Fez was Morocco’s capital until 1912 and is still considered the country’s spiritual and cultural center. Over 1,200 years old, it is full of palaces, museums, mosques, fountains, residences, and tiny little alleyways. Fez and its medina is a barrage on the senses.
I loved visiting Fez: the chaos, the smells, the bargains, markets, and food stalls. They can be very overwhelming and mentally exhausting but there was a beauty and charm to it. It made me feel like I stepped back in time and was some explorer not just a mere tourist. Maybe that was just me but, still, the medina’s labyrinth layout can be fun to get lost in but stay on guard as pickpockets are pretty common.
This travel guide to Fez can help you plan your trip and make the most of your visit there was staying safe and on a budget!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Fez
1. Explore the medina
2. Visit Kairaouine Mosque and University
3. Visit the Chouara Tanneries
4. Take a day trip to Volubilis
5. Take in the Madrasa Bou Inania
Other Things to See and Do in Fez
1. Admire the entrance to the Royal Palace
Though the Royal Palace (Dar al-Makhzen) and gardens are closed to the public, the outside is still worth checking out. The palace was built in the 13th-century by Marinid sultans. A tunnel was constructed leading from the palace to the Grand Mosque, allowing the King to attend prayers in privacy. The palace and its gardens were somewhat neglected during the reign of the Saasian sultans in the 16th-17th-centuries but restored to its glory by the Alaouite sultans in the late 17th-century. From Place des Alaouites, take a close look at the gilt bronze doors, and their giant artisan-made brass knockers; a piece of modern Morocco (cira 1969).
2. Eat or learn to cook at Café Clock
Recommended to me by many readers of the site, this Western-influenced café is famous for its gigantic camel burger (which tastes a lot like spicy shawarma). Beyond the burger, the food is excellent here: the burger, green smoothies, and melt-in-your-mouth buttery chicken couscous were so satisfying I ate here twice. And, in the crazy and chaotic medinas of each city, the cafés provide an oasis of calm, where you can recharge, use wifi, and cool down with air conditioning. They also offer cooking classes and host regular events. Classes start at 600 MAD ($61.25 USD).
3. Admire the Medersa el-Attarine
The Medersa el-Attarine was designed as an annex to Kairaouine Mosque. It was founded in 1325 by Abu Said and is located at the entrance for the spice and perfume market in Fez. The courtyard is comprised of cedar wood and carved plaster. Its mosaics, carvings, and impeccable detail make it worth the visit. It is open 8am-6pm, and entrance costs around 20 MAD ($2.05 USD).
4. Jewish Cemetery and Habarim Synagogue
Jews have a long history in Fez. During the city’s golden age between the 9th and 11th centuries CE, the community flourished. During other times, Jews were involved in violent uprisings, expelled, and killed. The Jewish Cemetery in Fez is home to Jewish rabbis and is one of the oldest in Morocco. The Habarim Synagogue, located at the far end of the property, is now home to a museum of old articles, photos, and postcards.
5. Go to Borj Nord
This fort was built in the late 16th-century. It is one of the largest defensive structures in Fez. Today, the fort is known as the Museum of Arms, the first one in Morocco which specializes in the history of arms. There are around 5,000 pieces in the museum’s collection, dating from prehistory to the 20th-century. When you visit, check out the Saadian cannon which was used during the Battle of the Three Kings in 1578.
6. Go on a free walking tour
Go on a walking tour through the Medina with a local guide. Guru Walk offers a couple of free walking tours, led by locals. This is a good introduction to the medina, and one of the best ways to learn about the history and culture of Fez and Morocco. While the tour itself is free, remember to tip your guide afterward.
7. Visit Bab Bou Jeloud
Found at the western entrance to the medina, Bab Bou Jeloud is a gate dating back to the 12th-century. From here, locals entered the main souq, Tala’a Kebira, and went to the Kairaouine Mosque and University. The original gate is long got and, today’s gate, decorated with blue and green mosaics, dates back to 1913.
Fez Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Hostels in Fez are super cheap. You can find dorms with 6-8 beds for 80-110 MAD ($8.25-11.25 USD) per night. Private rooms that sleep two average around 250 MAD ($26 USD) per night. Hostels usually offer free breakfast, wifi, towels, and linens.
