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Tunis is both the capital and the largest city of Tunisia. The greater metropolitan area of Tunis, often referred to as Grand Tunis, holds some 2,700,000 inhabitants.
Situated on a large Mediterranean Sea gulf (the Gulf of Tunis), behind the Lake of Tunis and the port of La Goulette (Ḥalq il-Wād), the city extends along the coastal plain and the hills that surround it. At its core lies its antic medina, a world heritage site. Beyond this district lie the suburbs of Carthage, La Marsa, and Sidi Bou Said.
Just through the Sea Gate (also known as the Bab el Bahr and the Porte de France) begins the modern city, where the colonial-era buildings provide a clear contrast to smaller, older structures.
As the capital city of the country, Tunis is the focus of Tunisian political and administrative life; it is also the centre of the country's commercial activity. The expansion of the Tunisian economy in recent decades is reflected in the booming development of the outer city where one can see clearly the social challenges brought about by rapid modernization in Tunisia.
|POPULATION :||City: 1 056 247 / Metro: 2 643 695|
|FOUNDED :||2nd millennium BC|
|TIME ZONE :||CET (UTC+1)|
|LANGUAGE :||Arabic (official), French (commerce)|
|RELIGION :||Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish and other 1%|
|AREA :||212.63 km2 (82.10 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||4 m (13 ft) - 41 m (135 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||36°48′N 10°11′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 49.56% |
• Female: 50.42%
|ETHNIC :||Arab 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%|
|AREA CODE :||1|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||+216 1|
|WEBSITE :||Official Website|
There isn't much in the way of must-see attractions, though the city is an interesting mix of new and old. Moreover the souq is one of the most authentic and hassle-free in North Africa and the ruins of Carthage are easily accessed from here.
Located on the Mediterranean coast but lacking much in the way of beaches, Tunis has been spared the onslaught of package tourism to the resorts to the north and south.
Tunis Medina.The world heritage listed old town is a colorful, crowded labyrinth of decorated old houses, vaults and street vendors. You can move around by foot only.
Avenue de France. One of the busiest streets of Tunis. It is bordered with shops and eateries and several architectonically interesting buildings.
Place de la Victoire. A lively square at the entrance to the medina. Bordered with shops, cafés and the ornamented building which houses the High Commission of the United Kingdom.
Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul. Built in 1882, this is the largest surviving building from Tunis' colonial era, in the neo-Romanesque style. It was named after St. Vincent de Paul, a priest in the region who was sold as a slave and fought slavery after he was liberated. The facade is decorated by a golden mosaic of Jesus and two trumpet-playing angels.
Grande Mosquée Zitouna. The largest mosque in Tunisia and an important landmark, this Aghlabite mosque dates back to the 8th century, although the distinctive square minaret is a much later 19th century addition. Modest dress essential, but non-Muslims can only enter a viewing platform on the edge of the courtyard , not the mosque itself. Closed to visitors after the 2010 revolution.
Medersa Bachia, Souk El Belat. Quran school from the 18th century, a monument since 1912. Non-Muslims may not enter.
Tourbet el-Bey, Rue Tourbet el-Bey. An impressive 18th century mausoleum, the final resting place for over 160 princes and ministers and their families. The eight-pointed star inside represents the doors to paradise.
The historical study of Carthage is problematic. Because its culture and records were destroyed by the Romans at the end of the Third Punic War.
The existence of the town is attested by sources dating from the 6th century BC.
In the 2nd millennium BC a town, originally named Tunes, was founded by Berbers and also over time occupied by Numidians. In 146 BC, the Romans destroyed Tunis (along with Carthage). However, the city was subsequently rebuilt under the rule of Augustus and became an important town under Roman control and the center of a booming agricultural industry.
Following the final destruction of Carthage, it was not until the 8th century that Tunis achieved its own importance, under the control of Arab Muslims. The medina of Tunis, the oldest section of the city, dates from this period, during which the region was conquered by Arab troops led by the Ghassanid general Hassan Ibn Numan.
From the 12th century to the 16th century, the old city was controlled by the Almohad and the Hafsid Berber dynasties. During this period Tunis was one of the richest and grandest cities in the Islamic world, with a population of about 100,000.
The Ottoman Empire took nominal control of Tunis in 1534 when Barbarossa Hayreddin captured it from the Hafsid Sultan Mulai Hassan, who fled to the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain.The victory against the corsairs is recorded in a tapestry at the Royal Palace of Madrid. The resulting protectorate lasted until the Ottomans retook Tunis in 1574. After 1591, the Ottoman governors (Beys) were relatively independent, and both piracy and trade continued to flourish.
