Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Fes

| by Assia A. |

| Last Updated April 13, 2023 |

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things to do in fes,fes el bali,Fes Tanneries,Qaraouiyine Mosque,Nejjarine Museum,FES
Bab Bou Jeloud Gate_Fes By Anibaltrejo

Fes is the spiritual center of Morocco as well as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, having a long history and rich culture that make it deservedly one of Europe’s premier cultural destinations.

It is located to the northeast of the Atlas Mountains surrounded by hills and the old city is centered around the Fez River (Oued Fes).

Founded by the Idrisid dynasty during the 8th-9th centuries CE, today, the city has two old medina quarters, Fes el-Bali and Fes Jdid, and the big modern urban center founded during the French colonial era.

The old medina of Fez has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and has the University of Al-Qarawiyyin, which is considered to be one of the oldest universities in the world. It was founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 857.

The ancient walled medina with thousands of narrow alleyways is the world’s largest car-free urban zone. Once you are inside the maze it’s near impossible to not get lost, but that’s part of the fun!

Get started with planning your trip here. Check out our list of the top attractions and things to do in Fes!

Sleep in a Riad Hotel

things to do in fes
Riad Hotel Courtyard_Fes By Bruno Coelho

Many people who visit Morocco for the first time include riad hotels as part of the country tour, as they are an experience in themselves.

A riad is a traditional medina house, centered around a courtyard and a garden. Given the many restoration projects in which riads have been re-opened as hotels, visitors can now experience a taste of the old finery from a different vantage point.

They often include original highly detailed features like layered doors, stucco decoration, and tilework that make them perfect for those interested in traditional interior decorating.

Despite the historic ambiance, most of these riads offer all the modern amenities, like roof terraces and chic additional such as plunge pools.

There are tons of different types of high-end accommodations found in Fes, with riads being the best-known type sitting in the mid-range or luxury price range. Though if you want to stay in the middle or lower range price point, you’ll find many “dars” (smaller traditional medina houses, centered around a lightwell) which have also been converted into guesthouses.

Get Lost amid the Alley of Fes el Bali

things to do in fes
Old Medina_ Fes El Bali By lorenzobovi

Fes el Bali is the medina area and a UNESCO heritage site in Morocco. It’s thought to be the largest intact surviving medina in the world.

The ancient walled medina with thousands of narrow alleyways is the world’s largest car-free urban zone. Once you are inside the maze it’s near impossible to not get lost, but that’s part of the fun!

things to do in fes
Narrow Alley _Fes El Bali By ChristiLaLiberte

Fes el “Bali” narrow streets are crowded with stalls, mosques, souks, artisan workshops, madrasas (Islamic schools), humble homes, and merchants selling dates, spices, and fresh cuts of meat. 

Among the most famous photos of Fes el Bali are taken at the tanneries, one of the most iconic sights in the city. This is where the leather hides, are used for the colorful leather jackets, shoes, bags & other souvenirs found in the souks.

The Medersa Bou Inania

things to do in fes
The Medresa Bou Inania By Camila1111

The Medersa Bou Inania is the most architecturally refined of Fez’s theological colleges. It was built in 1350–55 CE by Abu Inan Faris and is widely acknowledged as a high point of Marinid architecture and historic Moroccan architecture generally.

The monument is one of the few religious buildings in the city that tourists may enter, it offers a large space for spiritual interests. The Medersa (college for the study of the religion of Islam) is recognized as one of the most popular landmarks in Fes, Morocco, and a must-see stop on any tour of the medina.

things to do in fes
Medresa Bou Inania Interior Art & Decoration By xavierarnau

Until the 1960s, this university was still functioning as a theological school. Since then, efforts have been made so that they can return it to its original state.

A giant entrance makes this place unique, you walk into a stunning courtyard, where there is a lot of elaborate zellige tilework, carved plaster, and stucco decoration, it is a tribute to Morocco’s master artisans.

The Medina Souqs

things to do in fes
Traditional Handmade Copper Market By Olena_Z

Entering the souks of Fes is like stepping back in time to the medieval period. For tourists, the skinny souq (market) lanes of Fes el Bali are one of the main attractions of staying in Fes.

