We’re often asked about the best restaurants in Marrakech, and where to eat if you’re visiting Morocco’s famous Red City for the first time. The country is famous for many things, from deserts and mountains to music and culture, but it’s often the promise of exotic spices and new flavour sensations that entices many travellers to the shores of north Africa. Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and there is no better place to indulge your taste buds than in Morocco.
As frequent travellers to Morocco, we’ve tried and tested dozens of Marrakech restaurants, and discovered that there is so much more to the cuisine than the humble tagine (although they are delicious!). Here are some of our favourites:
The best restaurants in Marrakech
With it’s candlelit rooftop terrace tables and friendly service, Nomad is our current favourite Marrakech restaurant. It’s a relative new kid on the block, and is tucked away in the medina overlooking the Rahba Lakdima spice square (Place des Épices). The cuisine is modern Moroccan, and is simple yet stylish and full of flavour. Traditional dishes are given a refreshing twist, so it’s a great spot for those who want to try something different from tagine and couscous. There are intimate dining rooms inside for those sheltering from the sun, and the open kitchen gives it a vibrant and contemporary feel.
Perfect for: romantic candlelit evening dinners, expat lunches, the fashionable crowd
We recommend: courgette and feta fritters; Nomad spiced lamb burger with aubergine; the famous orange cake (it’s so good!).
Tip: make a reservation for dinner, it’s popular! Ask for a table on the terrace.
La Maison Arabe
La Maison Arabe is the best restaurant in Marrakech! At least that’s what we think. A bold statement, but one which speaks for itself. Just go and try it, and you’ll understand why we love dining here so much. La Maison Arabe is a luxury medina riad-hotel (we’ve written about our experience staying there right here), but is famed for its two restaurants (the first in Marrakech!) which are open to non-residents. One is exclusively Moroccan cuisine, with traditional dishes and house specialities, but our favourite is the stunning Les Trois Saveurs. Romantics at heart, we love eating on the terrace overlooking the gorgeous pool, surrounded by flickering Moroccan candle lanterns with live traditional music in the background. This is definitely the place to eat in Marrakech, whether you’re visiting for the first time, or are an old timer.
Perfect for: special occasions; impressing your instagram followers; a touch of class
We recommend: the flower salad (yes really (!), it’s quirky and refreshing); Moroccan salads; any of their lamb dishes (they are all delicious); the wine (the only place we’ve come across that knows how to pick a decent bottle of red).
Tip: table reservations are a must (ask for a pool table); arrive early to enjoy jazz and cocktails in the bar; dress smartly but comfortably. La Maison Arabe also run renowned cooking classes – one which lasts half a day out in their country casbah gardens, and another ‘express’ class in the medina for those with less time. We recommend both!
Kosybar has made it onto our list of best restaurants in Marrakech because there’s simply nowhere better to spend a relaxing afternoon after a hot and sweaty morning traipsing around palaces and haggling in the souks. We’ve been coming here for nearly a decade, and seen the service go from truly terrible (like most restaurants in Marrakech) to quite acceptable, and even friendly. The roof terrace with it’s comfy sofa style seats and shade canopies is the perfect place to enjoy some cold drinks, a bowl of complimentary olives and perhaps some dipping bread to tide you over until dinner. We love the views overlooking the Place des Ferblantiers and the adjacent crumbling walls of the Baadi Palace (where you’ll often see the storks nesting). There is a stylish restaurant and bar downstairs for grooving the evening away, but during the day it will be deserted in favour of the roof.
Perfect for: cools drinks in the shade whilst listening to chilled out music, perhaps with some nibbles or even lunch.
We recommend: we love sharing a plate of their Moroccan salads with a bowl of chips (fries) for lunch, and their lasagne is our guilty foodie pleasure when we’ve had enough tagine. Alcohol is also available (it is a bar!) which isn’t always the easiest to find in the medina.
