Fes (also known as Fez) is a city in northern Morocco, located about 240 km (149 mi) northeast of the country’s capital, Rabat. It is one of the country’s largest and oldest cities, known for its rich history, culture, and architecture. Fes is home to many landmarks and attractions, including the ancient walled city known as the Fes el-Bali, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although Fes is one of Morocco’s largest cities and an extremely popular tourist destination, it is much smaller, less crowded and less touristy than other large cities such as Casablanca, Marrakech or Tangier. This can make visitors feel more manageable, less overwhelming and provide a more authentic experience.
Fes has a rich history that dates back to the 9th century. It was founded by Idris I, the first ruler of the Idrisid dynasty, and served as Morocco’s capital for several centuries. The city grew in importance as a center of Islamic learning and culture, and it became known for its mosques, madrasas, and palaces. Fes also played a key role in the development of Moroccan arts and crafts, including ceramics, textiles, and calligraphy. Today, the city remains a cultural and intellectual center of Morocco, and its well-preserved historic quarter, the Fes el-Bali.
Fes is known for its distinctive architecture, which reflects the city’s history and cultural heritage. Some of the key architectural features of Fes include:
- Islamic motifs: Fes is home to many mosques and religious buildings, and its architecture is heavily influenced by Islamic motifs and designs. This includes geometric patterns, calligraphy, and intricate tilework.
- Andalusian style: Fes was heavily influenced by Andalusian architecture, which originated in southern Spain. This style features arches, courtyards, and decorative tiles, and it is often seen in Fes’ palaces and mansions.
- Madrasas: Fes is famous for its madrasas, which are Islamic schools that feature beautiful architecture and design. These buildings often include courtyards, fountains, and intricate tilework.
- Riads: Fes is home to many riads, which are traditional Moroccan houses with an interior courtyard or garden. Riads often feature decorative tilework, carved plaster, and painted wood.
- City walls: Fes is surrounded by walls that date back to the 12th century. These walls are made of adobe and are decorated with towers and gates, making them an important part of the city’s architectural heritage.
Overall, Fes’ architecture is a unique blend of Islamic, Andalusian, and Moroccan styles, with a focus on intricate designs, decorative tilework, and beautiful courtyards and gardens.
Museums and Galleries
Fes is home to several notable museums and galleries that offer visitors a glimpse into Moroccan art, history, and culture. Here are some notable museums and galleries in Fes:
- Dar Batha Museum: This museum is housed in a beautiful 19th-century palace and features traditional Moroccan arts and crafts, including ceramics, textiles, and woodwork.
- Nejjarine Museum of Wood Arts and Crafts: This museum is located in a restored 18th-century caravanserai and features exhibits on traditional Moroccan woodworking and carpentry.
- Belghazi Museum: This museum is housed in a 19th-century palace and features a collection of Moroccan art, including ceramics, textiles, and calligraphy.
- Dar El-Najjarine: This museum is located in a beautifully restored 18th-century fondouk (caravanserai) and features exhibits on traditional Moroccan arts and crafts, including woodwork and ceramics.
- Bou Inania Madrasa Museum: This museum is housed in a beautiful madrasa (Islamic school) and features exhibits on Islamic art and architecture.
- Fondation Farid Belkahia: This contemporary art gallery is housed in a 19th-century palace and features exhibits by Moroccan artists, including Farid Belkahia.
- Attarine Medersa Museum: This museum is housed in a 14th-century Islamic school and features exhibits on Islamic art and architecture.
Landmarks and Monuments
Fes is home to many landmarks and monuments that reflect this heritage. Here are some of the most interesting landmarks and monuments in Fes:
- Bou Inania Madrasa: This stunning Islamic school dates back to the 14th century and is one of the most impressive architectural sites in Fes. It features intricate tilework, carved plaster, and beautiful calligraphy.
- Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and University: Founded in the 9th century, this is one of the oldest universities in the world and is still in operation today. The mosque and university are renowned for their beautiful architecture and design.
- Bab Boujloud Gate: This monumental gate marks the entrance to the old city of Fes and is a popular spot for photos. It features beautiful tilework and intricate carvings.
- Dar Batha Palace: This beautiful 19th-century palace houses the Dar Batha Museum and features traditional Moroccan architecture, including a central courtyard and beautiful tilework.
- Chouara Tannery: This is one of the oldest tanneries in the world and is a popular tourist attraction in Fes. Visitors can watch workers dye and prepare leather using traditional methods.
