What is a Riad: Best Riads in Morocco (2024)

written by local expert Catrin Lynn

Catrin is a history enthusiast based in Wales. Her passions are her animals, exploring the Welsh mountains with her husband, wellness, and traveling to different European cities.

Are you ready to dive into the enchanting world of Moroccan riads? 

Picture this: you’ve just arrived in a bustling Moroccan city after a long journey. As you navigate through the narrow streets and alleys, you’re greeted by the hypnotic sounds, vibrant colors, and irresistible aromas of this exotic land. 

You walk through an unassuming door and, like stepping into a secret garden, you find yourself in a serene, opulent oasis – a riad.

In this article, we’ll explore the best riads in Morocco, these hidden gems nestled within Morocco’s ancient cities. 

We’ll also share the rich history, architectural wonders, and warm hospitality that make riads the ultimate Moroccan experience. 

The founders of this blog, Anna and Tom have spent some time in Morocco so you’re in safe hands here! 

You’ll soon discover that staying in a Riad is not merely accommodation, but a cultural adventure that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. So, grab a cup of mint tea and let’s dive in.

Anna in Riad Porte Royale
Enjoying breakfast in our Riad

What Is A Riad?

You might be wondering, what is a riad? 

Well, a riad is basically a traditional Moroccan house, with its name coming from the Arabic word ‘ryad,’ which means ‘garden.’ 

You’ll usually find these gems hidden away in the old parts of Moroccan cities like Marrakech, Fes, and Essaouira. Just think of it like stepping into a Moroccan version of Narnia!

These amazing homes are built around a central courtyard or garden, which is like a private oasis filled with greenery, fountains, or even a little pool. 

The architecture is super cool and unique, with stunning designs that mix Moroccan culture, Andalusian flair, and Islamic art. Just imagine all those vibrant tiles, hand-carved details, and beautifully decorated wooden ceilings!

Nowadays, lots of these riads have been transformed into cozy guesthouses or boutique hotels, so you can stay in one and live out your Moroccan dreams. 

Each room is like a work of art, filled with colorful textiles, lanterns, and other treasures. 

Staying in a riad is like a big warm hug from Morocco itself – you’ll feel right at home with the friendly hosts, delicious home-cooked meals, and those little architectural surprises that’ll have you snapping pics non-stop. 

Trust us, it’s an experience you don’t want to miss!

black wall Moroccan riad rooftop
Some riads have cool rooftops where you can chill and hang out

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History of Riads

In the 14th century, Morocco was a lively hub, blending diverse cultures from across the Mediterranean. The riad concept drew inspiration from Roman villas, which featured central courtyards and verdant gardens, but with a uniquely Moroccan twist, of course!

During the Idrisid and Almoravid dynasties, these captivating homes began to emerge as a result of Andalusian and Islamic architectural influences. 

They expertly combined local traditions with external inspiration to create a distinct Moroccan style that endures today. Riads became emblematic of urban living, with their high walls offering privacy and protection, and their central courtyards functioning as a serene oasis.

As Morocco opened its doors to the world over time, many of these historic homes fell into disrepair. 

Fortunately, visionaries saw the potential in these architectural marvels and began restoring them into the delightful guest houses we adore today. 

Restoration efforts ensured the preservation of original elements, such as the intricately carved plasterwork, vibrant zellige tiles, and ornate wooden ceilings, while updating amenities for modern comfort.

Now, we can all immerse ourselves in the enchanting world of riads and feel as if we’re stepping back in time to the golden age of Moroccan history.

These unique havens not only offer a glimpse into the country’s rich heritage but also serve as a testament to the incredible artistry and craftsmanship of Morocco’s past.

orange wall Moroccan riad rooftop

Moroccan Riads 

Now that you know what a riad is, check out our top picks for your riads to stay in while in Morocco:

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Best Riads in Marrakech

Ah, Marrakech! The name alone conjures up images of exotic souks, vibrant colors, and the enticing aroma of Moroccan spices wafting through the air. 

A city that truly never sleeps, Marrakech is a bustling melting pot of cultures, traditions, and, of course, outstanding architecture. Nestled at the foot of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, Marrakech is known for its stunning palaces, lush gardens, and the famous Jardin Majorelle – an oasis of calm amid the city’s vibrant chaos. 

But the real show-stopper? The city’s centuries-old Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where winding alleyways reveal hidden treasures at every turn. Here are a few of our top picks for the best Riads in Marrakech.

If you want to read our full article on this, click the link above.

Riad Chameleon

The pool in Riad Chameleon
One of the rooms in Riad Chameleon

Searching for a rad spot in Marrakech? Riad Chameleon‘s got you covered with a sweet pool, WiFi, and snug rooms featuring sitting areas and private baths.

Hang out in their lush garden or sunlit terrace, and make use of luggage storage or laundry facilities. It’s a stone’s throw from Djemaa El Fna and Marrakech Medina, and just 3.7 miles to the airport.

Riad Kerdouss 

The rooftop jacuzzi in Riad Kerdouss
One of the rooms in Riad Kerdouss

Looking for a cozy Marrakech stay? Riad Kerdouss offers a rooftop pool, bar, and comfy rooms with free WiFi, a dressing room, and a private bathroom.

