Fes (also spelled Fez), one of Morocco’s many fascinating destinations, is steeped in culture, history, and religion. But the city can also be somewhat overwhelming for first time visitors, thanks to its bustling and maze-like medina. This means, while it’s a good idea to include Fes on your Morocco itinerary, you’ll want to have a Fes itinerary in your pocket.
When visiting, it’s best to allow two days to experience the city properly. Even then, you’ll want to be prepared so that you can make the most of your time. You won’t want to miss the best things to do in Fes! That’s why we’ve put together this detailed guide which will show you how to best experience Fes in 2 days.
Best Time to Visit Fes
Like the rest of Morocco, you’ll want to carefully choose the timing of your visit to Fes. That’s because the weather in Morocco can have a big impact on how enjoyable it is to be outdoors sightseeing. In the summer months of July through early September the country is hit with scorching heat, it’s the kind of heat in which you won’t want to spend long periods outdoors, especially during the middle of the day.
Instead, the best time to visit Fes is either side of summer when the weather is warm but comfortable. Look at visiting in the spring months of late March through May or the autumn months of late September through November. August and September are the busiest times for tourism in Fes, so visiting during those months may mean busier attractions and more expensive accommodation.
One other thing to keep in mind when planning your visit is the holy month of Ramadan. This month of fasting and prayer is observed by Muslims and is not always at the same time each year. The impact visitors will face if visiting Morocco during Ramadan is that many things will have modified opening hours or be closed altogether from national monuments to shops and restaurants.
How to Get Around Fes
To follow this itinerary for visiting Fes, it’s important to understand how to get around the city. Fes is spread out and incredibly dense, which can make it a challenging place to navigate. Since the entire medina is a car-free zone, your options for exploring it are limited to your own two feet. Walking through Fes Jdid, one of the city’s neighborhoods, isn’t too demanding either.
It’s once you need to get between the neighborhoods of Ville Nouvelle or Borj Nord and the medina that you should start looking into alternatives. While there are public buses, it’s debatable whether they’re worth it. Instead, you can make use of the red petit taxis which are affordable and mostly use a meter. These petit taxis can be shared with other passengers or you can ask to have one to yourself – this will impact the price you pay.
Chances are you’ll be visiting from elsewhere in Morocco, but there is the Fès–Saïs Airport for those that want to fly into Fes. To get from Fes airport to the city, you have a choice of taxi or public bus. Going by taxi is the most common way to get from the airport, with the trip costing 120 MAD and taking around 30 minutes. Public bus is the cheapest option, bringing you to the train station in around 40 minutes, with tickets only costing 4 MAD.
You can also book a private airport transfer here.
Where to Stay in Fes
It’s understandable if you have some concerns about where to stay in Fes. After all, the city has quite a unique layout which can make deciding where to stay a bit of a head scratcher. Accommodation in Fes is almost exclusively split between the old Medina, also called Fes el Bali, and Ville Nouvelle, the modern part of the city.
The Medina certainly has more atmosphere, and staying there puts you right among the attractions you’ll spend your 48 hours in Fes exploring. It’s also where you’ll find most of the riads; traditional Moroccan houses that serve as hotels or guesthouses. Ville Nouvelle, however, is accessible by car and has access to the train station, meaning it’s much easier to get around. The same cannot be said for the tight alleys of Fes el Bali. Ultimately, the best place to stay in Fes for you will come down to what you’re looking for.
Anyone seeking a truly grand escape while in Fes should stay at the upscale Fes Marriott Hotel Jnan Palace. This five-star hotel features gorgeous and spacious rooms, three restaurants, three bars, and plenty of little luxuries.
Travelers looking for the best value for money, should look at the Palais Houyam. This enchanting riad offers beautiful rooms and suites, as well as a lounge, terrace, and outdoor swimming pool.
As for backpackers and budget travelers, you don’t need to spend big for a riad experience thanks to Riad Verus in the Fes Medina. Offering dorm beds and private rooms, this riad enjoys traditional Moroccan decor but also modern comforts like air-conditioning and yoga classes.
