Tunis (تونس) is the capital of Tunisia. There are quite a few must-see attractions, especially if you include the ruins of Carthage, which are easily accessed from here, and the Punic ports are interesting, too. Tunis is an interesting mix of new and old, including colonial French buildings. The souq and the medina are among the most authentic and hassle-free in North Africa.
Located on the Mediterranean coast but lacking much in the way of beaches, Tunis has been spared the onslaught of package tourism to the resorts to the north and south. The city center is located about 10 km from the sea, on the shores of Lake Tunis. Tunis started out as a modest village compared to cities like Carthage, Kairouan and Mahdia. It eventually became the capital of the Almohad Caliphate in 1159, and has been conquered by various Muslim and Christian empires after that. Tunis has been the capital of Tunisia since independence in 1956, and is today the commercial and cultural heart of Tunisia as well as the most important traffic hub.
In 2014, the capital was home to 640,000 people, and there were 2.9 million in the metropolitan area.
Tunis is divided into the World Heritage Listed old city, known as the medina, and the new city, or ville nouvelle in French. Ave Habib Bourguiba is the large thoroughfare running through the new city from the Clock Tower to the Cathedral of St Vincent de Paul. It then turns into Ave de France, which runs for a few blocks until ending at the Place de la Victoire and the Port de France, a large free-standing gate that used to be the entrance to the medina. This can be a good landmark for taxi drivers, as some of the smaller streets nearby may not be familiar to the drivers.
The Port de France also serves as a good entry point for exploring the medina. Rue Jemaa Zaytouna leads past many shops all the way to the Zaytouna Mosque, the great mosque of Tunis which sits at the center of the medina. Running obliquely to Rue Jemaa Zaytouna, and also with an outlet near the Port de France, is the Rue de la Kasbah. This runs all the way through the medina to the Place du Gouvernment and the Place de la Kasbah, a huge bleak square subject to heavy security. It is fairly easy to move between the two streets by cutting through in the labyrinthine medina, and it is easy to keep your bearings and find an exit. Rue Jemaa Zaytouna seems to be a better entry point from the Port de France at night, remaining relatively well traveled. Rue de la Kasbah, on the other hand, is active after dark on the Place de la Kasbah side, but is extremely dark and rather menacing near the Port de France. It is recommended to get a feel for the medina during the day so that you will feel more confident if you find yourself and alone and need to find a landmark at night.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
One of the northernmost cities on the African continent, the climate in Tunis is Mediterranean although a bit warmer than on the European side. Summers are hot and dry, with temperatures over 40°C not unheard of, although thanks to the sea and the surrounding mountains, it's not as hot as in the Sahara desert. Most of the rain falls during the winter months, but not even those months see more than 8-9 days of rain each month on average. In the winter Tunis occasionally experiences temperatures below freezing and in very rare cases some snow, though on average even nighttime temperatures don't drop much below 10°C. Tunis' mild climate makes it a comfortable destination year-round.
The major carrier at Tunis-Carthage is Tunisair, serving many destinations. The major western carriers who service Tunis-Carthage are Air France, ITA Airways and Lufthansa, from London, Paris, Rome or Frankfurt. Air Malta offers occasional flights to Tunis from Malta, so you can puddle-jump through the Mediterranean. Also, flights from other African cities are common ways to access Tunis if you are traveling to Tunisia from another African destination or vice versa.
Tunisian law requires all currency to be exchanged within the country. It's illegal to take Tunisian currency (DT) outside the country, though it can be done at most travel desks if you sign a waiver, but this is not advisable as Customs Officers will force you to change the dinars to hard currency before permitting you to travel if they find the currency. You can exchange money at the airport or at your hotel. There are many currency exchange booths with quite OK rates. You should retain the receipt for the transaction; without it, the bank may cause difficulty converting unspent dinars back into your own currency.
If you are departing and making a connecting flight, do not accept duty-free alcohol that is not in a sealed bag - the intermediate airport may not allow you to board your second flight with it. For the same reason, insist on a printed receipt.
1 Tunis-Carthage Airport (TUN IATA) (8 km away from the centre, but well within urban Tunis). Airport is small and in a reasonable shape with all standard facilities. There is a free airport Wi-Fi, as well as in the several restaurants, including Caffe Lindo, but it doesn't work often. International flights will arrive on the ground floor of the airport, where there are lots of ATMs and cafes, but no luggage storage facilities. Toilets are clean but have attendants that rarely ask for change after use.
Getting to the airport:
- A taxi into the city center — insist on the meter — should cost around 5-7 DT during the day and around 10 DT at night. Alternatively, buses depart fairly regularly during the day (but not at night) and charge a fraction of the price. Beware of the taxi drivers. At night some will ask up to 40 DT depending on where you are going. In a struggling economy business has become even more competitive. An unspoken rule is the first taxi driver who grabs your luggage and places it in the trunk of his car makes the contract for your transportation. It's not uncommon to be barraged with over ten taxi drivers at once as you walk outside the terminal. They can reach for your bag aggressively—not to steal it, but to make an attempt at winning your business. Some meters may have been tampered with. If you don't trust the taxi's meter, then negotiate a price to where you are going before you leave the front of the terminal. It may be advisable to ask for an average taxi rate from your hotel front desk before leaving.
