Riad Les Lauriers Blancs
156 derb Sidi Messaoud, Bab Doukkala - MÃ©dina, Marrakech, Morocco
For those who don't know, a riad is a bit like a chambre d'hote in France. More than the British concept of bed & breakfast, but not a full scale hotel either. It is built around an open, central courtyard.
Les Lauriers (like most) looks like nothing from the outside. Just a door at the end of a typical alley in the medina.
You go in - and your jaw drops. It is just amazing. Take a look at their website - it is the only way to do it justice. The way it has been renovated and decorated is superb. But you are still staying in an authentic old medina home!
The end result is a comfortable, atmospheric, relaxing place to stay. It is not cheap, but worth every penny.
I had dinner there my 1st night - see a separate tip. They sent a driver to collect me from the railway station - great idea. The reason is that he took me from the nearest car park through the medina alleys to the riad. I would never have found it on my own.
You do have to be a little adventurous and trust your homing instincts when it comes to finding your way in and out of the medina...part of the fun, and they'll give you a map with directions.
They have free wifi - I'm writing this tip in the courtyard!
The young lady who runs it (Minara I think) is friendly and helpful - typical Moroccan in fact! She works in tight jeans and top. When she leaves, she's in black from head to toe! No veil, but even so...
Excellent breakfast as well.
Unique Quality: A lot - the location; the style; the friendly & helpful staff; the food...
Directions: It's complicated - close to the Bab Doukala entrance to the medina - the west side of the medina.
A warm welcome
We booked a week at this lovely riad through Expedia though you can also book directly on their website – see below.
The French owners Katy and Pierre-Jean made us very welcome from the moment we arrived. We were shown to our room, the Turquoise Room, which is the largest and is in a tent on the roof – much more luxurious than it sounds. I wasn’t sure about sleeping there and did find it noisy as I had feared (take your ear-plugs!) but it was light and spacious, although the bathroom is rather compact. It opens directly on to a small roof terrace with sun loungers and a view over the ramparts towards modern Marrakesh. After two days we moved to the Pearl Room on the first floor, which had just been vacated, as that meant only one flight of stairs for me and my poor foot! Both rooms are equally beautiful, and while the Pearl is smaller, its bathroom is bigger. Its windows overlook the central courtyard rather than the outside world, as is typical of these traditional buildings, and it was much quieter at night.
The courtyard is the heart of the riad. There is a pretty pool used as a plunge pool (towels and robes are provided in your room), and here tables are set out for the generous breakfasts of freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee (or tea), baguettes, Moroccan pancakes, yoghurt and various spreads. You can also have a lunch here, drinks at any time of day and, if pre-booked at breakfast time, a set three course dinner. We had several of these – see my restaurant tip for details.
Katy was a fount of information, helping us plan some excursions and advising on prices for taxis etc. However we did find her a little over-cautious – she warned us strongly against eating in the night market but we chose to ignore that piece of advice and survived unscathed. I would also question whether she might have warned us quite how expensive the meals at the Palais Soleiman were (see my Tourist Trap tip), although in fairness we should perhaps have asked. But she really came up trumps when I broke my foot, calling a doctor who specialised in treating foreign visitors, arranging our change of room and being generally solicitous for my health and our overall holiday experience.
The staff were attentive too, and special mention must go to Dingo, the cute little Scottie dog, who kept us amused with his antics (see photo 5)
Directions: Enter Medina through Bab Doukala, walk straight ahead on El Ghaza street, take first left then fourth left – riad is hidden away at the end of this dead end lane (map on website)
More about Riad Les Lauriers Blancs
My first night (of my 09 trip) it was pouring with rain (real December weather apparently) so I just ate at my riad.
3 courses for €22 - probably expensive by local standards but I was happy to have a slow relaxed dinner and not have to wander around in the rain looking for somewhere.
Soup (almond, I think) then chicken tajine (with lemon) and desert. Wine & beer available. All excellent. The tajine.
Following advice we had read on VT and elsewhere we decided to pre-book a transfer from the airport as we knew it would be dark when we arrived and our riad hard to find. An email enquiry to the riad (Les Lauriers Blancs – see accommodation tip) established that they could arrange this for €12, which was at the lower end of the prices we’d seen quoted for taxi transfers. On arrival we saw many drivers holding up signs for various tour companies, hotels, individuals etc. At first we couldn’t spot our driver as he was sitting away to one side, and with his sign held upside down – clearly not anxious to be found! But after that small hiccup he was fine, helping to carry our bags to his taxi and escorting us to the door of the riad on arrival in the Medina. Like many such properties it was down a small alley, reachable only on foot, so be prepared to walk the last part of your journey. At the time we felt as if we would never find our own way back to it alone but in daylight and with a map we realised it wasn’t so complicated as it had seemed when following our driver on that first evening. If you’ve never been to Marrakesh, and especially if you’re arriving after dusk, do yourself a favour and plan ahead as we did – you’ll be glad that you did.
Knowing that we would arrive fairly late, we emailed in advance to arrange to eat dinner at our riad, Les Lauriers Blancs. Many riads provide dinner but you usually need to reserve a table in advance as they are small family-run businesses and need to know how many guests (if any) to expect. After that first evening we ate here again on three other occasions, partly because my broken foot meant going out for dinner a bit of an effort, partly because on one occasion at least we were expecting to return late from an excursion, and partly because the meals were pretty good – certainly the best we had during our stay in Marrakesh. On each day of our stay we were asked at breakfast time if we wanted to dine in – the menu was chalked up on a board by the kitchen so we could easily see what was on offer before making our decision. My favourite of the several dishes we had here was the “calamar de tagine”, one of Katy’s signature dishes. It was rich and spicy and I was happy to help myself to a second (possibly even a third!) helping from the generous bowl brought to our table. I also especially liked the chicken tagine cooked with Morocco’s traditional citrons confits which were the most delicious things I tasted in all my time there! Chris’s favourite was a beef tagine, and we both liked the home-made raspberry ice cream :-)
To accompany our meal we could choose beer (a local lager-style beer called “Special” – it wasn’t, but it was perfectly acceptable!) or wine, which was again a Moroccan one and available as red, white or rose. I had the red on several occasions and rather liked it.
Prices were reasonable by our English standards though dearer than the restaurants we checked out around the Djamaa el Fna – but judging by the one dinner we had there, the superior quality was worth the extra cost. We paid €22 per person for the three courses, and a glass of beer or wine cost €3 (though we never managed to have only the one glass!) If you’d like an aperitif there is Ricard, Kir, whiskey etc on offer at €5 each, and a pot of mint tea to wash it all down costs €1.50 per person.
I didn’t ask if the riad accepts bookings from non-residents as many do, but if you’re staying in the area it would be worth checking as you’re likely to have a lovely evening and delicious meal here.
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Riad Les Lauriers Blancs
We've found that other people looking for this hotel also know it by these names:
- Riad Les Lauriers Blancs Hotel Marrakech
Address: 156 derb Sidi Messaoud, Bab Doukkala - MÃ©dina, Marrakech, Morocco