Exploring Tunisia: Don’t Miss These 6 Must-See Spots

Viajar para a Tunísia com crianças.
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2024-05-18

Looking for tips on what to do and visit in Tunisia this year? You’re in the right place! In this article, I’ll highlight six must-see places for your next trip to Tunisia.

Tunisia, located in North Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert, charms with six unforgettable destinations.

Start by exploring Sidi Bou Said, known for its blue and white seaside houses, then marvel at the impressive El Jem, the African Colosseum dating back to the peak of the Roman Empire.

Don’t miss the ancient ruins of Carthage, one of the most important trading hubs of the Ancient Mediterranean, and spend a few days relaxing on the beaches of Hammamet.

But Tunisia’s highlights don’t end there! Explore the incredible UNESCO Heritage Site in Kairouan and, of course, get to know Tunis, the capital of Tunisia.

These are unmissable destinations in your Tunisian itinerary, based on my experience, offering a journey rich in history, architecture, and culture.

So, join me on this journey through Tunisia and explore these places we consider essential for an incredible experience.

Best Things to Do and Visit in Tunisia: Top Places and Tourist Attractions

O que fazer na Tunísia: visitar o Coliseu Romano de El Jem.
What to Do in Tunisia: Visit the Roman Colosseum of El Jem.
Arena e anfiteatro de El Jem, na Tunísia.
El Jem Arena and Amphitheater in Tunisia.
Rosas do deserto.
Desert Roses.
Loja de artesanato em Sidi Bou Said.
Craft Shop in Sidi Bou Said.
O que visitar em Sidi Bou Said: a mesquita.
What to Visit in Sidi Bou Said: The Mosque.
Sidi Bou Said, a cidade azul na Tunísia.
Sidi Bou Said, the Blue City in Tunisia.
Janelas e portas azuis em Sidi Bou Said, Tunísia.
Blue Windows and Doors in Sidi Bou Said.
Visitar Hammamet na Tunísia.
Visiting Hammamet.
Praia de Yasmin Hammamet, na Tunísia.
Yasmin Hammamet Beach.
Viajar para a Tunísia com crianças.
Traveling to Tunisia with Children.
Comboio turístico em Hammamet, Tunísia.
Tourist Train in Hammamet.
Espreguiçadeiras nas praias de Yasmin Hammamet.
Sunbeds on Yasmin Hammamet Beaches.
Mapa de Medina de Kairouan, Tunísia.
Map of the Medina of Kairouan

Visiting Sidi Bou Said

As portas decoradas com arabescos em Sidi Bou Said.
The Doors Adorned with Arabesques in Sidi Bou Said.
Descobrir os miradouros de Sidi Bou Said. Com vista para o Golfo de Tunes.
Exploring the Overlooks of Sidi Bou Said. Overlooking the Gulf of Tunis.

Sidi Bou Said is the famous blue village of Tunisia, located about 30 minutes from Tunis, the capital of the country.

The old name of this locality was Marabuto and it was deeply connected to religion. This is because in 1207, Abu Said Khalafa ben Yahia settled in Sidi Bou Said to develop Sufism.

In terms of architecture, Sidi Bou Said is a blend of Arab and Andalusian architecture, with white-painted houses and blue windows and doors.

It’s a very harmonious ensemble, I must admit, so it’s no wonder that the place was chosen as a place to live by artists, philosophers, and writers.

Just to give you a few examples, famous personalities such as Flaubert, Chateaubriand, Lamartine, André Gide, Colette, Michel Foucault, Paul Klee, Louis Moillet, Henri Gustave Jossot, and August Macke lived in Sidi Bou Said.

To make the most of your visit to Sidi Bou Said, I suggest climbing up to the overlooks scattered around the village, to catch a glimpse of the Gulf of Tunis.

By the way, it’s not a bad idea to take a break to try the mint tea with pine nuts, one of the typical Tunisian products that you’ll find almost everywhere.

However, the difference is that in Sidi Bou Said, you’ll enjoy mint tea with pine nuts with a very pleasant view.

Moreover, Sidi Bou Said is a good place to buy crafts, with several shops filled from floor to ceiling with typical souvenirs.

There are painted ceramics, fridge magnets, tea sets, hookahs for smoking shisha, and other trinkets that make us dream of Tunisia when we’re at home.

Explore El Jem, the third largest colosseum in the world and the largest in Africa

Arena do Coliseu Romano de El Jem.
Roman Colosseum Arena of El Jem.
Corredores de El Jem.
Hallways of El Jem. Imagining gladiators and beasts.
Coliseu de El Jem, na Tunísia. Património Mundial da UNESCO.
Colosseum of El Jem in Tunisia. UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Roman Colosseum of El Jem is the third largest colosseum in the world, just after the colosseums of Rome and Verona, both in Italy. However, if we consider only the Roman Africa, it is the largest, as well as the largest in Tunisia.

