Mystical, magical Fez: a remarkable city in Morocco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the oldest and largest medina in North Africa! The city was once the capital of Morocco and is still widely regarded as the country’s cultural epicentre. Explore the medieval walls of the wonderfully chaotic medina and discover spice towers, traditional crafts, hammams and tanneries. The past is alive here, so take a day or two to enjoy all the best things to do in Fez! What to do in Fes,Morocco
Lose yourself in the medina of Fes
The medina of Fes (Fes el Bali) is the oldest and largest in North Africa, dating back to the 9th century! It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its historical and cultural significance. It’s easy to see why when you see how well the ancient charm of the medina has been preserved. Discover the roots of Fès by wandering through its thousands of alleyways and enjoy the largest car-free urban area in the world!
Because of its narrow streets, it is very easy to get lost, which we did a couple of times. Make sure you know which signs to follow before you leave your riad or hotel, as even Google Maps can have a hard time navigating this maze.
If possible, try to choose a hotel within the medina itself. This is because some of the gates to the medina close after 7pm. This can cause problems if you want to return to a hotel outside the medina walls.
These are all the riads in the city of Fes
Tip: Lost? Ask shopkeepers or restaurant owners how to get to your destination. Beware of scams where children help you with directions in exchange for money at the end.
Jnan Sbil Gardens (Bou Jeloud)
his peaceful slice of nature is the only public garden in the bustling medina. Step inside for a break from the hustle and bustle and enjoy the beautiful water features, birds, plants, flowers and palm-lined walkways. Relax, cool off and watch the Fès locals enjoy the park too.
Opening hours: 8am – 7.30pm Tuesday – Sunday. Monday – Closed
The magical Bou Inania Madrasa
The Bou Inania madrasa is an iconic religious building in the centre of the medina. Built in the 14th century, it was once a school. Today, its extraordinary architecture is open to the public. Explore its magnificent marble courtyard, intricate wood carvings and endless mosaic tiles in various shades of green. The colour theme continues in the adjacent mosque, with its stunning green minaret visible from across the medina. There’s no doubt that this madrasa is the most magnificent in the city! Don’t miss this great thing to do in Fez.
Because of its location, it’s easy to visit while walking through the medina. It’s also one of the few religious sites in Fez that can be visited by non-Muslims. Visit early or late in the day to see this beautiful place at its quietest. We visited around 4pm and there was almost no one there!
Opening hours: 9am-5pm (except during prayer times)
Admission fee: 20 Dhs
Take in the smells of the tanneries
Be sure to visit the world-famous tanneries of Fez! Discover hundreds of earthen pits full of different coloured dyes used to colour animal skins. The tanneries are a unique part of Fès culture and one of the best things to do in Fès. Be warned, however, that the smell is quite strong! The locals will try to offer you ‘free mints’ to help with the smell, but we’ve seen plenty of people pay afterwards. So it’s best to remember to bring some mint or a scarf.
An alternative way to see the tanneries is to find a roof terrace nearby. This way you can get up high for a bird’s eye view.
Tip: Visit Chouara Tannery, the city’s largest and the world’s oldest leather tannery!
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Africa’s oldest university: Kairaouine
The Kairaouine mosque is said to be the oldest in the world and the second largest in Morocco. It is one of the most important religious buildings in Fez and, as such, only Muslims are allowed inside. Although tourists aren’t allowed inside, you can get a glimpse through some of the entrance gates. See the stunning marble courtyard, fountains, arches, tiles and carvings. Not only that, but you can see many people praying in this sacred building, which is still used as a university!
Tip: Try to spot the mosque’s beautiful minaret from one of the nearby rooftops.
Get a fresh orange juice
Orange juice is one thing we love, and Fes does it so well! Grab a cheap, fresh one every morning for the perfect start to a day of exploring. You can’t miss the orange juice stalls all over the city centre. Delicious!
Al Atterine Madrasah
This madrassa may be small, but its beauty is so much more than its size. There is a wonderful courtyard in the center, surrounded by geometric patterned tiles that decorate the walls and floor. Marvel at the intricately wooden carved doors, which truly make you feel transported back to medieval Morrocco. Don’t forget to look up at the beautiful minaret above! This oasis of calm, amongst the craziness of Fes, is located close to the Kairaouine Mosque and the Chouara leather tannery. A great thing to do in Fes if you have time!
Opening hours: 8am-6pm (always check for religious holidays and events as these may alter times)
Admission fee: 20 Dhs ($2 USD)
Sunset on a rooftop
Moroccan architecture makes for beautiful earth-coloured houses with flat roofs. This means it’s a terrace paradise! One of the best ways to see Fez is to find a great rooftop café or bar (like Cafe Clock) and enjoy the city from above. Sit here at the end of a day’s sightseeing and watch the sun set behind this beautiful city. Bliss!
The Royal Palace (Dar Al-Makhzen)
Take a look at the dazzling exterior of the Royal Palace. The royal family and the government still use this building frequently, so tourists aren’t allowed inside. However, the stunning blue mosaic tiled walls and magnificent bronze doors make it one of the top sights in Fez. Tourists can also stroll through the beautiful green palace gardens outside. Adjacent to the gardens is the great Fes el-Jdid mosque, with the most beautifully decorated minaret!
Tip: Visit Dar Batha, the former royal palace of Fes, for its museum and tranquil gardens.
Explore the labyrinthine souks
Souks are the soul of any Moroccan city, and those in Fes are some of the most impressive. Step back in time to the Middle Ages in dusty, walled streets where the only means of transport are donkeys and carts. It’s definitely an assault on the senses, with vendors shouting prices and bargains, aromatic smells wafting from every direction and textile displays in every colour of the rainbow. The streets in the Fès souks are much narrower than those in Marrakech, with many twists, turns and forks that make them a veritable labyrinth.
Buy a beautiful Fes carpet
Fez is famous for its handicrafts, especially carpets. The main streets of the medina are lined with rug vendors, each displaying stunning Moroccan designs. A French woman living in Marrakech told us to go to a particular shop (opposite Café El Khmissa), which will give you an honest price.
After looking at about 20 carpets, we chose our favourite. The rug was 2 metres long and 1.5 metres wide and we paid $150, which we thought was a fair price for a traditional Moroccan rug.
Where to stay in Fes
Take the opportunity to stay in a traditional riad in Fez. These are Moroccan guesthouses, usually located in the older parts of the city and centred around courtyards or pools. They’re a great place to find some peace and quiet at the end of a busy day in Fes. Ideally, choose a hotel or riad in the centre of the medina to be close to the main attractions and avoid getting lost late at night.
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