- Some people have suggested taking the escalator up one floor and waving down a taxi that's just dropped someone off for a departing flight at the arrivals platform. This is more difficult to accomplish at night time, but the advantages are finding a more professional driver. In the afternoon it is extremely simple to accomplish this.
- There is a public bus service (bus no. 635) to the city centre outside the Arrivals Hall, at the same place as the bus that goes to Bizerte. The bus stops at a small bus station near the Tunis Marine metro station. A one-way ticket from the airport to Tunis Marine costs 0.470 DT.
You can travel to Tunis by train from most major cities in the country, the main line going from Gabes via Sousse, Sfax and Gafsa.
Trains are run by SNCFT and are generally cheap and comfortable, but if you want to ride first class during peak season, do reserve your seat in advance. Check train timetables on the SNCFT website before traveling as trains run at non-regular intervals throughout the day.
- 2 Tunis central railway station (Tunis Gare Centrale) (In front of Place de Barcelone). There is a left luggage office hidden behind police office, 08:00-22:00, 3-5.5 DT per locker. The station has an easy interchange onto the light metro.
Driving is not for the faint-hearted in Tunisia, due to the poor driving habits of many local drivers. However self-hire car is by far the easiest and safest way to travel around Tunisia (north of Gabes). Signage is quite good as it is universally bilingual in French and Arabic script. Driving at night is doable, just look out for defiant drivers heading the wrong way on dual carriageways without lights. Outside of the city nighttime driving is safer. The freeway/motorway A1 from Gabès, Sfax, Sousse and Tunis is in a reasonable shape, and the tolls very cheap.
The best place to rent a car is the airport. Local rental companies usually have lower rates than the international ones.
Tunisia has over 70 bus lines, with Tunis at the hub. There are two bus stations in town with Gare Routière Tunis Sud (south of Place Barcelone) serving cities and towns in the south and Gare Routière Tunis Nord (by Bab Saadoun) serving those to the north and west. Buses are run by SNTRI[dead link] at both stations — see their website for schedules and fares.
Tunis is a major hub for the country's louage (shared taxi) network. Louages connect Tunis with many major cities in Tunisia. There are three main louage stations in Tunis.
- 3 Bab Saadoun Station - This station is by Gare Routière Tunis Nord (northern bus station) northwest in Tunis by Bab Saadoun. Louages from this station connect cities north and west of Tunis including Bizerte, El Kef, and Beja.
- 4 Bab Alioua Station - This station is by Gare Routière Tunis Sud (southern bus station) south of the medina by Bab Alioua metro station. Louages from this station connect the Cape Bon area and cities that are nearby to the south of Tunis such as Hammamet.
- 5 Moncef Bey Station - This station is southeast of the medina. Louages from this station connect Tunis with cities in central and southern Tunisia including Sousse, Sfax, and Gabes.
Tunis is the country's major port and there are ferries from a number of Mediterranean ports including Civitavecchia just outside of Rome, Genoa, Livorno, Naples, Palermo, Trapani and the French port of Marseille. There are plenty of operators: Italians GNV and Grimaldi Lines, French SNCM [dead link] and Tunisian CTM amongst others. Voyages from southern France or northwestern Italy take about 24 hours. A quicker way to get to Tunis is to (a) charter a boat, (b) hop on a ferry, or (c) travel on a cruise line, all of which can be done from Malta in a few hours.
Most ferries arrive at La Goulette, 15 minutes from Tunis centre. There are plenty of taxis around and suburban trains departs every ten minutes.
Free maps of Tunis and Tunisia are available at the National Tourism Office, to the north-east of the clock tower (directly east of the main Medina gate). The tourist office offers assistance in many languages.
Tunis is well-served by a convenient five-line light metro system run by Transtu. The interchange hubs for all lines are in the centre of town at Place de la République and Place de Barcelone. Ticket prices are dependent on how many sections of network (zones) traveled through. Single way 1-section tickets cost 0.500 DT. Most tourist attractions are within two sections of the city centre and single way 2-section tickets cost 0.650 DT.
The TGM suburban train line, starting at Tunis Marine station on Lines 1-4, connects to La Goulette (ferries), Sidi Bou Saïd, Carthage and the beaches of Marsa. Tickets cost 0.800 DT each way. At Tunis Marine, be aware that there is an extreme dearth of signage. No obvious signs even say TGM, and on the maps on the trains themselves the station is marked as Tunis Nord. If you arrive at the station on the Tunis Metro, the TGM platform will be perpendicular to the metro cars and is easily accessed across the tracks. Tickets are sold at the end farthest from the metro stop.
