One of my travel highlights of 2022 was the affordable luxury holiday in Marrakech I enjoyed with my girlfriends. Our 3-day itinerary was the perfect blend of indulgent spa treatments, 5-star pool days, cultural sights and cocktails at design-led rooftop bars. The best thing though was how affordable all these luxury experiences were, especially the stylish riads we stayed in.
So, for anyone planning a trip to Marrakech, here’s our exact itinerary and what we loved about it.
Pool Day at the Royal Mansour
I arrived in Marrakech on a Thursday night on an Easyjet flight from Gatwick. I’d prebooked an airport transfer with our riad (15 euros) as well as a 3-course traditional meal (15 euros per person) to have on the rooftop of the riad with my girlfriends who had flown in slightly earlier.
For our first full day in Marrakech we booked pool day passes at the Royal Mansour and I cannot recommend this enough.
We’d saved quite a bit of money by sharing a family room at a riad so splurged on a day pass to the Royal Mansour in order to soak up some 5-star luxury for a fraction of the price.
Our day pass cost 1250 MAD (approx £100) per person and included access to the huge garden swimming pool, a welcome mocktail, a 3 course a la carte lunch at the beautiful Le Jardin Restaurant and unlimited ice buckets filled with bottled water.
This was honestly just the perfect way to start the holiday. The service was exemplary without being stuffy, the pool was so peaceful and lunch was absolutely delicious.
We asked to delay dessert and have it by the pool later as we were so full from the first 2 courses and I’m so glad we did as the chocolate dessert I ordered was one of the most beautiful sweets I’ve ever eaten. (And I’ve eaten a lot of sweet treats.)
You could easily spend the price of the day pass on food alone at other hotels, so the fact we got to hang out in these exquisite surroundings for about a tenth of the price it costs to stay there was a real win in my eyes.
Families are welcome. The day pass is free for children under 6 years old and reduced by 50% for children aged 6 to 12.
Dinner at Nomad & Cocktails at El Fenn
Found in the heart of the medina, Nomad has 2 rooftop terraces with 360-degree views that are perfect for watching pink sunsets sink into terracotta roofs.
They are well-known for their burgers (which I didn’t order as I had one at lunch) but the crème brûlée I had for dessert was absolutely wonderful.
Nomad doesn’t have an alcohol license so after dinner we went to El Fenn, a drool-worthy riad with rooftop restaurant and bar that is an interior lover’s dream.
Getting around Marrakech
It’s worth noting that cars cannot enter the medina so to reach dinner at Nomad and get to El Fenn afterwards we had to walk through the souks. I had purchased an e-sim through Airalo (get $3 credit with my referral code JAYNE8741) and this was essential to help us navigate the winding lanes. Getting to Nomad was quite straightforward from Jemaa el Fna, the buzzing central square in Marrakech, but to get to El Fenn afterwards Goggle kept wanting to take us down unlit alleys and I found myself constantly rerouting.
El Fenn is on a main road that taxis can reach though so if you’re worried about navigating the souks in the dark, I’d recommend you book dinner at El Fenn and save Nomad for a lunch during the daytime.
Read also: Top tips for visiting Marrakech
Shopping, The Secret Garden & Spa Time
The second morning we’d left free for shopping with a side of sightseeing. We asked our driver to drop us near Le Jardin Secret as a starting point, and between where he dropped us and arriving at the garden we accumulated 4 pairs of shoes, some brass tea light holders, table mats, woven baskets, jewellery and more!
We really enjoyed haggling with the stall holders and, compared to experiences I’ve had in parts of Asia, I didn’t find anyone too pushy. It was really refreshing.
We spent 30 minutes in one store trying on almost every pair of leather sandals to get the perfect fit. We came away with 4 pairs of shoes for 600 MAD – approx. £12 each!
Le Jardin Secret was a wonderful place to stop for some respite from the souks. We enjoyed marvelling at this stately palace with its mix of exotic and traditional Islamic gardens, and inhaled a cold drink at the cafe afterwards.
Then, from the garden we headed back to El Fenn for some lunch and realised that it’s even more beautiful in the daytime! The food was delicious and it’s hard not to feel happy enjoying it when you’re surrounded by décor like this.
Les Bains De Marrakech
That afternoon we’d been tipped off by a friend about Les Bains de Marrakech and I cannot describe how wonderful this experience was. Les Bains is a traditional spa and hammam with the kind of interiors, smells and service that you’d expect at the world’s best 5-star hotels.
(The only experience I’ve had that comes close is the ESPA at The Corinthia but even then I prefer the authenticity of Les Bains – not to mention the very reasonable prices!)
We booked a 2-hour package for 799 MAD (approx £65) which included a 1-hour relaxing massage and 1-hour hammam. (You can mix and match your treatments – facials and mud baths are available if you don’t fancy the hammam.)
