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Fes Morocco, also spelled as Fez, is the oldest city in Morocco dating back 1200 years. It’s also the second largest city in Morocco and was once the capital. There is a lot to do there but I’ve narrowed it down to the very best things to do in Fes.

I’ve been to Fes twice now and visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site is such an amazing experience. The medina in Fes is so massive, around 540 acres, and exploring it is probably THE best thing to do in Fes.

If you’re wondering “is Fes worth visiting“, the answer is absolutely yes! Let’s get to the list of what to do in Fes Morocco.

Panorama view of the Fes Morocco Medina

History of Fes

Founded in the year 789, Fes Morocco is best known for its ancient walled medina which is the world’s largest and oldest medieval Islamic city and pedestrian zones. The city was founded by Idris I, the founder of the Idrisid dynasty, and Fez quickly became a center of trade, culture, and learning in North Africa.

The city’s oldest university, The University of Al-Qarawiyyin, was founded in 859 and is considered the oldest continuously operating educational institution in the world.

During the 13th and 14th centuries, Fes experienced significant growth and during this time many iconic landmarks were constructed, including the Madrasa Bou Inania and the Blue Gate, Bab Bou Jeloud. Fes thrived as a center of commerce and culture but faced periods of instability and conflict that included invasions by other dynasties and European powers.

In 1912 with the Treaty of Fes, Fes became part of French colonial rule. During this time there was a lot of civil unrest and the capital was moved to the city of Rabat where it still remains the capital today. Morocco regained its independence in 1956 and went through a significant growth period in the late 1900’s almost tripling its population.

All the Best things to do in Fes

Fes is known for being a spiritual and intellectual city with numerous historic mosques and madrasas (Islamic educational institution) and many of those are in Fes’s Medina. There are a lot of places in Fes to see and I’m sharing all of the best things to do in Fez below.

1. Fes Medina

The Medina of Fes, also referred to as “Fes el-Bali” is the oldest part of the city and really is one of THE best things to do in Fes. It’s probably the biggest reason why people visit Fes. The Medina is a maze of over 10,000 narrow streets and alleys that contains markets (souks) and historic landmarks and is the largest car-free zones in the world.

While you won’t find any cars in the Medina, you do have to watch out for donkeys pulling carts.

It is VERY easy to get disoriented and lost in the Medina with all the twists and turns. I recommend hiring a guide who knows the Medina and can take you to the important parts of old city as well as tell you things you wouldn’t otherwise learn. We hired a guide both times we visited Fes and it was 100% worth it!

You might see an occasional motorbike but that is rare. And while you might think you can skip Fes because you’ll be going to Marrakech and you can just visit the Marrakech Medina, they are completely different from each other.

2. Walking Tour

A walking tour is the best way to get to know a new city and like I mentioned above, when in Fes, a guide is almost necessary. Can you navigate the medina on your own? You can try but you will probably get lost.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it on your own but just understand that you will likely get lost. Sometimes getting lost is the best way to find those hidden gems in Fes! But, if you only have a day or two then save some time and take a Morocco Walking Tour.

This Private Fes Tour takes you to all the best places in the medina as well as important places outside the medina and includes many of the places on my list of things to do in Fes Morocco.

3. Souks

The souks are the markets inside the medina and you can pretty much find anything you need there. The markets are divided up into specific sections depending on what it is.

You’ll find all (or most) of the spices located in the same area, lighting in another area, wedding dresses in a different area, etc. This makes it easy to find what you want, as long as you can find it. The souks are fun to browse and find that special souvenir to take home.

4. Borj Sud Fortress

The Borj Sud Fortress is located in southern Fez and is a historical structure that was one of the fortifications that once protected the city. Located right outside the medina, it allowed for stretegic defensive capabilities against invaders.

It was constructed during the 16th century and is a significant historical landmark in Fes. Today it’s a tourist attraction and you’ll have a great view of the medina below.

5. Visit Poterie de Fes

Just outside the Medina is a ceramics district that you can visit and watch how tiles are cut and pottery is made. Fes has a long history of pottery-making that goes back centuries and is renowned for it’s distinctive syles and techniques.

With intricate designs and vibrant colors, artisans in Fes use traditional methods passed down through generations. Visitors can take a tour to see how the entire process of making tiles from cutting to hand-painting as well as making pottery.

There is a shop where you can purchase items to take home or they can ship it as well.

6. Bou Jeloud Gardens

The Bou Jeloud Gardens, also known as the Jardin Jnan Sbil, are one of the city’s most beautiful green spaces. These gardens date back to the 1800’s when they were originally created as part of the palace grounds for the royal family.

