The top places to visit in Fez
The top places to visit in Fez: Follow the guide as we reveal the must-see places in this city of indescribable charm, and reveal a few tricks to help you make the most of your visit to Fez.
You may not find the modernity of Casablanca or the bling-bling of Marrakech in Fès, because Fès has retained its traditional and spiritual values.
This is best demonstrated by its historically rich, fortified Medina.. Listed as a Unesco World Heritage site since 1981, it remains one of the most sumptuous and best-preserved in the Arab world, hosting the city’s main cultural institutions.
A visit to Fès without wandering and getting lost in the narrow streets of its Medina would be a real pity, as nothing could match the pleasure of strolling through the medieval alleys, dotted with fountains, small palaces and riads, and contemplating the magnificent architecture of the Bou Inania medersa.
You can also admire the Karaouyine mosque, one of the oldest and most glorious in the Muslim world, or explore the Bar Batah museum, devoted to the city’s arts and traditions.
As you stroll through the narrow streets of the Medina souk, you’ll be impressed by the work of many of the city’s artisans, including carpenters, saddlers and leatherworkers.
What else is there to do in Fès? At the end of the day, we recommend passing through the northern gateway of the Medina and climbing to the heights of the Merinid tombs, from where the panoramic view over the city is simply breathtaking. It’s also the ideal spot to admire the magnificent sunset.
The tanners’ quarter
Here, visitors are treated to another unique spectacle, orchestrated like a ballet. It’s all about leatherwork, an ancestral art that has stood the test of time, and remains one of Morocco’s unchanging identities, still very much on the agenda today.
In this district of Fez, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the various stages in the manufacture of this material: drying hides, tanning, coloring in basins, until the leather takes its final form as babouches, bags or anything else you’ll find in leather goods shops.
This unforgettable visit won’t leave you unmoved, if only because of that rather unbearable smell… It could take all the charm out of a visit to this district, although as you leave the workshop, you’ll be offered a mint drink to wash away the unpleasant odor a little.
We’d also recommend plugging your nose with fresh mint leaves!
The Bou Inania Medersa in Fez
The top places to visit in Fez: Built under the Merinid dynasty in 1350, this Koranic school is well worth a detour if you’re planning a visit to Fez. In fact, it’s one of the few religious monuments open to the public.
At the center of this monument to Arab-Moorish architectural design is a beautiful central courtyard paved with marble slabs, and framed by carved wooden moucharabiehs. The courtyards on either side served as classrooms, while students lived upstairs.
In the past, this religious boarding school was governed by fairly draconian internal regulations, so that during exam periods, for example, boarders were only served bread, olives and water.
This theological institution is the most important in the city, and the adjoining mosque is also used for Friday prayers. In fact, it’s the only religious school with a superb green-tiled minaret overlooking the town, which can be seen as soon as you enter the medina via Bab Bou Jeloud.
The royal palace
This is one of the oldest palaces in Morocco, and certainly one of the most precious. Built in the 14th century, it is also known as Dar El Makhzen. Because of its large size (eighty hectares), it was built outside the old medina, and today it stands close to the Mellah, the Jewish quarter. A new medina, as the name suggests, Fès el-Jdid, was created to meet the needs of the palace.
As with most Moroccan mosques and palaces, visits are not permitted, but we do recommend that you visit this palace, even if you’re content to simply gaze out from its immense esplanade at the majestic gates of varying sizes that lead to the palace.
There are seven gates, symbolizing the seven days of the week and the seven levels of monarchy.
The gates are all bronze, lined with a myriad of tiny ceramic tiles, and dominated by two colors: blue, the symbol of the city, and green, the emblematic color of Islam.
Dar Batha Palace and Museum
The top places to visit in Fez: The Batha Palace was built by Sultan Hassan I, whose ambition was to bring together the two cities that make up Fès, Fès-el-Baki and Fès-el-Djedid. This palace was later converted into a crafts museum, where you can find pottery and ceramics dating back to the 13th century, as well as embroidery and jewelry from medieval times. The majority of ceramic objects are colored with the famous Fez blue hue, a color obtained from cobalt.
The museum has an Andalusian-inspired garden, where you can stroll at your leisure among orange trees and holm oaks. It’s an enchanting few minutes away from the cacophony of the medina.
Take photos of the sumptuously decorated gates and the huge padlocks used to lock the doors at night.
Other sights and things to do/see in Fez
Jnan Sbil garden
This small botanical park is the city’s green lung, frequented mainly by locals. Created in the 18th century by the sovereign Moulay Abdallah, Jnan Sbil is also the oldest public garden in Fez.
