Tunis

by Ucman Scher
1 comment

Solo Gay Trip Guide to Tunis – the Capital of Tunisia

Check out my Instagram stories here for food recommendations and live commentary.

Read my country guide about Tunisia to find answers to all your questions for a comfortable trip.

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Getting to & from Tunis

Airport

Tunis has the biggest airport in the country (Tunis Carthage International Airport) and it is located very close to the city. I left the country via this airport and the taxi took 10 minutes from the city centre and it was also quite cheap.

Check out the guide to get the best flight deals wherever you go.

Independence Square

Train Travel in Tunisia

I took the train from El Jem to Tunis. Trains in Tunisia leave a lot to be desired. The train was late by an hour; seating area was dirty with seats covered in dust, people smoking in the carriages, missing carriage doors and toilets in unusable condition. The journey took some 3 and a half hours with a few stops and I arrived at Tunis Gare; the central train station in the city centre.

Check out all the different modes of transportation you can use in a new city.

Ben Arousa Street with Zeytouna Mosque Minaret

Where to stay in Tunis? Centre Ville

I arrived around 10pm and the city was mostly empty with barely any shops or even restaurants open. I stayed in an Airbnb in the city centre which was easy to walk to but there were lots of young-ish but rowdy hordes of guys at every street corner which was uncomfortable, to say the least. There was no one else as far as I could see, the streets were empty otherwise. I got to my Airbnb and retired for the night without food.

Clock Tower

Centre Ville is the best area to stay in my opinion because I felt a bit safer there. The old city or Medina was completely deserted past 9pm when I passed through for a dinner on the other side and a lot of the streets don’t even have street lights.

That being said don’t expect a lot from City centre there isn’t much to do or see apart from a few places.

Check the guide to find the best accommodation in a new city.

The Cathedral

Getting around in Tunis

There is an underground metro, tram and bus service that connects different parts of the city but honestly, most of the stuff to see is within walking distance and I love walking. The only thing I took a taxi for was Bardo Museum and public transport information was scarce so I didn’t take a chance. Taxi rocks! You can also take uber but it is actually more expensive than regular taxis here.

Food in Tunis

I tried a few restaurants from some upscale places to roadside places and food was my biggest disappointment of the Tunisia trip. You can check a few places I found on Instagram stories above. The best thing I tried in Tunis was Laiblibi which you can have in Medina at quite a few places. You can also find some more local places for food in my stories including the cafes in Medina.

You also must try the traditional Tunisian tea which is green tea with sugar and almonds; absolutely delicious!!!

A chandelier in a cafe

Things to Do in Tunis

Tip: A lot of information on Google for establishments is either not present or just wrong. Always leave enough time travelling to a place to cater for this especially in winter.

Learn about all the ways you can use to explore a new city.

Habib Bourguiba Street

This is the Champ Elysees of Tunis. It is the main avenue of Tunis ending at Bab Al Bhar; the gate to Old Medina. There is a clock tower located on the other side of the avenue. Not much to see here really. The main Catholic Church of the country is located next to the ‘I love Tunis’ sign along with the statue of Ibn e Khaldoon. It is called the Cathedral of St Vincent de Paul. It is worth a visit.

The Avenue Habib Bourguiba

Fun Fact: Ibn e Khaldoon is one of the most prominent figures from Tunisia. His book formed the basis of historiography, sociology and economics. He is considered an influential and prolific philosopher of the 14th Century.

Bardo Museum

Bardo Museum is located outside the Medina and city centre of Tunis in the Le Bardo district. On my first day, I took a taxi to see this beautiful palace. It used to be a Beylical palace (Palace for the ‘Bey’ during Ottoman rule’ since the 19th century. I got some cake and almond tea and sat in the sun with my breakfast, it was a beautiful day. I bought the ticket and headed inside. It is a beautiful museum with a large collection of Roman mosaics, traditional Moorish architecture mixed with Ottoman style.

A beautiful courtyard from the original palace

It is quite a big collection and walking around you discover interesting things like small courtyards. The only thing I didn’t like was the exhibition set up in the room with the most beautiful dome. It just ruined the experience for me but the dome itself was exquisite. I would go there just to see that.

A room in the palace

I spent a couple of hours enjoying the place and then realised I am spending a sunny day indoors and headed to Sidi Bou Said for the rest of the day, you can read about it in the Sidi Bou Said Post.

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Medina of Tunis

A modern twist

The Medina of Tunis is the biggest Medina of the Arab world. It is built in the typical North African pattern of narrow streets like spaghettis opening from one into another to many more.

In the courtyard of a beautiful house

The typical structure has a mosque in the middle of the medina with shops around the mosque in a circular fashion. Then come the ateliers or workshops that produce goods for these shops and then come to the houses.

It is a bit haphazard now and as the population grew the city grew as well with more mosques, souks (markets) and residential areas. Medina is further divided into areas based on the time they were built. There’s traditional Tunisian/North African, then there’s Turkish style mixed architecture and there’s also an area with Moorish architecture from the era when North African descendent Spanish people were thrown out of Andalucia and Spain.

The Moorish area

Every area has its distinct style and they are all equally mesmerising. Rue Darl el Hadjar is a good example of Moorish architecture.

You can learn how to manage your budget during travelling in this guide.

