Travel Diary – Tunisia Part Two

Tunis is one of North Africa’s most cosmopolitan cities – bustling and brash but friendly and laid-back at the same time, it is a city of contradictions.

The city’s 8th Century Arab Medina (Old Town) is an exotic labyrinth of twisting streets and alleyways. The 19th century French Colonial new city with its sprawling palm lined boulevards, cafes and trams, is orderly and calm in comparison, and both equally have their charm.

Here are some of my favourite things to do in Tunisia’s capital and the surrounding area.

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Visit Carthage – Take the train from Tunis Marine TGM Station to Carthage, Hannibal Station to visit the ruins of ancient Carthage. Although the ruins are quite scarce in comparison with some sites I’ve visited they are still well worth a visit, with their seafront location and stunning views over the area. The on-site Carthage Museum houses many of the finds from the excavation of the site.

000029000010Carthage Museum 000027

000016

000028The ruins are located in an idyllic spot, overlooking the seaTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Explore the ancient Medina – In the centre of Tunis the 8th century Medina is a fascinating place to spend a day exploring. With its tangled alleyways it is easy to get lost, but you will always find your way back to the Great Mosque – Djemma ez Zaitouna (Olive Tree Mosque).

Shop for souvenirs including colourful carpets, spices and leather goods in the bustling Souq, and don’t forget to bargain. Whilst Arabic and French are the main languages, English is also widely spoken and understood.

The Medina is also home to enormous key-lock shaped doors, inquisitive cats, and restaurants serving traditional Tunisian dishes.

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogGiant key-lock shaped  doors are a dominant feature throughout MedinaTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogColourful souvenirs on offer in the SouqTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Djemma ez Zaitouna (Olive Tree Mosque) – While non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the prayer hall of the Medina’s great mosque, you are able to visit the exterior courtyard. Organised tours are also available.

The rooftop of a nearby shop offers stunning views over the mosque and the Medina below.

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogIntricate tiles on the rooftop of a nearby shop frame the Great Mosque Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogColourful carpets provide contrast to the whitewashed walls of the Medina Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Spending a day exploring the charming seaside village of Sidi Bou Said – just 20 minutes from Tunis, the seaside village of Sidi Bou Said is easy to reach by train, or as part of a day tour.

Perched on cliff tops above the Mediterranean, this pretty blue and white village is home to many local artists and is also a favourite getaway for city-dwellers over the weekend. Read more about Sidi Bou Said in last weeks post here.

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogBougainvillea draped buildings are characteristic of the blue and white village of Sidi Bou Said 

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogColourful studded doors line the streets of the village Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part Two|Gypsy Rova Blog

Follow in the footsteps of the stars and visit Fella Boutique – Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Greta Garbo have all shopped in Fella Boutique at some point. Run by world renowned designer, Samia Bin Khalifa since the 1960’s, this small boutique in Tunis is a treasure trove of intricate handmade Tunisian dresses, colourful kaftans and jewellery.

Location: 9 bis Place Pasteur, Tunis Belvédère 1002

Travel Diary - Tunisia Part 2 |Gypsy Rova BlogThe Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul on Avenue Habib Bourguiba

Have you visited Tunisia? I’d love to hear about your experiences and favourite spots in the comments below!

 PRIVATE PROPERTY-5

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said

Located in the north of Tunisia, about 20 minutes from the bustling capital of Tunis, is the charming seaside town of Sidi Bou Said. Known as the “Artist’s Village’ it is easy to see why Sidi Bou Said has been a popular bohemian getaway since the late 19th century.

With its winding cobblestoned streets, hidden courtyards and gardens and endless alleyways, Sidi Bou Said is the perfect place to spend the day exploring and taking in the views from the cliffs out to the Mediterranean below.

It is also a great base from which to explore the surrounding area. The ruins of ancient Carthage are nearby, and it is an easy trip into town to explore the sprawling maze of the Souq lined Medina in Tunis.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Blog

Getting there: from Tunis take the TGM Metro (known locally as the “Blue Train”) which departs every 20 minutes or so. There are also several day tours running from Tunis to the village. Cars are banned in the village centre.

Where to stay: La Villa Bleue – A beautiful boutique style hotel overlooking the Mediterranean. Hotel Dar Said – Set in a traditional merchants house Hotel Dar Said is an authentic and relaxing small hotel.

Where to eat and drink: Au Bon Vieux Temps – French, Mediterranean. With stunning views overlooking the Mediterranean this is the perfect spot to watch the sun go down while enjoying your meal. Restaurant Dar Zarrouk  – Tunisian. With plenty of tables both inside and out and views over the Marina, this is another great option for evening dining. Cafe des Nattes This iconic traditional cafe perched above the village, is a great spot to people watch while enjoying the traditional sweet mint tea, or local coffee.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova BlogRestaurant Dar Zarrouk

Shopping: Sidi Bou Said is a great place to pick up souvenirs of your trip to Tunisia. Carpets, colourful pottery, leather goods, and jewellery are amongst some of the things on offer.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Blog

Street vendors sell sweetly scented Jasmine flowers.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Blog

The maze of narrow cobblestoned streets provide much needed shade from the heat of the day.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Blog

In the late afternoon the village shimmers in the sunlight. It is a good time to take advantage of one of the villages courtyard cafes. Relax in the shade and enjoy a glass of the local sweet mint tea.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Blog

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Travels

Everywhere you look in the village you’ll find elaborate iron latticework, and colourful studded doors.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Travels

Archways give glimpses of the glistening Mediterranean below.

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Travels

In the balmy afternoon air, music floats out onto the streets from behind the doors of iron gated villas. This was one of my favourites. I can definitely see myself living here!

Travel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova BlogTravel Diary: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | Gypsy Rova Blog

Read more about Tunis and Sidi Bou Said in my next post here.

PRIVATE PROPERTY-5