If you are looking for the most authentic place in Morocco, then you must spend at least 2 days in Fes. The old, imperial city of the country. There are a lot of amazing things to do in Fes since it’s the place where traditions and customs are preserved better than anywhere else in Morocco.
It is a city where you will get lost in the labyrinthine bazaars, you will admire the architecture of ancient places, you will feel pungent aromas, and you will taste rich spicy foods.
Fes was founded in the 8th century by the Idrisid dynasty, but time did not change the settlement too much. It is as if, in Fez, the time would have stopped.
Fes Medina is the largest and best-preserved in the world. Therefore, when you get here, don’t be surprised that you will feel you went back in time, in a very distant past of this world.
Fes is divided into two very different areas. The old city of Fes el-Bali, the one that everyone wants to explore when they come here, and the new area, Ville Nouvelle.
For a more authentic experience, I recommend you stay in Fes el Bali and to spend there all the time you have at your disposal. There are so many amazing things to do in Fes el-Bali!
14 amazing things to do in Fes, Morocco
1. Stay in an authentic riad inside the medina
One of the most beautiful experiences I had in Fes was to live in an absolutely magnificent riad, a small family business. Both the inner courtyard and the rooms have authentic, fantastic, and beautiful decor.
Each morning, the hosts play music on a very old device, seated in the inner courtyard. You can hear the echo of the Arabian songs in every corner of the riad, creating a dreamlike atmosphere.
Riad Dar el Ghalia also has a terrace with panoramic views of the town. Especially since it is located very close to the points of interest inside the medina.
So, if you come to Fes, I recommend staying at Riad Dar El Ghalia. But if you don’t find available rooms, then you can consider one of the following accommodation options:
- low-budget: Dar Essoaoude – Fes Nejjarine– wonderful view, inner and outer courtyard, exceptional breakfast, terrace, swimming pool
- mid-budget: Riad Braya – beautiful roof terrace, room service, swimming pool, delicious breakfast, bar, ideal location
- luxury: Riad Mayfez Suites & Spa– gorgeous interior courtyard, pool, very modern rooms, restaurant, spa, delicious breakfast, ultra-modern and very large private bathroom
2. Go to the oldest university in the world
I’m saying go and not visit or take classes there because, unfortunately, the university cannot be visited by non-Muslims. This is because within the university there is also the Quaraouiyine Mosque, the most important mosque in Fes.
However, the gate is permanently open to leave a small part of the inner courtyard of the university for the eyes of the curious.
The Quaraouiyine Mosque is one of the largest mosques in Africa, with a capacity of 20,000 people. Also inside the mosque, there is a vast collection of religious books, with over 30,000 copies. The most valuable is a Koran from the 9th century.
3. Go to the market
I don’t think there is a better place than Fes to go to the market. Besides the fact that you find many exotic vegetables, fruits and all kinds of spices and herbs here, you also find sellers ready to negotiate.
Everything is negotiable in Fes. It’s a very common habit, so you don’t have to have any restraint or embarrassment to do the same.
If you stay at a riad inside the medina, I recommend you come in the morning, and experience going to the market in one of the largest and oldest medinas in the world.
4. Enter the medina through the blue gate
Fes is a city built as a fortress, surrounded by high walls. The access inside the walls is made through several main gates that have changed throughout history.
The main entrance is through the Bab Boujloud gate, built-in 1913. Therefore, you should enter the medina through the most majestic gate of the city. The way it is decorated will impress you. The mosaic used has two colors, although the place is known as the blue gate.
The blue color signifies the color of the city of Fes and is on the outside, while on the inside, the gate has a green color, representing Islam.
5. Get lost in the labyrinth of the extremely narrow and twisted streets of Fes el-Bali
If I told you that the medina in Fes is a complicated labyrinth, I would not exaggerate at all. With over 1000 years old and over 10,000 streets, Fes el-Bali is the perfect place to get lost. The road back to the riad will be an adventure in its entirety but is also one of the most amazing things to do in Fes.
No map will cope with the way the streets are arranged. You will get lost on the narrow paths, you will be given wrong directions, you will go through some very quirky, dark, and not too pleasant smelling areas. A true carnival of the senses!
Colleagues of the route will not only be people but also donkeys. They are used for transporting the goods, the skins, but even the people. You will break your heart seeing them, but you cannot interfere. These are the cruel customs of the place.
As one of the oldest and best-preserved settlements in the Muslim world, Fes el-Bali is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
6. Visit Chouara Tannery
I found out about this place for the first time 20 years ago. Here was the balcony from which Jade was looking at the city in the O Clone telenovela. So it was on the list of places to see, since two decades ago.
Later, I discovered that it is the most famous place in Fes and that there is no travel guide of the imperial city without a visit to the Choura tanneries. What happens here? Barbarous acts, dating back to the medieval era, I could say briefly. Basically, the animals are sacrificed for their skins. Their skin will be treated for several days in some pots made of clay and brick.
To treat the skin, archaic methods are used (feces of pigeon, cow’s urine, quicklime), and the odor is completely repulsive. As a “protection” against the unbearable aromas, the sellers in the area will offer you branches of mint. I recommend you use as many as possible.
To get to one of the terraces where you can look at the tanneries, you will have to enter a store. Many locals will want to guide you to find these stores, but it is enough to have a handy map to figure out where are they.
In these buildings, there are shops where they sell the products made of these leathers: bags, shoes, and leather clothes in all possible colors. I don’t encourage the purchase of these items because I completely disagree with the slaughter of animals, especially for such purposes. But everyone is free to make a choice.
