The Heure Bleue Palais is a gorgeous riad hotel, full of colonial character and class, which offers impeccable service and an enjoyable stay.
The setting could not be more magical: inside the aging walls of the whitewashed medina.
The house dates to the 19th century and has retained its lovely character, while providing the luxury and service guests have come to expect from leading hotel brand Relais & Chateaux.
The Heure Bleue is without the doubt the place to stay in Essaouira.
The house was originally built as a local governor’s residence, before becoming an orphanage and then an abandoned shell for three decades.
In 2000 the local Moroccan-Jewish Azoulay family bought the property and undertook extensive renovation works. This palais has successfully kept the feel of a traditional Moroccan house, while offering all the comforts of a luxury boutique hotel.
The riad is charmingly authentic. The 39 rooms and suites are built in traditional style around an inviting central courtyard.
A mix of French, Oriental and African styles, suites are built around a central fireplace and feature French bay windows with day lounges, lots of tiles and rugs, plenty of deep brown-coloured shutters, filigree detailing and dividing blinds.
Their design reflects influences from Africa, the Moors, Portugal and the sea ports of the British Empire. The overall effect is classic colonial.
When you feel like cooling down, pop up to the roof terrace for a quick dip, and some great views of the historic medina and port.
Evenings can be spent relaxing over an aperitif in the beautiful courtyard or Salon Anglais (with its grand piano), before moving to the restaurant for a lovely meal over traditional lute music.
The hotel has three delightful dining options for guests. In the gourmet Moroccan restaurant head chef Ahmed Handour serves perfectly cooked French cuisine with distinctive local flavours.
The courtyard patio is a lovely spot to enjoy a relaxing meal inspired by the culinary traditions of east and west and the rooftop terrace, by the hotel's pool, offers summertime dining with gorgeous views of the Medina and nearby ocean.
There are plenty of leisure facilities at Heure Bleue Palais, including a lovely rooftop pool, a traditional hammam and a range of massages and treatments either at the rooftop terrace or in the privacy of your room or suite.
The Hotel Heure Bleue Palais is also excellent value, with private transfers from Morocco and Agadir included in the room rate.
Essaouira is an ideal, round-year destination and Morocco’s mildest region. Temperatures range from 18°c to 30°c throughout the year. Even when it’s 40°c -50°c in Marrakech, here by the sea it will be cool and refreshing.
There is also a brilliant range of activities, from camel and horse riding, to local tours of artisan studios and golf at the nearby Gary Player designed course.
Mogador Gold Club
The hotel will organise your transport and tee-off the Mogador Golf Club (and even transport you there in a genuine London black cab).
Overlooking the ocean just three kilometres from the Medina, this Gary Player signature course is demanding, but an absolute pleasure
With fast running greens, deep (and hard) bunkers and unforgiving rough, the course is difficult, made more so by the prevailing, squally winds.
The undulating fairways are immaculately kept; such that is feels almost like a slice of the Algarve.
“We tried to build a gold course where people could come out and really have fun,” Player said.
“There are 36 holes that are completely different…You can see the sea on many occasions, the holes are in trees, out of trees, [there are] sand dunes, big bunkers, small bunkers, [and] small greens.
“The condition of the golf course is absolutely magnificent.
“We’re interested in promoting golf right across the board and we’d love to see Morocco have a young Tiger Woods of their own.”
The two 18-hole courses are built around the new Hotel Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa Resort and offer members and visitors, both amateur and professional, a rare experience of sand dunes, forest and Atlantic views.
Traditional Berber market
A trip to a traditional countryside Berber market is an absolute must, though not for the faint of heart.
Most visitors arrive by donkey or truck to sell fruit, meats, goats, chickens, jewellery, and other goods.
As our guide said, "Here you can find everything and nothing".
The markets move to different places around the region every day and provide a real insight into traditional life. A highlight was the traditional mud brick teahouses, where guests bring their own lea leaves and pot to boil and brew.
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