Fes is the oldest city in Morocco, with a history going back over 2,000 years. As you sip a lemonade on one of the roof terraces, you’ll see remnants of the old city walls on the hills all around you. There are many things to do in Fes, Morocco with kids, from exploring the alleyways, to elaborate madrasas and mosques.
This city used to be the center of Morocco and is known for its skilled artisans and hand-crafted items. While Casablanca is now the center of business in Morocco, Fes remains the center of the leather industry and is a great place to stock up on clothes and home goods.
Fes was the capital of Morocco for several centuries and is still considered one of the four Imperial Cities. It also has a few surprises up its sleeves- like being home to the oldest university in the world!
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At the bottom of this post, download a free pdf of Safety Tips for Traveling with Kids.
Is Fes a Family-Friendly City?
Yes, Fes is a family-friendly city! After visiting as a single person in my twenties, I was surprised at how much people in Fes adore kids. They shower them with attention- sometimes too much! The kids are often smiled at, given small treats, and even have women asking to kiss their heads.
As a family, we have found most vendors to be respectful, and easygoing. The narrow alleyways can get a bit intense, especially on Saturdays when they are full of carts trying to deliver goods, competing with foot traffic, and even donkeys loaded up with their own deliveries.
Fridays, as the Muslim holy day, are the quietest days in the medina. About half the stalls close, and traffic is considerably lighter.
How Much Time Do I Need in Fes?
If you are short on time, two full days is plenty of time to see the highlights of Fes and get in some shopping! We stayed for five nights, and while we didn’t see or do everything, we definitely walked the same streets many times and even waved to the same vendors we had spoken with a day or two before.
Things to Do in Fes
There are two main streets that run parallel to each other through the medina of Fes- Tala Kbira, the wider street, and Tala Sghira, the narrower street. Off of these run smaller streets that wind through the medina.
While many of the top things to do in Fes are located in the old city, you’ll also want to explore a bit farther- you’ll find more authentic markets, a royal palace, and the old Jewish quarter, all of which add to the complexity of this large city.
Fes is the largest city in Morocco by area and the oldest. It ranks second in terms of population, but many tourists only see the limited sights of the old medina.
Consider starting your time in Fes with a full-day tour of the city– you’ll see highlights of the many things to do in Fes and get a sense of the city both inside and outside the famous old medina.
Book Now: Full-Day Tour of Fes
Wander through the Old Medina
The Old Medina is classic Fes- this is what you see in pictures, and what most tourists come to experience. Here you’ll find endless shops, with everything from embroidered shoes to leather bags. You’ll see spices piled high into conical shapes, pharmacies promoting argan oil, and markets displaying skinned goat’s heads next to carts overflowing with produce.
Take your time wandering the medina, allow yourself to get lost, and appreciate the wide variety of smells, textures, and patterns all around you.
Watch out for donkeys- they are often loaded with heavy cargo and take up almost the full width of the alleyways as they come through. You’ll need to step aside and make way for these animals, as well as men pushing wide carts.
Take a Guided Tour of the Medina
The medina of Fes is quite vast- and while you will find yourself walking the same streets around your riad several times during your stay, it’s easy to miss parts of it.
We highly recommend taking a half-day walking tour of the medina. You’ll learn about the history of Fes, and see some of the architectural highlights hidden within the maze of the medina.
Visit Bou Inania Madrasa
This Madrasa, or religious school, was built in 1355. It has been restored several times and is in wonderful condition. It is considered a historic piece of Islamic architecture, and a “don’t miss” on your Fes itinerary.
You can visit the main fountain and prayer rooms, then venture upstairs to see sleeping and studying rooms with small windows looking down on the courtyard.
You’ll find ornate decoration on every surface, from stucco carvings to tilework, to calligraphy. Entrance Fee, 20 Dh, kids enter for free.
Visit a Tannery
This is one of the iconic experiences of Fes. There are several tanneries you can visit, and most of them do not charge an entrance fee. In fact, as you wander the medina, you may hear “friendly” strangers letting you know which way to turn to get to the tanneries.
