Morocco is one of those Northern Africa states where there are still places that strike the imagination. Whether you are an amateur or seasoned tourist with thousands of miles of experience, you will definitely be surprised when visiting Fes for the first time. This old city of Morocco still holds a lot of secrets that you will be able to discover once you get there.
Fes was established in the 8th century CE by Idrisids. The city of Fes was started as two competing communities and turned into a town later. In the following centuries, the initial population of Fes was blended with immigrants from Tunisia and Spain (mostly from Al-Andaluz). During the Marinid era (13th-14th CE) Fes became a political capital of the region, which was the quintessence of its growth.
Fes was the capital of Morocco twice. The next time, this status was attributed to this city of Morocco in 1912, during the Alaouite dynasty rule. Nowadays, the city still boasts a lot of interesting places to visit and to feel this atmosphere of the past. Fes is one of the most popular Moroccan cities with a lot of sites to admire.
When to Come to Fes
Planning a visit to Fes (Morocco), you should think about what you are going to do there. If you are looking for some relaxing holiday on the beach, you should come to Fes from May to September. The summer is the best time to enjoy the Mediterranean climate, spend much time on the beach, swim or enjoy other water activities at the best resorts in the region.
However, if you are looking for something more than simply staying on the beach, you can choose any time of the year to visit this Moroccan city. Fes holds colorful festivals throughout the entire year, which allows you to not only admire the action, but also to learn more about this culture that goes back hundreds of years.
Moreover, by visiting Fes (Morocco) at any time of the year, you will still have this opportunity to familiarize yourself with the history of the town and admire its heritage that was carefully preserved. Local mosques, museums and other Moroccan sites of interest open their doors to tourists 365 days a year.
How to Get to Fes
This depends on your plans and itinerary. If you are going from abroad directly to Fes, you can take a plane and get to the local Fes-Sais international airport. For those who travel across Morocco, there are several other ways to reach Fes, including local transportation. Once you come to Fes, you will find a lot of attractive sites to visit. Below, there are 10 things that you can do in the capital of Fes-Meknes region.
Where to Stay in Fes for First Timers
To enjoy all or even a part of sites that you can find in Fes (Morocco), you should plan a several-day voyage. Therefore, tourists will have to stay somewhere in order to learn more about this part of Morocco. Several hotels open their doors welcoming visitors:
Riad Tizwa. With elegant decorated rooms, this private house-hotel is an attractive place to stay if you don’t plan to spend a lot of money. Riad Tizwa provides a decent level of comfort with medium-size rooms and some hotel-like facilities. You will be served breakfast that is included into price. If you want lunches and dinners, they will be provided for additional price;
La Maison Maure. This is a lovely 6-room place with perfectly decorated interiors and top-quality services that provides visitors with comfortable accommodation for their whole stay in Fes, Morocco. It is located in the heart of the ancient city, which gives you the opportunity to start exploring Fes right after you leave La Maison Maure;
Riad Anata. Another great place to spend several nights in the central part of Fes, Morocco. This private hotel was recently renovated to provide visitors with even higher levels of comfort. Bright colored walls and terracotta tiles on the floor create an exclusive atmosphere in each of five rooms that are available there for visitors;
Ryad Mabrouka. While it is located in a distance from the best sites of Fes, the hotel will provide you with a lot of positive emotions. Traditional furniture is combined with ornate tiles painted in white and blue. There is a proprietary swimming pool on the territory of the hotel so that you can relax before your next walking trip to another place in Fes.
1. Imperial Fes Private Tour
If you have to spend 8+ hours in the cultural center of Fes-Meknes region, then Imperial Fes private tour is a must-do for you. This guided tour will take you to the very heart of Fes with its small and narrow streets where you can still feel this atmosphere of the past centuries. Don’t be surprised to see donkeys there. Those animals remain the main means of transportation in Fes.