Signs for station names along the TGM differ slightly from what appears on the onboard map, but if you can see the signs from the train and it is free of graffiti, a not uncommon problem, it is easy to tell where you are. It is not unusual for the trains to stop and wait on the tracks after leaving Tunis Nord or upon return. This usually does not last an extraordinary amount of time, and you will likely be better off not following the example of the optimistic youths that decide to leap from the car and walk along the tracks into the city.
Many stations along the TGM don't have full-time ticket vendors, so if you are making several trips along the line while visiting Carthage or Sidi Bou Said, you might be forced to risk traveling without a ticket. The guidebooks say that officials will sometimes get on the train and check tickets, so travel without a ticket at your own risk. It might be safest to buy a return to your farthest destination. The price difference should be minimal, and that way you might plausibly just have boarded the train, and your ticket will be valid for wherever you get on. The safest option will be to check with the ticket vendors or buy a ticket if you can find them.
Taxis are also a good and cheap option if one need to go a bit farther than the metro, though cabs picking up in front of nice hotels will charge much higher rates. These taxis will quote 2-3 times the metered fare, so you should insist on using the meter . Should they will refuse then get out. It is much better to walk away from the hotel and hail one on the street.
Taxis are plentiful so the search shouldn't be longer than a few minutes, even during busy periods. The minimum charge is 0.500 DT at daytime and 0.750 DT on evenings/nights (rates per April 2019). Assuming the driver operates per regulations, the meter is a good way to go. Only try to negotiate a price if you know what you are doing and are sure of the value of the trip. Taxis are generally safe.
Watch out for the bright red/green light in the windscreen. The red light means the taxi is available and the meter is working. Green means it has been hired. Avoid any taxi that does not have this light.
The Bolt app for smart-phones works in a similar way to Uber. Rates may be more than double the metered fare, but will get you a taxi if you are somewhere that you do not want to hail one in the street.
Transtu operates a public bus network as well. Bus fares depend on how far (how many zones) you will travel, starting at 0.320 DT for a short ride.
Otherwise, louages (shared taxis) are the most flexible of all options. The minivans with 8 passenger seats take off when they are full and therefore run on no particular schedule. Prices tend to be a little bit higher than buses, but the difference is usually negligible. This is a suitable transport medium for young people, but definitely not recommended if you have children with you as the minivans can be quite oppressive. The driving style tends to be the 'flat-out' variety. The North louage station is in the parking lot of the North bus station. The South louage station is across the street from the South bus station.
Driving is a practicable idea for getting around, as long as you are an experienced and confident driver, street signage is good in Arabic and French, but there's a lot of traffic in Tunis and locals follow traffic rules in an informal style. Driving is more dangerous in the dark as many vehicles have faulty lights. Traffic jams are common in Tunis generally, and around Habib Bourguiba Avenue and Victory Square traffic often comes to a total standstill. In Tunis the "Central Parking" multi storey car park just off Clocktower roundabout, is convenient and cheap for parking. Avoid in the streets red/white markings on the kerb as the wardens trucks WILL come and tow you away. Car hire direct at the airport is convenient - local firms usually a bit cheaper than Hertz/Sixt, etc., but car might have some bits missing!
Non-Muslims may not enter Islamic monuments such as mosques.
- 1 Tunis Medina (Médina de Tunis). The world heritage listed old town is a must-see colorful, crowded labyrinth of decorated old houses, vaults and street vendors. You can move around by foot only. You get a feel of medieval life.
- 2 Grande Mosquée Zitouna, Rue Tourbet El Bey. The largest and oldest mosque in Tunisia and an important landmark, this Aghlabite mosque dates back to the 8th century, although the distinctive square minaret is a much later 19th century addition. It has 160 pillars, that come from the ruins of Carthage. Modest dress essential, but non-Muslims can only enter a viewing platform on the edge of the courtyard (3 DT), not the mosque itself. Still an active mosque, but closed to tourists after the 2011 revolution.
- 3 Sidi Youssef Dey Mosque (Mosquée Sidi Youssef Dey), Souk Trok. Opened in 1631, this was the first Ottoman mosque to be built in Tunis. It is the largest Hanafi mosque in the city, was extensively restored in the late 19th century and is now a part of the University of Ez-Zitouna. A historical monument, the Youssef Dey mosque has a beautiful octagonal minaret and white marble mausoleum.
- 4 Medersa Bachia (Madrasa El Bachia), Souk El Belat. Quran school from the 18th century, a monument since 1912. It is notable for its public fountain located outside the entrance. In the 1980s it was converted into an artisan school with students studying leather craft, jewellery and embroidery. Non-Muslims may not enter.
- 5 Bab El Bahr (Porte de France), Place de la Victoire. The gate to the sea, which remains unchanged since its erection in 1848. It can be found on the Avenue de France. Before it was built it was an empty space where you could see the Mediterranean on one side and Lake Tunis on the other.
- 6 Bab Saadoun, Rue Bab Sadoune. Another gate, constructed in 1350 with one arch, then rebuilt in 1881 with three arches to facilitate commerce.
