El Fenn

Marrakech, Morocco Book from

Sleek, chic and very boutique, this gorgeous riad hotel is filled with modern British art and ancient Moroccan crafts
British TV programmes never tire of telling nightmare stories about people buying homes abroad, only to find that they don't legally own them. So it's refreshing to hear about someone discovering by accident that the house next door came with the purchase. As if that weren't enough, she fell in love with the place so deeply that she bought 2 more adjoining houses. That someone is Vanessa Branson, who obviously shares the same business genes as her tycoon brother, and the building is a grand Marrakchi townhouse that stood in ruins until she and business partner Howell James snapped it up.

Vanessa approached the décor with equal vigour, and 2014 saw a full refurbishment to honour the hotel's 10th anniversary. Cherry reds and pomegranate pinks greet you as you enter; warm saffrons and azures brighten up the various bedrooms which are dotted between the main building, the smaller Little Sister riad, and the Private House (for up to 8). The sprawling roof terrace - its views pure magic at night - offers a dipping pool, hanging gardens, and scattered daybeds with piles of cushions. There are also 3 courtyard gardens, 2 heated marble swimming pools, treatment rooms for massages and a fabulous bar and restaurant boasting a hand-blown glass chandelier - pure Moroccan decadence.

Highs

  • Top location, near the Palace Gate and within walking distance of Djemaa el Fna, but thick walls and generous courtyards ensure total peace
  • Gorgeous big bedrooms and even bigger suites, many with 17ft-high ceilings, powerful showers and deep tubs
  • Great aesthetics. Treasured works of modern art - Bridget Rileys, Fred Pollocks - grace walls which are otherwise pleasingly bare
  • The option of booking the Private House for groups, or a room in Little Sister for those after a more peaceful experience
  • Plenty of private spaces to relax around the verdant courtyards and pools, and spoiling extras like scented candles and an array of babouche slippers to choose from

Lows

  • This a popular hotel, so the prime poolside spots are often taken, but there are plenty of other nooks to unwind in
  • Smallish portions of, it must be said, very delicious food
  • No in-room TVs or DVD players - a plus for some!
  • Open-plan bathrooms in some rooms may not be to everyone's taste

Best time to go

Marrakech is at its best in spring and autumn, when it's warm but not oppressively hot. The city bakes in the summer months of July and August. By the end of October the evenings are cold, although the midday sun is still warm enough to bask in. The weather in winter, from November to March, ranges from cold and rainy to balmy and clear.

Our top tips

There’s a touch of Arabian Nights about the riad’s palatial rooms and indulgent suites, and the views from the roof terrace are spine-tingling - all in all, this is a great choice for a honeymoon or a romantic treat.

Great for...

City Style
Eco
Honeymoon
Spa
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Riad Hotel
  • 22 rooms + 1 riad for 6-8
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • Under 12s accepted with prior arrangement
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: Private Pool Suite

Rooms

Originally created from 3 riads merged together, El Fenn’s main building now holds 22 rooms and suites of many varied colours, sizes and sensibilities. In addition to this, there’s a second riad named Little Sister, where 5 guest rooms await, and finally a Private House which can be booked exclusively for up to 8 guests.

All are a generous size, with high ceilings, sitting areas and, in many cases, open-plan bathrooms so you can chat while you splash. A cool mix of oriental furniture and vintage pieces from the 30s to 70s - carved wooden doors, ornate metal jalousies, antique mirrors, Moroccan rugs and Art Deco chairs - offsets the modernism and reminds you where you are. Most have fireplaces, large tubs and showers, and all come with slippers, iPod docks, robes and powerful yet discreet air-conditioning/heating.

In the main hotel, there are 22 rooms (those numbered 1-11 are in the old house, and the rest are in additional buildings): some look onto the courtyard and therefore feel less private, while others are off a more quieter colonnade. The various suites are vast, with 6-ft wide beds and the Private Pool Suites are more like 2-storey apartments, with roof terraces and plunge pools. Family Suites are perfect for groups, as each has a spacious master bedroom plus a smaller second bedroom.

