Marrakesh has it all: you can sleep anywhere from the funkiest fleapit to palaces straight out of some Orientalist Hollywood fantasy. Take your pick: authentic riads hidden in the heart of the medina; budget-friendly inns right off the Djemaa; ville nouvelle hotels, ranging from budget to business class; or palmeraie villas, with pools amid swaying palms.
Booking ahead is crucial for medina riads due to limited rooms.
Palmeraie & Outskirts
When the medina seems a bit much, villas in the palmeraie and on the outskirts of the city allow you to chill out. Once your blood pressure dips and you begin to miss the madness of Marrakesh, it's only a 15- to 20-minute drive back to the heart of the action. A taxi into town is the easiest way, but is rather costly (Dh150 to Dh250) since you often have to pay for the driver’s round-trip to fetch you.
Worth a Trip: Ethics & Aesthetics - The Fellah Hotel
Part Berber farm, part modern-art installation, part spa resort and community outreach program, the Fellah Hotel, southeast of Marrakesh, defies easy definitions and that’s exactly how they like it. The visionaries behind the concept hope that the hotel, with its chocolate-coloured adobe-style villas framed picturesquely by High Atlas peaks, will become a meeting place between resident artists, travellers and the local community of Akara, who are engaged through activities and classes at the Dar al Ma’mûm Foundation (www.dam-arts.org).
The latter, housed in the comprehensive library in villa 7, collaborates with Unesco through the Aschberg program, which defends mobility for young artists, who are regularly hosted in one- to three-month residencies and contribute to the Fellah’s dynamic cycle of poetry readings and musical jam sessions. No wonder guests wandering the cactus-flanked gardens or floating in the heated pool exude an air of quiet contentment that can’t be wholly attributed to the Wat Po Massage Centre or a round with personal trainer, Freddie, in the sunken boxing ring.
Paris has its cathedrals, New York its skyscrapers, but riads are what set Marrakesh apart. These spectacular mudbrick courtyard mansions are oases of calm in the bustling medina: push through the brass-studded ancient door and you’ll find yourself listening to songbirds, ice clinking in drinks and your own thoughts – suddenly, Marrakesh’s balance of extremes makes perfect sense.
Over the past decade, hundreds of these historic family homes have been sold and reinvented as guesthouses, mainly by Europeans. The best are not just marvels of the Marrakshi tradition of craftsmanship – which guesthouses helped revive – but unforgettable experiences of Marrakshi hospitality, complete with insights into the local culture and shifting social mores, home-cooked meals and prime opportunities for relaxation and cultural immersion. Staying in a riad isn’t just about sleeping in posh digs; it’s about gaining an understanding of Marrakesh behind those studded doors.
Room rates in Marrakesh are the highest in Morocco. Many budget hotels keep the same rates all year round but with negotiable prices for longer stays or quiet periods. Some riads only raise their prices over the winter and Easter holiday period while others have various different pricing scales for low and high seasons.
High season is roughly 20 December to 6 January, April to May and September to mid-November.
Book a month ahead and expect high-season rates during any major European holidays.