Fez is the cultural and spiritual center of Morocco. This is a hectic, chaotic, and tense city in every possible way, which you will find either exciting or extremely tedious. However, it is a city of well-preserved traditions and handicrafts and one of the most interesting places to visit in Morocco. A trip to Fez will be ideal for those who have come here for the first time to explore its bustling Medina and immerse themselves in the local lifestyle.
What is the best time to visit Fez?
Morocco is a year-round destination, which means you can visit Fez almost anytime. However, when it comes to weather conditions, some months may be more pleasant for your stay than others. It can be chilly between November and March, especially at night, but it’s still a great time to escape the cold European winter and enjoy temperatures up to 18°C during the day. Pleasant average temperatures are observed from April to June and from September to October. It can be unbearably hot in summer, so if you can’t stand extremely high temperatures, don’t even think about traveling at this time.
Traveling during Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic calendar), when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, can bring you a slightly different experience since many restaurants and bars work on a different schedule at this time.
A few facts about Fez
Fez is the second-largest city in Morocco, located in the northern interior of the country.
The city was founded in the 8th century by the Idrisid dynasty. In the 11th century, it already had a great reputation, thanks to its madrasas (religious schools) and merchant activities. A century later, rapid population growth made Fez the largest city in the world, the number of people living in it reached 200,000. From the 13th to the 15th century, Fez gained the status of the capital of the country. Many of the city’s most famous landmarks, mosques, and palaces were built at this time. In the 15th century, the Jewish quarter of Mellah was built, as many Jewish migrants found their home in Fez. At the beginning of the 19th century, the city lost its influence and ceased to be the capital.
Today, the medieval Medina (Old City), known as Fes el Bali, is one of the best-preserved old cities in the Arab-Muslim world and is included on the World Heritage List. So, the main attractions of Fez.
Enjoy the best breakfast in town
There is no better way to start the morning than to eat a delicious breakfast. Among the many restaurants scattered throughout the city, one small restaurant stands out. Made in M-Fes are a charming and cozy place with outstanding decor and an unusual atmosphere, offering several breakfast options. Their dishes can be described as a fusion of European and Moroccan cuisine.
Take a walk along Fez el Bali Street
Nothing compares to the atmosphere of Fes el Bali Street. The fusion of sounds, scents, and colors is enough just to wander through its labyrinths and do nothing but enjoy all these landscapes. Fes el Bali is one of the world’s largest urban pedestrian zones, which means you don’t have to worry about cars. However, the streets are narrow and crowded, and in addition to the crowds of tourists and locals, bicycles and scooters, you will see mules and donkeys carrying goods, just like in the old days.
Getting lost in the medieval labyrinth of the Old Town is not difficult, so if you want to stick to a familiar route, stick to the two main shopping streets — Talaa Segura and Talaa Kebira.
If you are wondering what bitches (markets) are, then they are all around you. Discover local crafts and buy unique Moroccan souvenirs such as colorful carpets, ornate pottery, natural cosmetics, argan oil, Moroccan spices, leather granny slippers, and much more. The goods are similar to those sold in the souks of Marrakech, but they can be purchased at lower prices. Some goods can be found at fixed prices, but buying in bazaars usually requires the ability to bargain.
Visit one of the madrasas
In addition to mosques, there are many other religious and cultural attractions in Medina. You should visit one of the two historical Islamic colleges — Al-Attarin Madrasah and Bu Inaniya Madrasah. They are both impressive and quite similar to each other with their intricate carvings, beautiful zellij (multicolored tiles), and plastic with verses from the Koran all over the courtyard.
Be sure to visit the upper floor where the students’ rooms are located with a view of the courtyard. Bu Inania Madrasah is the only madrasah in Fez with a minaret, and it can be seen from the roofs of many restaurants in the area. Muslims can also visit Al-Karaouin University, the world’s oldest educational institution.
Inspect Bab Buzhelud
If you walk along with one of the two main streets (Talaa Segura and Talaa Kebira), you will find yourself at the Blue Gate (Bab Bujelud). This is a relatively new gate to the Medina, built-in 1913. Admire the stunning arches on both sides — the tiles facing the Medina are green because it is the color of Islam, and those facing the street are blue because it is the color of Fez.
Stop for lunch at Nagham Cafe
There are many restaurants and street food vendors in the Old Town of Fez. Although the noisy streets can get you carried away for a while, most people prefer to eat in a less fussy atmosphere. That’s why many restaurants offer rooftop terraces where you can enjoy a meal while admiring the city spread out below. Head to Nagham Cafe, located next to the Blue Gate, and enjoy a mix of Moroccan and Western dishes with panoramic views of the Medina. It serves one of the best tajines in the city, with several types to choose from.
