L’Hôtel Marrakech by Jasper Conran is a love letter of a stay written in particularly elegant script: the Brit designer has added pure white four-posters in each of the – just five – suites; a pair of flower-draped roof terraces; and orange-blossom and jasmine-perfumed gardens in the courtyard. There’s no noise from the Medina to stir you from your slumbers, the lap pool is sheltered by lush palms and if you’re in an upper-floor suite, the terrace has pull-across curtains for a little alone time: Mr Conran, we're a little smitten.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £361.49 (€400), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include Continental breakfast, a lavish spread of breads and pastries, cheeses, eggs any-which-way, fresh fruit and juices, and strong coffee or teas. Rates do not include a discretionary seven per cent service charge.
Take afternoon tea under the pergola on one of the roof terraces, or at a table set amid its many flower-filled urns. The view stretches out to the Atlas Mountains. Perfumed with orange-blossom, honeysuckle and rose, the rooftop ’s set for snoozy summer cocktail hours.
At the hotel
Courtyard gardens, hammam, twin roof terraces, lounge and dining room, and free WiFi. In rooms: artwork and antiques picked by Conran himself, free seasonal fruit and bottled water, handmade Egyptian-cotton linens, air-conditioning and Le Sens de Marrakech toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
We’ve got designs on the upper-level suites; best booked for soft-focus romance. Set overlooking the courtyard, each has a huge private terrace with voile curtains you can pull across when you need some alone time. Interiors are just as seductive: the pristine Egyptian-cotton linens in the white four-poster beds are begging to be rumpled.
It’s rare for a riad in the Medina to have a lap pool, so the 10-metre one in the courtyard is a welcome surprise hidden amid the garden’s luxuriant trees and flowering plants. It’s heated in the summer months, and after dark it’s lit by candles and lanterns. Couples can chill out side-by-side on a pair of sunloungers shaded by a parasol, while waiters waft over with drinks at the dozy nod of a sun hat.
A wide-brimmed hat and a fan for days spent on the terrace, a page-turner and a ballpark budget for your interior revamp once you return home.
On request, a local therapist can set up a massage table in your suite.
The glamour! The passion! The winding stairs and pool with no gate! This riad is for over-18s only, to maintain its wonderful sense of serenity.
We very much enjoyed having an array of dishes ferried to our private terrace.
As Jasper's treasured guest.
Dinner is an informal affair, served in the lemon-striped, Thirties-revival dining room, or on your terrace. The menu’s dishes shift with the season, but spice-sprinkled, olive-pocked salads, tender chicken tagines livened with preserved lemon, fish pastillas and refreshing fruit salads are the sort of tempting things to expect. On cooler nights a fire is stoked, and in summer the glass doors are opened to allow the scents of the garden to drift in. One meal is included in your stay, an excellent excuse to give the chef’s talents a whirl.
Guests set the timetable here, so when you start to feel peckish, hail a member of the team.
As flexible as mealtimes, room service can be delivered to your door whenever you feel the need. Dishes vary with the season, but traditional and modern Moroccan fare takes precedence.
L’Hôtel lies in a secluded quarter of the Medina, north west of Jemaa El-Fna and the souk. Staff greet you at the Ben Youssef Mosque and lead you through a maze of quiet side streets to the riad’s decorative doors.
From Marrakech Menara International airport, the drive to the hotel is under 20 minutes. Fly direct with EasyJet from the UK; flights from the US have a stopover in Lisbon or Casablanca. Airport transfers in a Mercedes-Benz E-Class (or a Mercedes Vito minivan for groups of up to seven guests) are included in your room rate.
Marrakech Railway Station is a 15-minute drive from the hotel. Trains arrive here direct from Casablanca or Fez.
It’s easy to navigate central Marrakech on foot; alternatively, private drivers can be hired for around £60 a day. Roads can be chaotic, especially around the Medina, where donkey-driven carts and scooters share the streets. Cars cannot go down the winding alleys that lead to the hotel, so you’ll need to find a parking spot elsewhere in the Medina. If you’re lucky enough to locate a space for your motor, four wheels will come in handy for exploring the sprawling Palmeraie, upper reaches of the Atlas and beyond; or if you’re planning a trip to Essaouira (a three-hour drive away). There are car-hire booths at the airport.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel is within a hawker’s call of the Medina and the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque, the revered religious monument has stayed the tallest building in the city out of respect. Jemaa El-Fna and the souk’s myriad stalls and nightly melee are a 20-minute stroll away. Only Muslims can enter the Ben Youssef Mosque, but differently denominated visitors can marvel at its exterior. The neon-bright buildings, towering cacti and flower-crowded walkways of the Jardin Majorelle are unfailingly lovely, and the little on-site museum has intricate Berber jewellery and costumery to covet. For more wondrous weaving and richly cultured handicraft, stop by Maison Tiskiwin, a petite space filled with textiles, tents and adornments. Or peep into Marrakech’s past at La Maison de la Photographie museum and find that some things are still very much the same today.
