Your Guide to 48 Hours of Passion in Tunis

Thursday 3 November 201601:57 pm

Let us tell you about Tunis, the city filled with history, love and beauty. Let us tell you about the city where Elissa or Elissar sailed as she fled the Lebanese city of Tyre to found Carthage. Elissa fell in love with the land she settled in, turning it into a shelter and a home. After all, Tunis is green and beautiful, the place where Ibn Khaldun was born. His statue is still standing tall on the Habib Bourguiba street, the most famous street of the capital. Here also, close to one of its many gates, all open towards the sea, Sidi Bou Al Hassan Al Shazli was teaching his Sufi thought.

The city captivates you with its ability to have all this history and modernity at the same time. Follow this guide and do not miss the opportunity to visit both faces of the city, even if you only have 48 hours.

We recommend you stay in the old city, at Dar Ben Gacem guesthouse, 20 minutes away from Carthage International Airport. It is one of the best spots to discover both the historical and modern parts of the city. The guesthouse itself is an architectural marvel. Here you can also attend cultural events taking place there, and have a taste of Tunisian culture. Layla Ben Gacem, the owner, is well known for supporting art and culture, her doors are open to the youth of the city to organize forums, meetings, and discussions.

[caption id="attachment_67891" align="alignnone" width="700"]Dar Ben Gacem Dar Ben Gacem[/caption]

Start your day with a Tunisian breakfast: Coffee with milk, a plate of olive oil, honey, shamiya (halva), and warm crunchy french bread. You can eat on the sunny patio of the guesthouse or the terrace overlooking the old town with its shiny white stones and the jasmine trees that cover its walls. If you prefer having breakfast or a cup of tea in the old town, you can simply head to Mrabet cafe, located in the corner of Wali Saleh. In the cafe there is the tomb of one of the city’s noble rulers. You can start your day calmly here. Most shops open between 9 and 10 in the morning. You will not find any shopping malls, rather you will find traditional shops that sell olive oil infused with herbs, such as basil or rosemary, and handmade natural leather bags or others selling jewelry, bronze, and other ornaments.

[caption id="attachment_67892" align="alignnone" width="700"]Mrabet cafe Mrabet cafe[/caption]

After breakfast, head to Place de la Kasbah, 3 minutes away from the guesthouse in the old town. Here you will find many ministries, and governmental institutions. The square has always been connected to the history of Tunis and still is. You will find the tomb of martyr Farhat Hached founder of the the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT). This is where many protests took place during the revolution and still do. If you get there on time, do not miss the ceremony of saluting the flag in the early morning and on sunset.

[caption id="attachment_67893" align="alignnone" width="700"]Place de la Kasbah Place de la Kasbah[/caption]

Head to the old city market, and enjoy a tour around the labyrinth of small covered streets, smell the incense, the amber, and look at the beautiful vivid colors. You will hear shopkeepers speaking Arabic mixed with French, Italian, English, Czech, Russian, Spanish and other. Do not be surprised, they learned it all here in the market.

The market, or La Medina is divided into sections by specialty: the gold market, the hats market, the perfume market, shoes market, herb market and so on. Some shop owners will be able to guess your nationality before you even say a word, it is something they consider a skill and part of the secrets of the job. Everyone will invite you into their shop, and insist you go in. Do not hesitate to do so, as each one of these shops is like a museum, with decoration, traditional clothing, musical instruments, ornaments, rosaries, or other things.

After your busy market tour, you could head to Fondouk El Attarine for lunch. It is a calm and elegant place specialized in Tunisian cuisine. Here you can have couscous with meat or fish, meshwya salad, with olive oil and tuna, or green salads and tajine in addition to many other options. You should definitely try the fish couscous with a plate of meshwya salad, and a brick with egg. This will give you a taste of authentic Tunisian food. The garden in the restaurant is covered with a glass ceiling and air conditioned, so you can enjoy the sun in summer without suffering the heat. The terrace is filled with beautiful little trees, you can smell the flowers, listen to the music and go on a little trip to Andalusia. After lunch you should have the energy to go back to the busy alleys and streets.

