Duration: at least five days
Stay: Riad Sanaa Rose, Dar Seffarine or Riad Drissia
Until today, the medina of Fez is the largest car-free zone in the world. Fez’s old city, the medina, consists of more than 9400 alleys. Some of them are more extensive; some so narrow you almost don’t recognize them as a path. Moroccans are proud of their traditions and heritage. As you roam through the streets, you’ll be able to watch artisans apply century-old traditions. Fez, one of the four royal cities of Morroco, was home to respected Imans, artists, and scholars and is a proud, confident city. It felt cosmopolitan and yet quaint at the same time. You’ll see tourists roaming the streets, salespeople who seem to be able to talk any language of this world, next to mules pulling carts as in the middle ages. Even the city’s waste is carried away on mules.
9400 alleys taking you back in time
You’ll be able to find century-old grand buildings, stunning hidden plazas, and delicate wells behind rustic, decrepit alleys and buildings. Fez has a certain roughness, not just visible in its architecture. Even though many “Fessi” traded their medina home for a more modern home in the novelle city, it is still home to 70 000 people.
Fez’s walled “medina” is known to be a maze to everyone who hasn’t grown up there. It sounded terrific just to get lost and discover Morroco. We pictured ourselves walking through picturesque arches, wandering narrow alleys, and exploring new flavors. Mohammed, our first host, expected us with a big, almost toothless grin. As we followed him through the medina, we fell for Fez. We were mesmerized as soon as we entered our “Dar.” Hidden behind a small door, a spacious inner courtyard awaited us. Our beautifully decorated two-story room almost took our breath away.
Things to do in Fez
- Get lost in the medina’s maze
- Enter the medina through Bab Boujeloud
- Get scrubbed in a hammam
- Shop till you drop
- Admire Fondouk el-Nejjarine and indigenous woodwork
- Hold your breath at the traditional tannery
- Spice up your taste buds and enjoy Moroccan cuisine
- Good to know
Get lost in the medina's maze
We got fortunate, and the sun was shining on the day of our arrival. After having our first mint tea of the journey, we immediately ventured out to explore the medina. As we walked up and downhill and strolled through wide and narrow alleys, the delicately decorated buildings and fountains took our breath away. So many famous sights are not visible at first sight and are often hidden behind small lanes or at the back of unimpressive buildings. Talaa Kebeera is considered the main road. Try to remember your location relative to the main road. You’ll always be able to get directions back to Talaa Kebeera if you get lost.
The fountains of Fez
There are more than 60 public fountains all over the medina. Many of located close to a Mosche to allow people to clean before entering for prayer. You’ll hear the calls for prayer from the Minarettes five times daily. Unfortunately, as a non-muslim, you are not allowed to enter.
Take a free walking tour
Many of Fez’s most beautiful sights are not so easily found. Take your time when wandering the alleys. Make sure to admire the many ornaments you’ll come across. You’ll often find an impressive building, almost hidden in courtyards. If you want to get to know Fez, we really urge you to join a free walking tour, so you don’t accidentally walk by the attractions
Bab Boujeloud, the impressive entrance to Fez
Known as “The Blue Gate of Fez,” Bab Boujeloud welcomes visitors to the medina of Fez. As visitors enter the median, the delicate tiles shimmer in blue, the color of Fez. The other side of the gate shines green, which represents Islam. The gate is stunning, and it’s even more beautiful during sunset. No wonder it has become one of Morocco’s most famous landmarks! Several cafes and restaurants offer a rooftop terrace from which you have a marvelous view of the Bab Boujeloud, the blue gate.
Get scrubbed at a hammam
A hammam is a typical Moroccan bathing house. You’ll be able to find many of them across the medina and in the new city. A visit to a hammam is an absolute must-do when traveling to Morocco! We promise that your skin wasn’t softer since birth! Of course, many hammams catering to tourists have sprung up in chic hotels, but we made the experience that the treatments in local hammams are much more thorough! We have been told that visiting the hammam also plays an essential role in social life. For example, where it is common for men to meet at cafes, the hammam often offers the only place for women to meet and hang out. Men and women have separate times to enter. The opening hours adapt to the “traditional way of life.” This means that men can visit a hammam in the mornings or at night. Either before or after work. While women get daytime hours, they enjoy the hammams from noon until evening. Every Morrocan we met visits a hammam once per week. Within the public hammam, one can pay for a scrub, or you’ll do it to each other.
Everything you need to know about going to a hammam
What is a hammam treatment?
Within the hammam, you’ll get to enjoy the traditional washing ritual. In a warm and steamy foam, women will first wash you and soak you with the special soap before you get your scrub. A traditional rough sponge and a particular technique ensure all your dead skin is thoroughly removed. The scrub is thorny, sometimes even a bit uncomfortable, but it’s very satisfying to see all the dead cells coming off. Our skin felt incredibly soft afterward. Depending on your choice of hammam, a message is included after a traditional scrub
If you visit a traditional hammam, remember to bring your own towels, flip-flops, soap, underwear, a scrubbing sponge (which you can buy at the entrance), and soap. Hammams frequented by tourists will provide all that for you! Keep in mind that you always keep your panties/underwear on!
Shop till you drop
Moroccans are proud of their traditions. Even though we are not big shoppers, we found it hard to resist what the souks had to offer. The colorful ceramics, atmospheric brass lights, argan oil, and exquisite leather products were calling us to buy them. Much of the shopping is done on Souks. (A souk is more or less a square with several vendors selling similar products.) In Fez, you’ll find a Henna, ceramic, leather, and carpet Souks. All the colors, scents, and impressions can get a bit much, especially when pushed by eloquent salesmen. Therefore, it’s best to get an idea of what you want to buy before entering a shop. Take your time, don’t let anybody talk you into buying and haggling! Don’t be afraid to name a flow price. The proposed rates are often exorbitant and aim to make you feel bad when suggesting a much lower one.
