Morocco’s premier tourist destination manages to retain its unique character, in spite of budget airlines disgorging thousands of Europeans in search of sunny long weekends. (To avoid extended immigration lines, it’s well worth the small expense to purchase fast-track entry, even if you’re arriving on a domestic flight.) Marrakech feels cleaner, safer and less stressful than even a decade ago, thanks to tourism police cracking down on unlicensed “guides” and hard-selling shopkeepers in the souks. Numerous historic riads (courtyard houses) are now plush guesthouses, and one of the most opulent hotels in the world is a short walk from the main square, the Djemaa el-Fna. There, snake charmers, musicians and dancers entertain tourists and locals alike, as they have for centuries.
Two of Marrakech’s best restaurants are in hotels we recommend: La Grande Table Marocaine in the Royal Mansour and Le Restaurant at La Maison Arabe. But the city has no shortage of other excellent options in a range of neighborhoods. In most Moroccan restaurants, the food is casually presented but rich in flavor. You also can’t help but encounter tagine, a slow-cooked stew or casserole. Common versions include chicken with preserved lemon and olives, and beef or lamb with dates and/or apricots. Argan oil, a wonderfully rich and nutty finishing oil produced only in Morocco, appears less frequently on menus than it used to, alas, perhaps because the oil’s newfound international popularity has pushed up prices.