Skip to Content

The 8 BEST riads in Essaouira: experience a stay in Moroccan history

The 8 BEST riads in Essaouira: experience a stay in Moroccan history

Our pick of the best riads in Essaouira for all budgets, from luxury to budget backpacker.

There are a plethora of accommodation options in Essaouira, but for those visitors who want to immerse themselves in Moroccan history and culture, a stay in an Essaouira riad hotel is an absolute must.

What is a riad? Well, a riad is a traditional Moroccan home, commonly found in medinas (the old town), where rooms are situated around a central courtyard or garden. Riads were often owned by the wealthy and would house multiple generations of a family in the one place. Facing inwards, they are hidden from the main thoroughfare with only one unassuming entrance and small exterior windows, built in a way to keep the temperature cool. But once you enter, you are welcomed by an ornate central space, often open to the elements, with floors leading upwards.

Many historical riads in Essaouira have been transformed into boutique hotels. Don’t expect a grand lobby entrance and large, modern rooms with a balcony as these riads have been restored to preserve the original architecture and character. Although plumbing has definitely been updated; flushing toilets and a hot shower are now standard.

A stay in an Essaouira riad offers an intimate and homely experience, and we guarantee it will be a stay you will remember for many years.

Here we share the best riads in Essaouira to suit all budgets and tastes; we even share a budget riad accommodation that is considered one of the best hostels in Essaouira and popular with backpackers. Indeed, a stay in a riad doesn’t need to blow the budget, and as far as Essaouira is concerned, I’d argue that the riads provide much better value than the international resort-style hotels (such as Hotel Le Médina Essaouira and Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa).

Things to consider if staying in an Essaouira riad

  • Riads in Essaouira are rather understated compared to the riads in Marrakech. Indeed, if you’ve stayed in a Marrakech riad it’s highly likely that there was a swimming pool in the central courtyard. There is no riad in Essaouira that has a swimming pool in the courtyard and the riads are generally smaller. However, there is one riad in Essaouira that has a rooftop pool: Heure Bleue Palais.
  • Riads located close to the ramparts and Taros should be avoided if you want a peaceful night’s sleep. Music from the bars and restaurants along here can go on until 1am. We learned this mistake staying at Dar Loulema; a charming Essaouira riad situated immediately next door to Taros. However, earplugs do the trick.
  • Within the medina, it is likely you will be woken by the call to prayer at sunrise. Rooms next to a mosque will be the loudest. Whilst this is a charming experience of Moroccan life, it may not be appreciated by those who enjoy a lie-in on holiday. Again, earplugs are an idea. Otherwise, use it as an alarm clock to get up and explore the medina at its quietest.
  • Many of the Essaouira riads within the medina have narrow stairs to climb and often the better rooms are towards the top floor as these offer the better views. Lifts / elevators are a rarity, although Palais Des Remparts is one Essaouira riad/hotel with a lift. For those with mobility issues, the stairs is something to consider.
  • If your accommodation doesn’t offer breakfast, there are many restaurants within the media serving breakfast. So don’t limit your accommodation search to those that serve breakfast.
  • All Essaouira riad accommodations require a government tourist tax to be paid by visitors staying at the property. This needs to be paid directly to your accommodation in cash, often requested on departure and goes to the local community. So don’t be surprised if your riad asks for this extra payment.

Locations of the best riads in Essaouira

1. Riad Dar L’Qdima

Best value for money
Click here to check prices and availability
Riad Dar L’Qdima review

Riad Dar L’Qdima, which translates to ‘The Old House’, was originally an old Jewish house where groundskeepers stayed in the ground floor room and multiple other families lived on the first and second floors. It is now run by an American and Moroccan couple who have lovingly renovated the building, bringing it back to life, to offer the traveller a friendly and authentic experience in Essaouira’s medina. 

The location is a huge plus point; close enough to the main sights and restaurants, but quiet enough in the evenings to relax and enjoy the building. Rooms are perhaps on the basic side, which is reflected in the room rate, but we just see this as another bonus point as Riad Dar L’Qdima offers an affordable experience of traditional riad in Essaouira.