With Fes as the site of Morocco’s biggest artisan market, you’ll find a wide variety of Moroccan handicrafts here, ranging from leatherwork to metalware & ceramics.

things to do in fes
Fassi Ceramic Pottery By Maciej Czekajewski

When it comes to ceramics, the traditional Fassi Ceramics is a world-famous supplier. They pride themselves in using local ingredients and creating artworks usually hand-painted with intricate patterns and recurring motifs, which reflect the patterns of their own culture.

In the medina’s many souks and markets, merchants will constantly try to get your attention. In these typically Moroccan bazaars, everything is for sale: clothes, leather bags, souvenirs, shoes, carpets, jewelry, handicrafts, and spices! Get ready to haggle (haggling is an important part of the trade in the souks).

Medersa El-Attarine

things to do in fes
Medersa el-Attarine By Milenny

Built by the Marinid sultan Uthman II Abu Said in the 14th century, the al-Attarine Madrasa stands at the entrance of Souk al-Attarine, the spice and perfume market of Fes.

The courtyard of this small Marinid madrasa is a dazzling example of intricate Islamic architecture, with elaborate zellige tilework and cedar wood carvings.

The upper floor contains cells that were once home to students studying at the Qaraouiyine Mosque, one of the first universities in the world.

After admiring the building’s interior, climb up onto the medersa’s rooftop to see amazing sights of the surrounding rooftops and the green-tiled roof of the Qaraouiyine mosque.

Fes Tanneries

things to do in fes
Fes Tanneries By Arturogi

Traditional 11th-century outdoor tanneries of Fes are one of the city’s most well-known sights, sitting in the northeast corner of the medina. You’ll find a constantly bustling collection of leather vendors in the immediate area, and it is one of the city’s most important industries since the medieval era.

Visiting the tanneries where leather is taken from hides and prepared the old-fashioned way, soaked in dyes beaten with hand/foot to a pulp, and left to dry, is an amazing experience you don’t want to miss.

things to do in fes
Handmade Leather Bags_Fes El Bali By ugurhan

The yellow leather dyed with saffron is considered the most valued and is traditionally used to make pointy-toed slippers called babouches.

Tannery pits are filled with various colors, including ink and dyes, that can create a vibrant display of colors. Come in the morning to see them in all their glory. Our advice: cover your nose.

The Mellah District

things to do in fes
Mellah District By RobertoGennaro

The designated old Mellah (Jewish Quarter) dates back to the 15th century and is in Fes el Jedid, just south of the Royal Palace.

Here in this district, the lanes are lined with impressive examples of early 20th-century buildings which were once home to the vibrant Jewish community of Fez.

When walking through the “Mellah”, you can take a look at some of the points of interest, such as the Ibn Danan Synagogue restored in the 17th century. The Jewish Cemetery has a whole range of tombstones that are hundreds of years old!

The Mellah also houses a museum highlighting Moroccan Jewish life and cultural artifacts.

Borj Nord and Merenid Tombs

things to do in fes
Merenid Tombs

To enjoy Fes el Bali, walk up to the hilltop just outside the city walls in Borj Nord and take in some of the best views.

When you visit this fort, you’ll find a 16th-century fortress with a military museum inside. This museum houses a collection of weapons which includes some extremely rare pieces that represent armory from across the world.

After visiting the museum, head up the hill to the summit where you will find golden-stoned Merenid tombs to admire.

Today the tombs here are in a heavily ruined state, you can still enjoy the nice views from up close.

The Qaraouiyine Mosque’s Exterior

things to do in fes
Qaraouiyine Mosque’s Exterior By mdmworks

the Al-Qaraouiyine mosque has been a vital presence at the heart of the medina of Fez, not only as a place of worship but as one of the world’s oldest universities from the medieval period.

Today, the Mosque remains one of the largest mosques in Morocco and can hold 20,000 people at prayer time.

The mosque’s library is one of the oldest surviving libraries in the world! It contains a 9th-century Qur’an that dates back to 868 AD and more than 30,000 books.

Qaraouiyine mosque complex is a religious site that can’t be entered by non-Muslims.

