Tunis, a city where history and modernity collide to create a vibrant and captivating destination. Situated on the sparkling Mediterranean coast, Tunis is a bustling metropolis that boasts a rich and diverse cultural heritage spanning centuries. From the winding alleys of the medina, filled with tantalizing aromas and colourful bazaars, to the sleek and contemporary architecture of the modern city, Tunis offers a feast for the senses. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and flavours of this dynamic city, and discover a world of ancient history, lively street life, and warm hospitality. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or simply a curious traveller, Tunis has something for everyone. So why not join us on a journey through this enchanting city and discover its many treasures for yourself?
Best Time to Visit Tunis
The best time to visit Tunis is during the spring and autumn months of March to May and September to November when the weather is mild and pleasant. The summer months of June to August can be very hot and humid, making it uncomfortable to explore the city. The winter months of December to February can be rainy and chilly, but it’s still a good time to visit if you don’t mind cooler temperatures.
A Few Facts About Tunis
- The city of Tunis has an ancient history dating back to the 9th century BC, when it was founded by the Libyans. Later, the Phoenicians from Tyre took over the site of Carthage from the Libyans. However, the city was destroyed during the Third Punic War between Carthage and Rome in 146 BC, along with Carthage itself.
- The name Tunis has been the subject of various interpretations. According to some scholars, it may have originated from the Phoenician goddess Tanith, while others suggest that it could have been derived from Tynes, an ancient location similar to present-day Al-Kasbah. Yet another possibility is that it came from the Berber root ens, which means “to lie down” or “to pass the night,” and could have meant “camp at night,” “camp,” or “stop.” The exact meaning of the term has varied over time and space.
- The Bardo National Museum is the largest museum in Africa after the Grand Egyptian Museum. The museum houses numerous archaeological artifacts, including Stone Age tools discovered in Kebili dating back 200,000 years. The museum is situated in the former palace of Tunisia’s rulers, adding to its grandeur and historical significance.
What to do in Tunis in 24 Hours
If you only have 24 hours to spend in Tunis, there are a few must-see attractions and activities to make the most of your time. Here are some suggestions:
Start Your Day at the Bardo National Museum
Once you check in to your hotel, starting your day at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, Tunisia is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the country’s rich history and culture. Begin by arriving early to beat the crowds and enjoy the museum’s tranquil surroundings (you can also book a skip-the-lin tour here). Once inside, take your time exploring the museum’s many galleries, each of which showcases a unique aspect of Tunisia’s rich heritage.
Marvel at the exquisite Roman mosaics, which are considered some of the finest in the world, and learn about Tunisia’s rich history through the museum’s extensive collection of artifacts. Take a break at the museum cafe to savor traditional Tunisian cuisine and recharge before continuing your exploration.
Continue on to Belvedere Park
The park is a vast expanse of lush greenery that provides a serene oasis in the heart of the capital. Begin your visit by taking a stroll along the tree-lined pathways and enjoying the park’s many fountains and ponds. Admire the park’s beautifully manicured gardens and marvel at the colourful blooms that dot the landscape.
For a deeper understanding of the park’s history and culture, visit the Museum of Modern Art, which is located within the park and features a stunning collection of Tunisian and international contemporary art. The park also offers a variety of recreational activities, including a playground, tennis courts, and a running track. End your visit with a picnic on the grass, enjoying the tranquillity and beauty of this hidden gem!
Visit the Medina of Tunis
The vast and intricate network of streets and alleys that make up the medieval medina is one of North Africa’s most impressive, and a true treasure of Tunisia. This sprawling maze is home to a myriad of covered souqs, where you can find everything from footwear to shisha pipes, as well as vibrant cafes, and bustling residential areas dotted with grand, brightly painted doorways.
The medina is also peppered with historic palaces, hammams, mosques, and madrassas, the latter being schools for studying the Quran. Many of these structures are lavishly decorated with ornate tiles, intricate carved stucco, and majestic marble columns, providing a feast for the eyes and a glimpse into the rich history and culture of Tunisia.
Check out the Zitouna Mosque
This significant mosque is located at the heart of Tunis’ medina, having been founded in 734 on the site of a former church. Throughout the centuries, it has undergone multiple renovations, with a complete reconstruction taking place in the 9th century. The mosque’s prayer hall is a grand and impressive space, containing more than 200 columns that were retrieved from Roman Carthage, adding to its unique historical charm. The Almohades-style minaret in the northwest corner of the mosque is a standout feature and a recognizable landmark in the medina.
Only Muslims are permitted to enter the mosque, but visitors can still enjoy the magnificent view of the courtyard from the terrace of the Panorama Medina Cafe, offering a fantastic opportunity to appreciate the mosque’s remarkable architecture and rich cultural heritage.
Enjoy a traditional Tunisian lunch
Stay in the area, take a break and try one of the restaurants. Try Le Baroque, a trendy spot offering a mix of Tunisian and European cuisine; Dar El Jeld, an elegant eatery serving traditional Tunisian dishes in a restored 17th-century mansion; and Restaurant El Ali, a popular family-run spot known for its friendly service and delicious home-cooked Tunisian food. Or try something like L’Atelier du Goût a contemporary fusion restaurant favoured by Tunisian foodies, offering a changing menu that blends French and Tunisian cuisine in a relaxed and casual setting!
Shop at Avenue Habib Bourguiba
This bustling thoroughfare is named after the first president of Tunisia and is home to some of the city’s most exciting attractions. From the tree-lined sidewalks to the wide pedestrian walkways, you’ll find an array of shops, restaurants, and other places of interest that make this avenue a must-visit.
Take a break from the sun in one of the street cafes and enjoy some delicious French-inspired meals or Mediterranean cuisine. As you stroll down the avenue, don’t forget to take in the historical landmarks like the St. Vincent de Paul Cathedral and the Art Nouveau-style Municipal Theatre. The Independence Square, which includes a statue of Tunisian philosopher Ibn Khaldoun, is also a must-see in Tunis. With so much to discover on this lively street, it’s no wonder Avenue Habib Bourguiba is a top attraction in Tunis.
End Your Day With A Dinner and a View
As the sun begins to dip and the sky is painted with hues of orange and pink, the charming cliffside village of Sidi Bou Said is your best choice. However, if you’re short on time you’ll find a plethora of local restaurants offering North African cuisine in central Tunis. Indulge in the flavours of shakshuka, a delicious dish of eggs poached in a tomato sauce with spices, or brick a l’oeuf, a deep-fried savoury pastry filled with eggs.
And of course, no trip to Tunisia is complete without sampling couscous, a hearty staple of the local cuisine. Whether you choose to dine in one of the bustling markets or opt for a cozy restaurant tucked away in a quiet alley, you’re sure to enjoy a delightful dinner and a memorable end to your day in Tunisia.
Where to Stay In Tunis
Dar Ben Gacem
38 Rue du Pacha, La Medina, 1006 Tunis
The Dar Ben-Gacem Hotel is a charming and cozy boutique hotel located in the heart of the old Medina of Tunis. The hotel boasts traditional Tunisian architecture, offering guests an authentic and unique experience. The hotel’s rooms are decorated with traditional Tunisian furnishings and feature modern amenities such as air conditioning, private bathrooms, and flat-screen TVs. The hotel also features a beautiful courtyard with a fountain, where guests can enjoy a relaxing atmosphere and a traditional Tunisian breakfast. The rooftop terrace offers stunning views of the Medina and is an ideal spot for enjoying the sunset with a cup of mint tea.