Admire Fondouk el-Nejjarine and indigenous woodwork
It’s a beautiful building housing a museum. The inside of the museum is stunning! Fondouk el Nejjarine, the wood museum, displays tools and artifacts indigenous to Morocco. The museum also features an incredible view over the medina of Fez from its rooftop! (20 DHS, open from 10 am- 5 pm)
Hold your breath at traditional tanneries
Without a doubt, Fez is famous for its traditional tannery. Mainly the big tannery is often associated directly with Fez. Here leather products are still manufactured in the old way. Mules carry piles of goat, lamb, camel, and cow leather to and from the tannery. After the leather is cleaned, it is soaked in a mix of chalk, pigeon poo, and salt. The smell is brutal.
Luckily, we visited the tannery after it was raining, which reduced the smell. The leather is colored with poppy seeds, indigo, or Safran in the following steps. Morocco’s leather products belong to the finest in the world. The stores close to the tannery sell unique and exquisite products. Expect to pay a higher price, though!
Spice up your taste buds and indulge in Moroccan cuisine
Moroccan cuisine is delicious and so versatile! Often a mix of hearty and sweet flavors, it is sure to ignite your taste buds.
While many places cater to tourists, we urge you to take your time and visit the local restaurants and food stands. You’ll find plenty of them parallel to the main street heading towards the veggie market. It’s nice to take the time and engage in a conversation. We learned so much about the local customs by eating with the locals and hanging out over a typical mint tea.
Get ready to travel Morocco
Transport to and from Fez
Flights arrive at Fès–Saïss Airport, about 13 km outside the city. The taxi price depends on your haggling skills but should not exceed 150 dirhams. Grand taxis charge per seat, while Petit Taxis charge per ride. Usually, Grand Taxis are cheaper. Buses run quite frequently from the Fez bus terminal and are pretty comfortable. You’ll find the bus terminal right outside the medina.
Fez- Meknes: 45 mins
Fez – Chefchouen – 3,5 hours
Fez- Sefrou – about one hour
Fez- Rabat – 3 hours
Safety in Fez
The medina of Fez is a very safe area. Undercover cops and cameras on every corner aim to keep pickpocketers and fake guides away from visitors. Yet, it’s almost impossible to avoid “hustlers” who want to “help you” and later ask for money or bring you to a store to cash in on commission. Be aware of that, and don’t let them push you. If you ask for help and somebody guides you on the way out, it’s common to give about 20 dirhams. A “shu ma lick” (= you should be ashamed) should help you if you feel pushed. If this does not help, let them know you’ll call the police, and they’ll let you go at once.
Best time to travel to Fez
The weather is mild all year round, making Fez an all-year-round destination. However, it gets boiling in summer, so it might not be the best time for extensive sightseeing.
Where to stay in Fez
Most of the accommodations within the media will be referred to as Riads. Traditionally, the inner courtyard is the center of the building. The living rooms are located around it and on the upper floor. Many Dars features a rooftop terrace from which you can enjoy a view over the medina. Contrary to many tourists’ beliefs, not every house centered amongst an inner yard is an actual Riad. A Riad is entered through impressive front doors, demonstrating affluence in past times. Check out our responsible travel guide to Fez for some truly unique places to stay.
Going out & alcohol
Officially, you can’t consume or buy beer at the medina. Yet, there is a black market for locals and some restaurants secretly selling alcohol to tourists. Always check your bill at any restaurant! We have seen so many tourists being ripped off. Haggling is life. There is no such thing as a fixed price. So, especially in the shops, expect to haggle hard.
Bring your Lifestraw Pro! Tap water in Morocco is safe for human consumption, according to Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani. The PM made the statement in February 2018 after officials uncovered issues with the public water delivery system. Despite the government’s assurances, however, distrust in tap water is growing. One problem is that the government has been slow to react and often lacks transparency in its communication. In addition, several reports have highlighted elevated levels of nitrates as an issue in Morocco.
Biggest challenge for the responsible traveler
Shopping: Low-quality Chinese products and goods produced under questionable working environments are sold everywhere. When shopping in Morocco, be conscious and check out our shopping guide!
Water: Avoid plastic pollution and bring your own Lifestrwa Pro! Your water will stay cool, too!
Packing List Morocco
When packing for a trip to Morocco, it’s important to keep the country’s culture and climate in mind as the weather can vary greatly, depending on the time of year and the region you’re visiting. Check out our packing list so you arrive well prepared!
Places to visit in Morocco
Live the dream of 1001 nights!
Marrakesh – the dream of 1001 nights
Marrakesh mesmerized me from the second we left the cab. Surrounded by “guides” eager to lead us to our Riad. Never would we have found our Riad ourselves, even though the taxi left us only about 300 m from the entrance. The unimposing door was hiding the beautifully decorated and colorful Riad. We were confronted with the incredible detail of Moroccan style. We stood there with our mouths open. Deeply impressed and taken aback by so many impressions, so much beauty.
Packing list Morocco – Things to bring to your Morocco trip
Are you traveling to Morocco and wondering what you should bring? Check out our packing list! No worries, we have tested and extended it with the things we wish we would have brought!
Meknes – authentic vibes between beauty and roughness
After visiting the blue medina of Chefchaouen, we were off for a more authentic experience. Meknès is not as often visited as its glamorous neighbor Fez. We really can’t understand why. To us, Meknès was a fascinating city to visit. It’s not as busy or big as its famous neighbor Meknes, but that only adds to its charm.