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Riads of Marrakech

Most countries have their own distinct forms of accommodation. In England it's the village inn, in France the gite, in Mexico the hacienda and in Spain the finca. In Morocco we have the Marrakech riad, though they can also be found in Fez, Essauoira and elsewhere, but they are most identified with Marrakech.

What is a Riad?

Riad, which can also be spelt Riyad or Ryad, is the Arabic word for a traditional house or palace with an interior garden, designed to provide both cool shade from the heat outside, as well as privacy for the family, especially the women. Consequently the walls of a Marrakech riad are typically very thick, made of mud, brick or clay, with no exterior facing windows, just a grilled entrance and a heavy studded door. Once inside, however, a magical world is revealed, of scented potted plants, lemon trees, birdsong, and often a tinkling fountain.

Riad Resurrections

Over the years, many Marrakech riads had fallen into disrepair, but recent times have seen their resurrection, and reinvention, as exotic places to stay for visitors. Ironically, those who perhaps have appreciated the style of these Marrakech riads the most have been the visitors themselves, so many of them have been bought by French and German fans of riad life and developed by them into hotels and restaurants.

Shopping in Marrakech

It has to be the souk, for spices, rugs, shawls, fabric, tactile rounded clay and wooden cooking utensils, lamps, lanterns and the all important items that you don't know you need until you see them. Haggling is vital and expected so don't be shy to offer half or less the first suggested price. If noisy busy shopping environments are not your idea of fun, go anyway for the enjoyment of returning to your Riad and marvelling at the instant calm and quiet. Even Riads which are right in the bustling medina manage to pull off this impressive trick.

North African Cookery Lessons

With the huge popularity of North African food based around slow-cooked tagines and cous cous, there are now many excellent cookery schools and classes in Marrakech. Many of us think of cous cous as a quick easy alternative to rice - in Marrakech you can learn how to take three hours to prepare the most delicious cous cous you have ever eaten. Dar Les Cigones, Dar Tchaikana and Dar Fakir are among our recommended Riads which offer cookery classes. The Faim D'Epices and La Maison Arabe schools are also popular.

Here's a selection of Marrakech riads we recommend as places where you are likely to get the most authentic, historic atmosphere. Many of these have been bought and restored by art dealers and collectors so it's not just the buildings that are special, but also the art collections within.

For a full list, consult the best hotels in Marrakech, or see our article on the Marrakech Medina for more guidance on staying in these truly authentic riads.

Classic Marrakech Riads

These Marrakech riads have been converted from classic historic buildings, and all include the traditional interior garden as well as wonderful roof terraces. There's nothing more magical than eating traditional Moroccan cous-cous or tagine while reclining on silk cushions by the light of flickering candles in the courtyard at night, perhaps beside a limpid pool - or waking up to the heat of the day over croissants and coffee on the rooftop.

  • Dar Zemora 6 rooms from $239


    A small traditional hotel nestled in gardens of olive, palm and citrus trees. Local Moroccan designs give a warm colourful feel yet all the mod cons are in place for contemporary living. The dining rooms deep red walls and candle lit tables make for romantic dining. Ideal for completely unwinding.

    Country Escape  -  A totally tranquil property near the bustling city of Marrakesh making it the ideal place to relax after a days exploration
    Romantic Break  -  A romantic haven, with lavish fourposter beds, incredible six-course dinners and lush gardens for strolling hand in hand.
    Swimming Pool  -  Two outdoor pools
    Full of character
    Recommended by  -  I Escape, Mr & Mrs Smith
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  • Riad El Fenn 20 rooms from $261


    A designer riad, owned by Vanessa Branson, and furnished with flair in the heart of the Marrakech medina. Lush gardens, secluded terraces and courtyards, surrounding fragrant rose gardes, and magnificent views of the city. The ultimate place for wellbeing.

    Honeymoons  -  Stunning suites and spectacular views, spa treatments and belly dancers plus unbeatable food- what more could you want?
    Chic  -  An arty riad filled with British modern art and Moroccan collectables.
    Roof terrace  -  Magical views at night.
    Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith, I Escape, Kiwi Collection
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  • Riad Farnatchi 9 rooms from $276

    Marrakech (Rue Souk el Fassis)

    An elegant luxury riad right in the heart of Marrakech. The chic airy suites feel spoiling and romantic, with private balconies, Egyptian cotton sheets and handmade furnishings. Traditional white marble hammam is an ideal way to unwind after a day in the Souks. A really exquisite and intimate spot.

    Local markets  -  Just ten mins from Jemaâ El Fna Square.
    Cooking classes  -  There are a whole range of classes available from extensive courses to a day in the market followed by learning a dish or two.
    Great walks  -  Guided tours to help you uncover the history of Marrakech, get your bearings in the souks or even find the perfect carpet.
    Sights nearby  -  Ben Youssef Madrasa is just two minutes away.
    Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith, I Escape, Tablet, Kiwi Collection
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  • Dar Les Cigognes 11 rooms from $172

    Marrakech Medina

    An understated and elegance Riad, in the heart of Marrakech. The beautifully decorated rooms fuse Moroccan and European styles to create enchanting spaces. Fantastic views from the roof top terrace, while you chow down on award winning delicious food. Simply magical.