- Mellah: This historic Jewish quarter features beautiful architecture and a rich history. It is home to several synagogues, including the Ibn Danan Synagogue, which dates back to the 17th century.
- Borj Nord: This fortress dates back to the 16th century and was used to defend Fes from invading forces. It features beautiful views of the city and is now home to a museum.
Overall, visitors to Fes can explore stunning Islamic architecture, learn about traditional arts and crafts, and discover the city’s colorful history and culture.
Parks and Green Spaces
Fes is a lively city, but it also offers visitors some respite from the busy streets with its beautiful parks and green spaces. Here are some of the most famous parks and green spaces worth visiting in Fes:
- Jnan Sbil Gardens: This beautiful park is located in the heart of Fes and is home to a variety of plants, trees, and flowers. It features a central pond, walking paths, and a playground.
- Bou Jeloud Gardens: These gardens are located near the Bab Boujloud Gate and offer a peaceful escape from the busy streets of Fes. They feature walking paths, benches, and beautiful greenery.
- Ibn Danan Synagogue Gardens: Located next to the historic Ibn Danan Synagogue, these gardens feature beautiful flowers and plants and offer a tranquil setting for visitors.
- Ain Azliten Park: This park is located on the outskirts of Fes and features a large pond, walking paths, and a playground. It is a popular spot for families and picnics.
- Royal Palace Gardens: While the Royal Palace is not open to the public, visitors can still enjoy the beautiful gardens that surround it. The gardens feature beautiful flowers and fountains.
- Sidi Bouzid Gardens: This park is located near the Bab Bou Jeloud Gate and features beautiful greenery and walking paths. It is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.
- Atlas Golf Resort: While this is primarily a golf resort, it also features beautiful gardens and greenery. Visitors can enjoy a round of golf or simply stroll through the gardens.
From tranquil gardens to bustling parks, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Fes.
While Fes is an inland city, located in the heart of Morocco, and does not have any beaches nearby, it still has a beautiful coastline with many beaches worth visiting. The nearest beaches to Fes are located on the Atlantic coast, which is approximately a three-hour drive from the city. For example, the popular coastal town of Essaouira is around 200 kilometers from Fes, and it takes about three and a half hours to get there by car. Other nearby beaches include Oualidia, which is about a four-hour drive from Fes, and El Jadida, which is about a two and a half hour drive away. While these beaches are not in close proximity to Fes, they are still worth visiting for those who have the time to explore the beautiful Moroccan coastline:
- Saïdia Beach: Located on the Mediterranean coast, Saïdia Beach is known as the “Blue Pearl” of Morocco for its clear blue waters. It’s a popular spot for swimming and water sports.
- Legzira Beach: Located on the Atlantic coast, Legzira Beach is known for its stunning red cliffs and natural rock arches. It’s a great spot for hiking and taking in the natural beauty of Morocco’s coast.
- Taghazout Beach: This beach is located near the town of Taghazout and is known for its excellent surf. It’s a popular spot for surfers from around the world.
- Asilah Beach: This beautiful beach is located in the town of Asilah and features golden sand and clear waters. It’s a great spot for swimming and sunbathing.
- Essaouira Beach: Located on the Atlantic coast, Essaouira Beach is a popular spot for windsurfing and kiteboarding. It’s also known for its beautiful sunsets.
- El Jadida Beach: This beach is located near the town of El Jadida and features a long stretch of sandy beach. It’s a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing.
- Moulay Bousselham Beach: This beach is located near the town of Moulay Bousselham and is known for its calm waters and beautiful scenery. It’s a great spot for birdwatching and fishing.
- Martil Beach: Located on the Mediterranean coast, Martil Beach is a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing. It’s known for its clean water and soft sand.
- Plage Blanche: Located on the Atlantic coast, Plage Blanche is known for its stunning white sand dunes and clear blue waters. It’s a great spot for camping and taking in the natural beauty of Morocco’s coast.
- Tafedna Beach: This beach is located near the village of Tafedna and is known for its stunning natural scenery. It’s a great spot for hiking and exploring the nearby cliffs and rock formations.
Fes is famous for its traditional markets, or souks, which offer a unique shopping experience for visitors. Here are some of the best shopping districts in Fes:
- Medina of Fes: The Medina of Fes is the old city, and it is home to many traditional souks. Visitors can find a wide range of goods here, from textiles and pottery to jewelry and spices.
- Bab Boujloud: This gateway to the Medina is a popular spot for shopping. Visitors can find a variety of goods, including traditional Moroccan clothing, leather goods, and handmade crafts.