Free Walking Tour

I have had my introduction to Medina with Zeinab. She runs the Free walking tour of Aslema or medina of Tunis. You can check it here.

I love her!

I was the only one on the day and Zeineb was very courteous and sweet. We spent 4-5 hours together, had lunch and she told me all about the place from one café to another via souks, streets and small shops. She introduced me to Laiblibi which was the best food I have had in Tunisia and took loads of photos for me and us. I highly recommend booking the tour. She also does Sidi Bou Said tours. A big thank you Zeineb!!!

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Bab al Bhar

This is the entrance of Medina from the City centre and that’s where the free walking tour starts. The name means the sea gate because it used to be the gate which led to the sea. The area around the gate is quite lively and busy. On my last day, I had amazing Laiblibi on the right-hand side of the gate just outside the medina.

The souks after Bah al Bhar

Hammam Dar el Jeld

My absolute favourite thing to do was the Hammam/spa in Darl El Jeld hotel.

It is a beautiful hotel located in Medina near the Zeytouna mosque. The restaurant was not that great but the spa was amazing. I bought the package for a scrub and massage hammam ritual. The staff was amazing! I arrived on time, slipped into the shorts they gave me and I was lead to the hammam. The lady was very friendly and despite not speaking much of English she was very professional.

The entrance

She started by covering me into olive soap and then lead me to the steam room, followed by a scrub and after a nice shower and I was lead to the massage room. I am usually sceptical of massages in touristy spas but this was heavenly. The spa surpassed all my expectations. I sat sipping tea overlooking the courtyard smiling at everyone stuck in London in rain (secretly sent some warm love as well). It was perhaps the most fun activity in Tunisia for me…

Tip: There are local hammams and a few of them in Medina but honestly the hygiene and conditions were very questionable, I gave it a miss.

Read about staying safe during solo travelling.

Zeytouna Mosque

In the courtyard

This mosque is grand, beautiful and the centre of the medina. It was built using Roman material and I did wonder about the variety of colours of marble columns. It is a gorgeous mosque inside and out and has a grand and beautiful courtyard with a very specific North African style minaret.

Want to learn how to take perfect photos while travelling solo? Read this guide.

The courtyard

Tip: The mosque opens only around prayer times, make sure your visit aligns with that and you are wearing appropriate clothing. I was asked if I were a Muslim when I went into the hall, I don’t think they like Non-Muslims inside the prayer hall during prayer times, please be mindful.

Notice the pillars

Chechias Alley

Chechia is the traditional Tunisian cap which is a variety of the Turkish cap and it is only worn by Tunisians now. Zeineb and I stopped here at the end of our tour after lunch nearby at Ben Arous Restaurant; they had amazing couscous and stuffed artichokes. They souk/alley has some lively café and there are lots of locals smoking shisha and drinking tea watching sports and talking. It was a fun environment and did I mention already I love almond tea?

Chechias

The Souks

The souks or the markets of the medina are quite fascinating and colourful. Most of these were built in 12th and 13th centuries around Zeytounay mosque. The souks were built specific to commodity type and most of the souks still cater to a particular need (like wedding stuff, shoes, chechias etc.). Different areas within Medina have different souk styles and most of the areas now have a mix of shops catering mostly to tourists and selling souvenirs. I walked and walked and walked until I could no longer. I discovered beautiful doors (#DOORPORN) and a beautiful style of window grills. Also bought a magnet for myself as a souvenir in the shape of a small traditional Tunisian wedding shoe.

Souks in the Turkish area

The Cafes

A visit to the Cafes is an absolute must for Tunis. I would recommend three; two of them are quite famous and the third café is my absolute favourite.

  • Cafes Khotab Al Beb/ Café du Souk

This café is famous because it appears on Tunisian TV as part of a series and it is gorgeous. The café is decorated in traditional Tunisian style. The entrance is small which opens into a corridor and then to a hall with interesting décor. It is a busy place and definitely worth a tea visit if nothing else. I sat here with some more almond tea (yes I think I drank some 100 gallons during 5 days) and just when I thought I was done, I realised I missed the terrace. It was a bit cloudy upstairs. You have to be there to appreciate the beauty of this place. The arches, tiles and the view of entire medina!

  • Café Mirabet

This café is built in Ottoman Turkish style and has a very different interior and décor. They have a courtyard at the back, quite a lively place in the afternoon. I loved the distinct pillars and entrance.

Cafe Mirabet and its beautiful Pillars

  • Café des Turcs

This is my absolute favourite café and I am not sure why there weren’t so many people there.

The entrance is small but absolutely gorgeous. The entire café is covered in ceramic tiles and the most exquisite ones I saw around. Highly recommend a visit here and while you might not get a very busy place you will definitely get a hidden gem.

The Gorgeous entrance of this beautiful Cafe

Well, that was my experience of Tunis, I hope it gives you some ideas of what to do and what to avoid, feel free to reach out if you have more questions. I also recommend checking my other posts from Tunisia and especially Sidi Bou Said for a better picture.

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1 comment

makson969 May 22, 2020 - 8:58 am

Hey
Tunisia is considered to be a developing nation. The developmental stage of a nation is determined by a number of factors including, but not limited to, economic prosperity, life expectancy, income equality, and quality of life. As a developing nation, Tunisia may not be able to offer consistent social services to its citizens.
http://www.confiduss.com/en/jurisdictions/tunisia/economy/
Thanks

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