Tunisia – known for its beautiful beaches, desert back-country and ancient ruins has always been a popular tourist destination for Europeans. Way too many years ago I visited Tunisia during a class trip after my high school grad – you may guess it – as a bunch of teenagers our first priority was party, party, party and we hardly saw anything outside our resort fences… Too bad. Now my preferences have changed to more authentic experiences but Tunisia wasn’t on my radar until a couple of weeks ago, when my bf’s best buddy visited his home country and wanted us to see him and his home. Tunis – the capital – isn’t necessarily on the top of the list of Tunisian destinations and therefore I knew very little about that city. I should be positively surprised: Only two hours away by plane (from Vienna) we landed in a different continent but it felt like another world! We stayed at two different hotels in the Medina, the heart of Tunis, and immediately were transferred to the magic of 1001 nights.
Our first hotel (rather a B&B), Dar Traki, was tricky to find but a true gem…
The Medina of Tunis is a huge maze where even Google Maps fails. Nevermind! Just drift away through the narrow streets, dead-ends and traditional souks. Handicraft and trading are still the main functions of the Medina but soon you’ll notice, the real rulers of the hood are the street cats!
There’s all kinds of stuff being sold at the Souks but if you’re looking for fresh products, you’re better off at the Municipal Market outside the Medina. Seafood and fish apparently were the most popular goods according to the volume and amount of people.
Btw when you exit the Medina, the face of the city changes: That part clearly has a more European look with grand French-style buildings and street layout. The Avenue Habib Bourgiba has gained world wide attention as the place where the Arab spring has first started.
Unfortunately what also comes to one’s mind when thinking of Tunisia are the horrible attacks from 2015. One of them happened at Tunis’ most popular attraction, the Bardo National Museum. A humble memorial board at the reception pays tribute to the victims and it seemed that people were still avoiding it, because it was very quiet for a museum of such significance (it’s Africa’s second largest museum and contains one of the largest collections of Roman mosaics). Although I’m not very proficient in ancient history, the giant tile and mosaic works were very impressive to look at – clearly a must-visit!
Back to the Medina and our second hotel Dar Ben Gacem which was another architectural masterpiece with helpful and friendly staff ❤
One view you’ll see at almost every postcard of Tunis was actually quite hard to find, but a friendly local guided us to a carpet shop (very suspicious!) and he wasn’t kidding: A rather unremarkable building from the outside had this gorgeous terrace on the rooftop! And we bought a really nice carpet for cheap btw too 😉 To find this place, head to coordinates 36°47’48.6″N 10°10’14.2″E (approximately) and look out for the shop with the photos of the terrace on display.
On our last evening we had a true Tunisian experience thanks to our buddy and guide, who took us to a street lablabi spot. Lablabi can be described as a hearty soup with chickpeas, poached egg and lots of bread cubes – a very satisfying meal but not very photogenic :/
I can recommend you a visit to Tunis if you’re looking for a less-touristy Medina experience and an interesting mix of Western and Oriental influences. Did you ever get lost in a Medina?
Curious about the surroundings of Tunis? Head over to the following article: