Fez MoroccoThe heart of culture and the spirit of Morocco, Fez is a city filled with splendor and wonder combined over thousands of years. The picturesque streets transport travelers into a Morocco not commonly seen—a Morocco with a truly authentic landscape and beauty.
While Fez and Marrakesh constantly compete for the title of most exotic Moroccan city, Fes has the edge in the sense that it has been able to maintain its rich culture and authentic charm over the years without being ravaged by mass tourism. This is a city every traveler should slow down and spend some time in—check out our top things to do in Fes and the best ways you can enjoy this marvelous city.
Where to Stay
Our top recommendation for accommodations in Fes are riads—classic-looking homes that have been transformed into bed-and-breakfast-style hotels. The riads can be grand and luxurious or quaint and simple, whatever your preference and budget. For a complete guide to staying in a riad in Fes including the top picks for the best riads, check out our riad recommendations. If you are looking for something truly luxurious, try the Palais Faraj Suites and Spa, or a more romantic experience at La Maison Bleue.
What to Do
The oldest part of the city houses the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the wonderfully preserved medina. Divided by a river, the one side plays host to historic buildings, monuments, and the bustling souks. The other side is home to twisting alleys and a more local side to Fes that may be seen as a bit rough-and-tumble. A large area, it is well worth it to spend your time exploring the shops, the cafes, and the alleys of the Old City. Every corner of Fes el-Bali greets you with charismatic traders, fruit sellers, silk makers, sculptors, and artisans.
In the Old City, the one thousand-year-old Chouara tannery can’t be missed on your visit to Fes, one of three major tanneries in the city. Watch the full process of leather-making the traditional way—from the softening, dyeing, and drying stages. Above the tanneries on the surrounding terraces, you can get a birds-eye view of the multi-coloured stone vats. If you want a more personal look, ask one of the tour guides at the leather shops to be brought down for a guided tour—but be warned, the smell from the vats can be so overpowering that the guides have fresh mint on hand to ward off the stench.
Founded in the 16th century, the Jewish quarter was founded by the sultan at the time to offer protection to the Jewish community. Enjoy the bustling shops at the heart of the area, and notice the difference in architecture in comparison to other areas of Fes. The houses look out onto the streets, and wrought iron is a common feature on balconies. Visit the Ibn Danan synagogue for a truly unique look into Jewish-style Moroccan architecture.
The “New City” of Fes was actually built in the 13th century, but is considered new in comparison. Built out of necessity to house the grand buildings of the Merenids, this section of Fes contains the stunning Royal Palace. The quieter New City holds a peaceful feel for visitors that may have just come out of the medina, and a visit to the Royal Palace and the mosques and medersas behind it offer a nice retreat.
Dar el Makhzen
Located in Fes el-Jedid, the Royal Palace is a wonderful sight to behold. Although the interior is not open to the public, you can view the imposing entrance and exterior. From the large brass doors to the finely carved cedar wood, the intricacy is unmatched. The palace is surrounded by lemon trees, which can be plucked right from the branches and, interestingly enough, have cleaning properties for the brass doors and gates.
The Gates of Fes
The imposing Bab Chorfa and Bab Boujloud grant you entry into the old city of Fes. Surrounding the old city, these gates have importance and meaning in the history of Fes. It is well worth it to take a moment to visit the gates, as well as the fortresses and towers that once protected the city.
There are over 300 mosques dotted throughout Fes, and this is one of the most beautiful. What was once one of the most distinguished medieval universities is now a functioning mosque and one of the largest centres of prayer and worship in all of Morocco. It can house more than 20,000 people, and the library contains a copy of a ninth century Qur’an. While non-Muslims can’t enter, the exterior is quite spectacular and nearby restaurants can get you a meal with a view.
Medersa Bou Inania
Built in the 14th century, it is one of the few religious buildings that those outside the Islamic faith may enter. This stunning building has articulate carvings in the wood, immaculate arches, and impressive tilework that must be seen in person to be appreciated.
A must-do when visiting Fes is to try out a cooking class. You will go with your chef to the medina to pick out fresh ingredients and spices that you will take back to the kitchen to prepare authentic Fassi cuisine.
Cafe Clock Cooking School in Fes provides a great experience in learning the art of Moroccan Cooking, The first thing in the course is a shopping tour of the local souk. The class provides firsthand experience in Moroccan cuisine and the knowledge of Moroccan spicing and flavors.
Golfing in Fes
The Fes Royal Golf Club is a top notch 18-hole course that works its way through decadent olive groves with the Atlas Mountains as the beautiful backdrop to the game. One of the finest courses in all of Morocco, this is a luxurious resort and course in which to spend an afternoon or a full day.
What to Eat
As is the common theme in Fes to the relaxation and enjoyment of everyday life, the food resembles the city’s passion and flair with its use of spices and fruits. Similar to the traditional tagine, a must-try dish is the mrouzia. This dish includes over 30 spices and is blended with lamb, honey, and almonds to create a scrumptious dish traditionally used in the “sacrifice feast”.
The best place to experience pastille, a local delicacy, is in the Old City. Fassi cuisine loves to combine sweet and savoury, and you’ll see this in the pies, the stews, and the street food.
If you are looking for authentic Moroccan dining, check out Fes et Gestes. This lovely guest house will treat you like family come to visit, with a sensational meal to top it all off.
Getting around Fes is quite easy if you are okay with walking down twisting alleys and alongside the busy souks. Taxis are cheap, and they are easily located as well, making them the perfect way to travel from point to point. You can find red taxis all over Fes that will take you where you need to go. However, once you arrive at a destination, our advice is to walk around on foot and see the streets.
Best Time to Visit
Located in the central areas of Northern Morocco, Fes is lucky to have pleasant temperatures all year. The summer months of July and August can be very hot and dry, while April through June and September through October offer more pleasant temperatures for visitors. December is the coldest month. Whether winter, spring, or summer, Fes is the ideal location for urban exploration, as well as providing a home base to visit the surrounding areas.
From the early morning call of the daily ritual to ending the day with a hearty meal and everything in between—Fes is an inspiring Moroccan city that will inspire you with its history, culture, and romantic architecture. The opportunities for discovery are endless, and Fes has something for every traveler.
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