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Exploring Fes Medina: A Comprehensive Self-Guided Walking Tour

Updated: May 28

Welcome to Fes, the cultural and spiritual capital of Morocco. In this post, we will guide you through a self-guided walking tour of the Fes Medina, the oldest and largest urban car-free zone in the world. The Fes Medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that preserves the rich history, art, and architecture of the medieval Islamic civilization. You will discover some of the most beautiful and fascinating sights in the city, such as mosques, madrasas, fountains, palaces, souks, and tanneries. You will also get a glimpse of the daily life of the locals who still live and work in this ancient labyrinth.

To follow this tour, you will need a map of the walking route, which you can find below. The tour will take about 4 hours, but you can adjust it according to your preferences and pace. Let's begin!

Download the KML file here

1. Bab Boujloud

The first stop on our tour is Bab Boujloud, also known as the Blue Gate. This is the main entrance to the Fes Medina from the west side. The gate was originally built in the 12th century by the Almohad dynasty, but it was reconstructed in 1913 by the French colonial authorities to create a more impressive and symmetrical entrance. The gate is decorated with blue tiles on one side and green tiles on the other, representing the colors of Fes and Islam respectively. The gate is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and shops where you can enjoy a mint tea or a snack before entering the medina.

The Blue Gate Fes medina

2. Rainbow Street

As you enter the Bab Boujloud you’ll be facing east. Continue straight along Tala’a Seghira and the road makes a turn to the right, then left. Only 140m or a two-minute walk from Bab Boujloud, is our first stop… this is (#2) Rainbow Street, SO keep a look out to your left.

Rainbow Street is a narrow alley linking the two main arteries of the medina (Talaa' Kbira and Talaa' Sghira) aptly named for its brightly painted walkway and walls. The alleyway is jam-packed with funky shops and galleries, as well as plenty of opportunities for a unique photo. Today it serves as a market area for artists and painters and you will find an incredible variety of artwork on display and for sale.

Rainbow Street Fes Medina

Moving on from Rainbow Street, continue down this alleyway, as this will connect you to Tala’a Kebira, which is the other main street in the Medina. When there, turn right towards (#3) Bou Inania Madrasa and (#4) Water Clock. The Bou Inania Madrasa is just meters away and will be on your right, and the (#4) Dar al-Magana – Water Clock is directly opposite on your left.

3. Bou Inania Madrasa

This is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved Islamic schools in Fes, built in the 14th century by Sultan Abu Inan Faris. The madrasa is open to non-Muslim visitors for a small fee (20 dirhams), and it is worth a visit to admire its exquisite architecture and decoration. The madrasa features a stunning courtyard with a marble fountain, a prayer hall with a carved wooden ceiling, and a minaret with green tiles. The walls are covered with intricate geometric patterns and calligraphy made of zellige (mosaic tiles), stucco (plaster), and cedar wood.

4. Dar al-Magana

Dar al-Magana is a 14th-century house that contains a unique water clock that was designed by an engineer named Ibn al-Haytham. The clock consists of 13 windows that open at different times to reveal brass bowls. The bowls are connected to a water tank on the roof by pipes. As the water level in the tank changes throughout the day, it triggers a mechanism that opens and closes the windows and makes a sound with metal balls. The clock was used to announce prayer times and public events in the medina.

From the Bou Inania Madrasa and the Water Clock you have a long 1 km walk to the next stop. Continue back towards the east, or down Tala’a Kebira, and stop off at small shops and fondouks of interest along the way.Then turn right into Derb Zkak lahjar, and make a quick left onto Derb Dermami. This will lead you to (#5) Place Nejjarine, the Carpenters Souq & (#6) Nejjarine Fondouk.

5. Place Nejjarine

Place Nejjarine is one of the most picturesque squares in Fes. The square is named after the Nejjarine (carpenters) who used to work and live here. The square is dominated by a beautiful fountain that dates back to the 18th century. The fountain is decorated with blue tiles and carved wood panels that depict scenes from daily life in Fes. The fountain also serves as a public water source for the residents of the medina.

Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts

6. Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts

Next to the fountain, you will find the Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts (20 dirhams), which is housed in a restored fondouk (caravanserai). A fondouk was a place where merchants and travelers could stay overnight with their animals and goods. The museum displays a collection of wooden objects and tools that showcase the craftsmanship and heritage of Fes. You can see examples of doors, windows, chests, furniture, musical instruments, weapons, jewelry boxes, and more. The museum also has a rooftop terrace that offers a panoramic view of the medina.