Once you enter, you will go up to a terrace to look down on the vats of liquid that make up the center of the tannery. You will be given some mint to hold to your nose to help with the smell. The day we visited, the smell was not bad.
You’ll learn about the leather tanning process, from stripping the skins in lime (dangerous work) to dying and drying the skins.
You’ll then make your way back down through a series of showrooms with every possible type of leather item available for you to buy. These items are generally of quite good quality, but the price will probably be about twice what you would pay for a similar item in the medina.
Haggle for a Souvenir
Pick something you would like to bring home and enjoy the process of haggling for a final price! If the item is small, don’t worry too much about the outcome. For larger purchases, you should inquire about a general price at a few shops to get an idea of the price range before you settle on an item to bargain for in earnest.
Many people advise attempting to start negotiations at 50% of the asking price, but this is not a fast rule. We found some vendors eager to negotiate, and others simply not interested.
There was a small, inexpensive stone pendant one of the kids was interested in -it was quoted at 30 dirhams one evening, with an offer of 20 before we left (about 2 USD). The next day, after our daughter decided she wanted to spend her allowance on the trinket, the boss was in the shop, and quoted us 80 dirhams (about 8 USD), and didn’t want to budge. No, we didn’t buy the item!
Do your best to get a good deal, but don’t be afraid to walk away from a bad deal, no matter the total price. Almost every item is available in the medina from multiple sellers.
Check out the Blue Gate
The Blue Gate, called Bab Boujloud, is the most famous of 13 gates around the old medina of Fes. If you approach it from inside the medina, you might not realize where you are, as it’s green! The outside of the gate is blue- the color of Fes, while the inside of the gate is green, the color of Islam.
Peek into the Mausoleum Zaouia Moulay Idris II
If you are not Muslim, you’ll have to settle with peeking in the doorway of this elaborate complex. Completed in 1824, many Muslims make a pilgrimage to view the tomb of Idris II, who is considered the founder of the city of Fes.
The outer doors of the Mausoleum and the area around it are highly decorated, so it’s worth a visit even if you cannot enter the shrine.
Visit the Foundouq al Najjarine
This building was originally a caravanserai- an inn for travelers and merchants which also provided storage for their goods. Word would go out on the street about which goods had arrived, and people would gather to view the goods.
The building is now the Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts, which charges a small admission fee, though the building and its decorations are still the main attraction.
Stroll through the Jnan Sbil
This manicured garden is a lovely respite from the hustle and bustle of the medina. To reach the garden from the medina, head out of the Blue Gate. Proceed straight, through the parking lot, and out the undecorated gate beyond. Continue straight, and you’ll see the entrance to the park on your left.
Inside the park, you’ll find fountains, a cactus garden, a water wheel, and more.
Gawk at the Gates of the Fes Royal Palace
Called the Dar al-Makhzen, the Fes Royal Palace is still regularly used by the King of Morocco and is not open to the public. However, the main ornamental gate with its seven doors is worth visiting.
We had an awful time trying to find these doors! You’d think a large palace would be easy to find, but instead, we ended up winding through alleyways around the palace and ran into a few other confused tourists as well.
If you try to put “Royal Palace in Fez” or “Fes Palais Royal” into google maps you’ll be led on a wild goose chase.
To find the famous gates, head to the Place des Alaouites. This is the large plaza that was constructed just before these new gates were added in 1971. The doors are made of gilt bronze- supposedly they are cleaned with lemon juice to keep them shiny.
If you are coming from the medina, to get to these gates, you’ll pass through the Blue Gate, reach a different gate to the palace (Bab Chems), then turn left to continue through a large market and into the Jewish Quarter.
Be aware that you are not allowed to photograph Bab Chems (I had a guard quickly whistle at me), though you are allowed to photograph the seven gates, also known as Bab L’Makhzen.
