The Top Things to Do and See in Tunis

Tunis has a wealth of historic architecture and interesting attractions to keep visitors busy
Tunis has a wealth of historic architecture and interesting attractions to keep visitors busy | © Jens Metschurat / Alamy Stock Photo
Hanna Clarys

In Tunisia, ancient history is woven into the country’s fabric, from the atmospheric medina (old town) to the ruins of once-powerful Carthage. Among the African, European and Islamic heritage is a modern way of life, with bike tours, cool cafes and an annual arts festival helping make Tunis a stylish city break.

1. Old Medina of Tunis

Architectural Landmark

The great view on residential districts of old Medina from the top of Kasbah
© eFesenko / Alamy Stock Photo

The Unesco-protected medina (old town) of Tunis has stood in this spot since 698CE, making it one of the first Arab-Muslim towns in the Maghreb. Between its crumbling buildings are a tangle of alleyways – getting lost once you pass the main entrance gate of Bab el Bhar is all part of the fun. Explore the mosques and mausoleums, embrace the chaos of the souks and take a dip into the lavish buildings of Sidi Brahim.

2. The Bardo Museum


By richness of collection, the Bardo is second only to the Egyptian Museum of Cairo on the African continent. Inside a restored Ottoman mansion is one of the world’s most renowned mosaic collections: room after room displays a treasury of vibrant mosaic art, unearthed from Tunisia’s ancient sites. Archaeological finds and works of art span Tunisia’s diverse history, from Islamic ceramics to the remains of a Roman ship’s cargo.

3. La Goulette

Architectural Landmark

Fishing boats and nets at Port de Rades with view of polluting industry at la Goulette Tunisia
© Art Directors & TRIP / Alamy Stock Photo

La Goulette is the city’s port, on a sandbar between Lake Tunis and the Gulf of Tunis. It’s a rustic suburb, but its large Kasbah fortress makes it worth the trip – built by Charles I of Spain in 1535, it was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1574. Trams run here from the city centre every 15 minutes – at weekends, you’ll see locals making the journey for lunch at La Goulette’s smattering of fish restaurants.

4. Visit the Zitouna Mosque


The Zitouna Mosque has been the beating heart of Tunis since 732CE. An architectural wonder, its 5,000sqm feature 160 authentic columns taken from Roman Carthage, a prayer hall – although entry is for Muslims only – a tranquil courtyard and a rooftop with dazzling tile work. You’ll find a great birds-eye view of the courtyard from the terrace of the Panorama Medina Cafe.

5. Strolling down the souks


Fried Makrout - Algerian semolina, dates and honey sweets, traditional North Africa sweet food
© issam elhafti / Alamy Stock Photo

Wandering around a souk – an Arabic market – is a multisensory experience. Smell the heaps of vividly coloured spices, taste fresh-from-the-oven makrouds (cookies made with dates and nuts) and feel silky fabrics and leather as you roam around the stalls. Grouped according to craft, the shops sell everything from jewellery and perfume to wedding dresses and rugs.

6. Cafe Culture at El Ali

Restaurant, French, Seafood, European

This restaurant-cafe at the centre of the medina serves splendid Tunisian food. In its all-day dining room you can try all sorts, including pastries – including samsa, kaak warka and ghrayba – steaming-hot lamb in apricot sauce, and a special iftar-menu during Ramadan. A bookshelf and sofas create a homely atmosphere as you sip on smoothies or sweet mint tea. Join the weekly musical soirées to see local bands, gnawa musicians and Afro-Berber performers.

7. Parc du Belvédère


Elephant (Loxodonta africana), Damaraland, Kunene, Namibia, Africa
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

In the olive groves of northern Tunis, the Parc du Belvédère provides a tranquil respite from all that sightseeing. It was established in 1892 by Joseph Laforcade – the prestigious head gardener of Paris at the time – who designed the 100ha (247 acres) park in an English style, with flowerbeds, groves and lawns. You’ll also find the city zoo, which has 155 species including elephants, lions, monkeys and jackals, plus a play area for kids.

8. Carthage Archeological Site

Museum, Archaeological site

Tunisia, Archaeological Site of Carthage
© Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Mythical prestige lingers among the ancient ruins of Carthage, the former seat of the Carthaginian Empire, which was one of the major powers of the ancient world at its height in the fourth century CE. The Unesco Heritage Site features bathhouses, an enormous amphitheatre and crumbled villas, overlooking the Gulf of Tunis. Admission to the ruins includes entry to the Carthage Museum, where artefacts from the Carthaginian and Roman conflict are on display.

9. Tunis Medina Festival

Market, Architectural Landmark

French singer and composer Georges Moustaki performs during the 22th International Festival of The Medina in the Municipale Theatre in Tunis late 0ctober 26, 2004. [The festival is held annualy with the participation of dozens of international bands and s
© REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

During Ramadan, the Tunis Medina Festival lights up the capital every evening. A programme of cultural events spring up across a range of venues, so you could be watching a short film by an Arab director one night, and listening to live traditional Tunisian music the next. The festival feeling spills out into the streets, with jugglers and bands attracting crowds in the medieval setting.

10. Join a bike tour in Carthage

Sports Center

Cycle tour, mountain bike tour with Thomas Wegmueller, Anogyra, Limassol area, South Cyprus, Cyprus
© Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Bike tours are big business in Tunisia. Le Lemon Tour, based 15km (9.3mi) from Tunis, offers bike rentals and guided tours around the wonders of Carthage. Reach it by catching the metro from downtown Tunis and hopping off at Hannibal Salambo. A typical three-hour tour covers a distance of 32km (20mi), its 10 stops including the mosaic-filled Antonine Roman baths, Roman Villas and Byrsa Hill, from where you can take in a sensational view of Tunis.

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