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A Foodie's Marrakech: Where to eat and where to stay
Mysterious and welcoming, Marrakech has been a medina town for as long as it can remember. A place desert caravans converged upon, bringing in wonders from all over Morocco and the world beyond. The flavours of the spices, and recipes, brought in off the desert, are one kind of wonder, and one of the reasons Marrakech is considered a heaven for foodies. So for those of you here to eat, here are some recommendations for the best places to stay in Marrakech for foodies - either because of their restaurant's reputation, the renown of their chef or cooking school, or just 'cause they're close to some of the best foodie haunts in town.
Marrakech has no shortage of choice when it comes to eating, with everything from street food to sumptuous feasts. The very best meal you have here may not be from a world renowned tasting menu or even a perfectly tender teyhan (spleen) kebab in the medina, but something home cooked served on the rooftop of your riad. Which ever of the best places to stay in Marrakech for foodies that you choose it's worth giving the staff plenty of notice about any dietary requirements, as they'll more than likely tailor a menu to your needs.
Wherever you're dining the traditional way to enjoy your food is with your bare right hand - use breads to scoop - and plenty of gusto!
The frenetic streets and alleyways leading towards Djemaa el-Fna Square are filled with people finishing long journeys - some load off buses, some have carts. Tuareg, Berbers and other tribesmen come in off the Sahara to trade amongst mysterious herbs drying in the sun, heaped piles of colourful spices and air thick with the smell and smoke of cooking. Mmmmmm. Which is why the area around the medina is one of the best places to stay in Marrakech for foodies.
Part of the experience is the atmosphere. This isn't street food for the sake of being a hipster, this is street food because of necessity, and in amongst the goggle-eyed visitors you'll find workers and locals finding lunch or supper just the way they always have.
The medina is rife with new experiences for the adventurous: sheep's brains - or a whole sheep's head even, sheep's intestines, grilled sheep's hearts, stuffed camel's spleen and loads of snails. That'll be the French influence, but here it's common for snails to be served in a broth.
If you're not feeling that adventurous there are plenty of sausage dishes, fish, familiar kebabs, tagines and veggie dishes. You'll also find stalls specialising in egg sandwiches, and then the sweet stalls with their cakes, dates and juices.
Eating from the busiest stalls usually means you get the freshest ingredients and cleanest cooking oils. And it's recommended you bring your own water bottle and eat with your hands to avoid hastily washed utensils. It's also worth saying that there are only a few licensed restaurants in the medina.
If you venture into the medina and start to feel a bit lost, pop into a store to ask for directions, then you're most likely to get the free, unaccompanied version of the answer - if that's what you're looking for! It's also a good idea to look up - minarets and distinctive mosque roofs make great points to get your bearings from.
The New Town
The Ville Nouvelle - New Town, just west of the medina is arranged in a much more orderly way, with modern roads and street signs. The Gueliz area, with its numerous busy bars and restaurants, is a good area to head for - you're bound to find something tasty there. There are more licensed restaurants in this area. And if for you the wine accompanying the meal is important, here are some of the best places to stay in Marrakech for foodies who appreciate a decent wine list.
Best Places to Learn to Cook in Marrakech
If the idea of getting lost in the muddle of 43 districts which makes up the labyrinthine medina doesn't particularly appeal then maybe it's a good idea to get a guide. And there are numerous options if you're looking for foodie guides - in fact some of the cooking schools will lead you on forays into the medina, showing you the wheres and wherefores. This is also a great way to build up the confidence to try some of those more exotic sounding specialities…
Many of the best places to stay in Marrakech for foodies actually offer cooking classes on their own premises. And this is a great, low risk and comfortable way to taste the flavours of Marrakech.
While tasting Marrakech it's worth remembering that this town has some wonderful one-dish meals - perfect for your travelling trader on the move, just come in off the High Atlas passes. Try bisarra, a hearty, white bean soup, or tangia, slow cooked lamb shoulder. If you're here to eat, then it's also a good idea to head out into the desert to try a Berber lunch - tours usually leave out of Imlil.
