Just a few hours plane journey from London is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. Marrakech is old worldly, modern enough, and a bustling treasure trove for those who want to explore, go shopping, eat amazing food and be adorned with culture.
We stayed at the PALACE ES SAADI in Marrakech on the Rue Ibrahim El Mazini – a very safe and secure area that houses all of the modern and luxury hotels, as well as the Marrakech Casino and restaurants like Le Table du Marché, and an Avenue of high fashion including the newly opened Louis Vuitton.
Our location was perfect for a taxi ride in to the Medina and for wandering around the souks. When shopping in the souks you should and must always barter. We purchased an item that started off as 1500 dinar for 200 dinar… Not kidding. It’s quite the experience and totally depends on how much you want something and what you’re willing to pay. The art of the haggle is not one for the faint hearted.
EXPLORING THE SOUKS
As you wander in to the heart of the spice markets there’s no better place to take a break than CAFE DES ESPICES. The perfect little rooftop cafe has amazing food, great mint teas and coffees and incredible views of rooftops and Moroccan houses that stretch all the way to The Atlas Mountains.
For my birthday I always like to do something a little out of the ordinary. Deep in to the heart of nature and the often unseen beauty of Morocco – we ventured to outskirts of the Atlas Mountains and around the beautiful lake – Lalla Takerkoust for a morning of horse riding. It was nothing short of spectacular. We got to see old villages and riads that you would otherwise never be able to experience. It was a once in lifetime moment and something no pictures can really translate. If you’re doing a 5 day trip in Marrakech (which is what we did) and need a time out from the hustle and bustle of city and hotel life – then this excursion is perfect.
To make my birthday even more magical I was booked a surprise dinner at the most beautiful al fresco restaurant I have ever been to. (And I’ve been to many from Thailand to Bali and Paris…) Think Aladdin mixed with Masterchef, a tasting menu to die for, the best cocktails in Marrakech and undoubtedly the best view in the city. GASTRO MK is a wonderfully renovated riad that you can only get to on foot once your taxi drops you off. And it’s worth every wobbly cobble stone if you’re in heels. I could’ve stayed there all night. I snapped a photo of our appetisers (my only foodie shot) as I wanted to switch off and enjoy the rest of my birthday. But trust me, everything on the menu was divine. You can also book to stay there if you’re after the riad instead of hotel experience.
You simply can not go to Marrakech without visiting LE JARDIN MAJORELLE. Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge famously bought the house and gardens to stop it from becoming a real estate project. When Yves passed away, Berge gifted it to the city. It’sa very special place for fashion lovers. To think of all the parties and dinners that must have taken place here. It’s an iconic piece of fashion history. And even if you’re not a huge fashion fan, it’s a must see. Architecture and serenity come hand in hand at the Jardin Majorelle and everyone leaves feeling inspired and rejuvenated. The gardens are so wonderfully peaceful.
There’s so much to see and do in Marrakech. I found that we did just the right amount of relaxing mixed with sight seeing and activities for our five day schedule.
Other must sees and visits:
- Hôtel La Mamounia – Marrakech’s most opulent and luxurious hotel. If you’re a Sex and The City fan (The Movie: Part Two) you’ll recognise it instantly as where Carrie and the girls stayed.
- The Dior Institut and Spa and Palace Es Saadi. Luxury relaxation at its finest.
- Horse Riding – We booked our horse riding tour via our hotel concierge. They used Les Cavaliers de l’Atlas and our whole trip was fantastic.
- Included in our horse riding package was lunch. Often with excursions the lunch ‘as part of’ the tour are ‘nice’ and great for grabbing a bite, but the Relais Du Lac restaurant was totally unexpected and superb. It offers incredible views across the lake, great local food and drink, and a perfect way to finish the experience. Even if you’re not keen on horse riding or other activities, it’s worth visiting Lalla Takerkoust just to spend an afternoon at the restaurant taking in the surroundings.
Things to note:
When going in to the souks it’s best to take a secure bag, better to be safe than sorry. I carried a cross body bag that was on my front. And my other half took a backpack and padlocked it. When it came to haggling he only took out the money that we were willing to pay for an item. If they know you have more, you’ve lost the haggle.
Try and remember your path. We got lost – multiple times. And in two of those times it suddenly felt very scary. So my advice is to do the souks early in the morning when it’s very light and bright and cooler and also so that any misdirection can be easily remedied. Getting lost at night is not advisable.
So if you’re heading to Marrakech, be safe and street smart (especially if you’re a group of only girls) and you’ll be sure to have an amazing cultural and breathtaking adventure.
I had no idea that we were staying at the hotel where The Night Manager was filmed until my client David Harewood let me know. So if you’ve been as obsessed with the show as everyone else, it’s definitely worth a visit even if you’re not booking in to stay the night.