Enjoy tasty breakfasts, Moroccan cuisine at their restaurant, and nearby sightseeing tours.

Best Riads in Fes

If you’re heading to Fes (or Fez), get ready for something special. This city is like a living history book, but way more exciting. 

It’s home to Al-Qarawiyyin, the oldest working university in the world, which is a pretty cool claim to fame. But the real star of the show is the medina, Fes el Bali. 

Picture narrow, winding streets filled with market stalls, traditional workshops, and beautifully decorated buildings. And those tanneries you might have heard about? 

They’re here, and they’ve been dyeing leather the same way for hundreds of years. It’s this mix of everyday life and history that gives Fez its unique charm. 

When you hear the call to prayer echoing across the city, it’s like stepping back in time. Fez isn’t just a city, it’s an experience – one that will stick with you long after you’ve left.

Naturally, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of Fez’ culture than by staying in a Riad. Here are our top recommendations for Riads in Fes.

Riad Alassala Fes

The courtyard in Riad Alassala Fes
One of the rooms in Riad Alassala Fes

Riad Alassala Fes, just a hop away from the Royal Palace (1.7 miles), is a fabulous spot to stay. You’ll love the air-conditioned rooms with patios, and the place boasts a 24-hour front desk, a yummy restaurant, and a sun-soaked terrace.

The soundproofed rooms have private bathrooms, showers, hair dryers, and free WiFi. You can enjoy à la carte or continental breakfast, and later relax at their coffee shop, bar, or lounge.

Riad Fes Baraka

The pool in Riad Fes Baraka
One of the rooms in Riad Fes Baraka

Riad Baraka, nestled in Fès’ medina, is a super cozy spot with comfy, traditionally-decorated rooms, satellite TV, a hammam, and an indoor pool. Hang out on the patio or terrace for a tasty meal, or just to chill with friends and family. Don’t stress about parking – they’ve got free, private spots, and their Wi-Fi is free in public areas too.

The multilingual staff (Spanish, Arabic, French, and English) are ready to help with services like dry-cleaning, airport reception (for an extra fee), air-conditioning, and a solarium.

Best Riads in Essaouira

Next up on our Moroccan tour is Essaouira, and let me tell you, it’s a breath of fresh air – literally. This coastal town is all about laid-back vibes, ocean views, and a slightly cooler climate. 

Famous for its strong trade winds, it’s a paradise for surfers and kite-surfers, so you might want to give that a try. Or maybe you’re more into history? Then you’ll love the old town, or medina, with its whitewashed houses and blue shutters that look straight out of a postcard. 

It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site, full of narrow streets, bustling markets, and charming artisanal workshops. And don’t miss the historic port, where you can see traditional boats and even a fortress. 

After the hustle and bustle of Marrakech and Fez, Essaouira is like a cool ocean breeze. Trust me, this is a place where you’ll want to sit back, relax, and just soak it all in. It was one of our favorite stops in all of Morocco

To help you find the perfect place to stay in Essaouira, check out our top Riad recommendations.

Riad Chbanate

The courtyard in Riad Chbanate
One of the rooms in Riad Chbanate

Stay at the gorgeous Riad Chbanate on Essaouira’s city wall, with its rooftop terrace, elegant Moroccan-style rooms, fireplaces, and luxurious bathrooms.

Enjoy a continental breakfast in your room, relax in the bar or lounge, and take advantage of the 24-hour front desk for tours and rentals. Just steps away from the beach and Place bab Marrakech, it’s the perfect spot!

Riad De La Mer

Lounge area in Riad De La Mer
One of the rooms in Riad De La Mer

Nestled in Essaouira’s medina, Riad De La Mer is just a 5-minute walk from the harbor and a 10-minute stroll to the beach. Check out the rooftop terrace for breathtaking sea views! The Riad offers self-catering apartments with antique furniture, where you can enjoy a daily continental breakfast.

Feel right at home with access to the living and dining area, plus a fully equipped kitchen. It’s just a 30-minute drive from Essaouira-Mogador Airport, and they can even arrange airport transfers for an extra fee.

Best Riads in Chefchaouen 

You’ve probably seen pictures of this place, the famous “Blue City” of Morocco. And yes, it’s every bit as stunning in real life. 

Nestled against the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is a sea of blue – houses, streets, doors, you name it. It’s said the blue keeps mosquitoes away, but honestly, it’s just a joy to behold. 

Take your time wandering through the narrow, winding streets of the old town, where every turn reveals another photo-worthy view. But Chefchaouen isn’t just about the blue. It’s also got a rich history, amazing local cuisine (try the goat cheese), and some fantastic hiking trails in the surrounding mountains. 

It’s a bit off the beaten path compared to some other Moroccan cities, but trust me, Chefchaouen is worth the journey. It’s a piece of tranquil, blue-tinted heaven that you’ll fall in love with.

Here are some of our top picks for the best Riads in Chefchaouen.

