When you make a plan to visit Morocco, the first thing that pops up on your mind is where you will stay. If you want to experience the authentic lifestyle of Morocco, then there is only one place you should consider – a riad.
What is a Riad? A Riad is a traditional guesthouse that is constructed around one central courtyard. A Riad has a garden that is decorated with different kinds of plants and a fountain. Riad is an Arabic word that literally means “gardens” in English.
Understanding a Riad
Nestled within the winding alleys of Morocco’s ancient medinas, riads are traditional courtyard homes that offer an intimate glimpse into the kingdom’s storied past. Once grand palaces and mansions of royalty and aristocracy, many have been meticulously restored and converted into boutique guesthouses that radiate old-world charm.
Stepping inside a riad is like entering a sanctuary, transported back through centuries. Ornate zellij tilework in brilliant hues adorns the floors, while stunningly carved stucco plassters the walls. The open-air courtyard at the heart of the riad is an oasis of tranquility, with an alluring pool or fountain surrounded by lush palms and ferns.
Up above, rooms branch off breezy corridors overlooking the courtyard, their shuttered windows and wrought iron balconies providing perfect perches to admire the beauty below. At night, lanterns cast a soft glow as the sounds of the medina fade away.
The finest riads offer not just exquisite accommodations, but also warm Moroccan hospitality and authentic touches. Sip mint tea on the rooftop terrace at sunset, lulled by the melodic call to prayer. Indulge in savory tagines and pastries hot from the clay oven. Receive a luxurious hammam experience with purifying natural soaps and healing argan oils.
To truly immerse in Marrakech’s culture, stay in a riad and surround yourself with the magnificence of Morocco’s imperial past.
The Architecture of a Riad
Stepping into the inner sanctum of a riad reveals the beauty of traditional Moroccan architecture and design. The ground floor typically contains two or three elongated rooms opening directly onto the central garden courtyard through curtained doorways or arched openings. One room may feature a spacious, barrier-free sitting area for relaxed lounging and taking in the serenity of the courtyard.
Ascending to the upper floors, more intimate rooms branch off of breezy corridors overlooking the garden below. Ornate metalwork grills and wooden shutters cover the windows, filtering light through intricate patterns. Soaring ceilings create an airy oasis, while richly hued textiles and furnishings add warmth. Each room leads to a lovely interior balcony perfect for gazing below.
The main entrance of the riad is a sight to behold – a monumental, highly decorated wooden door often topped with ornate carvings. Passing through this portal, you traverse a long, dimly lit hallway before entering the sun-drenched courtyard. The central garden is the jewel of the riad, featuring a soothing fountain or pool surrounded by verdant vegetation and vines.
The interior walls bring the beauty indoors through colorful hand-painted tiles, carved stucco, or other ornamentation reminiscent of the finest Moroccan craftsmanship. Staying in a riad allows you to experience the masterful detail and nuances of traditional design firsthand.
The ingenious design of traditional riads seamlessly blends indoor and outdoor living spaces through open-air features. At the heart of the home is the open courtyard, exposing it to the elements. Sunlight streams in, fresh breezes circulate, and even rain falls gently through the open rooftop high above.
Looking up, one can glimpse blue skies framed by the beautifully carved woodwork supporting the pitched roof. Any moisture quickly drains away thanks to the angled design. Swaying palm trees emerge from the garden below, their fronds reaching towards the heavens. Despite the openness, privacy is maintained by the riad’s towering protective walls.
Bathrooms and Kitchen
The riad’s more functional spaces are cleverly tucked away from the main living areas. Bathrooms and kitchens are discretely located on the ground floor, apart from the central passage and courtyard. Bathrooms often contain traditional squat-style toilets and sinks either inside or just outside the rooms. While many updated riads now have showers, historically residents would visit public hammams to bathe.
In the kitchen, large chimneys effectively ventilate the space, whisking away cooking smoke and odors. This allows feasts to be prepared using age-old Moroccan techniques without permeating the rest of the home. The riad’s thoughtful layout balances beauty, tradition, and function.
Where Will You Find A Riad In Marrakech?
Hidden down winding alleys in the ancient heart of Marrakech’s medina, the city’s finest riads are secluded treasures waiting to be uncovered. Though riads can be found across Morocco, the Old City of Marrakech holds the most authentic gems, just steps from the buzzing Jemaa el Fna square.
