Riad Maison Bleue
What’s so special?
If you want the beauty of an ancient riad combined with the perks of a larger hotel, check in to the Riad Maison Bleue. This is made of three houses fused into one to create a beautiful 18-suite hotel with facilities including a spa, pool and traditional hammam steam rooms.
How they rate it
The Riad “is a conflation of three old houses haphazardly connected with central courtyards, dark spaces, precipitous tiled staircases and a roof terrace which, in full acknowledgement of the implied symbolism, places you between the noisy ring-road and the dark, smelly, traffic-free souk”, says Stephen Bayley in The Independent. You can choose between two different room styles: “go all-out with gold and drapes, or go for a monochrome, urban-style room with crisp white bedding”, says Laura Goodman in The Sunday Times Travel Magazine. “The ‘bit of both’ theme extends into other spaces, too. The terrace is breezy and European, with white cubist seats and cocktails, but the traditional hammam is a steamy, marble heaven.”
The hotel restaurant is located in the central courtyard and serves traditional Moroccan cuisine, including slow-cooked beef or chicken tagines with couscous.
What’s so special?
Fez, the second-largest city in Morocco, has just as much to offer as the more obvious tourist destination, Marrakesh. Riad Idrissy offers all the splendour of a Moroccan riad at a far lower price than you’ll find in Marrakesh.
How they rate it
This 400-year-old riad was an “epic preservation project” for its owner, John Twomey, who also owns East London’s Ten Bells pub. He hand-picked everything in the hotel and “there’s something a bit Shoreditch about it. Definitely the hipster’s choice,” says Laura Goodman in The Sunday Times Travel Magazine. She advises choosing the Shoowaf Suite, a room that traditionally belonged to the head of the house. Outside lies the Ruined Garden, “a magical space… full of crumbling columns, old tiling and loads of terracotta”.
At teatime, tables in the Ruined Garden are filled with salted orange cheesecake and stuffed dates, “while night time brings candlelight and mechwi – seven-hour spit-roasted lamb marinated in a ras-al-hanout spice mix and olive oil”.
Double rooms cost from £74, bed and breakfast (00 212 649 191410, www.riadidrissy.com).
Three spa breaks just a short flight away
The award-winning Hotel Hohenwart in Schenna, Italy, has a traditional Tyrolean sauna and rooftop saltwater pool, says Stylist.co.uk. “Many of the treatments use local ingredients, such as rose and grape, [and the] relaxation rooms – Dream View, Alpine Glow and Sound of Silence – are spectacular.” The spa’s signature treatment is called ‘Full Moon’: it costs £42 and involves a moonlit massage on the hotel’s roof terrace. See Hohenwart.com. If money is of no concern, then the Antara Destination Spa & Resort in Paphos, Cyprus, might be for you. Rates start at around £2,100 per person, per night, but for that you get your own butler, a private chef and one spa treatment per day. The signature treatment is ‘Kati Vasti’: for £203, a therapist will help to “remove blocked energies with warm oils, which are poured constantly onto the lower back area”. See Antara-spa.com. You’d be hard pushed, says Stylist.co.uk, to find a more glorious setting than Barceló La Bobadilla’s spa (pictured). Situated in rural Andalucía in Spain it is “suitably serene… with majestic columns, candle lanterns and pot plants scattered here and there. Don’t miss the specially designed ‘sensations shower’, and the hydro massage bath”. The spa’s signature treatment makes use of the hotel’s home-grown olive oil. The Olive Oil Peel and Aromatic Massage costs from £111, including a night’s stay. See Barcelo.com.