We arrived early so we could cool off in the plunge pools – I mean have you seen one as pretty as this? – and then were taken to a large cabin so we could have our hammam all together.
What to expect at a hammam
Leave your inhibitions at the door ladies! Although I would say Les Bains is a luxury experience it’s very much a traditional one too. For the hammam you are asked to strip and given a paper thong which frankly covers nothing. You begin lying on a heated marble slab in what is essentially a large sauna and then over the space of an hour the ladies come in and out without announcement and proceed to scrub, splash and wash you all over until you feel like a little baby!
I was glad to be able to do it in the same room as my girlfriends as you do feel a bit exposed lying around naked waiting for someone to come in and rub and scrub all your bits. It was good to giggle through the awkwardness, while averting our gazes, of course. I’ve had one other hammam experience before and this one was a lot more comfortable – maybe because I knew what to expect. I love how they even wash your hair for you. You feel completely taken care of.
After the hammam we were led to a quiet room to enjoy tea before being taken to separate treatment rooms for a 1-hour massage that was just magic. The whole afternoon was blissful and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Reserve online in advance here. Note: you will need to pay a deposit.
Dinner at Dar Dar Rooftop
That night I’d booked us a slightly later dinner at Dar Dar Rooftop Restaurant and it was the perfect place to spend a Saturday night in Marrakech. With Moroccan meets Mediterranean tapas on the menu, an extensive cocktail list including Froze, and a DJ playing all the classic tunes, Dar Dar was a vibe!
We stayed until we could fit no more in (Dar Dar also does a mean crème brulee) and then What’s Apped our driver to come get us from the nearest junction.
Check out this highlights reel from our trip to see more of Marrakech’s nightlife.
Relaxing at Riads & Exploring Ben Youssef Madrasa
Day 3 begun with a lazy morning at Riad Palais Calipau, soaking up the sun on the rooftop and then plunging in the pool to cool off. One of my girlfriends flew home that morning and the other was flying home that night. I had booked myself into another riad for an extra night as it worked out about £200 cheaper than flying on a Sunday. So, after a relaxed morning, Sam and I moved to my new riad and soaked up all the complimentary tea, coffee and pastries they plied us with.
My new digs, Riad Nelia, was within walking distance of a lot of the main sights so we set off on foot that afternoon to explore a little more. We visited the beautiful Ben Youssef Madrasa, once the largest Islamic school in Morocco and now a historical building open to the (instagramming) public.
It was a little saturated with tourists trying to get the perfect shot (who am I to judge?) but it’s so beautiful and definitely worth a visit.
(Tickets are 50MAD per person – no need to prebook.)
For our last meal together Sam and I headed to Café Des Epices, a Marrakesh institution I remembered from my last visit almost 10 years ago. With bird’s eye views over Place Des Epices, known for its vendors selling woven baskets and hats, you can almost eye up what to buy while waiting for brunch to be served.
Sam bought some beautiful big woven baskets that I now regret not getting for myself and then we headed back to the riad for a quick dip before she headed to the airport.
I spent my solo night in Marrakesh relaxing on the rooftop of Riad Nelia, enjoying more complimentary tea and fruit smoothies and thinking about what a wonderful trip it had been.
How much does it cost for a luxury long weekend in Marrakech?
Our total spend (we used a handy app called Tricount to work out who owed who what) was about £500 per person for food, drink, accommodation, spa treatments, taxis and souvenirs and I think it was an absolute bargain when you consider how indulgent our experience was.
My flights cost £277 return (with hold luggage and reserved seating) but you can easily get flights for under £100 with hand luggage only if you book early.
Where to stay in Marrakech
Some of the best affordable riads in Marrakech I’ve researched are:
We got to suss out a couple of these different accommodation options while in Marrakech.
If you’re going for a special occasion, you can’t go wrong with El Fenn. It’s conveniently located in the centre of the old city, has a number of plunge pools, restaurant and bar and is drop dead gorgeous. As their rooms can accommodate max 2 people it wasn’t right for us for this trip, which is how we came to stay in Riad Palais Calipau – a lush green oasis in the Kasbah area of Marrakech.
At Riad Calipau, we had a generous family suite that had a double bed and 2 singles behind a curtain. There was plenty of room for the 3 of us, plus all our luggage, and the interiors were well considered in a charmingly rustic kind of way.
We found staff very helpful with arranging taxis and transfers etc via Whatsapp but it wasn’t always easy to find someone on site. I only mention this because, in contrast, when I checked in at Riad Nelia, the manager Ismail was fantastic at welcoming us with hot tea and a map full of information about what to see and do in the area.
Riad Nelia is a gorgeous new riad within walking distance of a lot of Marrakech’s main attractions. It’s small but welcoming and I think it would be a great base for couples looking for somewhere modern yet relaxing in the middle of the medina.
Find more pictures and a detailed review here.
Disclosure: My trip was self-funded but this post contains some affiliate links.