The former capital of the Kingdom of Morocco, and one of the oldest Muslim imperial cities in the world, Fès (as it is known in French) makes for a compelling destination. Its old town, the UNESCO World Heritage medieval medina, is spellbinding.
If you are looking a friendly and relaxed stay within an historic medina house, then consider Riad Tizwa, where the team offers a welcoming and affordable guest experience. This is a thoughtfully-restored, authentic riad, with lots of Fassi and Moroccan style.
For a bohemian experience, try this 400-year-old mansion with a half dozen guest rooms. The riad, with its eclectic design, is best known for The Ruined Garden courtyard restaurant.
With cocktails and sunset views over the Fez medina, this chic, upscale 50-room hotel located on a small hill outside of old town is architect-designed and built in classic Moroccan style with exquisite interiors by Parisian designer Christophe Pillet. The hotel has a Givenchy Spa and sophisticated urban rooftop bar.
If you are celebrating a special occasion, then stay at the spectacular and seductive Riad Fès. This upscale, Relais & Châteaux hotel & spa has outstanding rooms, enchanting patio courtyards, a tranquil garden, pool and rooftop terrace.
For an insider's perspective of Fez, ask your hosts for recommendations. Richard and Daniel of Riad Tizwa for example, recommend Yalla, Yalla, a characterful street café close to the medina's famous Blue Gate 'Bab Boujloud', as it "offers good people watching and the food is surprisingly good and excellent value".
A unique setting for lunch or dinner, The Ruined Garden has breathed new life into the site of a dilapidated merchant's house. Tables are set among potted plants, in this creative, overgrown, but romantic setting.
This beautifully-restored Fassi riad guesthouse has an elegant Franco-Moroccan fusion restaurant, with a menu that promises to go "beyond tagine and couscous".
Chef Najat Kaanache, born in San Sebastián to Moroccan parents, is the culinary mastermind behind Nur, one of the finest restaurants in the country, where contemporary style and flair showcase Moroccan cuisine. The building (formerly Restaurant Numéro 7) is a masterpiece in monochrome aesthetic by restaurant owner and designer Stephen di Renza.
Le Jardin des Biehn, a former summer palace with an Andalusian garden, has been given new life by the French Biehn family. Its Fez Café Restaurant is where Chef Hicham Moufid promises an exotic meal evocative of 1001 Nights.
Visitors to Marrakech will already be familiar with the style of this culture café. The Fez outpost is a tourist hotspot that endeavours to serve some local culture with its international menu, through story-telling workshops, a cooking school and live music. (Opening in Chefchaouen soon.)
The city has endeavoured to make it easier to navigate Old Fez with colour-coded signposted itineraries that take you to monuments, palaces, gardens, artisan workshops and the city walls. Getting lost is part of the adventure, but if you're looking for a guide, Plan It Morocco is consistently well-reviewed.
Although mosques are only open to Muslims, some of the city's historic Islamic colleges are open to visitors and each are a showcase of fine imperial architecture and Moroccan craftsmanship, with exceptionally ornate tiles, ancient carved cedar wood ceilings, and intricate stonework.
Al-Attarine Madrasa is considered one of the most beautiful buildings built during the Marinid dynasty; Sahrij Medersa, also from the 14th century, is a tranquil place in the Andalusian quarter; while Bou Inania is probably the most remarkable, and extravagant of them all.
Barter and bargain
Shopping in the souks can be a little tiring with the assertive shopkeepers, but the Coin Berbere boutique (in the Haddadine district) is well known for selling artisan rugs and antique pottery, decorated in blue and white, for which Fez is renowned. If you shop alone, prices will be better (as no commission is paid to guides).
One of the iconic sights of Fez, the Chaouwara / Chouara tannery, the largest of the city's three tanneries, is a piece of living history that dates to the 11th century. The stench of the open pits can be a little strong at times, as cow urine and pigeon excrement is used to tan the leather.
The dying process is striking to witness, as workers stand almost waist deep in vibrant vats filled with solutions coloured by organic plant dyes and pigments.