We love Fes for its historical importance in Moroccan cultural history and its rich architectural heritage. The second largest city in Morocco, Fes is a superlative place to experience North African city life. Set aside a few days to explore the old town’s winding alleyways, as well as the many mosques and museums that are scattered throughout the city.
The old town is one of the largest vehicle-free zones in the world, so enjoy the fresh air and sounds of the bustling market. Fes is one of the most unique cities you will ever visit, and we hope you enjoy exploring such an awesome city.
1. Fès el-Bali: Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, Fès el-Bali is the walled section of Fès. First inhabited in the 9th century, the ancient architecture and vehicle-free streets will have you feeling like you are living in a different era. Here you will find artisans, the souq (market), hammams, and numerous places to drink mint tea or grab a bite to eat. With over 9,000 twisting alleys making up the town, we highly recommend hiring a guide to show you through the area.
2. Souqs: An amazing way to experience Moroccan culture is through the sights and sounds of the souqs (markets). Within the souqs in Fès el-Bali, there are all sorts of crafts being sold, from metal lamps and jewelry to slippers and silk. Do not be afraid to exhibit your bargaining skills! If you are looking for some souvenirs, grab a new belt or purse from one of the many leather tanneries that have been in operation since the town’s earliest days. Also, make sure you have at least one cup of hot mint tea!
3. Dar Batha Museum: This museum has an impressive collection of tradition art from Fès. Housed in a 19th century palace, you can see all sorts of sculptures, jewelry, embroidery, woodwork, and more. We particularly love the museum’s ceramic collection. Artisans use cobalt as a blue ink to make intricate designs on their pottery.
4. Merenid Tombs: The Merenid Dynasty ruled Morocco from the mid-1200s until the mid-1400s. While the tombs are mostly ruins, you can still see the skeletal remains of pillars and the old city wall. However, once you reach the tombs, you will have an excellent view of Fès. Located on a hilltop at the edge of a valley, you can see the entirety of Fès, which is particularly beautiful at sunset.
5. Borj-Nord Museum: For art admirers and weapon enthusiasts alike, the Borj Nord Museum has a great amount of appeal. The museum is situated in a 16th century fortress standing above the city. With weapons on display from all over the world used all throughout time, the museum serves as an exhibit of military warfare throughout the ages. Check out the 5-ton canon, the elaborately decorated Moroccan weaponry, and other amazing pieces dating back to prehistoric times.
6. Fondouk el-Nejjarine: Originally built as a resting place for traveling caravans, Fondouk el-Nejjarine is now a UNSECO World Heritage Site and a Moroccan national monument. The building is a piece of art, with elaborately carved wood lining the beautiful interior architecture, as well as an amazing fountain outside. Fondouk el-Nejjarine is famous in Morocco as it exemplifies Moroccan craftsmanship. Today it houses the Museum of Wood, which displays the wood craftsmanship for which Morocco is well known.
7. Ibn Danan Synagogue: Located in the center of the Jewish quarter, this 17th century synagogue stands as a testament to the once-thriving Jewish community of Fès and the approximately 250 synagogues that once existed in Morocco. The synagogue is the oldest in North Africa and was recently renovated after being listed as an endangered cultural heritage site by the World Monument Fund. The interior is decorated with tiles and the ark, where the Torah is held, is made of intricately carved wood. The synagogue is worth a visit for its beauty as well as a reminder of the diverse demographic that helped shape Morocco.
8. Dar el- Makhzen: While the Royal Palace of Fès is not open to the public, the compound is still an amazing site from the outside. Built in the 17th century, the palace still serves as the king of Morocco’s residence when he is in Fès. The palace also holds valuable national artifacts, such as fine carpets, silks, and ancient manuscripts. From the outside, you can see the magnificent garden doors and their large knockers, made by artists from Fès el-Bali, as well as the palaces’ large golden doors. The exterior is also elaborately decorated with tiles. The photogenic palace is definitely worth visiting for its national importance.
9. Fès Festival of World Sacred Music: If you are fortunate enough to be in Fès in early summer, we highly recommend going to the Fès Festival of World Sacred Music. For a week and a half, musicians from all around the world come to Fès to share their culture’s versions of spiritual music. Cultural understanding and dialogue is meant to be the foundation of the festival and daily round table discussions are held for that purpose. Enjoy music all day long while meeting interesting people in the beautiful environment of Fès.
10. Al-Qarawiyyin: Founded in 859, Al-Qarawiyyin is one of the world’s oldest universities and is home to the largest mosque on the entire continent. We recommend checking out the site to see how the school and mosque function today. The building retains elements of its long history, such as the 12th century bronze doors (located past Seffarine Square), and the incredibly intricate carvings that adorn the architecture.
The best time to visit Fès is in the summer, between May and October, when there will be little rain and lots of sunshine. The rainy season, November through March, can get wet and miserable, especially if you don’t pack umbrellas and comfortable clothing. However, like most of the major cities in Morocco, tourists will be everywhere during the summer. So if you plan on avoiding the tourists and visiting Fès during the winter, be sure to check the weather forecasts so you are not caught in the rain unprepared.
Another reason to visit Fès in the early summer is the Fès Festival of World Sacred Music.
Visas: No additional visa is needed if you are traveling to Fès from within Morocco. If you are traveling from outside the country, please see [LINK] www.africa.com/morocco for visa information.
Transportation: We find that the most convenient way to get to Fès is by train. Seeing as trains connect all of the major cities in Morocco, it is the fastest and most comfortable way to get to the city. If trains are not your style, there are also buses that travel among the cities. Check with your hotel staff for a recommendation on the best bus company to travel with to Fès. There is also a small airport outside of Fès that hosts domestic flights.
While walking around Fès is definitely the best way to see the city, you can also rely on a petit-taxi, which are small red Fiats that run on meters. Make sure the meter in the vehicle is functional before you go for a ride.
The city also has a sufficient bus system. We recommend always asking your hotel staff for directions if you are at all unsure about which bus to take.
Keep in mind that Old Fès is vehicle-free, so you will need to rely on your two feet to get around while exploring that side of town.
Mobile Phones: If your mobile phone uses the GSM 900 system (standard with European mobiles; most American and Canadian phones run on the 850/1900 system), then you will be able to use it in Morocco. However, we recommend buying or taking along a cheap SIM card-–enabled phone and buying a local SIM card. They are cheap, and they spare you the worry that you may lose your regular phone during the trip.
The U.S. Department of State’s consular website has a great deal of information about safety and security in Morocco. It can’t be repeated often enough: be sensible when you travel. Be alert and aware about your surroundings.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has created a security ratings system called the Ibrahim Index, wherein scores are based on each country’s quality of government. Before traveling to Morocco or anywhere on the continent, check the index and do your research.
1. Fès is the third largest city in Morocco and is located in the Fès-Boulemane region.
2. The weather in Fès fluctuates throughout the year. On average, the hottest month is August, with temperatures hitting the low 90s Fahrenheit and the coldest month is January, with temperatures hitting the high 30s to mid 50s. The wettest month is February, with an average of nearly four inches of rain, and the driest month is August.
3. All of the major national newspapers are available in Fès. A few notable publications are Al-Anbaa, Le Matin, Al-Massae, Assabah, L’Economiste, and Telquel.
4. The most commonly spoken language in Fès is Moroccan Arabic. French and Spanish (to a lesser extent) are spoken as well.
5. Smoking is prohibited in public places but there are designated locations where smoking is allowed.