With one meal included in your stay you have an excuse to spend one candlelit night behind the curtains on your terrace, or four-poster (hey, we’re not ones to judge). Bô Zin is reliably cool, with ochre walls, tented terraces and low lighting under which you can share fragrant cous-cous dishes and Thai-inspired tidbits. Follow the design theme at Dar Moha, which resides in Pierre Balmain’s former pad. Diners sit on the patio by his Persian rug-tiled pool and pick from any number of plates lining the table: Berber-style cous cous, sweet pastillas and crispy, thyme-infused chicken.
Bakchich Café, with its bold hues and recycled furnishings, is a cheery spot in which to spend the afternoon while sipping a freshly squeezed juice and tucking into a tagine.
Kechmara on the Rue de la Liberté is a mod Marrakchi hangout where pitchers of rosé wine are served with grapefruit juice, mojitos come with the freshest mint and the Marrakech Iced Tea knocks you for six (thanks to the slugs of vodka, gin, tequila and rum muddled into it).
I should start by saying I’m not sure if I’m a talented enough writer to fully convey quite how special L’Hotel Marrakech is, but will try my best to do it justice.
After landing in Marrakech and being met by our driver, we took the short journey through hectic streets into the old town. After swerving around donkeys and mopeds, we were met by a very nice man named George, who then led us down winding pink medina alleyways until we were stood outside an impressive dark green door: the entrance to L’Hotel. I feel like it would be cliché to call it ‘an oasis’. But it is, so I’m going to.
Behind the door is Jasper Conran’s beautifully restored 19th-century riad, where you suddenly feel a million miles away from the hot and dusty streets, transported instead into a world of 1930s elegance. The noise from the markets is replaced by the sound of water trickling from the flower-covered fountain in the middle of the courtyard; the people and donkeys by the occasional roaming tortoise.
After being shown to our suite – one of only five in the hotel – George is back with some mint tea and helpful advice for anyone new to Marrakech (mainly, how to not get lost or ripped off – important for any Morocco novice).
By this time, the sun was starting to set and there was no better place to watch it than from the roof terrace where, from under the honeysuckle-covered pergola, you can see the Atlas mountains and the busy rooftops of the city.
It’s at this point L’Hotel Marrakech becomes truly magical: the courtyard is now candlelit and scored with standards by Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, interrupted occasionally by the distant call to prayer coming from outside the riad walls. Inside the riad walls, though, you may as well be on the set of Casablanca – all that’s missing is Humphrey Bogart in a white suit.
Staying here feels a bit like staying at someone’s incredibly beautiful home, rather than in a hotel. There’s no official restaurant, instead there’s an intimate and elegantly decorated dining room that looks out onto the courtyard through big iron-edged glass doors. There’s no menu either – instead you let George and his colleagues know that you’ll be having dinner and they let you know what’s being served. (That evening it was the best beef tagine I’ve ever had in my life. In fact, I’m now ruined for all other beef tagines.)
After waking up in the Tangier suite’s muslin-draped four-poster bed, Mr Smith and I had breakfast (your choice of Moroccan or continental with bottomless fresh orange juice) on one of the private terraces overlooking the courtyard. After that it was time to venture out of the riad – a trip made easier by hotel manager Luca who came along to show us the way to the souk. After some well-executed bargaining (thanks for those tips, George) and a stop for lunch at a great restaurant recommended by another hotel guest, we were eager to get back to cool off in the pool before dinner.
Now, I’m normally loathe to do touristy things when I’m abroad, but there was no way in hell I was going to go to Morocco and not ride a camel. So the next day the hotel arranged an excursion for us. It was seamlessly easy: we were picked up, dropped off, and fed by an extremely kind Berber family – and by the end of the day I was riding a camel named Jackie Chan through the desert.
Once the camel adventure had been ticked off my bucket list, the last day of our trip was mainly spent at the pool guessing what kind of tagine we were going to have for dinner based on the incredible smells coming out of the kitchen, and envying the newly arrived guests who still had their whole trip ahead of them.
Saying goodbye to L’Hotel, George, Luca, Billie Holiday and the nameless tortoises wasn’t easy. I haven't stayed somewhere where I felt so looked after, by such nice people, in a long time. Whether it was directions to Le Jardin Majorelle, instructions on how to haggle with cab drivers, or getting you on a camel, L’Hotel Marrakech has it all effortlessly covered.
I’m already looking forward to the beef tagine next year…