Stunning coastline, vibrant culture and an opulent history, it’s not surprising Tunisia is the destination of choice for millions of holidaymakers every year. And with so much on offer, it’s hard to know where to begin – which is why we thought we’d lend a helping hand with our shiny list of the Top 10 tourist attractions in Tunisia.
A myriad of distinct cultures and civilisations have left their mark on this amazing country. The Ottoman and colonial past still have a palpable presence, while ancient Carthage continues to draw in huge crowds. So whether you’re keen on a sun-baked break with the odd day-trip thrown in or a full-blown culturally-packed track through Tunisia’s history, our top ten sights of Tunisia can help you discover the very best visitor sights on offer.
We’ve included some of the most famous Tunisian tourist attractions as well as a couple of more obscure but wonderful places we snuck in when no-one was looking… And if that’s not enough (how could it possibly not be?) then you can explore even more with our full list of Tunisian sites.
What are the best tourism sites in Tunisia?
Perched front and centre at the very top of our list of Tunisian attractions is the ancient city Carthage. The astounding ruins of this once-mighty city are vast, varied and hugely atmospheric. The subject of myth and legend, it was here – according to Virgil – that its founding queen Dido committed suicide atop a funeral pyre. Carthage was one of the most powerful cities of the ancient world and the capital of the Carthaginian Empire, which dominated much of the western Mediterranean. A must-see for any trip to Tunisia, Carthage is probably the most famous and popular of all visitor attractions in Tunisia.
Grand and impressive, with excellent views across a fertile plain, the ruins of ancient Dougga rank among the most interesting of Tunisia’s tourist destinations. These extremely well-preserved ruins have been inhabited by a series of cultures, notably the Numidians, the Punics, the ancient Greeks and the Romans. It is this mix of cultures which adds to Dougga’s appeal. Some of the sites to look out for include a 3,500-seater theatre, an amphitheatre, a trifolium villa and a six-tiered Punic-Libyan Mausoleum thought to date back to the third century BC. It’s got UNESCO’s seal of approval and it’s got ours too.
Giving Rome’s Colosseum a run for its money, the amphitheatre of El Jem is so well-preserved you can almost imagine gladiators riding through its gates. Constructed between 230 and 238 AD, El Jem Amphitheatre is the largest of its kind in North Africa and would have originally accommodated up to 60,000 spectators. For centuries it survived intact, until it was hit by cannon fire in the seventeenth century. This dealt the amphitheatre a big blow, but not enough to destroy what is now one of Tunisia’s major visitor attractions.
There’s really no better way to get under the skin of a city than to walk through it and soak up the sights, sounds and smells. First port of call in Tunis? The Medina. Featuring an impressive collection of mosques, palaces and other buildings, the Medina of Tunis is the bustling and atmospheric old quarter of the city. Top prize in this area goes to the Al-Zaytuna Mosque or “Mosque of Olives”, which is thought to date back to the seventh or eighth century. A close runner up is the Sidi Mehrez Mosque in the Souk Ejjadid, due to its distinctive white domes. Access to the Medina is through the Bab el Bahr, a gateway also known as the Porte de France, a reminder of Tunis’ time under French rule (1881-1956).
One of the lesser-known Roman tourist attractions in Tunisia, but a genuine hidden gem, Sbeitla was once a flourishing Roman city. Now consisting of a wide range of fascinating remains, most of the well-preserved structures date back to the 2nd or 3rd centuries AD. The temples of Jupiter and Minerva are particularly impressive. Look down as well and take in some of the stunning mosaic floors. There’s also a museum, which outlines the city’s fascinating past and displays various finds.
How often do you get to see real life instruments connected to human sacrifice? Hopefully not much. This is reason enough to visit Bardo Museum, Tunisia’s national archaeological museum in Tunis. Housed in a beautiful old building which was once a palace, Bardo shows off Tunisia’s fascinating and rich history. On top of instruments relating to human sacrifice there is the most famous artefact in the museum – a mosaic of Virgil shown between the Muse of Tragedy and the Muse of History. Definitely one of Tunisia’s top visitor attractions.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the remains of Bulla Regia, a Roman city in north-western Tunisia. What makes them particularly unique are the two-storey dwellings dotted throughout. They were built with one floor underground, protecting the residents against the summer heat and the winter cold. It is also at Bulla Regia that the Roman penchant for laying mosaic floors is shown in all its glory and sophistication. Not one of the most famous tourist attractions of Tunisia, but certainly one of the most interesting.
There are many reasons to visit Byrsa Hill. Firstly, it’s part of the Archaeological site of Carthage, having been the military centre of ancient Carthage itself. It’s also where the informative Carthage National Museum is housed – a fascinating place and one of the best Tunisian visitor attractions. Then there are even the ruins of the ancient Punic city. And if none of these are reason enough, