You can either drive (2.5 hours) or take a train (3 hours, leaves every hour) from Casablanca. Try and reach Marrakesh by early afternoon. Check in to your hotel, then head for lunch at Restaurant Al Bahja - one of the best places to have Moroccan food - cheap, busy, quick and tasty.
Although it sounds touristy, the hop-on hop-off City Sightseeing bus is a great way to get oriented in the city on the first day. Take the “Marrakech Monumental” circuit from Palais de la Bahia (a short walk from the restaurant). This will occupy most of your remaining day.
At night, get a taste of old Morocco at Jemaa el Fna. Arrive before evening to watch the sunset, followed by an array of musicians, storytellers, and dancers. After you've sampled the square, stroll along the adjoining rue Prince Moulay Rachid, or take a seat on Abd el Moumen Square (in front of the Koutoubia Mosque) and end the night with some prime people-watching. The picture below is a scene at Jemaa El Fna in the evening.
Then head to any of the nightclubs listed in detail below.
Within the medina, choices are limited if you don't wish to have a meal with your drink. There are small stand-alone bars at Cafe Arabe and Narwama, while next to the Mellah is the Asian-chic Kosybar, which is hugely popular. This former riad offers something different on each of its three floors. The small ground-floor bar, decorated with a zebra-skin hide, is a great spot for an evening of drinking and dancing. The second level combines shades of ocher and olive with heavy, dark-wood furniture and the original zellij flooring. On the terrace you'll be rewarded with a superb view of the medina, the top of the El Badi Palace, and the resident flock of storks who regularly cruise by at eye level. The terrace has heaps of comfy lounges and is a great place to chill out with a cold beer or a bottle of wine. Kosybar is open daily from noon to midnight.
Also on the same street is Le Tanjia, which has a small and popular ground floor bar. Tucked away in a corner you'll encounter the in-house band, belting out mainly Moroccan and European music. The restaurant upstairs (one floor indoors plus the roof terrace) offers very good fare, mostly Moroccan, and most nights your meal is accompanied by a belly dancer or two. It's open from noon to midnight.
In Guéliz, the restaurants Le Grand Café de la Poste, Kechmara, and Café du Livre are great places to enjoy a drink. The compact Le Lounge, next to the Diwane Hotel is Daniel Guillard and Christian Hofer's affordable, unpretentious lounge bar that nightly attracts a loyal set of locals as well as a few stray tourists. The staff members are young, pretty, and friendly; drinks are served either in the downstairs lounge or the smoky upstairs mezzanine. The interior is sleek and modern, with black and red throughout. The music is largely dance, house, or funk, and widescreen TVs show the latest music videos. There's a reasonable menu, including tapas, available, and most diners prefer to take their meals under the covered alfresco terrace.
Out in well-to-do Hivernage is the icon of Marrakech nightlife, Comptoir Darna. The two-level former villa is renowned for its sexy Franco-Asian groove and is one of the places to see and be seen. Low lighting, scented candles, and Moroccan lamps are strategically placed in the ground-floor restaurant. Diners can choose from low-lying tables under the Berber tent, or inside the charcoal and ocher restaurant proper. Head out to the small garden where you can lounge on the lime, orange, and red cushions and heavy Berber carpets. A wide, central staircase leads up to the real reason to come here: the haremlike bar decked out in charcoal, orange, and burgundy veils where resident and guest DJs spin the latest in Euro-Arabian dance music accompanied by exotic dancers.
Most classy clubs are located in Hivernage or farther out in a new zone hôtelière on boulevard Mohammed VI. They usually don't get busy until after midnight and may charge admission ranging from 150dh to 300dh, which includes your first drink. Alcohol is generally available at exorbitant prices. The dance clubs are mainly the domain of European residents, seasonal visitors, and young well-to-do Marrakchis.
Consistently one of the hottest places in town is Theatro, inside the Marrakech Casino at the Hotel es Saadi in Hivernage. Converted from an old theater and with the original stage still intact, this place, at times, rivals Europe with its unabashed on-stage hedonism. At other times, it's simply a high-end techno dance club and a good place to show off your best moves.
Out past Hivernage is Pacha Marrakech, which bills itself as the biggest club in Africa (and possibly the loudest). This kasbah-style club, an outpost of the clubbing giant Pacha in Ibiza, pumps out 50,000 watts of DJ-mixed music that pulses through your body. It boasts two formal restaurants and a huge swimming pool in addition to its neon cavelike nightclub, with its large open spaces decked out with exotic rugs, high ceiling, and low-lying sitting areas. There is also the tented dance floor that often looks like a giant circus ring complete with shirtless Europeans, while those hankering for more lounge than thump gravitate to the separate chill-out lounge.
Farther out, on the Ourika road, is Bô & Zin, which can be a bit hit-and-miss with its cuisine (mainly French and Thai), served within the various rooms inside. However, it definitely hosts a pretty good late-night party, with both a resident DJ and guest musicians out in the garden. It's definitely pretentious but go there to have fun, dance to last year's hit pop tunes.
In Guéliz there's Montecristo with the shedlike Bar Latino and the even smaller Bar Africaine, where two to three times a week live music generally pumps out from late evening until the early hours.
Irregular offerings of live reggae music can sometimes be found at the earthy Mama Afrika Café, off avenue Mohammed V on rue Oum Errabii. Only nonalcoholic drinks such as milkshakes, fruit cocktails, and tea are served, as well as a small selection of sandwiches, salads, and ice cream. It's open Monday to Saturday from 8am to midnight, and Sunday from noon to midnight.
For a somewhat touristy live entertainment show, check out Chez Ali, a very popular nightlife activity in Marrakech. It is a place where you will get to see the culture of the land in all its splendor. This Equestrian dinner and Moroccan music show in the Palmerie of Marrakech, Morocco an homage and replication of the traditional Meknes Fantasia. A Moroccan dinner is served with a traditional starter of Harira, with a main course of Mechoui and couscous, all under caidal “tents”. The dinner is complimented by Berber folklore and a wide range of musical styles from Berber groups, Chabbi musicians, Moroccan Rap and Gnaoua. Attendees will see jugglers. the flying carpet, belly dancing and finally the Fantasia show.