For more accommodation options in Fes check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 2-Day Fes Itinerary
Even with just a couple of days, you’ll quickly see what makes Fes such a fascinating and chaotic place to visit. You should be able to comfortably experience the best of Fes in that time, but it’ll take much, much longer to fully understand or navigate this ancient city. To cover each of the best places to visit in Fes, means visiting not only the famous historic medina of Fes, but also Fes Jdid or New Fes, as well as several landmarks on the surrounding hills.
However, before we get to our Fes itinerary, we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and, trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
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Now that you’re properly prepared for your trip, here’s our Fes travel itinerary that will take you through precisely what to do in Fes in 2 days.
Day 1 in Fes
Upon arriving in Fes, it’s best that you head straight for the ancient Fes el Bali Medina and the many iconic city attractions found therein.
Bab Bou Jeloud
Before you actually begin exploring the old city of Fes, make sure to stop at the beautiful Bab Bou Jeloud gate. Translating as the Blue Gate, this was one of the main entrances into the medina of Fes el Bali. The gate is quite a pretty sight thanks to its Moorish design, although you should know that it only dates from 1913. You can still see the original gate off to the left, but this more interesting one was built by the French to give the main western entrance a grander gateway.
Bou Inania Madrasa
Before wandering the medina to your heart’s content, make a stop at the Medersa Bou Inania. This madrasa, a college for Islamic scholars, is widely agreed to be one of the finest examples of Moroccan architecture still standing. While it has been restored since, this madrasa was built back in the 14th century by Sultan Bou Inan. Visitors aren’t able to visit the madrasa’s mosque, but will want to see the incredibly ornate courtyard. There you’ll see captivating zellij mosaics, finely detailed stucco-work and expertly carved lattice screens which all make it a sight not to miss.
Fes el Bali Medina
It’s now time to get lost among the labyrinth that is the Medina of Fes el Bali. And get lost you will, as it’s said that only those born here are able to master navigating its ancient streets and alleys. This is the very oldest part of the city, dating from the 8th-9th centuries and it has earned UNESCO World Heritage for how well-preserved it is. While you explore, it’s important to remember that over 90,000 people still live here in the Medina.
Even though the Medina is a pedestrian zone, you still need to keep your wits about you. Its narrow streets can get quite busy and if you hear the cries of “balak” make sure you stand clear. Translating as “look out!”, this cry usually means a donkey carrying produce is passing through and that’s not something you want to get in the way of. Otherwise, enjoy the atmosphere of the Medina and its endless array of shops within its various souks or markets.
Recommendation: If you want to learn more about the history and culture of Fes, consider booking a guided tour that takes you through the intricate maze of streets of the Medina. On a tour you’ll get to see the tanneries, Medersa Bouaanania, Nejjarine Museum and more. You can book your spot on a Medina tour here.
Al Qarawiyyin University and Mosque
Perhaps the most famous landmark in all of Fes is the ancient Al Qarawiyyin or Al Quaraouiyine University. It’s agreed to be the oldest continually operating university still in existence, having been built back in 859 AD. Today, Al Quaraouiyine is a mosque and university dedicated to Islamic learning, and is one of the largest places of worship on the continent.
While the mosque and university are not open to non-Muslims, the library was made open to the public in 2016 and it itself is one of the oldest libraries in the world. It’s also possible to catch a glimpse of the mosque courtyard from some of the restaurant rooftops nearby.
Right by the Al Qarawiyyin University you’ll find the Al-Attarine Madrasa, another major historic place of learning in Fes. This madrasa was built in 1325 by Sultan Uthman II Abu Said and is another classic piece of ornate Marinid architecture. Again, you’ll see masterfully carved walls covered in zellij tiles, Arabic calligraphy, and finely carved woodwork as well as an elegantly understated fountain. It’s the kind of place where every little detail is impressive on its own, but when combined makes the place extraordinary. Make sure to also climb to the roof for a view of the Al-Quaraouiyine Mosque nearby.
