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Marrakech is a heady mix of stimulations for the senses, an architectural wonderland and nirvana for gourmets. As a result, it’s a magnet for visitors, and a multitude of hotels have cropped up in recent years to meet the demand alongside the classics that have been favorites for years.
These are the finest hotels:
The most famous hotel in town, La Mamounia is on the edge of the medina. History has unfolded in its halls, and a robust list of famous names have stayed here since its 1923 debut—everyone from Winston Churchill to Nelson Mandela to Tom Cruise. A Moorish design sweeps across the salons, 270 rooms and suites three riads, overlaid with intricate tiling and vivid colors courtesy of top French designer Jacques Garcia. The gardens containing 700 orange trees, 5,000 rose bushes and 200 olive trees are almost as famous as the guests, and the vast outdoor pool is one of the top places to be seen in the city.
Some 1,500 Moroccan artisans were employed to build this palace hotel commissioned by the King of Morocco, and it took them three years and a seemingly unlimited budget. The result: Every part of it shows off museum-worthy craftsmanship, from the 2.5-ton, etched bronze doors at the entrance to the zellige tiles, the shiny plaster tadelakt walls and carved marble. It’s laid out as a medina with 53 separate three-floor riads rather than normal hotel rooms. The spa is a focus, as are the restaurants with menus designed by Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno.
Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech
Sleek, sophisticated and more restrained than its rivals, the Mandarin is an oasis on 50 acres of gardens and olive groves facing the Atlas Mountains and sits a 15-minute drive out of the city. The contemporary suites and villas are actually compounds, the rooms arranged around a pool, lending a great sense of privacy and space. The 19,375-square-foot spa gives off the same vibes with private gardens surrounding each of the six treatment rooms. The spa provides a variety of rituals ranging from classic Asian massages to Moroccan treatments with a hammam and body wrap of honey and ginger, or baths with Moroccan roses. There are also several dining options: Moroccan with a modern slant, Chinese, international and Mediterranean al fresco by the pool.
Located in the medina near the Royal Palace and the Saadian Tombs, this is an amalgam of five riads, each with a different decoration on display: Moorish arches, zelllige tiles, ornate columns, brass and silver lanterns emitting moody lighting through brick corridors. The 28-room hotel also has a high-quality restaurant; a more casual café serving a market and street-food menu on the rooftop with views of the landmark tower of Koutoubia Mosque; cooking classes; an outdoor pool, spa with two hammams; and 24-hour room service.
Villa des Orangers
It’s hard to imagine that so much is on the other side of a simple door in the medina. This member of Relais & Chateaux is a palatial riad built by a prominent resident in the 1930s and expanded over the years to a full-fledged hotel. The decor in the common rooms and 27 suites is a hybrid: clubby with sharp brown leather armchairs, couches and other contemporary adornments while showcasing traditional Moroccan carving, tiling and fabrics. Other features: a spa with hammam, three pools and a gourmet restaurant that mixes Mediterranean flavors with modern Moroccan.
Marrakech is known as the Red City, and Amanjena is made from the same clay visible in many other structures throughout the town. It is a stylized interpretation of a traditional Moroccan palace with long passageways, marble fountains filled with rose petals, a large stone courtyard and walled villas laid out the same way that sultans designed their palaces. The one knock on Amanjena: It’s in the middle of nowhere. Guests tend to feel far away from the city. (It’s a 15-minute drive to the medina.) Its many fans relish the solitude, the spa with two hammams and the Amelkis Golf Club next door.
After designer Jacques Garcia redesigned La Mamounia, he designed Selman and seemingly took the style quotient up a notch, heaping on intense colors, sharp furniture, opulent chandeliers and towering columns. It too is a short drive from Marrakech, but that distance comes with something many other resorts don’t have: a stable (also designed by Jacques Garcia) housing Arabian thoroughbreds. Guests can visit and admire these extraordinary horses, watch them perform or take a dressage lesson.