Romantic Marrakech

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Romantic Marrakech
Marrakech makes it easy to escape the familiar. You can find treasures throughout the medina’s winding streets. It could be a palace, a boutique guesthouse, or a relaxing spa—all ingredients for creating your own romantic adventure.
Photo by Giovanni Mereghetti/age fotostock
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    Romantic Riads
    Marrakech introduced the world to the concept of the riad: a boutique guesthouse in a converted townhouse. It's shut off to the world, with nothing but a brass-nailed door to hint at what’s inside. The focal point of each riad is an open courtyard that often features a garden. A handful of rooms surround it, providing an intimate home away from home. Decor styles can range from Moroccan bling to sleek and contemporary. The only downside to these comfortable havens is how difficult they can be to leave and explore the city.
    Photo by Giovanni Mereghetti/age fotostock
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    Sunset over the Medina
    Exploring old Marrakech is fun, but the bustle of the medina can be exhausting. To recharge at the end of the day, head to the rooftop terrace of a riad and watch the sunset. The panorama before you will transform as the light fades and casts a rich pink glow over the city. Spot flocks of pigeons wheeling in the sky, and listen to the echoes of the call to prayer—later to be replaced by the distant buzz of the Djemaa el-Fna. Open a bottle of wine, toast the day, and enjoy the calming view as you think about what tomorrow’s explorations will bring.
    Photo by David Pickford/age fotostock
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    Horse-Drawn Carriages
    Marrakech’s most unique form of transport is the bright green calèche, or horse-drawn carriage. Rent one for an hour, or use one as a sedate way to get from point A to point B; just be sure to confirm the price before the horses start trotting away. A good spot to pick up a calèche is south of the Djemaa el-Fna near the Koutoubia Mosque. Climb aboard for your own private tour of Marrakech, skirting the edge of the medina before visiting some of the gardens that dot the city. Some might find them a little cheesy, but it hands-down beats a taxi as a means to experience Marrakech.
    Photo by Mwanasimba
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    Rejuvenating Garden Walks
    In a city as fast-paced as Marrakech, sometimes you need to escape and reconnect with nature. At the Jardin Majorelle in the Ville Nouvelle you can relax among exotic plants and shaded lanes and visit the former studio of the late French designer, Yves Saint Laurent. Closer to the medina you'll find beautiful, often overlooked gardens. The Koutoubia Mosque, the city's largest Muslim house of worship, is surrounded by rose gardens. Grab a scoop of ice cream from a nearby stand, and watch young couples and families pass by. Early evening is the most popular time to enjoy the promenade. And if you're near the Royal Palace, visit the 12th-century Agdal Gardens, where you can wander through groves of fruit trees.
    Photo by Michal Osmenda
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    Escape to Essaouira
    A day trip from Marrakech, the Atlantic fishing port of Essaouira offers a respite from the big city. Its imposing ramparts surround a small medina, where you'll find whitewashed houses with bright blue windows. Noted for its carved wood and painted canvases, the town is an artists' colony. Take in the ocean breeze on the vast sandy beach, or, for the adrenaline-inclined, head to the water and go windsurfing. Afterward, you can refuel at a beachside restaurant with fresh seafood. Essaouira has taken the riad concept to heart, and guesthouses often offer seaside views.
    Photo by Grand Parc/Flickr
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    Candlelit Dinners
    Eating Marrakech’s street food is a fun, inexpensive way to experience the city, but sometimes the heart and the stomach crave a little more. Most good riads offer home-cooked dinners for those nights when you'd rather stay home and eat in your private salon. In fact, many of the best riads have intimate restaurants that are often known for their imaginative takes on modern Moroccan cuisine. Good spots to splurge on a special dinner for two include Riad Kniza, Le Restaurant at La Maison Arabe, and Pepe Nero. El Fenn is also a lovely spot for pre-dinner cocktails, or try Le Salama near the Djemaa el-Fna if you are looking for somewhere in that area.
    Photo courtesy of the Fakir Collection
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    Spas and Hammams
    Visiting a hammam, or public bathhouse, is an essential part of the Marrakech experience. You'll reach a new level of clean after a steam room scrubbing. Upscale hammams now offer the best treatments to entice the crowds of visitors seeking spa escapes, and many riads offer an in-house hammam for guests. Typical treatment options include Moroccan rhassoul (a mask of mineral clays mixed with herbs or rose petals), gommage (a scrub), body wraps, and different types of massage. Noted hammams with the full spa experience include Le Bain Bleu and La Sultana. It's worth checking to see what your accommodation offers before booking.
    Photo by Jayms Ramirez
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    Essential Photo Opportunities
    Marrakech's warm light and the rich red and pink ochers of its buildings make the city endlessly photogenic, but there are certain classic shots that every visitor should return home with. Be sure to ask someone to snap your photo in front of the Koutoubia Mosque's minaret, at a street café as you enjoy a mint tea, and on the terrace of a riad as you sip something a little stronger. You should also break out the camera when you're wandering through the exotic Jardin Majorelle, and standing before the intricate tiles of the Bahia Palace or the Ali ben Youssef Medersa. Those with a nervous disposition may want to avoid the Djemaa el-Fna snake charmers, who attempt to coil their serpents around your neck before snapping a photo.
    Photo by Sergio Pitamitz/age fotostock
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    Experience the Great Outdoors
    To take advantage of Morocco's natural beauty, plan a day trip from Marrakech to the Cascades d’Ouzoud, North Africa's tallest waterfalls. Surrounded by the verdant Oued el-Abid canyon, they tumble 360 feet into the pools below. Go for a hike between March and June to see the falls when they're most dramatic. Just as accessible from Marrakech are the High Atlas mountains, where you can find the picturesque Berber village of Imlil. Wend your way through orchards to the Kasbah du Toubkal for lunch with a view, or stop en route at the palatial Kasbah Tamadot, which is owned by Richard Branson.
    Photo by Karol Kozlowski/age fotostock