Although it was abandoned for a long time, it regained its former lustre and magnificence after major restoration work was undertaken in 1999.
Now, locals and visitors alike can stroll through the shady paths of this magnificent garden, lulled by the murmur of water.
The garden contains more than three thousand plant species spread over some seven hectares, in various themed gardens. A true paradise of serenity.
The top places to visit in Fez: The Marinids were a dynasty that ruled Morocco between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. They settled in Fès for a time and created Fès El-Jdid. They left their mark all over Morocco, and especially in Fez.
It’s here, then, here in this imperial Moroccan city that you’ll find the remains of the Marinid tombs at the city’s highest point.
Although the site itself is of little interest, we still recommend a detour during your visit to Fez.
The tombs are located on a hill, offering a breathtaking panoramic view of the Medina and surrounding mountains.
This is another must-visit area, where you’ll discover one of the city’s most famous crafts. What’s there to see in Seffarine Square? Here, you’ll meet many craftsmen who shape copper to make teapots, trays and perfume burners.
But you’ll also find boilermakers making pots, buckets and other utensils.
Inaugurated in 1963, this museum houses an important collection of weapons from various periods of history. It is located in Borj Nord, a 16th-century military citadel offering a sensational panoramic view of the city of Fez.
In its display cases are weapons from India, Europe and Asia, although the largest and most impressive part of the collection is made up of acquisitions of Moroccan origin.
This is the case, for example, of the 5-meter-long cannon used during the Battle of the Three Kings, which is considered one of the museum’s masterpieces.
In addition to the complete collection, which illustrates the development of weapons manufacturing techniques throughout history, the museum offers a splendid panorama of the old town from its upper terrace.
If you’re a culinary aficionado, perhaps it’s time for a little culinary escapade. What better way to round off a visit to Fez! It’s not about eating, it’s about taking cooking classes. Indeed, a number of establishments, such as Café Clock, offer courses in the proper preparation of tajines and other refined dishes. The course begins with the acquisition of ingredients at the souk, an activity in which you’ll be called upon to participate, and ends with a proper tasting session.
Sightseeing around Fez
Here are a few must-see destinations in the Fès area. You’re sure to love them all, as each has something special to offer.
The top places to visit in Fez: Located 80 km from Fès, Ifrane is a small, charming European-style town. Framed by 1,650-meter-high mountains, it offers a pleasant year-round climate and a festive atmosphere in winter and summer alike.
At the center of the town is a lake surrounded by forests, next to which you can admire the Lion of Ifrane, an admirable stone sculpture that tourists generally love to take pictures of.
On the outskirts of town, you’re sure to be drawn to the countless luxurious villas that stand out with their beautifully manicured trees and walkways.
The city also boasts a magnificent and spacious Royal Palace, which, with its green domes, stands out majestically against the horizon. The king stays here when he goes skiing in Ifrane.
The top places to visit in Fez
Ifrane is also home to the English-speaking Al Akhawayn University, which literally means “the university of the two brothers”.
Ifrane also boasts a varied cultural life. Various festivals, such as the Tourtite festival, feature music, art and sport.
During the summer season, the spotlight is on : Les Chants des Cèdres, a festival designed to promote and showcase Morocco’s rich and eclectic cultural heritage and its openness to different world cultures.
In winter, you can attend the Miss Neige Festival, where a myriad of sporting and cultural activities take place. The festival is crowned by the election of Miss Neige, all in a festive atmosphere.
Visit Moulay Idriss
Located 70 km west of Fès, Moulay Idriss is one of Morocco‘s must-see destinations.
It lends itself perfectly to those who love to wander in idyllic natural surroundings! Narrow streets and rolling hills welcome you to a town with an exceptional religious dimension for Muslims.
Its name commemorates Idriss I, whose great-grandfather Mohammed built the Idrissid dynasty.
Given its religious status, only Muslims were allowed to enter the city, a situation that continued until the mid-20th century. Today, only the mausoleum of Moulay Idriss remains inaccessible to non-Muslims. And although it’s well worth a visit, you’ll have to limit yourself to contemplating it from the outside.
Moulay Idriss is characterized by a fascinating beauty embodied by its colorful streets and countless beautifully executed arches.
The Place de Moulay Idriss I is also worth a visit. Here, you can relax in one of the cafés and enjoy the street atmosphere. What’s more, this is the only way to get to the mausoleum.
The city’s panoramic terraces are another highlight. From here, you can admire Moulay Idriss at your leisure.
Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997, lies some 70 km west of Fez. It covers an area of 40 hectares. In Arabic, it is pronounced Oualili or Walili.
Once an outpost of Rome, Volubilis is now a sumptuous tourist destination boasting magnificent archaeological monuments. In fact, it boasts some of the best-preserved Roman remains in Morocco!
Wandering among the ruins that recall centuries of history is certainly interesting, but Volubilis has other things to offer you to sublimate your senses: sensational, beautiful and artistic.
The forum, the basilica and the temple of Jupiter in the upper part of the city are well worth a visit. In the past, they were at the heart of the city’s public life.
The top places to visit in Fez
The thermal baths are also worth a visit. And although they’re not very well maintained, your visit will give you a fairly accurate idea of the heating system the Romans used in their spas.
The Arc de Caracalla, eight metres high and some twenty metres long, is another sight to see. Erected in marble in 217 A.D. as a tribute to the emperor and his mother, this arch is one of the emblems of Volubilis. Originally, a bronze chariot crowned the arch.
You can’t leave this city without admiring its mosaics. Some would say that Volubilis is a veritable mosaic fair. So be sure to see the mosaics of the Works of Hercules, or the Nymphs’ Bath, or the Acrobat… But to find these mosaics, which are difficult to uncover, you may need a guide.
What to do in Fez when it rains
What can you do when the weather plays tricks on you? Discover our selection of the best things to do when it rains in Fez.
Visit the Nejjarîn Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., this museum will make you forget the gloomy weather. You’ll be totally immersed as you wander through the three floors showcasing traditional wooden objects hand-carved by Fès craftsmen.
See the Glaoui Palace or Kasbah
Built at the dawn of the 19th century, this palace served as the residence of a pasha from Marrakech when he visited Fez. Left derelict since 1950, it has been partly restored by a visual artist. He now exhibits his work here, giving it an enigmatic artist’s squat feel.
The owner will show you the main courtyard, with its huge Andalusian-inspired salons, the well-kept bathroom dating back to the early 20th century, and the kitchen with its gargantuan cooking pots, before leading you to the courtyard of the harem at the rear.
The top places to visit in Fez: A whole host of fondouks can be found along the main thoroughfares of the ancient city of Fez. In the past, they were a place for trade. They consisted of buildings that fulfilled multiple functions. They provided accommodation for passengers from Fez, and were also used to store goods for commercial or industrial use.
The fondouk, once a caravanserai, is now home to countless workshops, such as the Fondouk Bou selham. Or the Fondouk kaat smen in talaa kbira, near bab boujloud, which specializes in the trade of olives and honey, among other things, and also houses craft workshops.
What to do in Fez for couples and lovers
Fès, the emblematic city par excellence, lends itself wonderfully to a romantic getaway, as it is friendly, welcoming and steeped in a long history. For a romantic getaway, we have a few suggestions that we hope will be your guide to an idyllic stay.
The Medina, an enchanted interlude
The Medina is the ideal setting for a romantic stroll through its maze of narrow streets and intoxicatingly fragrant souks, such as El Attarine, or the Henna souk. A little escapade out of time, ending with a tasty pigeon Pastilla, one of the region’s culinary specialties.
Admire the Bab Boujloud Gate
Also known as “The Blue Gate”, it is considered one of the most magnificent monuments in Fès. You won’t want to miss it, all the more so as it’s so close to other famous monuments such as the Bou Inania medersa and the Palais Batha.
Visit the New Town
Avenida Hassan II, with its countless bars, terraces and ice-cream parlors, is the perfect place for a romantic stroll. It’s also the ideal place to enjoy a mint tea or coffee. Or perhaps to wander through the gardens at the heart of this grand boulevard, and recharge your batteries while admiring the two lion statues.
In the Ville Nouvelle, there are Moroccan and international restaurants, especially Italian. A significant majority of the region’s inhabitants have a more Western culture, and many opt for fast food.
The Andalusian Quarter
The top places to visit in Fez: The Andalusian Quarter in the medina of Fès el-Bali is also well worth a visit, offering you the chance to discover the Spanish Fès for two. This Andalusian part of the city is distinguished by the originality of its religious monuments and the craftsmanship of its residents.
One of the architectural marvels to be contemplated in this district is undoubtedly the Andalusian Mosque, over eleven centuries old. It’s also the ideal place to start your investigation of this historic district, wandering its alleyways and visiting some of the medersas that were built at the dawn of the 14th century.
The best museums to visit in Fez
Although Fès is not, strictly speaking, a city particularly known for its museums, there are a few that are a perfect option for discovering Moroccan art in unrivalled surroundings.