Fes (or Fez), one of Morocco’s many fascinating destinations, is steeped in culture, history, and religion. But the city can be overwhelming for first-time visitors, thanks to its bustling and maze-like medina. In other words, while it’s a good idea to include Fes on your Morocco itinerary, you’ll want a Fes itinerary in your pocket.
When you visit Fes, 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
As with the rest of Morocco, you’ll want to time your visit to Fes carefully. The weather in Morocco can have a big impact on how enjoyable it is to be outdoors sightseeing. From July to early September, the country is hit with such scorching heat that you won’t want to spend long periods outdoors, especially midday.
The best time to visit Fes is either side of summer, when the weather is comfortably warm. Consider visiting in the spring months of late March through May or the autumn months of late September through November. Note that August and September are the busiest times for tourism in Fes, so visiting during those months may mean busier attractions and more expensive accommodations.
Another thing to keep in mind as you plan your visit is the holy month of Ramadan observed by Muslims. The impact of visiting Morocco during Ramadan is that many national monuments, shops, restaurants, and other attractions will have modified business hours or be closed altogether, so it’s often best to plan around it. This month of fasting and prayer is not always observed at the same time of year; before booking your visit, make sure you know when it is in that year.
How to Get Around Fes
To follow this itinerary for visiting Fes, you’ll need 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, which simplifies things a lot in this area. Exploring Fes Jdid, one of the city’s neighborhoods, on foot isn’t too demanding either.
It’s when you need to get between the medina and the neighborhoods of Ville Nouvelle or Borj Nord that you should look into alternatives. While there are public buses, many tourists prefer the red petit taxis, which are affordable and mostly use a meter. You can share a taxi with other passengers or, if you’re willing to pay extra, ask to have one to yourself.
Chances are you’ll be visiting from elsewhere in Morocco, but there is the Fès–Saïs Airport for those who want to fly into Fes. To get from the airport to the city, you have a choice of taxi or public bus. By taxi is the more common way, with the trip costing 120 MAD and taking around 30 minutes. The public bus is cheaper, though, costing only 4 MAD and bringing you to the train station in around 40 minutes.
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’s unique layout 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 comes down to what you’re looking for.
Anyone seeking a truly grand escape 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 consider the Palais Houyam. This enchanting riad offers beautiful rooms and suites, a lounge, a terrace, and an 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 medina. With both dorm beds and private rooms, this hostel offers traditional Moroccan decor alongside 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. Though it would take much longer to fully understand or navigate this ancient city, you should be able to comfortably experience the best of Fes in that time. To cover the best places to visit in Fes, you’ll want to visit not only the famous medina, but also Fes Jdid (or New Fes) and 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, you should head straight for the ancient medina of Fes el Bali, home to many of the city’s iconic attractions.
Bab Bou Jeloud
Before you begin exploring the old city of Fes, stop at Bab Bou Jeloud, or “the Blue Gate” – one of the main historic entrances to Fes el Bali. The gate has a beautiful Moorish design, though the current version only dates back to 1913. You can still see the original gate off to the left, but the new one is more visually interesting; the French built it specifically to give the main western entrance a grander gateway.
Bou Inania Madrasa
You should make one more stop before wandering the medina to your heart’s content – the Madrasa Bou Inania. This college for Islamic scholars is known as one of the finest examples of traditional Moroccan architecture still standing. Though it has been restored since, the madrasa was built back in the 14th century by Sultan Abu Inan.
Tourists can’t visit the madrasa’s mosque, but you’ll want to see the incredibly ornate courtyard. The captivating zellij mosaics, finely detailed stuccowork, and expertly carved lattice screens make it a sight not to miss.
Fes el Bali Medina
It’s now time to get lost inside the labyrinth that is Fes el Bali. And get lost you will – it’s said that only those born here can master the navigation of its ancient streets and alleys. This medina is the oldest part of the city, dating back to the eighth and ninth centuries, and has earned the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for how well preserved it is.
While you explore Fes el Bali, it’s important to remember that over 90,000 people still live here and that, even though the medina is a pedestrian zone, you still need to keep your wits about you. Its narrow streets can get quite busy. If you hear cries of “balak,” move to the side. Translating roughly to “look out,” this cry usually means a donkey carrying produce is passing through. Otherwise, enjoy the atmosphere of the medina and its endless array of shops.
