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The Ultimate Guide to Marrakech Medina Hotels
Marrakech has become an ever more popular destination in recent years, and more often than not it's a Marrakech medina hotel or riad that people want to stay in. Marrakech has the advantage – for northern Europeans at least – of being a) just four hours flying away, so reachable by the low cost airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet, and b) exotic. It's the Marrakech Medina, above all, that gives it it's exoticism.
What does Medina mean?
Medina is an ancient Aramaic word meaning city, and in Marrakech it simply denotes the oldest part of town. It's a warren of small winding alleys, souks (marketplaces) and squares, with shops, houses, mosques and hammams crowded cheek-by-jowl in a space little larger than Soho in Central London. So if you want to have an authentic experience when holidaying in Marrakech, in the most atmospheric part of the city, a hotel or guesthouse in the Marrakech Medina is the best place to stay.
Staying in the Marrakech Medina? Beware fake reviews!
However, before choosing one – and we list our favourites below – you should bear in mind that these hotels and guesthouses – called riads or riyads in Morocco – differ from regular hotels in a few important respects. First, they are often hidden down dark back alleys, where the lighting is often not the best, so for nervous travellers they may seem daunting. Second, they are all in converted old buildings, so the construction will be traditional, the electrics and facilities not up to the standard of western hotels, and the fittings not as slick. There are also over 1000 converted riads in Marrakech, not all of them licensed. This, perhaps is the most important point – you need to choose a reputable riad if staying in the Marrakech Medina, because being in such old buildings, it's doubly important that fire regulations and safety aspects have been adhered to. With the boom in tourism to Marrakech it's become all too easy for unscrupulous landlords to turn their old houses into riads, converting them cheaply, with no regard for regulation. And don't just rely on Trip Advisor – the cleverest riad owners know how to game the system, with multiple faked reviews pushing their riads to the top.
If all of this seems challenging, there are plenty of four and five star hotels with all the mod cons in the New Town, just outside the medina. You can stay in comfort, and explore the old town and souks by day. But if you want atmosphere, head for one of our recommended riads in Marrakech medina.
Riads with pools in the Marrakech Medina
In the heat of summer, Marrakech Medina comes into it's own, with it's cool, dark alleys, shaded courtyards and tinkling fountains. However, the riads can still be hot, so you may want to choose one with air-conditioning. Also a swimming pool – though in these riads, because of the lack of space, these are generally little larger than plunge pools. For one with a larger than average offering the Riad Sapphire is a good option.
The Best Roof Terraces in the Medina
There are numerous delights about staying in Marrakech, but one of the most special is being able to sit outside and gaze across the rooftops as the muezzin call to prayer or the storks settle on the chimney pots, as you sip your orange juice (freshly squeezed) or sweet hot moroccan tea and plan your excursions for the day. For a great roof terrace we'd suggest booking into either Riad El Fenn or Riad Kaiss. The last riad in our list, Dar Les Cigognes, is in one of the oldest parts of the Marrakech Medina, right opposite the Royal Palace and it's numerous nesting storks, providing a fabulous view across the Medina from a delightful rooftop garden of orange trees and bourgainvillea.
Learn to Cook!
Another attraction of Marrakech is the plethora of good cooking classes laid on by a number of the riads. Moroccan food is not just about cous-cous and pidgeon - there are a wealth of dishes, pastries and salads, all using a wide variety of the freshest ingredients. For example, Dar Les Cigognes' owner Eben Lenderking has written a charming book on Moroccan cuisine, and his riad was voted Best Cooking School in Morocco in 2012 (see above). Other riads worth considering if you want to come away with a new skill are Riad dar Zaman and Riad el Cadi . Oh, and you eat well here too...
Luxury riads in the Marrakech Medina
If you are on honeymoon, or if you simply want to splash out on a little more comfort, there are a handful of so-called luxury riads in the Marrakech medina. However, it's somewhat of an elastic concept in Marrakech, because the best riads have been lovingly restored by passionate and cultured owners with more or less luxury according to their personal style - and they come from from all nations. You can really tell, as these are not just places to stay for guests, but often homes too, and they provide a lifestyle for the owners that is hard to beat. I'm thinking here of Vanessa Branson and the Riad El Fenn, Meryanne Loum-Martin and the beautiful Jnane Tamsna (in the Palmerie), Herwig Bartels' Riad El Cadi (now run by his daughter Julia) or Eben Lenderking and his Sansouci Collection. So by all means consider the two more traditionally luxurious riads we recommend here - Maison MK and La Maison Arabe, but remember that some of our favourite riads don't have flat screen TVs - or indeed TVs at all! (PS - the Maison Arabe is right on the edge of the Marrakech Medina, but accessible by car).
Other Marrakech hotels and riads
To see our complete list of riads and hotels, both in the Marrakech medina and outside, as well as some lovely country-house style hotels in the Palmerie, see our Best hotels in Marrakech list, as well as our Best Marrakech riads list.
Riad Sapphire & Spa 8 rooms from $122Marrakech (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 spaSwimming Pool - Larger than average for a riad in the MedinaSights nearby - Situated in the heart of the MedinaDesigner - Uniquely designed interiors.
El Fenn 28 rooms from $286Marrakech
Unique understated bohemian hipness meets flawless service in this sprawling interlinked 5-riad strong hotel owned by Vanessa Branson, on the edge of the Marrakech medina. Lounge out in one of the vast colourful suites, 7000 ft roof terrace or hip rooftop restaurant with views of the Atlas MountainsHoneymoons - 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.WellbeingRecommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, I Escape, Kiwi Collection
Riad Dar Zaman 4 rooms from $90Marrakech (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 propertyRecommended by - I Escape
Riad Kaiss 9 rooms from $183Marrakech (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.ChicCity StyleSwimming Pool - Lovely Outdoor PoolKids Club - Fully staffed.
Dar Les Cigognes 11 rooms from $189Marrakech Medina
An understated and elegant 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 MarrakechRecommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, Tablet
Riyad el Cadi 15 rooms from $165Marrakech (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.Recommended by - I Escape
Maison MK 6 rooms from $531Marrakech
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.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, I Escape, Kiwi Collection
La Maison Arabe 26 rooms from $237Marrakech (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.
Riyad El Mezouar 5 rooms from $155Marrakech, NOT TO SHOW
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 chicHideaway - An intimate spot with only 5 rooms.Swimming Pool - Small Plunge PoolLocal markets - Good for local colour.Recommended by - Tablet