Budget hotel prices – You can find a room in a two-star budget hotel starting around 195 MAD ($20 USD), while most three-star hotels start around 347 MAD ($35 USD) per night. Hotels typically include free wifi, private bathrooms, and free breakfast. Many hotels have an outdoor pool.
On Airbnb, you can find shared rooms starting around 110 MAD ($11.25 USD) per night. Renting apartments and villas start around 436 MAD ($44 USD), and good if you want to stay in a traditional Moroccan home.
Average cost of food – Eating out in Fez can be extremely cheap. Crepes cost around 10 MAD ($1.25 USD), sandwiches are 20-25 MAD ($2.05-2.55 USD) and tangines (a slowly-simmered, flavorful dish) are between 30-40 MAD ($3.10-4.10 USD). A pot of mint tea is 8 MAD ($0.85 USD).
For fancier sit down restaurants, expect to pay 80-120 MAD ($8.25-12.25 USD) for a meal, with western food on the higher-end and sometimes topping 150 MAD ($15.50 USD) per dish. Pizza is really popular right now and goes for around 40 MAD ($4.10 USD). On the top end, main courses (whether tagine or steak) begin at 150 MAD ($15.50 USD).
If you cook your own food, expect to pay 200 MAD ($20.50 USD) per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foods.
Backpacking Fez Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Fez, my suggested budget is about 300-500 MAD ($30-51 USD) per day. This budget will cover staying in a hostel dorm, eating in cafes and from street stalls, walking or taking public transit everywhere, and a couple of paid attractions.
A mid-range budget of about 726 MAD ($74 USD) will cover a room at a two-star or three-star budget hotel or a private Airbnb room, eating at cafes and street stalls as well as dinner at a nice restaurant with table service, walking and perhaps taking a taxi, and a couple of paid attractions per day.
For a luxury budget of 2,042 MAD ($208 USD) or more, you will stay in a four-star hotel and be able to do anything and eat anything you want. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Fez Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Fez, like the rest of Morocco, is very cheap so it’s easy to visit here and save money. You don’t need to “do” a lot to visit on a budget. That said, here are some ways to save money in Fez without cutting your fun down:
- Eat at the markets – Stick to eating at the local markets in the medina or away from the tourist centers in the new town and you’ll spend very little money on food!
- Negotiate your cab fare – Be sure to negotiate a price before you get into the taxi. There aren’t set prices and you’ll need to bargain hard.
- Avoid faux guides – Faux guides (or false guides) will linger in the medina and offer you tour services. Be forceful in saying now and keep walking away, eventually, the guy will give up.
- Couchsurf – Couchsurfing connects you with locals who will give you not only a free place to stay, but also a local tour guide who can introduce you to all the great places to see. There’s a small Couchsurfing community in the city.
- Avoid drinking – Even though drinking is frowned upon in the country, you can still find plenty of drinking establishments. They are overpriced and the drinks aren’t that good. Avoid drinking during your visit, save money, and align yourself closer to local norms. Your liver will thank you.
- Eat from street stalls – While restaurant meals can typically cost as little as 30 MAD ($3.25 USD), street food is even cheaper. For just a few dollars, you can indulge in delicious kebabs, sausages, barbecued corn on the cob, hot roasted chicken, and huge sandwiches, among many other tasty options.
- Make change at your hotel – A lot of vendors and museums do not give change back when you pay with paper notes, and the lowest denomination you can get from an ATM is 100 MAD. Hotels and larger grocery stores are best for getting smaller bills and change.
Where To Stay in Fez
There several hostels in the city, making it a backpacker’s haven. Here are my recommended places to stay in Fez:
How to Get Around Fez
The medina is very walkable but can be confusing, so using GPS is recommended. For the most part, anywhere you want to go in the center can be walked to but here are some ways to get around to places further afield:
Bus – The best way to travel around Fez is via bus. The city has a reliable and cheap local bus system. The standard fare is 2-5 MAD ($0.20-0.50 USD) per ride. Be sure to watch out for pickpockets as there are a lot.
Taxi – With a base fare of 20 MAD ($2.05 USD) and 6 MAD ($0.61 USD) per kilometer, taxis are around 20-40 MAD ($2.05-4.10 USD). Taxis from the airport to the city center will cost around 120 MAD ($12.25 USD), while a bus will only cost you 20 MAD ($2.05 USD) for the same distance.