- Talaa Kebira: This street in the Medina is known for its souks, which offer a wide range of goods, including spices, textiles, and traditional Moroccan pottery.
- Mellah: This district was historically the Jewish quarter of Fes, and it is now a popular spot for shopping. Visitors can find a variety of goods here, including textiles, jewelry, and spices.
- Ville Nouvelle: This district, located outside of the Medina, is home to many modern shops and boutiques. Visitors can find a variety of goods here, from clothing and accessories to electronics and home goods.
Overall, from the handmade crafts to the modern shops, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for traditional Moroccan goods or modern fashion, Fes has it all.
Food and Drink
Fes is a city in Morocco that is famous for its rich culinary traditions. Here are some of the top foods and drinks to try when visiting Fes:
- Tagine: Tagine is a slow-cooked stew that is traditionally made with meat and vegetables, and cooked in a clay pot. It is one of the most famous Moroccan dishes and is a must-try when in Fes.
- Couscous: Couscous is a staple food in Morocco and is often served with meat or vegetables. It is a delicious and filling dish that is perfect for lunch or dinner.
- Pastilla: Pastilla is a sweet and savory pastry that is filled with chicken, almonds, and spices. It is a popular dish in Fes and is often served during special occasions.
- Harira: Harira is a traditional Moroccan soup that is made with lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, and spices. It is often served during Ramadan and is a comforting and hearty dish.
- Mint tea: Mint tea is a traditional Moroccan drink that is made with green tea and fresh mint leaves. It is a refreshing and delicious drink that is often served with sweet pastries.
- Khobz: Khobz is a type of Moroccan bread that is served with almost every meal. It is a thick, round, and crusty bread that is perfect for soaking up sauces and stews.
- Msemen: Msemen is a Moroccan pancake that is made with flour, semolina, and butter. It is often served for breakfast or as a snack, and is best eaten warm with honey or jam.
Visitors should not miss the opportunity to try these delicious and unique dishes in Fes. From tagine and couscous to pastilla and mint tea, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Fes is a beautiful and historic city in Morocco, and there are several ways to move around the city. Here are some of the best ways to get around Fes:
- Walking: Fes is a pedestrian-friendly city, and walking is one of the best ways to explore its winding streets and alleys. The city’s medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it’s best explored on foot. Walking also allows visitors to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the city.
- Taxis: Taxis are a convenient way to get around Fes, especially if you’re traveling longer distances or carrying heavy bags. Taxis in Fes are generally inexpensive, but it’s important to negotiate the fare before getting in.
- Horse-drawn carriages: Horse-drawn carriages, or caleches, are a traditional way to explore Fes. They can be found near the main entrances to the medina, and are a fun and romantic way to see the city.
- Buses: Fes has a public bus system, but it can be confusing for visitors who don’t speak Arabic or French. Buses can be crowded and slow, but they are an inexpensive way to get around the city.
- Private tours: Private tours are a great way to explore Fes and its surroundings. There are many companies that offer tours of the city’s medina, as well as trips to nearby attractions like the Roman ruins of Volubilis.
Overall, there are many ways to move around Fes, and visitors should choose the method that best suits their needs and preferences. Whether it’s walking, taking a taxi or a horse-drawn carriage, or joining a private tour, there’s no shortage of ways to explore this beautiful city.
Fes, like any city, has its share of safety concerns, but it is generally a safe place to visit. Visitors should take normal precautions to avoid becoming victims of crime, such as staying in well-lit and populated areas, not flashing valuables, and being aware of their surroundings.
Pickpocketing is a common problem in Fes, especially in crowded areas like markets and bus stations. Visitors should keep their belongings close and be wary of anyone who seems to be getting too close.
In addition, there have been some reports of harassment and assault of women, particularly in the medina. Female visitors should dress modestly and consider traveling in a group or with a male companion.
Overall, with common sense and good judgment, visitors should have a safe and enjoyable time in Fes. It’s always a good idea to stay informed about local safety concerns and to take steps to protect yourself and your belongings while traveling.
Expensive or Cheap
Fes is generally considered to be an affordable travel destination, especially compared to many Western cities. The cost of living in Fes is relatively low, and visitors can find a range of accommodation options, from budget hostels to luxury hotels.
Food and drink are also reasonably priced in Fes. Traditional Moroccan dishes like tagine and couscous can be found for relatively low prices in local restaurants and cafes. Street food is also a popular and inexpensive option.