At the beginning of the 18th century, Tunisia entered into a new period in its history with the advent of the Husainid dynasty. Successive Husainid rulers made great progress in developing the city and its buildings. During this period, the city prospered as a centre of commerce. Taking advantage of divisions within the ruling house, Algerians captured Tunis in 1756 and put the country under supervision. At the beginning of the 19th century, Hammouda Bey faced bombardment by the Venetian fleet, and the city experienced a rebellion in 1811. Under the reign of Hussein Bey II, naval defeats by the English (1826) and French (1827) saw the French become increasingly active in the city and in the economy.
During the later 19th century, Tunis became increasingly populated by Europeans, particularly the French, and immigration dramatically increased the size of the city. This resulted in the first demolition of the old city walls, from 1860, to accommodate growth in the suburbs. The French occupied the city from 1881 to 1956, having established a protectorate system of administration that recognized the nominal authority of local government. In those years there were huge European colonies (like the Tunisian Italians) in Tunis; half the population was European in origin. The city expanded and created new boulevards and neighborhoods.
During World War II, Tunis was held by Axis forces from November 1942 to May 1943. It was their last base in Africa, as they escaped to Italy after being surrounded by Allied forces from Algeria in the west and from Libya in the east. On 7 May 1943, at 15:30 in the afternoon, Tunis fell to troops and tanks of British 1st army who had defeated most of the German Fifth Panzer Army left guarding the city. At midday on 20 May 1943, the Allies held a victory parade on Avenue Maréchal Galliéni and Avenue Jules Ferry to signal the end of fighting in North Africa.Having succeeded in driving the Axis powers out of Tunisia, the Allies used Tunis as a base of operations to stage assaults against the island of Pantelleria, then Sicily, and finally Italy.
After independence in 1956, Tunis has consolidated its role as the capital, first with the establishment of a constitution stating that the Chamber of Deputies and the Presidency of the Republic must have their headquarters in Tunis and its suburbs. In a very short time, the colonial city transformed rapidly. As the city has grown and native Tunisians gradually began to replace the extensive European population, conflict between the Arab city and the European city has gradually decreased with the arabization of the population.
Many protests took place during the Arab Spring of 2011–12.
On 18 March 2015, two gunmen attacked the Bardo National Museum and held hostages. 20 civilians and one policeman were killed in the attack, while around 50 others were injured. Five Japanese, two Colombians, and visitors from Italy, Poland, and Spain were among the dead. Both gunmen were killed by Tunisian police. The incident has been treated as a terrorist attack.
Tunis has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate characterized by a hot and dry season and mild winters with moderate rainfall.
The local climate is also affected somewhat by the latitude of the city, the moderating influence of the Mediterranean sea and the terrain of the hills.
Winter is the wettest season of the year, when more than a third of the annual rainfall falls during this period, raining on average every two or three days. The sun may still increase the temperature from 7 °C (45 °F) in the morning to 16 °C (61 °F) in the afternoon on average during the winter. Frosts are rare or non existent.
In spring, rainfall declines by half. The sunshine becomes dominant in May when it reaches 10 hours a day on average. In March temperatures may vary between 8 °C (46 °F) and 18 °C (64 °F), and between 13 °C (55 °F) and 24 °C (75 °F) in May. However, it is common for temperatures to soar even as early as April with record temperatures reaching 40 °C (104 °F).
In summer, rain is completely absent and the sunlight is at a maximum. The average temperatures in the summer months of June, July, August, and September are very high. Sea breezes may mitigate the heat, but sometimes the sirocco winds reverse the trend.
In autumn, it begins to rain, often with short thunderstorms, which can sometimes cause flash floods or even flood some parts of the city.The month of November marks a break in the general heat with average temperatures ranging from 11 °C (52 °F) to 20 °C (68 °F).
|Daily highs (°C)||16.2||16.6||19.8||22.4||26.6||31.2||34.4||34.4||30.2||26.8||21.5||17.5|
|Nightly lows (°C)||8.5||8.3||10.1||12.8||16.0||19.5||22.7||22.9||20.7||17.6||13.1||9.7|
Tunis is located in north-eastern Tunisia on the Lake of Tunis, and is connected to the Mediterranean sea's Gulf of Tunis by a canal which terminates at the port of La Goulette / Halq al Wadi. The ancient city of Carthage is located just north of Tunis along the coastal part.
The city of Tunis is built on a hill slope down to the lake of Tunis. These hills contain the places, Notre-Dame de Tunis, Ras Tabia, La Rabta, La Kasbah, Montfleury and La Manoubia which altitudes beyond just 50 meters. The city is located at the crossroads of a narrow strip of land between Lake Tunis and Séjoumi. The isthmus between them is what geologists call the "Tunis dome", which includes hills of limestone and sediments. It forms a natural bridge and since ancient times several major roads linking to Egypt and elsewhere in Tunisia have branched out from. The roads are also dependent with Carthage, emphasising its political and economic importance not only in Tunisia but in Africa in Roman Times.
