Where to eat

La Sultana

Candlelight, roof terrace, moustached man playing a little guitar… La Sultana is one of the more romantic restaurants in Marrakech, and you can’t fault its setting (be sure to get there to catch the sunset). The menu features pigeon pastilles, chicken and olive tagine and custard pastries, or you can go for a tasting menu. Don’t miss the pastilles though – one of the city’s specialities, they are essentially minced pigeon stuffed into crispy pastry, with a truckload of icing sugar lobbed on top. Sounds dodgy as hell, but it’s a must-try. lasultanahotels.com

Riad Farnatchi

We’ll be honest, Marrakech isn’t a city where you’re going to be inundated with amazing restaurants at every curve of the medina, and that’s why the new restaurant at Riad Farnatchi is an even more welcome addition. The adventurous menu has been painstakingly agonised over and tested by the riad’s British owners and features ‘forgotten’ classics from Morocco – a bit of tripe, for example. If you’re just hankering for home food after a few too many tagines, it has that covered too – expect a luxe version of mac ’n’ cheese, and the like. riadfarnatchi.com

Stall 22 at Jemaa El Fna

At first glance this gigantic chaotic square can seem totally overwhelming. When you’re not getting chased by a snake charmer, there’s sure to be monkey in a Liverpool FC shirt trying to selfie with you. Don’t let it get to you. Visit at night, when food stalls are packed onto the tarmac, serving anything from sheep’s head and carby potato sandwiches to soup and kebabs. You’ll be harassed by eager stall workers to take a seat at their ‘restaurant’, but like they say, they’re all the same. Still, we’d recommend stall 22, where you can eat luminous orange sausages and grilled aubergine.

Things to do

Buy a rug in the souks

Obviously you’re going to shop in the souks. Well, you’re not going to just shop, you’re going to get totally and utterly lost, before a small child leads you down a narrow alleyway to his uncle’s rug shop. Turns out the rugs are nice – like, really nice. But start your haggling at a third of the price you’re quoted, and don’t feel under pressure to buy – the chances are the rug will still be there in a few hours (if you can find the shop again). For nice prints and cute, branded versions of stuff sold in the souks, try the shop Chabi Chic.

Drink Moroccan wine at Cafe Arabe

If you’re visiting a Muslim country on holiday you can’t expect to find a drinking spot on every corner, which makes the ones you do find extra special. Cafe Arabe is a breezy, outdoor, top-floor bar with lovely rooftop views. Most people book tables for 8pm or so (to coincide with the hypnotic sounds of the call to prayer), but it’s a great place to swig cheap but great Moroccan rosé at any time. It’s one of the only bars in the medina, and worth a visit for the setting alone. cafearabe.com

Clean up at Les Bains de Marrakech

Hammam experiences in Morocco can vary from the ‘arghhh, strange man showering me with a freezing hose’ (in the public hammams) to ‘so this how it’s actually done’ (in the spa-style riad hammams). If you’re feeling flush, book into the tiled den that is Le Bains des Marrakech, where you’ll have the day’s dust and sweat soaped, scrubbed and rubbed from your body. You’ll emerge with your back de-knotted and your bits smelling like a bowl of potpourri. lesbainsdemarrakech.com

The best sights

Jardin Majorelle

To escape the hectic medina – and as much as you love it, you will feel the need to escape occasionally – try the Majorelle Gardens (pictured). The calm 12-acre space is filled with cactus-lined shady lanes, exotic plants and cobalt-blue coloured pots, walls and benches. The cobalt blue is the trademark hue of the garden’s founder, the French painter Jacques Majorelle, but the space was nurtured into its current state by designer Yves Saint Laurent. Of course, it’s suitably pretty, and if Instagram’s your game, you’ll be in Story heaven. jardinmajorelle.com

The desert via quad bike

Your trip to Marrakech doesn’t just have to be a never-ending muddle of leather bags, tiles, tagines and rugs. Arrange a half-day quad bike or buggy tour with Dunes & Desert and you can tear up some sand while breaking free from the close confines of the city. You’ll bounce over some impressive rocky landscape, have some lunch with a Berber family and get sand in places that you didn’t even know existed (tip: to rid yourself of all that sand, head to the hammam afterwards for a thorough cleansing, info on the previous page…). dunesdeserts.com

Stroll the museums

While the city doesn’t necessarily have any big-ticket ‘must-see’ museums, there are a few that are definitely worth a wander around. Start with the Photography Museum, which is a peaceful, interesting space containing both permanent and temporary exhibitions (the back of the chairs at Riad Farnatchi’s restaurant are actually covered in some of the portrait photos hung in the museum). Next, try the Museum of Marrakech which houses Rabati embroidery and contemporary art. The tea room is a lovely spot for a silver pot of Morocco’s best minty drink.

Where to stay

Angsana Riads

Marrakech’s ancient medina is a special place, even more so when you get to stay within its ancient walls. Riads dot the narrow, winding streets, and offer a variety of rooms – from dark and pretty dingy to bright with high ceilings. Try Angsana Riads, a collection of pretty and moderately-priced riads from the Banyan Tree hotel group. Each house (they are within metres of each other) offers spacious, colourful rooms set around a courtyard (pictured), with rooftop terraces that are a lovely place to sit back when the medina heat gets to you. angsana.com

Four Seasons Marrakech

If your holiday priorities are more along the lines of chilling by a mega pool instead of getting lost in Marrakech’s old city, then the Four Seasons may just be for you. Set on the outskirts of town (but a shuttle ride from the medina), it’s a sprawling, calming oasis of swimming pools, sun loungers and, well, sun. You can visit as a day guest, or you may prefer to join the resort’s well-heeled clientele and book a night or two here after several more authentic riad nights in the medina. Don’t miss a treatment in the spa, which has jacuzzis, saunas and steam rooms. fourseasons.com

Les Jardins de la Medina

To combine days lazing by the pool with a riad feel, try Les Jardins de la Medina. The 36-bedroom boutique hotel is set in grounds packed with orange trees, and is just a few minutes from the main square and the warren-like streets of the old medina. There’s one big pool surrounded by tall trees which catches the all-day sunshine, while the bedrooms are spacious, light-filled sanctuaries that you may be hard pressed to leave. But do: if only to relax in the on-site hammam, or to try traditional Moroccan food with an afternoon cooking class. lesjardinsdelamedina.com

 

Getting There 

Tour operator Classic Collection features a range of riads and resorts in the city, with three nights available from £895pp including flights and private transfers. classic-collection.co.uk