Riad Chi-Chi

Marrakech, Morocco Book from Eur52

A very chic little riad tucked away in the central medina, with soothing rooms, a cool roof terrace and unbeatable prices
Tucked away in a quiet cul-de-sac in the heart of Marrakech's souk-land, this is the near neighbour and younger sister of Riad Ariha, whose combination of Zen-cool bedrooms, impeccable service and unbeatable value makes it one of our most popular riad hotels in the city. Riad Chi-Chi (don't be put off by the name) has all of these attributes and, being newer - it opened in 2009 after a year's painstaking refurbishment - the advantage of better availability. For now, at least.

It doesn't take long to realise that it is in every way the equal of beautiful Ariha. The 5 immaculately crafted bedrooms (2 on the ground floor, 3 on the first), finished in calming creams with accents of bright colour, look out - some of them through intricate wooden lattices - to a central courtyard with its tiny petal-strewn pool and cushioned b'hou (sitting alcove). Up top, a terrace with a canopied chill-out area, bathed in blue-green light at night, offers roof-level views across the medina to the peaks of the Atlas Mountains.

Highs

  • This is a faultless restoration, from the screened menzeh (bay window) to the domed bathroom of the Ivory room
  • The service is top-notch; staff can arrange day trips, meals and massages, and will happily venture out to rescue guests who've got lost in the medina's maze of alleyways
  • The suite, Indigo, has plenty of space for 3, thanks to its sofa'd sitting area
  • We love the location, in a quiet cul-de-sac away from the crowds, but close to the Musée de Marrakech, the Medersa Ben Youssef and the souks
  • There's a firelit salon for cosy winter stays, and a beautiful open-sided loggia with cushioned daybeds

Lows

  • Like all riads, the bedrooms are narrow and the 2 ground-floor rooms lack a bit of privacy
  • The courtyard pool is tiny - just big enough to dip yourself in
  • The dawn call to prayer from the neighbouring mosque may wake you, but it's all part of the Marrakech experience
  • Bear in mind you're 10 minutes' walk from the Djemaa el Fna, and a few minutes' from the nearest road access

Best time to go

The best times to visit Marrakech are spring and autumn. It's baking in the summer months of July and August - a dry but extremely relentless heat beats down on the city. 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 sunny and warm enough to sit outside.

Our top tips

Don't miss the Maison de la Photographie, just a few minutes' walk from the riad behind the Musée de Marrakech. Its fascinating photography exhibitions chart life in Morocco from 1870 to 1950. There's also a roof terrace (supposedly the highest in the city), a café selling reasonably-priced tagines, and a small collection of prints to buy.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
City Style
Foodie
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Riad Hotel
  • 5
  • Breakfast (+ other meals by arrangement)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Plunge Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Plum

Rooms

There are 4 double/twin rooms and 1 suite, all looking onto the central courtyard. Like all riads, the rooms are quite narrow, and the 2 ground-floor ones (Plum and Turquoise) open straight onto the courtyard - expect a little noise at breakfast time. But leaving aside these traditional design characteristics, they are about as perfect as you will find for under 100 Euros. They're also surprisingly quiet: we heard practically no street noise, just a squeak of dawn chorus and the call to prayer from the neighbouring mosque.

The look is what you might call Scandinavia-meets-Morocco chic - the spitting image of Ariha, with the same careful craftsmanship and perhaps a tad more space. Creamy white walls and dove grey woodwork are offset by bright accents of indigo blue or pink in cushions and carpets. Pretty lanterns illuminate bedside niches, tasselled lampshades hang overhead, and chunky rugs sit on tiled or tadelakt floors. Also expect billowing white curtains, plump pillows and fresh flowers. Beds are queensize doubles (which can be made up as twins), with firm Simmons mattresses.

Ground-floor rooms have space for a cot or child's bed, but it's the 3 first-floor rooms which are the ones to go for, if possible. Ivory, where we stayed, has a beautifully preserved menzeh - a bay window with latticed woodwork overlooking the courtyard. Aubergine - our favourite - also has full-height windows, latticed at the bottom and arched up top, plus a seating corner with a working fireplace, and plenty of storage space. The suite, Indigo, has a separate sitting area with a sofa which can be made up as a single bed to create a triple room that actually has enough space for 3.

