If you travel to Tunis, the main attractions there are its medina, mosques, the souk and its narrow and colourful streets. However you can also get to the pleasant beaches in less than half an hour, and to discover the unmissable sites of the north coast such as the village of Sidi Bou Said, solely renowned for its traditional architecture, its studded wooden doors and its charming Moorish cafes. You must also visit the Carthagian ruins for their setting and their contemporaneous major cultural importance.
Even though the Medina of Tunis gives the impression of a true maze, you can quickly fix it by walking through the minaret of the Great Mosque situated in the centre. The small streets and the covered passageways are all around. You usually move forward by following the flow of pedestrians, because the streets are fairly narrow. It is a pleasure to move among sacks of spices, displays of fabrics, leather cushions and ceramics. You will be tempted by so many objects!
In the medina, you can rest a while at the minaret of the Great Mosque (or mosque of Jamaa ez Zitouna), which is found at the centre of the covered streets. To get a panoramic view of the old city, ask for access to the terrace of one of the souk's boutiques.
Still in the medina, for lunch or dinner at a good table, remember two addresses: the Dar El Jeld located in the street of the same name, and Dar Bel Hadj, on the street of the Tamis. Both restaurants provide a stylish ambiance and fine food at rates which are quite reasonable.
Go on an excursion to the village of Sidi Bou Said, 12 miles northeast of Tunis. Its houses were built on the slopes of Jebel Manâr (Phare Mountain), which plunges steeply into the sea at a height of 426 ft. Sidi Bou Said is composed entirely of white villas with studded blue doors. A small wonder to discover early in the morning (if possible before 10:00 am) when the streets are still deserted.
See the ancient site of Carthage. A city that flourished in the Punic era, Catharge was destroyed by the Romans in the second century BC. Excavations have revealed remarkable villas from the soil, covered with mosaics. An amphitheatre is also at the top of the hill. The excavations have delivered significant collections of antiquities, which are collected in the museum on the site such as statues, jewellery, lamps, ivory carvings and pottery vases.
Surface area : 163.6 km2
Population : 1021600 inhabitants
In winter in Tunis, it rains so avoid going in January or February for this reason. Or if you do, come for the shopping instead, a festival or visiting art galleries. The region of Tunis is also a good starting point for exploring the Kroumirie (ancient sites and coastline).
Travelling by car in Tunis. At peak hours, it takes you just as much time on foot. The capital and its surrounding areas are sufficiently well served by public transport, so a car is not essential.
Couscous (with chicken or lamb). You can find buffets in the major hotels more and more (offered as a speciality or during Tunisian evenings). Try also other recipes of the country such as the fingers of Fatma (pastry stuffed with white chicken, potatoes and capers), tajine (omelette with meat and potatoes) and the brick (triangle of dough filled with tuna and a half-cooked egg). As for good restaurants in Tunis, remember two addresses : the Dar El Jeld located in the streets of the same name, and Dar Bel Hadj, rue des Tamis. Reasonable rates and neat ambiance in the medina.
There are all the crafts of the country such as wrought iron, Berber pottery, ceramics, lamps, vases and decorative objects made from blown glass, rugs, table tops made from mosaiques and carpets (to suspend the wall or lay on the ground). The Carthagian coast (region of Gammarth and Sidi Bou Said) also abound with artists' studios where you can admire the unique works, paintings and sculptures. For a beautiful sight, see the private collections of The Residence hotels and the Hasdrubal hotel chain.