Marrakech is a city that holds a very special place in my heart, ever since my father took me when I was just 17 years old. Since my first ever trip, I’ve returned countless times, and with every visit, I fall a little more in love with its charm. It must speak to my inner hippie, there’s just something about its vibrant, nomadic feel that makes me feel so alive and carefree.
The city has a sense of mystery about it. From the bustling, colourful market and the sweet aromas wafting down the alleys, to the secret Rhiads and cave-like shops in the Medina, I’m always stumbling on something new and exciting to explore. For a true flavour of Marrakech, I love to stay in the Rhiads. There’s one for every preference, be it intimate, cute and rustic, or exquisitely designed with stunning gardens and a lavish spa to match. I definitely recommend Rhiad El Fenn, with its luxurious and calm vibe and unique, arty touches everywhere you turn. It’s bliss to be able to go for a morning or evening swim in one of the three pools, and then lounge on the roof terrace in the shady courtyard, filled with tortoises and palm trees. Some Rhiads, especially the smaller ones, can feel a little claustrophobic, but El Fenn is a real haven amidst the somewhat chaotic souks.
If I’m after something super luxurious and want to incorporate some wellbeing into my holiday, then I love staying at the Royal Mansour. This hotel is the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for a wellness destination, as its spa offers an array of amazing treatments, you can workout at the gym, take a dip in the heated outdoor swimming pool or just relax in the stunning gardens and indoor medina. It’s not lacking in character either, as the rooms and suites have been replaced by the most luxurious rhiads, and the corridors by winding alleyways. I could wander around this hotel and its grounds for hours and always find something new to wonder at.
I also highly recommend La Mamounia and The Royal Palm if you want to be blown away by luxury and breathtaking views. La Mamounia has the most incredible views of the surrounding gardens, the Atlas Mountains and the Koutoubia Mosque, and even has an Yves Saint Laurent boutique inside its grounds. If you want to escape the bustling city centre, then the Fairmont Royal Palm Hotel is nestled twenty minutes from the Medina, and is an oasis of luxury, with acres of palm, olive and orange trees lying in the shadow of the picturesque Atlas Mountains.
One of my absolute favourite restaurants in Marrakesh is Nomad. Every time I visit, there’s always something new on the menu to try, from Moroccan gazpacho to spicy harissa roasted cauliflower and the most wonderful lamb dishes. If you order one thing while you’re here, make it a spiced lamb dish with a huge, colourful salad and a fresh mint tea to wash it down with. The lamb over here is unlike anything you’ve ever tried, I guarantee you.
I also love Le Jardin, Terrace des Epices for its cool, shady outdoor garden space – ideal if you’re looking to escape the hot midday sun. Or, if you’re in the mood for people watching, Cafe De Espices is the perfect spot. One of my favourite things to do is to lounge on their roof terrace overlooking one of the most typical squares in the Medina, and soak up the vibrant, bustling market scene below.
One of the things I love about Marrakech is the huge choice of stunning gardens to explore. Le Jardin Secret is well worth a visit – a magical garden showcasing the best of Islamic art, science and architecture and plants from all over the world. It was designed to be a metaphor of heaven, a sacred place, meticulously laid out, but filled with wild, roaming exotic plants.
But my absolute favourite garden has got to be the YSL gardens – an enchanting garden which took French painter Jacques Majorelle forty years of passion and dedication to create. I remember walking past trickling streams and pools filled with water lilies and lotus flowers, taking in the sweet scents and the birdsong, and seeing a stunning building glowing with an intense blue – the colour that the artist perceived when he visited the Atlas Mountains. The building is surrounded by green palm trees and huge cacti, and is just so strikingly representative of the vibrancy of Marrakech.
Of course, having such a passion for skincare, I can’t leave out my love for the beauty rituals and hamman treatments that Marrakech does so well. If I want to feel well and truly pampered, then I always opt for a traditional hamman. You’re scrubbed from head to toe with Moroccan black soap (a mixture of a puree of black olives, natural oils and local plants) with an exfoliating Kessa glove, which leaves your skin as soft as a baby’s. I always pick up a bottle of Argan oil, which is my go-to when I need a nourishing hair mask, and can be mixed with essential oils to form a base oil for massage. Detoxifying Rhassoul clay face masks and calming rose water sprays are also great local skincare products to pick up while you’re there.
Just writing this has filled me with nostalgia, bringing back to life all the wonderful colours, scents and visual treats that this city offers. I can’t wait to go back, and I hope that reading this has given you a flavour of this special city, and maybe even inspires you to jump on a plane and experience it for yourself…Until next time, Marrakech.