I just took a very impromptu first trip to Marrakech, Morocco where I fell in love with the place. It’s magic. An absolute world away in almost every respect, there is something special in the air there. It is a place I will surely revisit. Through mutual friends, we befriended two very lovely (and handsome!) men who have made Marrakesh their home. They unmasked the city and along with our guide Laetitia, opening its seemingly mysterious doors. Here, we’ve put together a list of the most in-the-know spots.
Royal MansourRue Abou Abbas El Sebti, 40 000 Marrakech, Morocco | +212.529.808.080
This crown jewel of Moroccan hospitality is home to 53 separate riads, each with their own courtyard and fountain. Every room, spa, and common space is dripping in elegant Moroccan décor, including intricate tiles, colorful silks, and traditional chandeliers and lanterns. What’s more, the palace has more than 500 staff members, offering service that’s literally fit for royalty. The entire medina is a labyrinth of soothing water sounds (from the aforementioned fountains) and lovely scents that waft up from the well-tended garden, which spreads out over every inch of unclaimed space—it’s especially magical at night, when the winding paths are lit up with candles. When you’re not out exploring the city, book one of the couples’ treatments in the jaw-dropping spa.
La MamouniaAvenue Bab Jdid, Medina | +212.524.388.600
I stayed at the revamped historic La Mamounia Hotel, located in the heart of the imperial city. The Jacques Garcia designed interiors are splendid to say the least, and the hotel’s gardens are out of this world, almost from a fairy tale. The hotel has four restaurants supplying cuisine from around the world—L’Italien, Le Francais, Le Marocain, and Le Pavillion de la Piscine—and five bars to choose from—Le Bar Marocain, Le Bar Italien, Le Bar Churchill, Le Bar de la Piscine, and Le Menzeh “Glacier & Patissier.” The food and drinks here are elegant and delicious, and with all the choices, it’s easy to stay in the hotel for an entire weekend of relaxation. Speaking of which, I couldn’t resist a daily Hammam treatment at the hotel’s spa. Get this: 15 minutes in a steam room, a full-body lather in Black Soap, an exfoliating rub down, a Ghassoul (Moroccan clay) body masque, and then a warm shower... Ridiculously lavish!
AmanjenaRoute De Ouarzazate, Km 12, Palmeraie | +188.8.131.529.000
Like every resort under the Aman umbrella, Amanjena is known for spectacular lodgings, service, gardens, and pavilions (that’s right, not rooms—pavilions, each with their own private courtyard). It’s a splurge, but worth the trip just to visit the lush grounds (where there are date palms and olive trees around every corner), maybe for dinner or for a tea in the late afternoon. The property itself is a little outside the center city, so it's a great home base if you're hoping to explore both the medina and the Atlas mountains—the concierge can arrange for guided hikes of Jbel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, or for fresh mint tea with families in the nearby Berber villages. That said, with a gym, tennis courts, and a full-service hammam on-site, you may not want to leave the grounds at all.
El FennDerb Moullay Abdullah Ben Hezzian, Bab el Ksour, Medina | +212.5184.108.40.206
Owned by Richard Branson's sister, Vanessa, El Fenn is a bright spot in a city that's already wildly colorful. Years ago, Vanessa and partner William Howell were walking through Marakkech looking for a home to buy when they came across a once stately riad that was desperately in need of a resuscitation. The pair restored it to its former glory, and transformed it into a gorgeously appointed, 28-room hotel. While it's within striking distance of most of Morocco's biggest hits (see our Marrakech guide, here), Branson and Howell round out the stay with a trove of other experiences. You can shop the markets with the chef and cook in the hotel's kitchens, take a bellydancing class, or camel ride in the Ourika valley. Historically, they've held writer's retreats and photography workshops, too.
Le BabAngle bd Mansour Eddahbi, Rue Mohamed El Beqal, Guéliz | +220.127.116.11.52.50
This hotel is hip and sleek with a color palate limited to black and white. A boutique hotel, it has only 45 rooms and they are most definitely a great deal for Marrakesh. Le Bab is located in Guéliz, which has a distinctly modern feel as opposed to the Medina which is more traditional. I like that you can rent bicycles and Segways from the hotel to explore the city your way.