Fez Travel Diary
Morocco: a destination that has been on my bucket list for what feels like forever, conjuring up visions of dreamy sunsets, and sun-drenched riads. When the opportunity came up to visit Fez, the old capital of Morocco, over the most recent Bank Holiday weekend, it seemed like the perfect chance to finally visit and celebrate the end of summer as a final hurrah.
We set off after work on Friday afternoon, so by the time we arrived in Fez, it was almost midnight. Hungry, tired, and bedraggled, Oliver and I were already bickering by the time we loaded ourselves into the transfer, kindly sent by Riad Fes (our first hotel during the trip) to pick us up from the airport. However, by the time the car stopped outside the walls of Fez’s old medina, and we stepped out and were led through a labyrinthine path of streets to the hotel, I was already in awe of the city, which was covered in a mystical nighttime hush. Upon first impression, the hotel entrance was already breathtakingly beautiful, and as we settled into our hotel bedroom, I was already excited to see more of the property the following morning.
Saturday morning started with a buffet breakfast (mainly continental with cooked options as well) at the hotel’s in-house restaurant. The weather in Fez was around 40 degrees throughout our stay, so we enjoyed all of our meals al fresco; the hotel was pleasantly quiet during our stay, without being eerily so, which only added to the relaxed summer atmosphere.
We then spent the remainder of the morning leisurely exploring the hotel: Riad Fes is a luxury Relais and Chateaux property set just within the walls of Fez’s medina; as a traditional riad, it features a central courtyard with soaring ceilings, and 31 individual bedrooms, each named and designed differently. We were hosted inside the Raha bedroom, which features blue-green tones, traditional Moroccan furniture, and mosaic tiling in the bathroom. The hotel also features a spa with an outdoor pool, a rooftop bar with panoramic views over the city, and multiple nooks scattered throughout the property, each individually cosily decorated and centred around a different colour scheme.
After a lazy few hours relaxing by the pool, reading, and playing cards, we had a traditional Moroccan lunch in the hotel restaurant, featuring their special couscous tagine of the day and Moroccan meat skewers, followed by mint tea and cookies. Our evening was spent on the hotel’s rooftop, watching the sunset bathe the dusty sandstone buildings of the medina in pink and orange tones. Dinner was again eaten in the hotel’s restaurant, where we again enjoyed a traditional Moroccan meal whilst a guitarist serenaded us with sultry melodies. We chose to eat all our meals in the hotel for several reasons; firstly, our breakfasts and dinners were kindly covered by the hotel, and secondly, we hadn’t done plenty of research on where to eat in Fez. Unlike Marrakech, Fez isn’t necessarily a foodie destination in Morocco, (and isn’t particularly easy to navigate without a guide anyway!) so we chose to play on the safe side, and stay inside the property.
The following morning, we set off bright and early for a walking tour of the medina. This was by far one of my favourite parts of the trip, as in my opinion, exploring a city by foot is one of the best ways to discover a new destination. If you’re visiting at the height of summer (which we were), I’d definitely recommend setting off early before the sun reaches its highest and the crowds start filling the winding streets. Our guide, Mohammed, was organised by the hotel, and was an experienced and government-licensed tour guide, who spoke English fluently and was more than happy to tailor the tour to our requests.
We started off by visiting the highlights within the medina, passing by the University of Al-Karaouine (supposedly the oldest known university in the world, and founded by a woman), and the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss; as non-Muslims, we weren’t actually allowed inside either of these buildings, but we were able to admire the incredible and intricate Islamic architecture from the outside. The city was just beginning to awaken as we navigated the winding streets, and we passed by locals opening up shop and waking from their sleepy Sunday morning slumber: old men enjoying coffee as they sat people-watching outside, and children picking up fruit from roadside stalls before running home.
