the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around

Fes is the second largest city in Morocco and known as the cultural capital of the country. Located approximately 300 miles from Marrakech, it’s easy to slap Fes on your itinerary thanks to it’s accessibility. And, trust me, you don’t want to leave it out! As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Fes is one of the most well-preserved Arab cities with vast history, a buzzing medina, and plenty to keep you busy for 3+ days.

Fes seems to be a fan favourite. People who had been to Morocco before me had so many recommendations when I arrived. While at first, I didn’t love the city, I found the beauty in all of it retroactively and am still marveling at the historic sites I visited and all that I learned during my lengthy stay.


read on for the ultimate guide to fes


the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around

how to get to fes

FLYING: There are a number of direct flights into Fes. These are especially affordable if you are coming from European destinations like Spain or Portugal, which is what I did. There are also domestic flights within Morocco that fly into Fes from Casablanca and Marrakech.

BUSES: Buses are the easiest and the cheapest way to get around Morocco. Buses are the least comfortable option, but they are clean and are the best option for budget travelers. The most reputable bus company is definitely CTM. The ride will be bumpy and twisty, but you’ll get there and that’s what matters.

TRAINS: A close second for affordability, and sometimes more affordable depending on your destination, are trains. Trains in Morocco are clean and comfortable. This was easily my favourite way of getting around the country. I took trains to Casablanca and Marrakech and thoroughly enjoyed both journeys.

TRANSFER CAR/ TAXI: If you have a lot of wiggle room in your wallet and you want to splash out, hiring a car or using taxis to get from one city to Fes is doable. As if it weren’t obvious, this is incredibly spendy unless you are traveling with a group and can split the bill. Tangier Taxi is a reputable website to use if you want to book private cars for a set price. In the name of being transparent {as always}, I didn’t utilize taxis or private cars in between cities. Not only is the price astronomical, but it’s also not environmentally-minded.

the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around

getting around

Fes is almost entirely walkable, at least to get to all the major tourist stops. In fact, it’s probably easier to reach most sites on foot than it is any other way. For attractions a little further away, you can use local taxis. Uber has been very controversial in Morocco and has actually caused taxi drivers to chase Uber drivers with bats, smashing their car windows in and beating up the drivers. I avoided using the app because of this. While I never felt unsafe, I didn’t want to put myself in a violent position and believe it’s better to pay more for safety.

where to stay

Staying in the medina insures that all the major tourist stops are within walking distance. There are, however, more modern accommodation options available further out into the city. I stayed at Pension Kawtar, inside the medina. It was a sort of cross between a riad and a small hotel. The staff were friendly and attentive. I had a private room with an ensuite bathroom, linens, towels, and there was a rooftop terrace that had an awesome view of the city. It was also really affordable, which is always a plus in my book.

the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around
the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around

what to see + do

shop around the medina’s souk

A medina is found in the heart of a city. It’s typically walled and is filled with narrow streets that make almost a maze. Like most cities in Morocco, Fes has a medina with a souk . The souk has everything from a pharmacy to food vendors and shops that sell shoes and ceramics.

The Fes medina is extra narrow, as it’s one of the oldest in Morocco. It gets quite crowded and the salesmen get pretty aggressive but, for the most part, it’s not as scary as people online make it out to be. Approach the souk with the same level of caution you would any crowded area and keep an eye on your belongings {wear your backpack where you can see it, have a bag with a zip, etc.}.

COST: free

OPENING HOURS: always

the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around
the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around
the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around

visit the royal palace

This is kind of a cop-out since you actually can’t visit the palace. You can, however, visit the palace’s gorgeous gate entrance, which is where my twirly photo on Instagram {and above} was taken. It may seem silly, but the gate entrance is something to see and it actually had me more in awe than I thought golden doors would.

COST: free

OPENING HOURS: always

the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around
the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around

peep the al-attarine madrasa

One of my favourite things I did in Fes was check out the madrasa before the crowds got there. A madrasa is an educational institution. Sometimes it refers to a religious school or higher-level learning. The madrasa in Fes was built in the 1325 and is a great example of typical Islamic architecture. It’s near the spices and perfume part of the souk in the medina. The interiors of the madrasa were tiled in intricate detail. I loved photographing every inch of this beautiful school, but the highlight for me was the courtyard at the entrance, complete with a fountain.

COST: 20 MAD

OPENING HOURS: 8AM - 6PM

gaze upon the oldest University in the world

The University of al-Qarawiyyin is the oldest operating university in the world, so it comes as no surprise that it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Founded in 859, it wasn’t adopted into the official public university system into 1969. The library is truly something to behold, though there was a man at the entrance when I visited that made sure no one took photos, though there were no signs suggesting it wasn’t allowed.

COST: 20 MAD

OPENING HOURS: 8AM - 6PM

the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around

STOP BY THE BLUE GATE

A massive blue gate marks the entrance to the old town medina in Fes. Going through the Blue Gate, you’ll ne lead into the maze of souks and restaurants. It’s best to go here early if you want a photo without crowds of people around or taxis honking at you.

FUN FACT: The Blue Gate is green from the inside of the medina!

COST: free

OPENING HOURS: always

the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around

stroll through jnan sbil gardens

Located within walking distance of the medina is a a beautiful dose of greenery called Jnan Sbil. The gardens here are free and open to the public. There are benches and shaded areas all throughout the gardens, as well as fountains and statues. Bring some snacks and enjoy a picnic— many of the locals do!