7. Visit a workshop for the manufacture of Moroccan carpets
Morocco is famous for making extremely beautiful carpets. In Fes, many shops sell all kinds of colorful fabrics, from pillowcases and rugs to curtains and huge carpets.
In some of these stores, you will have the opportunity to see the exact process of manufacturing the famous carpets. Attention, though! Many shops are trying to trick their potential customers, asking for some exaggerated prices. So make sure you go on an organized tour for the Moroccan rug hunting.
8. Admire the city from above
In my case, the riad I stayed at, Dar el Ghalia, had a terrace with a beautiful view of the medina. However, if the riad you are choosing does not have this, you can ask the hosts where you can find such a terrace.
There are a few available in the vicinity of the Quaraouiyine Mosque, and in general, they are part of the handicraft shops. In exchange for a few dirhams offered as a tip to the seller, it is worth looking at the city of Fes from above.
9. Buy souvenirs from a craft store
The images below are part of the store of the man who let us use his rooftop terrace to photograph the city. Although at first, he seemed to harass us, the man offered us an artistic tour of his store, in which he showed us his most valuable handmade items.
If you are interested in finding out more about the way these objects are made, then the information provided will be very helpful.
In the end, you are not forced to buy anything, but it would be advisable to offer some money for his kindness and especially for the fact that he offered his rooftop terrace to get a top view of the city.
10. Study the daily life
In the oldest and largest medina in the world, you can expect a lot of talk and gossip as long as the day is. Each person runs to buy, to see, to visit, to negotiate, to work, to carry out his day until the end.
In Fes Medina, you can see how people process raw materials in order to turn them into decorative pieces or cooking and working utensils. You can attend a street show, specific to Moroccan traditions. You can look with empathy to the donkeys who are carrying on their backs much more than they should.
Or you can cuddle a kitten eager for attention and some food. From what I noticed, Moroccans are not the most animal-friendly people.
Cats are many on the streets of Fes, but they are also very skinny and sick. I think that every little help given to these animals can mean a lot and can be a good example for the locals, hoping that in time things will change for the little furry friends. I believe in the power of example!
11. Visit Al-Attarine Madrasa
Moroccan architecture is fascinating, beautiful from all points of view. The best example is Al-Attarine Madrasa, a building built in 1325 by Abu Said, the Marandi sultan of those times.
The ornate carpentry of cedarwood, the blue mosaic worked in detail, and the columns of carved marble transformed this space into an architectural jewel. To visit it, you will have to pay a ticket of 20 Moroccan dirhams (9 lei).
12. Admire the gates of the Royal Palace
Another architectural gem is the Imperial Palace of Morocco, also known as Dar el-Makhzen. It is located a little further, outside the medina, so you will have to take a taxi or a tuk-tuk to get here.
The palace is not permanently inhabited by the king of Morocco, but it is his temporary home when he decides to visit Fes. Or has various meetings in the imperial city. Therefore, the interior can not be visited, although they say its extraordinarily beautiful.
An indication of this is the set of 7 golden gates that mark the entrance to the palace. They represent one of the most photographed and Instagramable places in Fes.
Even if they didn’t use gold to make these gates, they are still very difficult to maintain. Therefore, the only solution used for their cleaning is lemon juice.
13. Buy essential oils and see how they’re made
Near the famous tanneries, you will find some shops where essential oils are made and sold. Among them, the one that attracted my attention the most is the argan oil, produced from argan fruits, cold-pressed using a special device.
The whole process is performed right in front of your eyes, is indisputable proof of the quality of the elixir that is so beneficial to our hair and skin.
Like any other product bought in Morocco, you can negotiate the price of a bottle, but I warn you that it is not the cheapest. However, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to purchase such a product for which I paid around 60 dirhams (27 lei) for a bottle of 50 ml.
14. Try Moroccan food
I must admit that Moroccan food is not one of my favorites. Although I have tried several dishes, I can’t consider myself a fan of these preparations.
However, I think you cannot visit a destination so different from the places you are used to, without even trying the cuisine. You may like it.
So don’t leave Fes without trying at least two of the following dishes: tagine, couscous, harira, khubz (bread in the picture), mint tea, Moroccan Chicken Bastilla, and kefta.
Restaurants where you can eat well in Fes:
Things to know about Fes
How to get to Fes
- rent a car – you can rent a car in Casablanca, and you can easily tour the country by yourself. Be careful where you choose to rent! Morocco is full of deceivers, and we were almost the victims of such an incident.
- take an organized tour from Chefchaouen
- by bus CTM – the price for a ticket is around 80 dirhams per person
Best time to visit Fes
- if you want to avoid the extremely hot periods, then avoid the months of July, August, and September
- the best periods when you can visit the city are March-May and October-November
How safe is Fes
- In the two days when I explored the city, I thought it was pretty safe.
- But I don’t recommend visiting Morocco by yourself, especially if you are a solo woman.
What to wear in Fes
- Being a very religious country, where traditions and customs are holy, your outfit should be as decent as possible. This means covered skin and vaporous materials
- I don’t think anyone will attack you because of your outfit, but you certainly do not want insistent and judgmental looks.
How to get around in Fes
- Although it is the largest medina in the world, it is very easy to walk around. In fact, it’s your only solution, because cars can’t enter the medina.
- If you want to reach places outside the medina, such as the Imperial Palace, then you can take a taxi from one of the gates of the medina or even a Moroccan tuk-tuk
- Please don’t even think to use donkeys for transport. They are already pretty oppressed
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