Different types of Marrakech accommodation
From hostels to luxury boutique riad hotels
Marrakech is a much-favoured destination for tourists from Europe and elsewhere. In fact, it is the 7th most desired destination out of a choice of 50 cities according to a study done by the Huffington Post.
Marrakesh is very popular especially with Europeans as it is in the same time zone as England and just a one-hour difference with other European cities. By air it takes only 2 or 3 hours to arrive in a place radically different to the one you just left. Marrakesh is perfect for a city break and escaping to another world.
Marrakech has the charm of being at once a new cultural experience and one that combines the familiar with the exotic. The new town of Guèliz, created by the French, with its outdoor cafés and boutiques reminds you of Europe. The old city of Marrakech, the medina, reminds you of old cities in general when they were enclosed within city walls—a kind of time travel.
For those planning a holiday to Marrakech, Morocco, there is a wealth of accommodation to choose from. Choosing which suits you best is a matter of personal taste.
So here is a brief resumé of accommodation in Marrakech for when you visit Marrakech.
Hotels in Marrakech Morocco
Marrakech luxury hotels
There are plenty of 5 star Marrakech hotels, luxury hotels with hundreds of rooms and smart lobbies offering the comfort of amenities and service one expects from five star hotels in Marrakech. So among them you can find the best Marrakech hotels. This kind of hotel is mostly booked by tour operators bringing large groups of tourists to Marrakech.
There are some old, venerable hotels in Marrakech. One Marrakech hotel, the Mamounia Hotel (see ‘Our Tips’ below), is one of the top hotels in Marrakech that offer charm and luxury. It still refers to its glorious past when the likes of Winston Churchill would choose to winter in this luxury hotel Marrakech.
Nowadays, there are also many more Marrakech hotels that are brand new – mostly 5 star Marrakech hotels - many built on the outskirts of Marrakech.
One of the best hotels in Marrakesh
Another of the best hotels in Marrakech that is close to the main square, Place Jemaa el Fna’, is the one commissioned by the king, the Royal Mansour Hotel, one of the few 6 star hotels in the world and certainly the only hotel in Marrakech with such a rating. It may be called the best hotel in Marrakech, and also the most expensive. It is certainly a true luxury hotel in Marrakech. Many more super luxury hotels in Marrakech are still under construction.
A great many of these large luxury hotels in Marrakech also offer a spa experience. The Mamounia has just re-designed its luxurious spa retreat to great acclaim.
Plenty of the larger hotels describe themselves as Marrakech boutique hotels – but really they have several hundred rooms and do not offer the boutique hotel experience. For that, the riads in Marrakech medina offer the best boutique hotel experience.
Marrakech resorts :
There are no real Marrakech resorts, usually just modern hotels with swimming pools and several restaurants.
Cheap hotels Marrakech:
Of course, there are also plenty of cheap hotels in Marrakech as well as all inclusive hotels in Marrakech, such as the ubiquitous Club Mediterranée.
So far, the choice is between luxury hotels in Marrakech or cheap hotels in Marrakech. We’re glad to say that for places to stay in Marrakech, the city of Marrakech offers alternative accommodation to the large 5 star hotels or cheap hotels – something unique to Marrakech: Marrakech riads *.
Riads in Marrakech medina
These are sometimes described as hotels in Marrakech medina. They can be better described as boutique hotels in Marrakech as many have just 5 rooms, slightly bigger ones have 8 rooms or suites. There is the occasional riad in Marrakech medina with more rooms/suites.
You can divide these between luxury riads Marrakech, moderately-priced Marrakech riads, (albeit with all modern comforts), and cheap riads in Marrakech.
Luxury hotels/riads run as Marrakech boutique hotels offer wonderful Moroccan architecture, uniquely designed rooms or suites, modern conveniences, often free WiFi, and great service. For many, these beat out many of the best hotels Marrakech. Plus they are hotels in Marrakech city centre. You step out of your door and you’re there already!
Our recommendations for exclusive rental of riad
Marrakech riads are in general wonderful places to arrange get-togethers with friends, family reunions, celebrating special occasions, hen parties, etc. as they offer great personalized service and it is like a home away from home - without the work - as the staff prepare breakfast, keep the place clean and are on hand to respond to your requests. Meals can be ordered in the riad. Riads offer several places to relax and hang out with your friends/family.
If you are a small group, then we highly recommend Dar Zaman, close to Riad Sapphire and Spa. The riad has 4 lovely rooms and can accommodate 8 people.
If you are a larger group, then Riad Sapphire and Spa can accommodate 23 adults or children + 1 extra child.
Riads with private hammam and spa in Marrakech
Some Marrakech riads also offer the spa/hammam experience so you feel totally pampered.
A Marrakech spa hotel within a riad is a luxurious experience featuring home-style Moroccan hammams that are totally private.
So why choose a Marrakech riad over a hotel in Marrakech? Charm, uniqueness, peaceful ambience of a former age, an authentic experience in the old city of Marrakech, great service and also price—all these factors contribute to a memorable holiday in Marrakech Morocco. All add to the pleasure when visiting Marrakech. Given the hustle and bustle and the sensory overload of Marrakech souks, it is desirable to find a place of peace and quiet to relax and go over the experiences of the day. A stay in a riad in Marrakech is perfect for this.
