The 10 Best Things to Do in Fez, Morocco

Fez Cityscape Fes Leather Tannery Morocco Africa
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Fez is the oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities and has served as the country’s capital no fewer than three times throughout its history. It was founded in 789 by the first sultan of the Idrisid dynasty, although many of its most famous landmarks date back to the 13th and 14th centuries, when the city reached the height of its influence during the rule of the Marinids.

Today, it is one of the most authentic cities in Morocco, known around the world as a center for traditional artists and artisans. Fez is divided into three sections—the original old town or medina, Fes el-Bali; Fes el-Jedid, built to accommodate the city’s expanding population in the 13th century; and the contemporary Ville Nouvelle quarter. Here are ten of the best things to do and see on your trip to this fascinating city. 

01 of 10

Soak Up the Atmosphere of Fes el-Bali

INside a shop in the market

TripSavvy / Chris VR 

Fes El Bali, Fes, Morocco

Fez’s old town, or medina, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognized as one of the best preserved historic towns of the Arab-Muslim world. It is also one of the world’s largest urban pedestrian zones, comprising a maze-like tapestry with dozens upon dozens of narrow streets, bustling squares, and souks lined with shops containing anything your heart could desire. During your exploration of the medina, stop to sample traditional foods or haggle with workshop owners for colorful pottery and intricate lamps. Keep an eye out for the donkey carts that ply the medina’s streets, and for architectural landmarks dotted in between the shops and alleyways. The best way to explore this part of Fez is to simply get lost. 

02 of 10

Witness Living History at Quaraouiyine Mosque

Courtyard of Quaraouiyine Mosque
Sbastien Rabany/ Getty Images
327G+XMC, Fes, Morocco

Arguably the city’s most famous building, Quaraouiyine Mosque is home to the University of Al-Quaraouiyine. Founded in 859, it is believed to be the world’s oldest continuously functioning university, and it remains a vitally important center of Islamic learning. The mosque is also one of the largest centers of worship in all of Africa and can accommodate up to 20,000 people during prayer time. The mosque and the university are out of bounds for non-Muslims, but the library was opened to the public in 2016. It is one of the oldest surviving libraries in the world, and includes a 9th-century Qur’an amongst its many tomes. You'll also be able to catch a glimpse of the mosque’s courtyard through the main door.

03 of 10

Admire Maranid Artistry at Medersa al-Attarine

Eight of the Best Things to Do in Fez Morocco
Izzet Keribar/ Getty Images
328G+2GJ, Rue Talaa Kebira, Fes, Morocco
Phone +212 610-271328

In Morocco, all educational buildings are known as madrasas (medersa in French), and Medersa al-Attarine is one of the finest in Fez. Commissioned by Marinid sultan Abu Said and completed in 1325, it was originally intended to house students from the nearby Quaraouiyine Mosque. Today, it is one of the city’s most impressive examples of Marinid architecture. The courtyard, in particular, is a masterpiece of intricate zellij tile work, carved stucco, and ornate cedar wood carpentry. Elsewhere, fine marble columns and graceful Arabic calligraphy add to the building’s reputation as a must-see Fez attraction. Climb to the roof for beautiful views of Quaraouiyine Mosque’s green-tiled roof.

04 of 10

Continue Your Madrasa Education at Bou Inania

Madrassa Bou Inania, Meknes, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Medersa Bou Inania, Morocco, Maghreb, North Africa
Universal Images Group/Getty Images
3268+VW6, Rue Talaa Sghira, Fès, Morocco

Founded by the Marinid sultan Abou el Hassan in 1350 and completed by his son Sultan Bou Inan in 1357, Bou Inania Madrasa initially served as a theological college. It is still used for religious purposes—the only madrasa in the country that does so— and is the only religious building in Fez open to non-Muslims. After a dedicated restoration, the madrasa is resplendent in its beauty. Expect to see breathtaking zellij mosaics, fantastic stucco work, and fine lattice screens carved from fragrant cedar wood. Medersa Bou Inania is unique in that it features a full mosque instead of the simplified prayer hall of most madrasas. Although the mosque itself is not open to the public and the madrasa is closed to tourists during prayer times, you can admire its beautiful minaret from any of the medina’s rooftops.

