Nowhere is the welcome warmer than in Marrakech. A city where colour fills every street and dazzles behind every door: dusty pink houses, verdant green trees, and souks filled with spices, carpets and all manner of bold, bright wares to cheer up even the gloomiest of days once back on more wintry soil. And thanks to the recently-opened Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakech is back on the map – a city that’s been home to fashionable winter sun seekers for decades. What to eat, where to sleep, what to see and where to shop in Marrakech – here are our picks for an unforgettable long weekend…

Where to Eat…

Le Jardin – It’s worth stopping for a salad and a date milkshake in the Medina’s secret garden, but the restaurant’s real draw are the tortoises which amble around the ground floor in the cooling shade of the banana trees. Don’t leave Le Jardin without a peep at the elegant resortwear boutique upstairs.

Le Marocain – Time to pop on your chicest heels; there’s a photo opportunity at every turn inside La Mamounia – one of the city’s most lavish hotels. Once you’ve made it past the lavish décor, take a stroll through the lush gardens to Le Marocain, where the restaurant’s haute take on local cuisine is served with a soundtrack of local music.

La Famille – Vegetarians and vegans, rejoice! La Famille has a decent plant-based lunch menu which changes daily, with ingredients that are all locally-sourced and organic. Think bohemian, Mediterranean-inspired surroundings – the cafe is set in a lush, airy courtyard offset by island touches… Marrakech, or Menorca?

Nomad – Mediterranean design, a buzzy atmosphere and modern Moroccan fare have made Nomad the go-to spot for travellers visiting Marrakech. Book in advance so you can bag a seat on the rooftop, and settle in: you can watch the sun go down over the Rahba Lakdima spice market.

Where to Stay…

They’ve been inspiring interior experts and design magazines for years, but it’s worth choosing your riad carefully – these are places to stay in Marrakech that we’d really recommend.

Dar Seven – So, you’re more Ralph Lauren than YSL? This chic, tranquil riad is pure glamour in the heart of the souk: think luxurious cream drapes, gleaming crystal, monochrome prints and touches of antique styling with traditional Moroccan furniture. Meals – light, fresh and delicately flavoured – are served either in an open-air courtyard or on a private terrace. Dar Seven also owned by Italian royalty, so you can rent one or all four rooms when they’re not in residence and say you’ve stayed in a vrai palais.

Dar Zemora – This boutique spot can be a little tricky to find amongst the city’s desert-like Palmeraie neighbourhood, but once you walk through the doors of this tasteful, English-owned pile you won’t want to leave. Home to comfortable public areas, a decent-sized pool, two suites and three generously-sized rooms, it’s the charming extra touches that ensure that Dar Zemora stand out from the crowd: expect locally-sourced organic toiletries in-room and afternoon tea with delicious homemade cakes. There’s even a hidden hammam and spa treatments on offer too – post-souk perfection.

Mandarin Oriental – An upscale oasis of calm, the Mandarin Oriental is also to be found in the Palmeraie – a short drive from the airport, but a world away from the hustle and bustle of the souk. The 63 villas and suites are the ultimate in luxury – not to mention the five star’s expansive spa facilities, where you could spend your entire stay without much difficulty. Elegantly-designed with a touch of Berber style, each villa disposes of its own infinity pool and courtyard, along with an outdoor fireplace and dining area. Three in-house restaurants plus excellent room service means you’ll really have no need to venture beyond the hotel gates – it’s the only choice for an intimate weekend away.

Where to Shop…

The best shopping in Marrakech? It’s got to be the Souks, where else? Head to the northern streets around Djemaa Al Fna – Marrakech’s famous central square – for quality leather, spices, furniture and textiles. Don’t be afraid to barter; it’s very much the custom – if any emporia are fixed-price, the owners will tell you right off the bat. Given this is prime real estate, prices are higher compared with the markets further north. That said, you can drive a particularly hard bargain at either the beginning or the end of the day; shopkeepers are superstitious about their first and last sales.

33 Rue Majorelle – This achingly-chic concept store is a Moroccan take on a former Paris institution. Expect to find contemporary local and national designers, as well as high quality olive oil, wine, cosmetics and stylish ceramics.

Got space in your luggage for a carpet? Of course you do. There are two places to go for high quality, traditional craftsmanship. If money’s no object, head straight for Soufiane Zarib: known to many as the best carpet dealer in town, Soufiane can make bespoke creations as well as selling the finest quality Berber rugs. On more of a budget and ready to haggle? Chateau des Souks in Souk Semmarine has an excellent selection of Moroccan wedding blankets – known locally as handira – at a broad range of prices.

Where to Visit

YSL Museum – A passion project by his surviving partner Pierre Berge, the much-anticipated Yves Saint Laurent Museum opened its doors in October 2017. With two exhibition spaces, an auditorium, a bookshop and a dedicated research library, it doesn’t disappoint as the jewel in the crown of the couturier’s Moroccan legacy. Don’t leave without a visit to the on-site restaurant; the food is show-stopping and the people-watching even better.

If you can bear the queues – and the Instagram photoshoots – it’s worth buying a ticket which includes entry to YSL’s neighbouring Jardin Majorelle; allegedly (and believably) Morocco’s most visited tourist attraction. The use of colour is spectacular, and the garden away from the recognisable main building is serene. Don’t miss the small Berber museum on site; fascinating for its insights into traditional costumes, jewellery and history.

A day trip to Morocco’s impressive Atlas Mountains is a great way to see the country’s natural resources, for anyone short on time. Head to the majestic Cascades d’Ouzoud waterfalls – a drive north of Marrakech, through olive groves and Berber countryside – for a scenic hike through a network of trails, stopping for fresh juice and lunch in the peaks.