Melanie Sykes Marrakech La Mamounia Hotel

Insider Guide: Marrakech

Marrakech is a fascinating and accessible city, with a breathtaking range of things to do, see and eat. Bristling with fantastic and affordable places to stay both inside and outside the city, it’s a short flight from the UK and English is widely spoken – where English fails, any French you can scrape together will go a long way.

Melanie visited Marrakech recently when she took part in a bootcamp just outside the city, and had a fantastic time getting away from the winter chill here in England.

She didn’t have time to explore the city properly on her whirlwind visit, so here is her checklist for next time.

Where To Stay

Melanie Sykes Marrakech Riad Berbere

There are plenty of luxurious hotels dotting the city’s modern quarter – the Ville Nouvelle and the Palmeraie – but for a taste of old school Marrakech, there’s only one choice in this part of the city and that’s the luxurious La Mamounia, one of the oldest hotels in the country and certainly the one with the most illustrious history with famous guests from Winston Churchill to Marlene Dietrich over the years. It’s expensive, but worth it for a night of decadence, especially after a Sahara expedition.

More affordable are the many stunning riads, or traditional city houses, of the Medina, the old – and the most lively and authentic – quarter of the city.

Our top pick – and it’s HARD because they’re all absolutely beautiful – is Riad Berbere, with its leafy courtyard and just five airy rooms.  With a traditional hammam on site, and spa services and dining on offer, go with friends and book the place out exclusively!

Where To Eat

Melanie Sykes Marrakech Maison Arabe

Every night, the main square in the Medina, the Djemma el Fna, turns into a sprawling, lively open air market and fair, with rows and rows of restaurants, orange juice stands, side shows – and hustlers! Hang on to your valuables (or leave them in the safe at the hotel) and enjoy wandering around, drinking tea, eating sweets and basking in the thrill of it all.

Afterwards, check out the rooftop bars of some of the surrounding restaurants and sip cocktails under the stars.

La Maison Arabe is in the Medina, in the upmarket Mouassine quarter, and just a short walk from the Djemma. Legendary for their food, it’s perfect to discover classic Moroccan food as it should be.

During the daytime, track down Nomad, also in the Medina, for a delicious and affordable menu of freshly prepared modern Moroccan food in stylish surroundings with a great roof terrace.

Back out in the Ville Nouvelle, the wonderful Grand Cafe de la Poste is well worth visiting. Housed in the old city post office, this bit of colonial grandeur feels like stepping into another world. With fabulous food, drinks and live music, this might be where you enjoy a few repeat visits.

For fabulous cocktails, visit Kosybar in Place des Ferblantiers in the Kasbah, or Cafe Arabe back over in Mouassine (last time we were there, the gin & tonics were STRONG – be warned!).

Where To Relax

Melanie Sykes Marrakech Jardins de la Koutoubia Carita Spa

If you don’t want to retire to your room, the best way to while away the hottest part of the day is to head to a hammam or spa. You can choose from a luxury hotel-style spa at the Mamounia, Les Jardins de la Koutoubia (Carita spa and blissfully cool and dark underground pool) or the Four Seasons, but for a more authentic (but still pampering) experience, choose one of the luxury hammams dotted around the city.

Our top pick for these is Les Bains de Marrakech, a fabulous venue with a bright and airy central hall, off which you will find small private hammams for steaming and traditional black soap scrub and ghassoul body mask, bathing rooms and more. Booking ahead is essential – our top choice is the The Relax Day Spa combination with
45 minutes in the hammam, black soap body scrub and ghassoul body mask and a 25 minute Oriental bath with bath salt of bitter orange, with a 1 hour relaxing body massage – all for just £68!

Where To Escape

Melanie Sykes Marrakech Sahara Desert Trip

Despite all the luxury hotels, restaurants, riads and spas, Marrakech is still a fundamentally affordable city, and one of the most affordable adventures of all is a desert trek – on a camel. These trips are simply unmissable and if you can fit one in, you should definitely try. Make it up to yourself by booking your Bains spa day for after your return.

Our top two picks for this one are the tried and tested Atlas & Sahara Tours (no prices on their website, but if memory serves, they are remarkably cheap, given how much is included in your trip) and Marrakech Desert Trips, also cheap and cheerful with three day group trips for just €89 all inclusive.

Our choices are Four days/three nights in the Altlas Mountains and Sahara Desert and Group Tours in the Sahara Desert.