It is one of the most well-preserved colosseums in the world, hence its classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, it was the first monument in Tunisia to receive this recognition, in 1979.

It is located about 40 km from Mahdia.

El Jem was built in the 3rd century AD as a symbol of the city’s wealth and expansion. In fact, it was the venue for the spectacles of the time.

The arena’s stands could accommodate 30,000 people, which was a considerable capacity, and the Romans came here to watch gladiator fights and wild animal hunts.

It is possible to climb the steps and sit in the stands, walk through the endless corridors, and peek through the columns that insist on remaining upright.

👉Travel Tip: Every year, there is a classical music festival held in the arena of El Jem, taking advantage of the colosseum’s acoustics.

During the Roman period, El Jem was a prosperous city, which allowed the population to build Roman villas or patrician houses. The best place to see them is from the last ring of the colosseum.

It was in this city that we first saw the “desert roses.”

These curious formations result from the action of wind and evaporation of water in desert sediments. And what is the result? Rocks with a rose-like shape in shades of desert sand!

Rosas do deserto.
Desert Roses.

Stroll through the ruins of Carthage and visit the Bardo Museum

Ver as ruínas de Cartago de perto.
Seeing the ruins of Carthage up close.
Conjunto de colunas nas ruínas de Cartago.
Cluster of columns in the ruins of Carthage.
Vista de Tunes, a partir do Museu Nacional do Bardo.
View of Tunis from the National Bardo Museum.
Cartago: capital da civilização cartaginesa.
Carthage: Capital of the Carthaginian Civilization.
Visitar o Museu do Bardo com crianças.
Visiting the Bardo Museum with children.
Peças de arte no Museu do Bardo.
The Bardo Museum.
Detalhe de um painel de mosaicos, no Museu Nacional do Bardo.
Detail of a mosaic panel at the National Bardo Museum.
Museu Nacional do Bardo.
National Bardo Museum.

Cartago and the National Bardo Museum are located right next to Tunis; in fact, it’s said that the city of Carthage was dismantled to build the Medina of Tunis.

My suggestion is to start your visit with the ruins of the city of Carthage and then head to the National Bardo Museum. You can walk between these two tourist attractions as they are relatively close to each other.

The ruins of Carthage are really fascinating! You can see the columns, the walls of the houses, the area of the baths, and then, there’s that deep blue sea always present.

As for the National Bardo Museum, it houses the largest collection of Roman mosaics in the world! There are many ancient mosaics on the floor and in beautiful panels on the walls, in addition to grand sculptures.

Allocate at least an hour for Carthage and another for the National Bardo Museum.

Going to the beach in Hammamet

Praia de Yasmine Hammamet.
Yasmine Hammamet Beach.
O que fazer na Tunísia: ir à praia em Yasmine Hammamet.
What to do in Tunisia: go to the beach in Yasmine Hammamet.
Ir a banhos no Mar Mediterrâneo.
Taking a dip in the Mediterranean Sea.
Explorar o Kasbah de Hammamet, na Tunísia.
Exploring the Kasbah of Hammamet in Tunisia.
Fazer compras em Yasmine Hammamet.
Shopping in Yasmine Hammamet.
Camelo em frente a lojas de souvenirs em Yasmine Hammamet.
Camel in front of souvenir shops in Yasmine Hammamet.

I’m not sure if most travelers think of Tunisia as a beach destination, but I dare say the waters of the Mediterranean along the Tunisian coast are quite warm!

And for those who enjoy beach time, Hammamet is a popular coastal city with several all-inclusive resorts for wristband lovers.

I admit that all-inclusive vacations aren’t the type of trip I prefer, but every now and then, it’s nice. And Tunisia was a pleasant surprise!

Hotel El Mouradi Hammamet, Tudo Incluído na Tunísia.
El Mouradi Hammamet Hotel, All-Inclusive in Tunisia.

I stayed at the El Mouradi Hammamet Hotel (4 stars) in Yasmine Hammamet, which means right in front of the beach, and I dipped into those crystal-clear waters every day.

Even when I was out exploring the country, I don’t think there was a single day I didn’t go to the beach.

So, I became a fan, and if you’re like me, I believe you’ll enjoy it too. Check out other hotels in Hammamet:

👉 Accommodation in Hammamet

Discovering the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kairouan

A Grande Mesquita de Kairouan. Viajar para a Tunísia com crianças.
The Great Mosque of Kairouan. Traveling to Tunisia with Children.
Interior da Grande Mesquita de Kairouan.
Interior of the Great Mosque of Kairouan.
Zona de oração na Grande Mesquita de Kairouan.
Prayer area in the Great Mosque of Kairouan.
Visitar a Grande Mesquita de Kairouan.
Visiting the Great Mosque of Kairouan.
Mapa da cidade de Kairouan, na Tunísia.
Map of the city of Kairouan.
Arquitetura de Kairouan.
Architecture of Kairouan.
Medina de Kairouan, Património da UNESCO.
Medina of Kairouan, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kairouan (in French), also known as El Qayrawān or Kairwan, is the same name for a city in the central-northeast of Tunisia.

