Few hotels are quite as unlike the city that surrounds them as the Heure Bleue Palais in Essaouira. The strung-out hippy vibe that pervades the rest of the town stops at the door (where a doorman in a fez stands guard) and is replaced instead by a wonderfully romantic colonial feel.
Being rather out of step with its surroundings doesn’t prevent Heure Bleue from being one seriously good hotel, however. The heart of the place is the lovely, plant-filled, tile-lined central patio. From here, galleries open out into 33 rooms of varying degrees of size and decadence, each with a roomy bathroom clad in gleaming black marble.
For a hotel of its size Heure Bleue packs a lot in on the facilities front. There’s an excellent restaurant, a traditional hammam, a billiards rooms and a private screening room. But it’s the extensive lounger-lined terrace and rooftop pool that really wows. The views, whether of the atmospheric, tumble-down riads of the medina or the endless, white sweep of the beach, are breath-taking.
Heure Bleue Palais is not absolutely perfect. But you feel that it’s really trying to be. (The fact that there are 73 members of staff – or more than one per guest – speaks volumes.) It’s the sort of place you’re unlikely to fall head over heels in love with (it’s far too grand for that), but which it’s absolutely impossible not to be impressed by. It’s got something of the feel of an ageing Victorian dowager about it: striking, perhaps a little imposing, but truly magnificent.
- The sheer, unremitting grandeur of it all
- The rooftop pool
- Sweets, dates and some inspiring bon mots on the pillow at turn-down
- Almond milk on arrival
- Snoozing up on the rooftop, cooled by the alizee breeze
- The eye-watering cost of a cocktail
Need to Know: Heure Bleue Palais
Number of rooms: 33
Check-in/check-out times: 2pm and 12noon (but flexible)
Room service: Yes
Swimming pool: Yes. The fabulous rooftop pool
Spa: Yes. There’s a small hammam, a dimly-lit black marble cave with a ceiling riddled with tiny stars of light. The traditional black soap scrub is sensational.
Dogs welcome: No
Eating and drinking: Before dinner you can settle in with a beautifully mixed (but pricey) cocktail or a decent glass of Meknes wine either on the roof, or surrounded by palm trees and the cooing of doves down in the grand patio. The restaurant is one of the country’s finest, and specialises in classic Moroccan dishes – pastilles, couscous and the like – but done to absolute perfection.
Near to? Everything. The hotel is on the edge of the medina, right next to the city walls. The beach is around a two minute walk from the hotel in one direction while the small (and, when compared to Marrakech, very chilled) souk is about the same distance in the other.
Getting there: Essaouira is a couple of hours by petit taxi from Marrakech. Once you’re there, it’s a small town – you just head for the Bab Marrakech gate, and you can’t miss it.