Here’s a question: If prices were equal, would you rather stay in a 5* hotel or a 4* hotel that has much more character?
I think if you are on a short romantic break then the answer is definitely the 4*hotel with character. There are a few places around the world where the accommodation is simply buzzing with character – and nowhere is better for this than Marrakech.
In Marrakech, you will find the big chain hotels but also riads – these are smaller, boutique style hotels, often where all the rooms are different. There is usually a small pool, courtyard, garden, and often a rooftop terrace. One of the amazing things is about the riads in Marrakech is their tranquility, even though they are usually in the heart of the medina you don’t hear a peep!
Such is the beauty of some of the riads and individual rooms that its worth going to Marrakech just to stay in one. As a travel agent, I get lots of requests and bookings for riads but there are several things to remember, especially if you want to keept the price down:
1. Remember it is ALWAYS cheaper to book EARLY – the airline we use the most is easyjet which currently has some fantasic prices for early next year. But check their website for next week, and you’ll see it isn’t much of a bargain.
2. If you are going in peak season or half term weeks, again you need to book EARLY to keep the price down – the earlier you book the cheaper it will be.
3. Most riads are full most of the time, so again please book EARLY. It is as frustrating for us as it is our customers when we are ringing round and just can’t get a suitable for 3-4 months away
4. LOCATION is key as always – the closer you are to the medina and Djemma el Fna, the better. Luckily, most riads (and all we sell) are in the heart of Marrakech.
5. STAY for 4-5 nights – this is the most popular duration and gives you a chance to head into the Atlas Mountains for a day.
6. DON’T spend too long looking at reviews! The fact is, we often get better feedback from riads right down the rankings than those near the top. Maybe expectation? It is interesting that whenever we get negative feedback about any hotel (in the world not just Marrakech) we check the reviews, and most of the time it is hard to see how we would have been put off booking it. Of course there are bad hotels in every city but any decent travel agent should be avoiding these!
7. Stay on a BED & BREAKFAST basis – although a couple of Marrakech riads offer half board, I think one of the great pleasures of the city is the eating – you can dine cheaply in Djemma el Fna, or pay much more in a quality restaurant. La Sultana is an amazing dining experience in an enchanting atmopsphere – but expect to pay £50 a head including a bottle of wine. In the square, you’ll get a good meal for just a few pounds.
I’ve touched a little on how long to stay in Marrakech for, and 4-5 days is about right, but what else is there to do. You’ll want a full day wandering round and soaking up the atmosphere, then another full day exploring the fabulous gardens (one of the best is Majorelle Gardens) and areas just outside the centre. Then a day in the Atlas Mountains passing through little traditional villages makes a great contrast. Then a last day doing things like horse and carriage rides, having a hamman (Turkish Bath) or massage, and buying souvenirs from the medina.
Which riad to choose? Depending on how early you book will depend on how much choice you have. At the top end are riads such as La Sultana and Villa Des Oranges, while at the budget end are Palais Sebban and Les Borjs de la Kasbah. And there are several riads in the mid price range – 4*+ / 5* quality such as Riad Blanc, Riad Bab Firdaus, Riad Kniza, Riad Si Said, Riad Tiwaline which are all very special and well located, so it comes down maybe to availability and if any have any special offers on.
You can see details for all on our Marrakech Riads site.