Rich in heritage and culture, it is known as the city of 50 mosques. In fact, the entire historic center of Kairouan is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The highlight of this city is undoubtedly the Great Mosque of Cairuão (Sidi Okba Mosque, or Okba Ibn Nafaa al-Fihri, the founder of the city in the year 670).

The mosque dates back to the 7th century and features a walled fortress, a minaret in the square, giant wooden doors with arabesques, and 400 marble and porphyry columns in the prayer hall.

However, there are other monuments worth exploring in Kairouan, such as the Medina of Kairouan, the Sidi Sahbi Mosque (Mosque of the Barber), and the Kairouan Market.

Exploring the Medina of Tunis

Ver artistas a trabalhar peças de latão no souk de Tunis.
Watching artisans working on brass pieces in the souq of Tunis.
Ruas estreitas cheias de gente no mercado de Tunes.
Narrow streets bustling with people in the market of Tunis.
Especiarias à venda na Medina de Tunes.
Local spices for sale in the Medina of Tunis.
Viajar para a Tunísia com crianças.
Traveling to Tunisia with children.
Ir às compras com cartão Revolut na Tunísia.
Exploring the souks of Tunis.

The Medina of Tunis, also known as the Almedina of Tunis, is the old city of Tunis, the capital of Tunisia.

Inside, you can explore labyrinthine streets filled with souks, or markets, all of them with many shops.

In addition to wandering through these streets perfumed with intense scents of leather, wood, and spices, another highly sought-after tourist attraction is the Ez-Zitouna Mosque (Mosque of Zitouna).

👉 Travel Tip: in the Medina of Tunis, there are 5 souks, or markets, namely: el-Attarine, el-Berka, el-Blat, el-Leffa, and the Essakajine market.

  • Souk el-Attarine: Perfumery market;
  • Souk el-Berka: Specialized in jewelry;
  • Souk El Blat: Known for medicinal plants;
  • Souk El Leffa: Carpets and traditional clothing;
  • Souk Essakajine: Specialized in leather goods.

All you need to know about traveling to Tunisia

Visitar o Coliseu de El Jem na Tunísia.
Visiting the Colosseum of El Jem in Tunisia.
Conhecer o Património da UNESCO na Tunísia.
Discovering UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tunisia.
Camelo a descansar em El Jem.
Camel resting in El Jem.
Vista sobre a cidade de El Jem, na Tunísia.
View over the city of El Jem.
Mesquita Abou Bakkar a Seddik Eljem.
Abou Bakkar a Seddik Eljem Mosque.
Lojas em El Jem.
Shops in El Jem.
Corredores no Coliseu Romano de El Jem.
Corridors in the Roman Colosseum of El Jem.
Monumentos a visitar em El Jem.
Monuments to visit in El Jem.
Explorar El Jem, na Tunísia, com crianças.
Exploring El Jem with children.
O que ver na Tunísia: El Jem, o maior coliseu em África.
What to see in Tunisia: El Jem, the largest colosseum in Africa.
Fachada do Coliseu de El Jem.
Facade of the Colosseum of El Jem.
Descansar em Sidi Bou Said, a contemplar o Golfo de Tunes.
Relaxing in Sidi Bou Said, admiring the Gulf of Tunis.
Porta azul em Sibi Bou Said.
Blue door in Sidi Bou Said.
Turistas a passear no centro de Sidi Bou Said.
Tourists strolling in the center of Sidi Bou Said.
Monumentos a ver em Sidi Bou Said.
Monuments to see in Sidi Bou Said.
Loja com porcelanas em Sidi Bou Said.
Shop with porcelain in Sidi Bou Said.
Esplanada em Sidi Bou Said.
Terrace in Sidi Bou Said.
Fazer compras em Sidi Bou Said, Tunísia.
Shopping in Sidi Bou Said.
Porta azul em Sidi Bou Said, Tunísia.
Blue door in Sidi Bou Said.
Artesanato em Sibi Bou Said.
Crafts in Sidi Bou Said.

What are the must-see tourist attractions in Tunis?

In Tunis, the main tourist attractions are the Medina, the Souq, the National Bardo Museum, and the ruins of Carthage.

Viajar para a Tunísia no verão: praia de Yasmin Hammamet.
Traveling to Tunisia in the summer: Yasmin Hammamet Beach.

