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Medina, Marrakech - Morocco

The beauty, complexity and sheer glamour of the city's inner sanctum has always drawn colourful characters who feed on lovely architecture and enticing cuisinse. By Tara Stevens

Travel Time 1hrs 10min

Why go?

When, from his suite at the iconic La Mamounia hotel, Winston Churchill declared Marrakech the most beautiful place in the world, he had a point. It’s impossibly lovely. A place where dusky pink architecture framed by Atlas Mountain peaks and palms blend seamlessly with the riotous scents, colours and sounds of the souks.

To pass a weekend in its mind-bending medina is to find magic in every moment, whether you’re roaming the souks, dripping with brass lanterns and soft babouches (leather slippers), that snake from Dar el Bacha to the Place des Épices; strolling through Le Jardin Secret; or soaking up visual history at the Maison de la Photographie. Then there’s shopping for kaftans at Norya AyroN, Berber carpets at Soufiane Zarib, or Moroccan pop art at Hassan Hajjaj’s gallery shop Riad Yima. The sensorial bliss of languishing in orange-blossom
steam at the Hammam de la Rose is not to be passed up either, nor savouring pots of tangia (meat cooked in the embers of the hammam) at the night market on Jemaa el-Fnaa, or a sunset cocktail among the rooftops.

Little wonder colourful characters have used it as their playground, from Yves Saint Laurent, who is honoured at the dazzling Musée YSL, to Talitha Getty, who hosted both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones
one Christmas at Le Palais du Zahir, and Madonna, who held her 60th birthday at El Fenn. Expect hedonistic charm by the bucketful.


Marrakech was founded in 1062 by Yusuf ibn Tashfin, leader of the
Almoravid tribe whose reign extended to Muslim Spain. The intricate, domed Qubba, built in the 12th century, is a wonderful relic of the era’s design feats.

The city was soon seized by the Almohad tribe, whose leader, Abd al-Mu’min, instructed the building of the iconic Koutoubia Mosque and set about extending his rule across the Mahgreb, before the Merinids took control at the end of the 13th century. By the 1500s it was the turn of the Saadians, and vestiges of their exuberant tastes remain in the shape of the recently restored Ben Youssef Medersa and decorated Saadian tombs. The Alaouite dynasty – the current reigning monarchs – rose to power in the mid-17th century and a twirl around the Bahia
Palace gives a sense of courtly life by the start of the 20th century.

What to do

Where to stay

To soak up the city’s atmosphere, stay in a traditional dar or riad – it’s said the medina has over 5,000 of them so you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Riad Mena & Beyond is the ultimate in peace and serenity, with spacious living areas and terraces, breezy cotton drapes and
a generous pool.

The sleek Riad 37 offers cooling grey tones and an innovative approach to New Moroccan Cuisine, while Riad Botanica puts wellbeing first. Think decor inspired by nature, mindful planting that harnesses the healing properties of local plants, and a healthy, plant-forward menu.

At pint-sized Riad Alena expect jewel-toned tadelakt, mid-century furniture and revolving art exhibitions across its three rooms, plus breakfast and supper by the fire.

Keenly priced Riad Tizwa offers laid-back luxe with plush bed linens, the fluffiest robes and a hearty breakfast consumed wherever, and whenever, you’d like.

For lovers of fine textiles and ceramics, designer LRNCE is set to open Rosemary hotel in June – with everything from bathroom sinks to bedroom fabrics hand-crafted in her trademark Picasso-esque lines in a muted Marrakech palette. Keep an eye out at

Where to eat and drink

Skip breakfast at your riad at least once in favour of coffee and croissants fluttering with gold leaf at glamorous Bacha Coffee, Dar el Bacha.

El Fenn’s five-salad lunch is justifiably famous. Expect hearty plates showcasing seasonal produce with a cool glass of pale Moroccan gris.

At Nomad, atmospheric views over the Place des Épices set the
scene for revisited Moroccan dishes like sardine tart with tapenade and chermoula-roasted cauliflower. On the other side of the square at L’mida, chef and food writer Nargisse Benkabbou delivers her spin on modern Moroccan in dishes like Berber gnocchi and chermoula poké

There’s no better place for mezze than the oasis of Le Jardin; or you could retreat to the charming La Famille for hearty quiches, salads and homemade cakes.

is the medina evening spot fuelled by cold beers, killer cocktails and late-night sushi.

Want to dig deeper? Get in touch with Amanda Mouttaki at Marrakech Food Tours.

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Travel Information

Travel Information

Getting There


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