Thanks to a rich program of the tour you will be able to visit a mosaic factory and to attend a master class on pottery. The next interesting thing to do there is to reach several viewpoints that give a view of the city and its outskirts. During the 8-hour tour, visitors will have an opportunity to learn more about old Medina, this largest Muslim city of the medieval era. Also, tourists will visit the new city of Fes and even walk through an old Jewish quarter, which was crowded in the past and almost ruined nowadays. The tour includes various historical buildings, local mosques and other sites.
2. Stroll the Narrow Streets of Medina
If you visit some of those old European cities, you will find narrow streets there when you can hardly bypass those who come in the opposite direction. Medina boasts even narrower streets with high walls on two sides. Medina’s streets are very dark as the high walls cover them from the sun throughout the day.
Once you come to Medina, you will find more than 9,000 alleys that form an amazing maze, where you can easily get lost. Even a paper map is of no use here. Don’t worry, you will be helped to leave the streets of Medina by locals. Local mosque is the visit card of the old city. Apart from its religious role, the mosque welcomes students from all Muslim countries to study the Quran there.
When Moroccan inhabitants talk about Medina, they always mean two places – Fes el-Bali and Fes el-Jdid, which was founded in the 13th century CE during the rule of the Marinind dynasty. The establishment of this newer Medina coincided with the cultural peak of the whole city of Fes.
3. Visit Bou Inania Madrasa
When traveling to Fes, you can find a lot of interesting sites, but this one is considered the best because of what you will see there. Bou Inania Madrasa is a true masterpiece with a lot of details created by artists of Marinid epoch. Each inch of the courtyard is literally littered with those small craftworks that will definitely please your eyes.
Bou Inania is the only religious school in Fes having its own minaret. This building itself is another artwork that attracts thousands of tourists coming to this Moroccan city. While inside, you will find a fountain that is still working after more than 750 years. Moreover, Bou Inania of Fes boasts those beautiful tiles painted with Arabic calligraphy showing that a lot of skill and man-hours were spent in an attempt to make the place as perfect as it looked at that time. And even nowadays, tourists will be surprised by the outside and inside of Bou Inania Madrasa that is located in Fes, one of the most attractive Moroccan cities.
4. Chouara Tannery: One of the Symbols of Fes
When going to Fes, Morocco, it is a good idea to make a stop at Chouara Tannery and see how local craftsmen dye leather. It should be mentioned that it is not the best place for animal lovers, but by reaching Chouara Tannery, you will be able to see how locals dyed the leather starting from the 11th century.
Most technologies haven’t changed since as local craftsmen still use natural ingredients to color the leather. Therefore, if you are visiting Fes and want to witness how local craftsmen worked with leather for hundreds of years, this is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with the whole process. It should be mentioned that the process includes several ingredients to consist of animal urine and fats. This combination makes a terrible smell, but you will be provided with a mint that you should keep close to your nose in order to avoid negative experiences when visiting tannery in this part of Morocco.
5. Go to Bab Boujeloud
This is an iconic place, which serves as the entrance to the medina of Fes. The gate that was built in the 12th century leads you to the main souq streets. The architecture of the Blue Gate was planned to make it easier to defend this place and to have total control over access to this part of Fes.
The gate itself is a beautiful landmark that is worth some time to admire as it is a great example of tilework that this region is famous for. You can reach this place by car, but once you pass the gate and enter the Old Medina of Fes, you will be able to continue your trip on your feet only. Hundreds of pedestrians stroll the streets of this historical place. You will quickly feel the atmosphere of one of the best Moroccan places as mules and donkeys are the only means of transportation there. By reaching Bab Boujeloud, you are going to travel back in time to the epoch when those animals were widely spread on the streets of African and Arabic cities.
6. Admire Plants in Jnan Sbil
The oldest park in this Moroccan city lies between Fes el-Jdid and Fes el-Bali. It was initiated under sultan Moulay Abdallah. Nowadays, this is the best place to stay for a while and admire miraculous plants that grow in this part of Morocco.