Visit Chiara Tannery
One of the most interesting sights of Fez is the Chiara Tannery — the oldest operating in the world. Getting to the tannery is quite difficult as it is surrounded by private buildings, mostly leather shops, which means that you will have to enter the store to see the tannery. However, you don’t have to buy anything (although sellers can be annoying), so feel free to watch the coloring process from the terrace of any of the shops.
The tannery originated in the 11th century and still uses the old process of dyeing leather. Stone vessels are filled with dyes and liquids such as pigeon droppings and cow urine, so be prepared for an unbearable smell. Fortunately, most sellers will provide you with mint to muffle the smell by holding it to your nose.
Relax in the garden of Jnan Sbil
Not far from the Medina there is a beautiful garden of Jnan Sbil, a green oasis and a place of tranquility. The perfect place to cool off in the summer heat and relax by the lake — locals just love spending time here. These lush gardens, created by order of Sultan Moulay Abdallah, have more than a century of history but have recently been completely restored and regained their former splendor.
Climb the Marinid Tombs to admire the breathtaking panoramic view
There is one place that offers the most beautiful panoramic view of Fez. Take a 30-minute hike to the top and you will get to the Marinid tombs — the ruins of two monumental tombs with large entrances in the form of horseshoe arches. It is still a mystery for whom they were built and who is buried in them, but it is assumed that they were members of the royal family. Today this place is famous for its picturesque view of the Medina of Fez, which becomes especially beautiful at sunset. On the way to the Marinid tombs, you can stop at the Bordj Nord, an old fort that houses a museum of weapons and armor from different eras.
Have dinner at Caf Clock
Fez is as lively at night as it is during the day. Locals gather in the squares of the city, children play outside, and young people smoke hookah in popular bars on the roofs. This is the best time to relax on the outdoor terraces and enjoy the vibrant night atmosphere. Caf Clock is one of the most famous restaurants with an outdoor terrace on several levels and a beautiful view of the roofs of the Medina and the minaret of the Madrasah of Bu Inania. The restaurant has an extensive menu, so everyone can find something to their taste. Falafel with hummus and tabbouleh is simply delicious.
Where to stay in Fez
Riad Palais Bahia Fez
The Riad Palais Bahia Fes with a patio, beautiful rooms, and a fantastic terrace with an even better view of the city is the place you should book if you want to enjoy the luxury of your accommodation. The rooms are equipped with air conditioning and a minibar. The hotel even has its outdoor pool, spa, and wellness center, so relaxation is guaranteed.
Hotel & Spa Dar Bensouda
Hotel & Spa Dar Bensouda is an ideal place for those who are looking for a comfortable stay in the heart of the Medina of Fez. The huge and brightly colored rooms are full of natural light, and you just have to leave the building to feel the pulse of the city. In addition, a traditional Moroccan tent is installed on the roof of the terrace, and from here you can enjoy an incredible view of the Atlas Mountains.
Riad Toyour – Riad of birds
If you want something calm, relaxing, and a little private, Riad Toyour – Riad of birds is the place to stay. It offers three types of breakfast (continental, vegetarian and halal), and the restaurant serves excellent Moroccan dishes, so you can be sure that you will not stay hungry here. But the most impressive thing is the beautiful garden where you can relax and realize for a moment that you are really in Morocco.
On the huge terrace of the hotel, there is a restaurant (El Panorama), from which the whole city is visible. Here you will taste the most delicious dishes. In addition, there is another restaurant serving a variety of Moroccan dishes. After a wonderful dinner, you can also have a drink at the bar. But the best thing about this hotel is its location: right in the Medina of Fez! To stay here means to feel the whole essence of this city.
Tips for visiting Fez
If you plan to spend only one day in Fez, make sure it is not Friday, as it is a holy day for Muslims and most bazaars will be closed.
Always check the weather forecast before traveling. The temperature can be unpredictable, especially at night.
You can easily get lost wandering the streets of the Medina. However, if someone comes up to you and kindly offers help, ignore them. The so-called false guides will either direct you to the store, where they will receive a commission, or just give you a tour, and then ask for money. Just ignore them.
The crowded streets of Medina give pickpockets many opportunities to work. Be on the alert and keep valuables in safe places.
If you travel by bus, always book a seat at least a day before the trip.
In addition to Arabic, many speak French. Older people do not usually speak English, but it is developing among the younger generation. Sellers and people working with tourists usually have a basic knowledge of English.
Always agree on the fare in a taxi before getting into it. It requires certain bargaining skills, but this is the only way not to be robbed.
To show respect for Muslim culture and avoid harassment, dress modestly, and avoid bare shoulders, bare backs, and short skirts.