A quick guide to Fes, Morocco
Even though Fes has gained popularity and is one of Morocco's most visited cities (following Marrakesh, Essaouira, Casablanca and Agadir), we found it to be much less touristy than Marrakesh and thus more authentic, which is always a plus.
A couple of facts Located in northeastern Morocco, Fes used to be the country's capital until 1925! Today, Fes is considered to be Morocco's cultural and spiritual center, mostly known for its well preserved medina and leather tanneries, as well as for being home to one of the most significant Islamic universities of the Muslim world.
As always, keep in mind the city's Islamic background before visiting and make sure to dress and behave accordingly.
Getting there Fes can be reached either by plane or car/bus, Rabat being the closest big city, at 200km away. If you drive from Casablanca, you'll need 3 hours while Marrakesh is more than 5 hours away. One day should be just enough to explore Fes, while the ancient ruins of Volubilis and the city of Meknes are ideal day trip destinations.
Where to stay As everywhere in Morocco, Fes has a good number of traditional riad style hotels to choose from. Our guide, Mustapha, from Private Tours of Morocco, booked our accommodation at Riad Ahlam, which was perfectly located right outside the medina. Our stay there was very comfortable and we still can't get over how tasty the breakfast menu was (their omelet was hands down the highlight!).
Things to see and do Get lost in the medina Surrounded by tall walls and consisting of endless narrow streets, the medina of Fes is the perfect place to get lost, haggle and buy souvenirs for your loved ones. It's rather easy to lose your sense of orientation inside the medina, so try to spot anything that will help you navigate through it. Or, you can just relax and enjoy the experience of an authentic Moroccan old town.
The Royal Palace of Fes
Owned by Morocco's royal family, Dar al-Makhzen might not be open to public but it still offers not to miss opportunities for stunning pics with its arched golden doors and beautiful mosaic tiled walls.
Pay a visit to the tanneries
Most probably the number 1 place to visit and photograph in Fes, are its traditional leather tanneries, where you can see first-hand how leather gets dyed and buy locally made goods, from belts and wallets to jackets and bags. As for the smell, we're happy to reassure you that a) it's not that bad and b) you'll be given mint leaves before entering, so worry not.
Take a tea break admiring the Blue Gate The Blue Gate is one of the main entrances to the medina, elegantly decorated with blue mosaic tiles. On the street right under it, you'll find numerous cafés, where you can join the locals and have some mint tea. Some places also have lovely terraces for view lovers.
Learn about Karaouine University It is said to be the oldest university in the world and is definitely one of the most significant educational institutions in the Islamic world. If you visit Fes with a guide (like we did), make sure to ask them about Karaouine University and its history. Sadly, non Muslims cannot enter, however the Bou Inania madrasa (school) is just as impressive and anyone can enter its yard for a small fee.
Soak up the views Riad and restaurant/café terraces, as well as the tanneries' balconies offer amazing views of the city, but our favorite viewpoint was Borj Nord. Borj Nord is a citadel built in late 1500's by the Saadian dynasty, located on a hill overlooking Fes. Entering the citadel will cost you less than 2€, however it is absolutely free to simply go up the hill. The views are just as pretty!