    Exclusive offer  -  Free Night Offer
    City Style  -  Magical rooms in a stylish Riad, with award winning restaurant and extensive spa services- all in the center of Marrakech!
    Cooking classes  -  Learn to cook traditional Moroccan food with the school that was voted Best Moroccan Cooking School in the world.
    Local markets  -  Less than a ten minute walk away you'll find Jamaâ El Fna Square, the main market in Marrakech
    Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith, Tablet
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  • La Maison Arabe 26 rooms from $216

    Marrakech (Bab Doukkala)

    Iconic restaurant turned luxury hotel, in the Medina of Marrakech. The decor is a sublime combination of traditional Moroccan craftsmanship and smart European style. Every detail sings charm, old-school elegance, and history.

    Restaurant  -  Recommended.
    Local markets  -  Ten minutes from Jamaâ El Fna Squarem, with plenty of smaller souks nearby.
    Great walks  -  Head out to Majorelle Gardens for a peaceful stroll.
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  • Riyad el Cadi 15 rooms from $150

    Marrakech (Dabachi)

    Calm, stylish refuge filled with fine furniture and art. Beautiful white washed patios and roof top sun terrace. A place of tranquility and calm. Its accommodations are well suited for families. A stay in history, amidst history.

    City Style  -  Five stunning 14th-century Riads, with enchanting interiors, cool leafy courtyard and tented roofterrace, right in the Medina.
    Local exploring  -  Just around the corner from the all-singing, all-dancing, fire-eating, snake-charming, food-vending madness of Djemaa el-Fna.
    Artworks  -  Lofty architecture, museum-worthy textiles, historic objects d’art and original frescoed features
    Local markets  -  Explore the wonderful and wild souks haggle over an array of textiles, carpets, leatherwork, spices and jewellery.
    Recommended by  -  I Escape
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Intimate Marrakech Riads

For small family groups or special occasions, you can often rent the whole riad exclusively, and the following riads are amongst the smallest and most imtimate, ideal for hiring for a weekend.

  • Riyad Al Moussika 5 rooms from $240

    Marrakech (Kennaria)

    An intimate and romantic riad with excellent service. Courtyards flooded with sunlight, opulent shaded rooms, delicious Italian-Moroccan-French cuisine- the perfect romantic hideaway.

    Great walks  -  Explore The Medina's famously rabbit warren-esq streets, be sure to bring a hotel card as getting lost is all part of it!
    Local markets  -  Just five minutes from Jamâa El Fna Sqaure where you can find killer bargains, or simply observe the hustle and bustle.
    Sights nearby  -  Explore the magnificent Bahia Palace and Gardens, orginally built by a slave who rose to be grand vizier.
    Swimming Pool  -  Courtyard pool
    Recommended by  -  Tablet
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  • Riad Tchaikana 5 rooms from $73


    Carefully displayed artworks at this minimalist-chic hotel in the heart of the medina. Stark white walls, authentic pottery and classical music in the communal areas. Great breakfasts and views over the city towards the mountains from the roof-top terrace. A perfectly designed riad.

    Total relaxation  -  Cool suites and leafy rooftop dinning offer a completely serene haven in the heart of busy Marrakech.
    Great walks  -  Head out into the winding alleys and streets of the Medina and wander, it's a great place to get lost and discover hidden jems.
    Local markets  -  Trawl the Marrakech souks for deals on carpets, jewels and leather goods.
    Sights nearby  -  The Koutoubia Mosque and gardens are only a 20-minute walk away.
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  • Riyad El Mezouar 5 rooms from $142

    Marrakech (Issebtinne 40000)

    Boutique hotel with an elegant aristocratic ambience. Its understated style avoids fake orientalism. It provides authentic peace and harmony with simpler white washed walls, orange trees, and a beautiful inner courtyard.

    Value chic
    Hideaway  -  An intimate spot with only 5 rooms.
    Swimming Pool  -  Small Plunge Pool
    Local markets  -  Good for local colour.
    Recommended by  -  Tablet
  • Riad Kaiss 9 rooms from $167

    Marrakech (Riad Zitoun Kedim)

    Magnificent, traditional riad in the Medina with easy access to the historic sites. Stunning rooms with exquisite touches, sun-drenched roof-tops, peace, calm and beauty.

    City Style
    Swimming Pool  -  Lovely Outdoor Pool
    Kids Club  -  Fully staffed.
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  • Dar Fakir 7 rooms from $94

    Marrakech (Kennaria, Medina)

    Romantic central Riad with flickering lights and cosy rooms. Exceptional value for money. Elegant rooms in Berber style in creams and beiges. A place to impress.

    City Style
    Cooking classes  -  Check for timings.
    Sights nearby  -  Well located for major sights.
    Local markets  -  Good for local colour.
    Check prices
  • Riad Sapphire & Spa 8 rooms from $157

    Marrakech (Sidi Ben Slimane)

    Brand new stylish riad situated in the heart of the Medina. Eight cool suites offer simple yet elegant furnishings with plenty of local craftmanship on display. Two marble courtyards for relaxing after a day at the souks, roof terrace to soak up mountain views and spa with hammam for pampering.

    Spa  -  Private hammam and spa
    Swimming Pool  -  Larger than average for a riad in the Medina
    Sights nearby  -  Situated in the heart of the Medina
    Designer  -  Uniquely designed interiors.
    Check prices


Written by James Dunford Wood

posted Friday, 1st February 2013
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