BEST RIADS IN MARRAKECH - WHICH RIAD IN MARRAKECH TO CHOOSE?
When it’s cold in England, Marrakech is an obvious, easy sunshine fix with plenty of luxury riads and boutique hotels to choose from. You don’t have to travel too far, you’ll find fabulous shops in the souks and there are plenty of gorgeous boutique hotels and riads; we have some of the best riads in Marrakech to choose from - whatever your budget, including Villa des Orangers one of Marrakech's finest places to stay.
Some of the best riads in Marrakech
Within the Marrakech medina, Lulu has hand-picked her favourite and some of the best riads in Marrakech, plus she has found a selection of Marrakech boutique hotels away from the crowds in the Palmeraie. Lulu's latest addition to her collection of luxury riads in Marrakech is Riad Farnatchi rated by many as the best riad in the Marrakech, famous for its luxurious hammam. Riad El Mezouar is a wonderful base for exploration, painstakingly restored and located within the royal palace complex. Owner, Romaine, is always on hand to offer insider tips to make your stay in Marrakech even more enjoyable. Finally, in the Medina, Riad de Tarabel is a chic, stylish retreat housed in a colonial mansion, featuring a distinct French influence.
In the Palmeraie, Jnane Allia, ideal for the budget conscious, has eight luxury suites surrounding a pool, that face spectacular sunsets over the Atlas Mountains.
Not many luxury riads in Marrakech have a world-class restaurant, but when you do venture out to eat, you certainly won’t go hungry; Marrakech is packed with excellent restaurants and there’s something for everyone, whether you fancy international cuisine or traditional Moroccan dishes. In the Medina, Dar Yacout is as renowned for its bold interior design as much as its food, while Le Tobsil, set in an old house with a courtyard, has musicians playing to entertain diners with a Moroccan version of blues.
Lively Le Comptoir also offers the whole entertainment package: every night after a Franco-Moroccan dinner in an Art Deco villa, belly dancers twist and wind themselves around the tables. For something more casual or a quick bite, you should also try eating at one of the makeshift restaurants which set up every night in Jemaa El Fna Square. Each stall is numbered and touts hard for business but No. 14, where you can eat Moroccan style fish and chips sitting on a bench, is one of the best.
During the day, the square has a completely different feel and is filled with snake charmers, stalls selling freshly squeezed orange juice, henna artists and men with performing monkeys. Its home to one of the most recognised landmarks of the city, the Koutoubia Mosque (the city has over 500 mosques) which has four copper globes on its minaret. The square is also the dividing line between the narrow, winding streets of the souks to the north and the imperial quarter of palaces in the south.
The souks are one of the main reasons for a visit to Marrakech and as long as you’re prepared to haggle hard for whatever you want to buy and get lost several times (many of the tiniest streets aren’t even on a map), it’s a really fun shopping experience. The souks are divided into different areas by trade so for example, there’s a lantern alley, a whole street of tan leather goods, a dyer’s market, an iron-work section and carpets. Of course, certain items, such as the distinctive patterned Moroccan ceramic tableware, babouches (slippers) and pashminas, crop up again and again.
The Sights of Marrakech
When you tire of shopping, sights worth seeing include the ruins of the El Badi Palace. The original building, which was commissioned by the Saadian Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur in 1578, was thought to have 360 rooms but today all that’s left are the sunken areas that were the gardens and central pool. Once a year, it comes to life when it becomes an atmospheric venue for part of the annual International Film Festival. There’s also the Ben Youssef Medersa, a Quranic school founded in the 14th-century which was devoted to teaching Islamic scripture. It has a beautifully tiled courtyard and 100 tiny, windowless rooms which were used as students’ quarters until the 1960s.
No visit to Marrakech is complete without seeing the stunning Majorelle Gardens, known for its glorious cobalt buildings and huge plant pots, on the edge of the New City. Famously created by French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1930s to house a villa and his workshop, it was opened up to the public in 1947. Money struggles meant that Majorelle was forced to sell parts of the land during his lifetime. In 1980, it was saved from becoming a hotel development when Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge bought it. The pair lived in the villa and restored the garden, transforming Majorelle’s studio into a museum (YSL’s ashes are scattered in the rose garden of the villa). It’s loveliest towards the end of the day when there are fewer visitors and you can sit and relax on a bench in the afternoon sun.
If you fancy a bite to eat while you’re in the New City (Guelize), La Bagatelle is a French institution with a terrace and a nice atmosphere, while at Le Chat qui Rit (meaning ‘the cat which laughs’) there’s a great Mediterranean menu. For Italian food, try Niagara for tasty pizzas, pasta, and huge salads or Catanzaro, which is one of the most popular spots in town. Book ahead or you’ll have to wait in line.
If you are staying in Marrakech for more than a couple of days, the city also makes the ideal starting point for a trip to the Atlas Mountains. It’s only an hour and a half’s drive from the city to the Ourika Valley and from there you can walk with a guide to the waterfall in Setti Fatma. Travel a bit further (a 3-hour drive from Marrakech) and you can visit the charming small town of Essaouira where the windy coastline makes it a good surfing spot or Cascade d’Ouzoud, an impressive waterfall near the village of Tanaghmeilt just outside the High Atlas National Park.