Fez, Morocco: A Guide To Morocco's Cultural Capital
The city of Fez (or Fes) is located in northern Morocco and is commonly referred to as the country’s cultural capital. Dating back to the 9th century, Fez is known for its ancient, chaotic medina filled with madrasas, palaces, residences, mosques, and fountains from this period. It’s also home to the first university in the world (University of Al-Karaouine) according to the Guinness World Records. But besides that, it’s also near some other interesting places to visit. In this article, we'll highlight the most important things to know before going, where to stay, the best restaurants and bars, and the best things to do in and around Fez.
Check out our video on Fez to see the best things to do through our camera!
Table Of Contents
Important Things To Know
Best time to travel to Fez
The best time to travel to Fez is in spring or in autumn. In these two periods, you still have great weather and there will be fewer tourists. In the summer it can also get extremely hot which makes it not ideal to walk around in a busy city.
Cost and currency
Fez is a relatively affordable travel destination. Food is very cheap in this city while accommodation will probably take the biggest bite out of your budget. In Morocco, they use the Moroccan Dirham, so if you plan on going, keep an eye on the exchange rates to save more money.
Safety in Fez
Fez is generally safe in the tourist zone (the old town), but there are lots of scammers and hasslers to be aware of. People really come up to you and tell things like “the streets are closed” just so they can guide you and then ask money for it. Also, the streets are like a maze so it’s hard to find your way around the old town. We used the offline maps App "Maps.me" to move independently around, but it’s easy to get lost without a map.
Where To Stay In Fez
Palais Fes Yahya: This is where we stayed! It's located in the old town and room has AC & heating, comfy bed, and daily cleaning
Riad Sidrat Fes: great location and delicious breakfast
Where To Eat And Drink
Le Tarbouche: great Moroccan food
Darori: best kefta in town
Veggie Pause: delicious vegan food
Restaurant Almandar: Very nice restaurant to eat with a rooftop where you can relax from all the hustle of the city beneath you. There are a lot of options as well as for vegetarians. The staff are very nice and attentive and the food is lovely with big portions!
Bab Rcif: This riad offers delicious food but it's a bit more pricey (outside the medina)
Palais de fes dar tazi: Great food, quiet terrace with a panoramic view (outside the medina). It's more pricey and fancy as well.
Best Things To Do In Fez
If you're traveling to Fez and want to save time searching for directions to all of the places we mention in this article, then look no further than our custom map. Simply click on a point in the map below to get directions there for yourself!
Let's now jump into the 7 best things to do in Fez!
7. Explore the medina Fes el Bali with a guided tour
Fes el Bali is the oldest walled part of Fez. It consists of more than 9,000 narrow alleyways, so it’s a true maze. It is also one of the largest car-free urban zone in the world. We recommend going on a guided tour here on your first day. Not only will you see the important historical sights and “souks”, but you’ll also feel more at ease wandering these tight alleys.
6. Get a view over the medina
The old city of Fez is surrounded by hills that offer panoramic views. The Marinid Tombs are located on the hill that lies to the north of the city. These monumental tombs were originally a royal necropolis for the Marinid dynasty which ruled in the 13th to 15th centuries. And although the tombs are in a heavily ruined state today, it’s still fun to walk around here and take in the views of the entire walled medina area from above.
5. Stroll around the Jnan Sbil Gardens
If you need to escape the hustle and bustle of the medina, then head to the only public garden in the area, called Jnan Sbil. This peaceful slice of nature is home to various birds, plants, flowers, and palm tree-lined walkways. Stroll around the gardens to recharge your batteries.
4. Admire the Bou Inania Madrasa
Located in the medina Bou Inania Madrasa, madrasa stands for Islamic school of learning, is one of the few religious buildings in the city that non-Muslims are allowed to enter. It was constructed in the 14th century and up until the 1960s, this was an actual functioning theological school. Today, you can admire the beautiful carved woodwork, marble courtyard, mosaic tilework and decorations for a small entrance fee. We wanted to visit more historical sites like this in Fez, but most of them were closed during our visit unfortunately, which was definitely a let down for us.
3. Take in the smells of the Tanneries
The tanneries of Fez are one of the city’s most famous attractions. Located in the old town, the tanneries have been the bustling center of the city's leather industry since the medieval era. Tanning refers to the succession of processes by which raw animal skins (usually sheep or camel) are transformed into leather. So a tannery is a kind of factory or workshop where this entire process takes place.
The Chouara Tannery is the most-visited one in Fez. The only way to get the iconic bird’s-eye views over the dying pits is to visit the leather stores surrounding the tannery area. A visit here is usually included in the guided tour and at the end, you also have the option to buy authentic leather goods if you would like.
2. Go on a day trip to Volubilis & Meknes
One of the things we liked about Fez was its proximity to other interesting destinations. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Volubilis is situated a one and a half hour drive from Fez. Home to the best-preserved Roman ruins in all of Morocco, this site was one of the most remote outposts of the Roman Empire. The site is bigger than you might think and we really enjoyed walking around the remarkable structures, such as the forum and triumphal arch. Day tours from Fez usually combine this archeological site with a visit to the city of Meknes, which is also known for its imperial past.
1. Go on a day trip to Chefchaouen
Another great day trip from Fez goes to Chefchaouen, which is a 3.5 hour drive away. It’s known as the Blue City thanks to its picturesque streets filled with houses painted in different shades of blue. The best way to explore these alleyways is to simply get lost and take photos. But there are also some other interesting places worth a visit, including the Spanish Mosque for sunset, the washing stations of Ras el Ma, and the Kasbah Museum. Learn more about this quaint city in our other article all about the best things to do in Chefchaouen.
Other things to do in Fez:
Fez has so many things to offer, from tombs to beautiful nature. Because there is so much to do we couldn't include everything in this list. If you have done everything from our best things to do list, but you still have time, here are some other nice things to do in Fez:
Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts
Al Attarine Madrasa
Explore the Mellah District
View from Borj Nord
Relax at a traditional hamam
Use These Websites To Save Money On Your Trip To Fez
Booking.com for places to stay
Skyscanner for cheap flights
GetYourGuide for local tours
Rentalcars.com for affordable car rentals
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