Tunis is the best introduction to Tunisia, where Eastern and Western influences collide to create one of the region’s most interesting cities. The medina’s tangled streets are crammed with people buying and selling goods, and the air is thick with the scent of exotic spices. The infectious chaos of the city is meant to be savored, and most visitors leave reluctantly, longing for more of the atmospheric and enchanting capital.
In the medina, a maze of alleys and tunnels take visitors past souks, mosques and buildings that date back to the Old Town’s founding in the 7th century. The closely knit streets are packed with monuments and palaces and feel like an entirely different world from the rest of the city. As space in the district ran out, locals built upwards, creating rooms and vaults above the streets. Today, shafts of sunlight filter through, giving the streets an ethereal vibe. Take the area in slowly, allowing yourself plenty of time to explore the carpet shops, local markets and backstreet workshops.
All roads in the medina lead to the Zaytouna Mosque. The name means “olive tree,” and legend says that the mosque’s founder, Hassan Ibn Noonan, taught lessons under a tree on the site. After browsing the busy souqs of the medina, it is impossible to not feel awed by the tranquility of the mosque’s open spaces. The remarkably harmonious building shows influences from the Aghlabids, Romans, Europeans and the Byzantines, bringing together each style with grace. The entire exterior stuns, from the red and white dome to the marble floors.
The Mosque of Sidi Mahres is one of the finest in Tunis. Built in 1692 and named for the city’s patron saint, the mosque is one of the world’s most stunning examples of Ottoman architecture. Although the minaret was never completed, the mosque’s cluster of white domes is breathtaking.
The medina is also home to the oldest public bath houses in the country, and you have not really experienced the capital until you have been scrubbed down by one of the elderly masseurs. The atmospheric Sahib Hammam has been keeping residents cleaned and steamed for centuries. The red and green candy-striped doorways invited visitors into the sensual, exotic and relaxing experience that has not changed for hundreds of years.
To catch a glimpse at how some of the medina’s wealthiest residents once lived, visit the Dar Ben Abdallah Museum. A high-ranking officer once called the palace home in the late 18th century, and the rooms recreate scenes of bourgeois life, including lavish wedding preparations and tea drinking.
Not all the religious structures in Tunis are Islamic. The Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul is an eye-catching mishmash of Moorish, Gothic and Byzantine elements located in the New City. The custard-colored building was constructed in 1883 and continues to offer regular masses in Italian and French.
Other sights to explore in the city include the Souq el-Berka, the Medersa Palmier, the Medersa Bachia, the Grand Souq des Chechias, the Sahib el-Tabia Mosque, the Dar Lasram mansions, the Hamuda Pasha Mosque and the Mosque of Youssef Dey.
Tunis Geographical Location
Tunis is located on the northern shore of Tunisia along the Gulf of Tunis and the Lake of Tunis. It is Tunisia’s largest city with a population of approximately 2,415,000 in the metropolitan area.
Arabic is the official language of Tunisia and French is used additionally in commerce.
Tunis Predominant Religion
- 98% Muslim
- 1% Christian
- 1% Other
The Tunisian constitution provides for religious freedom unless it disturbs public order.
The Tunisian Dinar is the official currency of Tunisia.
Tunis experiences wet and mild winters and hot, dry summers. Snow and frost is extremely rare but mid-summer brings uncomfortably high temperatures.
Tunis Main Attractions
- Medina of Tunis
- Bardo Museum
Other Attraction in Tunis
- Zitouna Mosque
- Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul
- Bab el Bahr
- Bab Saadoun