Are you planning a trip to Fez in Morocco? Here is your local comprehensive guide to visiting Fez, Morocco. You will learn everything about the city including the best things to do, where to go, and how not to get scammed.
Few places in the world are as alluring as Fez in Morocco. This ancient city is home to winding alleyways, vibrant markets, and historic mosques. It’s no wonder that Fez is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.
With so much to see and do, it can be hard to know where to start. Here is a guide to some of the top attractions in Fez.
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A little bit about Fez, Morocco
Located northeast of the Atlas Mountains, Fez (also spelled Fes) is one of the important imperial cities and the former capital of Morocco. Interestingly, Fez is the second largest city after Casablanca as it hosts more than 1,2 million Moroccans.
The medieval city consists of two Medina quarters Fes El-Bali and Fes El-Jdid and the new district Ville Nouvelle (New City).
Fes El- Bali and Fes El-Jdid districts are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Both Medina quarters are home to most of the city’s monuments and historical remains- madrasas, fondouks, tanneries, palaces, residences, mosques, and fountains.
Although Fez isn’t the capital of Morocco anymore, it still retains its importance as the spiritual and cultural epicenter of the country.
When is the best time to visit Fez, Morocco
Like most cities in Morocco, Fez is known for the scorching summer days and the dreadful winter nights. So, choosing when to visit Fez can have a huge impact on the overall of your trip.
The summer months starting from early June to late August are to avoid as it can be quite hard to explore the sites outdoors.
Spring (March-May) and fall (September-November) seasons are considered to be the best time to visit Fez. The temperatures are not too high for outdoor site sighting and not too cold for a night out.
Also, keep in mind that August and September are high season months in Morocco which means that prices are higher than usual.
Another less recommended time to visit Morocco is during the month of Ramadan (2023 dates: March 22– April 20).
Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims around the world, and during this time, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Many businesses close or have reduced hours during Ramadan, and it can be difficult to get around and find food (especially if you’re not Muslim and not fasting yourself).
How many days to spend in Fez Morocco
Typically, we recommend that travelers spend at least 3-4 days in Fez. This gives you enough time to explore the medina, visit some of the nearby sights (like the Roman ruins at Volubilis), and take a day trip or two (like to Meknes or Chefchaouen).
On our trip to Fez, we spent two days exploring just the old Medina. On the first day, we hired a local guide that walked us through the tiny streets, visited the Tanneries, and saw the beautiful mosques and Riads.
On the second day, we went on our own and did some shopping for souvenirs and checked out other attractions in the city.
On the third day, we took a day trip to the nearby city of Meknes, which is only about an hour away. We visited the local sights like the Volubilis Roman Ruins and then headed back to Fez in the evening.
Being slow travelers, 3 to 4 days is the perfect amount of time for us to explore Fez and its surroundings. But if you like to move a bit faster, then 2 days in Fez should be doable.
Of course, you can always stay longer than days if you have the time!
How to get around Fez Morocco
Fez is an imperial city which means the old Medina where you should be staying is pedestrian-only, so you won’t be able to drive a car inside the walls.
If you are visiting Fez with your car and your Riad is inside the old Medina, you will have to park it outside (Ask your hotel/Riad about parking options)
Also, navigating the Old Medina alone can be quite hard as the narrow streets all look the same, so we recommend hiring a local guide for at least your first day (that’s what we did).
Outside of the Medina, you can flag down a petit taxi (a small red car). The price is very reasonable. We paid around 20 Dirhams from our Riad in the old Medina to get to the train station.
You can also take the local bus, but it can be a bit tricky to figure out the routes and I don’t recommend it.
Where to stay in Fez Morocco
To find a hotel in Fez, you need to decide which district in Fez you want to be in. There are two different options when it comes to neighborhoods:
- The old Medina (aka Fes El-Bali)
If you are coming for a short trip only, Fes El-Bali is the best place to stay for the lively and historical vibes. Being in the old Medina also means being close to all attractions and sites in the city.
Plus, Fes El-Bali is home to some beautiful Riads (traditional boutique hotels), my favorite accommodation in Morocco. Riads are only found in the imperial cities in Morocco, so if you visit Fez I recommend you stay in a Riad rather than a normal hotel.
