10 things to see absolutely in Tunis

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Joel Fulleda
@joelfulleda
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, is a destination generally little considered from a tourist point of view.

In reality, offers really interesting attractions. The center can be divided into 2 parts where parallel but opposite realities coexist: to the west the historic district with the Medina: riot of mosques, madrasas, souks and ancient palaces; to the east, however, there is the modern metropolis and in step with the times: here we find the Ville nouvelle, the national theater, Art Deco style buildings, the station, numerous restaurants, cafes and even shopping centers.
Here 10 must-see attractions during a short stay in Tunis.



Index

  1. Al-Zaytuna Mosque or Great Mosque
  2. Medina and Souk
  3. Rue du Pacha
  4. Dar Hussein
  5. Place de la Victoire and Bab el Bahr
  6. Cathedral of San Vincenzo de 'Paoli
  7. Municipal Theater
  8. Place de Governement
  9. Avenue Habib Bourguiba and Clock Tower
  10. Bardo Museum
  11. User questions and comments

1 - Al-Zaytuna Mosque or Great Mosque

Also called the Olive tree mosque, it rises in the heart of the Medina, rising above the souks it is surrounded by.

Its construction dates back to the th century. The majestic building is unfortunately inaccessible to non-Muslims. The only parts that can be admired are: the long one outdoor gallery which, on the eastern side, flanks Rue Jemaa Zitouna and the beautiful minaret. The latter, visible from every point of the city, recalls that of the Koutobia of Marrakech; it is about 44 meters high and was built on the foundations of a former defensive tower. At the top it is decorated with colorful ceramic tiles.

The trick in order to have an overview of the mosque I say go up on one of the so famous and vaunted terraces. In the Medina, there are numerous cafes and shops (for example of carpets, perfumes and local crafts) that, free of charge, invite you to access the raised floor where tiled terraces offer a magnificent view of the Medina from above.



  • it is located in the heart of the Medina reachable only on foot - Get directions
  • closed to non-Muslims
  • free

2 - Medina and Souk

Teeming with life, it is characterized by narrow alleys, mosque, markets and wonderful courtyards that open suddenly. It has remained intact for over 1000 years. Behind mysterious colorful wooden portals in typical Arabian style, ancient palaces and opulent residences are hidden. At the center of the Medina stands the imposing Great Mosque.
The historical value and the charm that characterize the Medina have earned it recognition by theUnesco.

Various are developed inside souk, markets divided by product types. Since ancient times these markets have been arranged in a logical order: in the central part, the one closest to the Mosque and the places of the authorities, there are the sellers of luxury products (jewels, carpets etc ...) while, moving away from the places of worship and power, there are the shops that bring greater annoyance both for pungent odors (butchers) and for annoying noises (blacksmiths).
In the souk the various activities open in the morning at different times depending on the goods sold (the most early risers are the fruit and vegetable sellers); all close by 18:00.

  • walk from Place du Governement, in 5 minutes (270 meters), following Rue de la Kasbah - Get directions
  • the Medina is always open, the various shops in the souk open around 9: 00/10: 00 in the morning and all close by 18:00
  • free

3 - Rue du Pacha

It is a road with a high tourist attraction and photographic impact. It is the way of the doors. One of the symbols of the city.
It cuts the Medina from north to south, and it is characterized by facades, shutters and doors in typical Arabian style.

Worth it follow it calmly pausing to admire its architectural ambitions. The highlight are the decorated and brightly colored doors.

The dimensions and decorations of each door reflect the opulence of the residence that is hidden once you enter the door. Almost all doors are equipped with characteristic knockers. Some doors have even more knockers, reminiscent of the time when the number of knockers corresponded to the number of residents, but also of the custom of giving different blows based on the type of guest arriving (women, men, children etc ... ).

One of the most interesting buildings from a decorative point of view is at number 29, which features one of the most elaborate doors and richly decorated shutters.



  • on foot, from Place du Governement, in just over 10 minutes (800 meters), taking Rue Sidi Ben Arous - Get directions
  • always open
  • free

4 - Dar Hussein

It is one of the most notable residences among those restored in the heart of the Medina.

Built in the th century on the site of an th century palace, today it houses the National Institute of Arts and Archeology. Unfortunately only the courtyard can be visited, but it's certainly worth it.

The spacious courtyard is surmounted by a modern sloping roof glazed with green. The courtyard, with a structure similar to that of a cloister, is then surrounded on all sides by columns surmounted by Corinthian capitals; the walls are covered with colorful ceramic tiles rich in floral and geometric motifs. Even the wooden vaults have rich decorations.

  • on foot, from Place du Governement, following Boulevard Bab Menara in 7 minutes (550 meters), starting from Bab Bahr, walk across the entire Medina following Rue d'Espagne - Get directions
  • every day 8:30 - 13:00 and 15:00 - 18:00. Closed on Friday
  • free

5 - Place de la Victoire and Bab el Bahr

It is a small open space that separates, symbolically, the old city of Tunis with the Ville Nouvelle.
To seal this division stands stubby and imposing Bab el Bahr which means "the door to the sea", it was built by the French in colonial times. It is located at the end of Avenue de France, which leads to Avenue Habib Bourguiba and the Marina.

