We love a great hotel, but when it comes to where to stay in Morocco, the real magic lies in its intimate riads—traditional guesthouses built around a central courtyard. These 11 top our list.
Dar Darma, Marrakech
With its impressive collection of framed art, oversize vases, pottery, and 300-year-old painted ceiling, you might think Dar Darma a personal museum—if it didn't feel so intimate. The six-suite riad marries Moorish architectural influences with Italianate design (look out for leopard-skin rugs, crimson velvet settes, and shiny silver tea sets). We especially love the Blue Suite, with its cupola-lit sitting room, antique mirrors, and adjacent round bath.
Riad au 20 Jasmins, Fez
Each of the seven rooms at this exquisite boutique tap into the best of Moroccan design—think Berber rugs, silk shantung drapes, and embroidered bedcovers. The walls feature intricate tiled mosaics, floors are made of inlaid marble, and deep, red velvet sofas are artfully positioned beside heavy cedar doors. But what really steals the show is the gorgeous courtyard and the scent of jasmine that fills the air, everywhere.
Riad Kaïss, Marrakech
French architect and owner Christian Ferre turned this former harem, on a quiet street minutes from Jemaa el-Fnaa square, into one of Marrakech’s most tried-and-true stays. You'll find a leafy central courtyard brimming with lemon trees and nine rooms awash in traditional pink, green, and blue zellige tiles (the one to book is the rooftop suite, which comes with its own private terrace overlooking the medina's rooftops). If you fancy a private tour through town, a personal chauffeur and guide are at the ready to show you the city's best markets and food stalls.
Le Jardin des Biehn, Fez
It’s easy to lose yourself in the lush Andalusian garden of this former summer palace of a pasha, but you'll want to spend plenty of time inside. The owners, antique collectors Michel and Catherine Biehn, have given the bohemian property their own worldly touch: in each of the nine texture-heavy guest rooms, you might find an armoire from Sichuan, satin Yemeni wall hangings, or the bench of a babouchier (a Moroccan slipper maker) repurposed as a night stand—in addition to Moorish details like Moghul archways and moucharabieh trellises.
Riad Farnatchi, Marrakech
When British hotelier Jonathan Wix decided to make Marrakech a permanent home, he converted this five-riad complex—now open to the public—into a chic, airy residence worthy of his (and his friends’) taste. Expect sleek adjustable lighting and custom-made furniture in each of the nine guest rooms, along with a stunning hammam covered in white marble. There's also a just-opened spa, where treatments incorporate organic products and Moroccan argan oil. But not everything is shiny new: some of the walls here date back 400 years.
RELATED: 72 Hours in Marrakech
Villa Maroc, Essaouira
The tiny seaside town of Essaouira first came on the global scene when Cat Stevens and Jimi Hendrix paid a visit in the 60s, and it retains that hippie-chic vibe to this day. Here, you won't find any big-name hotels—just charming riads opened by expats seeking out a slower-paced lifestyle. Despite its age, the two-decade-old Villa Maroc (considered Morocco’s first riad hotel) is still a classic thanks to its timeless white-and-taupe color scheme and a smattering of equally neutral-hued antiques and textiles scattered throughout its four Medina townhouses.
Riad Dar Vedra, Marrakech
The look of this 18th-century jewel, split between two courtyards, is much simpler than the “more is more” attitude of surrounding competitors—and we like it that way. Each of the six rooms (and separate two-level apartment that sleeps seven) is a study in restraint, with traditional hand-knotted rugs, tasseled bedspreads, and, at times, just a single work of art—though they do have their own plunge pools and iron shutters that open out onto a patio covered in colored tadelakt. Head to the roof terrace for views over the Bab Doukkala Mosque to the snowy Atlas mountains.
Karawan Riad, Fez
A painstaking restoration may have brought this 17th-century Fez palace back to life, but a sense of the past is still ever-present, from the one-off antiques and original artwork to the sandstone walls unlike the eye-popping colors found at most other riads. A few of our favorite rooms: the intimate Demani, the only room on the roof which comes with its own sunken stone bath, and the Chergui, whose sitting room features pierced brass lanterns and a hidden mezzanine accessed via hanging staircase.
Riad Dixneuf la Ksour, Marrakech
In a sea of kaleidoscopic Arabian riads, this six-room jewel from Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty of Studio KO stands out thanks to a minimalist Afro-European twist. Sure, you’ll still find traditional furniture and the occasional Moorish carving, but walls are stark white, furniture is made from dark mahogany, and more contemporary pieces, like African statuettes and leather armchairs, give the space an updated edge. Dixneuf’s centerpiece: the central courtyard's plunge pool, with a jade-green mosaic floor and flanked by imposing pillars. Ask about their cooking lessons, which are led by the resident chef and include a visit to the local market.
Dar Roumana, Fez
It's those incredible (and original) mosaic tile floors, chiseled cedar doors, and stained glass windows that first made us fall in love with Dar Roumana, just outside Fez’s ancient medina walls. But there's more to this restored Fassi guesthouse than just its looks. Scores of locals and visitors (not just overnighters) come here for the destination restaurant, where French chef Vincent Bonnin serves up Moroccan-influenced Mediterranean cuisine in a spectacular setting; take your pick between the central courtyard or the rooftop terrace overlooking the city.
Riad Kniza, Marrakech
As many seasoned travelers to Marrakech will tell you, it's difficult to find a riad owned or run by true Moroccans—but this 200-year-old guesthouse has been in Haj Mohamed Bouskri’s family for generations. With help from skilled local craftsmen, the famous antiquarian restored each of the 11 rooms and three open-air courtyards to their full grandeur, though it's the incredible collection of antiques from his personal collection that really makes Riad Kniza sing. We're talking richly colored silk sofas, Berber wedding blankets, painted chests, and original oil paintings. After browsing the personal gallery that is your room, stop by the pool for a sip of mint tea—or, in colder months, some light reading by the fire in the library.