Best Things to Do in Fes, Morocco: Places to Visit in 2023/2024
Best Things to Do in Fes Morocco

Fes is one of the imperial cities of Morocco and the cultural capital of the country. This magical city dates back to the 9th century and contains an incredibly well-preserved old medina that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

With its narrow streets, medieval architecture, historic sites, and bustling souks, Fes offers an authentic glimpse into Morocco’s long and fascinating history.

In 2023, Fes remains a top destination for those looking to explore the best of Morocco. This guide will highlight everything you need to know to plan an amazing trip to Fes this year, including the top attractions, tips for visiting, and the best times to visit.

Read on to discover the very best things to do in Fes, Morocco in 2023!

Summary of the Best Things to Do in Fes, Morocco

  • Wander for days through the 9,000 alleys in the medieval Fes el Bali medina.
  • Marvel at the intricately decorated Bou Inania Madrasa and Kairaouine Mosque.
  • Shop for handmade rugs, leather goods, ceramics, and metalware at the souks.
  • Watch the fascinating scenes at the Chouara Tanneries.
  • Explore the historic Jewish Quarter (Mellah) and the 14th-century Royal Palace.
  • Relax in the lush gardens of Jnan Sbil while admiring panoramic views.
  • Tour Dar Batha Museum’s ornate interiors and lovely gardens.
  • Take a day trip to the imperial city of Meknes.
  • Savor Moroccan specialties like tagines, harira soup, mechoui roasted lamb, and mint tea.

History of Fes: Why Should You Visit It?

Fez or Fes is one of the oldest imperial cities in Morocco and home to the oldest continually operating university in the world, Al Quaraouiyine University, which dates back to 859 AD. The city served as the capital of Morocco until 1912 and still retains its status as the country’s cultural and spiritual center.

The well-preserved Fes el-Bali, the old medina of Fes, is a labyrinthine area filled with stunning medieval architecture, vibrant markets, historic madrasas, mosques, palaces, and more.

Beyond the famous medina, Fes has even more for visitors to discover. You can see the Royal Palace, shop in the new city of Fes el Jedid, relax in lush gardens, visit the Jewish Quarter (Mellah), and take a day trip to the nearby imperial city of Meknes.

With its combination of history, culture, architecture, and food, Fes is a city you simply must visit when in Morocco.

What is the Best Time to Visit Fes?

One of the best times to visit Fes is during the spring, from March to May. During these months, temperatures are very pleasant, ranging from 60-80°F (15-27°C).

The rainy season comes to an end in March, bringing lush greenery and blooming gardens throughout the city. While spring is a high tourist season, it’s worth braving the crowds to see Fes at its best.

Fall is another nice time to visit, with comfortable temperatures and fewer tourists after the summer crowds have left. September and October see highs around 80°F (27°C), perfect for exploring the medina.

Summer is popular too, though the heat can be intense with temperatures exceeding 100°F (38°C) in July and August. Winter is the low season. It can be chilly, with average highs in the mid-50s F (13°C), but hotel prices drop significantly.

No matter when you go, the top historical sites and medina will be open and busy with locals. Whenever you visit, make sure to dress modestly and respectfully when entering religious buildings.

Top Things to Do and See in Fez

Top Things to Do and See in Fez

Explore the Fez’s Medina (Fes el Bali)

With over 9,000 narrow lanes, dead ends, and alleyways, getting lost in the old medieval medina of Fes is part of the adventure. Within the crowded warren of passages are endless treasures to discover: stunning mosques, peaceful courtyards, lively markets, crumbling palaces, historic tanneries, and more.

Spend at least two days exploring the various districts. Highlights include the Kairaouine Mosque and University, the world’s oldest still operating higher education institution dating to 859 AD.

Visit the 14th-century Bou Inania Medersa, a beautiful Islamic college. Meander through the cavernous souks bursting with handmade textiles, ceramics, spices, and leather goods. Watch artisans hammer metal in the copper souk or dyers at work in the iconic Chouara Tanneries.

Stop for lunch at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the tanneries. In the afternoon, visit the historic Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts housed in a stunningly restored funduq (travelers inn).

Don’t miss watching the sunset from the cafe terrace overlooking Jnan Sbil Gardens.

Admire the Architecture of the Royal Palace

Set against the backdrop of the old medina lies the imposing Royal Palace, known as Dar el Makhzen. The current palace was built in the 17th century and served as the seat of the rulers of Morocco for centuries before the capital moved to Rabat.

