The glittery Riad Star in Marrakech is a great place to restore your inner glow and retreat from the buzz of the Marrakech souk. Use it for a romantic city break or a launching pad for your full-on Morocco adventure!
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Figuring out where to stay in Marrakech can be spectacularly confusing. There are almost 2,000 listings for accommodation in Marrakech on Booking.com. To make matters worse, once you’ve sifted through hundreds of riad listings, they all start to look alike.
While in Marrakech, we were invited to stay at Riad Star, part of the Marrakesh Riad group. If you want to narrow down the search considerably, the Marrakesh Riad site offers a small collection of boutique riads for a range of budgets.
(If you’re wondering “What is a riad, anyway?”, here’s your answer.)
Which area to stay in Marrakech
Deciding which area area to stay in Marrakech can be confusing, too. Many travellers opt for a riad near the touristy Jemaa el-Fna square or to the south, near the royal Kasbah. Others look to the hotels and boutique hotels in Marrakech’s new city.
We prefer to stay on the edges of the medina, which allows us to get a glimpse of local life in Marrakech, less affected by touts and tourists.
Near the Marrakech Museum, Riad Star is in the north quadrant of the medina, but still easy walking distance from Marrakech’s biggest attractions.
Read on to discover what we thought of it…
What we loved at Riad Star Marrakech
Riads are often decorated in a festival of colours, with eye-catching tile work, brightly painted woodwork, and traditionally dyed Berber rugs and bedspreads.
At Riad Star, the traditional detailing is still there – but it’s all white. It’s a radical decision on the designers’ part and the effect is stunning and unique. It also leads to a more visually relaxing (and therefore more physically relaxing) experience.
But it’s the little details that make the design extra-special. Like the abundance of intricately hand-carved plaster work, the bronze statutes, and the dazzling Moroccan light fixtures.
Real star quality
Riad Star is connected to a former palace that is now Marrakech Museum. In the 1940s, it was home to Jazz Age legend and civil rights activist Josephine Baker. Not only did she break ground in the entertainment industry, she was also part of the French Resistance. During the war, she collected information at the fancy parties she attended, keeping notes written in invisible ink on her sheet music.
At Riad Star, you can even try on some of Ms. Baker’s lavish 1940s dresses for the ultimate in glam Instagrams. Maybe it’s just as well that they don’t have her famous banana skirt!
Going to a public hammam is a unique experience that you should not miss when in Morocco. But sometimes you want to get all steamed up and then just slip on a robe to stroll back to your room. That’s why having a hammam inside the riad is ideal.
Let the staff know and they will arrange for a woman to come and give you a scrubbing you won’t soon forget. Afterwards, your skin will have an extra sparkle!
Admittedly, in December it was a little too cold in Marrakech to enjoy much rooftop time at the riad. But, in warmer weather, the rooftop at Riad Star is exceptional. Because the riad is built inside two neighbouring houses, the rooftop is expansive and there’s plenty of room for lounging in privacy, even if other guests are around. Plus, the view from the roof is beautiful.
Unusual extras at Riad Star Marrakech
In our room at Riad Star, we had an oval-shaped annex equipped with a low stool for meditation. How cool is that? After braving the craziness of the Marrakesh medina and Jemma el-Fna, you will be so grateful for this cozy, quiet corner for your meditation practice. The meditation pod will really help ignite your inner sparkle.
Meditation pods are available in the Peace Room and the Grace Room.
One of the few non-white design touches in Riad Star are a series of little placards randomly placed on stairwells, under counters, and on the walls. They have sweet — but not cheesy — life affirming messages.
Enjoy This Day, Be Present, Breathe Deeply.
It’s a small reminder to be mindful in a country where that’s not always easy.
Local tips on a convenient app
Riad Star is part of a small group of riads run by Marrakech Riad. They a created a free Travel Guide to Marrakech app which features an offline map, restaurant recommendations, things to do in Marrakech, and great tips for haggling in the souks. Grab the app before your trip to Marrakech.
What we didn’t love at Riad Star
It’s really hard to find
If you try to make your way to Riad Star on your own the first time, be prepared for a mini-adventure. It’s not where Google Maps says it is (nothing is in Marrakech) and they don’t have a local phone number on their website. Also, even if you do manage to find the right alley, there’s no sign on their door, just a tiny silver star. We had to engage a local to help us find it and even he got lost. Unless you’re already familiar with Marrakesh, it might be better to arrange a transfer with the riad!
Traveller’s tip: If you do need help finding your Marrakech riad, there are plenty of young men who will be eager to give you directions (even if you don’t want their help!). If someone shows you to your riad, he will expect payment. Depending on how far he takes you, an appropriate amount would be 10-20 dirhams. No matter how much you tip, your guide will likely demand more money. So tip what you think is fair and stay firm. It’s all part of the Marrakech experience!
Hide and seek with staff
Because Riad Star is made up of two buildings linked together, it’s more labyrinthine than the usual riad configuration (rooms arranged around a rectangular central courtyard). Because of this, it was sometimes tricky to find the staff when we needed something.
