Chouara Tannery one of the top things to visit in Fez.

Best Things To See & Do In Fez, or Fes, Morocco

Fez, or Fes, may not be as famous as its sister city Marrakesh, but it’s definitely worth a visit. In fact, I found it to feel much more authentic. With the ancient walls surrounding the city, the winding, cobblestoned, car-less pedestrian streets, and the locals going about their daily life, it seems a bit surreal. Yet it’s real. Some even say it’s the best preserved old city in the Arab world. This post covers the best things to do in Fez, or Fes, Morocco (both are correct).

I wasn’t sure what to expect since I knew Fez didn’t have as much tourism as Marrakesh. But my worries soon melted as within minutes of walking into the fascinating walled city, still carrying my luggage, a local smiled, asked me where I was from, and said, “you are welcome”. He even gave me directions to my riad, and didn’t ask for money in return, something that’s not likely in Marrakesh.

Not only are the locals here nicer, the city’s pace is less frenetic. Even the souk salesmen are more relaxed, so you can comfortably browse without feeling pressured. Overall, the city feels more genuine, the cultural experience deeper.

This post covers the highlights of what to see in and around Fez, where they’re located, and tips to help make your trip better.

Bab Boujloud (Blue Gate)

Historic Fez

Historic Fez, inside the old city walls, is divided into two cities, Fes el-Bali (Old Fez) from the late 8th/early 9th century and Fes el-Jdid (New Fez), the royal city from the 13th century.

This UNESCO Heritage site replaced Marrakesh as the capital of Morocco in the 13th to 14th centuries. Fez remained the capital until Morocco became a French protectorate in the early 20th century, and Rabat became the new capital (which it still is today).

Over the centuries, the Medina has maintained its traditional feel. The pedestrian streets virtually unchanged, as they wind haphazardly around more than 13,000 buildings, most of them historic. And the sight of its almost 200,000 inhabitants, or Fassi, most of them in traditional dress, adds to its authenticity.

Wandering here is a bit like a treasure hunt, you never know what treasure you may stumble across.

Old Fountains top things to do in Fez
Fez Fountain

Top Things To See & Do in Fez

Things To Do Inside the Old Medina

Most of the top sites of Fez are within the old walls, or the two Medinas of el-Bali and el-Jdid.

Souks Of Fez

As in Marrakesh, it’s fascinating to wander around the souks. Here, however, they seem different, with more locals and less tourists. I found the souks of Fez to be so much more relaxed than the souks of Marrakesh. I felt that I could look without the pressure to buy.

You’ll find colorful carpets, jewelry, pottery, leather goods, shoes, clothing, local produce, and much, much more.

Watching locals going about their day here was as interesting as exploring the souks themselves.

Visiting souks one of the top things to do in Fez.

There are also some very hip restaurants/coffee shops to explore within the souks of Fez.

Cool cafes top things to do in fez
Cafe in Fez
Tips For Getting Around The Souks

As in Marrakesh, I found to be most helpful for finding my way with the winding streets of the souks. Download the map of Fez in advance (when you have strong wifi), then pin your hotel, starting point, or some key locations on the map. Once downloaded, you will be able to track your location offline via satellite.

This way you can wander and safely get lost, using the app to find your way back. It’s not perfect, but at least you can see where you are in the maze. Note that it can drain your battery, so make sure it’s fully charged when you start your day and set it on low battery mode. It’s also a good idea to bring a charger with you.

Unlike Marrakesh, I found the locals in Fez to be more helpful with directions and less likely to demand cash for help, but it’s still a good idea to stick to asking shop owners, policemen, or women for directions if you do get lost.

Tips For Negotiating

Prices are negotiable in the souks, so be prepared. If there’s something you know you want, ask someone for a reasonable cost at your accommodation. Start by negotiating 30 – 50% below this price. Be firm, but remember to keep it lighthearted and respectful. Also remember that a few dirham overpaid may be worth much more to them then its loss is to you.

Gates of Fez

Explore a few of the numerous gates in the walls of the Medina. Bab Boujloud, or the Blue Gate, at the main western entrance of the Medina, is one of the most beautiful, and most popular. These iconic gates were built by the French around 1913.

This is also probably where your taxi will drop you off when you arrive. A picturesque place to start your trip.

Blue Gate is one of the top things to do in Fez and Morocco Travel Guide
Bab Boujloud (Blue Gate)

It’s best to step outside the Medina to really admire them. You’ll also see the two towers within the main arch of the gate. The tower on the left is Bou Inania Madrasa (below), while the one on the right is Sidi Lazzaz Mosque.