What is the best time to visit Tunisia in terms of weather?

The months of May and June are the best to visit Tunisia, as the weather is mild and there aren’t as many visitors.

Additionally, these months are also typically more economical compared to, for example, July and August.

Do I need a visa to enter Tunisia? How can I obtain it?

Ver Tunes a partir de um miradouro em Cartago.
Seeing Tunis from a viewpoint in Carthage.
Monumentos a visitar em El Jem, Tunísia.
Monuments to visit in El Jem.

As a UK or USA resident, you generally do not need a visa to enter Tunisia for short stays of up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes.

Tunisia offers visa-free entry to citizens of many countries, including the UK and USA. However, it’s always a good idea to double-check the current visa requirements before traveling, as they can change.

If you plan to stay longer than 90 days or if you intend to work, study, or engage in other activities besides tourism or business, you may need to apply for a visa in advance.

You can obtain a visa by applying at the nearest Tunisian embassy or consulate in your country. The exact requirements and procedures may vary depending on your nationality and the type of visa you need.

It’s recommended to contact the embassy or consulate well in advance of your trip to inquire about the specific visa requirements and application process.

However, upon arrival at airports and hotels in Tunisia, foreign visitors will need to fill out a form containing personal information. In fact, all tourists are required to fill out these documents.

But don’t worry, as this is a standard procedure to monitor the entry of foreigners into the country. In addition to the passport and completion of the form, there is no need for a prior visa for short-term stays.

What precautions should I take regarding safety during my stay?

Trânsito na cidade de Tunes.
Traffic in the city of Tunis.

When traveling, it’s essential to observe some safety rules, but the good news is that in Tunisia, you don’t need to take special precautions.

So, in general, keep your belongings close and be aware of your surroundings.

Avoid displaying valuables in public places to avoid drawing attention, and in unfamiliar areas, choose safe routes and avoid walking alone at night.

What type of currency is used in Tunisia? Is it easy to find ATMs?

Labirinto de ruas e lojas em Tunes.
Maze of streets and shops in Tunis.

The currency in circulation in Tunisia is the dinar, and there are ATMs in almost every city in Tunisia.

Additionally, hotels often have a counter for exchanging money, so it’s a convenient option to consider. Remember to keep the receipts each time you withdraw or exchange money.

The Revolut card works very well at ATMs in Tunisia, but in stores, card payments are not always accepted.

Very important, it is not allowed to leave Tunisia with Dinars.

What is the appropriate dress code, especially in religious places?

Vestuário local na Tunísia.
Local attire in Tunisia.

Local attire in Tunisia varies depending on the region and cultural background of individuals. In urban areas, such as Tunis, modern Western-style clothing is common, with both men and women wearing shirts, pants, and dresses similar to those seen in Europe or the United States.

However, in more traditional or rural areas, you may see more conservative clothing, especially among women, such as long dresses or skirts paired with a headscarf.

For men, traditional attire may include a long robe called a “djellaba” or a “gandoura,” often worn with a “chechia” (a traditional Tunisian cap). In rural areas, men may also wear a “burnous,” a type of hooded cloak.

In religious sites or conservative communities, it’s respectful to dress modestly, with women covering their shoulders and knees, and men avoiding overly casual attire. Additionally, when visiting mosques, both men and women are usually required to remove their shoes before entering and women may be required to cover their hair with a scarf.

Overall, while there is no strict dress code for tourists, it’s always a good idea to dress modestly and respect local customs and traditions, especially in religious or conservative areas.

What are the typical dishes of Tunisian cuisine that I should try?

Comprar pão no souq de Tunes, Tunísia.
Buying bread at the souk in Tunis, Tunisia.

Regarding gastronomy in Tunisia, first, I highlight “Tunisian Couscous,” which is prepared with wheat semolina and served with vegetables and meat.

Additionally, I recommend trying “Brik,” which is puff pastry filled with eggs, tuna, and capers.

For fish lovers, “Chorba Frik” is an option to consider, while “Couscous aux Fruits de Mer,” as the name suggests, is rich in seafood.

And if you have a sweet tooth like me, don’t miss out on “Makroudh” or “Ghribia,” traditional Tunisian cookies.

How does the healthcare system work in Tunisia? Is it advisable to purchase travel insurance?

Pessoas numa praça em Tunes, Tunísia.
People in a square in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia.

The healthcare system in Tunisia has reasonable infrastructure, especially in urban areas, but the quality can vary.

Therefore, it is recommended to purchase travel insurance to cover medical expenses, repatriation, and emergencies.

My choice is IATI Travel Insurance, as it is a very reliable option. I find their plans comprehensive and their prices affordable, so I never travel without insurance.

Check how much travel insurance for Tunisia costs.

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