The majority of Marrakech's attractions lie within its ancient city walls and are best located from the focal point of Jemaa el Fna. As you walk past the snake charmers and orange juice stalls and tentatively enter the maze of alleys and lanes leading off in seemingly haphazard directions, you come to realize that you are well and truly in the medina. Some of the sights south of Jemaa el Fna are scheduled stops on the City Sightseeing bus tour, but for the very worthwhile places of interest north of Jemaa el Fna, such as the souks, Ben Youssef Medersa, and Marrakech Museum, you'll have to rely on foot power. Outside of the medina are the gardens Agdal, Menara, and Majorelle, the latter known for its photogenic cobalt-blue building as well as its gardens.
Chill . . . & Have a Hot Mint Tea
Morocco's medinas are amazing, though sometimes daunting, places to explore. Particularly in Marrakech, however, visitors try to pack too much into the day and furiously rush around ticking off the sights, bartering for souvenirs, and clicking away on their camera without realizing they are missing the one must-have experience -- the medina atmosphere. If you can, take some time to unwind in a nearby cafe and sip on a sweet, piping hot atei benna'na' (mint tea). The drink is an institution all over Morocco, and even at the most local of cafes a ritual is often followed.
A small pot (be careful of the hot handle) shouldn't cost more than 10dh, and the first glass should be poured from an arm's-length height, repotted, and poured again to both aerate the liquid and properly mix the flavors of tea (first introduced in Tangier by the English during the Crimean War), fresh mint, and sugar. This ritual can vary in length of time and height of pour, depending on your location and the inclination of your waiter or host. The flavor and sweetness can also vary greatly, but you can be almost certain that your tea will come presweetened unless you order it "la sukka" (pronounced "la soo-ka").
In Marrakech's medina, try Café des Epices on place Rahba Kedima; the terrace of Café-Restaurant Argana on place Jemaa el Fna; the literary cafe-cum-art gallery Dar Cherifa on Derb Cherifa Lakbir, off rue Mouassine (tel. 0524/426463); or the air-conditioned salon de thé at the back of Patisserie des Princes halfway down rue Prince Moulay Rachid. For a spicy cinnamon chai, look for the hunja stalls, with their big copper urns, that roll onto the southern edge of Jemaa el Fna around 5pm daily.
Get on the Bus
The arrival of the international sightseeing bus franchise City Sightseeing (tel. 0524/339637; www.city-ss.com) in Marrakech is proof that the city is positioning itself as a major player among the world's tourist destinations. The bright red, open-top, double-decker bus offers two continuous hop-on, hop-off circuits -- "Marrakech Monumental" (18 stops) and "Marrakech Romantique" (7 stops) -- on a first-come, first-served basis. The buses are equipped with a multilingual -- English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Moroccan Arabic, Portuguese, and Spanish -- audio system that provides a brief commentary of the major points of interest. Of the two circuits, the "Monumental" is by far the more popular, as it includes stops in both Guéliz and Hivernage (including the Menara Gardens) as well as within the medina. The "Romantique" heads out to the palmeraie and golf courses via the Majorelle Garden, and is more of a scenic drive.
Tickets for each circuit, valid for 24 hours, can be purchased at the pickup/drop-off points and cost 130dh adults, 65dh kids 6 to 13, and free for 5 and under. Should you wish to spread your sightseeing over 2 days, tickets valid for 48 hours are available for 200dh adults and 100dh for kids 6 to 13. The Monumental circuit runs every 30 minutes from 9am to 7pm and lasts about 30 minutes. The Romantique circuit takes 1 hour and 10 minutes and runs from 1 to 4:30pm (5:30pm Apr-Sept). Both circuits pick up at the ONMT tourist office on place Abdelmoumen Ben Ali in Guéliz, while the most accessible pickup points for Monumental include Jemaa el Fna; the Saâdian Tombs and Palais Bahia in the medina; Hotel Le Marrakech and McDonald's on avenue Mohammed V; and the hotels Royal Mirage, Le Méridien, and Andalous in Hivernage.