I have to admit – I didn’t plan my two days in Fes a lot. Honestly, Fes was on my itinerary mainly because the cheapest flight from Europe was landing there. After two weeks in Morocco exploring the popular destinations, I can honestly say – Fes is the most exciting and authentic place in the country!
This post won’t be a detailed step-by-step where to go to guide. Unlike other cities in the world, Fes is not a place to have a detailed itinerary for.
Why is that?
Because Fes is one giant human maze! No joke here, I’ve never seen anything like the Fes’s Medina (Medina meaning old part of town). Also known as Fes el-Bali, it’s one of the most authentic Arabian experience you can find on the globe. The
Trying to follow your map in the
So how is this Two Days in Fes guide gonna work?
I’ll list all places I believe deserve a visit and give you tips, tricks and a map to find them. I hope you manage to see them all, but no matter how many you manage to visit, I can guarantee your two days in Fes will be a blast.
Now let me explain why the city of Fes is a bucket list worthy and why it impressed me that much.
If you’ve read my post about Cairo, maybe you remember how disappointed I was of the city. I expected sandstone buildings and colorful markets coming straight out of Disney’s Aladin, but I got semi-finished buildings and piles of garbage on the streets. Well, I’m happy to say that Fes has nothing to do with Cairo!
If culture and authentic local experiences are the main reason behind your travels, Fes el-Bali should be at the very top of your bucket list. This old city is the very best example of the Arabic culture I’ve ever stumbled upon.
Located to the northeast of the Atlas Mountains, Fes is the second largest city in Morocco. It has more than 1200 years of history between its walls, including numerous stunning madrasas, mosques, zawiyas and city gates. Considering this, it’s not a surprise the Medina of Fes is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also believed to be the world’s largest urban pedestrian zone.
Bab Bou Jeloud – The Blue Gate
The western entry to the Medina, Bab Bou Jeloud is a gate you’ll pass through more than once. Built in 1913, today the gate is a doorway between the 21st century and the colorful medieval mix of Fes el-Bali.
Fes is a city known for its leather goods and pottery. The traditional ones are decorated with beautiful cobalt-blue patterns. This is where the blue color of the gate comes from. If you’re going out of the Medina though, you will notice that the other side of the door is green . Why green? Cause this is the color of Islam.
- CastawayTip: Bab Bou Jeloud is a great landmark to use as a guide. Mark it on your map and try to have a general idea of its direction. No matter how lost you are, all streets going west will end up at Bab Bou Jeloud (or somewhere around it).
- PhotoTip: Don’t miss the opportunity to take the iconic Fes photo of the middle gate, having one of the medina’s minarets on the background.
The Chouara Tannery
Built in the 11th century, the Chouara tannery is the largest one of the three remaining tanneries in Fes.
What’s so special about a tannery?
The same system people used to dye the leather 1000 years ago is still used today. The tannery consist of numerous large stone vessels, filled with different colored dyes and white liquids. And since it’s a thousand years old process, everything is natural. The dyes use poppy for red, indigo for blue, and henna for orange while the white liquid is a nasty mix of cow urine, pigeon feces, quicklime, salt, and water. It’s used for cleaning and softening the tough skins.
The only way to see the tannery is from one of the shops around it. They all have terraces that overlook the wells, and viewing is supposed to be free but it’s inevitable you’d be asked for a tip or a fee.
- CastawayTip: CastawayTip: Prepare 10-20 MAD out of your wallet and say this is all you got. If you got a pushing shopper asking for more (I got up to shop #10, and the guy wanted me to pay 100 MAD!) just tell him a policeman informed you it’s free and that’s why you have no other money.
- Extra CastawayTip: : The tannery has this pungent smell of carcass so shopkeepers will offer you fresh struck of mint to hold under your nose. A lot of them may ask you to pay for it later so have that in mind before accepting it.
Bou Inania Madrasa
Madrasa is the Arabic word for all educational institutes and if you are wandering now ‘Why should I bother to visit Arabic schools in Morocco?‘ the answer is simple – they are some of the most beautiful buildings in the country.
