10 best riads in Essaouira

When it comes to extraordinary lodging in Essaouira, nothing compares to the experience of staying in one of its enchanting riads.

These traditional Moroccan homes, designed around a serene central courtyard, are havens of peace and beauty nestled in the heart of the vibrant medina. They offer an exquisite blend of authentic Moroccan culture with contemporary luxury. From their stunning architecture and opulent interiors to the warm hospitality and the delightful local cuisine, spending your nights in a riad is an experience that will linger in your memory.

Join us as we guide you through the maze-like alleys of the medina, unveiling the best riads in Essaouira where you can enjoy a stay unlike any other.

What is Essaouira known for?

Ever since Jimi Hendrix graced its shores for a vacation, Essaouira has been renowned as Morocco’s hippie paradise. Its laid-back ambiance, exquisite waves, pristine beaches, and hippie vibe continue to allure surfers, vacationers, hippies, and Westerners. Essaouira’s trio of unique characteristics? Its UNESCO World Heritage status, its acclaim as the Wind City of Africa, and its role as a filming location for the iconic series Game of Thrones.

UNESCO World Heritage

The medina of Essaouira, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2001, is celebrated for its distinctive blend of European and North African architectural influences. Originating from the 18th century as the bustling trading port of Mogador, the medina is a living testament to the myriad cultures that once frequented its harbor.

It’s a mesmerizing labyrinth of narrow lanes, whitewashed buildings adorned with blue doors and windows, and is undeniably the most photogenic part of the city, housing nearly all of the best things to do in Essaouira.

Wind City of Africa

Known as the ‘Wind City of Africa,’ Essaouira’s nickname is derived from the strong, relentless winds that sweep through the city all year round. These winds have put Essaouira on the map as a globally acclaimed haven for wind and kite surfers.

Its unique geographical setting and climatic conditions create perfect conditions for these exhilarating sports. The bay’s crescent shape plays a pivotal role in crafting ideal surfing conditions, particularly welcoming for novices.

Game of Thrones Filing Site

Essaouira gained fame as a filming location for the celebrated ‘Game of Thrones’ TV series. The historic city walls and the old medina’s evocative atmosphere provided the perfect setting for the fictional city of Astapor in the show’s third season.

Specifically, the Skala de la Kasbah, the city’s formidable defense bastion, features prominently in scenes showcasing Daenerys Targaryen and her Unsullied army. Additionally, the Skala du Port and the bustling harbor, with its iconic blue fishing boats, were depicted as Astapor in the series.

How Many Days Do You Need for Essaouira?

Essaouira can accommodate both fleeting and extended visits. You can briefly visit the city during a day trip from Marrakech, but we personally find that too short. But to truly embrace its essence, a stay of at least two to three days is ideal.

In a span of two days, you can delve into the soul of the city, exploring the historic medina, strolling along the scenic harbor, marveling at the iconic fortress walls, and soaking up other significant sights of Essaouira. This duration allows you to witness the city’s transformation from the vibrant hustle of daytime to the enchanting allure of the evening. It affords you just enough time to dip your toes in the sand or catch a wave on a surfboard. For those desiring more leisurely beach time or immersive surfing sessions, an additional night’s stay is recommended.

For a deeper, more relaxed exploration, or even for digital nomads seeking a picturesque haven, Essaouira presents itself as an ideal long-term destination. Its coastal charm and vibrant culture offer an unparalleled experience for those wishing to immerse themselves in the Moroccan lifestyle for an extended period.

What Is a Moroccan Riad or Dar?

When planning your stay in Morocco, the terms ‘Dar’ and ‘Riad’ often pop up as quintessential lodging options. But, what exactly sets them apart?

A Riad is usually a grander house, architecturally designed around a central courtyard adorned with a garden or fountain. This courtyard is not just a tranquil oasis but also serves as a source of light and ventilation, infusing the house with an airy and fresh atmosphere. Riads, typically spread over multiple floors, are lavishly decorated in Moorish and Andalusian styles, featuring exquisite wood carvings and ornate tile work. They are emblematic of luxury and cultural richness.

On the other hand, a Dar is generally more modest in scale, often encompassing just a single floor. Similar to Riads, Dars are also built around a central courtyard, but theirs are usually smaller and simpler in design. While Dars may lack the opulence of Riads, they offer an equally captivating and authentic Moroccan living experience.

