People have been flocking to the Red City for years for its culture, its shopping and its food, so the place is no well-kept secret. But, the beauty of Marrakech is that it keeps inviting you back to further explore the wonders of the artisanal worlds of history, art, fashion and cuisine, while inspiring a level of old-world extravagance.
A quick stroll through the Medina and you’ll notice a modish ode to a century past almost instantaneously: the designs, the patterns, the colours… this is where the real magic happens. Then there are the excellent restaurants, bars, museums and hotels…
From where to stay, eat, drink and relax, this our ultimate guide to the city.
Where to stay in Marrakech
Riad El Fenn
El Fenn stands out for a reason: it’s different from everything else on offer in Marrakech’s grand-dame monopolised hotel scene. Masterminded by the owners Howell James and Vanessa Branson, it artfully combines the relaxed elements of a boutique hotel with the playful stylishness of its prime city location. Central to just about everything noteworthy in the guidebook, this historic bolthole houses 28 individually appointed rooms and suites. Exquisite modern art adorns the walls, and the rooftop terrace – featuring a sleek bar and restaurant – offers excellent views of the Medina and the magical Atlas Mountains on the horizon beyond.
For those who really want to escape the mania of the Medina, check in at Amanjena, where exclusivity is met with the unapologetic luxury. Extravagant rooms come in the form of ‘the pavilions’ and the larger, grander two-storey ‘maisons’, where you can expect airy boudoirs with spacious tubs, glittering private pools and canopied loungers. Elsewhere, the spa houses a hammam and gym, where you can work off the delectable Thai food served at sunset beside the pool.
Come daytime, head for the hills in a 4WD and your guide will hand you over to a Berber family who will be your hosts for a few hours. The best part is experiencing first-hand what life is really like in Morocco, outside the glamorous riads of the city. Enjoy a home-made lunch and hike the red-sand slopes of the Atlas Mountains with the people who know them best.
Berber Lodge is an advert for what Marrakech was like 20 years ago: rustic, untouched elegance. A mere 30 minutes outside the city walls, it sits under the foothills of the towering Atlas Mountains and presents a dose of authentic Moroccan culture. There are nine lodges scattered around the main cottage, which come with a library, fireplace, bar and dining-room, all hewn from the ground up using traditional techniques; while interiors comprise vintage rugs, understated tiles and mid-century French furniture. Food is excellent, as are the team members who go out of their way to make you feel extra special.
It was built by a king for a king by more than 1,000 master craftsmen, so when it comes to over-the-top luxe, this modern grand dame has very little in the way of competition. If it’s the first hotel on your Marrakech itinerary, expect top-class service in the form of express passes through airport security and a stately Bentley pick-up to the hotel. Chiselled down to the finest details, bedrooms (styled as demi-riad palaces) are dressed in the finest silks and velvets; the spa looks like a giant lattice-worked ode to an aviary; and the very pretty gardens offer a fragrant, almost Provençal patchwork maze of winding pathways. The chef Yannick Alléno is the maestro behind the hotel’s Italian and pan-Asian cuisine at La Grande Table Marocaine, where the seafood menu is, quite frankly, legendary.
Anna Delvey and her crew love it, so naturally, you will too. The former palace of the Crown Prince of Morocco, the hotel was once Winston Churchill’s go-to stop whenever he touched down in the city. With intricate stucco and carved woodwork that weave into a glorious groove of geometric tilework, the old-world magic of the place truly stuns in the storied courtyards. When it comes to bedtime, it is worth splashing out on a deluxe room to indulge in La Mamounia’s opulent sateen fabrics, French furnishings and jewel-like bathrooms. Courtly service is the gold standard here, especially in restaurant, Le Marocain, where local cuisine is served with a modern twist.
This villa sleeps up to 15 people and comes fully equipped with a grand swimming pool, clay tennis court, terrace, three-and-a-half-acre garden scattered with olive- and fruit-trees, a badminton court and hammocks. Just 20 minutes from virtually everything, including the city and mountains, the nearby Ourika Valley is the ideal spot for scooping up vintage pieces and delicious gastronomical treats, especially at the very large Monday market. The valley is also home to seven waterfalls and countless hiking trails, so it’s a must for those wishing to immerse themselves in nature.
What to do in Marrakech
Musée de Mouassine
A jewel of 16th-century Saadian architecture, Musée de Mouassine is a former guest apartment built by a noble family and hosts a brilliant roster of concerts and events from October to May.
Musée Yves Saint Laurent
A tribute to perhaps the city’s most well-known French expat, Yves Saint Laurent, enhance your experience with a private tour from an expert guide.
Go sky high in a balloon
Best during the winter months, when the light over the Atlas Mountains is at its most breath-taking, Ciel d’Afrique enables you to see the wonders of the Red City from above.
Created by the painter Jacques Majorelle, this botanical garden is home to an abundance of flora and cacti, and has a spectacular indigo-blue art deco house as its centre.
Tour the medina, private
If you’ve never been to Marrakech before, book onto a private tour to explore the medina, to avoid the chaos come peak season.
Maison de la Photographie
Immerse yourself in the visual history of Morocco via the vintage collection of Patrick Menac’h and Marrakshi Hamid Mergani, whose images document the lifestyle and landscapes of the country between 1870 and 1950. Be sure to visit the rooftop café – it’s one of the highest in the medina and offers incredible views.
Where to shop
Soufiane Zarib 16
Everything housed inside the well-hidden Soufiane Zarib 16 is beautiful, and its owner has gained a cult following in the metropolis for his quality textiles. His ethos is simple: buy your own wool and employ local weavers. Ring the bell to get in, then browse handpicked ceramics and furniture to bring home.
A number of London department stores get their rugs from this well-stocked hole-in-the-wall. No design is the same as each piece is handmade; the only thing that differs is size and the materials used.
Herboriste La Sagesse
This is the place to go for quality teas, potions and hair elixirs. Offering a holistic cure for most ailments, it’s a fantastic place to stock up on spices and herbal remedies.
Riad El Fenn
Riad El Fenn’s stylish edit includes pieces by young local artisans who make use of age-old techniques. Aside from its beautiful garments, expect a medley of colourful throws, cushions, rugs, jewellery and coffee-table books.
The spas to visit
The best spa in the city is hidden inside the gates of the Royal Mansour. The wellness hotspot is a feat of modern design and offers the best Moroccan rituals. Must-have treatments include the hammam, a pedicure by Bastian Gonzales and the regenerative facial, which leaves skin feeling supple.
Where to eat
The Amal Women’s Centre
Here, it’s about giving back with every bite. Providing memorable home-cooked meals, the Amal Centre is an excellent social cooperative that supports and trains disadvantaged women. The fish tagine is a marvel, the salads are exceptional and the couscous other-worldy.
Le Trou au Mur
At James Wix’s culinary ode to Moroccan flavours, traditional must-tries include berkoukesh (a type of pasta with a herb and tomato sauce) and the unforgettable tride (shredded pancakes with lentils, chicken and saffron).
Be sure to book a table well in advance at this popular spot, where you can dine on spice-lathered calamari, sweet harissa chicken and simple but delicious greens.
La Grande Table Marocaine
Set within the walls of the Royal Mansour hotel, within its own lapis-floor riad, this is Moroccan dining at its most opulent. The menu often changes according to what’s in season, but expect a rich spread of lobster and a delectable lamb tagine.
An eight-night Morocco trip with Abercrombie & Kent, from £3,999 a person, based on two people sharing. Includes flights, transfers, accommodation and some guiding.
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