Traveling to Marrakech can be the mind-altering experience of a lifetime. But it can be hard on your wallet. However, it’s possible to get the best out of the city without breaking the bank. From cheap kebabs on the streets to exploring ancient tombs, here are 15 things to do in Marrakech on a budget.
1. Stay in a riad
Western hotels are used to accommodating tourists that will pay top dollar. To avoid paying for overpriced hotels, book a stay in a riad — a building owned by locals that serves a place to sleep. Staying in riads is often much cheaper and provides an authentic Moroccan experience.
2. Eat your meals on the streets
Instead of posh restaurants, take it to the streets. Marrakech is known for serving food 24/7 on the street. From slabs of fresh meat, to kebabs, to roasted peanuts, to fantastic pastries, Marrakech has endless amount of new food to sample and dine on. Don’t forget to try Morocco’s most famous drink — the mint tea!
3. Browse the souks
Marrakech is famous for its souks. Browse through the popular marketplace and you will find many souvenirs and Moroccan artwork at cheap prices. But if you have your eye on something over your budget, try bargaining. Many vendors are willing to negotiate on a cheaper price.
4. Ride in a carriage
Giddy-up! Riding in a horse-drawn carriage can happen at cheap prices. Because of the competitive coach business, some drivers will try to knock down their prices. Ask around until you find the best deal. Many carriages will take you throughout most of Marrakech, making it a great way to see the city in a short time.
5. Visit Saadian Tombs
With a low entrance fee, Saadian Tombs is an excellent place for travelers on low budgets. Perfect for learning history, the tombs are believed to date back to 1578 and were built as a mausoleum for sixty royal members of the Saadi Dynasty. This may be one the prettiest burial sites you’ll ever see in your life.
6. Watch snake charmers
Marrakech is one of the few cities left in the world where snake charming is still legal. This ancient art of “hypnotizing” cobras can be found around the city’s center. When watching a snake charmer at work, take your time and admire this rare practice. Oh, and don’t fret–the cobras won’t bite (we think).
7. Visit a local hammam
Rather than burning a hole in your wallet by visiting fancy hotel spas, opt for a much more affordable local hammam. A hammam is a social and relaxing experience for locals. Receive massages, soak in warm water and meet some of the residents of Marrakech.
8. See the Bahia Palace
Built in the 19th century, Bahia Palace is a breathtaking spot to visit at a low price. The palace was once hailed as the world’s greatest palace of its time and priceless Moroccan and Islamic art are found throughout the building. So walk around the premises and imagine the Sultan with his concubines within the walls.
9. Explore Mellah
Visit Marrakech’s Jewish quarters, Mellah, to see and learn about the history of Moroccan Jews. In the 15th century, Mellah was a walled-in ghetto for the Jewish people that served for their protection from Arabs. By the 19th century, the quarters were so filthy, poor and miserable that by the time Israel was established, almost all of Marrakech’s Jews left. Today, visitors can walk to see ancient synagogues and homes that were once inhabited by the Jews.
10. Visit the Majorelle Garden
Once owned by Yves Saint-Laurent, Majorelle Garden is a 12-acre botanical garden that has been dazzling the people of Marrakech since the 1920s. Strange cactus arrangements and Moroccan art are found throughout the garden. Oh, and it’s super cheap to explore.
11. Watch craftsmen at work
When walking through the city, you may find some craftsmen hard at work. Take your time to watch some of the locals’ daily routines such as making lamps, sewing leather shoes or making baklava. You will find that many of them take great pride in their work.
12. Sample the world’s best orange juice
Marrakech is reputed to have some of the world’s best orange juice. You will find vendors selling the juice in the souks or Djemaa El-Fna. The vendors will make your juice on the spot and you’ll swear you’ve died and gone to heaven on the first sip. Enjoy!
13. Explore the ruins of Badi Palace
Built for a sultan in 1578, Badi Place is in ruins but still can be visited by tourists. At a small fee, you can explore the ruins and admire the ancient walls that once held a lively household of royal families, harems and soldiers.
14. Admire musicians and dancers on the streets
You will find many musicians and people performing the traditional Moroccan dance throughout the city’s center. Instead of walking past them, sit down and listen tentatively, you will witness some rare and unusual music that most of the world doesn’t know about.
15. Find a rooftop view
Many public establishments and cafes have rooftop entry. Find a place in the city’s center near the souks that allows you to access the rooftop and admire the view. Order cheap mint tea or coffee to stay while taking in the spectacular city from the top.
This article was originally published on April 17, 2015.