Luxury Guide to Marrakech
Hidden 5-star Riads to authentic Moroccan restaurants - here's your ultimate guide to Marrakech!
A sensorial symphony and captivating cacophony of colour, sounds’n’smells, magical Marrakech is a pearl polished by history and hospitality imbued with timeless tradition, contemporary luxury, cutting-edge couture and Moroccan mystique.
Souks… squares…. snakes… sunsets… spices… sultans… sumptuous palaces… Known as the ‘ochre’ or ‘red’ city thanks to its rosy-hued 12th-century walls, energetic Marrakech exudes exhilarating exoticism. This thousand-year-old trading post harbours a rich’n’turbulent history brimming with breathtaking architecture, blending its prestigious past and heritage treasures with the omnipresent contemporary dynamism of living cultures against a soundtrack of the Muslim call to prayer. Teeming with life, comprising a heady mix of old’n’new, African’n’European, it’s an unspoilt city of surprise… although far from the coast there’s a (man-made) beach.
Framed by a thousand-year-old palm garden and desert-and-snow-tipped Atlas mountain backdrop, even skiing’s possible. Not even Aladdin’s lamp could conjure up scenery so dramatic. Super-stylish hotels…great gastronomy… flourishing designer/boutique scene… cosmopolitan Marrakech certainly wowed the Sex & The City girls while filming here. Follow in the fab four’s footsteps!
A magnet for movie stars… Modern Marrakech has the midas touch!
A swinging sixties bohemian hangout for The Beatles and The Stones, adventurous elites and style-conscious ex-pats then arrived, creating today’s chic ancient’n’modern mix. From Charlie Chaplin to Cameron Diaz, countless celebrities have fallen for its mystic charms. Throw away the guidebook and lose yourself on treasure-hunting adventures in exciting honeycombs of souks (markets)…admire ancient mosques and palaces…head to hustle’n’bustle-free garden havens…indulge in hammams (steam-bath)…imbibe in mint tea and roof-terrace sunset cocktails… dine on tasty tagines. Discover a feast of delights for the eyes, nose and ears in an enchanting setting exuding historic elegance and refined luxury for a bedazzling fairytale stay.
Morocco’s Cultural Centre & Ancient Soul: A hectic hub where past meets present
An exotic gateway to Africa, legendary Marrakech was once of such importance that it gave its name to Morocco. It’s divided into the Old Town Medina’s maze of intertwining, intricately-connected labyrinths of souks and modern European New Town’s leafy streets housing big-brand luxury stores, contemporary art galleries, cool cafés and upscale restaurants, namely Guéliz and wealthy residential L’Hivernage. Exclusive palm grove La Palmeraie’s the ‘Beverly Hills’ of Morocco… home to luxuriant villas, spas and hotels. This charismatic city’s centre of activity and true symbolic heart’s the Medina’s main square, UNESCO-designated Djemaa el Fna.
A superior stay guaranteeing serenity and calm… plus a VIP welcome!
Marrakech has become synonymous with private villas and ultra-luxurious hotels carrying famous brands… Moroccan architecture and the art of fine living teamed with up-to-the-minute design, decoration and conveniences. Whether a traditional dar (old grand house), riad (internal courtyard property), luxurious kasbah or lavish hotel, hospitality’s extremely important.
A Crown Prince’s ex-palace, Art-Deco-Moroccan-fusion-style La Mamounia’s considered the city’s most eminent and iconic hotel.
“It’s the loveliest spot in the whole world,” Churchill, who painted here, told Roosevelt.
Hitchcock filmed here and royalty’n’celebs including Princess Caroline of Monaco, Elton John and Kate Winslet relax in its historic splendour. The Royal Mansour’s Morocco’s most luxurious hotel, while super-exclusive Taj Palace oozes opulent Indian/Moroccan/Venetian luxury…its majestic Royal Suite the setting for much of SATC2.
With beautiful VIP suites/apartments, sprawling Palais Mehdi’s among the highest-ranking hotels. Simply stunning, La Sultana’s voguish Moroccan-meets-extravagant-western renovated riads boast palatial antiques/artefacts/scattered rose-petal-festooned suites. Super-slick ‘alfresco art’ hotel Dar Sabra, Le Selman, Kasbah Bab Ourika, Palmeraie Golf Palace and Sofitel are also worth a stay.
