The capital city of Tunisia, Tunis has grown in size since the days of Phoenician rule in the 5th century BC. After the fall of the Phoenicians, Tunis was ruled successively by the Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans, and most recently by the French.

Today, Tunis is an intriguing mix of modernity and tradition. In the French ville nouvelle (new town), boulevards and cafés are overlooked by grandiose French colonial buildings, whereas the medina (old town) offers an enchanting maze of alleyways, mosques, and traditional coffeehouses.


The ancient city of Carthage, home to the military legend Hannibal, is on the list of World Heritage sites, and is located approximately 15km from the centre of Tunis, easily accessed by taxi or metro. Founded in the 9th century BC, it was the hub of the Phoenicians’ network of trade routes, and dominated the Mediterranean region. Today, the site retains its natural splendour, with flourishing vegetation and impressive views across the Gulf of Tunis complementing the remains of the ancient city, evoking memories of its epic past. Though all parts of the area are recommended, if time is limited, the highlights include the Musée National de Carthage, the Roman amphitheatre, the Antonine Baths, the Punic ports, and the Sanctuary of Tophet.

Set high on a cliff overlooking the Gulf of Tunis, the village of Sidi Bou Said is a prosperous suburb of Tunis, approximately 17 km from the city centre, and again is easy to get to by metro or taxi. The village is characterised by its white walls, blue window grill, and criss-crossed fretwork. Strolling through the narrow lanes, delightful views of the gulf open up. This distinctive architecture was inspired by Moorish influences from Andalusia, and local families and wealthy expats have ensured that the buildings retain their charm and tradition; indeed in 1915 the area was awarded protected status. Aside from strolling through the village, a visit to the lighthouse, erected on the site of an ancient fort, is also worth a visit.

The medina of Tunis is a World Heritage site, and wandering through the narrow alleyways is an enchanting and rich experience. It is located at the western end of the city’s main thoroughfare, Avenue Habib Bourgiba, and is a world apart from the modern ville nouvelle located adjacent to it. There are many mosques scattered throughout the medina, though non-Muslims are not permitted to enter them, and traditional markets, known as souqs, offer a variety of goods, and bargaining is an essential, and fun, part of the sales process.

Finally, a visit to Tunis cannot be complete without seeing the Bardo Museum, the country’s finest museum. It’s most renowned collections include mosaics that decorated Roman Africa’s grand villas, marble statues, and a fine collection of Islamic art.


As mentioned earlier, the medina offers shoppers everything that they could possibly want, including jewellery, perfume, and carpets. It is important to remember that prices may start absurdly high, and so it is important to haggle with shopkeepers. However, there are some fixed-price shops, such as Hanout Arab on the main tourist drag in the medina, though this arguably takes away some of the entertainment associated with haggling with vendors.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Tunisian cuisine has some staple elements, including harissa (a chilli paste made from crushed peppers), baguettes, seafood, briq (a savoury stuffed pastry), and couscous, the national dish, made from semolina granules, that is served with meat or seafood.

The centre of the ville nouvelle has many mid-price restaurants, as well as lots of cheaper patisseries and sandwich/pizza shops. The medina also has its fair share of dining establishments, and many of Tunis’ restaurants offer live music and belly dancing in the evenings.

The majority of Tunis’ bars are frequented by men only, and are centred around the city’s main road, Avenue Habib Bourgiba. Even though Tunisia is a Muslim nation, alcohol is still available. Popular locally produced drinks include boukha, made from distilled figs, and Celtia, the local brand of beer.

Tourist Information

Tunis Tourist Office1 Avenue Mohammed V (next to the Place du 7 Novembre 1987)

Tel: +216 71 341 077


Tunis-Carthage International Airport is located 8km northeast of central Tunis, accessible by taxi or a bus from Avenue Habib Bourgiba. One point to note is that the metro stop L’Aeroport is not near the airport at all.

There are numerous European carriers that fly into Tunis, and another method of entry is a ferry from France or Italy. Tunis Air is the national carrier and flies to domestic destinations such as Jerba, and Sfax, Tunisia’s second city.