The Greater Tunis area has an area of 300,000 hectares, 30,000 of which is urbanized, the rest being shared between bodies of water (20,000 hectares of lakes or lagoons) and agricultural or natural land (250,000 hectares). However, urban growth, which is estimated to be increasing by 500 hectares per year, is gradually changing the landscape with urban sprawl.
Products include textiles, carpets, and olive oil. Tourism also provides a significant portion of the city's income.
Because of the concentration of political command (headquarters of the central government, presidency, parliament, ministries and central government) and culture (festivals and mainstream media), Tunis is the only nationally ranking metropolis. Tunis is the heartland of the Tunisian economy and is the industrial and economic hub of the country, home to one third of Tunisian companies—including almost all the head offices of companies.
Gulf finance house or GFH has invested $10 billion in order for the construction of tunis financial harbor, that will transform Tunisia as the gateway to Africa from Europe. The project hopes to boost the economy of Tunisia as well as increase the number of tourist visiting Tunisia annually. Currently the project is going through planning.
The municipality of Tunis is divided into 15 municipal districts:
El Bab Bhar,
Cité El Khadra,
Jelloud Jebel El Kabaria,
El Omrane Higher Séjoumi,
Prices in Tunis
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Milk||1 liter||$ 0.60|
|Tomatoes||1 kg||$ 0.50|
|Cheese||0.5 kg||$ 4.00|
|Apples||1 kg||$ 1.75|
|Oranges||1 kg||$ 0.75|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$ 1.25|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$ 6.00|
|Coca-Cola||2 liters||$ 1.00|
|Bread||1 piece||$ 0.20|
|Water||1.5 l||$ 0.30|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$ 18.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$ 26.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$ 38.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$ 4.00|
|Water||0.33 l||$ 0.28|
|Cappuccino||1 cup||$ 0.95|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$ 2.50|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$ 1.50|
|Coca-Cola||0.33 l||$ 0.55|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$ 7.00|
|Cinema||2 tickets||$ 5.00|
|Gym||1 month||$ 35.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$ 4.00|
|Theatar||2 tickets||$ 38.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$ 0.10|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$ 2.90|
|Antibiotics||1 pack||$ 5.50|
|Tampons||32 pieces||$ 2.95|
|Deodorant||50 ml.||$ 2.90|
|Shampoo||400 ml.||$ 2.50|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$ 1.10|
|Toothpaste||1 tube||$ 1.30|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$ 64.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$ 50.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$ 85.00|
|Leather shoes||1||$ 80.00|
|Gasoline||1 liter||$ 0.80|
|Taxi||1 km||$ 0.40|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$ 0.30|
46 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
120 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Tunis-Carthage Airport (TUN), 8 km away from the centre, is small and in reasonable shape with all standard facilities. Free Wi-Fi is available at several of the restaurants, including Caffe Lindo, but is not always working. International flights will arrive on the ground floor of the airport. Toilets are clean but have attendants that ask for change after use. If you don't bring your own, be sure to get toilet paper from the attendant.
Tunisian law requires all currency to be exchanged within the country. It's illegal to bring Tunisian currency with you outside the country or inside, though it can be done at most travel desks if you sign a waiver. The major western carriers who service Tunis-Carthage are Air France and Lufthansa, from Paris or Frankfurt. You can exchange money at the airport or at your hotel. There are several ATMs, but some seem to struggle with international cards. On the ground floor beneath the Banque de Tunise sign and next to the cafe L'Escale there is a reliable one. You should retain the receipt for the transaction; without it, the bank (or another) may refuse to convert unspent Dinar back into your own currency.
A taxi into the city centre — insist on the meter — should cost around 3-5 dinars during the day and around 5 dinars at night. Alternatively, buses depart fairly regularly during the day (but not at night) and charge a fraction of the price. Beware of the taxi drivers. At night some will ask up to 40 TD depending on where you are going. In a struggling economy business has become even more competitive. An unspoken rule is the first taxi driver who grabs your luggage and places it in the trunk of his car makes the contract for your transportation. It's not uncommon to be barraged with over ten taxi drivers at once as you walk outside the terminal. They can reach for your bag aggressively—not to steal it, but to make an attempt at winning your business. Some meters may have been tampered with. If you don't trust the taxi's meter, then negotiate a price to where you are going before you leave the front of the terminal. It may be advisable to ask for an average taxi rate from your hotel front desk before leaving.
Some people have suggested taking the escalator up one floor and waving down a taxi that's just dropped someone off for a departing flight at the arrivals platform. This is more difficult to accomplish at night time, but the advantages are finding a more professional driver. In the afternoon it is extremely simple to accomplish this.
There is a public bus service (bus no. 635) to the city centre outside the Arrivals Hall, at the same place as the bus that goes to Bizerte. The bus stops at a small bus station near the Tunis Marine metro station.
