Fes rivals Marrakech for the title of the most exotic city in Morocco. It is the spiritual capital of the country, and despite the encroachment of modernity, it has maintained its authentic appeal throughout the ages, maintaining its majestic appearance as an imperial city. Its minaret and its domed roofs and its timeless and ruined Islamic architecture are the best things to see for tourists.
The vultures of the culture will spend a day on the ground to stretch their necks along the narrow alleys of all the attractions of the monument. With historic buildings at every corner, it is a Moroccan metropolis not to be missed. Find the best places to visit in this colorful city with our list of the best attractions in Fez.
1. Medersa Bou Inania
Medersa Bou Inania was built between 1350 and 1357 by the Merenid Sultan Bou Inan. One of the few religious buildings in the city where non-Muslims can enter, the Medersa (madrassa – Islamic learning school) is a sumptuous architectural gem and one of the most beautiful buildings in Morocco.
Until the 1960s, this school of theology was still functioning and restoration efforts since then have restored its original beauty. The carved woodwork and stucco decoration are beautiful and pay tribute to Moroccan master craftsmen.
2. Medersa el-Attarine
Another example of beautiful merenid architecture, the Medersa el-Attarine was built in 1325 by Abu Said. The courtyard here is a wonderful exhibition of the intricate decoration of this period, with elaborate zellige tiles and cedar wood carvings. The upper floor is made up of a maze of cells that once housed students studying theology at Qaraouiyine Mosque (once one of the first universities in the world). If you go up on the roof, you can have a magnificent view of the green tile roof of the Qaraouiyine Mosque itself.
3. Fez el Bali
Fez el Bali is the district of the medina and the oldest district of the city. It is believed to be the largest intact medina in the world. The main gate of the area is Bab Boujloud . As you approach this great old gate, you get a magnificent view of the famous monument of the district: the minaret of the Medersa Bou Inania , which is just after the door Bab Boujloud.
Inside its walls, the rambling streets wind into two distinct neighborhoods, separated by a winding river. The left bank is home to the most historic monuments and the majority of shopping souks , while the right bank is perhaps poorer but full of local life and photogenic lanes. The right bank also has some interesting buildings to discover, including the Al-Andalus Mosque, built in 1321 and known for its prominent green and white minaret, which actually dates back to the 10th century.
Nearby you will find a variety of other interesting monuments, including an old fondouk (khan or caravanserai) and the ruined Medersa Sahrij . The entire old town is a delight for walkers, with many opportunities to explore and soak up the atmosphere of Fes life. Be aware that the area is hilly and the lanes are paved, so wear solid shoes.
4. Fez el Jedid
The Merenids built this “new city” in the 13th century, when they realized that Fez el Bali would be too small to contain their palaces. The rather large Royal Palace occupies center stage here (not open to the public) and behind it, mosques and medersas fill the crowd of alleys. There is a quiet air in this small part of the city, which lies between lively Fes el Bali and the European-style New Town , and it makes a peaceful and welcoming lull between these two faster worlds.
5. Souks and tanneries district
For buyers, Fes el Bali is a paradise of local craftsmanship, with colorful Moroccan slippers, leather goods, ironwork, rainbow glass lamps and tiles, all displayed on the stalls of the neighborhood .
The streets just west of Qaraouiyine Mosque have the greatest concentration of shopping opportunities. This is also where you can visit the famous Chouara tanneries of Fez, one of the best things to do in this area. Here, you can watch the traditional death of animal skins – the first step in the manufacture of many leather products from Morocco. The leather shops surrounding the tanneries offer a bird’s eye view of the area from their rooftops and are the best place to take photos.
The old atmospheric Mellah (Jewish quarter) is in Fes el Jedid, just north of the Royal Palace. Throughout this compact neighborhood, the streets are lined with beautiful examples (although very dilapidated) of houses of the early twentieth century, which once housed the vibrant Jewish community of Fez. The restored Aben-Danan synagogue can also be visited here. On the banks of the Mellah is the disjointed Jewish cemetery, one of the most tranquil places in the city, and a Jewish museum housing a collection of objects showcasing Moroccan Jewish life and culture.
7. Borj North and the Merenid Tombs
For the best views of Fez el Bali, climb the steep hill just outside the city walls in the Borj Nord area. Here you will find a 16th century fortress, which houses an impressive weapons museum . The weapons collection includes extremely rare pieces that represent armories around the world. In the middle of the cache is the five-meter long gun (weighing 12 tons) that was used during the Battle of the Three Kings.
After visiting the Weapons Museum, continue climbing up the hill to the top where there is a scattering of golden stone merenid tombs. Although the graves are now in ruins, you are here for the views, which cover all the walled medina and the green hills beyond.
8. Qaraouiyine Mosque
Built in 857 AD by Tunisian immigrants from the holy city of Kairouan, the Qaraouiyine Mosque was one of the most distinguished universities of the medieval period. Today, as a functioning mosque, it is one of the largest worship centers in Morocco , with a prayer room that can hold 20,000 people. The library is one of the oldest survivors in the world and contains more than 30,000 books. Among the collection is a 9th century Koran. The Fes el-Bali resort can not be penetrated by non-Muslims, but you can get an excellent view of the mosque from the roofs of nearby restaurants.
9. Batha Museum
The Batha Museum is housed in a Hispano-Moorish summer palace built in the late nineteenth century. The museum’s collection runs through a selection of traditional Moroccan handicrafts, with carved wooden doors, wrought iron work, embroidery, carpets and jewelery.
The centerpiece of the museum is the ceramics room, where the famous blue ceramics of Fez, colored with cobalt, are presented. More interesting than the stalls themselves is the original decoration of the building and the pretty interior garden, which is full of shady trees and tall palm trees and is a real oasis in the city.
10. Nejjarine Wood Museum
In the middle of the square Nejjarine, surrounded by metal workshops, you will find the Nejjarine museum in an old fondouk, which has been transformed into a museum presenting Moroccan arts and crafts in wood. Here, in the lounges where traders once slept on their city trips, displays of engraved granary doors, dowry boxes and window frames in mashrabiya (mosquito net). The central courtyard of the fondouk, with its robust pillars and balconies decorated with carved wood and stucco details, is worthy of the entrance fee and has been meticulously restored to its original glory.
11. Jnane Sbil Garden
For a break from the hustle and bustle of the Fez medina, head to these French gardens, which are just outside the walls of the medina, near the main entrance to the medina, Bab Boujloud. Jnane sbil gardens are well maintained and landscaped and offer a much needed green shot in the city. Do as the locals do and come here at sunset to wander the paths between the flower beds planted, the dripping fountains and the trees as the birds flock to the branches above.