things-to-do-Fes-sunrise

As soon as you enter the imperial city of Fes you have the feeling as if you’re going back in time. Fes was the city where our road trip through Morocco started. The medina, named Fes el Bali, is an Unesco World Heritage site and was found in the 9th century. The medieval medina with more than 9000 little streets and the buildings with an Andalusian and African mixture of architecture are very interesting to explore. Donkeys and pedestrians flow steadily through the streets of this car-free labyrinth. Handicrafts can be found everywhere. The city of the leather tannery, weavers and stunning tile work is really worth it to visit for 2 or 3 days. Most of the things to do in Fes take place in the old Medina. Therefore you need to keep in mind that you have to walk a lot. Continue reading if you want to know about all the best things to do in Fes, combined with practical photography tips!

Cinematic video things to do Fes

During our stay in Fes we’ve made a short cinematic video about the medina in Fes. Watch the video below!

About Fes

Fes is the oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities and was founded in 789 by Idriss I. Before the 16th century Fes was the capital of Morocco, but it lost its status when the Ottomans conquered the city in 1579. They then moved the capital to Marrakech and later of course to Rabat. However, Fes is still regarded by most Moroccans as the historic, cultural and spiritual capital of the country. 

With over 13 000 historic buildings in Fez Morocco, there is plenty of history to see. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the oldest and largest medina in North Africa. Find out in this complete guide about the best things to do in Fes Morocco. 

Morocco-Fes-medina-donkey
Morocco-Fes-medina-donkey-leather

Best time to go to Fes Morocco

You can visit Fes year-round, in the winter months there will be slightly more chance of rain. The best months to visit Fes or Morocco are spring and autumn. The temperatures are not too hot, and it’s not too busy with tourists.

How to get around in Fes Morocco

In the Medina of Fes you can only walk, so be prepared for that! If you want to explore the other things to do in Fes you will need a taxi or rental car. We rented a car on the airport of Fes and did a 8 day road trip around North Morocco. After exploring Fes for a few days,  we drove to the Merzouga desert to stay a few days in the luxury desert camp of Xaluca to continue our roadtrip through Morocco to Meknes and further north to Chefchaouen. This was the last stop of our Morocco roadtrip, so after exploring Chefchaouen we returned the car to Fes airport and took the airplane to our next destination, the Portuguese Azores islands!

Where to stay in Fes Morocco

In Morocco you will find many so called “Riad hotels”. Staying in a riad in Morocco is a must, it will be a very special and unique experience. A riad is a traditional Moroccan or Moorish interior garden or courtyard with rooms facing inward. But you can also stay in a real palace! For example Palais Faraj where we stayed during our time in Fes.

fes-palais-faraj

Visit the Chouara Tannery

Built in the 11th century, the world-famous Chouara Tannery is the largest leather tannery and one of the most iconic sights in Fes. This is the place where you can see how the men dye the animal skins in vats with a mixture of water, pigeon poop, urine, animal fats and other ingredients. It smells, a lot. That’s why you will be offered a mint leave to keep it close to your nose. However, the hides in Fes are all colored with natural ingredients. Saffron is used for yellow, poppies for red, and henna for orange. It is interesting to see the process of the men at work in the tanneries. Although, it’s not the best location to go as an animal lover and to see all the animal skins… However, checking out the Chouara Tannery is one of the best things to do in Fes!

Getting there: Walk to the street Rue Chouara and go into one of the many leather shops. There they will ask you if you want to see the tanneries and lead you to the rooftop where you’ll have an amazing view. 

Entrance fee: You can give a small tip (5-10 dirham) for the mint and information you will receive.

Best time to go: From January until May and September until January you will have fewer smells and tourists. In terms of timing, the morning is the best time of the day to come. The light is not too harsh, and you won’t have too many people around. 

Photo tip: You can make a small documentary about the men at work in the tannery and the several steps of the process. The morning is the best timing considering the position of the sun and the amount of people visiting the tanneries. 

Morocco-Fes-chouara-tannery
Morocco-Fes-chouara-tannery-leather

Admire the Bab Boujeloud

The Bab Boujeloud is the iconic entrance to the Fez medina. The Blue Gate gives access directly to the main souq streets. This 12th-century gate was built parallel to the city wall which is fairly common in old Moroccan city gates, as it made it easier to defend and control access. It is a beautifully detailed gate and with the mosque perfectly framed in the middle a great photo spot.