If you are departing and making a connecting flight, do not accept duty free alcohol that is not in a sealed bag - the intermediate airport will not allow you to board your second flight with it. For the same reason, insist on a printed receipt.
Tunis Central Station is near Place de Barcelone for easy interchange onto the light metro. You can travel to Tunis by train from most major cities in the country, the main line going from Gabès via Sousse, Sfax and Gafsa. Trains are generally cheap and comfortable, but if you want to ride first class during peak season, do reserve your seat in advance. Trains are run by SNCFT.
The rail network is connected to the one in Algeria, and there's a direct train from Algiers, the Maghreb express Tunis. Rails go all the way to Morocco, but the land border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994.
Tunisia has over 70 bus lines, with Tunis at the hub. There are two bus stations in town, with Gare Bab el Fellah (in the Bab Saadoun neighborhood) serving southern destinations and Gare Bab Saadoun (south of Place Barcelone) serving those to the north. Buses are run by SNTRI at both stations — see their website for schedules and fares.
It is not highly recommended to drive in Tunisia, due to the poor quality of roads, driving habits, and signage. It is also more dangerous to drive at night, and outside of the city and major tourist areas. The freeway A1 from Gabès, Sfax, Sousse and Hammamet is in a good shape, though, but traffic is very busy.
If you want to rent a car, the airport is the place to go. Local rental companies usually have lower rates than the international ones.
Tunis is the country's major port and there are ferries from a number of Mediterranean ports including Civitavecchia just outside of Rome, Genoa, Livorno, Naples, Palermo,Trapani and the French port of Marseille. There are plenty of operators: Italian GNV, French SNCM and Tunisian CTM, Grimaldi Lines amongst others. Voyages from southern France or northwestern Italy take about 24 hours.
Most ferries arrive at La Goulette, 15 minutes from Tunis centre. There are plenty of taxis around and suburban trains departs every ten minutes.
Transportation - Get Around
Free maps of Tunis and Tunisia are available at the National Tourism Office, to the north-east of the clock tower (directly east of the main Medina gate). The tourist office offers assistance in many languages.
Tunis is well-served by a convenient five-line light metro system run by Transtu. The interchange hubs for all lines are in the centre of town at Place de la République and Place de Barcelone. Single trips cost 0.430 TD.
The TGM suburban train line, starting at Tunis Marine station on Lines 1-4, connects to La Goulette (ferries), Sidi Bou Saïd, Carthage and the beaches of Marsa. Tickets cost 680 millimes each way. At Tunis Marine, be aware that there is an extreme dearth of signage. No obvious signs even say TGM, and on the maps on the trains themselves the station is marked as Tunis Nord. If you arrive at the station on the Tunis Metro, the TGM platform will be perpendicular to the metro cars and is easily accessed across the tracks. Tickets are sold at the end farthest from the metro stop.
Signs for station names along the TGM differ slightly from what appears on the onboard map, but if you can see the signs from the train and it is free of graffiti, a not uncommon problem, it is easy to tell where you are. It is not unusual for the trains to stop and wait on the tracks after leaving Tunis Nord or upon return. This usually does not last an extraordinary amount of time, and you will likely be better off not following the example of the optimistic youths that decide to leap from the car and walk along the tracks into the city.
Many stations along the TGM don't have full-time ticket vendors, so if you are making several trips along the line while visiting Carthage or Sidi Bou Said, you might be forced to risk traveling without a ticket. The guidebooks say that officials will sometimes get on the train and check tickets, so travel without a ticket at your own risk. It might be safest to buy a return to your farthest destination. The price difference should be minimal, and that way you might plausibly just have boarded the train, and your ticket will be valid for wherever you get on. The safest option will be to check with the ticket vendors or buy a ticket if you can find them.
Taxis are also a good option if you need to go a bit farther than the metro, though cabs picking up in front of nice hotels will charge much higher rates. It's a better idea to hail one on the street; there are a lot of them so you don't need to search for one very long. Prices are displayed as 3.700 for 3.7DT. Flagfall is .400. (.4 DT). Assuming they are honest, the meter is a good way to go. Only try to negotiate a price if you know what you are doing and are sure of the value of the trip. Taxis are generally safe.
Driving is not the best idea for getting around; street signage is faulty, there's a lot of traffic and locals rarely follow traffic rules. Driving is particularly dangerous at dark. Traffic jams are common and around Habib Bourguiba Avenue and Victory Square traffic often comes to a total standstill.
Transtu operates a public bus network as well. Bus fares depend on how far (how many zones) you will travel, starting at 0.320 TD for a short ride. Here is a map of the bus lines in and around Tunis.
