Are you going to Fes?
Many people think of Marrakech as the main city to see in Morocco, but most of our travelers say Fes is their favorite! (Both are amazing, it’s a hard choice). With a little over one million residents, Fes is one of Morocco’s largest cities. It dates back to the 9th century!
Fes also has the biggest medina in Morocco. In fact, until the 11th century, Fes was two cities, so it actually has two old medinas. One of the medinas, Fes el Bali, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Today, this bustling city is Morocco’s spiritual and cultural capital. When you walk through the old city, you’ll feel like you are stepping back in time. Plan plenty of time for Fes, since there is so much to experience and soak in! Here are some of our suggestions for the nine top things to do while touring Fes, Morocco.
#1 Visit the Oldest University
If religious history is what you are after, the city of Fes has plenty to offer. This region is home to the world’s oldest continually operating university.
Founded in 859, the University of al-Karaouine was once a leading educational and spiritual center for Muslims. This school was founded by Fatima al-Fahiri and was financed by her inheritance from her wealthy father. Fatima was a very religious woman and is said to have fasted every day until the mosque’s completion.
Officially a state university since 1963, this historic site remains open to students even today. If you are a non-Muslim, you will not be able to actually enter this religious school, but you will be able to look inside and catch a glimpse of its beautiful interior.
#2 See the Madrasa Bou Inania
Meanwhile, the Madrasa Bou Inania was first founded in the mid-1300s, an original work showcasing the architecture of the Marinid Dynasty. The Marinid Dynasty once ruled Morocco. It also holds the distinction of being the final madrasa the Marinids built.
Madrasa Bou Inania served as both a mosque and religious institute. It is the region’s only madrasa that features a minaret, and more importantly, for world travelers, it is one of few religious sites in the country that non-Islamic guests may visit. Step in and wonder at the intricate mosaics that will dazzle your eyes!
#3 Visit the Mellah
Fes also has a pronounced Jewish area of the city. The Mellah is a section of Fes where the architecture changes significantly from elsewhere in the region. Here you will see homes containing many windows and balconies overlooking the streets, as well as a Jewish cemetery. This is a historical part of the city that is worth hiring a guide to see and tour.
#4 Tour the Old Medina
There are so many amazing things to see while touring Fes el-Bali, or the old medina. We’re grouping them all here because you can see them all on a day tour! We definitely recommend getting a guide to help you explore the medina since there are over 9,000 tiny streets and it’s easy to get turned around.
On the tour, you’ll see the many artisans working on their crafts. You’ll get to stop at the potters hand-painting their intricate designs, the weavers making scarfs and textiles, and those working with brass and wood. You’ll also get to experience the busy marketplaces, full of spices, home goods, and foods! Learn about the history of Morocco as you wander through with your guide.
You can use this time to shop – maybe go home with a carpet or some pottery! This is a good time to try out some of the many rooftop restaurants, as well, where you can sample some of the area’s famous mint tea.
#5 The Tanneries
One of the more unique options for travelers is to visit the local tanneries. This area of town is where you will find colorful dyes, hanging pelts, and large vats of lye. Tanneries in Fes are well known for their leather-making techniques, which have remained the same for centuries. The best views of the tanneries can be found at the local leather shops. Expect some pressure to buy the finished goods, so if you want to take a look, be prepared to buy. The scent of the tanneries is pretty intense, so morning is probably the best time to go.
#6 Tour the Museums
If you are looking for a place to get away from the busy streets, duck inside one of the city’s three main museums. The Nejarine Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts is impressive for its artifacts – but this building itself is a work of art as well! This is a lovely building, including a rooftop café.
Meanwhile, the Dar Batha Museum includes traditional blue pottery which Fes is well known for providing. It also includes several other pieces of art. The Belghazi Museum is the third choice for travelers in search of some beautiful artwork. This palace is unique, though, in that travelers can purchase some of the art housed inside.
#7 See the Tombs
If you are looking for one of the best views of Fes, head up the hill just outside of Fes. The Merenid Tombs are not so much the attraction for visitors, but rather the view this location provides visitors of the city below. It is a destination not to be missed if you are traveling Morocco and the lovely and ancient City of Fes.
#8 Take a Cooking Class
If you have extra time in Fes, why not consider a cooking class? Cafe Clock has a great cooking class option, where you can learn about an authentic Moroccan dish from a local chef. You’ll learn about shopping in the markets, the culture around food in Morocco, and even get to enjoy your creation for lunch!
#9 Take a Day Trip
Fes has a few wonderful day trip options. You could take a day trip to Meknes to see the Roman ruins of Volubilis. Or, you could go to Sefrou, a nearby village, and learn about embroidery at a co-op! Tell your salesperson about your interests and get their suggestions.
Fes has so much to offer any traveler! From examining the area’s rich history dating back to medieval times, to touring some of the region’s most profound artwork, there is plenty to do and explore in Fes. That’s why it’s on all of our itineraries! Let us know if you’d like to customize your time in Fes.