The door we see today dates back to 1848 by the will of Bey Ahmed who, inspired by the Parisian Arc de Triomphe, demolished the old entrance and had the current one built.



  • on foot, from Place du Governement, following Rue de la Kasbah, towards Medina, in 9 minutes (800 meters) - Get directions
  • always open
  • free

6 - Cathedral of San Vincenzo de 'Paoli

It is the Catholic church of the city. It was built around 1890 on the site of a Catholic cemetery and architecturally features a interesting mix of Byzantine, Gothic and North African architecture, a reflection of the varied history of Christianity in the region.

The facade of the cathedral is distinguished by the two thin twin towers which constitute the entrance, surmounted by a mosaic depicting Christ.
The cathedral boasts 2 curiosities: masses are alternately preached in French, Spanish and Italian, and the organ is considered the best in all of North Africa.

  • 2 minutes walk from Bab el Bahr following Ave de France - Get directions
  • open during Holy Mass hours: weekdays 7:30 and 18:30 - Saturday 18:30 - Sunday 9:00 - 11:00 - 18:30 and 20:00 (in summer)
  • free

7 - Municipal Theater

The Ville Nouvelle in Tunis is a triumph of Art Decò.
Along the avenues of the Ville Nouvelle there are buildings with decorative, architectural and stylistic characteristics from different worlds: architectures inspired by Baroque and Renaissance styles, rich and lavishly decorated facades, colonial style, lamp posts with imaginative shapes, oriental style.

Built by the French in the early twentieth century, the theater is the emblem of Art Nouveau: the building is in white stucco and features floral elements and fluid and stylized fantastic figures. Today it is used as a theater but also as a hall for classical and Arabic music concerts, as well as for the screening of films and for hosting debates and conferences.

  • it is located along Avenue Habib Bourguiba, exactly halfway between Bab el Bahr and the Marina. 3 minutes walk from the cathedral; or on foot from Place du Governement, crossing the medina, in 15 minutes (1,3 km) - Get directions
  • open when there are concerts and shows going on

8 - Place de Governement

It's a big one airy plaza surrounded by government buildings, fountains, flowers and palm trees. Here the mixture of different architectural styles: the Arabian one and the colonial one of French derivation.

Everywhere the reds wave country flags and, on one side of the square, the minaret of the Kasbah Mosque (not accessible to non-Muslims).

Place of rallies / riots / riots, today it is a famous meeting place for young people as well strategic point to start a walk in the Medina.

  • from the airport 18 minutes by taxi via Boulevard Mohamed Bouazizi (€ 3,50) - Get directions
  • always open
  • free

9 - Avenue Habib Bourguiba and Clock Tower

It is the central avenue of the Ville Nouvelle, the main road in Tunis that connects the port, marina and railway station area with the Medina.

About halfway, in Place du 7 Novembre, is the symbol of Habib Bourguiba Avenue: the Clock Tower and the fountain opposite.

The stretch of road that starts from the tower and reaches the cathedral is the busiest: a long avenue lined with trees and tourist restaurants.

  • 5 minute walk from Bab el Bahr along Habib Bourguiba Avenue - Get directions
  • always open
  • free

10 - Bardo Museum

It is the most important Tunisian museum, as well as the oldest archaeological museum in the Arab world and the Maghreb. It is very famous as it contains the richest collection of Roman mosaics in the world, all of exceptional workmanship and in perfect condition.

The museum structure spread over 3 floors and is divided into six departments which represent the historical-archaeological stages of the country. The finds are located in 34 rooms of which they occupy floors, walls and even the ceilings.

The museum was established in 1182 and inaugurated on May 7, 1888; in 1899 it was enlarged to also house the Islamic art collection e in 1985 it was declared a historic monument.
In addition to the thousands of square meters of mosaics, they can also be admired sculptural works and the beautiful ones Arab-Islamic salt.

  • from Place du Governement 10 minutes by taxi (€ 2,50) - Get directions
  • every day from 9: 00 to 17: 00
  • € 3,50

Plan your stay in Tunis

Tunis is quite compact and you can easily get around on foot, however cheap public transport: the light rail covering 6 zones (€ 0,12) e 3 bus lines (€ 0,12). Another alternative is the taxi, keep in mind that it is cheaper to start the meter than to bargain. The airport is only 9 km from the center and to reach your destination you can take a taxi (15 minutes and € 3,00 with a taximeter) or bus 35 (€ 0,12).

Staying in Tunis is not particularly expensive. For the choice of accommodation, the choice is between "more western" hotels belonging to international chains (eg Ibis) in the new area, or guest-houses housed in ancient buildings of the medina, a more basic but decidedly suggestive solution.

Since the terrorist attacks of 2015 it has been a state of emergency was decreed and security measures were strengthened; however, the precariousness of the economy continues to cause social tensions, strikes and demonstrations, as well as episodes of petty crime


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