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.
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.
The ruins are located in an idyllic spot, overlooking the sea
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.
Giant key-lock shaped doors are a dominant feature throughout MedinaColourful souvenirs on offer in the Souq
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.
Intricate tiles on the rooftop of a nearby shop frame the Great Mosque Colourful carpets provide contrast to the whitewashed walls of the Medina
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.
Bougainvillea draped buildings are characteristic of the blue and white village of Sidi Bou Said
Colourful studded doors line the streets of the village
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
The 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!