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 University of al-Qarawiyyin (or Al Quaraouiyine). It’s known as the oldest continually operating university still in existence, having been built in 859 A.D. Today, al-Qarawiyyin is a mosque and university dedicated to Islamic learning, and one of the largest places of worship in Africa.
While the mosque and university are not open to non-Muslims, the library – one of the oldest libraries in the world – has been open to the public since 2016. You can also catch a glimpse of the mosque courtyard from some of the restaurant rooftops nearby.
Right by the University of al-Qarawiyyin, you’ll find the Al-Attarine Madrasa, another major historic place of learning in Fes. Built in 1325 by Sultan Abu Sa’id Uthman II, this madrasa 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, along with an elegantly understated fountain. Every little detail is impressive on its own; combined, they make this place extraordinary. Make sure to climb to the roof for a view of the al-Qarawiyyin Mosque nearby.
Zawiya of Moulay Idris II
Yet another major landmark close to the University of al-Qarawiyyin is the mausoleum of Idris II. Considered the key founder of Fes, Idris II ruled Morocco from 807 to 828 A.D., and this zawiya (a shrine and Islamic complex) was constructed around his tomb in the 18th century. It’s known as one of the holiest places in Morocco, with many Muslims traveling to visit the shrine.
Non-Muslims cannot visit the mausoleum, but tourists are allowed to enter the complex and see the courtyard, including the cedar doors worn smooth by pilgrims.
One of the city’s most famous sights is its tanneries, 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 over the centuries, so you’ll see the tanners working just as they would have centuries ago.
You can look down from a balcony to see the round curing and dyeing vats. Though they’re interesting to see, it’s best to cover your nose, as pigeon scat is used in the dyeing process. Once you’ve seen the tannery below, you’ll also be shown plenty of the leather goods it produces.
Day 2 in Fes
Begin your second day in Fes with the impressive attractions of Fes Jdid, before venturing up into the hills that watch over the city.
Start the day by heading for Dar al-Makhzen, the city’s royal palace. Although the palace isn’t open to the public, you can spend some time admiring its incredible gates. These gleaming giant doors are made from bronze and gold, with an ornate design, and the equally detailed zellij tiles enhance the gate’s beauty.
Facing away from the palace is the Mellah of Fez, the city’s old Jewish quarter. This part of the city dates back to the 14th century and was once home to a Jewish community of 250,000. As it did in many spots across Morocco, the Jewish population of Fes quickly shrunk when the state of Israel was declared in 1948, but the Mellah of Fez still holds much of its historic character. Walking around, you’ll notice details such as its balconies (which were a common feature in Jewish homes) that distinguish it from the city’s old medina.
Ibn Danan Synagogue
Within the Mellah district, you’ll find the Ibn Danan Synagogue, also called the Aben or Ben 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.” Several other synagogues are still standing in Fes, but not all of them are open to the public.
Though this is quite a modest place of worship, renovations performed in 1999 make it worth seeing inside. You can also see the synagogue’s Torah ark and some old black-and-white photos of places around the Mellah district.
Jnan Sbil Gardens
Continuing through Fes Jdid, make your way to the lovely gardens of Jnan Sbil. Sitting right outside the medina walls, these gardens are some of the oldest in the city and make a nice contrast to the confined, busy streets of the medina.
With long formal garden beds and elegant fountains, Jnan Sbil is a pleasant place for locals and tourists alike to take a stroll. The gardens are a treat for not only the eyes but also the nose, with the eucalyptus and citrus trees helping you forget the previous day’s smells of the tannery.
Drawing closer to the old medina, you’ll find the former royal palace of Dar Batha. Built for sultans in the 19th century, the building has been a museum since 1915, tracing the history of Moroccan arts and crafts. It now boasts a collection of over 6,500 traditional artifacts, including woodwork, embroidery, textiles, and the incredible zellij tiles you keep seeing. You’ll also find a dense, vibrant garden by its entrance.
Say goodbye to the historic center of Fes and head for the hills, first stopping at the fort of Borj Nord. 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 – this alone makes 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, though not much is left, unfortunately. However, their position above Fes el Bali provides the perfect view of the city, especially at sunset. It’s quite an experience to look at the sea of rooftops and realize the scene in front of you has barely changed in centuries.
You should now feel confident as to how you’ll spend 2 days in Fes. Clearly, this is one unforgettable place to visit in Morocco and somewhere you won’t regret including in your trip itinerary.