Bou Inania Madrasa itself is a prime example of Marinid architecture.
Built around 1350, Bou Inania is the only Madrasa in Fes that also have a minaret (the one you see through the Blue Gate). It’s also one of the very few religious buildings in Morocco that are open to non-muslims.
- CastawayTip: The entrance is right on the medina and is rather tricky to find.
The madrasa, however, is part of all Fes city tours itineraries, so if you see a lot of tourists waiting in front of a giant wooden door -thats the place.
If it’s a praying hour, the gate will be closed, and you’d have to wait until all the locals finish their prayers.
- PhotoTip: Go to the small opening to the left and take a shot of the minaret from under the arc.
Al Attarine Madrasa
One more Madrasa that is a must-see! This one may not have a picturesque minaret but is a prime contender for being the most beautiful Madrasa in Morocco (at least until Marrakesh’ Ben Yousef Madrasa finishes its restoration) and a top contestant to be the highlight of your two days in Fes.
Built (once again) in the 14th century by the famous Marinid Dynasty (known as passionate patrons of madrasas) Al Attarine takes its name from the renowned perfume and spices market nearby. And rightfully so since this school, much like the very best perfumes in the world, is a feast to the senses.
The heart of the madrasa – its inner courtyard is this incredible mix of colors, ornaments and Arabic calligraphy, fine crafted by the very best masters in Morocco.
But why even try to describe the zellige mosaic or the stucco ornamented walls when we all know a picture is worth a thousand words? Enjoy the Al Attarine Madrasa!
Funduq al-Najjariyyin (The Wood Carving Museum)
You can’t spent two days in Fes without visitng at least one museum. Located in the center of the medina, there is one of the most stylish museums you’d ever see – Funduq al-Najjariyyin, The Museum of Wood Arts and Crafts. And since you already know that Fes is famous for its wood products, you can imagine that Funduq al-Najjariyyin is not your average old dusty building. Unlike other museums, the exponents are not the main attraction. Yes, there are some interesting samples of wood and wooden instruments but the incredible mosaics and the carefully crafted designs are the real winners here.
- CastawayTip: Like everything in Fes, the entry is not easy to find. Look for the colorful fountain in the wood souk. The entrance is right behind it..
- Extra CastawayTip: There is a terrace with panoramic views.
The Rainbow Street
The Rainbow street is not an official attraction in the city, and you won’t find it in many Fes guides. It is, however, one of the most vibrant and pleasant alleys in the Medina. It connects two of the main streets, and it’s basically a tiny alley with brightly painted mosaic floors and walls.
Stacked in piles are numerous rugs, paintings, and other art souvenirs. It’s not only one of the best place to find an original souvenir but is also a calm place inside the medina where shopkeepers won’t pressure you.
University of Al Quaraouiyine
This one is almost impossible to get into, but I couldn’t just skip it. It’s believed that the University of Al Quaraouiyine is the oldest university in the world. It’s also a mosque today so the access I heavily restricted. Unless you are a Muslim (who speaks Arabic or French to prove it to the guards) the chances are you won’t be allowed inside. You can still marvel and take photos of the stunning mosque interior from the entry gate, though.
Two days in Fes’ medina could become really overwhelming. I can honestly say, I had some moments where I was craving to be out in the open and see the sun again. Here are the best open spaces the unwind from the chaos of Fes el-Bali:
The Royal Palace
If the primary goal of your two days in Fes is getting beautiful photos, the Royal Palace of Fes is a must-stop. One of the few attractions outside of the medina, it’s also one of the most picturesque places in the city.
The curious thing here is that the palace is not open for visits. Muslim or non-muslim, tourist or local, you can’t get into the palace unless you are the king of Morocco (or you work for him). How come it’s so popular then? The Royal Palace of Fes has the prettiest doors in the country! No kidding, the three sets of brass doors gives you the perfect background setting to make your new profile photo!