At our request, Mohammed also hailed a cab to take us to a couple of sights outside of the medina walls, including the Royal Palace (featuring incredible sky-high golden doors), as well as several artisan workshops highlighting Fez’s best craftsmanship, including a pottery workshop, and then back inside the medina for a tour of the traditional leather tanneries and a berber rug workshop (where we ended up purchasing a carpet for our new home together!). The tour cost a total of 600 MAD (around £50 for the both of us, including taxis to and from certain points outside of the city, as well as a generous tip). Note that whilst you’ll be given a base fee for the tour, this will most likely not include fees to certain sites, or taxi fees if you want to visit various highlights outside of the medina: however, these should all be optional, and our guide tailored the tour around our specific requests. I would absolutely recommend booking a guided tour if you’re visiting Fez, as we simply would have been unable to navigate the city without one; it was also the most efficient way to see most of the city’s sights without having done any research beforehand. There are lots of articles online about tour guides scamming tourists, but our experience was completely positive, and we couldn’t have asked for a friendlier guide: he spoke perfect English, and didn’t pressure us to purchase anything at the workshops that we visited.
Upon finishing our tour, it was time to check out of Riad Fes, and head to their sister hotel, Hotel Sahrai, for our third and final night in Fes. Removed from the city centre, and offering views over the nearby Atlas mountains, the spa hotel is the complete opposite to the traditional and intricate Riad Fes. Featuring the only Givenchy spa in Africa, sandstone coloured walls throughout, and minimalist interiors, the hotel gives off serious desert-chic vibes with a healthy dose of elegance.
Our room was minimal and stripped back, featuring a sexy bathroom with glass walls, a sunken bathtub, and Acqua di Parma products. Plus, we had a direct view onto the scenic swimming pool.
On Sundays, Hotel Sahrai puts on a generous buffet brunch spread that offers a mix of dishes from both of their restaurants (the French Relais de Paris, and the Moroccan-Lebanese Amaraz); my favourites were the Moroccan grill (where the chef would grill meat skewers of your choosing on the spot), and the dessert selection, which included a mix of French patisserie and traditional Moroccan sweets paired with fresh mint tea.
We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling by the pooling; the past few months have been pretty hectic for both of us (our wedding is now less than a month away, and we’re planning it all ourselves!), so this was definitely some much-needed TLC. As evening fell, we donned our gladrags for dinner and headed to Relais de Paris, which offers an a la carte French menu in the evening; our candelit table was right by the poolside, and the atmosphere was incredibly romantic. For drinks, we headed to the rooftop Jungle bar afterwards, where there’s a live DJ and also a plush hotel guests-only lounge.
On our final morning in Fez, we started with a buffet breakfast at Amaraz, enjoyed al fresco on the terrace; we had several more hours at the pool before it was time to head to the airport.
We had such a wonderful time in Fez, and given that our trip was timed exactly one year from us getting engaged, and one month before our wedding, it was a very special way for us to celebrate several milestones in our relationship together, as well as explore a country that neither of us had been to before. As it was also my first visit to the African continent, everything proved to be a new and exciting experience, and I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity to visit. We experienced nothing but friendliness throughout our trip, and despite a lot of warning, felt entirely safe whilst in Fez. I’d highly recommend a trip if you’d like to visit Morocco, and fancy exploring somewhere a little quieter and less touristy than Marrakech; it’s also a fantastic destination to head to if you have limited time, as three days was the perfect length of stay. If anything, it’s made us desperate to head back to Morocco, and explore Marrakech and Chefchaouen as soon as possible.
And a couple of tips if you plan on heading to Fez:
If you’re flying from London, you can only get direct flights on Wednesdays and Saturdays (returning on Saturdays, Sundays, or Wednesdays). You’ll need to get a connecting flight if you choose to fly on a different day of the week, which totals around 5-6 hours of travel time (on the way there, we stopped over in Casablanca, and on our return, we connected in Lisbon)
Planning on purchasing anything inside the market? Make sure to get out cash at the airport, as you may have difficulty hunting down an ATM, as the city is very difficult to navigate (especially if you don’t have mobile data in Morocco!)
Be aware that language may be a barrier in getting around: in each of our hotels, the majority of staff spoke English, but around the city, don’t expect locals to be as proficient. If you can speak French or Arabic, you’ll be fine, of course!
Morocco is a Muslim country, so be respectful of this, and avoid public displays of affection
My stays at Riad Fes and Hotel Sahrai were gifted, but all opinions are my own. I do not accept and write about gifted stays unless I truly enjoy them. Breakfasts, dinners, and transport were included, but we paid for all other expenses ourselves (including flights, additional meals, and experiences).