- 7 Tourbet el-Bey, Rue Tourbet el-Bey. An impressive 18th-century mausoleum, the final resting place for over 160 princes and ministers and their families. The eight-pointed star inside represents the doors to paradise.
- 8 Dar Ben Abdallah Museum (Musée du Patrimoine Traditionnel), Rue Sidi Kassem. Tu-Su 09:30–16:30. A small but interesting folk museum within an 18th-century palace in the medina, covering the everyday life of a rich merchant in the Ottoman era with exhibits including faience, stucco ornament, costumes and furniture. 5 DT.
- 9 Avenue de France. One of the busiest streets of Tunis. It is bordered with shops and eateries and several architecturally interesting buildings.
- 10 Place de la Victoire. A lively square at the entrance to the medina. Bordered with shops, cafés and the ornamented building which houses the High Commission of the United Kingdom.
- 11 Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul (Cathédrale Saint-Vincent-de-Paul), Avenue Habib Bourguiba. Built in 1882, this is the largest surviving building from Tunis' colonial era, in the neo-Romanesque style. It was named after St. Vincent de Paul, a priest in the region who was sold as a slave and fought slavery after he was liberated. The facade is decorated by a golden mosaic of Jesus and two trumpet-playing angels.
- 12 Théâtre Municipal, 2, rue de Grèce (avenue Habib Bourguiba), ☏ +216 71 259 499. A pretty white Art-Deco building, worth seeing in its own right even if you're not going there to see a play or concert (also see the Do section).
- 13 Tunis Clock Tower, Place du 14 janvier. The iconic clock tower is one of the city's most visible landmarks.
- 14 Al-Fateh Mosque (Mosquée Al-Fateh), Avenue de la Liberté (Métro République). A large white mosque north of downtown.
- 15 Bardo Museum (Le Musée National du Bardo), Le Bardo-2000 (nearest station Bardo on Metro line 4. Then walk toward the fenced compound to the north and walk clockwise around it until you find the unmarked gate. Count the stops, as signs are often missing, or ask someone on board if you are unsure. Coming from Place de Barcelone, it is the first stop after you go briefly underground for the second time), ☏ +216 71 513 650, fax: +216 71 513-842. Tu - Su. Sep 16th - May 30th: 09:30-16:30. Jun 1st - Sep 15th: 09:00-17:00. Occupying the 13th-century palace of the Ottoman-era bey (ruler) and renowned for its extensive collection of Roman mosaics, although the (huge) collection covers Tunisia's entire existence from the prehistoric era until the Ottoman days. Exhibits from Carthage, Mahdia, Sousse, many from the Roman period in addition to presentations of Arabian culture old and new. It can be mercilessly hot and stifling in the museum, so bring water. The only bathrooms are on the ground floor, and have attendants asking for change. The museum is segregated into old and new, so be sure to walk around a fair amount looking for new passages to be sure you haven't missed any major areas. 13 DT.
- 16 Parc du Belvédère, Avenue Taieb Mehiri (métro Palestine). A large park created during the French rule and featuring palm trees, mimosas and azaleas and a great view of Tunis and the lake. Sadly, the park has seen better days and graffiti is commonplace. Still, it's a popular place for locals to escape the heat and noise of the city.
- 17 Hôtel de Ville. Not a hotel, but the city hall. The building was inaugurated in 1998 and is a combination of traditional and modern architecture with large windows, Middle Eastern patterns and arches. The city hall also features a lot of Tunisian flags, and has a striking flagpole structure on the square in the front of the main entrance.
- 18 Chambre des Conseillers. Finished in 2005, this building used to house the upper house of the Parliament of Tunisia. It didn't serve this purpose for very long; after the 2011 revolution the Tunisian parliament was made unicameral and the counselor chamber has been empty ever since.
- 19 Uthina. 09:00 - 17:00, it closes 2 hr later in summer. It was an ancient Roman-Berber city. Now it features remains of a fortress, cisterns, an aqueduct, a triumphal arch, a theatre, an amphitheater, a basilica with a circular crypt, and a bridge. Many mosaics are to be found there as well. 7 DT.
Simply wandering around Tunis can be an interesting experience, especially around the medina with its ancient buildings including mosques, gates and market stalls. All types of commodities including slaves used to be traded here, but today's market is mainly that of day-to-day goods, with many local handicrafts. Shopping and haggling at this colorful place is certainly an experience different from what you may be used to at home. Another good place for a walk is Tunis' largest park, Belvedere Park, which houses the Museum of Modern Art and the municipal zoo (closed Mondays), and overlooks Lake Tunis.
The Théâtre municipal de Tunis, mentioned in See above, is more than just a sight. If interested in classical culture you can go and see an opera, ballet, or other production there.
Hammams (traditional public steam baths) are common in the Muslim part of the Mediterranean and also in Tunis. Formerly the only place for all but the upper classes to clean themselves, hammams are still a part of the local culture — so bathing in one of these is a cultural experience in itself. They are often located near mosques as people used to wash themselves before prayer; ask a local where the nearest hammam is (the medina is the easiest place to find one). Remember that a hammam is either men or women only, or open to men in the morning and night and to ladies in the afternoon. Bring spare underwear, flip flops, soap and a towel.
