“It is the most lovely spot in the whole world”, said Winston Churchill to Franklin D.Roosevelt about Marrakech in 1943, who he invited to visit his favorite place.
Dress | Reformation
Ah, Morocco–where to even start? I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some pretty incredible places over the years–Iceland, the Galapagos Islands, Turkey, Italy, to name a few–but nothing has left handprints on my soul quite like the inimitable Marrakech.
You see, it’s quite the love story. I’ve dreamt of wandering down the winding hallways of Marrakech’s medina for well over a decade. I find Arabic architecture to be fascinating and truly inspired–the curved arches, intricate carvings, elaborate tiling and prolific use of color–it’s no wonder Morocco has long been a retreat for some of the most profound creatives. Marrakech is particularly unique–it’s a bohemian melting pot of culture and design combining Islamic, Moorish, and Berber artistic idiosyncrasies, ultimately creating this breathtaking city that you truly have to see to believe.
Touted as the Red City, Marrakech has long been an escape for some of my favorite artists and icons, like Ernest Hemingway, Patti Smith, and Yves Saint Laurent, and minutes into my stay it was easy to see why. Marrakech is the very definition of Bohemé. Our fantasy started at La Mamounia, one of the most stunning and luxurious hotels in the world. As you take in the striking burgundy almost medieval decor, your sinuses are quickly accosted by their delightful signature Dattes fragrance that oh-so-elegantly pairs with cigarette smoke– a truly sensual scent unlike anything else. I knew in that moment Marrakech was going to live up to my wildest dreams and beyond. We stayed three magical nights at La Mamounia, which is outside the hustle and bustle of the medina, but for the remaining four nights we opted for Riad el Fenn inside the medina, and I’m thrilled we did this because they were two very different but equally fabulous Marrakech experiences. Below, a detailed look at where we stayed, ate, drank and played–along with other things I hope we check out next time.
There are riads aplenty in Marrakech. We did three nights at a luxury hotel outside of the medina and four nights at a riad inside the medina. If your budget allows, I would highly suggest doing it this way as they are totally different Moroccan experiences.
La Mamounia | @lamamouniamarrakech
It’s been said to be the greatest hotel in the world, and a regular stay for Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Jackie Kennedy, and Hitchcock. The best way to describe the experience at La Mamounia is Gatsby–everything is rich, expensive, and over-the-top. Their signature Dattes scent rushes through the expansive crimson red and mustard hallways leading you out to their massive grounds. Yes, this is the home of Le Spa and that famous indoor pool from Instagram, which you can only use if you’re a guest. Pricey, yes. But worth every penny. Dress to impress here, it’s one of those places where you’ll want to look your best.
Dress | Storets
Dress | Custom The Frilly
Riad el Fenn | @elfennmarrakech
Owned by Richard Branson’s sister, Vanessa, this riad is exquisitely done. It too is on the more expensive side for Riads, but it truly is a work of art. After all, Riad el fenn translates to “house of art” and it houses beautiful artwork from local Berber artists. The rooms are spacious and make you feel like you’re living in your bohemian but successful Aunt’s guest house. I could live here. This riad is in the perfect location, right near all of the best shopping spots in the city. The medina can be very confusing so staying here was a bonus because we were so close to all of the places we wanted to check out. Also, they leave hot tea and coffee outside your room everyday, breakfast is included, and they have quaint wood burning fireplaces in the rooms that they light for you at night. I clearly loved this place, I was so inspired by the decor here I want to redo my whole house now.
Royal Mansour | @royalmansor
I’d like to stay here two or three nights next time! It’s near La Mamounia and was created by the King, it’s supposed to be fantastic.
Riad Yasmin | @leriadyasmin
Much smaller than Riad el Fenn but oh-so-charming and full of instagrammable moments.
I just adore Moroccan food. The cuisine here is so delicious and fresh, but I did get a but couscous-ed out by the end of our trip. Definitely make reservations ahead of time because these places get packed.
Hands down the best restaurant in Marrakech for Moroccan food. It’s a set menu with Moroccan salads, classic chicken tangine, lamb, and desserts, and wine included! The set price is about $65 a person. It was about a 3 minute walk from our Riad. Beautiful intimate setting and we loved the live music.
Similar to Le Tobsil, set menu, set price, alcohol included. The food is not nearly as good as Le Tobsil but the ambiance was my favorite of the bunch, and sometimes (only sometimes) atmosphere trumps food. This place is visual magic. I’d go here again if only to sit in this spectacular setting and drink enough wine to makeup for the price.
A more modern take on Moroccan food, this place was delicious. They don’t serve alcohol but definitely good for either lunch or a night off from booze. I had the chicken tangine and it was the best one I had the entire trip!
In my opinion, this place is just OK. It gets amazing reviews but I wasn’t blown away with anything about it. It’s an outdoor patio with plants… just like everywhere else in Morocco. They were also very slow. BUT they do have a super cute boutique that you should check out!
