I recently spent a glorious week in Morocco with my husband. We had heard great things about the country and it had been on our list for a while. When we had the opportunity to take a week off from work we thought it would be the perfect destination! One week definitely wasn’t enough to see it all – we didn’t make it into the mountains or desert, but that’s for next time. We did split our time between Marrakech and Essaouira on the coast. We spent our first three nights in Marrakech as well as our last night of the trip.
There are 100s of different options for accommodation in Marrakech. My biggest piece for advice for choosing where to stay is to choose a Riad. A Riad is a large traditional house built around a central courtyard which has been converted into accommodation. They range from boutique hotels to more like a B&B and are normally run by one family. There is a budget to suit everyone, but most importantly, the majority are beautiful and you will never want to leave!
It’s hard to get your head around Marrakech at first, especially around the medina – it is a maze, so here are my top tips for choosing accommodation in Marrakech.
1 – Don’t stay within the medina walls – The medina is a maze of busy markets, full of locals and tourists. It’s noisy in the day and it can be hard to find calm. Also, I don’t think any of the riads serve any alcohol and only a handful of the restaurants and cafes hold alcohol licences. This may not be an issue but worth pointing out. I recommend staying on the walls or just outside. This way you get best of both worlds – you are close to the souks for shopping and exploring but you get a bit more breathing space, it’ll be easier to find your way home and it’s also easier to get to the new town of Marrakech (Gueliz and Ville Nouvelle in particular are worth checking out).
2. Avoid staying in the Hivernage area – It is souless and just not very nice. It was built as a garden suburb and it’s where most of the city’s newer tourist hotels are located. This is obviously my opinion – if you like big hotels then this might be the place for you.
3. Air conditioning – If you are going in the summer months definitely make sure you check your accommodation has air conditioning – we went in April and it was hoooot. The riads are one of the coolest places in the city because of the way they are built around an inner courtyard, but the rooms can still feel quite hot so something to bear in mind.
4. Read reviews – There are what seems like a million riads to choose from. They pretty much all look beautiful so read the reviews carefully – do they tick all the boxes for your requirements.
5. Bathrooms – This is not really a tip but just a little point to note. Many of the bathrooms in riads are within the bedroom and are not separate, and normally with the toilet round the corner of an internal wall. This is why many of the rooms you’ll see (and like our rooms at El Fenn) have the most beautiful baths, and it is very romantic. I was travelling with my husband so it wasn’t an issue, but something to remember to look out for if travelling with friends maybe.
Where we stayed
I knew we definitely wanted to stay in a riad when I started the search and one place that kept popping up was the stunning El Fenn. The reason I didn’t book it up straight away was because it is definitely on the luxury side of things which is reflected in the price. But we were celebrating our first wedding anniversary so we thought, why not! It’s definitely on the boutique hotel side of riads, but after seeing photos I couldn’t get it out of my head and had to stay there! Owned by Vanessa Branson and Howell James, El Fenn has 28 individually designed rooms, 3 pools, a very good restaurant, roof terrace and spa. The work that has gone into the design is outstanding, and no wonder that in 2014 El Fenn was voted number one out of 950 hotels to win the prestigious Mr & Mrs Smith award for Best Dressed Hotel.
The riad was playing host to a party for the British Polo Day Morocco on the last night of our trip so that was decision made, we had to stay there our first three nights! We spent our first night in a courtyard room and then two nights in a colonnade room – all because of a turquoise bath (you’ll see what I mean below!)
I can’t describe how stunning this place was so I’m just going to let my photographs do the work. Also, even if you don’t stay here I recommend coming for dinner as the food is of a very high standard – I had a beautiful quail tagine on our first night. I give you El Fenn….
These are just the corridors!
Our stunning Colonnade Room – just look at that bath!
Just one of the pools…
Just one of the courtyards…
I came across Riad 72 on Mr & Mrs Smith. A site I love to use for finding accommodation, they offer good rates and also there is normally a little treat thrown in too, like a bottle of wine on arrival or a spa treatment. Definitely worth checking out when researching accommodation.
There are 7 rooms here and again it has a boutique feel to it. There is a slightly more tranquil vibe to El Fenn here at Riad 72 I think, probably because it is smaller, but still ever so beautiful. You can hear trickling water in the courtyard and there is a large roof terrace where you can eat and relax by the plunge pool. Our room here was snug but again with a stunning bathroom. And the staff here were perhaps the kindest on our trip. A great option for Marrakech – just take a look for yourself…