The gardens were opened up to the public in the 1900’s and is a popular place for both tourists and locals looking for a quiet space away from the noise.

7. The Nejjarine Museum

This museum of wooden arts & crafts is dedicated to preserving the traditional woodworking heritage of the region. The museum is located in a restored 18th century building that was once lodging for travelers and merchants on the ancient trade routes.

The museum includes a diverse range of wooden artifacts and tools highlighting the skill of Moroccan woodworkers throughout history.

You’ll find intricately carved doors, furniture, musical instruments and architectural elements. The Nejjarine Museum also has rotating exhibitions, educational programs, and cultural events that promote Moroccan woodworking traditions.

8. The Jewish Quarter

The city’s Jewish quarter, the Mellah, is known for being one of the most architecturally impressive areas in Fes. The Mellah in Fes dates back to the 14th century and is pretty small and easy to navigate.

Visiting the Mellah reveals the uniqueness of the Jewish architecture when compared to other Medina’s in Morocco. Put the Mellah on your list of things to see in Fes.

9. Rooftop at sunset – dinner

While in Fes, you cannot leave without having dinner on a rooftop at sunset. The view of the Medina against the sunset and mountains in the background is so beautiful. You do have to eat and so you might as well do that on a rooftop!

Sunset in Fes Morocco from a rooftop restaurant - looking out over the rooftops and mountains in the background and one palm tree

10. Day Trip to Meknes & Volubilis

Chances are good that you might not make it back to this region of Morocco so while you’re there you should consider taking a day trip to Meknes & Volubilis.

Morocco has centuries of history and Meknes is one of the four Imperial cities of Morocco, along with Fez, Marrakech, and Rabat. Meaning, the capital of Morocco was once in the city of Meknes and it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Meknes was founded in the 11th century it shouldn’t be surprising that nearby you can actually visit some Roman Ruins. About 1 hour from the city of Meknes is the Volubilis archeological site that contains Roman ruins.

11. Bou Inania Madrasa

There are so many amazing places in Fes to see, especially in the Medina, and one of those that shouldn’t be missed is the Bou Inania Madrasa. The Bou Inania Madrasa, named after the ruling sultan at that time, was designed to be a religious school and a congregational mosque.

The Madrasa has amazing craftsmanship with carved stucco and intricate geometric patterns. There is a central courtyard surrounded by student rooms, all decorated with elaborate tilework and carved wood and marble.

The rooftop of the Bou Inania Madrasa is easy to spot with its distinctive green ceramic roof and minaret. It sill remains an active center of learning and worship today. It’s one of the most well-preserved madrasas in the country.

12. Chouara Tannery

Probably one of the most popular things to do in Fes is to go to the Chouara Tannery. This is the oldest and most famous tannery in Fes, having been in operation since the 16th century.

Visitors enter through a door in the Medina and as you walk upstairs to the shop you’ll be given some mint that you can hold up to your nose to mask the smell. From a balcony above you can watch as laborers work using traditional methods of dying hides that will eventually be turned into poufs and bags.

This was what I really looked forward to the most and I think is the best thing to see in Fes because it’s so unique.

You might be wondering what could possibly smell so bad that you have to hold mint up to your nose. Well, there’s a secret ingredient used in the dying process of leather: pigeon poop. Yeah, not something I ever thought about before and now I can no longer look at a photo of the tannery or think about it without thinking about pigeion poop.

After you’ve had enough of the smell (it’s not that bad), you can browse the shops for something to take home.

13. Kairaouine Mosque

One of the oldest and most significant mosques in Morocco, the Kairaouine Mosque, also spelled as AI-Qarawiyyin Mosque, holds immense cultural, historical, and religious importance. Not only is it a place of worship but it’s also a place of learning.

The Mosque was constructed in the 9th century by a woman from a wealthy Tunisian family and is named after the Qarawiyyin University which was founded at the same time the mosque was being built. There have been many renovations and expansions over the centuries and the Kairaouine Mosque features a blend of Moorish, Andalusian, and Moroccan architectural styles.

The Kairaouine Mosque is considered one of the holiest sites in Morocco and a testament to Fez’s status as a center of learning and enlightenment.

Looking down into the Kairaouine Mosque from the rooftops above - The courtyard of the mosque and the green tiled roofs and minaret

14. Madrasa Al-Atterine

The Madrasa al-Attarine is a historic Islamic school in the Medina of Fes renowned for its stunning architecture and intricate decoration. The school was built in the 14th century and was a place for teaching various subjects such as Qur’anic studies, Islamic law, and theology.

