Marrakesh’s status as the most-visited destination in Morocco suggests that there’s plenty to see and do, but that comes with a price. The city, the country’s fourth biggest, comes with a hustle and bustle in the old town that can be a lot, day in and day out—even if the energy of the Jeema el-Fnaa main plaza is what brings you here in the first place. The solution? Visit Marrakesh but do so in the lap of luxury. Visit Marrakesh but do so in the lap of luxury, selecting the best places to eat and sleep during your stay.

To relax in style, we recommend staying at Iberostar Club Palmeraie Marrakech in beautiful Palmeraie, where over 100,000 palm trees will shade you from the Moroccan sun. Your hotel will be an oasis from the crowded Medina, or old city, but there’s more options for the luxury traveler at restaurants, high-end shops, bars, and even trips outside of the city.

 

DINING

Marrakesh is home to some of Morocco’s most innovative restaurants. Taste the fusion of local Berber recipes with added French ingredients and western presentation. You’ll want to treat every meal as an experience because once you step into one of the city’s top restaurants, the noise and energy of the street and maze of the Medina melts into chic tranquility.

The best option for lunch after a day in the market is Le Jardin. Here you can get everything from salads with local flavors to a deluxe hamburger. Couple it with a date smoothie or a fine cocktail and enjoy the outdoor space, seated among gorgeous landscaping. The sister establishment to Café des Épices (another great respite in the Medina) can be found inside a 16th century building, beautifully renovated to harken back to the hay days of Marrakesh in the 60s and 70s.

For dinner, of the most exciting options in the city is Nomad, a trendy restaurant with a great decor inside and fantastic views outside on their terrace. You’ll want to consider saving this gem for later, timing your meal to overlap with the sunset, given the views of the Atlas Mountains in the distance. Most of the dishes are made with organic, local ingredients, and the service is top-notch. Not to be passed by are the “mezze”—appetizers that change with the seasons—and the tagines, a typical Moroccan dish named after the pot it is cooked in. There’s also fun takes on international and European staples like panna cotta infused with hibiscus.

For another evening meal, the modern Moroccan opulence of Comptoir Darna is not to be missed. You’ll not only be blown away by the traditional and fusion food, but also the elaborate shows that continue late into the night. The ambience is anything but typical, perfect for a romantic night out on the town. Try a seafood or Berber tagine for a unique take on the best-known Moroccan dish. If you want something from another continent, try the legendary “weeping tiger”: beef filet that’s grilled, sliced, and served with soy, ginger, and lemongrass sauce.

In Palmaraie, catch a cooking show at Oasis Restaurant and delight in the mastery of its chefs or enjoy the variety of international and Moroccan dishes offered at its buffet. For those who prefer to dine al fresco, you can enjoy your meal on its terrace surrounded by palm trees. Also on site is Jawhara Moroccan Restaurant, an elegant option for those who wish to experience a romantic dinner, Moroccan-style. The pastela is a must.

 

DRINKING AND MORE

Speaking of the shows at Comptoir Darna, make sure that you couple the music with a perfectly mixed cocktail. They are inspired by your environment. Three of the top choices all allude to the energy of the city that you find yourself in. The “Magic Marrakesh” has rum with a watermelon liqueur, strawberry, and cranberry juice. The “Spicy Souk” runs in opposite tack, mixing saffron-infused vodka with mandarin liqueur, cardamom, ginger, and fresh orange juice. Sip them slowly as the restaurant hosts hours of entertainment from traditional dance to Moroccan cabaret.

If you’d like to continue your night out, the top club in town is Pacha. It attracts in-the-know nightlife enthusiasts from around the world, as many as 3,000 per night. You can start with a drink at the pool bar, but the pulsating disco is what lends the hotspot its fame. You can plan your trip with the top DJs in mind, consulting the calendar.

 

EXPERIENCES

If kids are accompanying you, focus your fun during the daylight hours. One of Marrakesh’s most famous visitors of the past century became a resident of the city, transforming gardens into one the city’s most sought-after tourist destinations. Yves Saint-Laurent, the French fashion designer, set up shop in the city buying the Majorelle Garden in 1980, where he would often visit. Children will love the color that he added to his home on the site, now a museum. One, “Majorelle Blue,” stands out throughout the property.

Much of the opulence of Marrakesh is behind closed doors. The most remarkable riad in Marrakesh is Le Jardin Secret. A complex of ornate Moroccan buildings and Islamic gardens, the site was reserved for dignitaries and well connected Marrakshis since it opened during the Saadian Dynasty some 400 years ago. Now, though, you can tour the gardens, all of which have been restored to their original layout, geometric rules that are a metaphor for heaven. While there, make sure to take the time to enjoy a Moroccan mint tea while enjoying the garden’s serenity.

One more example of opulence behind closed doors is Palais Bahia. From the outside you wouldn’t expect to find one of the best examples of Moroccan architecture. Finished in the 1800s, the palace is located quite close to the royal palace in Marrakesh. It was built for Si Moussa, chamberlain of Sultan Hassan I, but was then used by General Lyautey when Morocco became a French protectorate. He added modern touches you’ll still notice, like fireplaces, heating, and electricity.

Another way to experience typical Moroccan culture is to visit a hammam, or public bath. Nowadays you can do so with spa services included. You receive the typical cleansing rubdown, but afterwards you can add on all sorts of luxurious treatments. At Les Bains de Marrakesh, housed in a former riad at the edge of the medina, you can add on options like a massage with argan oil. Body wraps, facials, relaxing baths, and more can be experienced in a special couples room, making a spa day the perfect addition to your trip.

 

SHOPPING

Across the street from Saint-Laurent’s Majorelle Garden is a shopping destination not to be missed. 33 Rue Majorelle was Marrakesh’s first concept store, and it now is home to pieces designed by some 100 artisans from around Morocco and other African countries. There’s everything from Pop Art to wooden furniture or colorful clothing.

JOSEPH D. LYONS  |  26/02/2018

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