Five Best: Moroccan riads

Aoife O'Riordain scours the medinas for the most stylish places to stay

Riad el Fenn, Marrakech

If you don't mind your fellow guests consisting of London media types, then Riad el Fenn wins hands-down in the style stakes. Owned by Vanessa (sister of Richard) Branson and Howell James, this riad offers a contemporary twist on the traditional riad interior. Bridget Riley prints, Fifties furniture and artfully placed objects sit alongside Moroccan tiles and tadelakt rendered walls, a style which extends to the eight rooms. There's also a swimming pool, a spa and a rooftop terrace with restaurant.

Riad el Fenn, Derb Moulay Abdullah Ben Hezzian, Bab El Ksour, Medina, Marrakech (00 212 4444 1210; Doubles start at €275 (£196), including breakfast.

Villa Maroc, Essaouira

The coastal town of Essaouira has seen several additions to its growing number of riad hotels in the past couple of years. But one of the first, which opened 16 years ago, is still hard to beat. The Villa Maroc is a rambling property - actually four interconnecting houses - set around a series of small courtyards in the heart of Essaouira's Unesco World-Heritage-listed medina. It is decked out in true Moroccan style: tiles, carved furniture, textiles, rugs and Moroccan lamps are combined to charming effect and offset with thoughtful touches like vases brimming with fresh roses. There is also a spa and the bar and restaurant are one of the town's most atmospheric places for dinner.

Villa Maroc, rue Abdellah Ben Yassine, Medina, Essaouira (00 212 44 47 31 47; Doubles start at €83 (£54), including breakfast.

Sheherazad, Fez

Opened two years ago, Riad Sheherazad offers an authentic, if luxurious, slice of riad life. It is housed in an old 19th-century townhouse in the heart of Fez's throbbing medina. The core of this 13-bedroom hotel is a large, tiled courtyard-cum-Moorish-garden containing a swimming pool fringed by tall palm trees. The rooftop terrace has panoramic views over the medina and the hotel also houses a traditional Moroccan hammam.

Riad Sheherazad, 23 Arsat Bennis Douh, Medina, Fez (00 212 5574 1642; Doubles start at £120, including breakfast

Tchaikana, Marrakech

At the end of a particularly hard-to-find alley in the medina, Tchaikana is a small riad which takes its name from the traditional travellers' inns that once served tea. Owned by a young Belgian couple, it offers stylish surroundings for a fraction of the cost of some of the more opulent riads in Marrakech. The rooms have simple, white walls and are tastefully decorated in a minimalist vein using traditional fabrics and tribal art. Staying here is like visiting friends.

Tchaikana, Derb el Ferrane 25-Quartier Azbest, Medina, Marrakech (00 212 44 38 51 50; Doubles start at €80 (£57) including breakfast, or the whole riad (which sleeps up to 12) can be rented for €2,500 (£1,785) per week, B&B

L'Heure Bleue, Essaouira

L'Heure Bleue feels at times more colonial Africa than coastal Morocco, with its lofty marble porticos, wicker furniture, white linen and lush foliage. This former 19th-century palace, which took three years to renovate, re-opened as a hotel just under 18 months ago with 16 rooms inspired by Africa, the Orient, England and Portugal. The focal point is the balmy courtyard, with its gleaming marble floor, but the most spectacular view is from the rooftop pool which overlooks the medina and port with its constantly circling flocks of seagulls.

L'Heure Bleue, 2 rue lbn Batouta, Bab Marrakech, Essaouira (00 212 44 78 34 34; Doubles start at €220 (£157), including breakfast.

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