by Katharina Hahn
Magnificent architecture, foodie treats, top trinkets and SUN
Fancy a spring break with magnificent architecture, foodie treats, a bit of pampering, top trinkets and SUN? Head to Marrakesh, Morocco’s ‘red city’. It may be Africa, but it’s a mere three hours away, so brush up on your school French and pack your (half-empty) bags…
Where to stay
La Mamounia is still the grandest address in the city – Churchill, Chaplin and Hitchcock stayed there, and you’ve got to visit, even if it’s just for a cocktail in the bar or tea in the beautiful garden. It’s a proper oasis, with gorgeous rooms, a superb spa and soothing views of olive trees.
Other contenders for most stylish hotel include the sumptuous Royal Mansour, owned by King Mohammed VI, no less, with its souk-style riads, or El Fenn, hidden away in the medina, with its dreamy rooftop terrace. Or there’s the newest kid on the block, Jasper Conran’s ravishing Thirties-style L’Hôtel Marrakech. If you’re set on a small riad, opt for tranquil Riad Daria, with its orange-tree-filled yard and pancake breakfasts served to the sound of crowing roosters.
Where to eat
All roads lead to Jemaa el-Fna square, the beating heart of Marrakesh’s medina, and it can be daunting, with its snakecharmers, drummers and shouting hawkers. Watch the mayhem from the safe distance of Zeitoun Café’s lantern-adorned terrace and order a pastilla (savoury pastry) with a mocktail – this is a good time for a detox; many restaurants are alcohol-free.
Hidden away in the souks (give Google Maps a challenge) is Riad Dar Tim Tam: think delicate salads, followed by fruit and miniature sweets, in a leafy courtyard.
Café Clock in the Kasbah is not just any old café but a ‘cross-cultural zone’, offering workshops, music and storytelling events as well as rooftop yoga. But you can also simply enjoy a date milkshake – or a camel burger if you’re feeling that way inclined.
What to see
It may sound touristy, but clip-clopping through the medina in a horse-drawn calèche is a fantastically easy way to see Marrakesh. Afterwards, relax in the gardens of the Koutoubia mosque and breathe in the jasmine-scented air. Make sure you visit Palais Bahia, with its intricately decorated courtyards, and go stork-spotting at El Badi Palace (the birds make their nests on the walls).
The YSL Museum
Don’t miss Jardin Majorelle (expect great photo ops and a long queue), with its bamboo forests, cactuses and striking cobalt-blue villa. Created by the painter Jacques Majorelle, it was later bought by Yves Saint Laurent, and – fashion lovers, rejoice! – the brand-new YSL museum opens on 19 October. Designed by hipster architects Studio KO, the red-brick building mimics the weave of fabric (clever), with an airy interior and all-black (of course) gallery showing Saint Laurent’s most famous designs. There’s a funky café and brilliant book shop too.
What to buy
It’s not all spices, carpets and magic herbs: the Jardin Majorelle museum shop offers elegant coffee-table books plus tasselled bookmarks, and the nearby 33 Majorelleconcept store will tempt you with homewares with a twist, pouches and poufs and ‘Keep Calm and Eat Tagine’ prints. Also worth checking out are the La Mamounia shop (go for the scented candles) and Ensemble Artisanal, an artisan cooperative: it’s the souks distilled into calmer form, and it has ‘one of everything’ but at fixed prices.