Otherwise, louages (shared taxis) are the most flexible of all options. The minivans with 8 passenger seats take off when they are full and therefore run on no particular schedule. Prices tend to be a little bit higher than buses, but the difference is usually negligible. The North louage station is in the parking lot of the North bus station. The South louage station is across the street from the South bus station.
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Beaches in Tunis
Along the coast you will find vast, golden, sandy beaches that are, surprisingly, not overrun by tourists. The salty, warm, turquoise waters of the Mediterranean are perfect for swimming and doing all kinds of water sports. Along the beaches are tiny shops and restaurants, displaying evidence of Tunisia's French colonial past. On the beaches you just have to be wary of people becoming too friendly and trying to mooch off of you or even rob you.
La marsa is one of the best and safest beach areas to go to. Located alongside a middle to upper class neighborhood in northern Tunis, La Marsa is known for its lack of bothersome thieves and con men. The sand is golden and the water is calm and clear. It is an excellent place for swimming and water sports, perfect for families. If you get tired of the sun, you can check out all the shops and restaurants along the beach.
Carthage Beach and Sidi Bou Said Beach
Carthage Beach is a long, unspoiled stretch of beach about 18 kilometers from Tunis. Scuba diving, water skiing, jet skiing, and snorkeling are all excellent activities to try. Swimming, sunbathing, and playing in the sand are also fun things to do. Sidi Bou Said is a small village along the Carthage Coast. It is known for being a hub of artists and musicians due to its inspiring beauty. The houses and stores are white with detailed metalwork and blue doors and windows. The beach in front of this village is a particularly picturesque location. Carthage Beach is close to the Carthage ruins as well, and there are concerts in the amphitheater during summer.
Raf Raf Beach
This beach is said to be the most beautiful in all of Tunisia. When you approach the beach from a road winding through the mountains, the view is gorgeous. Very popular with locals, Raf Raf Beach is close to horseback riding and camel riding stations and has paragliding, scuba diving, and windsurfing opportunities. The beach is excellent for families, like the majority of beaches near Tunis. Swimming and snorkeling are perfect there due to the clarity of the turquoise water.
ATMs are a convenient way of getting money without going to a bureau de change and there are many Visa cashpoints around the city.
- The souq in the Medina makes for a fascinating stroll. Tiny shops overflowing with stuff; people selling, buying, milling about; skeletal cats lurking in the shadows; the smells of essential oils, spices, frying food and rotting garbage; the sounds of the muezzin, raï, football on the radio, Arabic and French... The Tunis Medina's main routes are labeled "touristique", but even a few steps off the beaten track it's a real, working market. Behind the often scruffy façades hide old palaces, mosques, Islamic schools. Compared to Morocco or even Sousse you will not be hassled here. Bab El Bahr (The large stone-arch "French Gate" at the head of Avenue DeFrance) is a good starting point for the Souk. The goldsmiths are close to Bab Bnet. Haggle if you wish to buy anything. Prices paid for items are given in July 2012, with the caveat that it is not known if they are good prices. They are provided just for reference. The merchant's first offer is in parentheses: 5DT (12DT) for a low-end scarf, 20DT (45DT, 65DT for a comparable box at another vendor) for an 8" nacre inlaid hexagonal wooden box, 30DT (80DT) for a leather bandolier. If you are unsure, try getting a first estimate from several vendors before you buy. As always, if you give a price and they agree, you will be expected to pay.
- Halfaouine. A cheap, traditional food market, located at Place Halfaouine, near the railway station.
There are little stores near every hotel in Tunis, where you can buy everything you need, but their prices are high. So it's better to go shopping to other parts of the city. Approximately 90% of goods presented in Tunis are of local origin. There are networks of state supermarkets Monoprix and General in the capital.
Most hotels include breakfast, and some include dinner. There are countless coffee shops with bitter coffee, other drinks and French-style pastries to enjoy, as well as sandwich shops. Count yourself lucky if you find a dish that does not include canned tuna! Know that during Ramadan it's difficult to find an open restaurant during daytime.
If you want alcohol when eating go to a hotel as most serve beer/wine, as do some upmarket restaurants in the Berges du Lac area of Tunis.
- Atlas le Resto, Rue Mustapha M'barek (directly across from the Grand Hotel de France). Very friendly owner and his cook speaks some English. Delicious iftar (breaking of the daily ramadan fast) of fish soup, bread, harissa, a fried pastry with tuna and a softboiled egg, minced cabbage, grilled chicken and fries, a spicy olive paste, and a lime Bogo, all for 9.500 TD.
- Abid, 6 Rue de la Liberté, . Good food, specializing in lamb dishes and spicy dishes from the Sfax region. A popular place for locals. 5 dinars.
- Restaurant Les Étoiles, 3, Rue Mustafa M'barek. Very cheap and filling food such as couscous and salads.