Environmental and social initiatives at Marrakech Riad & Riad Star
The people behind Marrakech Riad founded the not-for-profit Henna Cafe Cultural Association. The cafe gives visitors the chance to get a henna tattoo or just take a break from the busy streets and alleys of Marrakech. The profits go to funding a free education centre which welcomes about 700 locals who attend classes there every week.
What’s in the neighbourhood?
Marrakech’s most popular museum
Riad Star is literally connected to the Marrakech Museum, which is a popular attraction in the city. You do have to walk around the building to get inside though.
A chance to experience the history of Marrakech
The Photography Museum of Marrakech, which features thousands of photos from Morocco spanning almost a century of photography, is also very close by.
A new adventure around every corner
The biggest attraction nearby is the Marrakech medina. We never get tired of popping out of our riad for a stroll around the narrow, twisting alleys of the souks. There’s always something new to discover!
Where to eat near Riad Star
Like most riads in Marrakech, Riad Star serves a large Berber-style breakfast that will set you up for the day. You can also pre-order your evening meal at the riad.
Beats and burgers
If you get a little tired of Moroccan food (it happens to the best of us!) stop by Beats Burger Bar for a tasty Western meal in a very cool audiophile setting. And yes, they do have a delicious veggie burger on the menu!
A cafe for travellers of all kinds
We also loved Nomad, which does a selection of “modern Moroccan cuisine”, offering lots to choose from for vegetarians, too. It’s also one of the few restaurants we visited in Marrakech that has warm indoor seating, perfect for those cold winter months!
Vegan food in a homey setting
My favourite meals in Marrakech came from Earth Cafe, where we ate several times while in Marrakech. It’s a vegan and vegetarian cafe run by a small group of women who prepare everything fresh in their small kitchen. We loved the veggie burger and the veggie pastry, but everything we ate there was great. The juices were thick and fresh, too – almost like a meal in themselves.
Book your stay at Riad Star / Marrakech Riad
Marrakech Riad offers rooms in four boutique riads in Marrakech. To negotiate the best rates for Riad Star and their other riads, contact Marrakech Riad directly.
Tours in & around Marrakesh
Fly in a hot-air balloon
Soar high above the plains outside of Marrakech as the sun rises over the Atlas Mountains! We did this tour with Marrakech by Air and had a fabulous time. The balloon ride is followed by a big Berber breakfast and a camel ride (which we skipped along with our animal-loving tour companions).
Full-day tour from Marrakech
Spend a full day touring the Ouzoud Waterfalls outside of Marrakech and visit Berber villages. You might even get to see wild monkeys!
Day trip to Essaouira from Marrakech
The seaside town of Essaouira is a great place to go for a taste of medieval Morocco. You’ll get to visit the fishing port, the city walls, and the expansive Moulay El Hassan square on this tour. You can also pick up souvenirs in the souk, which is a little less overwhelming than the Marrakech medina.
Cycling tours of the High Atlas Mountains
The best way to explore the High Atlas Mountains and valleys near Marrakech is to get out on a bicycle. We joined Maroc Nature for a 2-day cycling tour of the Ouirigane Valley and loved it! They have options for every level of cyclist and you can customize your tour to your desires.
Ourika Valley day tour
For a taste of the Atlas Mountains without all the cycling, try an Ourika Valley Day Tour. You’ll get to see dramatic scenery, experience charming Berber villages, and cool off at the Setti Fatma waterfalls.
3-day desert safari
Though we aren’t huge fans of camel rides (or any animal rides), the Merzouga desert safari is almost a rite of passage when you visit Morocco. Though riding a camel is mostly boring and very uncomfortable, spending the night in a Bedouin desert camp and playing on the Merzouga sand dunes was a highlight of our 2006 trip to Morocco.
What is a riad?
In Arabic, the literal meaning of riad is “garden”, but a Moroccan riad is so much more than that. A riad (aka ryad or riyadh) is a traditional Moroccan home, usually two or three stories, with rooms centred around a tranquil courtyard. It makes a perfect retreat from the mesmerizing but hectic souks in many Moroccan cities.
After snaking your way through the alleys of the souk, entranced by the scent of exotic spices, distracted by shop after shop of colourful wares and the shouts of enthusiastic marketeers, you’ll find the silence of your riad enchanting. As you cross the threshold, you’ll be welcomed by sparkling tiles in a tranquil courtyard. The small pool is a perfect place to cool off, while the rooftop relaxation area will give you views of the city’s rooftops.
This is what staying in a riad is like – it will be one of the highlights of your trip to Morocco.
♥ Happy mindful adventures, Stephen & Jane
We were guests at Riad Star but as always, we only stay in and recommend accommodation that we think you’ll truly enjoy! Some of the links in this post are our personal affiliate links, which means, if you use them to book something we get a small fee. It helps keep this blog afloat so thanks in advance!