Enjoy a Fresh Fruit Juice
You’ll find many fruit stands that squeeze cups of fresh fruit juice as you order. Pomegranate is the most popular (and delightful) but you can also get orange, watermelon, banana, and more.
Visit the Jewish Quarter
Called the Mellah, the Jewish Quarter has a different architectural style and feel than other parts of Fes. You’ll find open wooden balconies on the second story of many buildings. Markets line the main streets. You’ll find many people directing you toward the Synagogue as you walk the streets.
Visit the Ibn Danan Synagogue
The Ibn Danan Synagogue is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been a combined synagogue and museum since 2013. The synagogue was built in the 16th century and was originally one of many in the area.
Dar Batha Museum
This museum is housed in an old palace, that became a museum of arts and crafts in 1915. You’ll find carpets, jewelry, coins, woodwork, and a wonderful display of traditional ceramics. There is a small entrance fee of 10 Dh per adult.
Take a Cooking Class
Fes is a fantastic place to take a cooking class, and learn how to make classic dishes like couscous and tagine.
This cooking class includes a trip to the market to buy ingredients, and then a class inside an old palace. After you finish cooking, enjoy your meal in the palace garden. Kids 6 and up are welcome.
There are many herbology stalls around Fes. You’ll see many of them with soaps and herbs outside their stores. They also sell argan oil, as well as black soap (which looks like thick molasses). Many of these stores also offer henna applications! Your riad may also be able to arrange for henna to be applied.
Henna is a traditional application of dye to the hands and feet, often done before important ceremonies like weddings. Henna is an all-natural dye made from the henna plant that creates temporary tattoos, usually on the hands or feet.
Henna is applied as a thick paste, which dries and flakes off, leaving behind brown ink marks. Having henna tattoos is supposed to bring good luck, and ward off bad luck.
Take a Day Trip to see Roman Ruins
There are several places that make great day trips from Fes. The most popular is a combination of Volubilis and Meknes.
The ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis are the highlight of this day trip. About an hour and a half from Fez, a visit here is often combined with stops in Moulay Idriss and the Imperial city of Meknes.
This full-day private tour takes you to all three locations and includes a guide for the ruins of Volubilis. There are very few informational signs, so you’ll really benefit from having a guide to show you the highlights of the site.
What to Buy (and Not Buy) in Fes
There are a lot of items made in Fes, which makes it a great place to get a deal on a lot of handicrafts. Anything leather, from handbags to living room poufs, clothing, and embroidered slippers. Ceramics, and of course, carpets.
If you will be visiting Chefchaouen, you are better off buying carpets or other loomed items there, though there are plenty of looms in Fes as well.
You’ll want to wait to buy anything made of metal in Marrakesh, where you’ll find a greater variety. Marrakesh overall has the greatest breadth of products- from inexpensive souvenirs to higher-end boutiques and higher-quality items. However, vendors in Marrakesh drive a harder bargain, and you may not get a better deal than in Fes unless you have the help of a local.
Where to Ship Things in Fes
Should you decide to buy more than you can carry while in Fes (guilty!), you will need to ship your items back home, or to someone who can hold them for you.
In Fes, you have two options: DHL or the Post Office (Post Maroc).
The post office is slower, less expensive, and less reliable. They are closed on weekends and open during the week until just after 4 pm. This is a good option if you have inexpensive items and aren’t worried about speed or reliability. Expect items to arrive in 4 weeks or longer. Office de Poste, 3269+93H.
DHL has an Express Office just outside the medina. You’ll pay as much or more to ship things as you did to buy them, but they will arrive in the US securely in 3 or 4 days. We shipped two boxes from here and they made it efficient and easy. They are closed Sundays but open until 1 pm on Saturdays. 86 Rue Betioui Oued Zhoun.
Where to Stay in Fes
If you are staying in Fes for just a few days, you’ll want to be in the old medina. This is close to all the things to do in the medina, and still within walking distance of many of the things to do outside the medina as well.
There are no cars in the medina, so you’ll need to walk to your accommodation carrying your bags, or hire a man with a cart to push your things ahead of you.
