The greeting you’ll receive at the Hotel Hivernage is pure charm, but it requires patience. Instead of tapping your toe at the front desk while the guy in front of you spills his life story, you’ll be invited to sit in the lobby while you complete your check-in forms. The staff is not in a rush, so set aside your New York-sculpted expectations. This first taste will set the tone for your stay: relaxed, luxurious and high-tough.
When you visit Marrakech, you’ll be tempted to stay in the medina (i.e., inside the city’s walls). Trade proximity for comfort with the Hivernage. It’s a short walk to the medina, though a taxi is prudent (and cheap) depending on where you want to go. Being able to retreat from the craziness of the narrow alleys at the end of the day will be worth the seeming inconvenience. While the action inside the walls is fast and the environs confined, the Hivernage is spacious and clean.
No detail is overlooked, from the melon juice cocktail served at check-in to the rose petals scattered in your room’s sink and bathtub. Stretch out on the king-sized bed at the end of the day, or sip a glass of wine out on your private balcony.
Hivernage offers several dining options, including a bar, full-service restaurant and café (which is great for breakfast). Menus are available in both English and French, and the waitstaff can accommodate both languages (and Arabic), as well. The food is tasty, but neither adventurous nor exotic. Both local and western dishes are provided.
Be sure to block a day off to spend in the hotel’s spa. You can take advantage of a variety of treatments, including several traditional therapies. The contrast to the souks – the shops in the medina – is profound, but you’ll be too subdued to care when the stress of haggling with the medina’s merchants is kneaded from your back and shoulders.
This touch of luxury is not as expensive as you would expect. A comparable hotel in New York or Paris would cost you at least $500 a night. I spent just under $150 a night for the Hivernage … expensive by local standards but absolutely worth it.