Getting there: As soon as you enter the medina you will see the gate.

Entrance fee: Free.

Best time to go: Depending on what you want to capture and experience. Are you a street life photographer and do you want to capture the hustle and bustle of the streets in the Medina? Then definitely go at the end of the morning or afternoon. But if you want to capture and experience the serenity, and only want a shot of the gate with the mosque in the middle. Then get your change in the early morning!

Photo tip: The best angle is from the front, try to frame the gate and mosque exactly in the middle. (So not like this picture below haha!)

Fes-bab-bou-jeloud

Visit the Royal Palace Fès

Although you can’t visit the Royal Palace inside because it’s still in use by the Royal Family and government, it is absolutely worth it to watch the stunning architecture from outside. Located in the Jewish quarter, the Royal Palace (Dar al-Makhzen in Arabic) is made up of blue mosaic tiles and impressive bronze doors which are a treat for the eye. You actually can walk through the gardens outside of the palace or head to the former Royal Palace of Fes and visit the Dar Batha Museum where you can go inside and see a beautiful collection of traditional Fez crafts. 

royal-palace-fes

Explore the Bou Inania Madrasa 

This iconic religious building from the 14th century is located in the middle of the Medina and is a must visit in Fes. The Bou Inania Madrasa was once a University but nowadays it is open for the public. In fact, the only Madrasa you can enter as non-Muslim is Bou Inania Medersa. 

The other college, Attarine Madrasa, can only be visited inside as Muslim. Visit the Bou Inania Madrasa early or late in the afternoon to have the highest chance of having this place at its quietest.

Bou Inania Madrasa

Visit Nejjarine square and museum

This square hosts architecture dating back to the 18th century. Located near the carpenter district of the Medina, this is the perfect combination when you visit the Chouara Tannery. The museum is dedicated to the wooden arts and crafts which is unique art particular from this part in Morocco. 

Getting there: Very close to the tanneries you will find this square. Just ask a local and they will be happy to tell you the way, or check your Google Maps.

Entrance fee: The square is free of charge but if you want to go inside the museum you have to pay a small fee.

Photo tip: Capture the details and beautiful woodwork from different angles, be creative! And make sure to visit the rooftop terrace to get a great view of Fes.

Fes-nejjarine-square
Fes-nejjarine-square

Relax in the Jardin Jnan Sbil

If you want to relax for a moment in nature then head to the public gardens of Jnan Sbil. This tranquil place gives you a break from the buzzing Medina. Find a spot near the water or walk along the palm tree lined walkway. Keep in mind that this park is closed on Mondays. All the other days it is open from 8 AM until 7.30 PM.

Jardin Jnan Sbil

Walk through the colorful rainbow street

Another one of the best things to do in Fes is visiting the rainbow street. This colorful street will bring you instant happiness! A rainbow of colors comes your way when you enter this street. Colorful rugs and paintings are lining the walls with souvenirs stacked in piles along the way.

Getting there: Walk through the Bab Bou Jeloud gate and you will see this colorful street after a few hundred meters on your left hand. It connects Talaa Kebira and Talaa Seghira.

Entrance fee: Free.

Best time to go: Morning because it’s less crowded and you don’t have too direct and harsh sunlight.

Photo tip: Try to capture the mosque in your shot to benefit from all the Moroccan details in this colorful little street.

Morocco-Fes-Medina-rainbow-street
Morocco-Fes-Medina-rainbow

Watch the sunrise over Fes

There are many places in Fes where you can see the magical sunrise over the medina. A rooftop terrace of a Riad is most convenient. We saw the most incredible sunrise from Palais Faraj where we stayed during our visit to Fes. Read our hotel review about Palais Faraj here. If you are not staying at a Riad with a rooftop terrace, you can watch the sunrise at Borj Nord or Borj Sud, or when you feel like hiking at Mount Zalagh.

Below a picture of the sunrise we watched at the rooftop terrace from Palais Faraj. This was for sure one of the best things to do in Fes for us!

Morocco-Fes-sunrise-palais-faraj

More Morocco travel inspiration

We hope you enjoyed reading our tips for all the things to do in Fes, Morocco.

If you have any questions about traveling in Fes or Morocco in general, don’t hesitate to contact us or leave a comment!

For more Morocco travel guides, head over to these blog posts:

Best things to do in Morocco

Palais Faraj in Fes

Sahara desert experience with Grup Xaluca