Attractions in Tunis

11 Top Tourist Attractions in Tunis

The capital of Tunisia is one of North Africa’s most easy-going cities, but still full of exotic appeal. It’s this relaxed approach that makes Tunis the perfect introduction to the region. Most of the sightseeing is in the medina (old town), which is a tourist attraction in itself. Here the alleys wind into higgledy-piggledy routes. If you are in the middle of the high walls, you can certainly get lost. However, there are still plenty of things to do outside this charming labyrinth. The European style of the ville nouvelle(new town) is where French café culture sets the pace of the day, and opulent Belle Epoque architecture lines the ordered streets. Outside the center are the city’s two main attractions: the stunning mosaic collection of the world-famous Bardo Museum and the remains of once glorious Carthage are the must-dos on any tourist’s travel agenda.

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1 Carthage


The remains of ancient Carthage – the legendary wealthy seafaring city of the Phoenicians – are scattered across the Bay of Tunis . The evocative, tumbled columns and piles of marble rubble are bordered by a panorama of the Mediterranean Sea, which was so fundamental to the city’s prosperity. Completely destroyed in the Third Punic War in 146 BC, the remains of the ruins pale in comparison to some other ancient sites in North Africa, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit. With their coastal location, the ruins have an unbeatable lost time in the air. The individual sites are strung along the bay and are easily accessible with a mix of walking and use of the Tunis Light Railway. Don’t miss the views of the entire area from the top of Byrsa Hill .

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Tunis

2 The Bardo National Museum

The National Bardo Museum
The National Bardo Museum

The world’s most renowned mosaic collection is housed in this opulent palace in Tunis. Along with Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, the Bardo is one of the two premier museum experiences in North Africa. Inside, room after room displays gloriously intricate and still vibrantly fresh examples of mosaic art that have emerged from sites across Tunisia. The Sousse Room , Odysseus Room , and Dougga Room have particularly impressive exhibits of this art form, but the entire collection is a treasure chest and well worth an afternoon of browsing. The ground floor of the building features interesting non-mosaic exhibitions with displays from the Neo-Punic, Christian and Islamic eras.

Location: Le Bardo district

Official site:

3 Sidi Bou Said

Sidi Bou Said
Sidi Bou Said

The beautiful coastal district of Sidi Bou Said, in Andalusian style, owes its fame to three young painters. While living here in 1914, Paul Klee, August Macke and Louis Moilliet captured the beauty of the whitewashed buildings and blue doors on canvas. Sidi Bou Said has since become a kind of bohemian artists’ quarter and is a privileged weekend meeting place for residents of Tunis. There are no tourist attractions as such (that’s part of its charm), but you shouldn’t fail to be seduced by the picture-perfect white-and-blue streets, cliff-edge cafes and postcard coastline.

4 Medina



Chock-a-block full of crumbling buildings found by winding your way through a procession of increasingly sparse alleys, the medina (old town) district is the historic heart of Tunis and is packed with sights. The main gateway, which marks the end of the new city and the beginning of the old one, is known as Bab el Bahr(Sea Gate). Built in 1848, it was known as Porte de France during the colonial period. The ancient city walls of the Hafsid period may have long since disappeared, but once inside, mosques, madrassas (Islamic schools of learning) and mausoleums with lavish tilework and beautiful Fatimid and Ottoman architecture line the winding streets. Getting lost while strolling and stumbling upon a fantastic monumental relic is half the fun.

Buyers should head to Souk des Chéchias , where the makers of Tunisian traditional woolen hats have had their workshops for centuries. The area between Rue Djemma ez Zitouna and Rue Kasbah is where most of the souvenir stalls converge.

Address: Main entrance at Bab el Bahr (gate) on Rue el Jazir

5 Olive Tree Mosque

Olive Tree Mosque
Olive Tree Mosque

The Grand Mosque of the Medina District is home to some of the finest examples of religious architecture in the country. Begun during the Umayyad dynasty in 732 AD, it has been added to and refined by conquerors of empires in the centuries since. Although non-Muslims cannot enter the prayer room, visitors are free to wander around the lush and tranquil exterior courtyard and also go to the roof, where there is dazzling tile work. The roof is also one of the best places in the medina to take panoramic photos of the area.

Address: Rue Djemma ez Zitouna

6 Ville Nouvelle (New Town)

Ville Nouvelle (New Town)
Ville Nouvelle (New Town)

A world away from the biological tangle of the medina, Tunis’ ville nouvelle was developed during the French colonial era. The main core is Avenue Habib Bourguiba – a beautifully wide avenue planted with palms and eucalyptus trees. The street heads east, from just outside the medina Place de l’Indépendance towards the harbour, in a dead straight line.

The imposing St. Vincent de Paul Cathedral is the largest surviving building from Tunisia’s French colonial period. The extensive neo-Romanesque façade stands grandly above the northern end of Place de l’Indépendance and at the time of its construction in 1893 it was a monumental reminder of France’s dominance over the country. Inside is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Architecture enthusiasts should check out the beautiful mix of colonial and post-colonial buildings along Avenue Habib Bourguiba, from the modernist inverted pyramid of the Hotel du Lac to the more stately and grand European style of the government buildings. At the intersection with Avenue Mohammed V, Place d’Afrique has a bell monument that symbolizes Tunisia’s modern era.

