting visit to take a look at their impressive courtyard (much less busy than at the Bahia Palace) and get some impressive photos.
A camel ride (maybe!)
I wasn’t sure about booking a camel ride, but it’s something I thought might be a good thing to do in Marrakech with kids. I ending up booking a joint desert buggy/ camel ride trip and to be honest, I think I would rather just have gone with the buggy ride. I had concerns about how well the camels might be cared for. Interestingly, my son commented on this when we arrived for the camel ride too.
There are different views on this of course. Some point out that, in Morocco, camels are seen as working animals and viewed differently – therefore we need to take this into account. Camel rides also allow people an income which might be much needed. However, none of us were keen on the use of a stick on the camel’s knees to make them kneel down. We also found that the camel ride lasted a bit too long – we actually found it really uncomfortable!
It was an experience and I leave it totally up to you as to whether you wish to partake in this popular Morocco activity (many do!). If you do go, do your research (there’s a great website called Spana which will help you do this) and find a company who are known for taking good care of their camels.
Most camel rides take place in The Palmeraie; you’ll dress in traditional Berber clothing and be led on a walk lasting around 45 minutes (not easy going on the thighs, that’s for sure!).
I hope that you found the above ideas helpful when planning your trip to Marrakech with kids. Wishing you lots of fun on your Morocco family travel adventure!