10 Fantastic Attractions to Visit in Fez, Morocco

10 Fantastic Attractions to Visit in Fez, Morocco

Rich in history, the city of Fez in Morocco offers a glimpse into the past with its traditional tanneries, centuries-old madrasa and mosques, and ancient gateways.

Fez is the oldest city in Morocco. It is located in the centre of a fertile valley of the Fez River and surrounded by rolling hills. Today’s city was once two separate cities on either side of the river; the city to the east was founded by Idris I and the settlement on the west bank of the river were established by Idris II. It wasn’t until the 11th century, during the Almoravid era, that the two cities were united.  

One of Morocco’s old imperial cities, Fez has plenty of historic sites and cultural attractions. From glorious architecture, sacred places of worship, and museums, to the world-famous tanneries, viewpoints, bustling souks, and more, here are the best things to experience on a trip to Fez.   

1. Al Quaraouiyine Mosque, Library, and University

Al Quaraouiyine Mosque in Fez is one of the oldest mosques in North Africa and one of the biggest places of worship in all of Morocco. It can hold up to 20,000 worshipers at any given time. The original mosque was built in the 850s by Muslims from the city of Kairouan, located in present-day Tunisia and the fourth holiest city in Islam. The mosque saw many additions and alterations over subsequent years and displays a blend of architectural styles. The site also boasts one of the oldest libraries in the world and Al Quaraouiyine University is often said to be the oldest university across the globe. Do note that non-Muslims are not allowed inside the complex, but there are terraces around the outside that offer good views.

2. Bou Inania Madrasa

Built in the 1350s, Bou Inania Madrasa was once one of the most important religious schools in Fez. Devotees would study the Quran and get guidance from wise scholars. On top of the sleep cells and study areas, the madrasa features a full mosque. Although common for madrasas to have a basic prayer hall, there was no other mosque close to this area when the madrasa was founded, hence the construction of the mosque. The minaret soars into the skies and is decorated with eye-catching green tiles.  

3. Al-Attarine Madrasa

Established in 1325, Al-Attarine Madrasa is another old place of religious study. Carefully restored to showcase its former splendour, the central courtyard boasts traditional patterns and local artisanship, with ornate plasterwork, luxurious cedar wood, and gorgeous tile work.   

4. Chouara Tannery

The huge Chouara Tannery is one of fez’s most-famous and most-visited attractions. One of the biggest and oldest tanneries in the world, it offers fascinating insights into the leather-making process. Workers still use age-old techniques that have changed little since the medieval period. There are gigantic vats filled with colourful dyes and other liquids necessary to the curing process. Large skins lie in the sunshine waiting to be worked on. Strong men haul hides between the vats and hard-working donkeys trot through the surrounding streets, carrying goods around the medina.

There are several elevated viewing areas around the tannery where you can stand and watch the hive of activity below. Most observation platforms are accessed through leather stores. Shop workers will explain the leather-making process to you for a tip and, of course, they hope that you will browse their goods and make a purchase. From bags and belts to wallets and shoes, you’ll find all manner of locally made leather goods. The quality is generally very good and prices are normally reasonable.   

5. Fez’s Souks

The narrow streets of Fez are filled with souks, the local name for markets. Vendors sell a huge selection of goods, including local arts, crafts, and leather wares, clothes, souvenirs, carpets, lamps, musical instruments, tea sets, pottery, spices, herbal remedies, toys, shisha pipes, and souvenirs. The souks are great for browsing as well as buying, though many sellers can be quite determined when trying to persuade you to part with your cash. Do remember to haggle hard when buying anything here.

6. Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts Crafts

Displaying an impressive selection of wooden artefacts, the building of Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts Crafts is itself a wooden masterpiece. It is an old fondouk, a type of inn where merchants could rest and eat, tend to their animals, and keep their wares safe.

7. Dar Batha Museum

The beautiful building of Dar Batha was built in the late 19th century. Once a summer palace, the outer walls give way to a lovely inner courtyard and garden with palm trees and flowers. The building has many original features and it offers a pleasant respite from the hustle and bustle of the city outside. The magnificent home was changed into a museum in the first quarter of the 20th century. It houses an array of traditional Moroccan crafts. Items include exquisitely carved wooden doors, beautiful chandeliers, woven carpets in various hues, zellige tiles (an artisan speciality from Fes), delicate embroidery, stunning jewellery, and more.

8. Bab Boujeloud

Bab Boujeloud is one of the ancient gateways into the walls of the old medina. Not just a regular stone gate, though, it displays exceptional craftsmanship. With one large central archway sandwiched between two smaller arches, it is adorned with stunning zellige tiles. Decorative plasterwork and a crenellated top add to the effect. One side is blue, hence why it is also sometimes referred to as “The Blue Gate of Fez”, but if you step through you’ll see that the other side is green.

9. Mellah

Fez was once home to a sizeable Jewish community, with Jewish Moroccans building homes and running businesses in their traditional manner. Most medinas around Morocco have an area known as the mellah—the historic Jewish quarter—and Fez is no exception. Even though only a small Jewish population remains today, it is interesting to see the old synagogue and homes, with the layout and designs noticeably different from other parts of the medina.

10. Merenid Tombs

Although the 13th-century tombs aren’t themselves overly impressive, it’s worth paying a visit to the Merenid Tombs for the glorious views over the city. The tombs, which contain the remains of prestigious rulers from the Merenid era, were built on a hill overlooking the sprawling city. Today, it is a popular vantage point.  

Other things to do in Fez

Other terrific things to do in Fez include visiting the privately operated Museum of Andalusian Music, admiring the grand gate outside of the Royal Palace, hiking up Mount Zalagh, and visiting the Arms Museum in the Borj Nord (North Tower).

There have been recent efforts to preserve and renovate many significant sites throughout the city, and part of the joy is wandering the ancient medina and admiring the glorious architecture. There are plenty of side trips you can make from the city too, including to the lesser-visited imperial city of Meknes, the Berber and Roman ruins at Volubilis, the sacred Moulay Idris, and the lush and hilly Ifrane.     

About Author

Sarah W
Sarah W

Sarah W is a travelling cat-lover who enjoys exploring places that are a little bit quirky or away from headline attractions. Favourite things include delicious falafel, snuggling under a thick duvet, (badly) belting out karaoke at the top of her lungs, and, of course, her family, friends, and furry pets.


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