Other interesting gates include Bab Chorfa, the northwest entrance to the Medina, Bab Semmarine, the main entrance to Fez el-Jdid, and Bab Almer, a 13th century Gate in el-Jdid.

Bou Inania Madrasa

Known as one of Fez’s most beautiful buildings, 14th century Bou Inania, named after its founder, Abu Inan Faris, was the largest and the oldest of the Marinid period. This madrasa (a center for learning) also has a Mosque. Its minaret is the one you see from Bab Boujloud (the Blue Gate).

Bou Inania Madrasa | Bjorn Christian Torrensen
How To Get To Bou Inania Madrasa

Located at Rue Talaa Sighira it’s a 2 minute walk from Bab Boujloud.

Dar al-Magana, The Water Clock

Dar al-Magana means ‘house of the clock’ in Arabic. This old water clock, also built by Abu Inan Faris, once had 12 brass bowls sitting on the twelve lower wooden posts (below left). A ball would drop from above, hourly, into one of the bowls, signaling the hour.

Dar al-Magana, the Water Clock

This unique clock has been renovated, but is not functional. Apparently no one has yet mastered how it used to work.

How To Get To Dar al-Mangana

This fascinating clock is located across from Bou Inania Madrasa on Rue Talaa Kebira.

al-Qarawiyyin, Kairaouine University And Mosque

Kairaouine | Hassouni

Founded in the 9th century, this center of learning is regarded by some as the oldest still in use today. Students studied religion, logic, mathematics, medicine, grammar, astrology, and more.

The complex also includes a Mosque, which once was the largest in Africa. Now it’s the second largest in Morocco after Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.

Unfortunately, only Muslims can enter, but you can take a peak from the gate.

How To Get To Kairaouine

Kairaouine is a 15-minute walk northeast of Bou Inania Madrasa (near al-Attarine Madrasa).

al-Attarine Madrasa

Built in the 14th century, this Madrasa (Islamic school) gets its name from the nearby spice and perfume market, Souk al-Attarine.

The lavish carvings and mosaics are stunning, a testament to the design style and craftsmanship of the Marinid dynasty that once ruled here.

How To Get To al-Attarine Madrasa

Located near Kairaouine University & Mosque at Rue Talaa Kebira.

Royal Palace (Dar al-Makhzen)

Located in the Fez el-Jdid Medina, this palace was founded by the Marinid sultans in the 13th century. It served as the center of government for Morocco under their rule.

The palace, one of four Morocco still in use by the King, is not open to the public. The other three are in Rabat, Casablanca, and Marrakesh. The closest you can get is the main gate, where you can see its Seven Gates, or the seven massive brass doors of the palace.

How To Get To The Royal Palace

Located at 9 Derb Jdid in Fez el-Jdid, it’s a 5-minute walk from the Bab Semmarine Gate.

Chouara Tannery

The Chouara Tannery is one of the main tourist attractions in Fez. Built in the 11th century, the leather, is cleaned, processed, and dyed using natural materials. The process today is practically the same as it was centuries ago. This is fascinating, but means that the workers work in cow urine, pigeon feces, and other noxious, materials.

Chouara Tannery one of the top things to visit in Fez.
Chouara Tannery

Reading up on the process after I visited, I learned that chromium sulfate is also used, which can be toxic to the workers and the environment. While reading, I also stumbled upon a Harvard educated local woman, Aziza Chaouni, who helped to free the Fez river from these toxins.

For this reason, I can not recommend stopping here, or buying leather in Morocco until the situation changes.

How To Get To Chouara Tannery

Located a little farther away, due to the smells of the tannery, it’s northeast of Kairaouine University.

Things To Do Outside the Medina

While most of the sites are inside the medina, there are a few sites outside that should not be missed.

Borj Nord

Borj Nord, built by Ahmad al-Monsur, sultan of the Saadi dynasty, was a 16th century fort. He built it to maintain control over Fez. Today its ruins are open as the Museum of Arms.

This, and the Merinid tombs on the opposite side of the hill offer spectacular panoramic views of Fez, so ideal on a nice day.

How To Get To Borj Nord

Borj Nord is located on the hillside facing Bab Boujloud. If you walk, it’s .9 miles (1.4 km) about 20-minutes, mostly uphill.