Tip: The ice and salads here are safe to consume, we’ve never been ill after eating here!
Restaurants and cafes around Djemaa el Fan (the main square) don’t generally have a great repuation for good food, good value or good hygiene, but this one has never failed us, and boasts better views of the action below than all the others put together. This is because the roof terrace wraps around the building on two sides, so you can see (and photograph) the entire square rather than just the sliver in front of you.
To visit the panoramic terrace a purchase is compulsory (and rightly so). If you just want a drink, help yourself to one from the chiller and pay at the till before you go through the turnstile onto the terrace. If you’re eating as well, take your drink but pay at the end after you’ve eaten. A waiter will (eventually) come and take your food order at the table.
There are toilets, and like most in the city there is an attendant who appreciates a few dirham for keeping them clean.
Top tip: the tables at the edge of the terrace (above) are of course the most popular and likely to be full when you arrive. But don’t worry, just pick another spot, and keep a beady eye out…it’s commonplace for people to change tables the moment a better view becomes available.
You need to come here at least twice, once by day and then again in the evening for front row seats at the best show in town.
Top game: try to count all the satellite dishes on the rooftops across the square. I bet you’ll never end up with the same number twice!
Perfect for: watching life go by without being hassled by snake charmers. Great for taking photos that you wouldn’t dare (or can’t afford) to take down below.
Recommended: their pizzas are surprisingly good and not too expensive (around DH45 for a margherita). We often share one for lunch.
Night Market (Djemaa el Fna)
This is a spectacle to see as well as a great place to eat. With its barbeque cuisine (everything from sheeps eyeballs to chicken kebabs) and cheerful touts it’s the place to be if you want to share your table with a local and experience a different way to eat dinner.
There are dozens of stalls, each with their own alloted space and number. Walking down the avenues between the rows is a test of will power…just how many times can you refuse the delightful sales patter of the lads trying to entice you to the ‘best stall’ in town. Each has his own jingle, often humourously taking the piss out of supermarket adverts in your home country, and many rhyming:
“stall 107 will take you to heaven”
Even if you don’t want to eat here, you can wander around savouring the smells and constant babble of voices rising above the smoke which billows across the square, making it’s way to the noses of people all over the city, drawing them like moths to a flame-lit feeding frenzy.
Perfect for: dinner and a show – the square is full of street entertainers when the sun goes down.
Top tip: the orange juice sellers remain here during the evening, and conjure up great refreshing drinks squeezed freshly before your eyes. They do use a little water, but it’s bottled, and we’ve never had any problems in the gurgling stomach department. Often they will keep refilling your glass until you’ve truly drunk more than enough…a nice gesture perhaps, but more likely because having a bunch of happy gringos standing by the cart is good for business (there are a lot of them, all identical, and prices are regulated).
Dar Cherifa (Rue Mouassine)
This place is a serene little gem, hidden deep in the secret alleyways of the medina about ten minutes from the main square. Dar Cherifa is a literary cafe in an ancient riad with little tables on the patio around a cooling rose-petal strewn fountain. It has a terrace too, but you’re here to admire the trademark architecture (stucco and carved wood) and get out of the heat rather than to bake on a rooftop. The building is a contemporary of the Ben Youseff Medersa, and the style very similar. The food is simple but elegant, with choices for brunch, lunch or even an early dinner.
They sometimes have art exhibitions, small concerts and events here too, intimate evenings with soft flickering candlelight.
Perfect for: a calm pot of mint tea and pasties to recover from the frenzy of the medina outside.
Top tip: from the outside it often looks closed, but push open the door (and try not to feel like you’re barging into someone’s house) and follow the passage along to the patio.