Non-Muslims cannot enter the palace, but you can admire its massive brass doors, gold fine marble exterior, and impressive arched entryways from outside the grounds.

Stand across the river to see the 300-year-old palace walls sweep up the hillside above the Jewish Mellah district. The nearby Borj Nord cannon tower offers great views looking back across the palace complex too.

The Borj Nord is a 16th-century fortress located on a hill overlooking Fez. The fortress was built by the Saadian dynasty and was used as a military stronghold and a lookout point.

Today, the Borj Nord is open to visitors and offers spectacular views of Fez and the surrounding countryside.

Imagine what grand events took place behind these walls through the centuries!

The Bou Inania Madrasa: A Magnificent Islamic School

The Medersa Bou Inania is one of Fez’s most beautiful and well-preserved Islamic schools, with intricate tilework, woodcarvings, and stucco decorations. Built in the 14th century, the madrasa is a testament to the golden age of Islamic scholarship and education in Morocco.

You can visit the madrasa and admire its architecture and history.

Top Things to See in Fes

Visit the Jewish Quarter (Mellah)

The old Jewish Quarter, or Mellah as it’s known, is an interesting area to explore in the Imperial City of Fes. Jews have lived here since 1438 when they were welcomed by the sultan.

At its peak, over 6,000 Jews lived in the Mellah. Walk through the peaceful quarter to see three remaining synagogues still open amongst whitewashed homes.

Visit the Jewish cemetery where tombs are engraved with Hebrew script, stars of David, and symbols. Climb the Borj Nord fortification for panoramic views over the Mellah and Royal Palace.

The district now contains a mix of Jewish and Muslim residents living side by side in harmony. Don’t miss this culturally rich area. For those interested in exploring Top Morocco Jewish Heritage, the Mellah is a must-visit destination in Fez.

Shop at Bab Boujloud Market

Bab Boujloud is the main entrance into the medina and home to a busy market selling both artisanal crafts and everyday items for locals. Called “The Blue Gate”, its vivid blue and green painted exterior makes for a famous Fes landmark.

Pass through the imposing gate into the bustling square filled with vendors. Browse colorful wool items like rugs, scarves, blankets, and robes. Watch skilled metalworkers crafting jewelry, lanterns, and decorative home items in copper, silver, and bronze.

In the evenings, the square transforms into a lively area filled with food stalls, juice stands, musicians, and Moroccan families socializing. For an authentic Fes experience, visit Bab Boujloud both day and night.

See Leather Tanning at Chouara Tanneries

Top Things to See in Fez

The historic leather tanning industry still operates in a centuries-old way at the Chouara Tanneries. Head to the balconies for a bird’s eye view over the fascinating waterside pits filled with brilliant hues of dye and men at work below.

It’s an assault on the senses! You’ll immediately notice the stench rising from the dyes and pigeon feces used in the process. Look closely as men work knee-deep in the stone pits, soaking and stomping the hides.

The natural dye colors range from brilliant yellow, red, and blue to more earthen greens and browns. It’s a photogenic scene that represents Fes’s ancient crafts still thriving today using traditional methods. Don’t miss this quintessential Fes sight.

Wander the Rug Souk

Handmade Berber rugs are one of Morocco’s most prized handicrafts and Fes has an excellent souk dedicated to them in the Medina. At Place Seffarine, you’ll find row after row of carpets piled high as merchants lure you to come look at their collection.

Even if you don’t plan to buy, it’s fun to wander through and admire the beautiful patterns and colors. See brilliant reds, deep blues, vibrant yellows, and intricate geometric designs.

Browse rugs in wool and cotton ranging from simple hand-stitched berber mats to lavish silk masterpieces that can take artisans months to complete.

Watch as the vendors display carpet after carpet and bartering is taken to an art form! The Rug Souk is endlessly fascinating whether you make a purchase or not.

Relax in Jnan Sbil Garden

After getting lost in the winding alleys of the medina, you’ll welcome the refuge of Jnan Sbil Gardens also called Bou Jeloud Gardens. Laid out in the 18th century, these lush public gardens provide a peaceful respite from the bustle of Fes.

Stroll along the palm tree-lined paths, rest beside fountains and mossy pools, and watch Moroccan families picnic under the cool shade of trees.

Make sure to enter via the splendid outdoor cafe overlooking the gardens. This is one of the best places to catch a sunset over Fes as the call to prayer echoes from multiple minarets at once.

Jnan Sbil’s vast greenery and sweeping city views allow you to appreciate the beauty of Fes from afar.

