City Highlight: Fès (or Fez)

Published on: Wednesday, January 17, 2018
City Highlight: Fès (or Fez) - Medersa Bou Inania, Fez, Morocco


Bustling markets, vibrant history, and the walled-in medina of Fès el-Bali make Fez a prime spot for adventure-seeking travellers

Often overshadowed by tourist hotspot Marrakech, Fès, also spelt Fez, rewards visitors with historical gems, delicious food, and a radiant culture that breathes life into the city’s labyrinthine streets. In between sightseeing, do leave time to enjoy a cup of mint tea, relax at a traditional hammam, or try your bargaining skill in a souk.

When to go

Spring (March to May) sees warm and sunny weather with average temperatures hovering around 16°C (61°F). This is a pleasant time to visit Fès if you want to avoid large crowds.

Summer (June to August) is hot and dry with plenty of sunshine. August is often the hottest, though it’s also the peak month for tourists.

Autumn (September to November) is another pleasant season to visit Fès, with temperatures averaging around 17°C (63°F). Autumn may also bring some rain so pack an umbrella with you.

Winter (December to February) offers mild weather and sunny skies during the day but temperatures can drop sharply in the night.

Getting around

Traffic seems chaotic in Fès but there are many ways to navigate the city, whether by bus, taxi, car or on foot. Hop in a red petit taxi to travel within city limits, or hail a grand taxi to explore the city’s outskirts.

To get from the new part of the city, Ville Nouvelle, to the old quarters, take a local bus. If you prefer to use your own method of transport, Fès has plenty of car hire and bike rental companies.

The best way to navigate the narrow and twisting alleys of the medina is on foot. It can be surprisingly easy to get lost – but that’s part of the experience, or you may wish to hire an official guide.

For more information on the best ways to see the city, check out our Getting around Fès guide.

Must-see attractions

Medersa Bou Inania

Perhaps the city’s top site to visit, this magnificent 14th-century medersa is one of the few religious buildings in Morocco open to non-Muslims. While many medersas include only a simple prayer hall, the Bou lnania contains a complete mosque and is filled with vibrantly-coloured mosaic tiles and ornate wooden lattice screens that are sure to make your jaw drop.

Chouara Tannery

Nestled between the ancient walls of Fès el-Bali—the UNESCO-listed medina—are the exquisite Chouara tanneries. Here, you’ll see leather workers expertly pound hides with their feet and dip skins into wells filled with vividly-coloured natural dyes. The smell can be rather strong, so make sure you pick up a complimentary sprig of mint to whiff while you watch.

Merenid Tombs

Perched on a hilltop on the outskirts of the medina, these 14-century sepulchres are thought to contain some of the most important members of the Merenid dynasty. While the tombs are in an advanced state of ruin, the site offers unmatched panoramic views of the entire Fès el-Bali district and the rolling hills beyond.

Quirky & offbeat

Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts

Once a shelter to traders during the 18th century, the museum is home to a beautiful collection of Moroccan woodcrafts, including intricately carved doors, window frames, lintels, and chests.

Book into a hammam

Searching for an excuse to be spoiled? Experience both Moroccan culture and otherworldly relaxation at one of the city’s 250 hammams (bathhouses), where you’ll be luxuriously washed and massaged.

For more ideas of where to visit, check out the Things to see in Fès guide.

Travel tips

Must-try specialties

  • Tagine – a traditional North African stew made with sliced meat or fish mixed with either vegetables or fruit, spices, and nuts.
  • Pastilla – a rich filling of pigeon meat, roasted almond, sugar, and cinnamon wrapped inside flaky pastry dough.
  • Brochettes – meat formed around a skewer is rubbed with salt and spices and left to simmer over charcoal, making a delightful savoury snack.
  • Briwat – a staple Moroccan dessert consisting of honey-dipped fried filo pastry stuffed with almonds, sugar, and cinnamon.

This Fès food & drink guide: 10 things to try in Fès highlights the must-try dishes and where to find them.

Tipping: There is no rule of thumb regarding tipping in Morocco, but many upscale restaurants will add a 10% surcharge to the bill. At most eateries, it is encouraged to leave about a 10-15% tip.

Hotels in Fès

Soak up the city’s culture by skipping the conventional hotel stay and booking into a riad. These beautifully restored traditional houses offer unmatched hospitality and access to the medina.

For the ultimate luxury stay, Riad Fes offers expansive views of the market and mountains and includes lush amenities like a plunge pool, restaurant, rooftop bar, and spa. For a budget-friendly yet authentic experience, the Dar Seffarine sits behind the high walls of the oldest part of the medina and treats guests to evening drinks and nightly dinners. For more accommodation options, check out our Fès Hotels guide.

Nightlight in Fez

Fès is a conservative city so don’t expect a wild night out. Bars are scarce and mostly found within hotels, and alcohol is primarily served at high-end restaurants. The rooftop lounge of Riad Fes is a perfect spot to sip cocktails while taking in a bird’s-eye view of the medina. For the best drinks in town, venture into the Ville Nouvelle to the Hotel Sahrai Rooftop Bar, which sits on top of the hillside and offers views of the new city. For more recommendations, see our Fès Nightlife guide.

Visa requirements to Fès, Morocco

A visa is not required by British, American, Canadian, Australian, or EU nationals for stays in Morocco of up to 90 days. To enter the country, a passport valid for the duration of stay is required by UK and US nationals; the passports of Canadian and Australian citizens must be valid at least six months past the date of expected departure. EU citizens should check their passport requirements with the relevant embassy. Make sure immigration officials stamp your passport upon arrival as this will be checked when you are leaving the country. For more information on the documents you need before you travel to Fès, see our Morocco Visa and Passport Requirements page.

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