Shopping in Fes can be a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to pricing. While the city’s souks and markets offer many unique and handmade items at relatively low prices, it’s important to be aware of haggling and negotiation culture to ensure you get a fair price.
Overall, while prices in Fes can vary depending on what you’re looking for and where you go, it is generally considered to be an affordable destination for travelers.
Best Time to Travel
The best time to travel to Fes is during the spring (March to May) or the fall (September to November). During these months, the weather is mild and comfortable, with average temperatures in the mid to high 20s Celsius (70s to low 80s Fahrenheit).
The summer months (June to August) can be very hot, with temperatures often reaching into the 30s Celsius (high 80s to low 90s Fahrenheit). This can make sightseeing and exploring the city less enjoyable, especially during the midday heat.
Winters (December to February) in Fes can be quite cold, with temperatures sometimes dropping to freezing at night. While snow is rare in Fes, it can occur occasionally during the winter months.
It’s also worth noting that Fes can be busy with tourists during peak travel season (June to August and December to January), so visitors may want to consider traveling during the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) for a quieter and more affordable experience.
Date Ideas and Activities
Fes offers many unique and memorable experiences for couples. Here are some date ideas, activities, and experiences to consider in Fes:
- Take a romantic stroll through the medina: Fes’ medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the largest pedestrian-only zones in the world. It’s a maze-like area with many hidden gems, including beautiful architecture and colorful markets.
- Visit the Bou Inania Madrasa: This 14th-century Islamic school is a stunning example of Moroccan architecture, featuring intricate tile work, carved stucco, and a peaceful courtyard.
- Enjoy a traditional Moroccan hammam: A hammam is a traditional Moroccan spa experience that involves steam rooms, exfoliation, and massages. It’s a relaxing and rejuvenating experience to share with your partner.
- Watch the sunset from Borj Nord: This fortress offers a stunning panoramic view of the city, and watching the sunset with your partner is a romantic experience you won’t forget.
- Explore the Fes Jdid district: This part of the city is less touristy than the medina, but still offers many interesting sights, including the Royal Palace and the Jewish Quarter.
- Take a cooking class: Moroccan cuisine is renowned for its use of spices and complex flavors, and taking a cooking class together is a fun and educational way to learn about local food culture.
- Visit the tanneries: The Fes tanneries are a unique and colorful sight, and taking a tour with your partner can be an interesting and memorable experience.
- Listen to traditional music: Fes is known for its traditional music, which can be heard in many places throughout the city. Take a break from sightseeing and relax to the sounds of local musicians.
- Take a day trip to Meknes: This nearby city is another Moroccan gem, with many historical and cultural attractions to explore.
- Attend a local festival: Fes hosts many festivals throughout the year, including the World Sacred Music Festival and the Fes Festival of Sufi Culture. These events are a great way to experience the city’s vibrant culture and traditions.
With so many sights and activities to choose from, there’s something for every couple in this historic Moroccan city.
Fun and Interesting Facts
Here are some fun and interesting facts about Fes that you might want to know:
- Fes is known for its intricate and beautiful tile work, which is called zellige. The city is home to some of the oldest and most well-preserved examples of zellige in the world.
- Fes is home to the oldest university in the world, the University of al-Qarawiyyin, which was founded in 859.
- The medina of Fes is one of the largest and most well-preserved medieval cities in the world, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Fes is known for its traditional leather tanneries, which have been operating in the same way for centuries.
- Fes is a center of Moroccan cuisine, and is particularly known for its spicy meat dishes, tagines, and couscous.
- The oldest existing library in the world, the Al-Qarawiyyin Library, is located in Fes and has been operating since the 9th century.
- Fes was founded in the 8th century and has been continuously inhabited since then.
- The city is home to a thriving arts and crafts scene, with many artisans specializing in ceramics, woodwork, and textiles.
- The streets of Fes are narrow and winding, and many are inaccessible to cars, making it a great city to explore on foot.
- Fes has a rich history of music, and is known for its traditional Andalusian-style music, which combines elements of Arab and Spanish music.
In conclusion, Fes is a city with a valuable history, unique culture, and many attractions for visitors to explore. From the ancient Medina and its historic landmarks, to the beautiful gardens and parks, to the delicious local cuisine and bustling markets, there is no shortage of things to see and experience in Fes. While it may not be as well-known as some other Moroccan cities, Fes offers a more authentic and less touristy experience, making it an excellent destination for those looking to immerse themselves in the local culture. With its welcoming people, stunning architecture, and vibrant atmosphere, Fes is truly a city worth visiting in Morocco.