[caption id="attachment_67894" align="alignnone" width="700"]Fondouk Al Attarine Fondouk El Attarine[/caption]

Head to the Zitouna mosque right around the corner. It is one of the most well known Islamic monuments in the city, and the second oldest in Tunisia. It was finished in 732 AD, and today is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Tunis. After that you can head to Habib Bourguiba street, the main artery of the city, connecting the old city from the side of Bab Bhar, to the modern one after the train station to the north.

[caption id="attachment_67895" align="alignnone" width="700"]Zitouna mosque Zitouna mosque[/caption]

Two hours should be enough to visit the monuments on the street. As you walk out of the old town, you will see Bab Bhar, or Porte de France, one of the 19 old gates to Tunis. 200 meters away, Ibn Khaldun is standing with the Muqaddimah in his hands. On the other side of the street, Jesus opens his arms to welcome visitors of the Cathedrale de Tunis. Further down the street you will find the National Theater, a building that dates back to 1902. Here is the heart of the street with people walking on the sidewalks, sitting in cafes, you might find a couple discretely kissing while sitting on the steps of the theater, people taking selfies, playing cards, or simply passing the time. You might also see some metal-heads wearing black and playing the guitar, you will hear laughter and the noise made by people from all walks of life, all enjoying the city.


If you get hungry, dinner is ready at Dar El Jeld, a fancy restaurant with international and Tunisian food. If you prefer more popular restaurants, you can find Weld El Haj restaurant in Bab Souika. Try the Cassecroute, the keftaji sandwich or the ayeri with extra harissa. The leblabi is also great!

[caption id="attachment_67897" align="alignnone" width="700"]Dar El Jeld Dar El Jeld[/caption]

If you are a fan of parties and loud music, head to Le Carpe Diem where you will hear different kinds of music every night, from HipHop to R&B, electro to young Tunisian bands. You will find great cocktails, but you should try the local beer too, the national drink: Celtia.

[caption id="attachment_67898" align="alignnone" width="700"]Le Carpediem Le Carpediem[/caption]

The trip is not over yet. Have breakfast at the Al Ali cafe, at the heart of the old city, then head to Bourghiba street to take the metro number 4 or a taxi, to visit Bardo museum in the morning. If you are in a hurry, and you want to make the best out of your trip, head directly to Carthage, where you will travel 3000 years back to Phoenician, Roman and Christian Tunis.

Do not miss the Carthage museum, the Roman theater which hosts the international Carthage festival, the Saint Louis Cathedral (also known as the Acropolium), and the Antonin Baths. If you get hungry, go to the hotel to get some lunch. It is located on a hill, overlooking the city of Carthage and the vast green spaces on the beach. You can order grilled fish Tunisian style, and if you like wine then you can try the local vintage Vieux Magon.

[caption id="attachment_67899" align="alignnone" width="700"]Antonin Baths Antonin Baths[/caption]

In the afternoon, the beaches of Sidi Bou Said are waiting for you. There you can swim and tan on the Amilcar beach, the lower part of the village. Or you can go to the Mina cafe instead if the weather is bad. You can then move to the upper part of this beach town, where the small streets smell of jasmine coming from the surrounding house gardens. Sidi Bou Said is known for its white and blue colors, its domes, small streets, and the blue doors that are ornamented with black metal disks. Drink a tea with pine nuts at the Cafe des Nattes or Cafe des Delices which the singer Patrick Bruel praised in his song.

[caption id="attachment_67900" align="alignnone" width="700"]Cafe des Delices Cafe des Delices[/caption]

If you are a fan of the film “A summer in la Goulette” then you will certainly have the energy to go explore this magical place at night. Here life has its own rhythm. La Goulette is Sicily’s suburb on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. Many European-Tunisian artists were born and raised in this part like the famous Tunisian-Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, and French-Tunisian Henry Tibi who sang about its summer in the song “La Goulette”.

Head to Roosevelt street where you will enjoy some of the best fish restaurants such as Le Chalet or eat spaghetti in Fruit de Mer or some delicious bricks with tuna. After that, buy some mixed nuts and sit down in Milad’s cafe on the Corniche. You can order an Arabic coffee with orange blossom water, while listening to Um Kulthum, Sheikh Imam, El Hadi Jouieni, Sliha, and Sidi Ali El Riahi. And then at the end of your trip you will take all this beauty with you wherever you go.

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