British travellers have found solace in Marrakesh for many years. In early February, I visited the city and happened to be on the first flight out of the UK to Morocco after travel restrictions were lifted. The plane was full of all sorts of characters – old hippy types desperate to feel the thrill of the city once more, stylish couples dressed in matching head-to-toe black, younger families keen for some not-too-faraway winter sun. The city has many hotels and riads tucked away within its walls. Here are a few of my favourites.
The Royal Mansour
The Royal Mansour is the jewel in the crown of Marrakesh’s hotel scene, in large part because the King of Morocco is the man behind its creation. As with much Moroccan architecture, the outsides of the riads look simple and are built with traditional terracotta and surrounded by an array of plants. The garden really is quite something – in February, the orange trees were laden with fruit and white roses were in bloom. A studio for painting has recently been built at the far end of the garden for artistic types.
Inside the riads, it’s hard to find a surface that hasn’t been decorated with local techniques, using stucco, wood and tile. It would be easy to spend your entire time hiding away in a riad, eating dates on the rooftop next to your plunge pool but that would of course be to miss the hubalooo of the Medina. But after an excursion into the city, not to be missed is the hammam at the Royal Mansour. When it comes to food, the hotel caters for all tastes. For fans of Moroccan food, the main restaurant serves traditional dishes from the region, while Yannick Alléno’s new French restaurant is a reminder of the close ties the French have with this region. At night, the garden glows with candle light and in the morning, the sounds of birds and the call to prayer drift through the dry air. The birds, incidentally, have made their home in the city walls – some of which form the boundary of the Royal Mansour.
Riads from £1000.
La Mamounia is one of Morocco’s oldest – and glitziest – hotels. The art-deco hotel is large enough for even the largest of characters and it’s perhaps not surprising that Winston Churchill used to stay here when he visited Morocco to escape the English winter during the 1930s. It was here, too, that Anna Delvey, the fake German heiress, racked up an enormous bill which eventually led to her downfall. The 17-acre gardens are spectacular, and the hotel sits just outside the medina, and close to theKoutoubia minaret, which makes it an easy place from which to visit the rest ofMarrakesh. The room are filled with roses, spiced cakes and almonds, and the food available in the restaurants caters to every taste. The Instagram crowd love it here. Expect to see the odd celebrity, fresh-faced from a hamman.
Rooms from: £400
El Fenn is the perfect hotel for more artistically-minded travellers. It was founded by Vanessa Branson, the art dealer and founder of the Marrakech Biennale, after she fell in love with the city. El Fenn is an old palace given a new lease of life, and visitors will find quiet courtyards, intriguing works of art, and many a place to sit and contemplate the world, away from the medina. Art lovers will appreciate the mix of contemporary and more traditional styles of Moroccan and international art. The roof terrace is a lovely spot to sit at the end of the day, and listen to the hum of the city.
Rooms from: £300
Hidden in the centre of the Medina, L’Hotel Marrakech is a privately owned riad. Built in the 19thcentury, it was later renovated by the English designer Jasper Conran, and brings his particular style to Morocco. The swimming pool in the main courtyard is surrounded by palms, jasmine and bougainvillea. The bedrooms are filled with antique furniture, four-poster beds and fine linens. It is a comfortable, elegant retreat from the city- and design aficionados will feel very at home here.
Rooms from: £250
Small but beautiful, Riad Farnatchi has a central pool and a hamman, and the impressive rooms are filled with local artifacts. Some have balconies that overlook the courtyard. A great spot to explore the city from – or travel further afield to outside Marrakesh – knowing that after a day in the heat, tranquillity awaits.
Rooms from: £200
A more pair-backed riad that still feels very private. Riad Joya is situated in the Mouassine, near to the Djemaa el Fna square, and is built in the traditional style around a central courtyard. The look is more minimalist but the rooms are still well-appointed. The roof terrace is a quiet spot to have breakfast on. Perfect for travellers who would like a luxurious riad experience but don’t want to spend too much on doing so.
Rooms from: £100