- L'Orient, Rue Ali Bach Hamba, 7(close to porte de France), . The steaks are bland, the fish good and local food such as Berber Lamb is excellent. The service is prompt.
- La Mamma, Avenue de Carthage, , e-mail:[email protected]. Very cosy restaurant on several floors. Good Italian inspired food. Has live music and is open to 3AM.
- El Khalifa, Rue d'Iran (close to Metro stop Nelson Mandela), . Open for lunch only until 3PM, Monday through Saturday. Delicious West African food at very reasonable prices, popular with employees of the African Development Bank. Far tastier and friendlier than the typical mediocre Tunisian restaurant experience.
- Café de Paris Brasserie, Avenue Habib Bourguiba, 071 256 601. A good restaurant with a beautiful interior and some outdoor tables. You can choose among pizza, couscous and a variety of salad. Also serves alcohol.
- Le Malouf, Rue de Yougoslavie (downtown), 071 254 246. Mo-Sa 11:30-15 and 19-midnight. The place to go if you'd like Italian food. Large menu to choose from, sometimes live music.
- Peppino, Avenue Ouled Haffouz (Hotel Golden Tulip El Mechtel). Italian restaurant, with a wide variety of pizzas. 22-34 TND.
- Flore, Avenue Ouled Haffouz (Hotel Golden Tulip El Mechtel). Tunisian cuisine and buffet. 50 TND.
- Dar el-Jeld, 5-10 rue Dar el-Jeld (near the Prime Minister's residence, and the Youth Hostel), 71 560 916. Perhaps the best of the restaurants in Tunis, this restaurant pays attention to every single detail. You don't even open the door - just knock on the large yellow door, and they open it (this gives it the appearance of not being open). The food is excellent, and the management speaks English and French fluently, and can recommend various dishes. The menu is a bit complicated, with price categories, rather than prices, listed (check the last page for what each price category costs). The physical setting is inside a beautiful, tiled covered courtyard, and has private areas off to the side. As of March '09, prices for a main course ranged from 20-30, appetizer 7-9, and water or tea 3.5. Everything is recommended, though the couscous is simply good, but not incredible. 25-40 TD.
- Lucullus, Avenue Habib Bourguiba, 1 (in the harbout), 071 737 100.Luxurious seafood restaurant with a large terrace surrounded by palm trees.
Coffe & Drink
- Café M'Rabet, Souk Trok (in the Medina). Cafe and restaurant.
- Café de Paris, Avenue Habib Bourguiba. 06-24. One of the major cafes along the avenue, very popular and lively.
Sights & Landmarks
Non-Muslims may not enter Islamic monuments such as mosques.
- Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul(Cathédrale Saint-Vincent-de-Paul), Avenue Habib Bourguiba. Built in 1882, this is the largest surviving building from Tunis' colonial era, in the neo-Romanesque style. It was named after St. Vincent de Paul, a priest in the region who was sold as a slave and fought slavery after he was liberated. The facade is decorated by a golden mosaic of Jesus and two trumpet-playing angels.
- Al-Fateh Mosque (Mosquée Al-Fateh), Avenue de la Liberté (Métro République). A large white mosque north of downtown.
- Chambre des Conseillers. Finished in 2005, this building used to house the upper house of the Parliament of Tunisia. It didn't serve this purpose for very long; after the 2011 revolution the Tunisian parliament was made unicameral and the counselor chamber has been empty ever since.
- Grande Mosquée Zitouna, Rue Tourbet El Bey. The largest and oldest mosque in Tunisia and an important landmark, this Aghlabite mosque dates back to the 8th century, although the distinctive square minaret is a much later 19th century addition. It has 160 pillars, that originally come from the ruins of Carthage. Modest dress essential, but non-Muslims can only enter a viewing platform on the edge of the courtyard (3 TND), not the mosque itself. Still an active mosque, but closed to visitors (i.e. tourists) after the 2011 revolution.
- Sidi Youssef Dey Mosque (Mosquée Sidi Youssef Dey), Souk Trok.Opened in 1631, this was the first Ottoman mosque to be built in Tunis. It is the largest Hanafi mosque in the city, was extensively restored in the late 19th century and is now a part of the University of Ez-Zitouna. A historical monument, the Youssef Dey mosque has a beautiful octagonal minaret and white marble mausoleum.
- Medersa Bachia (Madrasa El Bachia), Souk El Belat. Quran school from the 18th century, a monument since 1912. It is notable for its public fountain located outside the entrance. In the 1980's it was converted into an artisan school with students studying leather craft, jewellery and embroidery. Non-Muslims may not enter.
- Théâtre Municipal, 2, rue de Grèce (avenue Habib Bourguiba), . A pretty white Art-Deco building, worth seeing in its own right even if you're not going there to see a play or concert (also see the Do section).
