The Buro city guide: Marrakech
Alexandra and Genevieve Smart take us on a cultural and spiritual journey to the heart of one of Morocco's Imperial Cities. Get lost in the souks, bathe in a hammam and be treated to the stunning views of the Atlas Mountains in the distance.
Top 3 restaurants
1. Le Jardin
The shaded garden at Le Jardin is a great place for dinner. It's a large courtyard enclosed in a 17th-century mansion with lush foliage, water features and turtles wandering freely. The style is Brazil meets Marrakech - a small oasis in the souk.
32, Souk El jeld Sidi Abdelaziz, Marrakech Medina
This hipster take on North African cuisine is our favourite restaurant. From the rooftop you can look down into the market and absorb the atmosphere below, listening to contemporary Moroccan tunes. The food is deliciously spicy (as one waiter pointed out, the secret of Moroccan food is in the spices), delicate and layered.
Favourite dishes include the chicken tagine with reserved lemon, lamb tagine with delicate cous cous; plus, there's an array of delicious vegetarian options. We recommend a chilled Moroccan Rosé (Gris) to accompany.
1 Derb Aarjan, Marrakech Medina
3. Dar Moha
A restaurant tucked inside the Medina that was fashion designer Pierre Balmain's former home. An atmospheric courtyard with Arabian arches and an intricately tiled pool sets the scene for a six-course degustation. We had five chefs prepare a meal that was as detailed as it was delicious, an experience that is called Moroccan inventive cuisine.
Favourite dishes include Fois Gras with argan oil and Guérande salt; quail with caramelised onions and lentils; and pigeon pastry with cinnamon.
81, Rue Dar El Bacha, Marrakech Medina
The best suburb to stay
The best place to stay is inside the Medina. Otherwise known as the old town, it's full of character and interesting places to eat and shop. You can easily get lost in the maze of narrow streets and stalls.
3 hotel suggestions
1. Riad Jaaneman
This is where we stayed. It's a charming oasis in the middle of the Medina and combines contemporary Morocco with traditional architecture and design. The service is fantastic and the rooms are a peaceful retreat from the magical chaos of the Medina.
12 Derb Sraghna, Dar El Bacha, Marrakech
2. La Pause
This hotel, located in the Marrakech desert, is a must. In the middle of the rolling, barren desert, La Pause is almost camouflaged by the sides of the sand dunes. However on closer inspection, that turns out to be a series of oversized goat hair tents with ruby red Berber rugs, cushions, candles and instant relaxation. No mobile service, Wi-Fi or electricity is a quiet luxury. The food is excellent, the service discreet and intuitive, and the stillness unique.
Douar Lmieh laroussiene, Marrakech
3. La Maison Arabe
Situated just outside the Medina, this hotel was renovated by the Prince of Morocco and has hosted such dignitaries as Winston Churchill. It's a boutique hotel with traditional decor and houses one of Marrakech's best hammams.
1, Derb Assehbé, Bab Doukkala, Marrakech Médina
Where to shop
The best place to shop in Marrakech is in the souk: from rugs to Moroccan lanterns and leather, glassware, slippers, cushions and Argan oil and spices.
It's a visual feast of energy, colour and inspiration. We didn't venture outside the souk for other shopping, as the Medina was all encompassing. We spent two days immersed in all that was on offer.
Jardin Majorelle/Berber Museum
Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé's love affair with each other and Morocco is on fine display in the gardens and architecture of Jardin Marjorelle and the Berber museum. We especially loved the vibrant blues, yellow and ochre colours of the home.
The Berber Museum is also one of the most extensive and well presented collections and a heartfelt tribute to the Berber women of Morocco.
Rue Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakech
Best view of the city
The view from the rooftops of the bars in Marrakech gives you an insight into the expanse of the sprawling city. The apricot colour of the buildings goes on for miles and the Atlas Mountains on the horizon is a heady view.
Best day spas/beauty
The best hammam we visited was at the hotel La Maison Arabe just outside the Medina. We loved the black pepper scrub and clay masque, followed by an amazing massage that rejuvenated every cell - especially after a week showing our latest collection at Paris Fashion Week with the Australian Fashion Chamber.
Where to buy homewares
The souk is the place to visit for homewares. There is plenty of choice and it takes a while to get comfortable bargaining, but soon you begin to get a sense of prices and techniques and then you are away. We bought leather poufs, embroidered cushions, Moroccan pendant lights, Tuareg jewellery from the 'Blue People' and an ancient hand-carved eyeliner pot that is used by the Berber women to blacken their eyes. We'd go back in a heartbeat!
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