7 La Goulette (Tunis Port)

La Goulette (Tunis Port)
La Goulette (Tunis Port)

La Goulette is the port of the capital and has traditionally been a place of strategic importance (control of the port entrance). During the reign of Emperor Charles V it was the most important Spanish possession in the eastern Maghreb. From 1574 onwards, the Ottoman rulers enlarged and strengthened the fortress built by Spain. La Goulette only became a port during the French colonial period, when Lake Tunis silted up and could no longer accommodate ships of any size.

For sightseeing, La Goulette has Spanish and Ottoman forts to explore and the gate of the Old Arsenal (on the Tunis Road). If just taking in the sea air is more your thing, the main coastal road ( Avenue Franklin Roosevelt ) is La Goulette’s prime location. Beyond the modern harbour, the long stretch of sandy beach is one of the city’s best places to relax in the evenings and on weekends.

8 Mosque of Sidi Mahrez

This Ottoman-style mosque is named after the 10th-century marabout (holy man) Mohammed Mahrez es Seddiki (the “Ascetic”), who is the Islamic equivalent of a patron saint for the city. It is an ornate building crowned with nine white domes. Mahrez played a vital role after the dismissal of Tunis in AD 944, encouraging citizens to rebuild and develop trade and industry. He is buried across the street from the mosque. Although non-Muslims cannot enter, the facade of the building is worth seeing in the medina.

Address: Rue Sidi Mahrez, Medina

9 Dar Hussein

Dar Hussein Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / photo modified
Dar Hussein Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / photo modified

The luxurious Dar Hussein Palace was built in the 18th century and restored in the 19th century. Now home to Tunisia’s National Institute of Archeology and Art , visitors can freely wander the lovely courtyard (but are not allowed inside the palace) and enjoy the opulent surroundings. Nearby is the Dar Ben Abdallah, an 18th-century palace that has been put to good use as the home of the city’s folk museum (the Musée du Patrimoine Traditionnel de la Ville de Tunis). The exhibits include faience, stucco, costumes and furniture.

Address: Rue Sidi bou Khrissan, Medina

Location: Rue Sidi Bou Khrissan, Medina

10 Parc du Belvédère and the Museum of Modern Art

Parc du Belvédère and the Museum of Modern Art Dennis Jarvis / photo modified
Parc du Belvédère and the Museum of Modern Art Dennis Jarvis / photo modified

This welcoming greenery is one of the city’s top places to catch your breath and regroup from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. The hill is planted with Aleppo pines, carob trees, olive and fig trees and palm trees, and those who take the short walk to the top of the hill are rewarded with fantastic panoramas of the entire city (on a clear day). On the east side of the park is the Museum of Modern Art, home to the country’s largest collection of work by Tunisian artists. The park is also home to the city’s zoo.

11 Rue Sidi Brahim in Rue du Pacha

These two streets (and their surrounding alleys) in the medina are home to a wealth of architectural gems and are a wonderful place to get a sense of what the old city would have looked like before modernization. The mid-19th century Zaouia Sidi Brahim (Rue Sidi Brahim) is a showcase of opulent palace interiors, while the 18th century Dar Lasram (Rue du Tribunal) is another lavish example of palace style. The Ottoman pasha once lived along Rue du Pacha, and the houses that still stand on the row offer some of the finest examples of engraved wooden doorways in the city.

Location: Medina

Where to Stay in Tunis for Sightseeing

We recommend these great hotels in Tunis with easy access to the city’s top sites such as the Olive Tree Mosque and the Medina:

  • Palais Bayram: luxury boutique hotel, steps from the medina, beautifully restored 18th century building, spa with traditional hammam.
  • Hotel Belvedere Fourati: 4-star hotel, near Belvedere Park, modern decor, fitness center, free breakfast.
  • Ibis Tunis: affordable prices, sleek interior, friendly staff, free parking.
  • Hotel Metropole Residence: budget hotel, near the medina, friendly staff, clean rooms.

History of Tunis

Thanks to its prime location on a wide, sheltered bay and a fertile hinterland, the location of present-day Tunis is one of the two oldest cities in the entire Mediterranean region. The first to settle here were the Numidians, who called their city Tunes. Afterwards, the Phoenicians founded Carthage near 814 BC.

The rise of Tunis began with the final destruction of Carthage by the Arabs in AD 698. Lake Tunis provided a natural harbor for the Muslim fleet. Under the rule of Ibrahim II of the Aghlabid dynasty in 894 AD, the capital was transferred from Kairouan to Tunis, and the city began to develop into one of the leading spiritual and intellectual centers of the Islamic world.

In the 16th century, Tunis’ prosperity attracted the attention of pirates, who captured and plundered the city in 1534. The following year, Emperor Charles V drove out the pirates and Tunis became Spanish, although government remained in the hands of the ruling Hafsid dynasty. In 1569, the Ottoman Turks overextended the Spanish, but Don John of Austria in turn defeated the Turks. However, in 1574 the Ottoman army reclaimed the city and it became the seat of an Ottoman governor.

In 1871, the Turkish Bey of Tunis, Hussein, declared independence from Constantinople, but the city (and country) fell under the colonial rule of France, making Tunis an administrative center of their North African protectorate. French rule finally ended on March 20, 1956, and in the following year Tunis became the capital of the Tunisian Republic.

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