Fes in northern Morocco is an exhilarating place. The old city is made up of 9000 tiny streets, creating a huge labyrinth. Even locals get lost there! Don’t expect to have a relaxing getaway in Fes. Expect more of a buzzing atmosphere. Fes keeps you on your toes and opens your eyes to a whole new way of life. Unless you thrive in chaotic cities, two days in Fes is plenty.
In all honesty, I wasn’t prepared enough for Fes. I had a pretty dangerous and scary experience with an illegal tour guide. I witnessed an elderly drunk pull out a knife on a child. And I also saw three guys dangling someone head first from a story high ledge, although I still don’t know if that was a joke…
BUUUT this shouldn’t scare you off. These things only happened to me because I was NOT prepared at all. As long as you know what to do and what not do before visiting, you’ll really enjoy spending two days in Fes. Who knows, maybe you’ll even want to stay longer! In my experience, it’s all down to the individual and the trip. In any case, there are loads of cool things to do in Fes.
Getting into Fes city centre
From Fes airport, I took a taxi into the new town since I arrived in the evening and there was no sign of public transportation. Remember to always agree on a price beforehand. My taxi fare cost around 120 dirhams (£10).
For a cheaper option, either take the number 16 bus or the airport shuttle bus (20 dirhams/£1.50) to the centre of the new town. Then, you can take a red Petit Taxi into the old town. Always make sure you ask the driver to put the fare on the meter.
Where to stay in Fes
If your budget allows, book your stay in a traditional Moroccan riad. If you’re a budget traveller like me, there are plenty of riad-like hostels. I stayed in Dar Lalla Kenza and absolutely loved it. Having a Moroccan cooked breakfast on the rooftop terrace each morning was incredible.
Things to Do in Fes
Before you do anything, be prepared to get lost. I don’t think there was a moment I wasn’t lost, and it was super stressful. Don’t do what I did and just wing it. Have clear directions on a map, or even better, use Google Maps to navigate.
Also be aware of unofficial tour guides in Fes. Even the children are in on it! Many will harass tourists to agree to a tour and ask for money afterwards. I even got screamed at by an illegal tour guide for declining his offer. Learn from my mistake, and firmly say no straight away.
Once checked into your accommodation, head out into the medina.
How to Spend Two Days in Fes
Discover the famous 11th century Chouara Tannery where locals have dyed animal hides in huge stone wells for the past one thousand years. The smell is very pungent, so bring some mint to hold up to your nose. The tanneries are such an interesting part of Moroccan culture to see.
Tip: People will offer you “free” mint to hold to your nose, but will still ask for money afterwards. Only say yes if you’re willing to pay!
If you need to buy gifts for family and friends, walk around the souks (Arab markets). The most famous is Henna Souk. There is a range of argan oil creams, jewellery, ceramics, sweets and spices.
If it’s obvious that you’re a tourist, vendors will charge you the tourist price. Don’t be afraid to barter. It’s normal and you won’t offend them by doing so. Start off at half of the asking price and bargain from there.
Experience a traditional hammam in the heart of Fes. In other words, get scrubbed until you feel like you’ve shed every inch of your skin. You’ll feel brand new afterwards. The most authentic experience is a public bathhouse, although men and women can’t go together. A more luxurious and tourist-friendly option is a private hammam where couples are allowed to go together. Spa Laaroussa is a popular one.
Medersa Bou Inania
Admire the beautiful architecture of Medersa Bou Inania, a 14th century theological university. Entrance cost 20 dirhams. It’s worth paying to see the walls made up of mosaics and ancient wood carvings of Qur’an scriptures.
Photo credit: Marek Kubica via Flickr
The Blue Gate
Bab Boujloud, “the Blue Gate”, is an architectural masterpiece which marks the entrance to Fes’ old city. It makes for an amazing photo opportunity.
Jardin Jnan Sbil
Once imperial gardens, they’re now open to the public. Enjoy a peaceful break in this small oasis hidden within the giant maze of Fes.
Pay a short visit to this old academic institute for more Islamic geometric architecture. Climb up to the rooftop to see Kairaouine Mosque & University. Entrance to the old school costs 20 dirhams.
Visit the Oldest University in the World
UNESCO claims the University of Qarawiyyin (al Karaouine) in Fes as the oldest university and library in the world. How cool is it that a woman founded this educational institution?! Nowadays, it functions as a Mosque, so you can only see the courtyard if you’re not a Muslim.
Remember to dress respectfully. People are expected to cover their shoulders and legs as well as take their shoes off. Girls should cover their head with a scarf.
The 14th century ruin tombs are perched on a hill overlooking Fes. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset and escape the crazy city.
Visit the arms museum at the fortress of Borj Nord. If museums aren’t your thing, go to the roof for a panoramic view of the ancient city. This one of the best lookout spots in Fes!
Take photos outside the Royal Palace
Unfortunately, members of the public can’t enter the palace. However, the huge walls of the palace make for amazing photos. It’s the perfect place for photographers to take shots of the seven iconic golden gates.
If you have more time, wander the streets of Bab Mellah (the Jewish Quarter), full of Moorish architecture. Points of interest are the Aben-Danan Synagogue and Jewish cemetery. It may be more interesting to have a tour guide to tell you about the history.
Watch a belly dancing show
Although belly dancing is an Indian art form, it has spread to Arabic countries including Morocco. Be aware that if a tour guide offers you this kind of entertainment, it will most likely be a tourist trap. I personally didn’t go to a show. However, I’m sure there are traditional belly dancing performances in Fes if you search hard enough.
Day trip to Azrou
If two days in Fes is too much, take a day trip to Azrou. The small town is south of Fes in between the Middle Atlas and High Atlas mountains. It only cost me 35 dirhams (£3) for a one and a half hour taxi ride!
Azrou is the perfect place to have a really traditional Moroccan meal since it’s non-touristy. There were only 5 tourists in total when I visited! Then take a 20 minute taxi ride to Cèdre Gouraud Forest, “Cedar Forest”, where you can see Barbary Apes roaming freely. Again, there are barely any tourists there, which makes the forest really peaceful.
I hope you find this guide for two days in Fes useful!
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