We highly recommend the Riad Noujoum Medina Fes. It has a great location off a quiet street in the medina, and breakfast is served on a beautiful rooftop terrace with views of the old city walls.
We had the riad arrange to pick us up at the bus station and drive us to the outside of the medina, where they had a cart waiting for our luggage, and showed us the way to the riad.
Book Now: Riad Noujoum Medina Fes
Where to Eat in Fes
There are lots of cafes in Fes, many serving traditional Moroccan food. They tend to be up narrow stairs, or around corners and are easy to miss. Here are the places we tried, and why we recommend each of them.
We highly recommend staying in a riad that provides breakfast (like Riad Noujoum Medina Fes). Moroccan breakfasts are quite extensive, including eggs, several types of bread, and crepes as well as tea, coffee, jam, and honey.
This is the best restaurant we ate at in Fes. It has what I saw referred to as “Moroccon Fusion”. They have a series of tapas to choose from, as well as salads and mains.
We enjoyed a few tapas (eggplant fritters, goat cheese cigars), as well as a salad of watermelon, feta, radishes, and more. We also had a dish of olive and zucchini pasta. It’s not expensive, but if you want to sit on their lovely patio in the evening you may need a reservation.
This is the place to go when you’ve eaten nothing but tagine and couscous for days on end and need something a bit different. It’s not expensive- tapas are between 30 and 40 Dh ($3-4 USD). It won’t disappoint!
Cafe Restaurant Khmissa
This cafe has traditional Moroccan food- tagines, skewers, couscous, etc. We tried the chicken pastille (pastry wrapped around pulled chicken, dusted with sugar), the harira soup (chickpea and tomato), and the vegetable couscous.
Their roof terrace gets quite busy in the evening, and you may hear live music played from the second floor. It took us a while to realize why this place is extremely popular- they serve beer! It’s not on the menu, but if you ask for a beer, they serve bottles brewed in Casablanca.
Made in M
This cafe is a great lunch stop. With a few tables inside, and a few out, it has a modern feel. They offer a breakfast menu as well as a few lunch items. We enjoyed the vegetable rolls (like large spring rolls), as well as the yogurt and granola. Another great place to change things up when you are tired of the same traditional Moroccan dishes.
Our tour guide led us to this restaurant deep in the produce and fish part of the medina after finishing our tour of the medina. Head upstairs to the roof terrace. We had a set meal of Moroccan salad, main (we chose vegetable couscous), and fruit plate for dessert. The Moroccan salad came as ten separate dishes of various vegetables to try. They were all delicious, and a fun change from the tomato, cucumber, and onion salads we’d been having.
This popular cafe also has a branch in Chefchauen that we enjoyed. The menu is virtually the same. They always have a well-decorated space with comfy seating and wonderful views. A great place for smoothies or to sit with a coffee, rather than a full meal.
Check for any events they may be hosting. Their activities range from cooking classes to henna, to craft classes.
Can I Drink the Water in Fes?
No, you should not drink the water in Fes, though it’s fine to brush your teeth with it. We use our Steripen to purify any water we use before we drink it.
How to Get to Fes, Morocco
Fes is easy to access from several other cities in Morocco- you can take a train from Tangier, a bus from Chefchaouen, or a high-speed train from Casablanca, which takes only two hours to make the journey.
There is an airport in Fes, though most people fly into the larger airports in Tangier, Casablanca, or Marrakesh.
If you aren’t interested in a long ride on a public bus (with no bathroom), from Chefchaouen or Tangier, consider a private transfer.
Is There Uber in Fes, Morocco?
No, there is no Uber or other ridesharing app that currently works in Fes. If you want to leave the walkable section of the old medina, you’ll need to hire a taxi, a private driver, or rent a car.
There You Have It: Things to Do in Fes Morocco with Kids
There are so many things to do in Fes! You can wander and shop for days, or focus on the fabulous artistry inside the palaces and museums. There’s so much color and energy to soak up, you and your family will certainly enjoy exploring this ancient city.