Non-Muslim visitors can take a glimpse of the mosque’s internal courtyard from the ornate main doorway on Derb Boutouil, and you can enjoy excellent views from the rooftop of the Medersa el-Attarine.

The Royal Palace’s Gate in Fes el Jedid

things to do in fes
Royal Palace’s Gate By AnetteAndersen

This “New City” was built by the Merenids in the 13th century to provide a new space for their different palaces, as they realized that Fes el Bali would be too small.

This grand Royal Palace is made up of 80 hectares of land and does not allow public access. But, if you are in the area you can stop and admire its decorated entranceway surrounded by fine tilework and carved cedarwood.

In between these two busy areas Fes el Bali and Fes Jdid (new town), this section of the city offers a calm and serene atmosphere.

Visit the Batha Museum

things to do in fes
Moroccan Door Art Details By molloykeith

The Batha Museum is a former royal summer palace built in the late 19th century, which was converted into a museum in 1915 with 6,500 archaeological and historical art artifacts.

This museum exhibits a wide variety of traditional Moroccan craftsmanship from wood-carved doors, ironwork, handmade carpets, and jewelry. Other artifacts include historic Qur’ans, astrolabes, and musical instruments.

One of the main highlights of the museum is its Fassi ceramic collection, local ceramics in the “blue” style of Fes.

The building itself is fascinating, the interior courtyard floor is decorated with colorful zellij mosaic tile work, while the lovely internal garden represents a typical Riad layout and Andalusian style, full of shady trees and tall palms, with a fountain in its middle.

Explore the Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Crafts

things to do in fes
Nejjarine Museum

The Nejjarine Museum in an old “fondouk” (hotel used by caravans), has been transformed into a museum exhibiting the diversity of Moroccan traditional wooden arts & crafts.

Here, in the salons, the former rooms where traveling merchants once slept on their trips to town are given over to displays of detailed engraved woodwork from across Morocco, doors, window frames, mashrabiya, prayer beads, and musical instruments.

The entrance to the fondouk is magnificent and provides visitors with a feeling of a more-than-welcome ambiance. The central courtyard takes your breath away with its sturdy pillars and balconies decorated in carved wood and stucco detailing.

Bou Jeloud Gardens

things to do in fes,fes el bali,Fes Tanneries,Qaraouiyine Mosque,Nejjarine Museum,FES
Bou Jeloud Gardens By ElenaMirage

This ancient Moroccan city has a lot to offer tourists and locals alike, but if you’re looking for some downtime from the hustle and bustle of the Fes medina, head to these formal gardens that sit just outside the medina walls.

The gardens are quite impressive, decorated with colorful fountains, and are planted with over 3000 plant species.

They are a good walking route between Fes el Bali and the “Mellah” (Jewish Quarter).

Don’t miss the charming experience of strolling along at sunset through these beautiful gardens and trickling fountains. You will see amazing, migrating birds flying over your head as they find refuge in these trees.

Day Trip to Taza

things to do in fes,fes el bali,Fes Tanneries,Qaraouiyine Mosque,Nejjarine Museum,FES
Tazikka National park By Jeremy Richards

Taza is located in a mountain pass known as the “Taza Gap” located at the intersection of the Middle-Atlas range and Rif mountains. Founded by Berber tribes in 527 AD, it was once a fortress that secured trade routes leading to fertile lands in the West.

The old medina has Berber monuments, mosques, and a 14th-century madrasa (Coranic school).

The most famous historical monument of the city is the Great Mosque of Taza. Built in the Almohad and Marinid periods, this building is an important piece of Moroccan architecture. The mosque has one of Morocco’s most beautiful bronze chandeliers, with 514 oil lamps.

You can wander into the remains of an old kasbah and imagine what life was like in ancient times. There are also brilliant souqs where you can find delicious food, glowing jewelry, and handmade carpets.


things to do in fes,fes el bali,Fes Tanneries,Qaraouiyine Mosque,Nejjarine Museum,FES
Green Landscape Sefrou By Ganesh Mani

This small picturesque town of Sefrou is located on the edge of the Middle Atlas mountain range, and about 29 kilometers southeast of Fes. It was the first stop on the caravan routes between the Sahara and the Mediterranean coast.

