Things to do in Tunis
As the capital city of Tunisia, there is no end of things to do in this thriving city. The main hub is technically made of two parts. The charming Arab heart of the city is known as the Medina and dates back to the 8th century. It's made up of winding alleys where all roads lead to Great Al-Zaytuna Mosque. The newer part of the city, to the east of the Medina, largely dates back to French colonial times and was built in the late 19th and early 20th century. The newer half of the city is neater, grander and more subdued, but is equally beautiful to walk around.
This is the largest mosque in the whole country and the most important building in the city. Visitors must be respectful when viewing or entering the mosque. Non-Muslims are not able to enter but they can buy a ticket to go up the viewing platform. This mosque dates from the 8th century making it one of the oldest in the world. This vast mosque covers some 5000 square meters and includes 160 columns which were taken from Carthage.
Carthage was one of the most important cities of the ancient world and was built by the Phoenician civilisation. The ruins of Carthage are located outside of modern day Tunis and it's worth setting a full day aside to go and see. The site dates from the 8th century BC and was the home of the Carthage Empire that dominated the region for much of the first millennia BC. It was later sacked by the Romans before being rebuilt by them and renamed Roman Carthage. Today it is an important UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The palatial museums of the city
The medina is home to a number of stunning palaces, many of which are open today as museums. The Dar Ben Abdallah Museum is held in an 18th century palace in the medina and boasts an exhibit of the life of a rich Ottoman merchant. The larger National Bardo Museum is housed in 13th century palace to the west of the city centre and covers the country's entire history from prehistoric times. Popular exhibits at the Bardo include an extensive collection of Roman mosaics. Dar-el Bay and Dar Lasram are two further elegant 18th century palaces that are worth visiting if you have time.
Mediterranean beaches for sun-worshippers
The city lies close to the coast but also boasts the large Lake Tunis, so there are plenty of opportunities for both water sports and sunbathing. To get to the best beaches you will need to travel slightly out of the city and the further you go the quieter the beaches will be. Close to the ruins of Carthage is the upscale La Marsa Beach. The calm waters make this a safe swimming spot by day whilst the bars and restaurants make it a vibrant spot for the evening. Gammarth is another well-heeled beach that is close to the centre and boasts a good selection of restaurants too. Travelling further afield will take you to the most stunning beaches, notably Raf Raf Beach and Hammamet Beach, a 1 hour drive north and south respectively.
This is a major activity for visitors to Tunis who can enjoy an authentic souk shopping experience in the main bazaar in the medina, with the sights smells and sounds that are truely authentic. Haggling is an important part of the souk experience, although visitors will pleasantly find they are not hassled by market stall holders as they are in other destinations, making this one of the best souks to visit in North Africa.