essential tips to keep parents sane

Are you planning a visit to Marrakech with children? So be sure to read our tips for a smooth visit.

Marrakech can be an assault on the senses, especially in the heart of the medina; motorbikes speed through the narrow alleys, shops overflow into the streets, donkeys dragging carts weave their way through the bustling thoroughfare, and all this before they have reached the exotic fanfare of Jemaa el-Fnaa (the square main street) with its snake charmers, street food, musicians and tooth vendors (yes, tooth vendors).

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If you are visiting Morocco with children, either as a direct entry point into the country or as a transit point on a Morocco road trip, it is very likely that you will spend at least one day in Marrakech. We recommend at least two days, although you could easily spend a week in Marrakech with children to really soak up the wonderful atmosphere and history. If you are visiting Marrakech with a toddler, check out our one-day itinerary (click here).

Although it is a chaotic city, we highly recommend visiting Marrakech with children. they will love it! We have visited the city four times now, from having babies to elementary age children. However, it’s far from a calming experience for parents, so here are some tips to help you stay sane.

1. Choose your accommodation wisely

You can choose to stay in the medina for a more authentic experience of Marrakech. If you need comfort, stay in one of the larger modern hotels outside of the Medina.

Accommodation in the Medina of Marrakech

We have always preferred to stay in the medina as we love the character, charm and history. You can choose between staying B&B style in a riad or booking a house for yourself through Airbnb.

Riads in Marrakech generally do not allow children under the age of 12 to stay. However, there are a few riads that are very family friendly. These include Riad Les Hibiscus, which we stayed in and can personally attest to, and Riad Africa.

Alternatively, if you want more space and privacy, there are some fantastic homes to rent through Airbnb in Marrakech. But be warned, there will be steep steps and drops, and stair gates are unlikely to be provided. While young families are welcome to stay at these Airbnbs, if you have active toddlers, the dangers may make you gray (more).

During our last visit to Marrakech with children, we stayed at this Airbnb for a week (see photo below). It was such a lovely place and the view over the roof of the Ben Salah Mosque and beyond to the snow capped Atlas Mountains was amazing. But it was strong, very strong; especially since it was so close to the mosque for the call to prayer.

views over the rooftops of Marrakech

But that’s the problem if you’re staying in the Medina, IT’S NOISY. And we mean very strong. While children often sleep there, parents can be woken by motorbikes whizzing by, children playing in the streets late at night and the call to prayer (which will always occur at sunrise – read: will feel like the middle of the night).

Settling in the Marrakech medina is an experience, but it’s not for everyone.

Stay outside the medina of Marrakech

If you want a good night’s sleep, maybe a big pool for the kids, and some comfort, your best bet is to stay at one of the bigger hotels outside of the medina. These will often provide a free shuttle into the medina, and some even have slides for children. But, you will miss experiencing Marrakesh life on your doorstep and there are rarely restaurants and cafes to visit nearby. In addition, these hotels are often much more expensive than accommodation in Medina.

But sometimes we all need a little luxury, a little treat. Maybe you’ve been to Marrakech before and don’t feel the need to see the sights, or Marrakech is your first entry point for your Morocco vacation after a hectic school term. Or maybe it’s the end of a Morocco road trip, and you need some time to decompress before you get back to reality.

If you fall into the latter camp, we highly recommend treating yourself to an all-inclusive stay at the Mirage d’Atlas Marrakech in one of their luxurious family pool villas. You will not be disappointed.

Family luxury at Mirage d’Atlas, Marrakech.

2. Go out early in the day to avoid the crowds

It’s something we recommend almost everywhere we visit around the world, but it really makes a difference in Marrakech. Many stalls and shop vendors don’t open until 10am and the narrow streets are much quieter in the morning making it easier for kids to navigate. Early evening is when it gets particularly crazy with the motorbikes.

tourists in the medina

The same goes for the main Jemaa el-Fnaa square. It’s pretty empty in the morning, but as the day progresses it gets busier as more street performers join in and the food stalls set up shop.

3. Prepare your children for Jemaa el-Fnaa

Jemaa el-Fnaa is Marrakech’s number one tourist attraction, the busiest square in North Africa and infamous throughout the Arab world. It’s a great place to take the kids, but be prepared.

With so much going on in the main square of Jemaa el-Fnaa, it will be sensory overload for some children and they might have questions when they see the chained monkeys and snake charmers.

People will try to put a monkey on your shoulder, and others will trick children into petting and then holding the snake. In exchange, they expect to be paid. PLEASE AVOID THESE PEOPLE. Snakes have their mouths sewn together so they won’t bite people, and Barbary apes have been captured in the Atlas Mountains and treated badly for performing for tourists (just take a look at their tiny blue cages! ). And all the money you give to these people will be returned to them, with only the smallest amount possible being spent on the animals.

Jamaa el Fna sunset

However, one of the most harmless activities for children in the square is drumming with local musicians. Remember that they expect a small payment. Every type of performer around the place expects some sort of payment.

If it all gets too much, head to one of the many rooftop restaurants overlooking the square and take in it all from a quiet spot.

4. Keep babies and toddlers in a carrier

The medina of Marrakech is really not suitable for strollers. While I’ve seen parents pushing their little ones in a buggy, I still think how the little one can’t see anything from his position with the crowds passing by and probably breathing in clouds of motorbike fumes.

Put toddlers in an overhead carrier so they can look around and enjoy it all.

It is also much easier to navigate with a backpack in the narrow lanes than with a stroller.

5. Keep children to the far right when walking through the medina

If you have preschool and elementary school children, try to keep them on the far right with you on their left. You then protect them from any passing motorbikes and you don’t have to worry about them deviating.

With a parent for a child, it works perfectly.

However, if your children outnumber the parents, place the eldest in front on the right and hold hands with the youngest behind. You then walk right behind the older ones and have your spare left hand should you need to guide them at any time.

6. Stay hydrated with orange juice stalls

There are fresh orange juice stands dotted all around the medina, making it a healthy and refreshing snack while exploring. A small orange juice is generally worth 10DH.

7. Visit the gardens

To escape the chaos of the streets of the medina, dive into the Jardin Majorelle, Le Jardin Secret or the Palais Bahai for some peace. While tourists should stick to the main walkways in the gardens rather than running on the grass, it’s still a refreshing break and a change of pace.

If you want to let your kids run around near the medina, there is a large open space around the Koutoubia Mosque.

Koutoubia Mosque at sunset

8. Visit the water park

To balance city intensity and cultural immersion, take your kids to Oasiria, just a ten-minute drive from the Medina. This is an awesome water park with outstanding facilities. There are several slides, a large wave pool, a very long lazy river, a climbing wall that runs alongside a pool and a whole section dedicated to small children, with a pirate ship and other slides.

There is a restaurant and creperie on site, as well as changing rooms and showers. Plus, there’s plenty of green grass to lay out your towels on or rent a lounge chair for the day for 25 DH.

9. Explore beyond Marrakech

While Marrakech is a fantastic destination in its own right, there is so much more to explore beyond Marrakech and further afield around Morocco. Visit the nearby snow-capped Atlas Mountains with the kids, dive into the Sahara to camp overnight, or head to the sandy beach and laid-back vibe of Essaouira where the kids will love surfing, quad biking in Essaouira and run wild on the beach, and parents will enjoy the traffic-free medina.


You may also like to read:
The best things to do in Morocco with children
What to pack for Morocco with children
Marrakech with a Toddler: A One-Day Itinerary

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