Fes rocked our world. The Medinas of Casablanca and Rabat could not prepare us for what was in store in Fes. With no solid game plan for what to see in Fes, we were happy to book a private guide to take us around the city.
Normally we are against going on guided tours and prefer to experience a city for ourselves. However, we were on a time restraint. Since our trip to Rabat was extended, we did not arrive in Fes until the late afternoon. After settling into our Riad, it was already night time and we were ready for dinner.
With just one full day remaining in Fes and wanting to see as much as the confusing streets of the Medina as possible, we were offered a tour guide by our hosts. We accepted and thought it would be a great way to maximize our time and see as much as we could. Plus after stepping into the Medina for the first time, it was obvious that we would need help.
It was well worth it. Our guide showed us a lot of great spots in the Medina that we would likely not be able to find in a day. Even if you are staying for more than two days in Fes, we would still recommend that you get a private guide for the first day to help you with navigating the Medina. It is massive and the alleyways range from great streets lined with vendors to tiny corridors you need to crouch down to walk through.
From the tannery to the various carpet shops we visited, the Medina was a treat on all of the senses. This is what we were looking for when we visited Morocco.
What to See in Fes, Morocco
Two Days in Fes Itinerary
- Arrived in Fes by train and settled into Riad in the Medina.
- Explored the surrounding area to get a feel for the Medina.
- Hired a guide to take us through the Medina.
- Visited Bou Inania Madrasa, Bab Bou Jeloud (Blue Gate), the Royal Palace, Zaouia de Moulay Idriss, Borj Sud, Tannery, carpet shops, weaving shops, and so much more within the Medina and outside.
- Dinner at Cafe Clock.
What We Did
Bab Bou Jeloud (Blue Gate)
Bou Inania Madrasa
Zaouia de Moulay Idriss
We had already walked through two Medinas, the old quarters of the city, while in Morocco. Casablanca’s Medina was underwhelming, but a good introduction for what to expect. Rabat’s Medina was a lovely stroll through the main street of souvenir shops, but was mostly wide open and a straight run that would be difficult to get lost in. Fes’ Medina was a whole other beast.
How confusing it would be to navigate this Medina would be an understatement. We were fortunate to have hired our tour guide for the day to make the most of our time in Fes. It would have been fun to try it the next day for ourselves, but we never really had the chance.
The Medina is a labyrinth of streets and alleyways connecting one another as they pass through residences, storefronts, restaurants, fountains, mosques, education centers, and so much more. There is no lack of things you can see and do while here. Everything we list below is in and around the Medina and Fes.
Simply a royal palace in Fes, one of the many throughout the country. But it is an incredible place for a wonderful photo in front of the gold gates. There are crowds around these gates waiting their turn for a photo, so we suggest showing up early to this one.
The main western gate is beautifully decorated and colored blue. Another wonderful photo opportunity for anyone interested in an Instagram worthy background.
This education center began before the common era and is a wonderful example of lovely architecture from that era and history as you walk around the grounds. It is also a great place to go with a guide as our guide was able to explain things to us that we would not have even known. Another reason why a guide can be extremely valuable.
Another incredible historic place filled with spirituality. You cannot enter, but you can see the ornate decorations and wonderful architecture looking from the outside. This is a place you need to experience and peer into this part of life of Moroccans.
A wonderful view of just how incredible and vast the Medina of Fes stretches. Maybe try doing this at sunrise to see what you are getting into before you try to wander the Medina.
I had always wanted to visit this place since I saw the Departures episode when Scott Wilson and Justin Lukach visited this place. I kept on asking our tour guide when we were going to see it. Finally, it came later in the journey. However, the wait was well worth it.
I stood on the balcony looking out at the tannery and all of the workers for almost the whole time. Just observing and taking as much photos and video as I could. This is the main reason why I wanted to visit. The place stinks. A lot. When you enter, they provide you with some mint leaves to help you mask the smell.
Visiting is more of a sales pitch than anything, so if you are not interested in being followed by a salesperson and being explained the process of how they make the leather, this is not for you. I was totally fine with having somebody speaking in my ear as I admired the view below the balcony.
Afterwards, we walked around the store and saw all of the different leather products that they make. Bags, chairs, jackets, shoes, and what seems like anything you can think of.
I am not big on leather, but after seeing that Moroccans literally use every piece of the animal (including eating the brains, this is a delicacy) and how I probably wont be able to be back to get something, I walked out of there with a leather jacket that I treasure to this day.
Our tour guide took us to various shops, and though at times it seemed like the tour was a long sale (I’m sure our tour guide got some sort of cut of what his guests spent, though we never ever felt pressure to spend any money and mostly did not), we were very happy with what we were shown. Alleyways that we would not have seen without our guide and streets lined with vendors that seemed impossible to get back to by ourselves.
Among the shops we entered were carpet shops that sold incredibly decorated rugs, metal workers who decorated plates and other dishes before your eyes, weavers making shawls, and so much more.
Everything is made in the Medina and you can even watch as they do their work right in front of you. It creates quite an amazing feeling should you be an avid souvenir shopper. Buying something that you saw get put together by magnificent craftsmen is a great experience that you can display at your home and share with your friends and family.
What We Missed
More Time to Explore the Medina
Really we could have used more time to explore this place. Much more time. One full day is not enough to do anything anywhere, but we were able to maximize our time by hiring somebody that knew their way around the Medina. If we were to visit again we would wander around the place for ourselves. Get lost, enjoy some more mint tea in a cafe, find more restaurants, watch the artisans do their thing, and just be among it all.