Sefrou lies in the fertile valley of the River Agdal, and it is a photographer’s dream and exudes an untouched and unhurried air as you wander around its cobblestone streets.

An enjoyable destination for people that want a sense of tranquility without the stress of larger city life. Its pastel-colored medina that was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013, is worth visiting.

The city is known for its Sefrou Cherry Festival, which is held annually every June. The festival is inscribed on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list, and during three days Moroccan Folklore is celebrated through the Fantazia, traditional dancing, and authentic Moroccan dishes. It is a rare opportunity for locals and tourists alike to appreciate a unique tradition.

Spa Break at Moulay Yacoub

things to do in fes,fes el bali,Fes Tanneries,Qaraouiyine Mosque,Nejjarine Museum,FES
Moulay Yacoub By Purpleimages

Moulay Yacoub village is located 22 kilometers northwest of the imperial city of Fes, this ancient spa town came into being when the curative waters in the surrounding countryside began to make people suffering from rheumatism, skin problems, and nose & throat problems feel better.

The village has gained a reputation for the benefits of its thermal water. More than a million visitors go to the Thermal Baths to enjoy the soothing, purifying, and remineralizing benefits of this miraculous water.

It is an inviting place to relax, and appreciate the beautiful landscapes of the Middle Atlas.

Traditional Moroccan baths or hammams in the town center are a truly local experience! It’s like a spa, but at the same time so much more. You’ll enjoy being rubbed, scrubbed, and soaked in curative waters.

Don’t expect the experience to be the spa-type treatment you get in a Turkish hammam. It’s the real local deal here.

Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

things to do in fes,fes el bali,Fes Tanneries,Qaraouiyine Mosque,Nejjarine Museum,FES
Sacred Drums_Fes Festival By Valmedia

The Festival of World Sacred Music is a 10-day extraordinary event held in mid-summer in the magnificent city of Fes, that brings together musicians from across the country and the world.

The Moroccan philanthropist Faouzi Skali founded the festival in 1994, as a way to provide an opportunity for people of diverse cultures and traditions to showcase the diversity of spiritual music around the world.

The Festival is the biggest festival of its kind and features an array of open-air concerts (some ticketed and others free), that cover everything from mystic Sufi chanters to sitar players.

Most of the events happen in the large plaza fronting Bab Boujloud and are free to entry, and others take place at venues throughout the city.

Accommodation in Fes gets booked out this time of the year, we recommend booking in advance and expecting higher hotel prices.

History of Fes

things to do in fes,fes el bali,Fes Tanneries,Qaraouiyine Mosque,Nejjarine Museum,FES
Moroccan Art Decor

Fez has been inhabited for centuries and is home to a rich heritage of Berber, Arabic, and Roman architecture. The city was founded in the 8th century by Idris I, the founder of the Idrisid dynasty. 

The early population was composed of Berbers, and hundreds of Arab warriors from Kairouan.

In the 9th century, Arab immigrants from Spain (Andalusi Families of Mixed Arab and Iberian Descent) settled in Fes, these two waves of immigrants gave the city its Arabic character.

The city had also a big Jewish community, possibly made up of Zenata Berbers who had previously converted to Judaism.

By 1250, the city of Fez had regained its capital status under the Marinid dynasty. It reached its golden age during the Marinid period. Under the Marinids, the city was filled with many great buildings and monuments and established its reputation as an important intellectual and commerce center.

In 1465, Morocco finally overthrew the last Marinid Sultan, the country went through 7 years of instability until the Wattasids took over Fes with the support of the Turks in 1472.

By the 16th century, the city had lost its capital status and moved the capital title to Marrakesh. But in 1666 during the reign of Moulay Rachid, Alaouite dynasty, Fes saw a revival and became the capital again.

There are more than 14,000 historic buildings in Fes, 320 mosques, 11 madrasas, 280 “Funduqs” (traditional hotels), and more than 250 houses, hammams, and public ovens that are being protected by the government.

Today, Fes still holds a unique place in Morocco’s history, as the country’s premier cultural and spiritual capital.

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