Marrakech is an exotic city filled with sights, sounds and smells that caress the senses. It’s a world where ancient and modern, East and West, collide spectacularly. Dusty narrow streets filled with donkeys and carts and carpet sellers fuse with plush hotels, gorgeous riads and trendy nightspots.
It’s a city of opulence and rustic charm whose skyline is littered with towering minarets and silhouettes of the majestic Atlas Mountains. Beauty abounds in this city from its stunning location, to its ornate and exotic architecture in tones of rose, ochre and terracotta.
Royal abodes to lay your head
Marrakech has some of the most stylish and exotic hotels around, that are constantly being featured in style magazines and architectural coffee table books. Here are some beautiful options to try.
Dar Zemora is a true Moroccan boutique hotel with flickering lanterns, ornate fireplaces and cosy rugs. It’s set in a Mediterranean garden of olive trees, rose bushes, orange groves and bougainvillea.
For some real luxury, stay at the palatial hotel of Ksar Char-Bagh set in lush gardens of palms and backed by the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. It has large open courtyards filled with pools and fountains, sumptuous marble baths; cosy roof terrace hideouts, scented candles and hand carved silver keys. The hotel even has its own hammam.
Set in the heart of the old Medina, Dar Darma oozes old world charm with its intricately carved furniture, gilt edged mirrors, tall elegant vases and leopard skin rugs.
Colourful dishes of spices in elegant surroundings
Marrakech has some top quality restaurants and sumptuous dishes that are becoming loved the world over - here you can find anything from the traditional and elegant to fine French dining and even the tantalising flavours of the Far East.
Al Fassia serve a wide selection of tasty Moroccan dishes and with no set menu, you’re free to sample as you wish. Set in a beautiful elegant building, Al Fassia is run exclusively by women, from the waitresses to the chef. Opt for indoor or romantic outdoor dining by candle light.
Elegant and sophisticated Bô-Zin is decked in tones of rust and beige serves a gourmet array of Moroccan, Thai and Japanese inspired dishes. The restaurant prides itself on its slogan of ‘drinking and fooding’ and drinks include anything from fruity cocktails to top quality French champagne. Dishes range from Thai beef with tamarind and coconut to Moroccan lamb with mashed carrot and cumin.
Chez Chegrouni, although not elegant, Michelin starred or expensive has been hailed by both Lonely Planet and Condé Nast Traveller as one of the best places to eat authentic Moroccan food in Marrakech. Chez Chegrouni is a humble eatery set on one side of the city’s main square – Djemaa el-Fna covered in wood panels and traditional Moroccan tiles. Long benches and tables line the interior while a few seats sit outside overlooking the square. Large cauldrons of bubbling tajine spiced with cinnamon and paprika and filled with apricots, almonds and dates are served alongside huge mounds of herby couscous.
Exotic night spots where the glamorous like to party
Marrakech’s night life is exotic and glamorous; it has a reputation for its chic nightclubs and belly-dancing performance venues. Although Morocco is an Islamic country, it has a more relaxed attitude to alcohol than most. However laws dictate that alcohol shouldn’t be consumed openly near a mosque, therefore most nightspots are located in the newer part of the city alongside the trendy tourist hotels.
One of the only night spots in the Medina, is Cafe Arabe, where cocktails are served on a secluded roof terrace, overlooking the cityscape and mountains beyond. It’s a perfect place to start the evening with a pre or after dinner drink.
Le Comptoir is a restaurant and a bar where it’s more about the spectacle than the food as scantily clad belly dancers parade down the large stair case and around the den-like interior of red leather seats and flickering candles. It’s a buzzing spot that parties on late into the night and also has live music upstairs in the bar area.
Club Pacha Marakech is where the beautiful people of Marrakech come to party hard, it’s chic and trendy and attracts international DJs from the likes of Ibiza and New York. Even though the club is massive, it’s so popular that you may have trouble getting in on the weekends.
Haggling at its best
Without a doubt the best place for shopping in Marrakech is in the cities souks (or covered markets), hidden deep within the old Medina lays a maze of hundreds of tiny stalls selling an array of mystical treasures in all the colours of the rainbow. Glittering sequined slippers line up next to glowing lamps and mountains of multi coloured spices, apricots and dates are on offer alongside rolls of elegant Arabian rugs.