COST: free

OPENING HOURS: 8 AM- 7:30 PM

the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around

watch the sunset from the Marinid Tombs

I had a real moment standing up at the tombs waiting for the sun to set. An “wow, I’m actually here” kind of moment. To see the city sprawling out under a setting sun was so much prettier than any photos could capture. It’s estimated that the Marinid Tombs date back to the 14th century, but no one seems to be certain. Over time, it’s become a popular place for sunset and sunrise, but we were the only foreigners up there on the night I visited, so don’t worry about it being an overcrowded spot.

COST: free

OPENING HOURS: always

the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around

see the choura tannery

The Choura Tannery is a traditional 11th century leather tannery. The tannery is set outside, within the medina walls. While the colours of the tannery are pretty, the reality is anything but. Animal leathers are soaked in limestone of pigeon feces and donkey urine. They are then beaten by foot or hand and dyed in a variety of colours.

Do not go expecting to get a photo from inside the tanneries unless you are willing to put up with a putrid smell and can fork over a substantial “tip” for the aggressive men waiting to “show you the way”, whether you know where you are going or not. At one point, a man blocked the door to the inside of the tanneries and another boxed me in asking for money. I aborted that plan and went to a viewing terrace instead. This is the best way to see the tanneries.

To get to the viewing terrace, use the navigation app Maps.Me that’s free to download. Go around from the north where the terrace is inside a cooperative of shops. It’s technically free to take photos from the terrace, but the salesmen do expect a tip if you decide not to buy any of their leather goods. Any amount is okay to give, and the man who showed us around was not aggressive at all. As an added bonus, the smell is also much more manageable here.

COST: free, tips are expected

OPENING HOURS: 7 AM - 7 PM daily

FRUITY PANCAKES FROM CLOCK CAFÉ

FRUITY PANCAKES FROM CLOCK CAFÉ


where to eat

Since there are no supermarkets or grocery stores that are easy to get to in Fes, you’ll want to have a list of places to find good food at a good price. Fes had plenty of options for places to eat, though many of them don’t open at the time Google {or their own websites} list online. Here are some of my favourite eats in Fes!

clock café

Clock Café is a chain that has eateries in Chefchaouen, Fes, and Marrakech. Clock opens on time, which might not seem like vital information, but is actually a bit of an anomaly in Fes {and, generally speaking, Morocco as a whole}. Clock Café prices are reasonable and the food on the menu is varied.

OPENING HOURS: 9 AM - 10:30 PM daily

the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around
the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around
the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around

made in m

Made in M is a café inside the medina with a quirky interior. I had the very best Moroccan pancakes with unbelievable raspberry jam. The portions here are nice and big, but the price is kept low! This was, genuinely, my favourite breakfast I had in Fes.

OPENING HOURS: 10 AM - 11 PM daily {opens nearer to 11 AM though}

the ruined garden

This was without question the most expensive of the places on this list. The lunch menu varies by day, so make sure you check in advance that you’ll like what’s on offer that day. It’s also important that you call or email to book in advance, especially if you plan on eating dinner, because this place books up!

OPENING HOURS: 1 PM- 7:30 PM daily

VEGETARIAN PIZZA + VEGGIE PARM PASTA FROM VEGGIE PAUSE

VEGETARIAN PIZZA + VEGGIE PARM PASTA FROM VEGGIE PAUSE

veggie pause

Veggie Pause is vegan and vegetarian-friendly. It might not be the most cultural place to eat, since menu items include pizza, pesto pasta, and salads, but the food here hit the spot after I spent an entire day throwing up. Sometimes, ya just need carbs. Veggie Pause is a bit more expensive, but the portions are giant, so you get your monies worth.

OPENING HOURS: 1 PM - 9 PM daily

the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around

cinema café

Cinema Café is situated in old town, outside of the chaos of the medina. I had the falafel and hummus platter, which was both delicious and affordable. The cucumber salad was fresh and crispy, falafel was served hot, and the hummus was exactly as I hoped it would be. The café is filled with an array of movie memorabilia; from Casablanca to The Avengers.

OPENING HOURS: 8 AM- 11 PM daily


final tips for travelers

Here are some final tips + tricks for travelers heading to Fes:

  • Telecom Maroc sells cheap SIM cards that many recommend. I used my TEP Wireless device in place of phone data, and it was reliable as well as fast.

  • Most navigation apps will not work inside the medina, since they don’t recognize the side streets and alleyways.

  • Children, and sometimes men, will offer to “help you” find your way around the medina. Avoid accepting help like this unless you are willing to fork over an unnecessary tip.

  • Get used to saying “no, thank you” when store owners act aggressively or won’t give up. It can be a bit overwhelming, but be firm and polite and you should be okay.

  • Don’t touch anything you aren’t prepared to buy.

  • Shop around before buying your souvenirs. You’ll likely find a variety of prices and quality for the same items at different stores as you walk around.

  • Bring toilet paper with you anytime you leave your accommodation. No public WC will have toilet roll unless you’re at a restaurant.


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the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around
the ultimate guide to Fes, Morocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around
the ultimate guide to Fes, Morrocco: what to do, where to eat, + how to get around