Here are some cool Riads to stay in while in Fez
Riad Fes Bab Rcif & spa
Riad Bab Rcif is located in front of the entrance gate (Bay Bou Jloud) of the old Fez. A perfect place if you want to be in the old Medina but not inside its busy streets. We stayed inside the Medina and we were sometimes struggling to find the way to our Riad. It’s just too many streets that look the same. (Check Rates & Availability of Riad Fes Bab Rcif)
Hotel & Spa Dar Bensouda
if you want to be in the heart of Medina, go for Dar Bensouda. A lovely traditional Riad with extraordinary interiors giving it a Moroccan palace look. You can have your breakfast on their rooftop terrace overlooking the busy streets of the Medina. And after a busy day of shopping in the souks, come and take a dip in their pool. (Check Rates & Availability of Dar Bensouda Riad)
Riad Farah is where we stayed on our trip to Fez. A small Riad just a few minute’s walk from Bab Bou Jloud gate. The rooms at the Riad are named after cities in Morocco and we went with the lovely green Meknes room with a window overlooking the central courtyard. The host was super friendly that he gave us a map and a thorough explanation of how to get around the old Medina. (Check Rates & Availability of Riad Farah)
- The new city (aka Ville Nouvelle)
The modern neighborhood of Fez is called Ville Nouvelle. It is much easier to navigate by car and easily accessed from different parts of the city.
You can also make use of the train station there. It also features multiple hotels and accommodation options that suit different needs and budgets. Here are some we like in this area of Fez.
Fes Marriott Hotel Jnan Palace
The five-star hotel Des Marriot is definitely one of the best places to stay in Fez new quarter. It features a massive outdoor pool that can be a great relief in the summer heat of Fez and I really like the mixture of traditional Moroccan and modern styles of the hotel. (Check Rates & Availability of Fes Marriott Hotel Jnan Palace)
Riad Dar Ziryab
Riad Dar Ziryab is located in the heart of the new Medina of Fez. It’s just a five minutes drive from the train station. I absolutely love this Riad and I think I will stay here on my next visit to Fez. They have a lovely garden and a pool. Plus, it is a Riad in the heart of the new Medina of Fez and I LOVE Riads. (Check Rates & Availability of Riad Dar Ziryab)
10 things to do in Fez, Morocco
Now that we’re all set with the important things to know before exploring Fez, it’s time to discover the top things to do in the city. The list includes unmissable things to do in both Fes El-Bali and Fes El-Jdid districts. Enjoy!
Explore The Old Medina (Fes El Bali)
Hidden inside the medieval high walls of Fez is the chaotic old Medina (aka Fes El Bali). A lively place to get close to the culture and the history of Fez and Morocco.
The old Medina consists of labyrinth-like streets and alleys that most people find hard to navigate. We actually found it super hard so we booked a tour guide.
But apparently getting lost while finding your way out is very common. If it happens to you, don’t panic and ask shopkeepers to show you the way out. After all, getting lost is a part of the Morocco Medina experience.
One of the most recommended places to look for in the old Medina fez is rainbow street. It’s a lovely colorful street that’s worth checking out. On our visit, the colors were starting to fade but it still looked attractive.
Fes El Bali is also where all the traditional Moroccan handicrafts, spices, and leather goods are sold.
Pro Travel Tip: It is highly recommended to book a tour to explore the Old Medina and the sites around it. It will help you learn about Medina’s history and navigate its mazed streets and alleys.
Visit Chouara Tannery
Fez is home to three tanneries where leather good has been produced for centuries. Chouara tannery is the oldest and biggest one in Morocco.
Located in the Fes El Bali, Chouara is an important part of Fez culture and history and that’s why it’s a must-visit.
To get an exclusive view of the tanneries you have to find a shop with a rooftop looking down to the tanneries. Since we were with our local guide, she took us directly to a rug shop with a large balcony overlooking the Chouara tannery.
We were able to witness and photograph the process of making leather the way it was for centuries which was mind-blowing. However, the smell was actually not as bad as we heard it would be.
If you don’t have a guide with you, head to a leather shop with a view of the tannery. Let them know that you came to see the Chouara and they will take you to the balcony. You don’t have to tip them but they will certainly encourage you to buy something. If you don’t like anything just walk away.
We also heard that there are more tanneries in Fez Medina so we checked another one. We forgot what it was called. This one wasn’t as big as Chouara and there wasn’t much activity there. But it looked interesting.
Pro Travel Tip: Many persistent locals will try and offer you free help to find the tannery. Don’t fall for it just walk away don’t say anything.
Marvel at Bab Bou Jeloud (aka The Blue Gate)
Before entering the old Medina take a moment to marvel at Bab Bou Jeloud (also called the Blue Gate).
Bab Bou Jeloud is one of the many gates found in Fez. The gate was built by the French colonial administration in 1913 to serve as a grand entrance to Fes El Bali.
The gate amazingly emulates the Moorish architecture while featuring vibrant blue-ish tiles and motifs. While it’s called the blue gate, bay Bou jloud actually features a blue side and a green side.