Best Places to Stay in Marrakech for Foodies
- Founded in the 40s, in its heyday La Maison Arabe was the most talked about restaurant in Marrakech - and then in 1997 it was turned into a luxury hotel, and became one of the best places to stay in Marrakech for foodies. The atmosphere of lanterns and classical music sets the mood perfectly, but it's the menu you'll fall in love with - with plenty of traditional options including some of the heartiest tagines in town. These days there are two restaurants and a cooking school.
- A stylishly modern riad, Maison MK is one of the best places to stay in Marrakech for foodies looking for fusion! Just as the decor is a carefully balanced blend of old and new and North African and European, so is the menu. Try the Moroccan chef's five course tasting menu and go from there.
Medina Adjacent Riad Recommendations
- If you found a stone on the roof terrace of Le Riad Monceau you could throw it into Djemaa el-Fna Square, so this has to be one of the best places to stay in Marrakech for foodies who want to be right in the medina. Of course it also has one of the best restaurants in town as well, and a traditional hammam, so you can have a pre-supper pampering.
- Riyad Al Moussika is the one to book if you want a traditional style riad. There are only six classically designed rooms, looking out onto the beautiful swimming pool and gardens in the central courtyard. It's hard to believe this haven of culinary tranquility is right by the centre of town!
- If your idea of eating well involves multi-course gastronomic dinners, Riad Kniza is for you. As well as being known for outstanding cuisine, this eleven room, traditional style riad is also known for its antiques - one of the owners is a dealer so there are some excellent pieces. Definitely one of the best places to stay for foodies who want to live like Kings or queens.
Best Hotel Cooking Classes in Marrakech
- Dar Les Cigognes was voted best cooking school in Morocco 2012, so is definitely one of the best places to stay in Marrakech for foodies wanting to hone their skills here. The fusion of the decor and food is the same: Moroccan and European - though in the case of the food it edges more towards the Mediterranean. Which is proving to be a winning combination.
- Excellent value and a great destination for those who'd like to learn the ins and outs of Moroccan cuisine is the Riad Dar Zaman. Chef Karima will take you to the souk, help you pick your ingredients, then teach you how to cook them.
- The Riyad el Cadi is good for foodie families. As well as offering cooking classes that welcome folks of all ages - specialising in tagines - this elegant riad has several large suites and family rooms. But it's still very beautiful and not at all 'dumbed-down' for kids.
On the outskirts of Marrakech
- The Jardins d'Issil is one of the best places to stay in Marrakech for foodies looking for romance. A collection of 15 caïdal tents, which are like mini marquees, is set up around a large central pool. You can also sup around the pool, under awnings, or go for something more formal in the restaurant.
- Small and luxurious, Dar Zemora has a country house hotel feel about it, set as it is amongst olives, palms and citrus fruit trees. Giant bathtubs welcome you after a long, hot day in the market, before you relax with a chilled glass of wine before enjoying a fine meal - that's what you call a holiday!
- Come to Dar Ayniwen if you want to eat well and relax. This gorgeous haven is just a short drive from the centre of town, but within its five acres of green gardens it feels like your own oasis of green calm. They also offer free cooking classes to hotel guests.
La Maison Arabe 26 rooms from $221Marrakech (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.LuxuryRestaurant - 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.
Jardins d'Issil 17 rooms from $86Marrakech (Sidi Abdallah Ghiat)
A cluster of caïdal tents in the rugged countryside fringing Marrakech. Enchanting Moroccan interiors set a romantic tone with flowing drapes, candles and cushions. Dine on local dishes in the dappled shade of the aromatic gardens. True paradise!Exclusive offer - B&B specialRomantic Break - Romantic Moroccan style tents in a poolside paradise - the perfect romantic retreatSwimming Pool - Large outdoor poolOpulentDesigner - Uniquely designed interiors.