Cool off from city chaos in sensational spas, turn up the heat in hammams, chill at the ‘beach’!
Exceptional wellbeing refuges abound, like venerable Les Bains de Marrakech, bohemian-chic Riad Awa, Spa de La Maison Arabe, swish Essaadi Hotel’s Dior spa and Fellah Hotel’s Thai School of Traditional Massage. Chill out with cocktails’n’cool tunes amid the decadent in-crowd and hedonistic international jetset in modern-day mirage, glamorous pool-oasis, Nikki Beach or La Plage Rouge’s man-made beach’n’Balinese beds. For musical brunchtime treats, sleek Murano combines Euro elegance with Moorish panache…its unusual red-tiled pool a trendy Sunday hangout.
Sights’n’delights in a fortified city of art & refinement and temple of design
Mention Marrakech and you conjure up colourful images of an intoxicating mix of mesmerising mosques… mazes of Medina markets…magic carpets… marble fountains and dazzling handcut tiles in an age-old setting infused with pungent perfumes wafted on hot Saharan-desert winds. It’s a sophisticated sun-soaked oasis saturated with contrasting colours… ochre walls, bougainvillea-covered exteriors and palm trees set against brilliant blue skies lending a special light.
The two principal landmarks are 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque’s towering minaret and Djemaa El-Fna square, where street entertainers vie for your attention. Soak up the carnivalesque atmosphere and medieval magic of this magnetic, timeless spot. As dusk falls, snake charmers, orange-juice vendors and mischievous monkeys make way for ancient nightly spectacles of belly-dancers… musicians… acrobats… jugglers… fortune-tellers… healers… henna tattooists… magicians dispensing secret potions ’n’ medicines… you can even get new teeth! Cooks cart in barbecue stalls… the smoky square’s alive with aromas. For the ultimate open-air theater, grab a front-row café/bar/restaurant seat and watch the drama unfold to hypnotic music ’n’ drumbeats.
Built with the most precious materials… onyx, gold and Italian marble… the once-lavish Alhambra replica Badi Palace, now in ruins, was regarded as the wonder of the Muslim world. The Royal Palace is located alongside, while ornate Bahia Palace still functions as a royal residence. Morocco’s largest Madrassa’s 16th-century Ben Youssef. Museums include Moroccan Arts (considered among the country’s finest), Dar Si Saïd, l’Art de Vivre, La Palmeraie and Photography. Marrakech boasts a growing cutting-edge art gallery scene with quirky and new-wave galleries including David Bloch, Rê, ‘gallery-apartment’ Lawrence-Arnott and Remp’ Art.
Parks and garden sanctuaries are ten-a-dirham… Yves Saint Laurent bought and redesigned Majorelle Gardens and their cobalt-blue building housing the Berber Museum. The Ménara Gardens surround a 16th-century pavilion and ornamental lake, while the Arabo-Andalusian garden accommodates the 16th-century Saadian Tombs, a richly-decorated necropolis boasting beautiful Moroccan tiles.
Souk shopping for refined local products & international luxury items
As the principal shopping attraction, affording a glimpse into an ancient world, losing yourself in the Medina’s endless souks is part of the charm. Imbued with age-old Moroccan know-how, it’s a world capital for meticulously-made handicrafts… spectacular spice-tower displays… traditional rugs… carpets… leather bags… shoes… jewellery… Muslim attire… cashmere shawls… lanterns… pottery… electronics… teapots… haggling’s still essential!
Haggled out? For fixed prices, the major shopping centres are Almazar Mall, Plaza and Marjane Square. Shop Guéliz’s high-fashion Rue de la Liberté for brand-name boutiques. Showroom-and-designer-boutique-hop for home décor in Sidi Ghanem. Engage Design and Cook Gallery’s personal shopper services for top-quality art, pottery and guided shopping tours. Kis Boutique: Keep it Secret presents elegant’n’stylish clothing/gifts from young up-and-coming Moroccan/international designers. L’Orientaliste Arabesque accessories/antiques store’s inspired by current Eastern trends, Yahya sells top-quality handmade bronze/nickel silver creations, while cult boutique for kaftans/jewellery/homeware, Aya’s is favoured by Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks.
