Check into the Capaldi Hotel: 23 villas and suites just a 40-minute drive from Marrakech. This secluded countryside hotel has views of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, dozens of fragrant olive trees in the grounds and even two resident donkeys. Rooms are decorated with rustic Moroccan touches like shaggy Berber rugs and crackling open log fires for the chillier months.
After lunch at the hotel, make your way to Marrakech and dive headfirst into the liveliness of the city’s busy souks, covered to protect from the baking midday heat and dappled with shafts of sunlight. While it’s easy to get lost in the winding alleyways, make sure Mustapha Blaoui is starred on your map. This Aladdin’s cave of a shop has interconnected rooms that go on and on, and prices are often a snip of the market stalls in the souks.
Just outside the chaos of the medina (ancient quarter), Le Palace is a fine-dining restaurant with striking architecture and interior design to match the flawless food. Order from illuminated menus in this low-lit bolthole, where antique Moroccan design blends with a red-lit Parisian boudoir vibe. Think dripping chandeliers, mosaic flooring and etched wooden window frames. Try the tender weeping tiger – grilled beef that comes with a sticky-sweet Thai sauce.
Smell the roses
Spend the day relaxing by the pool and lunching at Beldi Country Club – a little out of town but close to the Capaldi Hotel. The club is a former farm and still has fields of multicolored roses stretching into the distance. There’s also a spa, small hotel, restaurant and artisanal village where locals make pottery and weave kilim rugs for sale. It attracts the jet-set crowd: model Poppy Delevingne even had her wedding here.
Make an appointment at Jnan Amar Polo Estate, only 20 minutes from Marrakech. If it’s not a match day, you can book a polo lesson individually or in a group, when you can discover the rules of the game and learn your “chukkas” from your “bolds”. The polo fields are set to be joined by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences, due to open in 2020, but you can get a head start honing your polo skills now.
Fit for a king
Stop for a drink and dinner in town at the Royal Mansour, the Moroccan king’s own hotel comprising of 53 riads. Privacy is key here, so you might not see anyone at all in its sprawling gardens and discreet bars and restaurants set over four hectares.
Get an early start at the new Musée Yves Saint Laurent, which opened last October – queues are often around the block later in the day. The Red City is often associated with the Parisian designer after he relocated here, searching for inspiration for his collections. Marvel at pieces such as his Mondrian-inspired shifts and black-and-white photos of muses Catherine Deneuve and Claudia Schiffer.
Right next door is the Jacques Majorelle-designed Jardin Majorelle botanist garden, with its cobalt-blue Cubist villa that houses the Islamic Art Museum. Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé worked to restore the garden to its former glory in the 1980s. Today, winding pathways take you past a lush display of cacti and palms. Don’t forget your camera – this is probably the most photographed spot in Marrakech.
It’s not all about souks and medinas – Marrakech is also known for attracting an international boho crowd, and The Moroccans boutique on Rue Yves Saint Laurent is the place for carefully curated Moroccan gifts to take home. They’re well known for their all-natural Moroccan prickly pear seed oil and their organic argan oil, which has been featured in the likes of Vanity Fair.
Oasis of calm
As good as Jardin Majorelle but lesser known is Le Jardin Secret, inside the medina. This 16th-century riad-museum only opened to the public last year after a three-year restoration using ancient techniques, creating a vast garden. Expect shimmering aquamarine bejmat tiles and a dramatic pavilion. It’s a bubble of calm in the hectic medina and brilliant for a pitstop while shopping.
As the sun goes down, tourist-heavy Jemaa el-Fnaa square bursts into action, as market stalls with bar stools and benches are set up. Most serve some variation of the same thing, but you can expect chargrilled meats, couscous, salads and the local delicacy of snail soup. You’ll often find the best and cheapest food to eat in Marrakech here.