After you have checked out the Nejjarine Square and all there is to see here, walk away from the Fondouk and the fountain. And at the end of this small street turn left up Derb Sidi Moussa street. Following this, make a quick right just before entering back onto Tala’a Kebira. This is the entrance to the (#7) Henna souq.


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7. The Henna Souk

This is one of the oldest Souks in Fes – the beautiful Henna Souk. Originally, it was solely used for selling henna, natural medicines, and cosmetics. It’s more or less the same today, only some stall holders now include ceramics, antiques, and other tourist collectibles in their stalls. It won’t cost you anything to visit, and vendors will call out trying to encourage you to try their products. This is a good place to learn more about henna, or if you prefer smile, wave, say thank you, and move on.

This small courtyard is in a very picturesque location, shaded by a large central sycamore tree. It’s also the entrance to the Maristane Sidi Frej, an old psychiatric hospital built in the 13th century.

Henna souk fes medina

Exit the Henna Souq to the left of the hospital entrance, this is the opposite end that you entered from and brings you back to Tala’a Kebira.

Turn right into the Attarine Market. Follow the alleyway towards the (#8) Mausoleum of Moulay Idris II. Go under the low wooden beam, veer right and you’ll find yourself at the gorgeous decorative doors. Continue this path following the exterior wall to circumnavigate the Mausoleum and Mosque. In doing so you’ll pass by the various copper-cladded entrance doors including the intricately carved western entrance that leads into the Sanctuary.

8. Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss II

The Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss II is one of the most sacred sites in Fes. Moulay Idriss II was the founder of Fes and the second ruler of the Idrisid dynasty, which established the first Islamic state in Morocco in the 8th century. He is considered to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, and his tomb is a pilgrimage site for many Moroccans. The mausoleum is closed to non-Muslims, but you can admire its exterior, which features a green-tiled dome and a minaret with a golden tip. You can also peek inside through the doors and windows to see the lavish decoration of the tomb chamber.

From here you can either follow the walls all the way around and back to Tala’a Kebira. Wherein you will then need to turn right and continue down to (#9) Al Attarine Madrasa. Alternatively, once you have reached the back of the Mausoleum, take one of the two smaller alleys on your right, which will also lead you down to (#9) Al Attarine Madrasa.

9. Al Attarine Madrasa

Al Attarine Madrasa (20 dirhams) is another stunning Islamic school that was built in the 14th century by Sultan Abu Said Uthman II. The madrasa is named after the nearby spice market (souk al-attarine), and it is famous for its exquisite zellige work that covers every inch of its walls, floors, and ceilings. The madrasa also has a beautiful courtyard with a marble fountain and a prayer hall with a carved wooden mihrab (niche that indicates the direction of Mecca). As this is no longer an operating madrasa, non-muslims have access to both its impressive courtyard and the rooms upstairs where students were once housed. You also have access to the rooftop where you can get a glimpse of Al Qarawiyyin Mosque & University.

Your next stop and right beside the Al Attarine Madrasa is the (#10) Al Qarawiyyin University and Mosque. As mentioned the interior is not accessible to non-muslims, however, a walk around the exterior of this historical building in the heart of the Medina is well worth it.

10. Mosque and University Kairaouine

The Mosque and University Kairaouine is one of the oldest and largest mosques in Africa and one of the oldest universities in the world. The mosque was founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri, a wealthy woman who dedicated her fortune to building a place of worship and learning for her community. The mosque can accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers, and it has 14 gates, 270 columns, and a minaret that dates back to the 10th century. The university was incorporated into Morocco's modern state university system in 1963 and officially renamed "University of Al Quaraouiyine" two years later. The mosque and university are closed to non-Muslims, but you can admire their architecture from outside or from some nearby rooftops.

After you’ve strolled around the university your next stop is (#11) Place Seffarine or the Coppersmiths Square. This is a short two or three-minute walk southeast. So walk in the direction of the nougat street stalls and follow this street down, around, and veer towards the left.

11. Place Seffarine

Place Seffarine is a small square that is home to the coppersmiths of Fes. Here you can see them hammering and shaping copper pots, pans, trays, lamps, and other items. You can also buy some of their products as souvenirs or gifts. The square also has a fountain that dates back to the 14th century.

Place Seffarine Fes Medina

From Place Seffarine, keep Qarawiyyin Library on your left side, and walk away from the square. On your right is Derb Machatine, turn down this alleyway and continue along until it becomes Derb Chouara. Congratulations… you have made it to the (#12) Chouara Tannery! Be prepared for the touts and don’t let them walk with or ‘guide’ you anywhere!