Riad La Santa

Riad La Santa
One of the rooms at Riad La Santa in Marrakech

The recently renovated Riad La Santa is housed in a historic building with a terrace, free WiFi, and awesome mountain and city views. Located just 350 yards from Kasba.  Relax in the private bathrooms, and enjoy the soundproofed rooms with seating areas. Breakfast offers local specialities, pastries, and pancakes, with room service available.

The family-friendly restaurant serves delicious Moroccan cuisine for lunch and dinner. Nearby, explore Outa El Hammam Square, Mohammed 5 Square, and Khandak Semmar.

Riad Nila

Roof top terrace in Riad Nila
One of the rooms in Riad Nila

Riad Nila boasts mountain views and is just 200 yards from Outa El Hammam Square. Enjoy top-notch facilities like a 24-hour front desk, full-day security, and free WiFi. Admire the city views from the air-conditioned units with flat-screen TVs, private bathrooms, showers, hair dryers, dressing rooms, and seating areas.

Dig into delicious African cuisine at the traditional restaurant, open for dinner, brunch, and high tea. Nearby, explore Kasba, Mohammed 5 Square, and Khandak Semmar.

The Unique Design Of Riads

One of the reasons riads have remained popular is their clever design. You see, back in the day, Morocco was a pretty conservative society, and privacy was key. 

Riads were designed to offer a peaceful sanctuary away from the bustling city outside. That’s why you’ll find the windows facing the inner courtyard, rather than the street, and why the entrance is often so discreet, you might just walk right past it!

The heart and soul of a riad is its central courtyard. It’s an open-air haven filled with lush plants, mesmerizing water elements, or even a cute little pool for you to relax. It’s the perfect spot to chill out, whether catching up on reading or savoring a delicious cup of mint tea.

One iconic feature you’ll find is the zellij tiles. These colorful, handcrafted ceramic pieces form breathtaking geometric patterns that bring life and vibrancy to every corner.

But that’s not all! Riads also boast exquisite plasterwork, featuring beautifully hand-carved designs on walls and ceilings. And let’s not forget the amazing cedar wood elements, like intricately carved doors and ceilings that showcase the incredible talent of local craftsmen.

Plus, riads are naturally eco-friendly in their design! The central courtyard allows for natural light and ventilation throughout the space, keeping it cool and pleasant even during the hottest days.

So, there you have it! Riads are like living works of art, filled with extraordinary designs that transport you into a Moroccan wonderland. Each hidden detail has a tale to tell and trust us, you’ll never get enough of uncovering these captivating stories.

pool in Riad
Most riads have a central courtyard

Staying In A Morrocon Hotel Vs Moroccan Riad

Hopefully, you’re now convinced about staying in a Riad…but you might be wondering, what exactly is the difference between a Riad and a hotel.

While hotels in Morocco can be a fantastic option if you’re looking for the comforts of home and some familiar amenities, we prefer staying in Riads due to their smaller, authentic feel.

If you are looking for a place to stay with around-the-clock services, room service, and a lovely swimming pool, hotels provide the convenience and luxury you might need. 

Riads tend to be a lot smaller than hotels, and many will have less than 10 rooms. What this means is, each room is unique in its decor and has a cozy retreat feel. Compared to a lot of the larger chain hotels in Morocco, staying in a Riad can be likened to staying in a small boutique hotel.

Sure, riads may not have all the frills of a hotel, but that’s where their charm lies. It’s all about savoring the relaxed pace, disconnecting from the hustle and bustle, and diving headfirst into the local way of life. 

So, when planning your next Moroccan getaway, think about trading in that standard hotel stay for a truly unforgettable riad experience. Trust us, it’s a decision you’ll be glad you made!

FAQ about Moroccan Riads

What is a riad?

A riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace, characterized by an interior courtyard or garden at its center. It features stunning architecture and intricate design elements, offering an authentic and immersive Moroccan experience.

Are riads only in Morocco?

Riads are predominantly found in Morocco, particularly within the medinas of historic cities. However, similar architectural styles inspired by riads can also be seen in other parts of North Africa and the Middle East.

Is it safe to stay in a riad in Marrakech?

Yes, staying in a riad in Marrakech is generally safe, as they are usually located within secure neighborhoods and managed by hospitable hosts. As with any travel destination, it’s always good to practice common safety precautions and be aware of your surroundings.

Why stay in a riad in Morocco?

Staying in a riad in Morocco offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in traditional Moroccan culture and architecture, providing an authentic and intimate experience unlike your typical hotels.

Do you tip at a riad in Morocco?

Yes, it’s customary to tip the staff at a riad in Morocco, usually at the end of your stay, as a sign of appreciation for their service.

What is the difference between riad and Dar?

The difference between a riad and a dar lies primarily in their architectural design: a riad is a traditional Moroccan house built around a central courtyard garden, often with a fountain in the middle, while a dar is also a traditional house, but it usually has a smaller courtyard and the rooms are not necessarily oriented towards the central space.

Is it better to stay in a riad in Marrakech?

Staying in a riad in Marrakech can greatly enhance your experience, as it offers an authentic taste of Moroccan culture, stunning traditional architecture, and a tranquil retreat from the bustling city, making it a popular choice for many travelers.

Looking for things to do in Morocco? Check out our other recommendations.

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