Merinid Tombs

These were the tombs of the Merinids that conquered Fez in the 13th century. Some think there may have also been a palace and Mosque here. Although all that remains are ruins, you can explore, imagining their former grandeur. It’s also offers a stunning view of the city.

How To Get To The Merinid Tombs

The ruins of these tombs are a 1,600’ (500 m) walk around the hillside from the Arms Museum (above).

Top Day Trips From Fez

Take a Day Trip To See The Ancient Ruins of Volubilis

One of Morocco’s best preserved Roman ruins, this UNESCO site was the former capital of the kingdom of Mauritania. Once home to around 20,000 citizens, it was abandoned when Fez was built.

At one time there were mansions, Roman houses, a forum, triumphal arch, temples, basilicas, and public baths.

How To Get To Volubilis

Volubilis is 67 miles (109 km) from Fez, near Meknes. Short of taking an organized tour, you can take the train to Meknes. From there, negotiate a taxi to take to Volubilis and wait while you explore.

Take A Day Trip To Chefchaouen

The famous blue city of Morocco, Chefchaouen, is 123 miles (198 km) from Fez. Because of the distance, a day trip is challenging, but entirely possible. I, unfortunately, did not have time for this on my trip, so will need to visit again to see Chefchaouen.

While here, wander the winding streets of the old city to see the sites. If you can time, visit the Kasbah and climb to the Spanish Misque.

Chefchaouen | محمد بوعلام عصامي
How To Get To Chefchaouen

Aside from booking a tour, there is a daily bus from the CTM Morocco Bus station. The journey takes about 4.5 hours each way. It’s strongly recommended to buy your ticket a few days in advance. Especially during peak season. You can taxi to the bus CTM bus station. It helps to have the name written in Moroccan, to make sure the driver takes you to the correct station. For more information, see the CTM website. Unfortunately, it’s in French, so see if a local will help you.

A taxi to Chefchaouen is another option, but can be expensive. This option is best if you’re really short on time (as it’s a little faster) and you have several people to share the cost with in the taxi.

Best Time To Visit Fez

The best time to visit Fez is Spring, March through May, and Fall, September to November, when the temperatures are milder. Summers can be blazing hot. The busiest months, however, are August and September, so be aware that prices may be higher.

The rainy season generally runs from October through April, so if visiting during these times, be prepared for some rainy days.

Also, even if the day is warm, evenings may be cool especially in early Spring and later in Fall. So it’s a good idea to bring some sweaters for the evening.

It’s also a good idea to make sure your riad, or accommodation, has air condoning and/or heat.

How To Get To Fez


The closest airport to Fez (FEZ) is Fez-Saïss International Airport, which is about 10 miles (17 km) away from Bab Bou Jeloud, the Blue Gate of the Medina of Fez. 

If taking a taxi to the Medina from the airport, it will take about 35-40 minutes. Make sure they use the meter, which many will try not to do. Set prices may be listed near the airport taxi stand. If you see this, take a photo of it to share with the driver if he tries to tell you otherwise.

Bus 16 leaves the Fez-Saïss International Airport regularly and arrives just south of the Fez train station in about 45-minutes to an hour. From there, it’s a short taxi ride to Fez. Estimated cost is about 10 MAD, which is about $1.

You can self-drive from the airport, but the Medina is pedestrian, so unless you’re planning other stops than Fez, there’s not much point.


The train is relatively comfortable and easy to take between cities. Second class is not air conditioned. First class usually is.

  • The train from Marrakesh takes 6.5-8 hours, stopping, briefly, at several cities along the way.
  • The train from Casablanca is about 3-4 hours.
  • The train from Rabat is about 3 hours.
  • From Essaouira, take the bus to Marrakesh, then the train.

Want More of Morocco?

Morroco is a fascinating place and there’s much to explore, with each city offering a different facet into its colorful kaleidoscope.

Marrakesh is its most popular tourist destination. With its chaotic, but cultural Jmaa-el Fnaa Square, intriguing souks, and beautiful ancient palaces and madrasas, it can’t be missed.

Casablanca is also worth a quick stop, with its stunning Hassan II Mosque, the charming mix of French and Moroccan architecture in its New Medina, and glimpse into more modern Moroccan life in its Old Medina.

Or if you’re into surfing, the uber charming town of Taghazout is world-renowned for its waves and also has great yoga.

Essaouira is also fascinating spot. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to visit yet.

To learn more about visiting these cities, as well as information on how to get around, logistics, scams, safety, and more, see my Travel Guide to Morroco.

View from my Fez Riad Rooftop

Safe Travels!


Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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