Spicy Arabian nights in a hospitable city that NEVER sleeps… Rock the Kasbah!
The city’s culinary characteristics are rich’n’spicy… but not hot… fused with spice flavours of the world. Glamorous metropolitan Medina hangouts and New Town eateries like Le Salama, Dar Moha and Al Fassia serve varied indigenous/international cuisine. Whether dining in romantic riad restaurants, gourmet establishments or the square’s stalls, service is impeccable.
Savour Hotel Delano’s 360° Sky Lounge vistas and Le Café Arabe’s rooftop-terrace Medina sunsets with Italian-Moroccan cuisine. High-profile faces favour secluded, harmoniously-designed Palais Rhoul, whose Abyssin Restaurant dishes delectable French-Moroccan fusion food. ‘Casablanca’-esque Grand Café de la Poste seduces. Stylish venues perpetually pop up, introducing original concepts. Jazz has a special place…the city crammed with trendy lounge/exclusive piano bars with tangible atmospheres. Candlelit bars and hip pubs’n’clubs attract nightbirds to L’Hivernage district. Top nightspots include Jad Mahal, SO Lounge, Kosybar and Thêatro. Club… restaurants… hotel… ballroom… Marrakech’s hippest hangout, legendary Pacha’s arguably Africa’s largest nightclub. The local fash pack descends on Le Comptoir, Le Lotus and New York-style-bar-restaurant Bô & Zin’s tented tables while super-cool DJs spin.
Oozing romance, Marrakech is aglow with gold shades come dusk
Today, the ramparts are for lovers… not fighters… with couples parading them at sunset. Ménara Gardens, long-time romantic meeting-spot for Sultans and site of thousands of secret histories, is considered the dreamiest place in town. Take twilight tours by horse-drawn Calèche. Fly high in hot-air balloons for unforgettable city/waterfall/snow-capped mountains/timeless desert sands panoramas.
For princely honeymoons with helicopter transfers, butler and limousine service, sumptuous boutique hotel/private-pool apartments Ksar Char-Bagh offers tower-top pool to-die-for views. Beyond beautiful, award-winning Amanjena’s palatial pavilion accommodation’s been graced by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Sir Richard Branson’s exclusive mountain retreat, Kasbah Tamadot’s the ultimate honeymoon hotspot. Indulge in the Kasbah-cool infinity pool and your Berber-style tent’s Jacuzzi before open-air massages for two!
Cultural Festivals & Events include:
Jan: Marrakech International Marathon
Feb: Coupe de l’Info ski cup
Feb/Mar: The Marrakech Biennale – an artistic city highlight showcasing cutting-edge contemporary art, cinema and video, literature, performing arts and architecture
Mar: Morocco Classic Rally, Magic Festival and AWTÂR Haouz Cultural Festival
May: Race of Morrocco/Marrakech Grand Prix
June: Awaln’art international artistic festival with circuses, auditoriums, Bedouin tents and dance halls beneath paper lanterns
July: National Popular Arts Festival – stages spring up all around the city to celebrate the diversity of various Moroccan regions’ heritage through dance, poetry and music
Oct: Marrakech Art Fair at Es Saadi Palace
Dec: The Marrakech International Film Festival – its notoriety grows year-by-year, attracting Hollywood directors and stars, including Susan Sarandon, Martin Scorsese, Eva Mendes, Jeremy Irons and Bond Girl Gemma Arterton.
Marrakech is served by Ménara International Airport, 6km southwest of the city. It’s one of Morocco’s busiest airports, with flights from Europe, Arab countries and major airports like New York, as well as Casablanca (transfer hub for many travellers from the US and Canada). Marrakech railway station connects the city to Casablanca and other Moroccan cities such Tangiers, Fez and Rabat.
Taxi transfers and luxury car hire:
Door-to-door airport transfers are best arranged through your guesthouse or hotel. Taxis are plentiful, safe and handy for trips from the Medina to the New Town. Bear in mind that many drivers are reluctant to turn on the meter and are more likely to speak French than English. Visitors should request that their hotel give directions to the driver and negotiate the fare before setting off. For trips to remote mountains or desert locales, you can hire Cadillacs, Mercedes and Buicks etc. through major companies such as Hertz (www.hertz.com), National (www.nationalcar.co.uk) or Europcar (www.europcar.com).
