STYLE

Tunis City Guide

04/08/2014 16:58 | Updated 22 May 2015

With snow on the ground and months of winter ahead, the only solution is a spot of cheap sunshine. But move over Marrakech - Tunisia is taking over, with 30% more UK visitors to the country in 2010 than last year.

Best of all, it's only two and a half hours flight away, with Tunisair, Thomson Airways, Jet2.com and Thomas Cook all introducing new routes to the country. As well as the 700 miles of sandy beaches and thalassotherapy spas to enjoy, you can shop, sightsee and enjoy being miles from freezing Britain with a city break in the capital Tunis.

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Starter for 10: Tunis

Like many North African cities, Tunis is divided into the old medina, dating back to the 8th century, and the nouvelle ville or new town. While many of the bigger chain hotels are in the newer section, you'll be right at the heart of the historic centre by staying in the twisting lanes of the UNESCO-listed medina.

The beautiful Dar el Medina is a converted 19th century house, with the traditional tiles and courtyards of old Tunisian homes. With just 12 rooms, all different and named after Tunisian women, plus a roof terrace with views out over the city, it's the only boutique option in the old section. Rooms cost from around £125 per night, book through i-escape.com.

Starter for 10: Tunis

Or head slightly further out to the stunning blue and white town of Sidi Bou Said, around 30 minutes from Tunis. Hotel Dar Said is set in pretty gardens with a pool and its own hammam, looking out to the sea. Built around four courtyards, the 19th century building was once a family home. Rooms cost from around £140 per night, book through i-escape.com

But if you really want to push the boat out, The Residence Tunis is the country's most luxurious hotel, not far from the ruins at Carthage, with its own thalassotherapy spa. Rooms start at around £290 per night.

Starter for 10: Tunis

Don't even think about a trip to Tunis without making a stop at Sidi Bou Said. The clifftop village has long been a centre for Tunisian artists, but the town itself is so strikingly pretty, it's beautiful to wander around. Almost all the buildings are painted white and blue, with the odd splash of pink from bougainvillea, plus the blue of the sky and sea in the background.

Starter for 10: Tunis

Head to the small main square, the centre of life as well as home to a string of souvenir stalls, then just potter around the twisting lanes looking at the houses influenced by Andalucian Muslims who were forced to move there from Spain during the 16th century. Do stop at Dar el Annabi on rue Habib Thameur, an 18th century home which is open to the public – and the perfect place to stop for some mint tea after you've looked around. Entrance costs £1.50.

Sidi Bou Said is around 30 minutes from Tunis by train, with tickets costing under 50p. It's then a 15-20 minute walk up to the town, or you can get a taxi from the station, which will cost a couple of pounds.

Starter for 10: Tunis

With ruins of the Roman and Carthagininan empires still dotted around Tunisia, many of the finest discoveries are on show in the Bardo museum at Tunis, which traces the different civilisations which shaped the country over the centuries.

Housed in the restored 13th century Hafside palace, it's most famous for its collection of Roman mosaics, although you could easily spent half a day wandering around looking at the incredible exhibits, starting with prehistoric life in Tunisia.

Entrance costs around £2 plus an extra fee for cameras.

Starter for 10: Tunis

In the old port of La Goulette, you can escape the hustle and bustle of the medina, and relax at one of the string of fish restaurants or by the beach. It's popular with locals as well, so it's great for people watching. The fort, built by the Ottoman Turks in the 16th century, was created on the ruins of an earlier Spanish fortress.

La Goulette is around five or six miles from the centre, so take the local TGM train – the same branch as Sidi Bou Said, or hop in a taxi.

Starter for 10: Tunis

Dating back to the 12th century, the medina has been the centre of Tunis for hundreds of years with houses, palaces, hammams, souks and gardens all crammed inside the walls. Wandering the maze of alleys can keep you endlessly entertained as you stumble across treasure after hidden treasure, but to make sure you discover the main spots, try this route taking you around a central loop.

Starter for 10: Tunis

Start at the Bab Bhar, or Porte de France gate, then head along the Rue Jemaa Zitounia to the Zitounia Mosque. The great mosque was built in the 9th century, although there's been one on this site since 734AD, using columns salvaged from Roman Carthage. Non-Muslims can visit during the morning, as far as the courtyard, and admission is free.

Starter for 10: Tunis

Then head along the Rue des Teinturiers to the Mosque of the Dyers and the old Dar Othman palace before taking Rue Sidi Kacem to the Tourbet el Bey mausoleum, with its famous green fish scale domes. Then head to the Rue des Forgerons to step back in time as you pass the dark, smoky blacksmiths' shops and listen to the clanging as they work. Follow Boulevard Bab Menara to Place de la Kasbah, then Rue de la Kasbah takes you back to Bab Bhar.

Starter for 10: Tunis

With influences from French, Spanish and Italian food, as well as traditional ingredients, Tunisian food is fresh and packed with flavour. Couscous and tajine are the best known dishes, while you'll also come across sweet flaky baklava for dessert.

Starter for 10: Tunis

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