How the renovation of riad hotels in Marrakech started
Around 20 years ago, a Belgian architect, Quentin Wilbaux, while working on his masters’ thesis recognized that many really beautiful residential homes or palaces in the old city of Marrakech (the medina) were falling into ruin. Wilbaux took photographs of 6,000 houses in Marrakech medina as part of his masters’ thesis. His familiarity with the architecture of these ancient houses, rundown for lack of funds, and his recognition that these buildings were something worth preserving led him to start the renovation of several riads *. He has written several books on Marrakech, such as Marrakesh: The Secret of Courtyard Houses.
In fact, it was looking at a book on Moroccan Interiors that prompted us to purchase one of these Marrakech riads. We travelled several times to Marrakech in our search for the best riad in Marrakech to renovate and be a place to stay for family and friends. We had already heard about the renovation of these architectural gems and had attempted to book our stay in one of them. Unfortunately, the internet was not what it is today and we were unable to find one to book and ended up staying in a modern hotel without any of the ambience of riads. We were really disappointed.
How we came to purchase our first riad in Marrakech
On another visit to Marrakech, we eventually found an old house in the medina that we thought was worth renovating. We completed the purchase and during an invitation for tea by the then-owners, we met a charming man who explained a lot about the legalities of purchasing a riad in Marrakech and about renovating one. We had no idea who he was but he turned out to be the brother of the lady we were buying from and who in fact had worked with Quentin Wilbaux on the renovation of riads in Marrakech medina. Abdellatif Ait Ben Abdallah ** is unschooled with no formal education in architecture, but he obviously learned a lot in the Belgian architect’s employ. In addition, he is a most gracious host and has become a friend.
He took us to two places he owned in the Sidi ben Slimane area of the Marrakech medina, one now operated as a restaurant, Dar Zellije, and the other as one of the best Marrakech medina hotels, Riad Al Jazira. We were so impressed with the quality and design of his riads that we asked if he could renovate the one we had just purchased from his sister. He said he no longer did that kind of work but he would send us one of his pupils, which he did, and that is how we ourselves started in creating another boutique hotel in Marrakech.
During the renovation work, we were told we would need a night guard to stay in the riad when we were not there. We would also need a cleaning lady as the central courtyard means that dust in the air penetrates the riad and thus needs constant cleaning. With a staff of two to maintain, we decided it would be best to rent out the riad as a boutique riad in Marrakech – something we had not planned on at all. But often some of the best things in life are not planned and come about serendipitously. Such it was with us.
So, we may be biased, but we think that riad boutique hotels are by far the best places to stay in Marrakech. They can be luxury boutique riad hotels or cheap riad hotels. Nowadays, there is a variety to suit all budgets.
Why are riads the best place to stay in Marrakech?
You get an authentic experience in a residential part of the old city and still have modern comforts.
Great service. Riads are well-known to provide more personalized service than you can expect in a large hotel.
You can explore the narrow lanes of the old city of Marrakesh just by stepping out the door – we’ll guide you when you first arrive and lend you a mobile phone for when you’re on your own so you can call us if you do get lost. Having said that getting lost is part of the fun because you know you will eventually end up on one of the main roads where most people are headed.
You can enjoy wonderful homemade Moroccan cuisine, either for lunch or dinner. Moroccan breakfasts are freshly prepared with additions like Moroccan pancakes to sample
You can go shopping in a vibrant part of the Marrakech medina
It just takes a cheap, taxi ride to stroll around the new town of Guèliz to boutiques with high quality clothing, household articles and items of unique design, expertly made. Soak in the street scene and relax while sipping a coffee in one of the many street cafés.
Last comment? A riad hotel in the medina of Marrakech is a great place to stay in Marrakech.
Tips for your stay in Marrakech
If you can’t afford the likes of 5 star hotels like the Mamounia, not to mention the 6 star hotel experience of The Royal Mansour, just go by for afternoon tea and a stroll in the lobby and gardens at the Mamounia hotel. Maybe even book a lunch or evening meal in their restaurants. Another suggestion is to book a spa treatment in their fabulous spas.
For a full real-life experience of life in the medina of Marrakech, do stay in a riad. Even better, one with its own private spa so you can experience a Moroccan hammam in luxury. Follow it up with a massage using Moroccan essential oils and you’ll think you’re in heaven.
* What is a riad?
According to Wikipedia, a riad (Arabic: رياض) is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard. The word riad comes from the Arabian term for garden. Due to transliteration from Arabic into European languages, the word is spelled differently, as “riad” or "ryad" of “riyadh”. The ancient Roman city of Volubilis provides a reference for the beginnings of riad architecture during the rule of the Idrisid Dynasty.
A smaller place would be described as a ‘dar’ meaning home, house or residence. They would also have central courtyard but small compared to the riads that generally have larger courtyards, often planted with trees and flowers.
Riads were traditionally multi-generational family homes, but today they often serve as guesthouses in Marrakech and can be described as luxury boutique hotels Marrakech, riad hotels in Marrakech, luxury riads Marrakech Medina, boutique hotel Marrakech. In fact, riads are one of the best places to stay in Marrakech.
** Abdellatif Ait Ben Abdallah, considered by many the saviour of the medina, states “There was what can be best described as a flight from the medina after Morocco gained independence in 1956. Nobody wanted to live in the riads anymore. The population moved to the new city.” He has worked on the restoration of around 100 riads since teaming up with Belgian architect Wilbaux around two decades ago and is acutely aware of their cultural and historical importance. “There was no tourism in the medina at that time,” remembers Abdellatif, who was considered crazy when he decided to convert a crumbling riad into a guesthouse in the medina of Marrakech. Now he’s the owner of one of the best riads in Marrakech.