Zaouia de Moulay Idriss
Yet another major landmark close to the Al Qarawiyyin University is the Mausoleum of Idris II. Considered the key founder of the city, Idris II ruled Morocco from 807 to 828 and the Zaouia de Moulay Idriss was built for his tomb in the 18th and 19th centuries. This makes it one of the holiest places in Morocco and many Muslims come to visit his shrine. Non-Muslims cannot visit the mausoleum, but are allowed to enter the complex and see the courtyard, not to mention the cedar wood doors worn smooth by pilgrims.
One of the city’s most famous sights is the tanneries of Fes, so finish the day by visiting the Chouara Tannery. This is the largest tannery in the city and dates back to the 11th century. The tanning industry of Fes has not changed at all over the centuries, so you’ll be seeing the men working just as people would have centuries ago.
From a balcony you’ll be able to look down to the many round curing and dyeing vats, which while quite interesting to see, smell rather awful as pigeon poop is used as part of the dying process. It’s best to cover your nose to block out the intense smells. Having seen the tannery below, you can also expect to be shown plenty of leather goods before leaving.
Day 2 in Fes
On your second day in Fes, begin with the impressive attractions found in Fes Jdid, before venturing up into the hills that watch over the city.
Dar el Makhzen
Start the day by heading for Dar el Makhzen, which is the Royal Palace of Fez. Although the palace isn’t open to the public, you can still spend some time admiring its incredible gates. These gleaming giant doors are made from bronze and gold, with an incredibly ornate design. The same can be said for the zellij mosaic tiles which enhance the gate’s beauty.
Facing away from the Royal Palace is the Mellah of Fez, the city’s old Jewish Quarter. This part of the city dates back to the 14th century and at one time was home to a Jewish community of 250,000 people. Like many spots across Morocco, the Jewish population of Fes quickly shrunk when the state of Israel was declared in 1948. And yet, Mellah still holds much of its historic character. Walking around Mellah you’ll see just how different it is to the city’s old medina thanks to details like its balconies, which were a common feature in Jewish homes.
Ibn Danan Synagogue
Within the district of Mellah you’ll find the Ibn Danan Synagogue, also called the Aben Danan Synagogue. It was built back in the 17th century for the city’s Jewish community expelled from Spain, a group often known as megorashim. There are several other synagogues still standing in Fes, but not all of them are open to the public. Even though it’s quite a modest place of worship, renovations performed in 1999 make it worth seeing inside. You’ll also be able to see the synagogue’s Torah Ark and some old black and white photos of places around Mellah.
Continuing through Fes Jdid, make your way to the lovely gardens of Jnan Sbil. Sitting right outside the medina walls, these are some of the oldest in the city. The gardens make quite a nice contrast to the confined and busy streets of the medina. With long formal garden beds and elegant fountains, it’s a pleasant place for locals and tourists alike to take a stroll. And they’re not just a treat to the eyes and ears but also the nose, with the eucalyptus and citrus trees helping you forget the smells of the tannery the previous day.
Nearing closer and closer to the Old Medina, you’ll find the former royal palace of Dar Batha. While built for sultans in the 19th century, the building has functioned as a museum since 1915, tracing the history of arts and crafts. Today it boasts a collection of over 6,500 traditional artifacts, from woodwork, embroidery, and textiles, to the incredible Moroccan zellij tiles you keep seeing. Besides its exhibits, you’ll also find a dense and vibrant garden by its entrance.
Say goodbye to the historic center of Fes and head for the hills, first stopping at the Borj Nord fort. Watching over the city since 1582, this large defensive structure was built by Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur. Since 2016 it has served as the Museum of Arms, exploring the military history of Morocco and displaying weapons from across the ages. You’ll also find a superb view of the city from the fort’s roof which alone will make the trip worthwhile.
Seeing as you’re already up in the hills north of Fes, you should make the short trip over to the Marinid Tombs. These ruins were once tombs belonging to the Marinid Sultanate, but unfortunately not all that much is left. However their position above the Fez Medina does provide you with the perfect view of the city below, especially come sunset. It’s quite something to look at the sea of rooftops and realize the scene in front of you has barely changed in centuries.
You should now feel quite confident to spend 2 days in Fes. It should be clear that this is one unforgettable place to visit in Morocco and somewhere you won’t regret including in your itinerary.