Dar el médina
Rue Sidi Ben Arous, La Medina, 1006 Tunis
The Dar El Medina Hotel is a charming boutique hotel located in the heart of the historic Medina in Tunis, Tunisia. The hotel is housed in a beautifully restored 19th-century mansion that retains much of its original architectural features and is surrounded by narrow alleyways, souks, and mosques. The rooms at the Dar El Medina Hotel are individually decorated with traditional Tunisian furnishings and feature modern amenities such as air conditioning, satellite TV, and free Wi-Fi. Guests can also enjoy the hotel’s rooftop terrace, which offers panoramic views of the city and serves a delicious breakfast in the morning. The hotel’s central location makes it an ideal base for exploring the city’s attractions, including the Bardo Museum and the Carthage Archaeological Site.
Royal Victoria – Ex. British Embassy
5 Place de la victoire port de France, La Medina, 1001 Tunis
This historic hotel has been welcoming guests since 1885 and offers a blend of classic elegance and modern amenities. The hotel boasts a variety of room options, including single, double, and executive suites, all of which are equipped with air conditioning, flat-screen TVs, and private bathrooms with complimentary toiletries. The rooms are beautifully decorated with classic furnishings and neutral tones, creating a calm and relaxing ambience. Guests can enjoy a range of facilities and services during their stay, including a 24-hour front desk, a business centre, and free Wi-Fi throughout the property. The hotel also offers a restaurant serving delicious Tunisian and international cuisine, as well as a bar that is perfect for a refreshing drink after a busy day exploring the city.
Day Trips From Tunis
Carthage is an ancient city that was founded in the 9th century BC and was once the center of the Carthaginian Empire. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to several historical landmarks, including the Carthage Museum, the Antonine Baths, and the Punic Ports. Sidi Bou Said is a charming village located on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It is known for its blue and white buildings, narrow winding streets, and stunning views. Visitors can explore the village, take in the beautiful architecture, and visit the Sidi Bou Said Museum. A day trip to Carthage and Sidi Bou Said provides a unique opportunity to experience Tunisia’s rich history and culture.
Kairouan, El Jem and Sousse
This day trip from Tunis takes you to three of Tunisia’s most historic and culturally significant destinations. The first stop is Kairouan, a city known as the “fourth holy city of Islam.” Here you’ll visit the Great Mosque, the oldest mosque in North Africa and an important pilgrimage site. You’ll also visit Medina, the city’s historic center, which is home to many important religious and cultural sites. The next stop is El Jem, where you’ll visit the impressive Roman amphitheater, one of the largest and best-preserved in the world. Finally, the tour takes you to the coastal city of Sousse, where you’ll explore the Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visit the Ribat, a fortified monastery built in the 8th century. Throughout the tour, you’ll learn about Tunisia’s rich history and cultural heritage from an expert local guide.
Dougga and Testour
Just two hours drive from Tunis, the Testour region is a picturesque road trip. The Roman town of Dougga, awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO, offers the best-preserved Roman site in North Africa, with a remarkably intact Roman Temple of Jupiter and intricate mosaic floors. After exploring, head east to the charming town of Testour with its Andalusian-inspired architecture, Spanish-style main square, and the city’s Great Mosque featuring two Stars of David in the minaret’s design, paying homage to the Jewish community that helped their neighbours build the mosque.
Extra Tips for Visiting Tunis
- As a tourist in Tunisia, it is advisable to respect local customs during Ramadan by avoiding eating and drinking in public places during the day. While it is not expected of tourists to follow this practice, it is appreciated as a gesture of courtesy.
- Public displays of affection should be kept to a minimum, with holding hands or having an arm around a partner being acceptable, but engaging in more intimate behaviour may attract unwanted attention.
- Some mosques allow tourists to visit but dress modestly, and it is best to check with a local guide for details.
- When using taxis, it is recommended to use services like Bolt, which provides upfront pricing, or ensure that the meter is turned on.
- The official language of Tunis is Arabic, but French is also widely spoken and many people also speak English.
- Tunis is known for its delicious cuisine, including dishes like couscous, brik (a fried pastry stuffed with egg and tuna), and shakshuka (eggs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce).
- The currency in Tunisia is the Tunisian Dinar (TND).
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.