Fez is the second largest city in Morocco and the world’s oldest walled medieval city. The Medina Fés el-Bali is a UNESCO world heritage site filled with donkeys, motorbikes, mosques, food and people all competing for inches of space, but depspite this, Fez has a more relaxed atmosphere than Tangier or Marrakech. There seems to be a more traditional feeling to the people and the architecture; more religious and patriotic than some of the modern glitz other Moroccan cities are adopting.
We were in Fez for one night to celebrate my birthday before heading to the Sahara. And celebrate we did.
Fez is a major city and is very well connected. To get to Fez from Chefchaouen you can catch a bus or hire a grand taxi but it’s quite a distance so a taxi would be expensive. We opted for the cheaper option and took a CTM bus.
Bus – There will be numerous busses departing from Chefchaouen bus station (Gare Routiere), most of which are small local operators (quality not guaranteed). You can turn up on the day to buy tickets if you like the risk factor, but if you prefer to pre-book you can buy tickets online through CTM. A bus departs from Chefchaouen to Fez roughly three times a day, costs around 75MAD (£5.20) per person and takes around 4.5 hours. CTM busses are of a fair quality and will run not too far from their advertised times, however they do run on Morocco time, ‘god willing’ (Insha’Allah), which is very relaxed so expect to depart anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour after the scheduled time. From the Fez bus station, it’s easy to get a petit taxi close to your accommodation, ours cost 60MAD (£4.20).
Taxi – Read the guide to Moroccan taxis HERE. I can’t comment on the prices for a grand taxi as we avoided it but as I mentioned above; the distance is great and it would be quite expensive, especially in comparison to the bus, which is cheap and easy.
Once you arrive in the correct area, you might be offered directions from a ‘guide’, who will walk you to your accommodation. These guys expect payment, so if you use them you should pay, but no more than 20-30MAD (£1.40 – £2,10) is necessary. We payed a guy 20MAD to take us to our door. If you know where you are going just decline their service politely.
We decided to stay in a riad, which is traditional accommodation and similar to a hotel. We booked through Airbnb as we like to keep things nice and tidy, and Airbnb has a good review system. We chose Riad Naila Fes and paid 587MAD (£41) for the night.
A riad will generally have an open centre to the building, which doubles as a reception and common area with rooms around the outside. Be aware that while riad’s are mostly comfortable, some can be noisy due to the layout and age of the buildings and your room will open out directly into the main common area.
There are a plethora of accommodation options in and around the Medina, each with their pros & cons depending on budget. Fes is a large city so when planning the sites you want to visit, take note of a good area to look for accommodation.
Hostels are very cheap in Fez: dorm rooms start from around 71MAD (£5) and private rooms start from 143MAD (£10).
Riads / Hotels start from as little as 215MAD (£15) per night for a double room, but beware of these, it always pays to read reviews if the price is that cheap. 355MAD (£25) per night will get you somewhere a bit nicer, 716MAD (£50) will get you a quality room, and from there you can go as luxurious as you like.
The Fez medina is the most intact ancient medina and one of the largest car-free urban spaces in the world; it’s an absolute maze. Shops, hawkers and children crowd the tiny avenues and alleyways and it’s very easy to get lost. Don’t be scared to ask for directions, quite often there will be people asking if they can show you the way, just be prepared to ‘tip’ for the service; no more than 5MAD for a random passer-by is needed.
Probably the most famous place to visit is the Chouara Tannery, the outdoor tanning/dyeing site now part of UNESCO world heritage, but unfortunately we didn’t have time, so I can’t comment on the pungency! Visit the Medersa Bou Inania, a gorgeous educational institute completed in 1355 and recently restored, and check out the views from the rooftop. The Jewish quarter, grand gates, museums and gardens offer a couple of days worth of sight-seeing and getting lost among the various neighbourhoods.
Probably the best thing we did in Fez was to get a hammam. Imagine being stripped, bathed, scrubbed and rinsed in a steamy room by someone you don’t know; it’s like being an infant again and is utterly luxurious. We had ours as a couple in a fancy riad spa, as part of my birthday gift, so I don’t know what it cost and it wont be included in the price summary. A traditional segregated-sex hammam will cost around 15MAD (£1), make note of the times allocated for your gender.
We ended up eating at Cafe Clock, a multi-floored restaurant full of nooks and hidden rooms, which is an awesome place to catch your breath and/or get a good meal. It is a little touristic, which made us hesitate, but in the end it was the easiest option for tired legs and proved to be a good choice. Our meal came to 300MAD (£21) for two people and was way more than we could eat. Also look up the Ruined Garden, which was our second choice for a meal, although slightly more expensive.
Fez for one night;
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