There’s Never Been a Better Time to Visit Marrakech

The most exciting places to eat, drink, and stay right now.

<p>Courtesy of Angsana Riads Collection Marrakech</p>

Courtesy of Angsana Riads Collection Marrakech

The silence of the Agafay Desert had only been punctuated by the clopping of the camels we were riding until, suddenly, screaming erupted from the caravan behind us and the hills along the horizon. Morocco had just pushed Spain to a penalty shootout, and the impossible looked like it may come to fruition: The beloved national soccer team might actually be advancing to the quarter-finals in the World Cup.

Our guides could barely contain themselves; the Spanish family behind us was crestfallen. By the time we arrived back at camp, the Atlas Lions had advanced. Dinner was a celebration.

In truth, dinner is always a celebration in Morocco, as is lunch and breakfast. Snacks, too. The renowned food of the country is one of the main reasons that Morocco resides at the top of so many travelers’ bucket lists. With its diverse architecture, warm hospitality, and astounding range of cuisines, Marrakech is a culinary capital that’s only getting more exciting.

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On a recent visit to Marrakech with my wife and two daughters, we ate our way through the city. Any successful visit is equal parts planning and serendipity, especially in a city like Marrakech, with its souks, alleyways, broad boulevards, and narrow winding streets crowded with people and motorbikes and donkey-drawn wagons. A strategy is key. We’re here to help.

Where to stay

Where you stay in Marrakech will have a big impact on the texture of your experience, and the Angsana Riads Collection Marrakech, built in more than century-old Moroccan houses and owned by Banyan Tree Group, was our home base for our time in the city and absolutely perfect. The gorgeous 19th century Riad Si Said, where we stayed, is both central in the Medina and a terrific oasis of calm. (There are six properties, all within walking distance, that are part of the collection in Marrakech.) Not only were the accommodations fantastic — spacious, gorgeously designed with stunning tile work and local fixtures — but the staff’s balance between highly professional and outstandingly personal was impeccable.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

And the food there was phenomenal. The main restaurant, Si Said, which in the morning serves an epic breakfast of homemade yogurt, fresh juices, and airy baghrir (a semolina pancake with countless holes spread across its surface, the better to catch all of the honey that's drizzled on top) and at night transforms into a casually elegant restaurant worth visiting even if you’re not staying there. Couscous was among the fluffiest and most aromatically complex we tasted; a heady makfoul lamb tagine was presented beautifully.

Where to eat

Outside the Medina are two equally excellent yet totally different new restaurants also worth hopping in a taxi to check out. Sahbi Sahbi, in the Guéliz section of Marrakech and whose name translates to “soulmates,” is run by a team of all-female chefs. They work in an open kitchen embedded in a gorgeous, spacious dining room.

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Dishes like the comforting and subtly spice-seamed harira soup (one of the best salves for jet-lag I’ve ever consumed) and an exciting array of salads (khizou makok, shredded carrots electrified with orange; and zaalouk, coriander- and lemon-kissed eggplant) preceded a range of mains – including a stunning lamb tagine with sesame and sugared eggplants – that showcased the brilliance of the concept at Sahbi Sahbi: celebrating the secret recipes that are traditionally passed down from one generation of women to another, but here, in the open kitchen, made public.

<p>Courtesy of Sahbi Sahbi</p>

Courtesy of Sahbi Sahbi

On the total other side of the spectrum is Toro Toro, located on Avenue Ménara in what feels like the city’s equivalent of Rodeo Drive, from chef Richard Sandoval. It’s a modern, airy space serving what the team there calls a pan-Latin steakhouse concept. Of particular note were the smoked swordfish dip, each bite seamed with lemon, pickled jalapeño, and cilantro; the impossibly moist, red chili adobo-marinated chicken; and the whole sea bass, which made for a terrific round of tacos. The non-alcoholic cocktails are also very thoughtful, and the fig mojito, with lemon, fresh mint, cane sugar, and a crown of fig puree, is worth ordering even if you do want a drink with alcohol.

All over the city, in fact, non-alcoholic cocktails were a high point, and few places did them better than L’mida, the casually chic rooftop restaurant that’s well worth the effort to find. Its Marrakech Pacho mocktail was like a virgin Bloody Mary but better, the tomato and cucumber amped up with olive oil, garlic, and harissa. The eponymous L’mida mocktail was a frothy wonder with cilantro, cucumber, and lime, the light foam of bubbles on top catching the mid-afternoon sunlight shining overhead.

<p>Courtesy of L&#39;mida</p>

Courtesy of L'mida

The food there is also excellent — chef Narjisse Benkabbou sends out one showstopper after another. Cheese briouates, featuring preserved lemon, honey, and sesame seeds, are a perfect snack. The piri piri-zipped kefta were Platonic ideals of the dish. The richness of pulled mechoui lamb shoulder found exquisite balance with a mint-flecked yogurt sauce and some of the most tender lentils I’ve ever had.

Where to go for coffee, tea, and dessert

Not far from there is Mandala Society, which focuses on fair wages, organic products, and not using plastic. Go there for well-crafted teas and coffees alongside a menu whose inspirations run from the local to the international. For dessert, La Porte du Monde, in the Medina, is a sweets-lover’s dream: They do magical things with sesame and honey. Don't miss the sticky-crispy chebakia, each bite a honeyed wonder.

Marrakech is a city that rewards a lifetime of exploration, or at least a few weeks. Hotspots like Nomad are garnering an international reputation. Amal not only offers a lovely menu of local classics but also helps to support and train disadvantaged women in culinary arts (they also were instrumental in aiding families with food during the lockdown phases of Covid). World Storytelling Cafe serves an entirely plant-based menu alongside stories from guest tale-tellers.

<p>Courtesy of Amal Women&#39;s Training Center</p>

Courtesy of Amal Women's Training Center

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That’s the nature of Marrakech: It’s a warm embrace of a city, with more incredible restaurants and cafes than you could visit in a lifetime. But making the effort to even just scratch the surface is a rewarding and deeply soulful experience. Be sure to go there hungry: You’ll want to eat it all.

Consider a guide

A great tour guide is a very good idea, especially one who loves to eat and drink. Tour guide Mohamed Allouch – Moha to his friends – made our time in the city infinitely more special. Even if you don’t have plans to visit Morocco anytime soon, check out his Instagram feed, Moha in Marrakech, which is a daily burst of adventures and architecture and food.