When it comes to seeking out accommodation in Morocco, one option will show up in nearly every city: the riad.
Read a handful of riad reviews, and you're likely to find words like “oasis” and “retreat” used over and over to describe the riad experience. People agree that a riad can be a relaxing escape from the chaos of many of Morocco's large cities – and this is especially true in Marrakech.
But what is a riad?
A riad, in simplest terms, is a Moroccan guesthouse. But the term actually refers to the type of building the guesthouse is housed in. The word “riad” means something close to “garden” (one guide told me it can sometimes translate to “paradise”), and so a true riad will have an interior garden.
In a riad, rooms will be situated around a central courtyard garden, often with a fountain or pool. If there's no garden, the accommodation should technically be called a “dar” – but the terms riad and dar have come to be somewhat interchangeable, especially when you're searching for a place to stay in Marrakech.
In Marrakech, the term riad is sometimes used a bit loosely to describe any small, boutique accommodation with rooms situated around an inner courtyard. Most riads will be small (sometimes as small as just 4 or 6 rooms), and many will have a rooftop terrace (which can also be quite garden-like).
These riads are often old mansions/palaces that have been renovated into guesthouses, with many of them retaining unique historic touches.
If you want a true Moroccan accommodation experience in Marrakech, you'll want to stay in a riad.
Where I stayed: After doing lots of research and matching up the days I wanted to stay with riad availability, I booked myself into Riad BE Marrakech, a riad within the Marrakech medina. Most of the photos in this post are from that riad.
Things to consider when choosing a Marrakech riad
The thing with riads is that there are a TON of them. Like, seriously, more than 1000 to choose from in Marrakech alone.
As someone who can get very stressed out when presented with too many options, booking a riad in Marrakech struck me as a daunting task. But I don't want it to be quite as daunting for you. So, in order to help you find the perfect riad in Marrakech, I've come up with some handy tips.
Here are 4 things you'll want to consider when deciding where to stay in Marrakech:
Because of the historical nature of riads, the majority of them in Marrakech will be in the older part of town, often within the walls of the ancient medina. Location, therefore, should be the first thing you consider when searching for a riad.
You'll want to pay attention to the riad's proximity to certain attractions you're interested in visiting, but you want to pay MORE attention to whether or not you can reach it easily by taxi. Riads within Marrakech's medina are often not accessible by car since many medina streets aren't accessible by car.
If your riad is inside the medina, this is great for ease of getting around and seeing things. But when traveling to the riad from the airport or train station, it might mean you'll have to be dropped off a few streets away and get to your riad on foot through the maze-like medina alleys.
If you're not sure whether a riad is accessible by car or not, it's worth reaching out to the riad to ask.
Pro tip: If your riad can only be reached on foot, inquire as to whether the riad offer transfers. If so, it's worth paying extra for a transfer (or only choosing a riad that offers them). A riad transfer from the airport (or even from elsewhere in the city) will usually entail someone from the riad meeting your taxi and guiding you to your riad on foot. Just be sure to make note of all the turns so you can find your way back on your own later!
After location, the next thing I looked at when searching for riads were the things included. Like any hotel, you can expect to have amenities like bedding, towels, and a private bathroom included. Most riads operate like B&Bs and will also include breakfast with your room rate.
But other things to look for include:
- A plunge pool where you can take a dip
- A rooftop terrace for relaxing
- An on-site restaurant where you can make reservations for dinner or even take a cooking class
- An on-site hammam where you can book spa treatments
- Air conditioning (you'll want this almost year-round in Marrakech)
I chose Riad BE because it included all of these things. It also had a few interior common areas for relaxing, a small rooftop bar where you could order tea and fresh juices throughout the day, and a yoga studio with daily classes.
When comparing riads, it's worth paying attention to how large they are. Most riads are small guesthouses, but some are smaller than others. There's quite a difference between a riad with 6 rooms and a riad with more than a dozen rooms.
I knew I wanted to stay in a smaller riad to fully embrace the quiet “oasis” atmosphere. Riad BE is actually made up of two side-by-side riads – The Oasis and The Essence – but has less than a dozen rooms total. The size was just about perfect.
Pro tip: If you're planning to book a smaller riad, make sure to make reservations well in advance! The most popular riads in Marrakech do fill up, no matter when you're planning your visit.
Lastly, in this digital age where everything ends up being posted on social media, you might want to take design into account when looking for a riad. Many Marrakech riads have retained traditional design elements like mosaic tiles, carved woodwork, and Berber carpets, while others have been updated and more modernized.
Design preference is of course a very personal thing, but it might help you choose between a couple riads once you've narrowed them down. I'll admit that my first choices of riads all included tiled walls, saturated colors, and lots of throw pillows.
Riad BE ended up being a great match for me because two separate riads meant two different beautifully designed spaces to photograph and enjoy!
Marrakech riads to consider
When you're searching for riads on an online booking site, be aware that there won't be a “riad” section to browse. Riads will be listed under everything from “B&Bs/Inns” to “guesthouses” to “specialty lodging;” some will even be listed under “hotels.”
Because searching can be so overwhelming, here are a bunch of riads in Marrakech to check out.
Caveat: I definitely did not stay in (or even visit) all of these riads. But, after spending hours (yes, literally hours) consulting lists and reading reviews, these are the riads that made my personal shortlist – i.e. they're ones I would consider staying at.
For those seeking traditional Moroccan touches and charm…
Riad Kheirredine – 2, Derb Chelligui, Sidi Ben Slimane – This 14-room luxury riad is actually the #1-rated hotel in Marrakech on TripAdvisor. It has elegant rooms, a restaurant, a plunge pool, a spa, a terrace, and more.
