Old Medina of Tunis
Every Arab city revolves around its medina or old town – and that’s no different in Tunis. Built in 698 A.D., the Tunis medina was one of the first Arabo-Muslim towns in the Magreb, and thus houses many must-sees for visitors. Chock-a-block full of crumbling buildings and alleyways winding in higgledy-piggledy routes, you’re bound to get lost once passing the main entrance gate of Bab el Bahr. Embrace the chaos of the souks, stumble onto the fabulous monumental relics, and take a breather in the lavish palaces on Sidi Brahim.
The Bardo Museum
Housing the world’s most renowned mosaic collection, this museum, located in an opulent Tunis palace, is North Africa’s most impressive exhibit. Room after room displays a treasury of vibrant mosaic art, unearthed from Tunisia’s ancient sites and remarkable remnants of the long history that shaped this land. The Bardo is one of the most stunning museums you’ll ever visit.
Opening hours: 9.30am – 4.30pm
Address: Bardo Museum, Rue Mongi Slim, Tunis, Tunisia, +21 671 51 36 50
Not in Tunis’ city center, but more in its (stunning) backyard, La Goulette is the city’s port suburb between the Lake of Tunis and the ocean sparkling in the blazing sun. It is perfect for a day on a yacht enjoying a refreshing sea breeze, for tanning on the warm, sandy beach or just for taking a long walk from the Spanish fort to the Ottoman citadel with a view over the wide, deep blue ocean. The ideal, relaxing holiday activity, La Goulette provides much-needed refreshment from the hustle and bustle of the town.
Address: La Goulette Port, Tunis, Tunisia
If an Arab city revolves around its medina, the medina revolves around its mosque. Unquestionably, the Zitouna Mosque pumps the blood through Tunis’ veins and has been doing so since 732 A.D. It is an architectural tour de force, consisting of a magnificent prayer hall (which is not open for non-Muslims), a tranquil courtyard and a rooftop with dazzling tile work to marvel at. A panoramic photo of the medina or a selfie with the city’s twinkling lights in the background make for a fun extra.
Address: Rue Jamaa Ezzitouna, Tunis, Tunisia
Strolling down the souks
Wandering around in a souk or Arab market is a sensational experience for any Westerner. Whether looking for souvenirs, wanting to enjoy the atmosphere or just have a fun night out; the souks in Tunis will not disappoint you. Grouped according to craft, you can find tiny shops selling jewelry and perfume, wedding dresses, spices, carpets, fabric and leather wear. Smell the heap of vividly colored spices, taste the delicious makroud (truly divine local pastries), and have a chat with the friendly shopkeepers. So much more exciting than the local market at home.
Cafe Culture at El Ali
With a rooftop terrace overlooking the Zitouna Mosque, this cafe-resto has it all. A superb location in the heart of the medina, splendid traditional Tunisian food, charming staff serving citronnade and fresh smoothies, and a special iftar-menu during Ramadan. Inside, the library and sofas create a homely atmosphere in which you gladly sip of your super sweet mint tea. On top of that, El Ali is truly a cultured hide-out, with weekly musical soirées during which local bands, gnawa musicians and afro-Berber artists will get you shaking on swinging rhythms and catching tunes.
Opening hours: 8.30am – 10.30pm
Address: 45bis Rue Jamaa Ezzitouna, Tunis, Tunisia, +21 671 32 19 27
Parc du Belvédère
Like practically every city trip, a holiday in Tunis is exhausting. Wonderful, but exhausting. It’s the smells, the sounds, the hustle and the unfamiliarity of it all; sometimes you need to escape, and at those moments, the Parc du Belvédère is the most welcome splash of greenery. The city’s top spot to catch your breath and regroup, this park is abundant with fountains and palm, olive and fig trees growing on the hillside, providing shade to have a restful afternoon reading a good book or playing ball with the kids. Those who take the short hike up to the top of the hill are rewarded with a fantastic panorama, and others who are interested in Tunisian contemporary artists can pay a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in the middle of the park. Or the zoo, of course.
Address: Avenue Taieb M’Hiri, Tunis, Tunisia
Carthage Archeological Site
History lovers are never going to want to leave here ever again. The ancient ruins of Carthage, just outside of Tunis, speak of a long and exciting history. Its mythical cachet still lingers to this day and the stories to be found here are endless. Anyone who’s ever heard about Hannibal and his elephants will be struck by the remains of the amphitheatre, the old walls and gates, the reddish brown sand against the backdrop of the ocean’s deep blue. In Carthage, history is just around every corner, and the experience of being here is priceless.
Tunis Medina Festival
If you happen to be in Tunis during Ramadan, you’re the luckiest person alive. Every year during this special month where Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown, the Tunis Medina Festival lights up the capital’s evenings. Different venues across the city’s medina host musical acts with Tunisian artists as well as musicians from Libya, Spain, Cuba, and more, and screen films from a wide range of different countries. The Ramadan evenings in Tunis are a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Date: Every year during Ramadan (varies slightly from year to year)
Address: Across the entire medina
Bike Tour: Tunis to Sidi Bou Saïd
In recent years bike tours have become the number one way of traveling Tunis. Exploring the city by bike is a fun way of sight-seeing, and there are many options to choose from. The best one probably being the street art bike tour, which leads you along several fantastic murals made by different artists invited by the city to create a piece of art in the urban space. For those who are looking for the real spirit of adventure, there’s also the possibility to cycle to Sidi Bou Said, about 25km from Tunis and the most picturesque town you’ll ever see. The coastal road is pleasant to ride your bike, yet doesn’t provide a lot of shade, so best is to start your tour early in the morning and come back in the evening, when the blazing sun has lost most of its warmth.
Address: One of the bike rental shops is to be found on 11 rue des Hafsides, La Marsa, Tunis, Tunisia, +21 623 11 96 26