Riad, villa, or hotel? How to choose where to stay in Marrakech

Marrakech is a magical place. Steeped in history with fresh mystery waiting around every corner, this is a destination that knows how to draw you in. There are ancient palaces to discover, colourful gardens to wander around, and restaurants that serve up sizzling tagines with a flourish. Yet what really leaves a lasting impact on all who venture to the red city is the accommodation. In Marrakech, it’s never just a bed for the night. Staying and sleeping here is a huge part of the experience, especially if it’s your first visit, so getting it right is really important.

Cafe des Epices - best restaurants in Marrakech

The enticing Marrakech streets

There are several different types of accommodation in Marrakech, each suited to specific travel styles. Whilst some people will go starry-eyed at the opulent medina riads with their mood lighting, traditional bathrooms, and cute dipping pools, others will prefer the luxury of a modern villa in a quieter location away from the action.

So, if you’re planning your first trip to Morocco and are wondering how to choose where to stay in Marrakech, read on.

Riads

What is a riad? That’s the question on most people’s lips when they search for Marrakech accommodation for the first time. Essentially, riads are traditional Moroccan houses, usually with a central courtyard or garden and a roof terrace. Most Marrakech riads don’t have external windows, which is why the streets in the Marrakech medina are lined with those solid and secretive ochre walls. Instead, light comes from the open-air courtyards, which often have small dipping pools and a bit of foliage trained up the walls. The riad experience is an intimate one, with heaps of privacy from the outside world.

What to wear in Morocco - kaftans - Marrakech riad

A dipping pool on a Marrakech riad roof terrace

Riads are enchanting, so if you’re looking for that 1001 nights experience, then this is where you’ll find it. Many are stuffed full with charming Moroccan lanterns, woven carpets, and hand-carved furniture. All things you’ll come across during a stroll around the bustling souks. Dinners are usually taken up on the rooftop by candlelight, where you can watch the sun set over the city whilst the calls to prayer sing out from the local minarets.

One of the joys of staying in a riad is that you can spend as much or as little as you like and still be served up a slice of that Marrakech magic. You’ll find many of the cheaper riads a little further away from the Djemaa el Fna (the main square), in outlying derbs (alleyways) that can be hard to find on your first attempt. So, it’s always a good idea to be collected from the airport and transferred directly to your riad so you can suss out the lay of the land with a trusted local.

Dar Mouassine, Marrakech

Mood lighting in a riad bedroom

Best for: couples and honeymooners looking for a little romance, and those that want to experience an authentic slice of the old town.

Where: riads are found in the medina (old town) in the heart of Marrakech.

Top tip: for a bit more privacy, book a room on the first floor rather than one at terrace level where people may be having breakfast right outside your window.

Villas

If a bit of modern luxury and complete and utter privacy is more your thing, then a fully staffed villa is the choice for you. Marrakech villas are truly off the scale when it comes to elegant architecture, world-class facilities, and superb service. Once you step over the threshold that holiday feeling will hit you right away.

Most villas are dotted around the edge of the city, giving you peace and quiet in your own private space. There are usually lush tropical gardens to stroll in, and a large swimming pool that is all yours for the duration of your stay. If you want a relaxing holiday, choosing a villa is hands-down the way to go! The discreate domestic staff and gardener will keep the place in tip top shape, and there’s often a cook and butler to tend to your every need.

A luxury pool villa in the Palmeraie

If you’re thinking that you’ll feel a little isolated away from the city, don’t worry. There are lots of villas in Marrakech with a concierge service where staff are on hand to organise whatever you want, whenever you want it! You can enjoy excursions into the medina, as well as day trips to places like Imlil in the Atlas Mountains and Essaouira up on the coast. If you’re travelling with your family, a personalised concierge service makes all the difference, leaving you free to just enjoy your time together. Unique activities can be arranged on site or further afield, with everything from camel riding and quad biking to cooking classes and hammams up for grabs.

Plush interior of a luxury villa in Marrakech

Best for: families looking for top-notch service with activities at their fingertips.

Where: villas tend to be located on the outskirts of Marrakech, in quieter situations away from the city bustle – you’ll find some of the best villas in the Palmeraie. Sports enthusiasts should choose a villa near the golf course, so they can enjoy a few rounds without having to go far!

Top tip: look for villa companies that offer concierge services, for hassle-free booking of activities, excursions, and restaurants.

Hotels

In most cities, a hotel is the standard accommodation choice, but here in Marrakech, they are just another option on the table. There aren’t many hotels in the Marrakech medina, mainly due to the traditional-style infrastructure of the old town. It’s not a place where new developments can easily spring up after all! Instead, hotels are mainly found on the edge of town, just a short taxi ride away from the city.

Hotels often have huge pools with great views

There are lots of international brand hotels here, with all the facilities you’d expect from a large resort. The properties tend to be enormous, some with hundreds of rooms, which can feel a little overwhelming to those who normally stay in small, boutique hotels. Yet you will often have a dazzling array of options when it comes to dining and activities, without even having to leave the premises.

Les Trois Saveurs Restaurant at La Maison Arabe, Marrakech

Restaurants at hotels are a big draw

Marrakech doesn’t have much of a nightlife scene, so if partying is top of your list, you’ll want to stay in one of these resort hotels where the alcohol flows and the live music will have you boogying into the small hours. Themed events are held throughout the year, so check the hotel news before booking to see what’s on during your travel dates.

Best for: groups of friends and those looking to let their hair down a little while enjoying restaurants and entertainment on site. If all-inclusive is your normal thing, then you’ll be comfortable here.

Where: a lot of the larger resort-style hotels are found around the Palmeraie area, where their sprawling premises fit well amongst the palm trees and sand!

Top tip: while the facilities in the hotel might make you feel you never need to leave, do try and book at least one day trip into Marrakech itself and take a walking tour of the medina with a local guide.

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