If you’re visiting Fes for the first time and wondering what are the best things to do in Fes?, then you should look forward to absorbing a rich and varied Muslim culture of the country encapsulated within the confines of some of the most beautiful tourist attractions famous for their historical significance and aesthetical architectural designs.
The city is divided between, Fes el-Bali once heralded as the capital of the country, and Ville Nouvelle, which is considered as the New City.
Going through the streets of Fes or Fez, you’ll find yourself lost and amazed by this amalgamation of a modern and ancient utopia that dates back to a medieval era of Muslim command and leadership.
Making your way through narrow passageways of traditional tanneries, the hustle and bustle of souks, scenic landscapes, and ideal tourist spots, you will be living and breathing amongst staunch Muslim believers offering an authentic Moroccan experience.
Here are some of the best things to do and places to see in Fes:
1. Fes el-Bali (the old Fes)
Fes el-Bali is a walled neighborhood containing hundreds of alleyways within. You can easily lose your way because it is extremely difficult to navigate the plethora of labyrinths, so make sure to take appropriate measures before visitation.
It is famous for its cultural significance and historical importance as its centuries-old interior and exterior structure have retained their ancient roots and withstood the test of time. Considered as the Medina of the land, the people here still embrace and practice a very traditional lifestyle.
It is a car-free zone where people prefer to travel on foot rather than taking any sort of transportation. Filled with a wide variety of unique monuments, mosques, and tombs, the site has become an acclaimed tourist spot.
Some of the most important places to visit during your stay have to be the wonderfully designed tanneries, where you will be able to experience the traditional art of dyeing and tanning. Wandering through the tanneries, you will notice that the fascinating and long-established skin processing methods haven’t changed in the slightest since the city’s inception.
People still follow the time-honored customary ways of processing leather where certain kinds of excrements are considered as an essential component of the procedure. Be warned that the irritating and nauseating smell of feces and dead animals can cause a bit of a problem, so make sure to take precautions accordingly.
3. Taking Photographs of Iconic Sites
Fes offers a rich cultural heritage which makes for some incredibly beautiful photographs. You will be able to take in the sights of aesthetically pleasing ancient monuments, places of worship, tombs, mosques and zawiyas, gates and fortifications, palaces and historic houses, traditional inns, tanneries, and madrasas.
Photographs are an integral part of every tourist trip that cannot be forgotten under any circumstances. With the advent of the digital era, clicking and sharing pictures has never been easier. By taking photographs, you can capture and relive memorable destination points and experiences whenever you like.
4. World Sacred Music Festival
Every year in summer since 1994, artists of Hindu, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim descent gather in the city of Fes to celebrate and promote the serene and harmonious art of music. Hundreds of people join together in designated squares and sites where multiple concerts are held.
The festival offers the chance of a lifetime to experience deep-rooted spiritual musical compositions by combining different cultures and traditions. You will find yourself enamored by an enchanting feeling of auditory pleasure in the form of rhythmic melodies and instrumental sounds. Keep in mind that there are no seat reservations available for concerts, so make sure to reach the venue within the specified time period.
5. Bou Jeloud Garden
Stroll through the captivating and alluring scenery within the public Bou Jeloud Garden, situated right in the middle of Fes el-Bali and Fes el-Jadid. It is bursting with all sorts of birds ranging from peacocks to doves, large palm trees, fragrant and colorful flowers, little ponds of water, and teeming plant life.
It is recognized as a popular picnic spot where people can cool off and relax in the greenery with a backdrop of calming sounds of fountains in an otherwise rustling and bustling city jam-packed with the locals. A picnic here is definitely one of the best things to do in Fes.
6. University of al Karaouine
Considered as one of the world’s oldest universities, the University of al Karaouine is located in Fes El Bali. It has now been converted into the city’s second-largest mosque.
Unfortunately, only Muslims are allowed inside the mosque, but the stunning exterior design of the monument and the highly detailed entrance gates as well as the awe-inspiring marble courtyard more than makeup for the visit.
The mosque after being expanded supports up to nineteen thousand people joining in prayer. It also features a huge library containing historic records and scripts that have been dedicated to the students seeking ancient knowledge. The building has been well-maintained and frequently renovated which has given it a modern touch.
There are two types of Hammams (communal bathhouses) offered in Fes, public and private. If you’re looking for an authentic local experience, then a public hammam is your best bet. Some of the private hammams offer a spa-like atmosphere and detox as well as massage services which are considered a source of luxury amongst the locals because of their expensive packages.
Hammams provide an opportunity for the local community to gather together for this social activity in the form of a weekly ritual. While these places are dominated by men, there are separate rooms that have been dedicated to women.
8. Henna Souk
Littered with hundreds of stalls and shops, this marketplace is famous for its distinctive variety of henna. Henna, which is also sometimes referred to as Mehndi in the Indian culture, is provided by the shopkeepers at cheap prices. Women are typically adorned with henna during ceremonial festivals and weddings.
The bazaar is also typically filled with street vendors offering unique kinds of local delicacies laden with mysterious spices and all sorts of exciting flavors. A number of handicrafts, including cosmetics, pottery, and carpets are also sold at various souks.
9. Bou Inania Madrasa
The Bou Inania Madrasa is an iconic religious architecture in the city built in the middle of the 14th century. It is known for its intricate design that shelters a beautiful emerald green minaret that serves as the beacon for a visually striking mosque.