Go Back in time in Bou Inania Madrasa
Bou Inania Madrasa is another stop in the old Medina. Madrasas are a type of religious educational institution that was popular in Morocco during the Marinid dynasty. Bou Inane was founded by the Marinid sultan Faris Abu Inan in the 14th century.
The Marinid Architecture of the Madrasa Bou Inania features beautiful carvings, zellij (mosaic tiles), wood carvings and stucco decorations. The main hall is supported by 260 columns and features a stunning Mihrab (prayer niche) which is considered one of the most beautiful in all of Morocco.
The Minaret of the Madrasa is an iconic symbol of Fez and it can be seen from the Blue Gate entrance to the Medina.
The Madrasa is still used as a mosque and non-muslims are only allowed into the courtyard and outside prayer times.
My husband was lucky enough to pray in Madrasa but as a non-muslim, you can admire the beauty of its courtyard for a small fee (around $2).
A glance at Al Qarawiyyin University and Mosque
Al Qarawiyyin Mosque and University is the oldest educational institution in the world that’s still in operation! The university was founded by a woman named Fatima al-Fihri in 859 AD.
The mosque is not as grand or ornate as some of the other mosques in Fez, but it’s still beautiful in its own way. The courtyard is simple and features a stunning fountain in the middle.
Next to the mosque is the University of Al-Qarawiyyin which is the world’s oldest continually operating university! The university was founded in 859 AD and has educated some of the most famous Moroccan intellectuals throughout history.
Both the mosque and university are not open to tourists, but you can catch a glimpse of it from the outside.
Spend an afternoon in Jnan Sbil Gardens
Jnan Sbil Gardens are just a short drive from the old Medina Fez (about 6 minutes) but we actually walked there from our Riad. It was only a 20-30 minute walk and it was nice to see some of the other neighborhoods in Fez.
The gardens were built in the 18th century by Sultan Moulay Abdellah to be the oldest public garden in the city of Fez.
This prestigious garden houses more than 3000 species of plants, many hundred-year-old trees, and even a beautiful lake.
Once you enter Jnan Sbil you can easily spend a couple of hours walking around admiring the beauty of this ancient lush place.
Go on a day trip to Meknes
Meknes is another one of Morocco’s imperial cities and it’s only an hour away from Fez. We took the train from Fez. It cost us around $6 for 2 people, but you can also take a grand taxi from a place near the train station.
Meknes is much smaller than Fez, but it’s still worth a visit. The old city is surrounded by 40km of walls (the longest in Morocco) and there are many beautiful gates, palaces, and gardens to explore.
It was a hot day so we took a horse carriage tour of the city. It cost us around $10 for one hour. Good price and it was a fun way to see the city.
On the tour stops, we saw Meknes most important highlights including The Royal stables, The Heri es-Souani, The Place el-Hedim, and Qara prison. And later we explored the Bou Inania Madrasa in Meknes on our own.
Visit the Roman Ruins of Volubilis
Volubilis is an ancient Roman ruin site that’s located about an hour outside of Fez and 30 minutes drive from Meknes.
The ruins date back to the 2nd century AD and it was once a thriving Roman city with over 20,000 inhabitants. You’ll find the remains of Roman temples, public baths, houses, and even a basilica.
The Roman ruin site of Volubilis is one of the most interesting things to see in Morocco. If you’re interested in history or archaeology, then I recommend adding Volubilis to your itinerary. We, unfortunately, didn’t have time to visit, but it’s definitely on our list for next time.
There are a few ways to get to Volubilis from Fez. You can take the train to Meknes then a grand taxi to Volubilis, or take a taxi directly from Fez (around $15), book a day trip tour from Fez, or even rent a car and drive there yourself.
Enjoy a Moroccan Hammam spa experience
A Hammam is a traditional Moroccan spa where you can enjoy a relaxing bath and body scrub.
Being born and raised in Morocco, I’ve experienced my fair share of the traditional public Hammam bath, but what I recommend here is the private Hammam Spa experience is offered in many Moroccan Riads and hotels.
There are many Riads in the Old Medina of Fez that offer this experience and it’s definitely something you shouldn’t miss while visiting. Unfortunately, our Riad didn’t have this service, but many other Riads do like Riad Myra
Read more: How To Enjoy A Moroccan Hammam Experience?
Al-Attarine Madrasa is another Islamic school and famous landmark in Fez.
The madrasa was built by the Marinid sultan Uthman II in 1325-1327 and it’s located in the Attarine Souk, near Al-Quaraouiyine Mosque.
The madrasa is well known for its intricate zellij (mosaic tiles), carved woodwork, and beautiful courtyard with a central fountain.
If you’re interested in Moroccan Islamic architecture or just want to see something beautiful, then I recommend visiting Al-Attarine Madrasa.
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