Finding a riad is an adventure in itself, as they are discreet havens without obvious signs or directions. One could walk right by and easily miss the nondescript exterior, blending in with neighboring buildings. Only a carved wood doorway hints at the sanctuary within. Venture down the narrow stone-paved streets, away from the medina’s commotion, and you may stumble upon a peaceful oasis.
Stepping inside, the riad reveals itself to be a lavish contrast from the simple outside facade. Yet locating these hidden homes can be challenging without a guide, especially at night. It’s best to arrange a pickup point with riad staff, lest you lose your way in the winding alleys. Even with a map, one could spend hours searching in vain.
But for those who find their way, hundreds of riads scattered throughout Marrakech’s nooks and crannies offer authentic luxury. With a few helpful pointers from locals, you’re sure to uncover your own secret retreat and be rewarded with a serene escape from the medina’s organized chaos. Getting a bit lost is all part of the adventure in discovering Marrakech’s hidden riad gems.
Here is a list of my favorite Riads:
How Are The Rooms In A Riad?
The intimate rooms of a riad are a feast for the senses, each one a unique jewel that embodies Morocco’s rich design traditions. Though riads are small-scale – typically 3 to 10 rooms – what they lack in size they make up for in character and charm.
Every space features its own vivid style, from budget-friendly comfort to lavish finery. On the upper floors, rooms open onto semi-private balconies overlooking the riad’s center, providing a quieter retreat. The architecture honors the past, with hand-carved wood, colorful tilework, and textiles spilling over beds and chairs.
Underfoot, brilliantly hued zellij tiles form intricate patterns that gleam in the sunlight. Ornate lanterns cast a warm glow at night. Traditional woven rugs add muted contrast, their stories told through ancient Berber motifs. Carved stucco coating the walls creates undulating waves, complemented by accents of carved wood, gleaming brass, and hand-laid mosaics.
The bathrooms continue the sensorial experience, awash in stunning decorative tilework. Touches like fresh flowers and local oils complete the ambiance. While amenities like Wi-Fi may be included, TVs are rare – the focus is on cultural immersion. Each detail evokes heritage and craft, transporting guests to another world rich in tradition.
What Can You Drink and Eat In A Riad?
One of the best things about visiting other destinations is trying out their local cuisines. Morocco is famous for its culinary heritage, which everyone should get a taste of in their life. So it is no surprise that you will be served only the rich quality authentic food when you stay in a riad.
Every riad has its team of local cooks who bring to your table some of the most lip-smacking traditional Moroccan cuisines. In fact, if you ever reminisce about your trip to Morocco in the future, the first thing you will remember is the delectable food at the Marrakech riad.
For breakfast, you will find simple but delicious options for food. These options may include Moroccan bread, fruits, mint tea, honey, local pastries, and fresh juice. Dinners mostly include any made to order dish. These dishes are cooked only from fresh ingredients that are purchased on the same day.
You will simply have to inform the staff about your choice of food. You will surely be wowed by the amazing taste of the traditional dishes served by the chef. Most of your meals will be served either on the roof terrace or in the courtyard. If you are searching for alcoholic beverages, then it is better to know if your riad serves the same since it is a Muslim country.
In case you are a hardcore foodie, you will be amazed by the taste and even the way the food is served. You cannot have a complete Moroccan experience without trying out their local cuisine. If you have allergic reactions to certain food items, make sure you inform the same to the staff.
Moreover, if you are unaware of the ingredients present in any particular dish, ask the staff so that you can know what you will be eating.
How Is The Service In A Riad?
Most riads in Marrakech are owned by individuals and are run by managers. Since riads boast of an intimate and private set-up, the service there is very personalized. Since there is less number of rooms, you will not find too much of a crowd in any riad. Due to this, the service standard of riads is generally exceptional.
If you ever stay in an amazing riad, you will not like staying in a hotel ever. The staffs in a riad are nothing like you have ever experienced in a modern hotel. They pay incredible attention to your needs. You will not have to find a staff as someone, or the other will always be present around you.
Moreover, the experience becomes very personal as everyone in the riad will treat you like a family member. At the same time, they will serve you like you are a prince or a princess who has come to their house.
Not only is the place luxurious, but it will also make you feel very cozy. You will surely hate it when the trip ends, and you have to leave the comfort of the riad. Exceptionally trained and well mannered, you will have no complaints regarding the behavior of the staff.