The tiles and the front door are embellished with vivid Arabic calligraphy and lovely mosaic patterns. For these reasons, the building is regarded as one of the finest pieces of architecture in Moroccan history. In spite of a devastating earthquake in the 17th century and heavy restoration measures, the madrasa has largely maintained its structural integrity.
10. Belly Dance Shows
The Raks, now commonly known as belly dance, originated from the Egyptians. Belly dancers are referred to as Shikhat in Morocco who utilize a dance form that resembles the folk style of the Egyptians. Since its origination, belly dance has been popularized in the west, and now many dance schools have incorporated it into their programs, offering multiple classes and workshops.
Shikhat also integrates singing and instrumental music into their dance performances. Their presence has slowly become an essential element of ritual Moroccan gatherings. The country’s also home to many other traditional dances, including Guedra, Ahwash, Gnaoua, and chaabi.
11. Merenid Tombs
The royal family and sultans were buried inside these ruined tombs centuries ago, yet the site still attracts thousands of visitors. While the dilapidated, decaying, and decrepit tombs have fallen apart, the spot still offers an eagle-eye view of the majestic medina from atop the hills, which is a sight to behold.
The panoramic perspective and scenic splendor of Fes from here make for some spectacularly fascinating photographs. The countryside is most beautiful at sunset, so make sure to reach the site before then. Be warned that the hike at night can be grueling, so taking a short taxi ride on the way back is a better alternative.
12. Dar el Makhzen (Royal Palace)
The royal palace of Fes, more commonly known as Dar el Makhzen, serves as one of the high points in the architectural history of the country. The surprising thing about it is that it is frequently used by the government and has remained functional after centuries of usage by the royal family.
However, tourists are not allowed to visit the breathtakingly stunning interior with endlessly extensive gardens and the adjoining grand masjid of Fes el-Jadid. So, they’ll have to make do with a view of the colossal gold-colored doors worthy of kings and queens of the palace embroidered with complementing brass door knockers.
13. Borj Nord
Formerly regarded as one of the most tightly secured defensive structures of the city which additionally acted as a battle fort near the end of the 16th century, the fortress currently functions as a museum of arms for the tourists with a variety of European-styled changes.
The battalions and garrisons superbly utilized the tactical advantages of this military architecture to defend against external attacks. The magnificent watchtower is truly a spectacle to behold, filled to the brim with weaponry artifacts and armory of exceptional quality; it is truly a rare experience for the tourists.
14. Dar Batha Museum
Originally built as a royal palace, the architecture has been converted into a museum which now shelters up to 6499 historical traditional artifacts. The museum is deemed as one of the national monuments for its cultural and historic relevancy.
It is known for its unparalleled picturesque beauty that will leave you amazed at first glance. It features an expansive courtyard surrounded by exquisite galleries, brilliant mosaic tilework, and heavily detailed woodwork that add to the sheer brilliance of the architectural design.
Religious ceremonies and music concerts are frequently held in its evergreen garden modeled after the Andalusians.
15. Aben Danan Synagogue Cemetery
Aben Danan Synagogue is situated inside the Mellah district of Fes el-Jadid. While most of the Moroccan population is dominated by Muslims, there is also a small community of Jews within the country as well.
Morocco promotes religious freedom and as such provides Jews with a place of worship in the form of this historic synagogue. The spellbinding tilework with hand-embroidered hangings, dazzling decorative motifs, and large pillars with shades of jade and peacock-blue all make it a popular tourist attraction.
Day Trips and Desert Tours from Fes
- 16. Take Day Trips from Fes
After visiting this medieval Moroccan city of Fes, it the time to take a break day out of the crowded streets and noise of the medina to the most spectacular sites to visit in one day.
These places include Chefchaouen (the blue pearl), Volubilis, and Meknes city. Taking day trips from Fes starting in the morning and ending in the evening becomes a must.
- 17. Take a Desert Tour from Fes
If you are Desert Lovers, it’s your chance to take desert tours from Fes to the Merzouga Sahara Desert and its magnificent sand dunes of Erg Chebbi in at least 2 days and one night tour.
These tours are all-in trips including a camel ride or 4×4 transfers, overnight camping under shining stars in the middle of the Sahara, delicious dinner, and a party around the campfire…etc. All in all, it’s highly recommended not to miss this experience!
Before packing your bags, make sure to fully plan out your journey in order to have a joyous trip throughout the epicenter of the Muslim world. Forge strong bonds with the local community along the way while being mesmerized by the fascinating customs of true Moroccan culture.
While most of the city has been modernized, the traditional values and monumental architectures still have much to offer to the average tourist.
What kind of clothing do people prefer in Fes, Morocco?
The women and men typically wear a traditional piece of clothing called djellaba, which is as comfortable as they come with plenty of room to keep you cool during hot summer days due to its loose-fitting. Some women prefer wearing a hijab to cover their faces for religious reasons, but it is considered an additional clothing accessory and varies from person to person.
Tourists are free to wear what they are comfortable in.
Is Fes Morocco worth visiting?
Yes, of course, Fes worth a visit. Fes has many attractions, places to visit, and activities to do.
How to pronounce Fes Morocco?
We pronounce Fes like /fɛs/ or /fɛz/.