Tunis is one of the most underrated destinations I’ve ever had the opportunity to explore. This hidden gem in the Magreb area of Tunisia is still undiscovered by the stereotypical invasive tourist. Those who visit, will be greeted by sweeping views of turquoise Mediterranean sea, ancient ruins, unbelievable shopping and breath-taking hidden surprises. Here are 5 exciting things to do and places to see if you only have two days in Tunis.
Explore the ruins of Ancient Carthage
If you are like me, fascinated by ruins, this attraction is for you. The Ancient Carthage of Tunis takes you to an era of Phoenician glory and The Roman Empire. The Ruins lies scattered in a beautiful garden adorned with palm trees reaching for the sky.
This UNESCO site is located on the eastern side of the lake and one of the main attractions you will find in Tunis. There are four sites to explore, but for a one day itinerary we decided on Carthage Hannibal which included the Antonine Baths and the Archeological Park.
How to get there: We decided to take a taxi however, it is reachable by train.
Entrance: 10 Dinar will allow you entrance to all the sites.
Time: We spent about an hour in Carthage Hannibal, but only saw a small fraction of the Archeological park and the Antonine Baths. I would suggest, if you have time, to make a day trip out of it.
Do shopping at the Souk
The Medina of Tunis consist of a network of alleyways, bustling with people selling their crafts. The cobbled streets are lined with shops filled with colourful objects, textiles and fragrances spilling into the already narrow spaces. If you don’t like rubbing shoulders with people or bargaining with stubborn shop owners, this might not be your ideal excursion. I was amazed by the prices and could easily spend an entire day browsing all that’s on offer.
Before you go: Have a look at google maps to get an idea of the street layout. Its easy to get lost in this area, but overall people were friendly and helpful.
Take enough cash. There where a few ATMs, but it might be safer to take enough from the start.
What to buy: FOUTAS! These traditional colourful fabrics can spruce up any dull corner! They come in various sizes making them versatile, whether it’s used as a towel throw or light blanket. TIP: Some stores have an area with more expensive textiles, it is well worth it to have a look at the better quality hand-woven textiles.
Next time I will focus more on the hand-woven wool carpets, ceramics and baskets.
Explore the rooftop gardens of the medina
A very famous attraction in the Medina of Tunis is the rooftop of Rue Djemma ez Zaitouna (Olive Tree Mosque) with exquisite mosaic tile work. We never made it to this specific rooftop, but in the venture to do so, a friendly passer by pointed us in the direction of a boutique shop leading to a rooftop garden.
Ed Dar is an antique shop close to Mosqúee Zitouna, and easy to visit while doing your ‘souk shopping’. Location: 8 Rue Sidi Ben Arous. This 3 story shop has narrow tiled staircases leading to a roof terrace overlooking the entire medina. Adorned with mosaic work and cactus plants, this was one of the most exquisite gems we found in Tunis.
Visit Sidi Bou Said
This is perhaps the most famous attraction in Tunis and the town that pops up first when researching “Things to do in Tunis”. Sidi Bou Said is situated about 20 km from Tunis City centre and easy to reach by train or taxi. The town looks like something from a fairy tale with its white houses, blue trims and Bougainvillea trees.
One afternoon is more than enough to visit this town and perhaps end the day with a cocktail at one of the many cafés. Read more about Sidi Bou Said here.
Eat at la Goulette
La Goulette is the port of Tunis. At night this area turns into a festive atmosphere with an array of restaurants lighting up and opening into the streets. Visit this area for dinner in a relaxed atmosphere. I tried the couscous with lamb, but this is a fish eater’s paradise!