Their only goal is to make you feel comfortable and ensure that you have the best experience, one that you will remember all your life. If you have any special service requests, be rest assured that they will provide it if possible.
Even the manager is always present for anything that you need. Equally well-mannered, he is the one that will tend to all your grievances and requests without a hint of irritation. Riads are well known for their high hospitality standards. You will find that the decoration and food are not the only things that make your stay at the riad extraordinary.
Why Should You Stay In A Riad?
Let’s be real, riads are expensive accommodation options. You will find much cheaper hotels in the vicinity. However, will you be able to have the same experience as you would in a riad? No, the experience of staying in a riad and a hotel is completely different from each other.
Staying in a riad is like being in a palace and being treated like a royal. This is not something that you will get even in the best hotels. You will definitely be taken care of, but not in the same way as in a riad. Hence, if you are visiting Marrakech, then it is better to have a good budget and book a riad for the whole trip.
Throughout the day, you will be roaming around in the busy streets of Marrakech and enjoying the sights. Once you enter the riad, it will be a tranquil cocoon for you. You can relax here and gain energy for the next day. The thick walls of the riad do not let the outside noise penetrate the inner sanctuary.
Moreover, since most riads are located in deserted locations, you will not find unwanted hustle-bustle destroying your peace. At night you can enjoy the open sky, the chirping of the birds, and the sound of the fountain. It will seem almost like being in a fairy tale.
The decoration of a raid is out of the world, and this is one of the things that you will love about being here. From hand-crafted doors to tile works on the floor and walls, the riad exhibits some of the best artwork. Depending on the riad that you stay in, you may have your own private balcony, terrace, or even a Jacuzzi.
Not that you need any more reasons to know why you should stay in a riad, but we still have one more for you. You will be able to taste the most mouth-watering dishes in the riad. Many riads have their in-house restaurants, while some just have made to order food options. No matter which one it is, you will get to try the best authentic cuisines of Marrakech.
So despite it being expensive, you will definitely have a very worthwhile stay at the riad. Hence, if you can afford it, you will not regret staying in a riad at all. Your stay at the riad will be one of the highlights of your trip to Morocco.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Riad
One thing about a riad is that you will find thousands of them just in Marrakech. This can make choosing a riad a very daunting task. How do you know which one will be good for you? What if you end up choosing the wrong one and not have the experience that you dreamt of?
This is why here are four things that you need to consider to make this task easier for yourself. Shortlist your choices based on these factors, and you will definitely end up with a very good riad accommodation.
Since riads are of a historic nature, they are mostly located within the ancient medina. This is why the first thing that you need to consider while you are choosing your riad is its location. You might have already shortlisted some of the attractions that you wish to visit while on your trip to Morocco.
You need to search for a riad that is near to most of these attractions. However, before this, you need to see if your riad is accessible by taxi. Since the streets of the medina are not fit for cars, you might not be able to reach your riad directly by car. But you do need to see how near the riad your taxi can drop you off.
If the riad you have chosen is inside the medina, then you will have easy access to the markets. However, this also means that you have to walk a few streets to reach your riad. If you are not familiar with the streets of the medina, then you will most probably get lost in the maze-like alleys.
You can also ask the riad if they offer any car services to pick you up from the airport. If not, you can also fix a pick-up point where your taxi drops you off. Here you can wait for the staff to come and lead the way to the riad. This way, you will reach faster and not get lost in your search for the riad.
After you are happy with the location of your riad, you need to check out the amenities it provides. Like a hotel, your riad will also give you some of the basic amenities like towels, private bathroom, and bedding. Riads mostly function like a B&B, which means they may also have breakfast included in the room rate.
However, to make your stay more comfortable and worthwhile, you can search for some additional amenities as well. These amenities can be a plunge pool, on-site restaurant, air conditioning, rooftop terrace, or even an on-site hammam.
Also, check out the common areas which are present in the riad. You can also find some riads having a yoga studio or a rooftop bar where you can order beverages all day. There are many other kinds of amenities that are provided by different riads.
As already mentioned, you will find both small and big riads with rooms ranging from six to a dozen. The size of the riad will completely depend upon the experience that you wish to have. You already know that in a small riad there will be fewer people. However, in a riad with a dozen or more rooms, you will find more families or groups.
So it all depends on whether you want to have a quiet experience or you are fine with a large number of people in the riad. For travelers who like to meet new people, this crowd is favorable. They can make new friends during their stay and engage in conversation with new people every day.