- Bab El Bahr (Porte de France), Place de la Victoire. The Gate to the sea, which remains unchanged since its erection in 1848. It can be found on the Avenue de France. Before it was built it was an empty space where you could see the Mediterranean on one side and Lake Tunis on the other.
- Bab Saadoun, Rue Bab Sadoune. Another gate, constructed originally in 1350 with one arch, then rebuilt in 1881 with three arches to facilitate commerce.
- Tourbet el-Bey, Rue Tourbet el-Bey. An impressive 18th century mausoleum, the final resting place for over 160 princes and ministers and their families. The eight-pointed star inside represents the doors to paradise.
- Tunis Clock Tower, Place du 14 janvier. The iconic clock tower is one of the city's most visible landmarks.
- Hôtel de Ville. Not a hotel, but the city hall. The building was inaugurated in 1998 and is a combination of traditional and modern architecture with large windows, Middle Eastern patterns and arches. The city hall also features a lot of Tunisian flags, and has a striking flagpole structure on the square in the front of the main entrance.
- Avenue de France. One of the busiest streets of Tunis. It is bordered with shops and eateries and several architecturally interesting buildings.
- Place de la Victoire. A lively square at the entrance to the medina. Bordered with shops, cafés and the ornamented building which houses the High Commission of the United Kingdom.
- Parc du Belvédère, Avenue Taieb Mehiri (métro Palestine). A large park created during the French rule and featuring palm trees, mimosas and azaleas and a great view of Tunis and the lake. Sadly, the park has seen better days and graffiti is commonplace. Still, it's a popular place for locals to escape the heat and noise of the city.
- Tunis Medina (Médina de Tunis). The world heritage listed old town is a must-see colorful, crowded labyrinth of decorated old houses, vaults and street vendors. You can move around by foot only. You get a feel of medieval life.
Museums & Galleries
- Bardo Museum (Le Musée National du Bardo), Le Bardo-2000 (nearest station Bardo on Metro line 4), 1 513-650, fax: 1 513-842. September 16 to April 30: 9:30-16:30. May 1 to September 15: 9:00-17:00, Tuesday to Sunday..Nearest metro station is Le Bardo on line 4. Then walk toward the fenced compound to the north and walk clockwise around it until you find the unmarked gate. Count the stops, as signs are often missing, or ask someone on board if you are unsure. Coming from Place de Barcelone, it is the first stop after you go briefly underground for the second time. Occupying the 13th century palace of the Ottoman-era bey (ruler) and renowned for its extensive collection of Roman mosaics, although the (huge) collection covers Tunisia's entire existence from the prehistoric era until the Ottoman days. Exhibits from Carthage, Mahdia, Sousse, many from the Roman period in addition to presentations of Arabian culture old and new. It can be mercilessly hot and stifling in the museum, so bring water. The only bathrooms are on the ground floor, and have attendants asking for change. The museum is segregated into old and new, so be sure to walk around a fair amount looking for new passages to be sure you haven't missed any major areas. TND11.
- Dar Ben Abdallah (Musée du Patrimoine Traditionnel), Rue Sidi Kassem.Tu-Su 9:30AM–4:30PM. A small but interesting folk museum within an 18th-century palace in the medina, covering the everyday life of a rich merchant in the Ottoman era with exhibits including faience, stucco ornament, costumes and furniture.
Things to do
Simply wandering around Tunis can be an interesting experience, especially around the medina with its ancient buildings including mosques, gates and market stalls. All types of commodities including slaves used to be traded here, but today's market is mainly that of day-to-day goods, wiht many local handicrafts. Shopping and haggling at this colorful place is certainly an experience different from what you may be used to at home. Another good place for a walk is Tunis' largest park, Belvedere Park, which houses the Museum of Modern Art and the municipal zoo (closed Mondays), and overlooks Lake Tunis.
Hammams (traditional public steam baths) are common in the Muslim part of the Mediterranean and also in Tunis. Formerly the only place for all but the upper classes to clean themselves, hammams are still a part of the local culture — so bathing in one of these is a cultural experience in itself. They are often located near mosques as people used to wash themselves before prayer; ask a local where the nearest hammam is (the medina is the easiest place to find one). Remember that a hammam is either men or women only, or open to men in the morning and night and to ladies in the afternoon. Bring spare underwear, flip flops, soap and a towel.
Festivals and events
Festivals are one of the best ways to experience the culture of a country and in Tunis, festivals are numerous and exciting. With a large variety of these exhibitions ranging from religious to purely entertaining, visiting Tunis when one of these festivals is going on is a wise idea.
Scattered along the outskirts of this city are the large dunes that make up the entrance to the Sahara desert, and have special meaning to Tunisians. The festival allows tourists to observe the desert traditions that are so special to these people, folk art and customs. Usually scheduled throughout December and January, this festival is chock full of traditions and culture, and is worth observing.