Visit the Terraced Souks of Fes el Jedid

Outside the walls of Fes el Bali lies the slightly calmer Fes el Jedid (New Fes) built in the 13th century. Here you can find some well-known souks minus the intensity of the main medina.

The Attarine and Souk el Henna souks are arranged on neat terraces making them easier to navigate.

  • Souk Attarine features perfume and spice stalls lined up in rows where you can pick up items like saffron, cumin, candy lipsticks, and famous Moroccan argan oil.
  • Souk el Henna sells pottery painted with leaves that provide henna dye for decorating hands and feet. Visitors will find these souks interesting while still bustling with locals.

Try Local Food Specialties

Fes has endless options when it comes to delicious Moroccan cuisine. For breakfast, try harcha, a dense fried semolina flatbread sold by busy street vendors.

Stop for baked B’stilla with pigeon or chicken simmered in broth and layered with pastry. Sample mechoui, slow-roasted lamb cooked over a fire. Or try tagine cooked in an earthenware dish filled with stews of meat, vegetables, and spices.

Fes is renowned for its methods of cooking meat in broths called mrouzia featuring lamb, prunes, almonds, and honey. Be sure to try Morocco’s famous mint tea poured high into delicate glasses from gleaming brass pots.

With so many food stalls and restaurants to choose from, your tastebuds will have ample opportunity to feast!

Tour the Dar Batha Museum

Set in a 19th-century palace, the Batha Museum provides a lovely glimpse into traditional Moroccan art and architecture. The interior courtyard contains a serene garden and fountain under an open roof.

Wander through the fine rooms displaying woodwork, zellij tile, ornate doors, carved plaster, jewelry, fabrics, and embroidery. Notable pieces include an astrolabe used for celestial navigation and an elegant sword and sheath adorned with precious gems.

Splendid mosaic fountains, carved cedar ceilings, and multilayered chandeliers demonstrate incredible Moroccan craftsmanship. Allow enough time to appreciate all the details of this former imperial residence.

Day Trip to Meknes

From Fes, it’s easy to take a day trip to other imperial cities in Morocco. Just an hour away by grand taxi or train is the town of Meknes, known for its elaborate gateways and stunning architecture.

Visit the Bab Mansour, an unmissable monumental gate ornately decorated in zellij tiles, carved plaster, and calligraphy.

Walk to the nearby ruins of the Imperial City with remnants of royal stables, granaries, and water reservoirs. See the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail and his shrine with splendid mosaics.

For panoramic views over the town’s rooftops and surrounding landscape, hike up to Borj Oudaia fortress on a hill. A day in Meknes perfectly complements a visit to Fes.

Tips for Visiting Fes

  • Get lost on purpose! Wandering the thousands of twisting lanes in the medina is the best way to uncover hidden squares, stunning mosques, and interesting souks. Just be sure to find your way back to your riad.
  • Dress conservatively as you’ll be entering sacred mosques and shrines. Cover shoulders, knees, and cleavage. Scarves for women are useful when entering holy places.
  • Qualified guides can greatly enhance your understanding of Fes’s history, architecture, and culture. Consider a walking tour with a knowledgeable local guide.
  • Be prepared to encounter vendors and locals asking you to come see their shops or offerings. Politely saying “no thank you” as you pass usually suffices.
  • Fes gets extremely hot in summer. Carry water and wear sunscreen. Opt for a hat and light clothing that covers the skin to avoid burning.
  • The winding passages are not well-lit at night. Ask your riad to arrange an evening pickup if you’ll return late. Always know how to get back.

For more safety tips and precautions, must check our article: Is Fez Morocco Safe for Tourists?

Fes is a Must-Visit in 2023

Fes remains one of the top places to visit in Morocco, if not the world. Nowhere else can you step back in time to experience such well-preserved medieval architecture alongside a living history still thriving today.

The Fes medina provides an endless maze of treasures just waiting to be discovered around each turn. The fascinating sights, sounds, and smells overwhelm the senses in the best possible way. There’s no place quite like it!

The imperial city offers the quintessential Moroccan experience combined with warm hospitality and fascinating culture. Make 2023 the year you finally visit Fes to see this UNESCO World Heritage site in all its glory.

With so much rich culture and history, Fez will amaze you at every turn. The city absolutely deserves its reputation as Morocco’s cultural capital. Begin planning your trip to Fes today to make 2023 the year you discover this incredible imperial city!

Also Read: Fez Travel Guide 2023

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