ATMs are a convenient way of getting money without going to a bureau de change and there are many Master card and Visa cash-points around the city. However, ATMs are not generally found in hotels, even the major ones.
- The 1 souq in the Medina makes for a fascinating stroll. Tiny shops overflowing with stuff; people selling, buying, milling about; skeletal cats lurking in the shadows; the smells of essential oils, spices, frying food and rotting garbage; the sounds of the muezzin, raï, football on the radio, Arabic and French. The Tunis Medina's main routes are labeled "touristique", but even a few steps off the beaten track it's a real, working market. Behind the often scruffy façades hide old palaces, mosques, Islamic schools. Compared to Morocco or even Sousse you will not be hassled here. Bab El Bahr (The large stone-arch "French Gate" at the head of Avenue DeFrance) is a good starting point for the Souk. The goldsmiths are close to Bab Bnet. Haggle if you wish to buy anything. Prices paid for items are given in July 2012, with the caveat that it is not known if they are good prices. They are provided just for reference. The merchant's first offer is in parentheses: 5 DT (12 DT) for a low-end scarf, 20 DT (45 DT, 65 DT for a comparable box at another vendor) for an 8" nacre inlaid hexagonal wooden box, 30 DT (80 DT) for a leather bandolier. If you are unsure, try getting a first estimate from several vendors before you buy. As always, if you give a price and they agree, you will be expected to pay.
- 2 Halfaouine. A cheap, traditional food market, located at Place Halfaouine, near the railway station.
There are little stores near every hotel in Tunis, where you can buy everything you need, but their prices are high. So it's better to go shopping to other parts of the city. Approximately 90% of goods presented in Tunis are of local origin. There are networks of state supermarkets Monoprix and General in the capital.
- The Bourguiba Institute of Modern Languages, Av. de la liberté, 47, Tunis, ☏ +216 7183 2418, +216 7183 2923, fax: +216 7183 3684. 08:00 to 13:15. Offers intensive summer sessions in July and August for anyone interested in learning Modern Standard Arabic or Tunisian dialect. Students have complained about the lack of cleanliness in the student dorms. Some students stay in a hotel and then rent a beach-side apartment for the month. It's usually easier to negotiate rental prices once you are in Tunis.
Most hotels include breakfast, and some include dinner. There are countless coffee shops with bitter coffee, other drinks and French-style pastries to enjoy, as well as sandwich shops. Count yourself lucky if you find a dish that does not include canned tuna! Know that during Ramadan it's difficult to find an open restaurant during daytime.
If you want alcohol when eating go to a hotel as most serve beer/wine, as do some upmarket restaurants in the Berges du Lac area of Tunis.
- 1 Atlas le Resto, Rue Mustapha M'barek (directly across from the Grand Hotel de France). Very friendly owner and his cook speaks some English. Delicious iftar (breaking of the daily ramadan fast) of fish soup, bread, harissa, a fried pastry with tuna and a softboiled egg, minced cabbage, grilled chicken and fries, a spicy olive paste, and a lime Bogo, all for 9.500 DT.
- 2 Abid, 6 Rue de la Liberté, ☏ +216 71 240 480. Good food, specializing in lamb dishes and spicy dishes from the Sfax region. A popular place for locals. 5 DT.
- 3 Restaurant Les Étoiles, 3, Rue Mustafa M'barek. Very cheap and filling food such as couscous and salads.
- 4 L'Orient, Rue Ali Bach Hamba, 7 (close to porte de France), ☏ +216 71252061. The steaks are bland, the fish good and local food such as Berber Lamb is excellent. The service is prompt.
- 5 La Mamma, Avenue de Carthage, ☏ +216 71340423, [email protected]. Very cosy restaurant on several floors. Good Italian inspired food. Has live music and is open to 03:00.
- 6 El Khalifa, Rue d'Iran (close to Metro stop Nelson Mandela), ☏ +216 22428470. Open for lunch only M-Sa until 15:00. Delicious West African food at very reasonable prices, popular with employees of the African Development Bank. Far tastier and friendlier than the typical mediocre Tunisian restaurant experience.
- 7 Café de Paris Brasserie, Avenue Habib Bourguiba, ☏ +216 71 256 601. A good restaurant with a beautiful interior and some outdoor tables. You can choose among pizza, couscous and a variety of salad. Also serves alcohol.
- 8 Le Malouf, Rue de Yougoslavie (downtown), ☏ +216 71 254 246. M-Sa 11:30-15:00 and 19:00-00:00. The place to go if you'd like Italian food. Large menu to choose from, sometimes live music. There's a good bar playing international music, visited mostly by locals and serves beer, softdrinks, wine and cocktails.
