How to arrange a trip to Fès
Fes is our favourite city, and its attractions are a must-do not to be missed. It’s the oldest of the four imperial cities and was founded in the early 9th century as the country’s first political, religious and cultural capital.
Its bustling Medina, inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1981, is a fascinating maze of narrow alleys dotted by tiny square, souks, Madrasses, mosques, and where donkeys and mules are the only means of transport.
The Medina features 12 km of extension, and its 13th-century city walls still surround it with a series of monumental gates. It is considered the largest closed urban traffic area in the world, with a population of 156.000 residents.
BEST TIME TO VISIT FES
You can visit Fes all year round, but the best seasons are spring and autumn to avoid the intense heat of the summer. We visited Fes in December, and it was a bit cold during the early morning and at night.
The attractions of Fes can be visited in a whole day because they are concentrated inside the Medina. On our itinerary, we reached Fes around 6 pm from Chefchaouen, spending there 2 nights.
- HOW TO REACH FES
Fes has its own airport, the Sais International airport, located only 13 km from the city centre. It’s served by a few main companies like Air Arabia Maroc, Royal Air Maroc and some low-cost companies like Ryanair, Vueling and Royal Maroc express. All the companies fly from European destinations (and from some Moroccan cities); therefore, if you are coming from extra UE countries, you first need to reach Casablanca, the main hub in Morocco and then take a domestic flight to Fes. From the airport, you can catch a taxi to get to your accommodation. Probably you’ll also find not official taxis, skip them and take the official ones that are easily identified by their signboards and numbers.
If you are already in Morocco, the cheapest way is by bus or train (about 3 hours) from Meknes. Another option is to rent a car at the airport. You’ll find Avis, Europcar, Budget, Hertz and Sixt in the arrival hall. Click here to find out the rates of rental cars with TripAdvisor.
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- WHERE TO SLEEP IN FES
The labyrinthic Medina, known as Fes El Bali, and its surroundings are absolutely the best choices since they offer a wide range of affordable accommodations and allows you to visit all the main attractions of Fes with a pleasant walk. This neighbourhood also features cheap restaurants where to taste the delicious local food, several hammams for relaxation and some bars to spend the night sipping a mint tea and smoking shisha. The only thing you have to remember is that cars are not permitted in the Medina; therefore, the taxi drops you off near the main gates. A good area of the Medina is around the imperial gate Bab Bou Jeloud. Here, you’ll always find taxis to move around the city, ATMs, restaurants, and the 2 main roads of the Medina. The Riad is a typical traditional house with a beautiful inner garden often embellished with a fountain, carpets, and plats; the Dar is typically a smaller house that usually has no internal garden or a multi-story like a riad.
Here some nice accommodations in the Medina:
- Dar Zin;
- Dar Fatimazahra;
- Dar Lalla Wafae;
- Dar Nour;
- Dar Rahba;
- Dar Fes Guda;
- Riad Farah;
- Riad Hala;
- Dar Hlimi;
- Dar Borj;
- Dar El Bali;
- Click here to see all the accommodations in the Medina and its surroundings.
If you want to avoid the bustling old city, a good option is the Ville Nouvelle (the new city), located southwest of the Medina. This neighbourhood features long streets lined by towering palm trees, local and international restaurants, numerous bars and, indeed, a wide choice of accommodations, from cheap to luxury hotels. This area of the city is also well connected to the Medina with buses and taxis.
The first time we visited fès, we slept at Dar El Bali in the Medina; the second time we tried the Fes Inn Hotel, an excellent accommodation in the Ville Nouvelle (only 15 minutes by taxi from Bab Bou Jeloud).
- WHERE TO EAT IN FES
The Medina is the right place to find restaurants for any budget and taste the typical Moroccan dishes like tagine, kebab skewers and couscous. For example, there are many restaurants next to Bab Bou Jeloud and along Rue Talaa Sghira and Rue de la Post. We ate at Chez Hakim Restaurant, a nice family-run restaurant that offers traditional Moroccan food, and Cafè Clock Restaurant, well known to offer camel burgers, quiche, sandwiches and a good choice of salads as well as traditional food. If you look for international cuisine, you’ll find several restaurants in the Ville Nouvelle, especially European style cooking.
- Click here to find out the best restaurants in Fes and the customers’ reviews.
- WHERE TO EXCHANGE YOUR CURRENCY and METHOD OF PAYMENT
The local currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD). 10 Dh is roughly USD 1 (August 2020). Don’t change your currency at the airport (just the indispensable) and go to the Medina or the Ville Nouvelle. We found an excellent rate in a currency exchange shop very close to the tanneries (Derb el Miter alley), the Sarf Quods shop. Most of the ATMs are in the Ville Nouvelle, but you’ll find one next to Bab Bou Jeloud and one along Rue de la Post (next to the post office). Cash is widely used and is the preferred and often the only method of payment.
TRAVELLERS’ SAFETY AND TRAVELLERS’ HEALTH
In general, Fès is a safe destination, and we found welcoming people and no dangers. Anyway, don’t leave your backpack and devices unattended, especially when you visit the Medina because it is extremely crowded. The sellers are not pushy and annoying like in Marrakech, just a little bit when you visit the leather shops next to the tanneries.
Tip: the official religion of Morocco is Islam and, even though the locals are welcoming and are used to see thousands and thousands of tourists every day, it’s recommended to dress respectfully. For women, in particular, it would be advisable to cover the knees and shoulders not to draw any unwanted attention or cause any offence, especially when visiting any religious places like koranic schools.
There aren’t actual health threats in Fès, and the health situation is, on the whole, satisfactory. The only precaution you need to take is to drink bottled water and avoid ice in your drinks to prevent gastrointestinal disorders often accompanied by diarrhoea and fever. Despite all, health services/public hospitals are not on par with western standards, and if you need medical attention, it’s better to call on a private hospital/clinic.
It’s always recommended to take out travel insurance during a trip, even if you’re only going for a few days. Especially to cover the medical expenses because they could be very high in case you need them. We always do our travel insurance with Worldnomad.com. Remember to read the terms and conditions to make sure that the policy covers your needs. Getting an estimate from World Nomads.com is simple; click the image “Get a quote” below and fill out the necessary info!
- WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN FES
The imperial city of Fès has much to offer, especially the labyrinthic old Medina with its wonderful attractions. The Medina was designated a World Heritage site in 1981 and still features more than 9000 alleys where you’ll come across beautiful imposing gates, madrasas, mosques, small squares, fountains and vibrant souks. One of the most incredible attractions in the old city is the Chouara quarter with its leather tanneries, where the workers still use the same process of the 16th century. Not to be missed is also the old Madrasa Bou Inania, built in the 14th century and considered the most beautiful koranic school in Fès.
How to visit the attractions
The attractions are concentrated in the Medina, and the only way to visit them is on foot. The old Medina is a labyrinth of narrow and winding alleys, and it is very easy to get lost. Therefore, we recommend looking for a local guide who can take you through the most interesting areas of the old city by explaining the history of this wonderful Unesco Heritage site.
We visited the Medina with an experienced local guide that we highly recommend. His name is Said, and if you need, you can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.If you sleep in a dar or riad in the Medina, you can also ask the owner to help you to find a local guide.
Alternatively, the easiest way to get your tour and enjoy this fantastic city is through the web platform like Viator and GetYourGuide, where you’ll find guided tours and activities offered by the local tour operator.
Have you visited Fès and its attractions? Did you like it, and you want to share your experience or suggest more tips? Are you planning the trip, and you have any questions? Leave us a comment below!