When to Go to Fez
The months between March and May are the best time for visiting Fez, with temperatures reaching an average of 86°F (30°C). These are the shoulder season months, and the weather is hot, but not unbearable. This is also peak tourist season so expect more crowds (as well as higher prices) throughout the city.
July and August are the hottest months, with temperatures an average of 100°F (38°C).
The Fez Festival of Sufi Culture takes place in April, and a perfect way to listen to Sufi musicians. In June, the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music is a 9-day music festival with Sufi chanters, Iranian whirling dervishes, and dancers from around the globe.
Ramadan takes place in the ninth month of the Muslin calendar, and lasts for 30 days. During this time Muslims abstain from food and drink during the daytime. It is also considered a sober month in Morocco.
In winter, the daytime temperatures average around 45°F (7°C), and while the days can be sunny, the nights can be quite chilly.
How to Stay Safe in Fez
There’s a lot of petty crime in Fez. You have to really be on your guard here. Pick-pocketing, petty theft, fake tour guides, and harassers are an especially big problem in the Medina. Be firm when saying no to touts who try to sell you excursions. Beware of locals inviting you into their shop for tea, as you’ll end up being forced to buy something you don’t want, and spending a lot of money as well.
This article about 14 travel scams to avoid can help you avoid some of the bigger ones in the country.
Don’t follow anyone or go down alleys without people.
Women traveling alone attract a lot of attention and the chances of being followed and, possibly groped, is high. This is a particular problem in crowded areas like the medina. Always be watchful and trust your gut. Do not bring valuables with you, and keep your belongings tight to your body. Dress conservatively and avoid wearing a lot of jewelry. The goal is to not draw added attention. Walking alone at night it generally not a good idea. If you’re unsure about an area, ask the hotel staff as they will know which areas are safe.
Always trust your gut instinct. Avoid isolated areas at night, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Fez! Keep an extra eye out here!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.
Fez Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Fez. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Morocco, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Fez Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Fez Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca, by Tahir Shah
Inspired by the Moroccan vacations of his childhood, Shah decides to buy a house in Casablanca. He moves his family from England in hopes of breaking out from the monotony of life in London as well as exposing his children to a more carefree childhood. I randomly picked this up in a bookstore and couldn’t put it down. Shah is an engrossing writer and I was glued to every word. While dealing with corruption, the local bureaucracy, thieves, gangsters, jinns causing havoc, and the hassle that seems to come with even the most simple interactions, Shah weaves a story that is simply one of the best I’ve read all year. It’s beautifully written and endlessly enthralling. You must go buy this book!
A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco, by Suzanna Clarke
The Medina (Old City) of Fez is one of the best-preserved medieval walled cities in the world. Wandering there here is like fighting your way through a maze of alleyways, Arab-style homes, beautiful mosaic work, and really ancient sewer systems. Perhaps that’s what inspired Suzanna Clarke and her husband to buy an old, run-down riad in Fez with the mission of restoring it to its former glory. This book chronicles the restoration, but it’s also a window into Moroccan life and culture.
In Morocco, by Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton is one of America’s most prolific authors, and her travelogue into Morocco is a fantastic read. She journeyed to the country during the final days of WWI…a time before paved roads and modern technology. She spent the month exploring by military vehicle – an unlikely choice for someone associated with American high society. From Rabat to Fez and Fez, Wharton details her meetings with the locals, and their traditions and customs.
The Last Storytellers: Tales from the Heart of Morocco, by Richard Hamilton
Here’s a very unique read before your trip. For nearly a thousand years storytellers have gathered in the center of Fez to tell ancient folktales and fables to their audiences. Traditionally these stories are passed down orally from generation to generation, but with the advent of television and the Internet, these stories are at risk of disappearing forever. Richard Hamilton made it his mission to dive deep into the Fez medina to find the last few storytellers and to record their stories before they’re gone.
The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles
A popular read, The Sheltering Sky is a classic psychological thriller. It follows the lives of three American travelers roaming through the cities and deserts of North Africa after World War II. It’s a commentary on how Americans perceive a foreign culture, and ultimately how this incomprehension destroys them. (Not a light read!)
Morocco Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Morocco and continue planning your trip: