In the first of our 'Insider Guides' series - we give you our favourite places to eat, stay and shop in the ochre city, Marrakech...
Djemaa El Fna is the beating heart of old Marrakech; by day it's a meeting place, market and general crossing point in the city. Perhaps the original concept of the 'pop-up restaurant', by dusk food stalls begin to appear and the square becomes a jigsaw of food vendors, fresh juice stalls and the smell is incredible. Grab a stool at the busiest looking set-up and sharpen your elbows. Service is quick and no-frills; simple meat and rice dishes, as well as plenty of bread are the staples - eat your fill for under a fiver, all to the backdrop of snake charmers, musicians and fortune tellers - part theatre for tourists' benefits, yet rooted in authentic Moroccan heritage.
For any fashion lover, a trip to the Musée Yves Saint Laurent is a must - learn about the designer, his inspirations and his enduring love for Marrakech. There is a permanent exhibition of some of his most iconic pieces of work, as well as temporary exhibitions, an auditorium where events and talks are held and a peaceful cafe in which to reflect.
Le jardin Majorelle is an exotic paradise amongst the dusty city backdrop. It took French painter Jacques Majorelle 40 years of passion and dedication to create. There are Moorish references, with a hint of Art Deco and although the vivid palette of the architecture is arresting, it is yet a calming, soothing retreat that is a must on any Marrakech tour.
Opposite Le Jardin Majorelle, is the 33 Rue Majorelle - a brilliant modern Morocco concept store. An immaculately curated edit of up and coming Moroccan brands and designers. From beautiful contemporary twists on traditional Moroccan crafts to fashion, beauty and interiors. Their Instagram is definitely worth a follow too as a showcase of their beautiful wares.
Other great shopping destinations include Owl Marrakech for handmade womenswear and resortwear - think a modern spin on kaftans, kimonos and a gorgeous edit of baskets and accessories to complete the look. Max&Jan - opened by the Swiss-Belgian designer duo is worth popping in to for boho womenswear and jewellery, as well as an edit of emerging Moroccan designers.
One of my favourite places to lay my head in Marrakech is Riad el Fenn. Based in the heart of the Medina and created from no less than 5 interconnected riads, it is an inner sanctum of dappled courtyards, photogenic root terraces and 28 beautifully executed rooms. Each individually styled - a mixture of jewel colours, vintage furnishings and contemporary art. There's a spa, shop, yoga terrace, cinema and plenty of lounging nooks to escape too. The vibe is relaxed and cosseting - the perfect antidote to the hectic pace of Marrakech.
5 great places to dine...
Café Clock has a relaxed, boho vibe with sunset views over the kasbah. Every Monday and Thursday they host traditional hikayat (storytelling) performances, and there's live Gnaoua and Amazigh music on Sundays giving diners a taste of Morocco's cultural heritage alongside authentic local cuisine.
The roof-top terrasse des épices is best after dark - the lantern-lit booths, live music and great food make it a great dinner option - try the tanja - beef or lamb cooked slowly for several hours over charcoal in an earthenware jug.
If you're looking to escape the medina, the Beldi Country Club is set in 14 hectares of manicured perfection. A mix of Moroccan and French design - the El Badia restaurant is set around the 35m swimming pool. Lounge on soft day-beds and indulge in a mixture of Mediterranean and Moroccan cuisine.
Palais Jad Mahal is a dinner spectacle not to be missed - great for a large group, the opulent setting is the backdrop to dancing, live music and a range of international cuisine. Fun, lively with a great buzz.
An institution in Marrakech, Dar Yacout is set in a stunning courtyard, full of plants, lanterns and oozing atmosphere. The perfect romantic diner a deux, there are panoramic views across the Medina and Koutoubia Mosque. Great if you want to experience true heritage Moroccan cuisine at the highest standard.
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