There is really weeks worth of enjoying this place that you could endure without getting bored of it. It is not an overwhelming place crowded with people, though you definitely will run into some of those spots. It is a place full of everything you might want and expect out of Morocco. The good and the bad.
This is what we were also recommended to do by our hosts. A hammam is a Moroccan spa. But it is unlike any spa that you may know of back home. They really work you here apparently. It involves being bathed and scrubbed until your body cannot handle it anymore, as well as a massage. I cannot really go into detail about what they are all about as we only tried one in Chefchaouen and we cannot really say that was a hammam that we experienced. But more on that in our next post.
If you want a detailed experience of a hammam, check out Dave and Deb’s hammam experience here.
Where to Eat in Fes
What We Did
We loved this place! The food was delicious. Well for me at least. I ordered a chicken dish whereas Natalie ordered a couscous dish despite never having tried it. It turns out she does not like couscous and I could not finish what was on her plate for her.
On our way out to pay, they stopped us before we were about to pay at the front desk and asked us if we really did enjoy our meal. This was after ensuring our waiter that we did enjoy our meal. Again, we told them that we really did enjoy the meal. The manager did not believe us unfortunately and insisted that we stayed to try a dessert on the house. In fact, he basically stopped short of forcing us to stay there to try the dessert to make up for us not enjoying the couscous.
It was just one of the fine examples of Moroccan hospitality. We enjoyed the dinner and dessert so much that we showed up the next morning for breakfast.
The cafe is a flight of four stories. We were on the rooftop at the highest point looking out at the city at night and enjoying each other’s company and those around us in the busy cafe. This place really a great restaurant to visit while in Fes.
Unfortunately we did not keep track of the restaurant that we visited with our tour guide. This place was a lovely traditional Moroccan restaurant where our guide took the lead and told us what we needed to order. The interior was all white and the tables were wonderfully decorated. It was a bit on the pricey side compared to what we would like to pay while traveling on a budget, but we were willing to partake in the Moroccan delicacies including meat skewers and tajines that were on the menu.
What We Missed
This was our Riad that we stayed at for two nights. We did not know how good their food was, but it seems that they are rated fairly high on Trip Advisor. Perhaps they would have been a good place to try for dinner. We did try their simple breakfast that they provided us in the morning and were not blown away by it, but maybe their dinner is what you need to try.
If you want a recommendation on where to go for food, ask your hosts or a local where they eat. They are sure to provide many places that you can visit within the Medina walls. There really is a wealth of places that will amaze you and blow your taste buds away.
Where to Shop in Fes
Everything is in the Medina in Fes. Actually, besides going to see an outlook of the entire Medina and the Royal Palace, we never left the walls of the Medina. If you want to buy any souvenirs to take back home with you, there is no better place to do that then here.
We wont go into more detail about what you can see and buy while in the Medina as we talked about it earlier in this post. Just know that you will be able to find all the souvenirs you might want within the Medina.
How to Get Around Fes
Once you are in the Medina in Fes, there is no grabbing a taxi or finding parking for your car. It is primarily on foot that you will get around. It was even difficult for our taxi driver from the train station to find our Riad and he could only get past the gate to a small roundabout just inside the Medina. It was this place that we used as a landmark to get back to our Riad at night.
We recommend that you find a landmark close to the place you stay when in the Medina. The closest open area is best as they are far and few between, but a fountain or storefront that looks unique at first glance may not be so unique once you pass through more of the Medina.
Walking is the only way through the Medina, but should you want to get outside of the Medina then you can hail a taxi. We had no problems taking taxis during our stay in Morocco. The red taxis are the ones you are on the lookout for. Of course always be safe when choosing a taxi and make sure that they have a meter that they use. Obvious travel safety tips are in effect wherever you travel to.
Where to Stay in Fes
- Riad Jardin Chrifa
We stayed at this Riad just inside the walls of the Medina while in Fes. A Riad is a is basically a place to stay that has a courtyard and garden. It makes for a lovely place to stay when you can look out your window into a peaceful area to sit and enjoy a meal.
Our Riad included a simple breakfast that we enjoyed by the courtyard in the morning. When we arrived, it did seem that our hosts were unprepared for us and “moved” us up to a better room, though it definitely was not. We were happy to just be able to drop our stuff off and grab a bite to eat anyways.
Our hosts were very much willing to let us know what we could do the following day and we were happy to book our tour guide through them. They also recommended visiting a hammam, but did not end up having the time to do this.
There are several other Riads available throughout the Medina that you can look into a book for your next trip.
Two Days in Fes, Morocco
The Medina of Fes is something that cannot be described in words, pictures just do not do it justice, and a video is only the start of showing you what it feels like to wander this place. It is really that incredible.
I even felt the need to walk with a string falling out of my back pocket so I knew how to get back to our Riad. When we first arrived, I even used my phone to write down what turns we took from the roundabout where our taxi first dropped us off.
More than five small groups of travelers approached our guide throughout the day to ask for directions. Ways to escape the labyrinth that is the Medina of Fes. It is wonderfully exhilarating wandering the twists and turns and finding a decorated fountain or crowded street lined with butchers and artisans.
This is a must-visit destination when planning your trip to Morocco. Do not miss out on the wonders of Fes.
We would love to hear about your experience while in Fes or to answer any questions you may have about your future trip. Leave a comment below!