Seeking stunning architecture, super-chic spas or Michelin-star dining? Morocco’s Red City is teeming with refined riads and luxury retreats where plunge pools sparkle in tiled courtyards, rooms are strewn with silk carpets and you can order tajine dishes straight to your door 24/7.
Year-round balmy weather, haute couture in the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, the muezzin calling from the top of Koutoubia Mosque and the frenetic bustle of spice souks – this former Imperial city north of the majestic (and often snow-capped) Atlas Mountains makes for a magical escape. Stay in a hotel that’s equally awe-inspiring. Apart from Marrakech’s classic hotel La Mamounia, there are plenty of other luxury sleep pads that are as awe-inspiring as the city itself; these are nine of the best.
A Red City rendezvous for A-list celebrities and royalty, this iconic hotel in the city’s upmarket Hivernage region was commissioned by style-aware royal Mohammed VI, who wanted it to be ‘a medina within a medina’. Sheltered behind lush gardens studded with mirror-like pools and ponds, 53 exclusive riad-style villas have silk carpets, zellij (mosaic tilework) decor, sweet-scented cedarwood furniture, marble-lined bathrooms, Baccarat chandeliers and roof terraces with heated plunge pools. There are also three restaurants, including the Michelin-star Le Jardin. Book an airport pickup and they’ll even fetch you in the resort’s own gleaming Bentley.
An easy wander from the henna touts and food vendors on Jemaa el-Fnaa and fifteen minutes from the fab new Musée Yves Saint Laurent, this exclusive complex is made of 14th-century riads centred around a pretty little courtyard pool and a garden planted with fruit trees. It once belonged to Morocco’s German ambassador Herwig Bartels, who was a keen collector of Islamic art. Scattered across seven connected riads, sumptuous rooms showcasing Bartel’s antique furnishings are connected by a warren of secret patios and shaded terraces dotted with hammocks – perfect for swaying in after a long day of sightseeing.
On a vast country estate in Tameslouht, this elegant resort, with a sober ochre exterior that resembles Morocco’s earth-built fortified villages, is a (free) 20-minute shuttle ride from the Red City’s sights. Surrounded by lofty palm trees that gently wave their fronds and are reflected in the resort’s oasis-like pool, suites the size of small villas have spacious living rooms, marble-lined bathrooms and private gardens or balconies with stunning Atlas Mountain views, while the enormous villas have private pools. The icing on the cake is Morocco’s only in-resort, 18-hole golf course, which was designed by renowned American course architect Cabell Robinson.
Superb Art Deco interiors, elegant Moroccan craftwork and breathtaking Atlas Mountain views are just some of the super treats on offer at this riad, where six suites are dotted around several courtyards – including one with a tree-lined pool – in the former palace of Marrakech Pasha Thami el’Glaoui. At the heart of the edgy, upscale Douar Graoua district, suits have mosaic zellij floors, vividly coloured Berber rugs, Art Deco seating and feather-soft beds piled with Egyptian satin sheets. Al Moussika is also home to PepeNero, one of the medina’s best restaurants, serving a succulent blend of Moroccan, French and Italian dishes.
The epitome of old-style sophistication, this chic retreat in Marrakech’s Palmeraie – a camel-friendly, palm-dense oasis just outside of town – is the work of Tunisian-born architect Charles Boccara. Linked by tiny paths winding through lush greenery, perfumed plants, fountains and fish-stocked ponds, the resort’s 40 rooms, suites and villas (with private pools) cluster around a football-pitch-sized swimming pool and a bijou spa. A pretty little cottage garden produces the organic fruit and veg that is used to create countless dishes in the fine-dining restaurant Salammbô and its more laidback partner, La Pergola.
Imagine a 19th-century riad re-looked by style-loving British designer Jasper Conran and you’ll be able to picture the timeless glamour of this hotel, which feels more like a private home. Tucked away along a quiet alley in the gritty, authentic Bab Doukkala district, but within easy reach of central Jemaa el-Fnaa square, there are five suites – including the dramatically beautiful and very instagram-worthy Casablanca suite – with four poster beds, huge tadelakt bathtubs and hand-painted ceilings. Elsewhere, antique-packed interiors combine high, white-painted arches with dramatic black wooden wall panelling and cherry-and-white-striped lounge chairs, all of which surrounds a lush interior garden and heated saltwater pool.
Perfectly situated for first-time visitors to Marrakech, this upmarket riad (named for the storks that make their nests on the crumbled walls of the Kings Palace opposite) is surrounded by some of the city’s most fascinating sights, including the 16th-century Saadian Tombs. Once the palace of a local spice merchant, the boutique hotel has retained much of its original character, while adding plenty of modern comforts: a dozen antique-furnished rooms with magnificently painted ceilings have king-size beds and polished tadelakt bathtubs. There’s also a pretty dome-roofed hammam with a plunge pool and a cosy restaurant.