Riad vs. Resort: The Marrakech Smackdown.
Albatros Garden: Hotel Resort outside of the Medina
Riad Barroko: Boutique-style hotel in the Medina
If you’re contemplating a trip to Marrakech you might be trying to decide if you should stay at an all inclusive resort outside the Medina or at a traditional Riad within the Medina’s walls. We stayed at both during our recent trip with Low Cost Holidays to the mind-boggling Moroccan city and we decided to compare them here to help you choose which style of lodging would work best for you.
The rules of this heavy weight showdown are simple:
Three rounds–Rooms, Amenities, Location–and no hitting below the belt. May the best property win!
Round 1: Rooms
Albatros Garden Resort
Do you like flat screens, slippers, robes and a balcony overlooking the pool? Well, then you may just find the Albatross Garden Hotel in Marrakech to your liking.
Aside from the random trip to Las Vegas, Beth and I don’t get a chance to do the resort thing much. So when Low Cost Holidays asked us to partner with them to check out one of its resort properties we jumped at the occasion.
Fitted with two queens, a large balcony with table and chairs, flat screen TV with two multiple English speaking channels, monogram slippers and robe, it’s easy to feel like Frank Sinatra as you sip your morning coffee from the panoramic balcony, while outside life in Marrakech goes on around you. The bathroom is split between two rooms with one having the toilet and bidet, while the other room a sink, shower and bathtub with a handful of shower gels and moisturizers waiting for you upon your arrival.
Do you like boutique hotels? If so, then you will love the rooms at Riad Barroko. For me, one of my favorite things about staying in a boutique room, especially ones in older properties, is the attention to detail that the property owner puts into the space.
At Riad Barroko, for example, you won’t find any television, radio or even an alarm clock in your room, but what you get is a space that highlights the beauty of traditional Riads, which is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard, while feeling timeless and romantic without being dated.
Our room featured a queen and twin-sized bed as well as elegantly painted wooden door trims and delicate stained glass windows that looked out above the lush courtyard and pool.
Round 2: Amenities
Seeing the people lounging around Albatros Garden is a testament in itself to the relaxing nature of this Marrackech resort.
From the moment your day starts you can either do absolutely nothing (as in laying by one of the two large pool with a book (or drink) in hand or get a massage, facial and/or have a soak in the hammam. For those who like to get the blood pumping, there is also a fitness room on the property. The choice is yours and there is no wrong answer.
Breakfast is abundant at the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets–olives, bread, coffee, croissants, etc. In fact, Beth, who is a vegetarian, said multiple times about how the resort’s breakfast was one of her favorite breakfasts in the world. Additionally, the Albatros Garden features multiple restaurants, bars and lounges that dish up everything from pizza to tagines.
The service from the restaurant, bar, spa and cleaning staff was good; however, the overall service from the front desk was average bordering on below-average. It took multiple in-person requests at reception to get a room service menu brought up to our room (they wouldn’t just give me one). While they were polite and served up service with a smile, the staff just wasn’t that helpful. Despite having more reception staff than most places I’ve visited they always seemed to behind the eight-ball. In other words, we felt like a (room) number to them; instead of a guest in a 5-star hotel.
Keeping with the original style of the Riad and introducing elements from boutique hotels and spa resorts, Riad Barroko features an iridescent courtyard pool surrounded by a fountain, plants, flowers and orange trees, rod-iron tables and chairs with rose petals scattered about as well as a cushy Morrocan-style nook. Additionally, there are two terraces, one on the second floor and one on the roof. At night, the courtyard glows with candles providing the perfect setting for one of the Riad’s home cooked meals or just a nice glass of wine under the inky desert night.
Breakfast is traditional and a simple affair featuring fresh breads, Moroccan-style pancake, jams, coffee, tea and juice served with a smile. In fact, from the moment we checked into until the moment we left, we got fantastic service. At check-in, we were greeted with a deliciously refreshing mint tea while the manager brought out a map and gave us some tips for bargaining in the souks and visting Djemaa El Fna. He even warned us about the food we should stay away from and what was safe to eat in the square.
Round 3: Location
Located outside of the Medina, the Albatros Gardens accomplishes what it sets out to do: create an inclusive setting for you to relax and enjoy Marrakech sans the hustle and bustle of the Medina. The views of the Atlas Mountains and olive grooves from our balcony were fantastic. It reminded me of resorts in Palm Springs, California, circa 1957.
If you wanted to go to the Medina for shopping or just hanging out, you could either walk (approximately 30-45 minutes) or have the hotel call a cab for you. We paid 100 Dirhams (appx. $12 USD) for a ride from the Albatros Garden to Riad Barroko, but another women we spoke with said it cost her only 60 Dirhams to get to the Medina. Apparently we didn’t bargain well enough!
Tucked away in the narrow corridors of Marrakech’s storied Medina and other Marrakech attractions, Riad Barroko is an oasis in the sea of madness that swirls about the Medina’s streets. As you sit in the courtyard, your room or terraces, its hard to imagine that the hustle of Marrakech’s famous Djemaa El Fna square is only a 10 minute walk away. It’s extremely peaceful, relaxing and quiet.
We walked back from the aforementioned square several times in the evening during our stay and felt safe every time. There are always people (locals and tourists) out in the night and its a downhill walk past little markets, shops and restaurants. Alternatively, it would be a very short and cheap taxi ride back to the Riad. That being said we had to pay a local kid to help us find the Riad when we first arrived in the Medina. We never would’ve found it on our own but after the initial time of locating it, we never had a problem again. Note: This photo is not the view from the Riad, it’s a shot of the medina.
Both properties put on a fantastic show and, depending on your style of travel, both make a perfect fit for short breaks to Marrakech. In our opinion, though, Riad Barroko is the clear winner. While we both liked the Albatros Gardens Resort, we found it lacked the personality, details and traditional characteristics that made staying at the Riad a truly unique Moroccan experience. The lobbies were immaculate with ornate tile work & chandeliers but unfortunately the same care was not carried through into the rooms. Additionally, the one-on-one personal attention from the manager at the Riad made our stay both exciting and comforting at the same time. We knew they were looking out for us and we could ask them any question and get an honest reply. At the Riad we truly felt like we were experiencing Marrakech at it’s fullest.
Here are some more photos from the Riad Barroko and Albatros Gardens Resort:
*Our stay at both properties was provided by Low Cost Holidays but our reviews & opinions are entirely our own.
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*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website, Nariko’ s Nest Weddings & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!