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05 of 10

See How Leather Is Made at Chaouwara Tannery

the dye souks

TripSavvy / Chris VR 

The oldest and largest of the traditional tanneries in Fez’s leather souk, Chaouwara Tannery dates back to medieval times. Here, skins are cured using archaic ingredients (including cow urine, quicklime, and pigeon feces) and laid out to dry in the sunshine. The smell of ammonia and raw hide can overwhelm first-time visitors, but the sight of the multi-colored dyeing vats in the central courtyard is not to be missed. Enter the leather shops built into the surrounding walls for a bird’s-eye view of the action (best in the morning when the vats are still filled with dye). Then once you have your fill, you'll be in the perfect spot to purchase supple leather goods made from the tannery’s hides.

06 of 10

Discover Military History at Borj Nord

Borj Nord Fortress
Neil Farrin/ Getty Images
3288+W24, Fes, Morocco

Built in 1582 as part of the walled fortifications that once surrounded the city, the Borj Nord fortress boasts an elevated vantage point and beautiful views of the city. It also houses a fascinating weapon museum, whose extensive collection provides an insight into Morocco’s military history. There are more than 5,000 weapons on display, spanning a range of time periods and including everything from jewel-encrusted daggers to the 12-ton canon used in the 16th-century Battle of the Three Kings. Some of the artifacts were donated personally to the museum by members of Moroccan royalty. Combine your visit with a tour of the nearby Maranid Tombs.

07 of 10

Unwind in Jnan Sbil Gardens

Jnan Sbil Gardens
Veronica Garbutt/ Getty Images
3257+7GH, Fes, Morocco

Located just outside the medina walls, Jnan Sbil is one of the oldest and most beautiful gardens in Fez. Donated to the public by Sultan Moulay Hassan in the 19th century, this collection of more than 3,000 plants, trees, and flowers is now a haven of peace and tranquility and the perfect antidote to the sometimes claustrophobic chaos of the medina.

Rub shoulders with visitors and locals whilst exploring the park’s meandering pathways or soak up the sunshine by the grand central fountains. The air is fragrant with the scent of eucalyptus and citrus trees, and slender palms provide shade on hot days. There’s a large lake with plenty of birdlife and a cafe for relaxed al fresco meals. The only difficult thing about a visit to Jnan Sbil is getting yourself to leave!

08 of 10

Wander Through the Historic Jewish Quarter

Jewish Cemetery in the Mellah
Paolo Cordelli/ Getty Images
Fes El Jdid, Fes, Morocco

In the newer section of the old town, Fes el-Jedid, the old Jewish Quarter (or mellah, as it’s known locally) comprises streets lined with large, crumbling houses and a collection of vibrant marketplaces. To get a better understanding of the people who lived and worshipped here, don’t miss out on the tranquil Jewish cemetery or the Ibn Danan Synagogue which dates back to the 17th century. The mellah's history started in the 14th century when it was established as a refuge for the city’s Jews. The Jewish Quarter protected the people from attacks in recognition of their importance to the local economy. Initially a place of wealth and status, over time the Quarter fell into serious disrepair. Of the 250,000 Jewish people that once lived here, only a handful remain in Fez and have since relocated to the Ville Nouvelle area. 

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

See Traditional Woodwork at the Nejjarine Museum

Overview of the central courtyard of the museum of wood crafts
JordiRamisa / Getty Images
327F+WJ5, Fes, Morocco
Phone +212 531-412616

This museum set in a beautifully restored 18th-century fundouk or caravanserai (an inn of sorts used by travelers) is the place to go to marvel at the handiwork of expert Morrocan woodworkers and some impressive architecture. Set around a courtyard, the rooms of the funduq have been transformed into galleries showcasing everything from musical instruments to rosaries to wedding furniture. Once you get your fill exploring here, head upstairs to the cafe where you can enjoy views of the city.

10 of 10

See the City From a New Angle at the Marinid Tombs

The Marinid Tombs
saiko3p / Getty Images
329C+X64, Fes, Morocco

Perched up on a hill overlooking the old city is another legacy of Marinid rule, this time it's an ancient necropolis. This necropolis of royal tombs has existed since at least the 14th century, halfway through the Marinid dynasty. Over the centuries the tombs have been reduced to little more than ruins and it's hard to imagine what they looked like in their full glory. However, the biggest reason people visit the Marinid Tombs is not for the history but for the scenery. Thanks to the high vantage point, visitors are treated to lovely views of a neighboring cemetery, Fes el-Bali, and the surrounding area. The view is so impressive it makes the hike up the hill more than worth it.

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The 10 Best Things to Do in Fez, Morocco