- 9 Peppino, Avenue Ouled Haffouz (Hotel Golden Tulip El Mechtel). Italian restaurant, with a wide variety of pizzas. 22-34 DT.
- 10 Flore, Avenue Ouled Haffouz (Hotel Golden Tulip El Mechtel). Tunisian cuisine and buffet. 50 DT.
- 11 Dar el-Jeld, 5-10 rue Dar el-Jeld (near the Prime Minister's residence, and the Youth Hostel), ☏ +216 71 560 916. Perhaps the best of the restaurants in Tunis, this restaurant pays attention to every single detail. You don't even open the door - just knock on the large yellow door, and they open it (this gives it the appearance of not being open). The food is excellent, and the management speaks English and French fluently, and can recommend various dishes. The menu is a bit complicated, with price categories, rather than prices, listed (check the last page for what each price category costs). The physical setting is inside a beautiful, tiled covered courtyard, and has private areas off to the side. As of February 2018, prices for a main course ranged from 40-50 DT, appetizer 12-20 DT, water or tea 3.5 DT and a glass of wine 12 DT. Everything is recommended, though the couscous is simply good, but not incredible. The staff is very friendly, but can turn somehow cold if you just order main and drinks, but no dessert and starter. 60-85 DT.
- 12 Lucullus, Avenue Habib Bourguiba, 1 (in the harbour), ☏ +216 71 737 100. Luxurious seafood restaurant with a large terrace surrounded by palm trees.
Be careful about what bars you frequent, ladies should perhaps try to bring a man out with them. Local beers are Celtia and the elusive Stella, which is rarely seen but exists on RateBeer. Both are lagers. Local liqueurs include Boukha ("boo-k"), usually taken straight or with coke, and Thibina, which is usually taken straight with a single ice cube. Alcohol is mostly only served in hotel bars. The Lac 1 and Lac 2 areas do not permit alcohol to be served.
- 1 Le Boeuf sur le Toit, 3 avenue Fatouma Bourguiba (in La Soukra 10 km northeast of downtown). The name means "the Ox on the Roof", and trendy people come for food, drinks, live music, DJs, and a dance floor.
- 2 Bar Jamaica, 49 Avenue Habib Boutguiba. On the 10th floor of the Hotel el-Hana International, this is a funky and popular destination for locals and foreigners, with music and outdoor seating available.
- 3 Hotel Africa Lobby Bar, Avenue Habib Bourguiba. A bit smoky, but has all of the local drinks save Stella, and is one of the few places that serves alcohol during Ramadan.
- 4 Brasserie les 2 Avenues, Ave Habib Bourguib (Hotel el-Hana lnternational). Great location with views over Avenue Habib Bourguiba.
- 5 Piano Bar, Avenue Mohamed V, 45 (Hotel La Maison Blanche). A good place for a drink, located in a 5-star hotel.
In addition to these, some major beach bars and clubs are located in La Marsa, about 15 km to the northeast.
- 6 Café M'Rabet, Souk Trok (in the Medina). Cafe and restaurant.
- 7 Café de Paris, Avenue Habib Bourguiba. 06-24. One of the major cafes along the avenue, very popular and lively.
- Panorama Medina (west of Zaytuna Mosque in the Medina). 09:00-21:00. Beautifully decorated café and tea house in the heart of the Medina. A large rooftop offers stunning views over the old buildings and of the many mosques around. DT2 for tea, DT5 for shisha.
Most tourists will be interested in accommodation in either the Medina or in Ville Nouvelle. The medina includes the youth hostel and several other budget accommodations, and the high end Dar El Jed. The Ville Nouvelle offers a large number of budget and mid-range accommodation, many grouped within a few blocks of each other north of Place Barcelone. Some places expect couples to present some sort of proof of marriage in order to rent a two-person room.
- 1 YHA Tunis Auberge Medina, 25 rue Saïda Ajoula, ☏ +216 98 578 638. Also referred to as Auberge de Jeunesse and Tunis Youth Hostel. Buried deep within the Medina and a bit of a challenge to find, although there are intermittent signs along the way. During the day you can just push through the crowd of shoppers straight up the Rue de la Kasbah from the Port de France until you see the signs pointing to your right, just after the restaurant Dar Slah, although this route might be intimidating after dark. This former palace of a sultan is architecturally impressive. Rooms are basic and cooled only by fan. The included evening meal is filling. Breakfast, a simple affair of French bread and coffee, is a bit ropey and is served in the large open courtyard. The communal bathrooms, however, are not cleaned regularly, and may border on offensive. The shower times are limited to an hour in the morning and at night, though hot water may not be available at these times. Plan on using the local hammams for all hot water and cleaning needs. 8 DT incl. breakfast.
- 2 La Maison Doree, 6 bis rue de Hollande, ☏ +216 71 240 632, fax: +216 71 240 631. This hotel captures a slightly faded, colonial era charm. Rooms are basic (the hotel building is old) but clean. Excellent restaurant with bar (2.5 DT Celtia) that provides room service. Breakfast is included in the price, and the croissants are better than average. Rooms come with ensuite sink and shower, but shared toilets - a room with a toilet is an extra 10 DT. Some rooms overlook the local tram, which can be excessively loud - you may want to look out the window to the street below, and possibly listen to the noise of the passing tram. Located half a block north of Place Barcelone. 32-52 DT.