Jnan Sbil is attractive for many reasons. One of them is that this is a rare green patch on a huge yellow sand carpet that covers this part of the world. Visitors come to this garden to hide from crowds that occupy the streets of Fes during the day. Needless to say, the garden is worth visiting if you are looking for new emotions if you are a true flora fan. You will find a lot of interesting species there. Last but not least, Jnan Sbil of Fes is one of those landmarks that provide you with a better idea about architectural achievements of this region. Once inside, you will admire beautiful fountains and zellige tiles that complement the natural part of the park.
7. Enjoy Woodwork Museum of Fes
The Morrocan city is famous for some architectural and decoration solutions that can hit the imagination of the visitors. If you are traveling to this part of Morocco, you should visit Funduq al-Najjariyyin, this old building that preserves a lot of woodwork made by local craftsmen. The building that is located in the historical part of Fes has three floors. Once you are inside, you will admire the decoration and furniture that witnessed the times of Sultan Ismail Ibn Sharif.
Apart from furniture, there are plenty of other things to look at inside Funduq. Doors, musical instruments, some interesting architectural elements remind of those glorious times of the flourishing of this popular and once-great city of Morocco. Visitors can reach a café on the roof of the building to enjoy mint tea and to flee from the buzzy streets of Medina.
8. From Fez to Merzouga
Fes is one of the best destinations to travel for those who want to learn more about the culture of this region of Morocco. While there are still plenty of great places to visit in the very city, it is a good idea to leave Fes for a couple of days and to travel to Merzouga.
The itinerary includes the Atlas Mountains and golden Dunes of Erg Chebbi. Tourists will spend a night in a Berber tent and will be able to watch millions of stars, dotting the skies once the sun goes down.
While the trip starts on cars, you will pass Erg Chebbi dunes on camels, which adds romantics to one of the best tours ever. Ships of the desert will bring you directly to Berber camp where you are going to spend the night in a special tent. Once tourists arrive at the camp, they will enjoy a delicious dinner and listen to drums.
The way back to one of the main cities of Morocco starts early in the morning and lasts the whole day until you get back to the hotel. There will be plenty of things to admire and do, including hand feeding the monkeys.
9. Visit Mausoleums of Fes
It was already mentioned that this city of Morocco still contains a lot of interesting things to watch even outside Medina. If you are looking for the best sites here, head to Marinid Tombs. This old necropolis attracts visitors from all over being one of those manmade landmarks allowing you to familiarize yourself with the architecture of the Marinid Dynasty.
This dynasty inherited the city in 1250 and made several changes to its external image. In particular, under the rule of Marinids a new fortified palace was built. Nowadays, the ruins of Tombs create a unique atmosphere and will definitely stay in your memory for long.
10. Admire the Fortification of the 16th Century
Back to Medina, there are a lot more things to admire there. In particular, visitors can see a fortress that was built in the 16th century under the rule of Saaid dynasty. The defensive building can be seen from miles away.
The design of this fortification reminds about those Portuguese gun forts that were popular at that period and can be found across Europe. While the main idea of the fortress was to protect the city from intrusion, another purpose of the fortification was to have control over the unruly population.
Nowadays, Borj Nord is not only one of the witnesses of the glorious history of this part of Morocco. It houses the Museum of Arms with a huge collection of arms that come from various regions and epochs. In particular, by visiting Borj Nord, one of the best and most reliable fortifications in the region, one can see a 12-ton cannon that was used during the Battle of Three Kings.
That’s all about the best places to see in Fes. This doesn’t mean that all those sites are covered in this article as they are numerous. Once you find yourself in Medina, you can go any direction and come across something that makes you stay for a while. In particular, you can pass by a local mosque, which was established in the 9th century and is the heart of the city nowadays.
While Medina is one of the best-preserved historical places in this city of Morocco, there are plenty of other places that will strike your imagination with their architecture, decoration and historical background.