Rooftop yoga classes take place every Thursday and Moroccan cooking classes can be arranged. All staff are very efficient and friendly, and the co-owner Theresa is very prompt to answer any questions you may have before your visit.

2. Salut Maroc

Best for something quirky
Click here to check prices and availability

Salut Maroc Essaouira

Salut Maroc is a historic 18th century riad, which had been transformed into an art-based boutique hotel. Located on the edge of the medina, it affords 180 degree views over the Atlantic, superb service from the 24-hour reception, and all guests are served with a Moroccan breakfast each morning.

Salut Maroc’s eleven bedrooms are individually designed, featuring colourful Moroccan art, with ensuite bathrooms and copper bath tubs. It’s very much the trendy place to stay in Essaouira.

The Terrace Restaurant offers locally caught fish, and meats barbecued on wood, big salad bowls and Moroccan specialities. Alcohol is also served on the rooftop; try out one of their cocktails for a sundowner! We love their rooftop area so much that it’s featured in both our best restaurants in Essaouira and best bars in Essaouira. With this in mind, it can get rather loud in the evenings here.

3. Villa Maroc

Best for luxury
Click here to check prices and availability

Villa Maroc Essaouira

Composed of four traditional riads overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and ramparts, Villa Maroc is an Essaouira hotel of eloquence, charm, and exquisite service that is also sustainably sensitive to the local environment. It’s also the oldest hotel-riad in Morocco, in that it was the first riad in Essaouira to become a hotel!

Eating at Villa Maroc is an experience unto itself. A classic Moroccan breakfast can be enjoyed from the rooftop terrace, but the true treat is the traditional dinner made to order and served under candlelight. The menu is changed daily and you can order special request meals including Couscous Royal, Lobster dinner, Mechoui or Pigeon Pastilla.

Allow time to luxuriate in the on site Oriental Spa offering natural Argan treatments.

Be quick to book a room though, as this luxury Essaouira riad has been featured in an array of high end glossy magazines, and we totally understand why.

There is also the sister hotel, Les Jardins de Villa Maroc, which guests can visit if in need of a swimming pool. This is small, boutique resort, nestled in the Swiri countryside 10km from Essaouira, offering a day pass to visitors to use the heated swimming pool and dine at the restaurant. There’s a free shuttle from Villa Maroc. Click here for our full guide to a day pass at Les Jardins de Villa Maroc.

4. Palais Des Remparts

Best for breakfast views and accessibility
Click here to check prices and availability
Palais Des Remparts review

Palais De Remparts roof top view

As the name suggests, Palais Des Remparts is situated right next to the ramparts. Here, the moody Atlantic ocean provides the soundtrack to your stay, and rooms are airy and spacious.

But the reason why we love this riad so much, and why it features in our best riads in Essaouira, is not just the location and history, it’s for the fantastic rooftop breakfast, which boasts stunning 360 degree views, across the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the rooftops and countryside beyond to the east. It’s a great spot to watch both a sunrise and sunset in Essaouira.

This is one of the better value accommodations listed here, and in a great location for exploring the medina. Plus, for those visitors with mobility issues, there is a lift (or rather, an elevator, for our American readers).

5. Heure Bleue Palais

Best for an Essaouira riad with swimming pool
Click here to check prices and availability

Essaouira Hotel - Heure Bleue Palais

Steeped in history, this 19th-century former riad features a terrace with a heated outdoor pool with panoramic views of the medina and the sea. Indeed, this is the only riad in Essaouira’s medina that boasts a swimming pool.

Elegantly decorated, the rooms and suites are very spacious. They come with flat-screen TVs and marble bathrooms, and some also feature Italian showers or balconies.

Guests can choose from several dining options. The outdoor restaurant, Courtyard Patio, serves both international and Moroccan cuisine, and the Moroccan Restaurant serves gourmet cuisine. Light lunches can also be enjoyed on the panoramic terrace.

The hotel’s cosy bar, The English Lounge, features a piano and a fireplace. There is also a cinema room, a hammam and a massage room.