- 3 Hotel Transatlantique, Rue De Yougoslavie 106, ☏ +216 71 334 319. Ground plus four levels, the first three accessible by lift. Nice mosaics. Lots of lounge space near the lobby. A little noisy, but nicely located. There is a roof accessible on the fourth floor (turn left after climbing the stairs, walk to the end, and open the unlocked door to your left): good for fresh air or some sun, though the view is not brilliant. Disinterested management. Poor water pressure observed on level 4. 40 DT.
- 4 Grand Hotel de France, Rue Mustapha M'barek, ☏ +216 71 32 62 44, [email protected]. Check-out: 12:00. Located in a neat old building with marble staircases and a friendly staff. They do not speak English, although it was no problem. Free wifi in the lobby and courtyard, two communal computers, but cannot comment on price or quality, although one had a webcam attached. Breakfast was coffee and Croissant and Pain au chocolat. Easily accessed by taxi from the Port de France, where Rue Mustapha M'barek is just a quick left off of the main road running south past the front of the gate. Reservations were made via email using google translate into French, although you are expected to call and confirm the day before, and it might be easiest to find a French-speaking friend do it for you. 61 DT for two persons in a clean double room ensuite toilet and shower (2019) incl. breakfast.
- 5 Yadis Ibn Khaldoun, Rue du Koweit, 30. 130 modern rooms with cable TV, telephone, voicemail, hair dryers and internet access.
- 6 Le Pacha, Avenue Kheireddine Pacha, 4. A kilometre from downtown, this hotel has two great restaurants and a bar, cable tv and Wi-Fi (extra fee) in the rooms.
- 7 Hotel du Parc, Avenue de l'Arabie Saoudite. A modern hotel with 51 rooms. The rooms all have balcony, phone, cable TV, Internet, minibar, private bathroom and hair dryer. The staff speaks several languages and can arrange tours to the medina or Carthage.
- 8 Dar Ya - Hostel, 6 Rue de la Carriere, ☏ +216 22 880 044. A 19th-century property with Moorish tiles and a rooftop terrace in the souk. Offers breakfast and wifi. 113 DT.
- 9 Dar Traki Medina de Tunis, 7 impasse Mesjed el Koba, ☏ +216 24 789 808. Terrace and patio offer place for solace here in this yet another medina B&B type lodging with wifi. 127 DT.
- 10 Dar Ben Gacem, 38 Rue du Pacha, ☏ +216 71 563 742. Dignified 17th-century guesthouse with complimentary wifi and breakfast and a rooftop terrace like the others. 153 DT.
- 11 Dar El-Medina, 64 Rue Sidi ben Arous (It's a few blocks' walk from Place du Government on the West side of the Medina). A luxury hotel in a century old mansion in the Medina, with beautiful court yards, a roof too terrace offering views over the Medina, and breakfast included. The rooms are decorated in traditional Tunisian style. 200-250 DT, 150 DT for a double in off-season.
- 12 Sheraton Tunis Hotel, Avenue de la Ligue Arab, ☏ +216 71 100 300. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Modern hotel overlooking the entire city. Located in the Central Business District.
- 13 Hôtel Golden Tulip El Mechtel, Avenue Ouled Haffouz El Omrane (métro Bab Laassal), ☏ +216 71 783 200, fax: +216 71 781 735, [email protected]. Probably a hotel you should watch out you don't end up staying in. The hotel is large and modern, however overpriced. Staff is reportedly unfriendly and repeatedly tries to overcharge you for products and services. If you opt to stay here, don't leave any valuables in the room when you're away, as theft is rampant too. single room: 160 DT, breakfast (buffet): 23 DT, beer in the bar: 6 DT.
- 14 La Maison Blanche, Avenue Mohamed V, 45. Pretty rooms and a nice Art Deco piano bar.
- 15 Hôtel Africa, Avenue Habib Bourguiba, 50, ☏ +216 71 347 477. A modern business hotel in downtown with large rooms.
- 16 Hotel Diplomat, Avenue Hedi Chaker, 44, ☏ +216 71 78 52 33, fax: +216 71 80 12 35, [email protected]. Rooms are equipped with modern TVs, Internet (costs extra) and minibar.
Touts and unofficial "guides" hang around near tourist spots. Shoo them off if they start to launch into a spiel on the architectural wonders of this or that, or they will expect to some baksheesh (payment) for their unwanted efforts.
