Blue skies over the Atlas mountains, endless shopping opportunities and what must be the shortest transfer time to a winter sun destination, makes Marrakech one of our favorite quick escapes. Here are our favorite places.
Hotel: Mamounia, Arset El Maach (www.mamounia.com)
This vast grande dame got a stunning make-over a couple of years ago courtesy of decorator extraordinaire Jacques Garcia and his sumptuous rooms have entirely invigorated this historic Moroccan hotel. Even if you don’t stay here, do try and come for a drink or splash out on the insanely good lunchtime buffet – after which you won’t need to eat for a week.
Hotel: Ksar Char Bagh, La Palmeraie (www.ksarcharbagh.com)
An imposing, impressive faux palace in the Palmeraie with utterly chic rooms, fabulous views and really beautiful pool and gardens. We found it almost impossible to drag ourselves away from this tranquil spot. Although the bill should bring you straight back to reality.
Hotel: Riad Farnatchi, Derb el Farnatchi, Rue Souk el Fassis (www.riadfarnatchi.com)
This calm, peaceful and very central boutique hotel was originally created as a holiday home by a Brit hotelier. The rooms are sumptuous and comfortable while the service is discreet but friendly and staff can fix pretty much anything your heart desires. There’s an on-site hamman and the incredible Moroccan scrub, mask and massage is worth every single dirham. You will feel reborn afterwards.
Hotel: Riad Madani, 64, Derb Moulay Abdelkader, Derb Dabachi (www.riad-madani.com)
This large and beautiful riad, a couple of minutes walk from Jemaa El Fna, was once an imperial palace, which comes as no surprise as soon as you enter it. It has beautiful gardens and incredible terraces, one of which is among the largest in Marrakech. It’s also one of the few riads to have a pool on its roof terrace. Each room is decorated differently and staying here is like staying with good, insanely chic friends – and indeed it is the home of its (insanely chic, very welcoming) Brazilian owners. This is where folk like Mario Testino stay when they are in Marrakech, and though it’s a favourite hotel of the in-crowd, it couldn’t be more welcoming.
Hotel: Riad Dar More, N°44, Derb jdid, Riad Dar Zitoun Lakdim (www.riad-dar-more.com)
This affordable little riad is great for a group trip. Rooms (five of them) are small and it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of some of the more flashy riads, but if you want something chic, simple and budget this place has everything you need, in a great location.
Eat: BoZin, Douar Lahna, Route de l’Ourika (www.bo-zin.com)
After a couple of days of cous cous you will be really glad of somewhere like this; the menu is a modish mix of French, Thai and Moroccan food with fabulous puddings (and an awesome chocolate fondant and pistachio ice-cream). The gardens, with capacious booths and loungers and huge log fires, are great for having after-dinner drinks.
Eat: Le Foundouk, 55 Souk Hal Fassi, Kat Bennahid (www.foundouk.com)
A reliable, stylish and romantic Medina restaurant with a mix of Moroccan and European food. We come here time and time again.
Eat: Chegrouni, 46 Jemaa el Fna
If you’re not brave enough to eat from the stalls on Jemaa El Fna then go and have a tagine at no frills Chegrouni. Wait for a table overlooking the circus below and you can while away a good hour or more absorbing the frenzied chaos of Marrakesh as the sun sets. The lamb tagine here is excellent – and cheap too.
Café: Café Arabe, 184, rue Mouassine (www.cafearabe.com)
This is a great little place for a refueling mint tea and it has a fabulous roof terrace looking out to the Atlas mountains.
Café: Terrace Des Epices, 15, Souk Cherifia. Sidi Abdelaziz (www.terrassedesepices.com)
Stylish, open-air roof-top café serving delicious food (salads, mezze plates, brochettes) is a relaxing setting – it’s also one of the few kid friendly places away from the hustle and bustle of the Medina.
Restaurant: Le Comptoir, Avenue Echouhada, Hivernage (www.comptoirmarrakech.com)
You probably wouldn’t come to Le Comptoir for the food (which is pretty average) but the spectacular nightly floor-show with some dazzling belly dancers is really great fun. There’s a bar and dancing upstairs if you want to stay later too.
Restaurants: Dar Yacout, 79 rue Sidi Ahmed Soussi, Bab Doukkala
There are plenty of really good restaurants in Marrakesh that offer sumptuous feasts (including Dar Moha and the brilliant women-run El-Fassia) but for atmosphere our favorite is Dar Yacout with its rooftop terrace, pool and cosy, seductive salons. You need to book.
Gardens: Jardin Majorelle (www.jardinmajorelle.com)
It’s easy to spend all your time shopping and eating in Marrakesh – too easy in fact – but we love taking a trip our to the Jardin Majorelles, which was made famous by Yves Saint Laurent, who bought the site in 1980 and went on to restore the fabulous gardens. It’s really stunning in the spring and early summer although it’s beautiful at any time of year.
Shop: Beldi. 9 & 11 Laksour, Bab Ftouh, Medina
This tiny shop near the entrance to the souk sells beautiful, well made clothes, mostly for men – djellabas made out of the finest cotton, exquisitely made jackets and coats in cashmere, velvet and tweed, which are lined in fantastic silks; the perfect cashmere throw. It’s like a very mini Hermès at a fraction of the cost.
Shop: Mustapha Blaoui, 142-144 Bab Doukkala
In a city full of them, this is the ultimate Aladdin’s cave. It’s an emporium filled with simply wonderful things: cushions, lights, candlesticks, lanterns, pots, bowls, fabrics, furniture. If we could only visit one shop in Marrakech, this would be it. The staff can help arrange overseas shipping too.
Shop: Chaussures Atica, 34,Rue de la Liberté, Guéliz
This temple to shoes – and the fashion crowd’s inside secret – is where you get perfect Tod’s driving shoes (only not actually by Tod’s, obviously, as the much cheaper price reflects) in every shade of buttery leather imaginable.