However, if you are one of those people who like to stay away from too much communication and enjoy your peace, then a small riad would be better for you.
Last but not least, the design is an important factor to be considered while choosing your riad. The truth is that in this technological era, people like posting pictures of their travel experiences on their social media platforms. This is where the design of the riad comes in.
The traditional designs will not only make you awestruck but will also grab the attention of your friends on social media. You can capture some of the most beautiful pictures of the exquisite artwork portrayed by your riad.
However, this is a very personal factor and might not be the same for everyone. But it is also helpful to remember that one of the reasons for staying in a riad is to admire its traditional designs. Hence, if you are already paying for it, make sure you stay somewhere you can actually admire.
Even if you are not a social media person, this is something that you need to think about while booking your riad.
Five Top Riads in Marrakech
Just a little walk away from the souk, Dar Darma is a beautiful riad with a terrace that overlooks the Atlas Mountains. The riad has common areas such as a patio, a fireplace lounge, the hall of Arches, and the Moroccan lounge. You can also relax in a swimming pool during a hot mid-afternoon.
Complete with a library and in-house Hamman, this is a place that will be worth the money you pay. The interior of the riad is colorfully painted and has high ceilings. You will not have to walk much if you want to access the street markets.
Riad Les Yeux Blues
The Riad Les Yeux Blues has eight rooms and has two central courtyards around which it is designed. Restored by French Owner Jocelyne Despin, this riad is situated in the old area of the city, specifically inside the medina. Located in a quiet and peaceful neighborhood, this riad is perfect for people who wish to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the main city.
The central courtyard has a swimming pool along with a marble fountain. One of the central courtyards is a private area where people can relax. From the terrace of the riad, you can get a view of the Marrakech rooftops.
Located near Bab El Khemis in the medina, Riad Aguavia is owned by David Minguillon and Manel Moncusi. The owners from Barcelona opened the riad for the public in the year 2008 after the completion of its renovation. Away from the center of the city, you can enjoy quite a peaceful time here at this riad.
The Plaza El Fna and the markets are easily accessible on foot. Equipped with just six rooms, this small riad has a patio as well as a pool in the center courtyard. You will not find many people in this riad as there are not many numbers of rooms.
La Maison Arabe
La Maison Arabe is a little different and bigger than most traditional riads. If you are looking for a more modern styled riad, then this is the one for you. There are 26 rooms in this riad, and each of these rooms is traditionally designed. Despite having a modern touch to it, the furnishings and interior is traditional Moroccan.
Here you will also find a private penthouse known as Douiria, which exhibits the more classic style of a riad. This penthouse has three rooms and one suite. Moreover, the Douiria also has two huge terraces where you can relax.
Riad Noir D’lvoire
Riad Noir D’lvoire is a place that you stay in if you are looking for comfort. The whole place gives you a cozy with a wooden pavilion in the roof terrace and logs fire in the library. Some of the most attractive features of the riad are its double sunbeds and private Jacuzzi, which is present in all three of the master suites.
Complete with a gym, a pool, and a hammam, the riad is a mixture of modern and traditional styles. There is also an in-house chef who prepares some of the most mouth-watering traditional Moroccan cuisines as well as North African food.
Riads are so amazingly beautiful and peaceful that you can spend a whole day inside, just lounging on the rooftop and seeing the view outside. When in Morocco, not staying in a riad is like missing out on one of the most important experiences in the city. This is why your trip to Morocco will not be complete without getting a riad accommodation.
Your stay will only be fulfilling if you can choose the best riad out of the thousands of options. Above, we have mentioned five of the most beautiful riads in Marrakech. However, you need not limit your search here as you will find many other riad options in the city.
After a whole day of enjoying the beauty of the city, you can come back and relax in your cozy rooms or even on the rooftop. Moreover, there is nothing like enjoying some of the best Moroccan delicacies made by the expert in-house chefs of the raid.
The royal service that you will receive from the staff of the riad will make you feel on top of the world. This is something that you will not receive in a hotel anywhere in the world. Hence, no matter where you go, you will always remember your stay at the riad.
So do not waste time thinking and find the best riad for yourself. Take the important factors under consideration and book the riad that you feel is the perfect option for you. Once you are done, book your ticket to Morocco, and off you go to one of the most memorable trips of your life!