One thing that can get really annoying in Tunis is the number of "friends" a tourist will attract. There is a decent number of men who hang out on avenue Bourguiba, the main drag in Tunis. They work individually. They approach tourists and start talking to them. The tourist may think that this person is just being friendly, but don't buy it. Also beware of teens approaching you on or around av. Habib Bourguiba. They often "prey" on male tourists and try to talk you into joining them to the cinema. Later on your new "friend" will ask you for 10 DT or a pack of Marlboros or this or that. It is best to just avoid these people or to shoo them off. They also have different techniques to get your attention. They include: asking for a cigarette, asking for the time, asking for a lighter, bumping into you on the street. The most common one seems to be when they ask you for a cigarette or a lighter. It is wise to get rid of anyone who tries to just bluntly start a conversation with you on the street. Chances are that they have no good intentions involved whatsoever. Tunisian people are nice and curious towards strangers, but avoid the ones who seem too friendly - a good phrase to use could be the French "Monsieur, je connais bien Tunis." (Monsieur, I know Tunis well.)
Non-French speakers might have luck with a simple "non, merci," repeated several times and without giving them any additional acknowledgment. Some, however, are persistent in spite of this and will not leave you alone. If you can manage to not bring a backpack or large back, this seems to make you less of a target and attracted fewer hangers-on.
Be aware of possibilities of fake guides trying to either scam you, or lure you somewhere less safe, and use your common sense.
Sadly, terrorist attacks are also possible. In March 2015, 24 people, mostly tourists, were killed when ISIS-affiliated terrorists opened fire in the Bardo National Museum. Later that year, a terrorist opened fire against tourists in Port El Kantaoui. The government has tried to give tourist areas higher profile policing to reassure visitors.
As with Tunisia in general, medical staff are skilful and highly educated, but the public hospitals are usually fairly basic. If you get ill, try to get to a private clinic — these are better-equipped and more modern - charges are modest by European/USA standards.
Barbershops (for men) can be found widely, and there are women's hair salons commonly. Many of the nicer hotels also have spas, and fitness centres (open to visitors)
- Canada, ☏ +216 71 104 000, fax: +216 71 104 190, [email protected].
- Egypt, Nahg El Fardous Mont Belzer – Rue de Mohamed El Khames / P.O 191- 1002, ☏ +216 71903223, fax: +216 71904389, [email protected]. 09:00-15:30.
- Finland, Dar Nordique, Rue du Lac Neuchâtel, Les Berges du Lac, 1053, ☏ +216-71861777, fax: +216-71961080, [email protected]. M-F 08:30-15:00.
- Greece, 6, rue Saint Fulgence, Notre Dame, 1082 Tunis, ☏ +216 71 288 890, +216 98405053 (Emergencies), fax: +216 71 789 518, [email protected]. 08:00-14:00.
- Italy, 1, Rue de Florence (ex Rue de l' Alhambra) - Mutuelleville, 1002 Tunisi, ☏ +216 71892231, +216 98301496 (Emergencies), fax: +216 71892150, [email protected]. 08:00-18:00.
- Romania, 108, Avenue Taieb Mehiri, Gammarth, La Marsa, B.P.57-1004, ☏ +216 71 749 986, fax: +216 71 749 291, [email protected]. M-F 08:30-16:30. Embassy
- Serbia, 4, Rue de Liberia, Belvedere, ☏ +216 71 780624, fax: +216 71 796482.
- United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Rue du Lac Windermere, Les Berges du Lac, Tunis 1053, ☏ +216 71 108 700, fax: +216 71 108 779, [email protected].
- United States of America, Zone Nord Est des Berges du Lac Nord de Tunis 2045 La Goulette, ☏ +216 71 107 000, fax: +216 71 963 263, [email protected].
Reachable by the metropolitan train service, Métro Léger de Tunis. Tickets are less than one dinar and service is frequent, but busy during rush hour. The station is located a few hundred metres to the east of the clock tower and the raised Trans-African Highway No. 1 directly east from the main drag (Avenue Habib Bourgouiba; the one with the main Medina gate - just keep walking away from the Medina). The station is impossible to miss - it's a large building parallel to the road on the south side. Note that if you're heading out this way, there is also a national tourism office on the north-east side of the clock tower (that effectively demarcates the edge of Tunis' larger buildings before the highway), and they provide free maps and advice regarding Tunis and Tunisia.
- Carthage, famously razed by the Romans with the few remnants now safely encased in a museum, easily reached by train. Get the TGM from east of the clock tower
- La Marsa, a beach-side settlement at the end of the TGM train line, just north of Sidi Bou Saïd
- Sidi Bou Saïd, a lovely village of white-and-blue houses and fancy cafés and restaurants, easily reached by train
- Kerkouane - Phoenician and Punic historical site 80 km west of Tunis
- Dougga - Impressive ruins of an isolated Roman village
- El Jem - With one of the world's best preserved Roman amphitheatres.
- Kairouan - An important pilgrimage destination for Muslims, known for its many mosques. Also worth visiting are the medina and the basins constructed during the Aghlabide dynasty.
- Sousse - A UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its architecture, and one of Tunisia's most popular beach resorts.
- Tabarka - Old Phoenician and Roman port city near the Algerian border. It's also a great diving destination.