One Day in Fes Itinerary – Top things to do in Fes, Morocco

Welcome to Fes – the cultural and spiritual centre of Morocco. It’s hectic, chaotic and intense in every possible way, and you’ll either find it thrilling or extremely exhausting. However, it’s a city of well-preserved traditions and handicraft industries and one of the most exciting places to visit in Morocco. One day in Fes will be a perfect trip for first-time visitors to explore its frenetic Medina, immerse themselves in the local way of life and, finally, leave with some very strong impressions.

One day in Fes itinerary

 

What’s the best time to visit Fes?

Morocco is a year-round destination, which means you can visit Fes pretty much whenever you want. However, when it comes to the weather conditions here, some months can be more enjoyable for your stay than others. The period from November to March is likely to be chilly, especially at night, but it’s still a great time to escape cold European winters and enjoy temperatures of up to 18°C (64°F) during the day. Pleasant average temperatures occur from April to June and September to October. Summer can be unbearably hot, so in case you cannot stand extremely high temperatures, don’t even think of traveling then.

Traveling at the time of Ramadan (the ninth month in the Islamic calendar), when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, can bring you a slightly different experience since many restaurants and bars operate on a different schedule at that time.

Fes
Fes, Author: just_a_cheeseburger, Source: Flickr

 

A few facts about Fes

Fes is the second largest city in Morocco, located in the northern inland part of the country.

The city was founded in the 8th century by the Idrisid dynasty. In the 11th century it already had a great reputation for its madrasas (religious schools) and merchant activities. A century later, the expansive population growth made Fes the largest city in the world, with the number of people living there reaching 200 000. From the 13th to the 15th century, Fes regained the status of the country’s capital. Many of the city’s most famous landmarks, mosques and palaces were built during that time. During the 15th century, the Jewish quarter Mellah was built, since many Jewish migrants found their home in Fes. At the beginning of the 19th century, the city lost its influence and was no longer the capital.

Today, the medieval Medina (Old Town), known as Fes el Bali, is one of the best preserved old towns of the Arab-Muslim world, listed as a World Heritage Site.

Fes el Bali
Fes el Bali, Author: Mike Prince, Source: Flickr

 

One Day in Fes Itinerary

Top things to do in Fes, Morocco

Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Fes.

 

Enjoy the best breakfast in town

There’s no better way to start your morning than eating a delicious breakfast. Out of many restaurants scattered around the city, one small eatery stands out. Made in M is a charming and cozy place with outstanding décor and peculiar ambience offering several breakfast options. Their food can be described as a fusion of European and Moroccan. It’s more of a tourist spot than a local place, but expect nothing but great food and extraordinary hospitality.

 

Wander the streets of Fes el Bali

Nothing beats the atmosphere of the streets in Fes Medina. The fusion of sounds, aromas and colors – it’s almost enough just to wander its labyrinths and do nothing but indulge in all that scenery. Fes el Bali is one of the world’s largest urban pedestrian zones, which means you don’t have to worry about cars. However, the streets are narrow and crowded and besides all the tourist and local crowds, bikes and scooters, you’ll find mules and donkeys transporting goods like in the old times. It’s really not hard to get lost in the medieval labyrinth layout of the Old Town, so in case you want to stay on a familiar route stick to the two main shopping streets – Talaa Seghira and Talaa Kebira. In case you’re wondering about the souks (markets), they are everywhere around you. Discover the local craftsmanship and buy unique Moroccan souvenirs like colorful carpets, ornate pottery, natural beauty products, argan oil, Moroccan spices and leather babouche slippers among many others. Products are similar to those in Marrakesh souks, but can be purchased for lower prices. Some products can be found at fixed prices, but buying at the souks usually requires some haggling skills.