Riad Kniza – 34 Derb l'Hotel, Bab Doukala – Another top-rated riad in Marrakech, Riad Kniza has been in the same family for more than 200 years. It oozes Moroccan charm, and has a decent-sized plunge pool, a sauna, and fireplaces in many of the rooms.
Riad le Clos des Arts – Riad Zitoune Jdid, Derb Tbib 50 – Offering up larger rooms than many other Marrakech riads, you'll also love the rich wood details and rooftop plunge pool at this highly-rated riad.
Riad Palais Sebban – 43 Derb Moulay Abdellah Ben Hsseine Laksour – This riad used to be a palace and dates back to the 19th century. It has stunning Moroccan and Andalusian architecture inside, including intricate tilework and carved plaster.
Riad Dar Yema – 188 bis Derb Jdid Quartier Dabachi Médina – This little riad has only 6 rooms, but dates back to the 17th century. It was renovated in 2016, and has a colorful plunge pool and a terrace with sun loungers. It's also one of the more affordable riads on this list.
Riad Rafaele – Derb el Ghanjaoui, 2 Assouel – Located at the northern end of the souks, this riad has 6 rooms and lots of traditional Moroccan design touches. It's also really affordable.
More modern riads
For those seeking more contemporary design…
Riad Adore – 94 Derb Tizzougarine, Dar el Bacha – This newer riad is minutes away from Jemaa el-Fnaa square in the heart of Marrakech. And while it has Moroccan-inspired decor, the riad is modern and chic in its design.
Riad L'Hôtel Marrakech – 41 Derb Sidi Lahcen, Bab Doukkala – This all-suite boutique-style riad has a lush courtyard with a fountain and plunge pool, along with multiple indoor and outdoor lounging areas.
Riad Farnatchi – 2 Derb el Farnatchi, Rue Souk el Fassis – This 10-suite riad has been recognized by several travel magazines for its luxurious accommodations. It has a plunge pool, a rooftop terrace with restaurant and bar, and a spa with private hammams.
Riad Idra – 105 Derb Tizougarine, Dar el Bacha – Not far from Riad Adore, Riad Idra is another popular riad with light and airy rooms and suites. It also has lots of places to lounge and relax, and offers airport transfers.
Riad 72 – 72 Arset Awzel, Bab Doukkala – This riad describes itself as a “romantic retreat,” and offers up clean lines and contemporary Moroccan design. This riad does not have a pool, but has a rooftop terrace with great views.
For those seeking those tiled walls and postcard-perfect pools and terraces…
Riad Yasmine – 209 Rue Ank Jemel, Bab Taghzout – The original Instagram darling when it comes to riads in Marrakech, this small riad (only 8 rooms) is known for its green-and-white-tiled courtyard.
Riad BE – 23 Derb Sidi Lahcen O Ali – This is where I stayed in Marrakech. It's actually two side-by-side riads, The Oasis and The Essence. The Oasis is all tiles, while The Essense is slightly more minimalist, but still pretty. I had my favorite breakfast in Morocco here.
Ksar Kasbah and Spa – Ksibat Nhass Derb Sbaia 2 – Located to the south of the medina near the Saadian Tombs, this riad has a cozy, Moroccan-inspired design and striking black tiled courtyard.
L'Oriental Medina Riad and Spa – 5 Derb Lgssaba, Lmoukef, Kaat Bennahid – This newer riad has many picture-perfect spots, from the tiled courtyard to the lounge areas on the rooftop terrace. Rooms are smaller here, but each has a private bathroom.
How much should you pay for a riad? Marrakech isn't as “cheap” of a destination as many people assume; food and accommodation can be just as pricey here as in large cities in Europe. Riads, therefore, can run the gamut of prices. You'll find some that are very cheap ($30-$50 per night) and others that are really expensive ($300-$500 per night). The good news is that there are plenty that are in between.
Things to know about staying in a riad
Staying in a riad is NOT like staying in a hotel in Marrakech. Riads are small and more intimate, and are also much more likely to be housed in restored historic buildings.
Because of this, there are a few things you want to know about staying in a riad in order to go in with the right expectations:
1. The service will likely be great
Along with the comments calling a riad an “oasis,” the next-most-common thing to read in a riad review is that the staff was excellent. This is pretty common anywhere you stay in Morocco, but especially at riads. Because riads are smaller, it's much easier for the staff to get to know their guests.
2. Your room may be small
Think about you average townhouse in the US. Now imagine converting that townhouse into a guesthouse with 6-10 rooms. Because most riads used to be private mansions and palaces, the rooms that are now guest rooms can sometimes be very small.
While some riads have been renovated to offer larger rooms, don't expect your room to be massive. In some riads, a double room may barely be wide enough to fit a double bed.
The good news is that every riad will have multiple lounge areas, so there's no need to spend a ton of time in your room if you don't want to.
3. Not everything will work perfectly
Again, remember that almost every riad in Marrakech is at least a couple hundred years old, and has been renovated into the guesthouse it is today. Also remember that Marrakech, while more developed than many other cities in North Africa, is not a European city. Things don't always work the way you might expect them to work at home.
This might be as simple as poor water pressure or a shower drain that doesn't drain very quickly, or could be as annoying as intermittent hot water or a heater/air conditioner that won't turn on. If you run into an issue, be sure to bring it up with the staff – but don't be surprised if issues are slow to be fixed.
4. It may not be quiet
Old buildings = not a whole lot of soundproofing. Plus, most riad rooms will open onto the central courtyard, meaning there's not a lot of buffer between where you're sleeping and where people may be passing through or even hanging out.
If you're a light sleeper, I highly recommend packing your earplugs with you, just in case.
So there you have it. Everything you need to know about choosing a riad in Marrakech. What did I miss? What other questions do you have? Feel free to ask in the comments below!
Would YOU want to stay in a riad in Marrakech?
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