El Jadida, Essaouira & Atlantic Coast, Morocco
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El Jadida, Essaouira & Atlantic Coast, Morocco

A restored Portuguese church and former consulate in the fascinating Unesco town of El Jadida, with retro rooms and beaches nearby

A restored Portuguese church and former consulate in the fascinating Unesco town of El Jadida, with retro rooms and beaches nearby

Early in the 1500s Portuguese explorers founded Mazagan, one of the first outposts on Morocco's Atlantic coast and an important stop on the trade route to India. When they were ousted in 1769, it became El Jadida (‘The New’) - a fitting name for what is now one of Morocco's freshest tourist destinations. Its beautifully preserved Unesco-listed centre, lively arts community and established infrastructure proved an irresistible combination for Jean Dominique Leymarie (creator of Hotel by Beldi near Marrakech), and over 3 years he transformed a crumbling Catholic church and the former harbourmaster's office (later the American consulate) into the town's first boutique hotel.

Open to guests since 2012, its meticulously restored interiors offset flannel grey and taupe with jewel-like greens, golds and reds. The retro furnishings in the 13 rooms and suites range from Art Deco to mid-century modern, and Barcelona chairs sit under ornate chandeliers in the church nave (now a lounge-bar). Stroll to El Jadida's fortress or bike to the beach, then return to bask in the sea breeze on one of the sprawling roof terraces before perusing the daily specials chalked on a board outside the restaurant. It’s a cocktail of culture, style and relaxation that deserves to be savoured.


  • El Jadida is a gem for history and culture hounds: still under the radar, yet only an hour from Casablanca airport and easily tacked onto a visit to Marrakech (3 hours away)
  • An air of laid-back luxury: 2 huge roof terraces, a massage room, alfresco cocktails, live music each evening, even an outdoor bathtub for sunset soaks
  • We loved the super-cool style and offbeat flea-market finds, including quirky collections of coffee grinders, vintage radios and Berber caps
  • Delicious food in the restaurant - think Moroccan tagines, French crêpes and the freshest of seafood
  • Close to beautiful beaches, with discounted access to the golf course, tennis courts and spa at a nearby resort


  • Rooms are housed in 2 separate buildings 100m apart; guests staying in the church will have to head to the consulate for lunch and dinner, though breakfast and drinks can be served in the cloister
  • Most rooms have city views and none have outside space; however, there are panoramic views from the roof terraces
  • No pool for cooling off
  • The smiling staff deliver great service, but their English is limited so you might want to brush up on your French

Best time to go

The hot, dry summer months (June to September), when the temperature hovers between 30 and 35C, are popular with beach-lovers. Spring (April and May) and autumn (October and November) are sunny, breezy and a little cooler - ideal for exploring, and much less crowded. Winter (December to March) brings mild days (around 22C), but it rains heavily at times and nights can be chilly.

Our top tips

Arrange for Sylvie, a lecturer and expert on the history and culture of El Jadida and neighbouring Azemmour, to be your guide for an afternoon. She can give you an invaluable insight into the evolution of everything from architectural styles to El Jadida's multicultural heritage, which embraces Muslims, Jews and Christians. The hotel can also help you book shopping guides who can lead you to gifts and souvenirs at the best prices (as Jean Dominique says: "They won’t take you to their uncle’s carpet shop.")

Great for...

  • Boutique Hotel
  • 13 rooms
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Car not necessary
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
  • Games
Room: Superior Luxe


While the common areas in the church and consulate have a soaring, airy quality, the 13 individually designed rooms and suites feel cosier. Two-toned walls with half-height wainscoting stack muted greys and tans under rich Moroccan greens, pomegranates and deep maroons, and hand-woven rugs cover planked or tiled floors. The double or twin wrought-iron beds (some four-poster) have crisp white sheets topped with embroidered covers, and Moroccan arches and shuttered windows make you feel as if you've stepped into another age. Appropriately, there are no TVs, radios or DVD players, although you do get free WiFi, air-conditioning and hairdryers.

The 4 rooms and 1 suite in the consulate have an Art Deco feel, with dark-wood dressers and carved armoires; the church's 6 rooms and 2 suites are furnished with sleek mid-century desks and armchairs. Most are spacious (Superior Luxes are a little bigger than Superiors), and the Suite has a large sitting area. Top of the range are the Suite Luxes, one of which comes with 2 single sofabeds that are ideal for children. If you want the best views, opt for a Superior Luxe or Suite Luxe, which have nicer outlooks than the Superiors and Suite. My room, on the top floor of the consulate, had a wonderful vista of the fortress and harbour from the bedroom and bathroom.