Hours: 10am – 7pm daily
Le Fondouk (Rue du Souk des Fassi)
If you’ve done any research at all on eating places in Marrakech then you’ll have heard of the institution that is Le Foundouk. We’d heard mixed reviews of the place, and decided to check it out whilst we were staying nearby. It was mid October and wasn’t that busy which meant we got a lovely table on an upper level, overlooking the patio below. One of the waiters brought us orange flower water to cleanse our hands and the menus came rolled up like an old scroll, I can’t decide whether this was stylish, or just a bit naff.
The food was pleasant, the service not the best (but that’s the case in all Marrakech restaurants!) and ambience suited to a romantic evening meal.
Top tip: one of their selling points is that a djellaba clad chap will (if you request) lead you through the streets with a lantern and show you to the door. A nice idea but you really don’t need this. The restaurant is easy to find, and this gimmick is aimed more at the tourists who stay in the resorts outside the city and who may find the medina alleys intimidating.
Perfect for: a romantic meal at the end of a trip. Book later in the evening (after 8pm) for more of a vibe.
Grand Cafe de la Poste (Gueliz – New Town)
Ok so we’re skipping outside the medina walls for this one, and whilst the New Town really isn’t anything special (unless you’re craving McDonalds and high street fashion) this well established elegant French cafe is another one of those institutions you should visit if you have time. It used to be…wait for it…a post office, and is like stepping back in time to colonial Morocco as it was in the 1920s. Sometimes you’ve had enough of tagines and crave a little something more European.
Recommended: a croque monsieur (I haven’t had a better one outside France!), a beer and a table on the sidewalk
Top tip: it’s very pleasant sitting outside for lunch, but be mindful people will be smoking.
Le Comptoir Darna (Gueliz – New Town)
Famously billed as the place that breaks up marriages, hubbie and I decided we were secure enough to risk a night out at Le Comptoir! This is the establishment to patronise if you’re after a sexy late night experience, with sultry red leather and gyrating hips!
The tuxedo clad doorman (a first for us in Marrakech!) showed us through the billowing curtains that hide the interior from view and we immediately stepped into another dimension – a world away from the dusty alleys and stray cats in the medina. The whole place seemed to have been built for lover’s trysts, with cosy corners and candles, gold chandeliers and velvet drapes…hubbie didn’t know what to do with himself! First stop was the bar, where he tried not to choke on reading the prices – one drink here was more than an entire meal back in the medina (about £7 for a beer!). I tried not to get embarrased by his outburst and calmly ordered the most expensive cocktail on the menu.
We’d booked a table for 8pm, and the place was still pretty quiet. However we lingered over drinks, trying to make them last as long as possible, and by the time we were seated in the restaurant down the sweeping marble staircase it was buzzing with hushed tones of lovers (and friends, and happy marriages!). The service was some of the best we’d come across in the city (ok, so we were paying for it) and the food was good, if not earth shattering, with all the Moroccan traditionals as well as a more European menu for those who are sick of the sight of couscous. Hubbie tucked into a whopper of a burger, but I opted for the lamb tagine, despite having had at least four in the last four days. What can I say, I love tagine.
Dinner is accompanied by local musicians sitting on the stairway playing ambient tunes, and the scantily clad belly dancers come out after 9pm, strutting their stuff down the steps, sometimes balancing trays of brightly burning candles on their heads and somehow managing not to drop any! Quite a spectable if that’s your thing.
The walk back to the medina through the flood-lit gardens (past the rather posh and incredibly expensive Royal Mansour Hotel) is a lovely romantic end to the evening, before you plunge back into the Djemma el Fna and find your way back to the riad.
Top tip: book around 8.30 – 9pm for an evening meal so you won’t be eating all by yourself.
Cafe Bougainvillea (Rue Mouassine)
This place has cheap tables and rickety chairs. The waitresses can be a tad moody, diners can sometimes be a bit crammed in and you may have to wait for a seat. But despite all that, we love this little spot, away from the bright lights of the square and draped from head to toe in blooming gorgeous…you guessed it…bougainvillea. It’s a really handy place to navigate by as it’s on the crossroads of several alleys, one of which leads to Djemma el Fna, and the others have all led to riads we’ve stayed at from time to time in the Mouassine area.