12. Chouara Tannery

Chouara Tannery is one of the oldest and largest tanneries in Fes. Here you can witness the traditional process of leather production that has not changed much since medieval times. The tannery consists of hundreds of stone vats filled with different liquids that are used to clean, dye, and treat animal skins. The skins are then dried on nearby rooftops before being turned into leather goods such as bags, jackets, shoes, and belts. The tannery emits a strong smell due to the use of natural substances such as pigeon droppings, lime, salt, and plant extracts. You can enter the tannery through one of the leather shops that surround it, where you will be given a sprig of mint to mask the odor. You can also watch the tannery from above from one of the balconies that offer a bird's eye view of this colorful spectacle.

If you are interested in visiting the ground floor of the tannery be sure to watch our video on the best way to navigate fake guides and avoid being scammed. If you choose to enter one of the shops and visit the viewing balconies, you might be expected to make a purchase. One way to avoid this, is to upon entry offer to pay a small amount per person (10 Dirham is more than fair).

How to visit Chouara Tannery

This concludes our walking tour of the Fes Medina. But there is more to see in Fes than just its old city. Here are some other points of interest that you can visit if you have more time:

The Royal Palace in Fes

The Royal Palace, or Dar el-Makhzen, is the official residence of the King of Morocco in Fes. It is located in the Fes el-Jdid quarter, next to the Jewish quarter of Mellah. The palace dates back to the 13th century but has been renovated and expanded several times over the centuries. The palace covers an area of 80 hectares and consists of several buildings, courtyards, gardens, and mosques. The palace is not open to the public, but you can admire its magnificent exterior from the outside. The most striking feature of the palace is its seven golden gates, which are decorated with intricate carvings, mosaics, and zellij tiles. The gates reflect the different styles and influences of the Moroccan dynasties that ruled Fes.

The Royal Palace in Fes

Fes el-Jdid

Fes el-Jdid, or New Fes is the name given to the part of the city that was founded by the Marinid dynasty in the 13th century. It is located west of the old medina of Fes el-Bali and was originally built as a royal city and a military stronghold. Fes el-Jdid is home to some of the most important monuments and landmarks in Fes, such as the Royal Palace, the Jewish quarter of Mellah, the Bab Semmarine Gate, the Dar Batha Museum, and the Bab Bou Jeloud Gate. Fes el-Jdid also has its own souks and markets, where you can find a variety of goods, from spices and leather to carpets and pottery.

Fes elJdid

Jnan Sbil Gardens

Jnan Sbil Gardens, or Bou Jeloud Gardens, is a peaceful oasis in the heart of Fes. It's located between Fes el-Bali and Fes el-Jdid, near the Bab Bou Jeloud gate. The gardens were created in the 18th century by Sultan Moulay Abdallah as a royal garden for his palace. They were later opened to the public by Sultan Moulay Hassan in the 19th century. The gardens cover an area of 7.5 hectares and feature a variety of plants, trees, and flowers, as well as fountains, ponds, and pavilions. The gardens are a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to relax, enjoy nature, and escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Place Rcif

Place Rcif is one of the main squares in Fes el-Bali. It is located at the end of Talaa Kebira, one of the main streets in the medina. Place Rcif is surrounded by shops, cafes, restaurants, and mosques. It is also a hub for public transportation, as it is where you can find taxis and buses to other parts of the city. Place Rcif is a lively and colorful place, where you can witness the daily life of Fes and mingle with locals. It is also a good place to start or end your exploration of the medina, as it is close to many attractions, such as the Medersa Bou Inania, the Kairaouine Mosque and University, and the Nejjarine Museum.

Marinid Tombs

The Marinid Tombs are a group of ruined tombs that date back to the 14th century. They are located on a hill overlooking Fes el-Bali from the south. The tombs belong to some of the sultans and nobles of the Marinid dynasty, which ruled Morocco from 1244 to 1465. The tombs are mostly in a state of decay, but they still offer a glimpse into the past glory of Fes. The tombs are also a great spot to enjoy panoramic views of Fes and its surroundings, especially at sunset.

Fes Old City Walls

Fes is a city that will enchant you with its history, culture, and charm. It is a place where you can immerse yourself in the past, while also enjoying the present. Whether you are interested in architecture, art, religion, education, or shopping, Fes has something for everyone. Fes is a city that deserves to be on your bucket list.





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