Moroccan Spices
Moroccan Spices, Author: just_a_cheeseburger, Source: Flickr
Babouche Slippers
Babouche Slippers, Author: just_a_cheeseburger, Source: Flickr

 

Pay a visit to one of the Madrasas

Besides mosques, there are many other religious and cultural sights inside Medina. You should definitely pay a visit to one of the two historical Islamic colleges – Madrasa al-Attarine and Bou Inania Madrasa. Since you only have one day in Fes, there’s no need to visit both, but definitely take some time to explore one of them. They’re both impressive and pretty similar with their intricate carvings, beautiful zellij (colorful tilework) and plastic work with Koranic verses all over the inner courtyard. Make sure to visit the upper floor where you’ll find student rooms that overlook the courtyard. Bou Inania Madrasa is the only madrasa in Fes with a minaret, and this can be seen from many restaurant rooftops around. Muslims can also visit the impressive University of Al Quaraouiyine – the world’s oldest existing educational institution.

Madrasa Al-Attarine
Madrasa Al-Attarine, Author: just_a_cheeseburger, Source: Flickr

 

Check out the Bab Boujeloud

In case you follow one of the two main streets (Talaa Seghira and Talaa Kebira), you’ll eventually  end up at the Blue Gates (Bab Boujeloud). It’s a relatively new gate to Medina, built in 1913. Admire the stunning archways from both sides – the tiles facing Medina are green, since it’s the color of Islam, and those facing the street are blue, which is the color of Fes.

 

Stop for lunch at the Nagham café

There’s plenty of restaurants and street food vendors in the Old Town of Fes. While the bustling streets can be exciting for a while, most people prefer to eat in a less hectic atmosphere. That’s why many restaurants offer rooftop terraces where you can enjoy your meal while looking over the city below. Head to the Nagham café right next to the Blue Gate and enjoy their fusion of Moroccan and western dishes with a panoramic view of Medina. They serve one of the best Tajines in town with several different types to choose from.

Hold your breath and visit the Chouara Tannery

One of the most interesting attractions in Fes is the Chouara Tannery – the oldest one in the world that still operates. It’s pretty hard to reach the tannery since it’s completely surrounded by private buildings, mostly leather shops, which means you’ll have to enter a shop to see the tannery. However, you’re not obligated to buy anything (even though the vendors can be pushy), so feel free to check out the dying process from any of the shop terraces. The tannery dates back to the 11th century and still uses the old process of dyeing leather. Stone vessels are filled with dyes and liquids like pigeon droppings and cow urine, so be prepared for an unbearable odor. Luckily, most of the vendors will provide you a fresh mint to cover the smell by putting it under your nose.

Chouwara Tannery
Chouwara Tannery, Author: Mike Prince, Source: Flickr
Chouara Tannery
Chouara Tannery, Author: just_a_cheeseburger, Source: Flickr

 

Relax at the Jnan Sbil Garden

Busy streets can be overwhelming, so it’s time to leave Medina for a while. Luckily, not far from the Medina walls, you’ll find the lovely Jnan Sbil Garden, a green oasis and a place of calmness. Perfect to cool off in the summer heat and relax by the lake – the locals simply love to spend their time here. Commissioned by Sultan Moulay Abdallah, these lush gardens are more than a century old, but have been recently fully renovated to their former splendor.

Bou Jeloud Gardens
Bou Jeloud Gardens, Author: just_a_cheeseburger, Source: Flickr

 

Hike up the Marinid Tombs for a spectacular panoramic view

There’s one particular point from which you can have the most beautiful panoramic view of Fes. Take a gentle 30-minute hike to the top, and you’ll get to the Marinid Tombs, the ruins of two monumental tombs with large horseshoe-arch entrances. It’s still a mystery for whom they were build and who was buried there, but it’s assumed they were members of a royal family. Today, the place is famous for the scenic view over the Fes Medina that gets especially beautiful at sunset. On your way to the Marinid Tombs, you can stop at Borj Nord, an old fort that houses a museum of weapons and armor from different eras.

View from the Merinid tombs
View from the Merinid tombs, Author: Mike Prince, Source: Flickr

 

Dinner at the Café Clock

Fes is just as lively at night as it is during the day. The locals gather around the city’s squares, kids play on the street and young folks smoke shisha in popular rooftop bars. It’s really the best time to chill on outdoor terraces and enjoy the vibrant night atmosphere. Café Clock is one of the most famous restaurants with outdoor seating on several levels and beautiful views of the Medina rooftops and Bou Inania Madrasa minaret. The restaurant has an extensive menu so that everyone can find something for their taste. Their Falafel with hummus and tabbouleh is absolutely delicious.

