The Middle Atlas Mountains which border Fez are home to impressive cedar forests, the wood of which has been used to build in Fez and other cities for years—something not commonly found in other areas of Morocco. You'll need a car to reach the mountains but it's a very easy daytrip. The drive into the mountains will take you through beautiful forests with towering cedar trees. Head to a village like Azrou or Immouzer Kandar for a local tajine lunch cooked over charcoal or simply drive to enjoy the natural beauty and small towns along the way.
Tazekka National Park is in the Middle Atlas Mountains and a small drive from Fez. With unique rock formations, bountiful waterfalls, dense forests and a variety of wildlife, it's a special place to visit in Morocco if you are a nature lover. The area is safe to take a hike alone however if you'd like to go off the beaten path it's advisable to bring or hire a guide.
While interior access is off limits to non-Muslims, the Qarawiyyin Mosque is the oldest university in the world and worth a peek through the doors. This school and mosque was founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 859. It was a prominent spiritual and educational center throughout the Islamic Golden Age and notable graduates include Ibn Khaldun and Averroes. With an appointment you can visit the nearby Qarawiyin Library which holds more than 4,000 rare texts and manuscripts.
Within an hour of Fez is the historical site of Volubilis. These Roman ruins dates to the 3rd century B.C. and are a largely open historical site. Roman arches, mosaics and other architectural remains can be viewed. If you'd rather stay in the city, the entire old medina of Fez is also classified as a UNESCO site.
Consider a hands-on artisan experience when you're in Fez. There are a variety of options from cooking classes, brass etching, drum making and more. While some classes are offered through travel agents you'll also find riads (bed and breakfasts) that offer cooking classes and private artisans who have moved into teaching as a way to maintain their art. Craft Draft Fez is a great workshop doing just this.
Best Day Trip
A visit to Chefchaouan is very popular but keep in mind it's about a three hour drive each way through the mountains. If you'd like something a little closer, visit the village of Ifrane—Morocco's little Switzerland. This city was built during the French protectorate and modeled specifically to remind French residents living in Morocco of "home" in an Alpine village. This is an especially good day trip for those that want to do a little bit of hiking.
Off the Beaten Path
Give back. The Medina Children's Library started in 2015 by a group of neighbors in the Fez medina is one of the first children's libraries in the country and specifically provides opportunities to introduce local kids to books and reading. About a 10 minute walk from the Blue Gate and off Talaa Sghera, the library is relatively easy to find. You can visit and read a story to the kids or volunteer in other ways. Families and kids are always welcome.
Most Iconic Place
The most well-known site of Fez is the Chaouwara Tannery. Men still work leather here as they have for centuries. Be prepared for a strong odor and take them up on the offer of a sprig of mint to lessen the smell. Most of the viewing platforms are via leather shops but don't feel pressured into buying.
Bou Inania Medersa is a 14th century Quranic school and one of the most important historical buildings in Morocco. A wonderful example of Islamic architecture, and one of few religious buildings open to the public, it has been recently restored and visitors can see the combination of Moroccan tile, wood, and etching work on full display. Go with a guide to learn more about the history of this masterpiece.
The Rcif Market is a local spot that not many tourists go. Wander through this area to see Fassis in their daily life and get a sense of the city. Long corridors are packed full of small shops selling a variety of food goods. Butchers, produce vendors, and shops making and selling the warka needed for Fez's iconic b'stilla are a few things you'll find in this area.