Bathrooms in all rooms are large, with tiled walls and floors, pedestal sinks and glass shower cubicles with rain heads. One of the Suite Luxes has a freestanding claw-foot tub, too.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Hairdryer
  • In room treatments available
  • Safe box
  • WiFi


A light yet tasty breakfast of yoghurt, crêpes, toast, jams, juice and coffee is served from 7:30 to 10am. You can eat in the consulate's restaurant, La Terrasse de L'Iglesia, on the patio outside, or in the cloister of the church.

The restaurant is then open for lunch (until 3pm) and dinner (until 9.30pm). It has 2 rooms, one with a black-and-white tiled floor, pomegranate walls and tulip chairs tucked under wrought-iron tables, the other a cosier space set behind a stone arch. Menus change daily, so check the chalkboard for Moroccan and French dishes such as aubergine tapenade, seafood, spicy vegetable stew and meaty tagines served in distinctive cone-shaped pots, along with a well-chosen list of wines. The salmon was excellent and I liked the Caesar salad (made with roasted tomatoes, shredded Parmesan and sardines) so much that I ordered it twice. For dessert, I splurged on crêpes wrapped around a decadent chocolate filling and topped with slivered almonds, before lingering over a silver pot of Moroccan mint tea.

Daytime snacks are available at Jean Dominque’s tea room, Café Do Mar, which is set between the church and consulate. Its roof terrace has sweeping views, and there’s a range of teas, coffees, smoothies, fresh juices, crêpes and ice creams to choose from. Guests can also order cocktails and aperitifs on the consulate’s roof terrace or in the church cloister, where music is played each evening from 7pm.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian options
Activity: El Jadida


  • Sunbathe or dive into a novel on one of the rooftop terraces, furnished with loungers and chairs
  • Book a massage in the consulate’s massage room, set atop a tower with panoramic views of the town and coast. There’s also an outdoor bathtub for alfresco soaks
  • Explore El Jadida's fortress, colourful fishing harbour, coastal ramparts and Portuguese cistern (best done with a guide, who can share the town’s fascinating history)
  • Borrow a bike and pedal through the manicured gardens of the new town, then follow the palm-lined path to the beach
  • Take a taxi to Mazagan Beach and Golf Resort (5 minutes away; L’Iglesia guests get discounted entry) to indulge in the day spa, laze on the sand, have a game of tennis or play golf on the oceanside par-72 course designed by Gary Player
  • Wander through the neighbouring town of Azemmour, an authentic jumble of whitewashed lanes and old fortifications on the bank of the Oum Er-Rbia river. Its beach is a great spot for wind- and kite-surfing
  • Take a bus or taxi to Oualidia, a small fishing village on a vast turquoise lagoon. Try your hand at fishing or sailing, take a boat trip through narrow channels flanked by salt flats, and keep your eyes peeled for migratory birds such as avocets, godwits and warblers
  • Carry on down the coast to Safi, renowned for its pottery, and haggle for bargains in the souks
  • Or take the train in the opposite direction to Casablanca, an hour away. It’s the economic hub of Morocco, with shopping malls, markets and a mix of Moorish, modernist and Art Deco architecture

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Historical sites
  • Kitesurfing
  • Museums / galleries
  • Private guided tours
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Windsurfing


The stone steps and peaceful atmosphere at the hotel mean it isn’t ideal for young children. That said, all ages are welcome. All rooms can accommodate a baby cot, and one Suite Luxe has 2 single sofabeds which can be made up on request (all free of charge). The restaurant also offers a kids’ menu, and there are kids’ clubs and activities at the Mazagan Beach and Golf Resort (a 5-minute taxi ride away).

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Family Rooms


Can be arranged on request.

Kid Friendly: Suite Luxe


The hotel is spread across 2 buildings on the harbourfront of El Jadida, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. It’s an hour southwest of Casablanca, 3.5 hours north of Essaouira, and 3 hours from Marrakech.

By Air:
The closest international airport is Casablanca (100km away). Many guests combine some time here with a stay in Marrakech, flying into Marrakech Menara (201km away) and then travelling overland to the coast. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving both of these airports.

From the Airport
The hotel can arrange transfers from either of the airports mentioned above. There are also train and bus connections (see below), or you can hire a car.

By Public Transport:
El Jadida is served by buses from Casablanca and Marrakech, and by trains from Casablanca (see Seat 61 for more info). You can also travel by train from Marrakech by changing in Casablanca, but you may find the bus is quicker.

By Car:
You don’t need a car here as bikes are available to borrow, and taxis and guides are easily arranged. However, a vehicle can be useful for exploring the coast - click here to see our recommendations for car hire. Parking is available in front of the hotel.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you confirm a booking through i-escape.com.

More on getting to Morocco and getting around


  • Casablanca 100.0 km CMN
  • Marrakech Menara 201.0 km RAK


  • Beach 0.8 km
  • Shops 0.1 km
  • Restaurant 0.2 km

Rates for L'Iglesia

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