Majestically situated on its very own gulf on the southern shores of the Med, you’re as likely to come to this bustling North African metropolis for the nearby beach resorts as for the splendour of ancient Carthage. You’ll find both at hand, not to mention a historic medina with all the trappings of a traditional bazaar. Go – and immerse yourself in it.
In Tunis, glittering arts and crafts, including metalwork, jewellery, textiles, perfume and leatherwork, are showcased in the medina (old walled city). The medina is a tangle of narrow streets lined by hole-in-the-wall shops, with whole streets devoted to particular products. Another glorious place to wander is the colourful Central Market (3 rue Charles De Gaulle), which dates from the 19th century and sells fresh fruit and veg, meat, fish, spices and more; it’s a great place to buy dates. To check out goods and prices before heading to the souks, go to Société de Commercialisation des Produits de l'Artisanat (SOCOPA; Avenue Habib Bourguiba).
Food & Drink
Tunisia has a long coastline, edged by the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, so naturally the seafood in Tunis is fresh and good. Its years as a French colony have left a legacy of excellent coffee, French-style bread and patisseries. In the medina, you can dine in a beautiful mansion at Dar el Jeld (5 rue Dar El Jeld), on traditional dishes such as couscous à l’agneau (couscous with lamb). But there are also plenty more simple restaurants, such as Chez Nous (5 rue de Marseille), where you can eat Tunisian classic dishes such as salade mechouiya (roasted vegetable salad).
Jazz à Carthage
With a great array of international stars, this music festival sees bands, soloists and singers from all over the world play gigs at Tunis’ Carthage venues, which include concert halls and an amphitheatre, a short distance from the city centre.
Festival International de Carthage
This monumental and well-established arts festival takes place in the amphitheatres and performance spaces of Carthage, and features major Tunisian and international singers and musicians.
Festival de la Médina
Traditionally held during Ramadan, this celebration of music and arts includes Arabic and Sufi music, folklore, religious chants, rock, mambo, salsa, hip hop and flamenco, with concerts taking place at Tunis’ colonial-era Municipal Theatre.
Festival de la Kharja
Members of Zaouias (religious brotherhoods) dance and sing in a colourful street procession in the picturesque suburb of Sidi Bou Said. The celebration pays homage to the village patron – the Sufi Sidi Bou Saïd.
Carthage Film Festival
November, every two years (even years)
This prestigious festival attracts international names, but mostly concentrates on African and Asian film. Every other year, the festival takes place in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Tunis has some gracious art deco hotels as well as grand modern edifices. A lovely five-star art nouveau choice in the diplomatic and business district is Hôtel La Maison Blanche (45 avenue Mohamed V), while Hôtel Majestic (36 avenue de Paris), a short walk from the medina, is art deco in style, with contemporary interiors. Dar el Medina (64 rue Sidi Ben Arous) is a lovely boutique hotel in a traditional house in the medina. The picturesque seaside suburb of Sidi Bou Said is also recommended, with gorgeous boutique hotels in traditional mansions including Dar Said (Rue Toumi) and Dar Fatma (1 rue Sidi Bou Taraa).