One of the greatest things about living in Paris (and Europe in general) is how easy it is to get to so many amazing places; two hours and twenty minutes by train to London, an hour and a half on high-speed rail to Brussels, and in just three and a half hours by plane you can touch down in another world: the red city of Marrakech. There’s a reason the city has been a favorite of creative types and designers for decades; the colors and the chaos are intoxicating and inspiring. Because it’s a relatively quick flight, you can feasibly tackle the city in a long weekend. But if you have more time, by all means take it, and be prepared to use your French.
After you’ve checked into your hotel – preferably serene Riad Anayela, a member of Design Hotels, or Richard Branson’s sister Vanessa’s Moroccan fantasy land El Fenn – head to the large square Jemaa el-Fna. There’s no better place to experience the thumping pulse of the city. It comes alive as the sun sets, with musicians, snake charmers, and excellent food vendors abound. For the best view, head to the rooftop café Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier. To gain admission you just have to purchase a drink, but take note there’s no alcohol served. After you’ve snapped your photos as the sun is setting, head down to the square to sample local specialties like snails in a spicy broth and flame-grilled merguez sausage. Stall 32 – or Chez Hassan – is one of the best vendors on the square. After taking in the market, head for a late dinner at Nomad, a rooftop restaurant in the spice market serving creative Moroccan cuisine using only fresh, local ingredients.
In the morning, enjoy breakfast at your hotel and then head to the Majorelle Gardens. This former vacation home of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent is a beautiful oasis in the city, with manicured grounds and a cobalt blue artist studio turned Berber museum. Afterwards pop across the street to 33 Rue Majorelle, a great concept store selling locally made clothing and home furnishings. Lunch is a 20-minute walk away in Guéliz, a newer part of the city that developed when Morocco was a French protectorate. Kechmara, a French-owned restaurant and art gallery that serves salads and burgers, is wonderful. Then spend the afternoon perusing the shops and galleries on Rue de la Liberté and Rue des Vieux Marrakech.
For a pre-dinner drink, check out La Mamounia. The historic hotel was a favorite of Winston Churchill’s, and at the Churchill Bar you can have a great classic cocktail like an old fashioned or dirty martini.
From La Mamounia, take a taxi back to Guéliz for dinner at El Fassia, a restaurant run entirely by women. Everything is delicious, but the fall-off-the-bone tender lamb shoulder for two with sweet slow-cooked onion and almond sauce is a must-order.
Reserve your last full day for shopping in the souks. There are stalls and stalls of slippers, leather bags, silver jewelry, and spices, and expect to haggle to get a good price. Souk Cherifia is a standout, featuring designer locally made clothing, shoes, and bags. On the rooftop of the souk you’ll find the Terrasse des Épices restaurant, a great place to stop for a healthy lunch of Moroccan salads and tagines.
To see the beautiful Berber carpets handmade by local women, head to the Souk des Tapis, or the carpet market. But beware: the vendors can be aggressive and purchasing a carpet is a process involving viewing dozens of carpets, haggling on price, and finally sealing the deal over mint tea.
Treat yourself to dinner at the atmospheric La Maison Arabe, also a boutique hotel. Tables surround a beautiful pool and garden and the beef tagine with onions and sundried tomatoes is delicious. If you’re up for a nightcap, take a taxi to Le Grand Café de La Poste, an Art Deco bar and restaurant spread over three levels.
On your last morning, go to the hipster Kasbah neighborhood for breakfast at Café Clock. The local haunt serves eggs, refreshing mint lemonade, and delicious date and banana milkshakes. Sadly say goodbye to the red city, already scheming a way to visit again.
And if you do have more time, Essaouira, a surf town about a two-and-a-half-hour drive directly west makes a great day or overnight trip. You can go horseback or camel riding on the beach and eat incredibly fresh seafood. At the market stalls near the port, you select your fish and they grill it right in front of you.
Or head to El Fellah, just 30 minutes from Marrakech. The artsy retreat has a cooking school, happening bar, and a stunning pool with views of the Atlas Mountains.
Riad Anayela – 28 Derb Zerwal. Tel: +212 (0)5 24 38 699
El Fenn – Derb Moullay Abdullah Ben Hezzian. Tel: +212 (0)5 24 44 12 10
Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier – Place Jemaa el-Fna. Tel: +212 (0)5 24 44 21 93
Nomad – 1,Derb Aarjan. Tel: +212 (0)5 24 38 16 09
Majorelle Gardens – Rue Yves Saint Laurent. Tel: +212 (0)5 24 31 30 47
33 Rue Majorelle – 33 Rue Yves Saint Laurent. Tel: +212 (0)5 24 31 41 95
Kechmara – 3 Rue de la Liberté. Tel: +212 (0)5 24 42 25 32
La Mamounia – Avenue Prince Moulay Rachid. Tel: +212 (0)5 24 38 86 00
El Fassia Gueliz – 55,Blvd. Zerktouni. Tel: +212 (0)5 24 43 40 60
Souk Cherifia – 15, Souk Cherifia. Tel: +212 (0)6 78 38 22 54
Terrasse des Epices – 15, Souk Cherifia. Tel: +212 (0)5 24 37 59 04
La Maison Arabe – 1, Derb Assehbe, Bab Doukkala. Tel: +212 (0)5 24 38 70 10
Le Grand Café de la Poste – Angle Boulevard el Mansour Eddahbi et Avenue Imam Malik. Tel: +212 (0) 24 43 30 38
Café Clock – 224, Derb Chtouka. Tel: +212 (0)5 24 37 83 67
El Fellah – km 13, Route de L’Ourika – Tassoultante – Canal Zarraba. Tel: +212 (0)5 25 06 50 00
Written by Casey Hatfield-Chiotti for the HiP Paris Blog. All images by Casey Hatfield-Chiotti. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.