African architecture is widely underrated, but Morocco’s seems to be an exception. The Maghrebi nation’s beautiful structures, from the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca to the Place El Hedim in Meknes, and the Instagram-perfect blue streets of Chefchaouen are well known to travelers and have undoubtedly contributed to Morocco’s ever-increasing tourism numbers over the years. Not to mention Jardin Majorelle, a unique botanical garden located in the capital city of Marrakech. Morocco’s most visited attraction, Jardin Majorelle is much more than a collection of cacti and date palms — it’s home to a museum, a restful café, and the eye-popping blue and yellow villa that used to be the home of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. Here’s everything you need to know about Marrakesh’s Jardin Majorelle, including its history, its buildings, and how to visit.
The history of Jardin Majorelle
Jardin Majorelle was created by French artist Jacques Majorelle over the course of 40 years. In 1923, the painter purchased four acres of land at the edge of a palm grove in Marrakesh where he built several buildings, including a home and a painting studio, which he painted a striking shade of cobalt blue now known as Majorelle blue and where he cultivated exotic plant species with immense passion. Majorelle lived in, created art in, and cared for Jardin Majorelle until his deteriorating health took him back to France in the early ‘60s. Majorelle died in 1962 in Paris, and his property was left abandoned for many years after his passing.
In 1980, French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his business and life partner Pierre Bergé purchased Jardin Majorelle to save it from destruction by hotel developers. The pair restored the property, expanded the garden, and reopened the site to the public. The couple also lived part-time in Majorelle’s former home, renamed Villa Oasis.
In 2011, three years after Yves Saint Laurent’s death, Pierre Bergé opened a museum dedicated to Berber art on the property.
Today, Jardin Majorelle is the most visited site in Morocco, with over 850,000 visitors a year, reported the Washington Post in August 2019.
What to see in Jardin Majorelle
Despite its name, Jardin is much more than a botanical garden. The site’s 2.2 acres includes the Villa Oasis, a museum, a café, a shop, and a large and labyrinthine walled garden filled with ponds covered in water lilies, fountains, and 300 beautiful botanicals species, such as bougainvillea, bamboo, date palms, cacti, banana trees, succulents, and many more.
The Villa Oasis
While it’s the most famous part of Jardin Marjorelle, the beautiful blue and yellow villa that used to be the home of Jacques Majorelle, as well as Yves Saint Laurent and Pierrer Bergé, is off-limits to the general public. However, you can admire the villa from outside and take in the Art Déco and Moorish details of the building and snap some Insta-worthy shots.
The Berber art museum
Opened in 2011, the Berber art museum is located in Jacques Majorelle’s former painting studio. The Berbers (Imazighen) are an ethnic group that has inhabited North Africa for centuries, even before the arrival of the Arabs. Jacques Majorelle used to paint the Berber people, and Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé were so fascinated by Berber culture that they collected Berber art. The exhibitions include Saint Laurent and Bergé’s collection, including clothing, jewelry, and other artifacts. There are also audiovisual displays for visitors to learn more about the history and current situation of the Berber people.
In August 2019, the Washington Post reported that Jardin Majorelle’s Berber art museum was a good spot to escape the crowds in the garden. Advice to keep in mind for your future visit.
The Café Majorelle
For a break in a beautiful inner courtyard filled with flowers or inside a Moroccan salon with a fireplace, head to the on-site Café Marjorelle. The former servant’s quarters at the time of Jacques Majorelle have been transformed into a welcoming spot for breakfast, lunch, cool beverages, or Moroccan mint tea.
The boutique is a must-see for fashion-conscious visitors. Filled with beautiful locally handmade items such as leather shoes, handbags, dresses, jewelry, and more, the boutique pays homage to Yves Saint Laurent’s talent and his love of colors.
How to visit Marrakech’s Jardin Majorelle
Opening hours: Jardin Majorelle is open Wednesday to Sunday from 9 AM to 6 PM. (No admission after 5:30 PM.)
Booking a ticket: Purchase your entry ticket online at least 24 hours in advance. You’ll need to select the day and time you wish to visit when making your booking.
Admission fee: The admission price to Jardin Majorelle depends on what you wish to visit. If you’re only interested in visiting the garden, it’ll cost you 100 Moroccan Dirhams ($11.15). If you wish to visit the garden, as well as two museums (on-site Musée Pierre Bergé des arts Berbères and the nearby Yves Saint Laurent Museum), the price goes up to 220 Moroccan Dirhams, ($24.50).
Address: Rue Yves Saint Laurent, 40 090 Marrakech. Located in the Gueliz neighborhood, Jardin Majorelle is a 25-minute walk from the Medina, Marrakech’s old quarter.