Dar Les Cigognes 11 rooms from $176Marrakech 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 OfferCity Style - Magical rooms in a stylish Riad, with award winning restaurant and extensive spa services- all in the center of Marrakech!ElegantCooking 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
Riad Dar Zaman 4 rooms from $84Marrakech (Sidi Ben Slimane)
Charming four roomed riad situated in the heart of the medina. Traditionally decorated rooms feature berber rugs and original hand-crafted pieces. Delicious Moroccan cuisine and cooking classes available too. Beautiful sun terrace with views to the mountains. An excellent value chic retreat.Exclusive offer - Free transfer and dinnerGroups - Take over the whole riad for a stay to remember!Views - Fantastic views over the medina and to the Atlas Mountains in the distance from the roof terrace.Cooking classes - Scour the souks for ingredients, then return to the Riad to learn how to cook them.Restrictions on children - No children under 12 unless you take over the whole property
Riyad Al Moussika 5 rooms from $246Marrakech (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 poolRecommended by - Tablet
Riyad el Cadi 15 rooms from $154Marrakech (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 featuresLocal markets - Explore the wonderful and wild souks haggle over an array of textiles, carpets, leatherwork, spices and jewellery.
Dar Zemora 6 rooms from $248Marrakech
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 explorationRomantic Break - A romantic haven, with lavish fourposter beds, incredible six-course dinners and lush gardens for strolling hand in hand.Swimming Pool - Two outdoor poolsFull of character
Riad Kniza 11 rooms from $212Marrakech
Opulent surroundings, antiques and artworks - the chance to live like a royal in this expertly-run riad. Lavish rooms are exceedingly spacious with ornate furniture and moroccan styled modern bathrooms. The cuisine is worthy of a visit alone. The spa is heavenly. A spoiling stay.Hideaway - Impossible to leave, with a spa, three courtyards, warm and welcoming library and drawing room, rooftop terrrace and a pool.Foodies - Excellent and indulgent multi course Moroccan cuisine served wherever you choose.Sights nearby - Within easy access of some of the best sites including Saadian Tombs, Koutoubia Mosque, El Badi Palace and Ben Youssef Medersa.Local markets - Personal tours and shopping expeditions from owner Haj Mohamed Bouskri, a renowned antique dealer.
Le Riad Monceau 10 rooms from $156Marrakech
Stunning, luxury riad-hotel, featuring a gastronomic Moroccan restaurant and Cookery School. Sublime bedrooms with private jacuzzis, attractive patio with swimming pool, traditional hammam spa, and one of Marrakech's best restaurants. For those who like the finer things in life.City Style - A chic 18th-century Hispano-Moorish Riad just off Jemaa el-Fnaa, with rooftop terrace offering views of the Koutoubia Mosque.Foodies - A feast for all the senses, the restaurant is described as 'the Mecca of Moroccan cuisine in the Marrakech medina'.Local markets - The Riad is only a three minute walk to the souks where you can spend hours rummaging around and haggling for a deal.Sights nearby - Right off the famed Djemaa El Fna square, where you will always find something going on from dawn to dusk.
Maison MK 6 rooms from $497Marrakech
A fabulously relaxing and romantic retreat in a frenetic city. Subtly lit rooms with neutral tones and sensual shapes. Sensational food, fantastic hammam, and wonderful roof top terrace. Truly luxurious.Honeymoons - Honeymoon heaven, with a bottle of bubbly on arrival, romantic rooftop terrace, pampering spa and private dining options.Foodies - Spectacular Moroccan-French fusion- the five course tasting menu with rooftop drinks and canape reception, is a MUST!Great walks - Wander the streets of the old city, watch a snake charmer, bargain for some goods, and most importantly get lost!Cooking classes - With two courses- one hardcore cooking, the other includes an interesting visit to the local market.
Dar Ayniwen 8 rooms from $214Palmeraie de Marrakech
An exclusive and romantic haven amidst tranquil gardens and only a short drive from the centre of Marrakech – the perfect place to relax and enjoy a dash of opulence.Cooking classes - Free cookery classes for hotel guests!Romantic - Good for couples.SpaSwimming Pool - Indoor/outdoor