The architectural work of the Madrasa Al-Atterine really showcases the craftsmanship and artistic skills from that time period. With intricate woodcarving and geometric tile patterns, the design showcases traditional Moroccan decor style. Inside you’ll find a courtyard, classrooms, and a prayer hall.

The name Attarine comes from the Arabic word “attar” which means perfumers. The Madrasa was built near the souk where perfumes and spices were sold and the name reflects that.

15. Merenid Tombs

The Merenid Tombs are a historic necropolis located on a hill that overlooks the city of Fez. These tombs date back to the 14th century during the Marinid dynasty which ruled Morocco from the 13th to 15th centuries.

Although there aren’t many historical records about the Merenid Tombs, it’s believed they were built to hold the remains of Marinid sultans and members of the royal family. The Merenid Tombs have fell into despair but they still remain a popular place for tourists due to it’s location and the views of the city.

16. The Royal Palace

Although the capital of Morocco is in Rabat, there is a Royal Palace in Fes. The King HAS to have somewhere to stay when he visits the city right?

Built in the late 19th century, the palace has gone through several expansions and renovations since being built. Unfortunately, the Royal Palace is a private residence and is only open to the public for special events. Despite that, the Royal Palace is still a popular place to visit in Fez for photos of the massive golden doors. It’s definitely worth a quick look.

The gold doors of the Fez Royal Palace - 2 Moroccan flags are flying on top - Things to see in Fes Morocco

17. Bab Bou Jeloud

Bab Bou Jeloud, also known as the Blue Gate Square is a public square that is one of the main entrances to the historic Medina.

The Blue Gate has blue and green geometric tilework on it’s horseshoe-shaped arches and is a popular place for locals to gather and for tourists to take photographs. On the other side, it’s purple.

During the day you’ll see locals going about their daily activities but in the evening you can find street performers, musicians, and vendors.

Best time to visit Fes

When to travel to Fes largely depends on your personal preferences and the type of experience you want. Morocco is mostly hot throughout the year but there are times where the weather is more pleasant.

The best time of year in Fes as far as the weather would either be the spring (April to June) or the fall (September to November). During this time the temperatures are mild and comfortable. It’s also during this time that the crowds are lower.

Summer months in Morocco can be very hot. Because of the heat, Fes has less tourists in the summer. This might be ideal for you if you want to avoid the crowds and don’t mind the heat.

How many days do you need in Fes?

I think 2 days in Fes is the ideal amount of time to spend there. You need at least one full day to explore the places on this list of best things to do in Fes. If you want to take any day trips then add an extra day for that.

How to get to Fes

Fes has both an airport and a train station. If you arrived in Morocco at the Casablanca International Airport (most people flying to Morocco fly into Casablanca), you can take a flight to Fes, but the flights are limited. If you can get a flight then that will be the fastest way to get to Fes. A flight from Casablanca is only about 1 hour.

Fes also has a train station and you can catch the train at the airport in Casablanca. The train will take about 3 hours and 45 minutes and cost about $30. The trains are very comfortable and are really great about being on time.

Morocco’s national bus is CTM and the buses are very comfortable. They are large touring buses and they all have AC (a necessity!). A bus from Casablanca to Fes will cost around $8 and take between 4.5 hours to 5.5 hours. There’s also a “premium” optin for around $12 that will take just 3.5 hours to reach Fes. That’s almost $20 less than the train and you reach Fes faster!

You can also either rent a car or hire a driver. Unless you really want to drive in Morocco because you want to explore some lesser known areas then I would recommend sticking with public transportation. It’s VERY affordable to travel in Morocco using trains, buses, and hiring a driver. We did all three on our last trip to Morocco and never had any issues.

Getting around Fes

Since you can’t drive in the Fes Medina you won’t need a car. You can reach almost everything on foot. If you choose to take a tour, you will be provided with transportation to reach those places further away.

If you aren’t taking a tour then you can find taxis everywhere. You’ll want to take a Petite Taxi which are just taxis that travel within the city and they are affordable. Most places you’ll visit in Fez are easy to reach on foot.

Where to stay in Fes

I highly recommend staying at a Riad in the Fes Medina. A Riad is a traditional Moroccan house with an interior courtyard or garden. All the rooms will be around the courtyard and it’s typically 2-3 floors.

Riads can range in size from smaller and modest to really large and luxurious so prices will vary. When looking for your accommodation you see either the word Riad or Dar and those are the ones you want to book.

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