In essence, both Dars and Riads present a unique opportunity to delve deep into the rich tapestry of Moroccan culture and traditional architecture, whether you opt for the splendor of a Riad or the cozy allure of a Dar.

The 10 Most Enchanting Riads in Essaouira

For first-time visitors to Essaouira, staying in the medina offers a convenient and delightful experience. As the historical heart of the city, the medina situates you near the ancient city walls, vibrant markets, delightful restaurants, and renowned landmarks of Essaouira.

The most exquisite riad hotels in Essaouira’s medina::

#1 Riad Baladin stands out as a beloved riad in the medina, featuring a charming garden and a terrace with sweeping sea views. The beautifully appointed, light-filled rooms are a harmony of rustic elegance with wooden beds, whitewashed walls, and natural flooring. Begin your day with a sumptuous breakfast on the rooftop terrace, embraced by the sea breeze.

#2 Riad Emotion captivates with its traditional courtyard, featuring a fountain, cozy seating area, and a sun-drenched terrace with loungers. The spacious rooms are a tapestry of local crafts, plush carpets, and inviting seating areas. The breakfast is a culinary journey through Moroccan flavors.

#3 Riad Dar Maya, nestled in the medina, offers luxury with its sunny rooftop terrace, a hot tub, a library, and an authentic hammam. The rooms blend luxury with a contemporary flair, featuring private fireplaces for intimate evenings. Start your day with a lavish breakfast on the rooftop terrace, or unwind there in the evening with a cup of Moroccan tea, watching the sunset.

#4 Chems Bleu boasts breathtaking views of the beach and harbor. The riad’s floral courtyard with an Andalusian fountain and expansive terraces is a feast for the senses. Consistently earning high praise, guests laud its perfect location, beautiful riad ambiance, and the amiable staff.

#5 Riad Dar Abi is a popular hotel with exceptional reviews. Guests are enamored with its authentic ambiance, exquisite decor, central location, and outstanding value. The rooftop terrace is a highlight, offering panoramic views over Essaouira.

#6 Riad Chbanate is uniquely positioned on Essaouira’s renowned city wall. The riad hotel is a photographer’s dream. The spacious, elegantly appointed rooms feature Moroccan interiors and a fireplace. For ultimate relaxation, the rooftop terrace offers magnificent views of Essaouira’s old medina.

#7 Riad Bianca Essaouira is centrally located in the medina and is distinguished by its photogenic, bright interior and intimate ambiance. Enthusiastic reviews often mention its stylish decor with authentic touches, delightful breakfast, warm hospitality, and the picturesque terrace.

#8 Riad Lyon-Mogador is a true gem, housed in an authentic 18th-century riad on the medina’s edge. The beautiful rooftop terrace offers phenomenal views of the Atlantic Ocean. The interior exudes luxury and comfort, blended with authentic Moroccan details.

#9 Ryad Watier & Spa is set in a typically renovated Moroccan house, marrying modern comforts with traditional, authentic details. Its intimate scale with just ten uniquely decorated rooms enhances its charm. The dual rooftop terraces offer sea views, perfect for unwinding.

#10 Dar Liouba Hotel, once the home of the imam, resides in the heart of the medina. Its Arab-Andalusian inspired decor with vibrant colors and authentic accents is visually stunning. With only seven uniquely decorated rooms, this riad features a library, a terrace, and a solarium, crafting an idyllic retreat.

Essaouira’s Alternative Stays

For those wanting to stay in the medina but with budget constraints, consider a beautiful hostel:

#1 The Chill Art Hostel is Essaouira’s finest hostel. Located centrally in the medina, it features an artistic interior and an exquisite rooftop terrace. It offers both dormitories and private rooms with shared bathrooms, catering to various preferences.

Alternatively, the beachside district is a great choice if you’re planning a longer stay in Essaouira, looking to save on accommodation, or wish to be near the beach for surfing. A top option near Essaouira’s beach:

#2 Hotel Le Médina Essaouira Thalassa is a luxurious hotel with stunning sea views. Just a short walk from the medina and even closer to the beach, this hotel boasts lavish amenities like a spa, multiple dining options, and a pool.

For a quieter, more laid-back atmosphere, consider Sidi Kaouki, a small coastal town with hippie vibes south of Essaouira. Offering a long sandy beach, wild coastal dunes, and surfing and kite surfing opportunities, top recommendations include Dar Iziki, Blue Kaouki, La Maison des Vagues.