- CastawayTip: The place gets busy quickly so unless you visit Fes in the winter, make sure you get there first thing in the morning.
- PhotoTip: If you are a couple – brig a tripod to get the best possible picture together. If you’re alone – bring a tripod to get the best possible selfie.
Garden Jnan Sbil
Located between the Blue Gate and the Royal Palace, Jnan Sbil is the oldest park in Fes. It’s free of charge, has beautiful palm alleys, water fountains, eucalyptus trees, and even a lake!
In the early 2000’s it was restored to bring back the original look from the 19th century. Perfect place to escape the medina and find some shade from the relentless Moroccan sun.
A former Royal Palace, Dar Batha is the quickest escape from the Medina. The dar is located just a few minutes from the Blue Gate and has small garden inside – perfect for a walk. There are also two museums with traditional Moroccan crafts inside. I find myself visiting it more than once while circling the windy streets of Fes.
Borj Nord is a 16th-century fort, erected to watch over the old city of Fes. It’s 15-20 minutes walk from the Blue Gate (or 10-20 dirhams via petite taxi). In 2016 it was turned into a weapons museum and hosts a collection of over 5000 weapons from different eras. It’s supposed to be a great place to watch the sunset from, but I heard there were some muggings in the area, so I suggest to visit it only during the day.
How to get to Fes
Being the second largest city in the country, Fes is easy to get to. There is an international airport around 15 km outside of town which is also a Ryanair hub so I guess a lot of budget travelers would come this way ( taxi from the airport to the medina should cost 100-150 MAD / 10-15 USD).
If you are coming from any of the other bi Moroccan cities, you have the options to use a train (check the tickets here ) or bus. The best bus company in the country is CTM. Tickets are impossible to book outside of Morocco but you can use their site to check the departing times.
Other popular means of transportation are the grand taxis. You can get a taxi from one city to another and split the sum between all passengers.
When to visit Fes
While spring and autumn are the best seasons, you can visit Fes at any time of the year and have a great time. Being in the north part of the country, the summer in Fes is more tolerable than the other parts of Morocco. The medina is designed to let little sunshine go through and keep you cool. Spring and autumn offers you perfect temperatures of 28-30 C during the day while in the winter, even though it feels cold for Morocco, it’s more like summer compared to Europe (15-18 C) . The big bonus of the Winter is that there are way fewer tourists.
- CastawayTip: If you visit in the winter and decide to stay in a riad, make sure there is a heater in it. Riads are designed to keep cool and get uncomfortably cold during the night.
- Where I stayed – Riad Diwan
- The Hotel – Les Mérinides
– If you don’t fancy living in the hustle of the Medina, Les Mérinides is the best hotel in the area. Situated near Bjorn Nord, this 5-star hotel offers a swimming pool and incredible panoramic views over Fes el-Bali.
- The (budget)
– A traditional riad for a very modest fee! This AirBnB listing has nothing but 5-star reviews and it’s a
superhost. There may be no pool but panoramic views and traditional Moroccan breakfast are included in the price. Best value in Fes!
– A traditional Moroccan riad, Riad Diwan is situated right in the heart of Fes el-Bali. Close to every major attraction in the city this place also have an amazing rooftop panoramic terrace. The owner is also a great guy who is willing to tend to every request you have.
Have in mind that Google Maps are not the most accurate in Morocco and especially in the Medina’s. I suggest downloading Maps
How to stay safe in Fes
Morocco is a developing country, and while I didn’t encounter any troubles in Fes, it’s always good to be prepared. From food poisoning to medina pickpocketers, various things may go wrong and ruin your vacation.
The way i deal with this problem is by getting a kick-ass travel insurance. Once you have a few journeys under your belt, you can easily appreciate its tremendous value and the freedom it gives you.
While I sincerely wish you never need to use it, I can’t stress enough how important getting the insurance is.
That’s all from me, I hope you enjoy
If you haven’t planned your trip there yet, find out how I plan my trips!
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