Avenue Bab Jdid
Tel: +212 5 24 38 86 00
With powerful Moorish architecture, this classic example of the great age of grand hotels is a favourite for big names including the Prince of Wales and Nicole Kidman…check out the guestbook! It boasts signature restaurants headed by two Michelin Star chefs, five bars, designer shops Gucci and Fendi plus historic gardens which have witnessed much royal revelry.
The Royal Mansour
Rue Abou Abbas El Sebti
Tel: +212 5 29 80 80 80
Celebrating Moroccan grandeur, the Royal Mansour’s a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group and is the most luxurious hotel in Marrakech and, indeed, Morocco. Ultra-elegant Riads offer three floors of luxury, a delightful courtyard with fountain, rooftop terrace and attentive, yet discreet, butler.
Taj Palace Marrakech
P.O. Box 12440
Tel: +212 5 24 327 777
An ambitious, imposing feat of design surrounded by landscaped gardens, palm trees and olive groves, this sublime palatial desert oasis is approached by a long, dramatic driveway. This lavish retreat astounds.
A timeless palace and member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World and Great Hotels of the World, La Sultana’s one of the city’s finest deluxe hotels, ideally located in the Old Town.
Route de Ouarzazate
Tel: +212 5 24 399 000
Meaning ‘peaceful paradise’, contemporary Amanjena’s Africa’s first Aman resort. Serene and intimate…stunning setting…exquisite facilities…discreet service…it’s no wonder it’s frequented by the rich’n’famous.
Tel: +212 5 24 36 82 00
The Virgin boss’ magical walled complex is a romantic mountain foothills haven. Enjoy privacy, a hammam spa, tented suites with private plunge pools, peaceful courtyards and breathtaking 360-degree views of the magnificent mountain scenery.
La Maison Arabe
1 Derb Assehbé
Tel: +212 5 24 38 70 10
The epitome of Moroccan elegance, this exotically-styled mansion-hotel’s wellbeing centre offers a fabulous new spa with hammams and massage rooms, legendary cuisine and excellent cookery courses.
Le Grand Café de la Poste
Boulevard El Mansour Eddahbi and Rue Imam Malik
Tel: +212 5 24 43 30 38
Enjoy fantastic French cuisine to the soft strains of jazz at this colonial bistro-oasis in the New Town.
Bô & Zin
Route de l’Ourika
Tel: +212 524 388 012
Drink, eat and party at this dreamlike restaurant/bar/lounge, offering classy Champagne, great cocktails and French/Moroccan/Thai/Japanese fusion food.
Located within the amazing Rhoul Palace hotel with its outstanding spa, L’Abyssin’s one of Marrakech’s most stylish restaurants and a favourite for world-famous guests.
55 Boulevard Zerktouni
Résidence Tayeb 1er
Tel: +212 5 24 43 40 60
Run exclusively by women, gourmet restaurant Al Fassia offers culinary refinement and one of the city’s best dining experiences.
Angle Av. Echouhada et Rue des Temples
Tel: +212 524 42 42 42
Discerning palates dine on Michelin-starred Italian-Mediterranean cuisine or exquisite Japanese delights, while The Sky Lounge offers spectacular 360° city/Medina/rampart/mountain views. The 5* hotel also has a carefully-curated selection of boutiques including Louis Vuitton, La Perla and Missoni.
Shop the artisans’ and designers’ showrooms for home and decorative gems in modern Marrakech.
Kis Boutique: Keep it Secret
33 Rue Majorelle
36 Derb Fhal Chidmi
Tel: +212 6 75 48 00 18
A one-stop-shop design boutique vending traditional artisanal items with a modern influence. Shhh…don’t tell anyone!!
Design and Cook Gallery
166 Bi Sidi Ghanem
Tel: +212 6 75 34 76 69
Filled with artistic love and dreams, Design and Cook offers a wide selection of furniture and contemporary decoration and hosts rich, diverse exhibitions and guided tours of Sidi Ghanem.