6. Ryad Watier

Best for families
Click here to check prices and availability

Those travelling to Essaouira with kids are often hesitant to stay in a riad, concerned that their kids will disturb the peace of other residents. Indeed, riads are renowned for being peaceful enclaves where even the lightest sound seems to reverberate and amplify. Quiet indoor voices please.

In all honesty, pretty much all riads in Essaouira are welcoming to families and they are certainly not all quiet sanctuaries. The issue with families staying in a riad in Essaouira is finding a family room; they are few and far between. Indeed, many families opt to stay in an Airbnb so that they have more space.

Nevertheless, Ryad Watier goes above and beyond when it comes to welcoming families. The owners and staff love having kids stay here, will introduce them to the resident cats and tortoise, and can also involve them in cooking. Indeed our good blogger friends, My Freerange Family, stayed at Riad Watier and raved about it. Their validation was enough for us to feature this Essaouira riad here. Click here to read their review.

And out of the ten rooms available at Ryad Watier, there are three family rooms, which can also sleep families of five (now that is a rarity in Essaouira).

This is a wonderfully homely riad that takes that extra thought with communal areas. Not only is there a kitchen for guests who wish to self-cater, but there’s a fantastic library to while away an afternoon with a good book. A truly memorable stay.

7. Dar Liouba

Best for a bright and airy riad
Click here to check prices and availability

Tucked away in the old Jewish quarter of Essaouira Medina, Dar Liouba once belonged to a local Imam (a religious leader of Islam) and now houses eight colourful rooms and a rooftop terrace.

Where this Essaouira riad is different from others listed here, in that the central courtyard is in an octagonal shape (rectangular is the norm). Here cedar wood forms balconies leading upwards through the three floors with lush green plants creating a contrast to the whitewashed walls. There’s a bright and airy feel to this riad.

A traditional breakfast is served each morning on the rooftop. Hang around after eating and enjoy a good book on one of the loungers, taking a few moments to glance over the rooftops.

This Essaouira riad is furthest from Essaouira’s main beach, but is handy for Bab Marrakech (one of the medina gates where petits taxis wait) and it is beautifully quiet for those travellers who appreciate tranquillity.

8. The Chill Art Hostel

In the heart of the medina, tucked away from the main thoroughfare, The Chill Art Hostel is considered one of the best hostels in Essaouira. It’s very popular and has many return visitors.

The Chill Art Hostel is a great place to meet other travellers and backpackers in Essaouira as there’s always someone hanging out in the communal area, and the vibe is exceptionally friendly and laid back. There are sometimes workshops and activities arranged through the hostel and there’s often an open mic night.

Being a traditional riad this Essaouira hostel oozes Moroccan charm and character and colourful art adorns every nook and cranny (well it is called ‘The Chill ART Hostel’).

Lockers are provided in the dorm rooms (you can rent a lock from the front desk if you don’t have your own) and each bed has a privacy curtain and reading lamp. There’s also a very affordable apartment with private bathroom and terrace should you want a private room but still enjoy the communal atmosphere.

There’s quite a party vibe here, so if you’re a quiet soul who likes an early night, this place is perhaps not for you. But for those travellers who want a clean, central and funky base to meet like-minded people, The Chill Art Hostel is the place for you. And if you’re planning to enjoy the Essaouira nightlife into the early hours, please note that the front door closes at 2am. If you are going to be later than this, you need to let the front desk know via WhatsApp.

A huge bonus is that breakfast is included. This is the usual Moroccan spread of orange juice, breads, and eggs.

Explore Essaouira ebook

Updated for 2024, the Explore Essaouira ebook is the only travel guide you need for exploring Essaouira. It is jam packed with inspiration on what to do, where to eat, where to stay, and also includes a step-by-step self-guided walking tour (with photos). 

This is a PDF download for use offline and on the go (and ad-free!). Save it to read on the plane to Morocco, download to your phone to follow the self-guided walking tour around the medina, or print it off at home before you leave on your adventures and highlight all the bits you want to remember for your visit.

If you have found this website useful for planning your Essaouira adventures, you can show your support by buying Jenny a coffee. Thanks so much!