One of the best displays of Tunisian culture is the Medina Festival. Celebrated each year during the thirty days of Ramadan (August 11th - September 10th), the Medina Festival offers a wide range of Western as well as Arabic entertainment. The main location of this festival is the Tunis Municipal Theater, although there are a number of performances and events held outside. Rich in the religious customs and cultural traditions of this country, this is another festival that is a must for those seeking cultural diversity.
Children's Cultural Festival
Throughout the country, Tunisian children mark the start of their winter break with the Children's Cultural Festival. Held December 18-27th, the festival is based out of Tunis, though other festivals of the like are being held in other cities as well. For children who have done nothing but study non-stop in the prior months, the festival gives these children a chance to kick back and enjoy life. The festival hosts a number of theatrical productions, music, cinemas, and artistic activities such as painting and literary readings. Attracting children from a number of neighboring villages, this is a great festival to visit if traveling with children as they not only get to experience another culture, they also get to participate in the activities.
Mediterranean Guitar Festival
Held in March every year, the Mediterranean Guitar Festival features performances by renowned and talented acoustic musicians from Tunisia as well as other countries such as France. Taking place at multiple locations throughout Tunis, this is a festival to visit if you're interested in stringed instruments ranging from acoustic to rock music.
Be careful about what bars you frequent, ladies should perhaps try to bring a man out with them. Local beers are Celtia and the elusive Stella, which is rarely seen but exists on RateBeer. Both are lagers. Local liqueurs include Boukha ("boo-k"), usually taken straight or with coke, and Thibina, which is usually taken straight with a single ice cube. Alcohol is mostly only served in hotel bars.
- Le Boeuf sur le Toit, 3 avenue Fatouma Bourguiba (in La Soukra 10km northeast of downtown). The name means The Ox on the Roof, and trendy people come for food, drinks, live music, DJs, and a dance floor.
- Bar Jamaica, 49 Avenue Habib Boutguiba. On the 10th floor of the Hotel el-Hana International, this is a funky and popular destination for locals and foreigners, with music and outdoor seating available.
- Hotel Africa Lobby Bar, Avenue Habib Bourguiba. A bit smoky, but has all of the local drinks save Stella, and is one of the few places that serves alcohol during Ramadan.
- Brasserie les 2 Avenues, Ave Habib Bourguib (Hotel el-Hana lnternational). Great location with views over Avenue Habib Bourguiba.
- Piano Bar, Avenue Mohamed V, 45 (Hotel La Maison Blanche). A good place for a drink, located in a 5-star hotel.
In addition to these, some major beach bars and clubs are located in La Marsa, about 15 km to the northeast.
Things to know
Tunis is divided into the World Heritage Listed old city, known as the medina, and the new city, or ville nouvelle in French. Ave Habib Bourguiba is the large avenue running through the new city from the clock tower to the Cathedral of St Vincent de Paul. It then turns into Ave de France, which runs for a few blocks until ending at the Place de la Victoire and the Port de France, a large free-standing gate that used to be the entrance to the medina. This can be a good landmark for taxi drivers, as some of the smaller streets nearby aren't sure to be known by the driver.
The Port de France also serves as a good entry point for exploring the medina. Rue Jemaa Zaytouna leads past lots of shops to the Zaytouna Mosque, the great mosque of Tunis and the center of the medina. Running obliquely to Rue Jemaa Zaytouna, and also with an outlet near the Port de France, is the Rue de la Kasbah. This runs all the way through the medina to the Place du Gouvernment and the Place de la Kasbah, a huge bleak square subject to heavy security. It is fairly easy to move between the two streets by cutting through in the labyrinthine medina, and it is easy to keep your bearings and find an exit. Rue Jemaa Zaytouna seems to be a better entry point from the Port de France at night, remaining relatively well traveled. Rue de la Kasbah, on the other hand, is active after dark on the Place de la Kasbah side, but is extremely dark and almost scary near the Port de France. It is recommended to get a feel for the medina during the day so that you will feel more confident if you find yourself and alone and need to find a landmark at night.
One thing that can get really annoying in Tunis is the number of "friends" a tourist will attract. There is a decent number of men who hang out on avenue Bourguiba, the main drag in Tunis. They work individually. They approach tourists and start talking to them. The tourist may think that this person is just being friendly, but don't buy it. Also beware of teens approaching you on or around av. Habib Bourguiba. They often "prey" on male tourists and try to talk you into joining them to the cinema. Later on your new "friend" will ask you for 10 Dinars or a pack of Marlboros or this or that. It is best to just avoid these people or to shoo them off.
Tunisian people are nice and curious towards strangers, but avoid the ones who seem too friendly.
Sadly, terrorist attacks are also possible. In March 2015 24 people, mostly tourists, were killed when ISIS-affiliated terrorists opened fire in the Bardo National Museum.