Cafe Clock terrace view
Cafe Clock terrace view, Author: just_a_cheeseburger, Source: Flickr
Madrasa Bou Inania
Madrasa Bou Inania, Author: Just Booked A Trip, Source: Flickr

 

Where to stay in Fes?

 

Riad Palais Bahia Fes

With its inner courtyard, beautiful rooms and a fantastic terrace with an even better view of the city, Riad Palais Bahia Fes is a place you want to book if you want to enjoy a dash of luxury with your accommodation. Air-conditioned rooms come with a minibar, and the riad even has its own outdoor pool and a spa and a wellness centre, so rest and relaxation are pretty much guaranteed.

Book here
Riad Palais Bahia Fes
Riad Palais Bahia Fes
Riad Palais Bahia Fes Room
Riad Palais Bahia Fes Room

 

Hotel & Spa Dar Bensouda

Hotel & Spa Dar Bensouda is a perfect place for people who are looking for a comfortable stay at the very heart of Fes’ Medina. Huge and brightly coloured rooms are full of natural light, and you only have to step out of the building to get a feel of the city’s pulse. Furthermore, a traditional Moroccan tent is set up on the roof terrace, plus you get an incredible view of the Atlas Mountains from here. What more could you ask for?

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Hotel & Spa Dar Bensouda
Hotel & Spa Dar Bensouda
Hotel & Spa Dar Bensouda Room
Hotel & Spa Dar Bensouda Room

 

Riad Toyour – Riad of birds

If you want something peaceful, relaxing and slightly secluded, Riad Toyour – Riad of birds is the place you need to stay in. They offer three types of breakfast (continental, vegetarian and halal), plus the restaurant serves some excellent Moroccan dishes, so you can bet your life you won’t be hungry here. But the most impressive thing is the beautiful garden where you can truly relax and take a moment to realize you’re actually in Morocco.

Book here
Riad Toyour- Riad of birds
Riad Toyour- Riad of birds
Riad Toyour- Riad of birds Room
Riad Toyour- Riad of birds Room

 

Riad Andalib

Riad Andalib has a whole lot of aces up its sleeve. A huge terrace houses a restaurant (El Panorama) from which the whole city can be seen. You’ll definitely have some memorable meals here. But there is also another restaurant here with many Moroccan specialities. After a beautiful dinner, you can also grab a drink at the bar. But the best part of staying here is the location – right in Fes Medina! Booking a stay here means experiencing the essence of this city.

Book here
Riad Andalib
Riad Andalib
Riad Andalib Room
Riad Andalib Room
Find the Best Hotel Deals in Fes

 

Extra tips for visiting Fes

In case you plan to spend only one day in Fes, make sure it’s not Friday, since this is a holy day for Muslims and you’ll find most of the souks closed.

Always check the weather forecast before traveling. Temperatures can be unpredictable, especially at night.

You can easily get lost wandering the streets of Medina. However, if anyone approaches you and kindly offers help, rather ignore him. The so-called false guides will either direct you to a shop where they earn commission or they’ll just tour you around and then ask for money. Don’t give them any attention and they’ll eventually give up.

Crowded Medina streets give pickpockets plenty of opportunities to operate. Stay on guard and keep your valuable belongings in secure places.

If you’re traveling by bus, always make a seat reservation at least day in advance.

Besides Arabic, many people speak French. Older people usually don’t speak English, but it is developing among younger generations. Vendors and people who work with tourists usually have some basic knowledge of English.

Always negotiate the taxi fare before you get into one. It requires some bargaining skills, but it’s the only way not to end up being ripped off.

To show respect for their culture and avoid harassment, you should dress modestly and avoid bare shoulders, bare backs and short skirts.

 

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How to see Fes, Morocco in one dayBest of Fes, Morocco - What to do and where to stay

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