From mesmerizing mosaics to colorful spice-filled souks, Marrakech, known as the “red city,” is a place like nowhere else. Located at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and a quick flight from many European capitals, Marrakech is widely regarded as Morocco’s finest city – renowned for its royal gold-lined palaces, world famous Medina, gardens and mosques.
Upon Arrival: Visit a traditional bathhouse or ‘hammam’ to ensure complete revitalization (and smooth skin). Enjoy age-old cleansing rituals and treatments including full body scrubs infused with the region’s olive-oil based black soap, a formula unique to Morocco. Locating a hammam is easy as these ancient rituals are woven into the fabric of everyday Moroccan life. Experience pure bliss a few miles from the city center at Amanjena where reflective pools and delicate incense calm the senses, or opt for classic indulgence at the hammam at Royal Mansour, one of the King’s very own (and very traditional) palaces. Fragrance aficionados take note: Royal Mansour currently offers newly launched tours of the famously private riads and palaces of Serge Lutens, the French perfumer. The immaculately decorated rooms offer a rare glimpse inside Lutens’ genius, each complete with handpainted murals and mosaics.
Stay: For a hip and charming inner-city experience, stay in a magical Riad (a traditional Moroccan house with a central courtyard) at El Fenn. Conveniently located at the heart of the action, this intimate property offers an array of rooms with jewel-toned walls and ornate tile floors ranging from small suites to private Riads with individual plunging pools. Those looking for more of a traditional hotel experience should stay at Selman. This small-scale resort located on the outskirts of town carefully merges Parisian splendor with Moroccan opulence – a signature style of Jacques Garcia, the designer responsible for Selman’s grandeur.
Explore: Marrakech is home to some of the finest and most elaborate souks (open-air markets) in Northern Africa. Tour the famous Medina souks for your fill of handmade leather goods, rare spices and exotic herbal blends, all while perfecting your bargaining skills. Find tranquility and peace by visiting Yves Saint Laurent’s infamous Jardin Marjorelle, where shady paths are lined with exotic plants, ponds and pools filled with lotus and waterlilies. If you’re looking to escape town, book a guided day trip to the Atlas Mountains and Three Valleys to enjoy scenic views, traditional camel rides and traditional Berber culture including a house visit. Don’t miss views of Koutoubia, the city’s largest and most impressive mosque. Best seen by non-Muslims from the Tin Mal Mosque and constructed in the twelfth century, the Koutoubia Mosque is one of the finest examples of Moroccan-Andalusian architecture.
If visiting museums are a must, then add the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) to your checklist. Founded by a local family, MACAAL is one of only two continental African museums to display African art. That paired with its stunning location on the edge or Marrakech makes it well worth a visit.
Caffeine Fix: One of the best things about Marrakech is its traditional ‘Maghrebi’ mint tea, which is typically enjoyed warm after meals all year round. This ancient blend of fresh mint and sugar is the perfect pick-me-up after indulging in a variety of Moroccan mezze.
Dine: Experience a rare yet delectable fusion of traditional Moroccan and Vietnamese cuisines at Bô-Zin, one of Marrakech’s newest hotspots that also features a casual lounge area for larger groups and livelier evenings. For a truly Moroccan experience, be sure to book a table for dinner at Dar Yacout, a landmark destination in the heart of the Medina where multiple courses are served in a stunning courtyard setting.
Relax: Although cultural excursions are lovely, a vacation isn’t complete without some serious R&R. We recommend lounging poolside at Selman, mostly for its incredible size and setting, but also because the cabanas and service are unparalleled.
Photographs by @MrEssentialist