La Mamounia Italian
Okay so this place is no joke. Seriously delicious pasta (and a welcomed break from eating tangines) but don’t go if you’re not ready to spend. I had the truffle pasta and I believe it was about $70 for the entree alone. But, worth every bite. Grab a dirty martini at the italian piano bar or in the Churchill bar before, or after, or both.
el Fenn has a wonderful set lunch menu. The cuisine changes everyday but the price is always $25, and you get tons of yummy and healthy food. We had whole artichoke, fennel salad, grilled fish, and two other dishes along with dessert. Afterwards you can shop in the perfectly curated el Fenn boutique for exquisite homeware, artisan Moroccan designers and beautiful books.
Le Comptoir Darna
If you’re in the mood for a night out, this is your spot. Le Comptoir Darna is the definition of fun, but it was our last night and I was so full and tired and sick of drinking that it was hard for me to enjoy it. The food is average, but it’s got all of the right elements for a wild night–belly dancers, a full bar upstairs, moody lighting and lots of scenesters. If you’re from the US, I’d equate it to a TAO or Dream Hotel. I’d go back for a drink or dancing or a show.
Other Spots to Try
Grand Cafe le Post
Everyone said to go here, but it’s over by Majorelle and we never made it back that way. If you plan on going to Jardin Majorelle (which you should, more on that below) plan to go here after for lunch.
La Mason Arabe
We had reservations here but didn’t go because we were exhausted. I’d love to check it out and they also have a good cooking school.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
I booked a Hot Air Ballon through Ciel d’Africa for Cass’s birthday and it was incredible! You have to wake up early as they pick you up around 5:45am, but it’s worth it to soar in a hot air balloon watching the sunrise over the Atlas Mountains and the gorgeous African desert. Definitely a must do!
Jardín Majorelle and YSL Museum
DO THIS! But do it this way. Arrive at 9:45am and get in line for the YSL museum and purchase tickets for both the museum and the garden. The YSL museum is my favorite fashion exhibit to date, it is so beautifully done that you don’t even need to like fashion to be inspired by it. Once you’re done, you get to skip the huge line for jardin majorelle. Don’t miss the Berber museum inside the garden! This was a true highlight of mine. getting to see all of the elaborate Berber attire was incredible!
Who knew couscous took so much effort? We took a cooking class at Sanssouci Collection Moroccan Cooking School which was just a 5 minute cab from our Riad. This is a definite must-do, and our guide Pierre couldn’t have been more fabulous. We started with a market tour, seeing where locals purchase produce and pick up poultry and bake bread. Afterwards, we cooked up a mighty feast of three Moroccan salads, vegetable couscous and chicken tangine, all while downing a bottle of wine at 1pm. It was a good day.
Sunset Camel Ride
We booked a sunset camel ride super last minute because you can’t go to the desert and not ride a camel! We both had ridden camels before in Dubai, so we weren’t over-the-top excited for this, but it ended up being awesome. We rode camels at night through the palm grove and got to see a traditional Berber house.
The medina can be confusing AF. Google maps looks entirely different than the labyrinth of walls that actually make up the medina. We had several stores and items we really wanted to purchase, so we hired a guide for the full day for $30. It was totally worth it and definitely a smart idea if you don’t want to waste a bunch of time trying to find stores.
You have to get a traditional Moroccan hammam. Don’t google it, just go with it. But don’t go to any public hammams! Book it through your hotel. We did ours at el Fenn and it was fab.
el Fenn Spa
We did facials and hammams here and it was so peaceful and nice. They use tons of rose products and the facial was delightful!
Le Spa La Mamounia
Honestly not really worth it! It was beautiful but the massage was just OK and they didn’t play any music so it was hard for me to shut my brain off.
Les Bains du Marrakech
Supposed to be great for hammers.
Lahandira | @lahandira
Rugs are one of the first things that comes to mind when you mention Morocco. And trust me, there are rugs all over. If you are looking for quality pieces, make Lahandira your first stop! Ismail helped us out and we got three beautiful pieces. If you need more proof that this is your spot, he’s got a Vogue mention and has sold rugs to Chiara Ferragni, Song of Style, Mara Hoffman…
Another solid rug shop with a beautiful selection. We didn’t purchase any from here but they have a really nice selection and the quality is wonderful.
Mason du Kaftan
This place is awesome! To give you an idea, Isabel Marant brought this place personal sketches for them to recreate looks for her. Their quality is spectacular–I got a silk lined velvet jacket and a carpet jacket. Not a deal whatsoever but worth it.
Max & Jan
Beautiful edit of local artisanal pieces, including scents from Heritage Berber and gorgeous caftans.
33 Rue Majorelle
Must see shop next to Jardin Majorelle! Another wonderful edit of Morocco’s finest exports. I fell in love with their scent 33 Rue Majorelle (I bought two bottles!) along with their own namesake neroli facial spray. Pretty loafers and jewelry here as well.
Have a question about Marrakech, Morocco? Ask me in the comments!