Tunisia: City Breaks

Tunisia’s capital city is a different animal to its neighbour, the ruins of ancient Phoenician and later Roman Carthage 11 miles away. Both grew thanks to location and the rich trade routes surrounding them, spidering back over the Sahara and out across the Mediterranean. But unlike the Phoenician and Roman past grandeur across the lagoon, a city break in Tunis would reveal a modern, clean and efficient North African capital and international port, well served by city transport and infrastructure, and a bustling centre of commerce and business conventions.

Tunis is popular as a day visit for tourists staying in Tunisia’s beach resorts for shopping and a port of call en route to see Carthage; the capital of Tunisia is not an obvious choice for an extended city break. Tunis is not without culture and leisure options. The Bardo, Tunisia’s national museum, is housed in a 13th-century palace and particularly rich in Roman antiquities. The city’s modest but well-stocked zoo is another point of call. The old town’s 7AD medina houses the beautiful Zitouna Mosque and the souks unveil an array of goods from local crafts to luxuries, spices, fabrics and tailors. The summertime Carthage Festival held in the 3000-seat Roman amphitheatre attracts stars from Arabic, African and Western music. Theatres and cinemas in Tunis largely offer their entertainments in Arabic or French and offer little for English speakers.

Dining is varied and reflects the international influences of the country, along with more traditional North African. For many visitors the Tunis nightlife is too limited to make a Tunis city break rewarding by night, with a still male-oriented bar culture and unaccompanied women a relatively rare sight. Other than a few high-end choices, hotels are more oriented towards business than tourism, giving few choices ideal for a city break in Tunis.

Unlike the wider country of Tunisia, tourism is not a primary business of the capital. For many, Tunis makes a better day trip than city-break destination.