The Little Sister riad, a 3-minute walk from the main hotel, holds a further 5 guests rooms: 4 doubles and 1 2-bedroom suite. You get access to all of El Fenn’s facilities, and the riad has its own pool, roof terrace and library, so guests staying here have a more peaceful base than those in the main El Fenn building.

Families or small groups wanting a bit more space and privacy can book the Private House, a 4-bedroom townhouse just down the lane, with its own interior courtyard, roof terrace (plus a tiny plunge pool), dining/sitting areas and staff. If there are 6-8 of you, it works out cheaper than booking 4 rooms in the main hotel building, and it feels a lot more exclusive.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Plunge pool
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Dinner is a very civilised affair, usually laid out in the riad’s palatial theatre-style bar and restaurant, where you dine under a mirrored ceiling which reflects the sparkle of a glass chandelier and the flicker of candlelight. The other option is to dine on the roof terrace, as we did, where tables are dressed with white cloths and twinkling candles. Either way there’s an a la carte menu offering European dishes (risotto with lightly spiced king prawns and lemon dressing, perhaps) and more traditional Moroccan cuisine. We plumped for the latter and enjoyed delicate bowls of Moroccan salad, chicken tagine with dried fruit, couscous and zingy preserved lemons. Vegetarian meals are also always available.

Lunch is simpler but no less tasty - typically a daily fish or chicken dish with salad, staples like club sandwiches or burgers and fries, and fruit and cheese - taken in the courtyard or up on the roof terrace. In the afternoons, a help-yourself high tea of cakes, sweet pastries and mint tea is served, and you can order from the room service menu any time you like (until 10pm).

In the morning, it’s bliss to wake up to sweet pastries and coffee outside your door. This is followed by a bountiful breakfast, served on the roof terrace or in your room, with eggs to order, fresh baguettes, the best homemade granola we’ve ever eaten, cinnamon porridge, homemade yoghurt, and fresh fruit and juices.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity: Spa

Activities

  • The souks provide endless hunting grounds for fabrics, rugs, woodwork, metalware, custom-made furniture, handcrafted toys and local foodstuffs (dried fruit, herbs). To reduce the hassle-factor, ask the riad to arrange a guide

  • Explore the medina’s historic sites, including the ornate El Bahia and Dar Si Said palaces (the latter is now a museum dedicated to Moroccan handicrafts), the crumbling El Badi Palace, the lavish Ben Youssef Medersa (a former Koranic school), and the Musée de Marrakech, a 19th-century Mnebbi palace given over to art exhibitions

  • Head to Djemaa el Fna, the medina's vast main square, for an exotic melee of storytellers, snake charmers, food and juice stalls, dancers and musicians

  • Escape the city heat with a stroll around the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech’s new town. Created in the 1920s by French artist Jacques Majorelle and later owned by Yves Saint Laurent, it’s filled with banana trees, giant bamboo and cool cacti set against striking cobalt blue architecture

  • In between bouts of shopping and sightseeing, unwind on the roof terrace with a good book and a sunlounger, and take a splash in the plunge pool - or a bigger splash in one of the 2 marble swimming pools

  • At the end of the day, unwind further with the help of a masseur, or spice yourself up with beauty treatments

  • Book a session in the riad’s own hammam (i-escape guests staying 2 nights or more get a free one), for an invigorating hour of steam, soapy exfoliates, cold water and lemon rinses, rose water and essential oils

  • The riad has arrangements in place with nearby sports clubs for golf, horse riding and tennis, while breath-taking hiking and biking is only an hour away in the Atlas Mountains

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Tennis
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Well being

Kids

The main hotel building is more suited to couples than children, and under 12s can only stay with prior agreement, that said many rooms have space for a family...

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

An extra bed can be put in most rooms and there are also 2 Family Suites, each with 2 bedrooms, an open fire, terrace and seating area. We think the best family option is the Private House, which has 4 double bedrooms and plenty of privacy so kids can play freely without the risk of disturbing other guests. It's most suited to larger families (or 2 travelling together), but is certainly neither too expensive nor too large for one family to feel very comfy here.

Babysitting:

Babysitting can be arranged on request.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
8/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

{{ review.firstName }}{{ review.countryName ? ', '+ review.countryName : '' }},
Feedback is only from guests who have booked and stayed through i-escape

Rates for El Fenn