Bathrooms have peachy tadelakt walls and surfaces, most with a shower only (Indigo has a tub as well), and all with glass bottles of fragrant toiletries made from essential oils. In Ivory's, the domed ceiling has been preserved to create a quirky, hammam-like space.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Complimentary bottled water
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Plunge pool
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Like most riad hotels, breakfast is served (included in the price, here) and other meals are available by prior arrangement. You can take your breakfast in the courtyard or the loggia, or up on the roof terrace, depending on the weather. You'll get eggs, fresh orange juice and Moroccan crumpets or pancakes, in addition to the usual continental fare.

When you check in, you'll be offered Moroccan pastries and mint tea - a nice touch - and you'll find mineral water in your room. If you're arriving in the evening and don't want to go out again for dinner, or if you just prefer to dine one evening in the pretty candlelit courtyard, ask ahead for the riad's chef to prepare a Moroccan meal to suit your tastes: tagines of lamb and prunes or lemon chicken with olives, or a vegetarian one if you prefer. We enjoyed a lovely lentil and tomato salad, tasty beef casserole with saffron rice, and crêpes with sautéed seasonal fruit. It's all freshly prepared on site, and not expensive by hotel standards (see Rates).

Most people will head out at least once to the frenzied open-air stalls and grills of Djemaa el Fna, and perhaps dine another evening in one of the more ceremonial Marrakchi restaurants. Nearby Le Foundouk comes recommended; crisp savoury pastries, succulent lamb skewers and rose-petal-strewn desserts taste as good as they look.

For a special celebration, jump on the free shuttle from Dar El Bacha (10 minutes' walk from the riad) to buzzy Bo & Zin, 5km outside town, whose tented garden seating and exotically glowing braziers are matched by the superb (but not cheap) Franco-Moroccan cuisine. It's quite a jet-setty place, filling up after 10pm with cool cocktaily couples from Marrakech and beyond. You'll find foie gras, sushi, crème brûlée and even shark tagine on the menu among the usual brochettes, couscous and pastries.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Cooking classes
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity: Medersa Ben Youssef

Activities

  • Marrakech's souks won't have escaped your notice: they're all around, from 2 to 20 minutes' walk away, and sell everything from spices to hand-carved furniture - so, depending on your stamina, allow a day or 3 to pick out and haggle for the best bargains

  • Even closer - barely a minute away - are the Musée de Marrakech and Medersa Ben Youssef, the former a 19th-century Mnebbi palace given over to art exhibitions and cultural activities, the latter a stunningly intricate 16th-century Koranic school reminiscent of Andalucian Moorish palaces in its stuccoed facades and geometric patterns

  • Join in the madness of the central square, Djemaa el Fna (10-15 minutes' walk away), where storytellers, tooth-pullers, tribal drummers, orange juicers and merguez grillers compete for your attention

  • Swallow your traveller's pride and book a ride in a caleche (horse-drawn carriage) around the medina's pink city walls at sunset; or you can hire bikes and do it yourself if you prefer

  • For a break from the crowds, head to the shady Jardin Majorelle, tropical gardens in the new town lovingly restored by Yves St Laurent

  • Top up your tan on the riad's roof terrace - there are sun loungers and a canopied sit-out area. Or soothe away post-souk stress with an in-room massage

  • Head down to the riad's kitchen for a cooking class with the chef (book in advance). You'll learn how to make tagines and other traditional dishes

  • Staff can help arrange any of the other activities on offer in and around Marrakech: golf (3 courses in the palmeraie), horse-riding (several stables in the palmeraie), balloon trips (a short drive outside the city), trekking in the Atlas Mountains (day trips are possible, but for a proper taste you'll want to overnight), water sports on Lake Lalla Takerkoust (40km away), even skiing in winter (at Oukaimeden, 70km away)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Golf
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Museums / galleries
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Tennis
  • Tennis coaching
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome, and 2 rooms (Plum and Turquoise) can take an extra child's bed (1.4 x 0.7m). The suite, Indigo, can be made up as a triple room, and every room can take a cot. Having said that, neither the stairs nor the plunge pool are protected, so parents of toddlers should be aware.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

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

Kid Friendly: Turquoise

Our guests' ratings...

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

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Rates for Riad Chi-Chi