But the best bit is the pizza! Ok so the food itself is nothing much to write home about but it’s so nice to be able to just order a slice of one of Italy’s finest exports without feeling guilty you’re steering away from traditional local cuisine. They do paninis too.
Top tip: arrive a bit early or a bit late as this place is really popular and you may have to wait for a table at peak times.
Find it: the cafe has a tiny street entrance so keep an eye out for the sign above the door.
Le Tanjia (Place des Ferblantiers)
Eating on the elegantly decked out terrace here is a bit of a treat. Located just to the left of the little square (not far from Kosybar) you can watch the street life bustle on by whilst being sprayed by cooling jets of water mist from above. You don’t actually end up wet, and the pleasant vapourous mist is very welcome in the heat. It’s one of the more expensive spots in town, more on a par with European prices, but the food is good and the service some of the more acceptable we’ve come aross. The bellydancers do their thing around 9pm, again candles are often involved. It’s worth booking if you want a decent spot on the terrace.
In your Riad (this should really be first on the list!)
No-where in the world have we experienced such consistently good food as at our riads in Marrakech. We haven’t had one disappointment, and often eat there more than once since it’s so tasty. It’s proper home cooking and you can taste the pride and effort behind each dish. We always eat in our riad on our first night, which is really great as most UK flights arrive in the evening. It’s so pleasant to arrive, dump your luggage and stroll up to the roof terrace to find your own special table strewn with rose petals and gently flickering candles. The meal is relaxed and accompanied by the hauntingly beautiful evening call to prayer, and as you slowly get used to the heat whilst sipping your glass of wine you finally feel like you’re on holiday!
Deliciousness comes as standard at all the riads we’ve visited, but if pressed, I’d say the stand out dinners were at Riad Camilia, Riad Papillon and Riad Carina.
Top tip: if you intend to have dinner at your riad you need to order this the night before, or first thing in the morning. This gives the cook time to shop for fresh ingredients at the market (and if you ask nicely most will let you join them for the experience!).
Good to Know
We’ve never been ill with the dreaded traveller trots in Morocco (although unfortunately I can’t say as much for our other trips outside Europe!). So my advice to those of you prone to this decidedly annoying infliction is to not worry too much, just be sensible and enjoy the experience.
How to be sensible:
Drink bottled water (use this to clean teeth with too) and watch out for those sneaky ice cubes!
Don’t use straws (they’ve probably been used before)
Don’t eat anthing likely to have been washed in water (e.g. salads, uncooked vegetables)
Dining at your riad is always safer in terms of hygiene than public cafes and restaurants
Use antibacterial hand gel if you’re eating out and have been handling things (like money)
If you do get ill the best thing to do is drink water (the bottled sort mind!) and lots of it. Don’t bung yourself up with pills and potions which will just prolong the agony. Spend a couple of days flushing it out so you can enjoy the rest of your trip in comfort.
Whilst riad staff are exemplary in their attention to guests, service is pretty poor in all public restaurants in Marrakech (and almost everywhere we’ve been in Morocco), and as soon as you come to accept this the quicker you’ll learn to enjoy your meal experience.
In riads you can eat at whatever time you like, but it’s worth knowing that like in Europe, people in Morocco tend to have their evening meal later at around 8 or 9pm. You’re probably wondering why I’m bothering to mention this, but in England we would consider this really late for a meal and so every time we go abroad we find it quite difficult to adjust to eating when we’d normally be thinking it was nearly bed time! Especially when we usually get up early ready for the day’s excitments and to make the most of the coolest part of the day.
A great website with a whole host of mid – top end restaurants to choose from all over Morocco is Best Restaurants Maroc. It even has the menus and prices as well as lots of photos and directions, and you can search by type of venue e.g. whether it has a garden or patio, or is romantic.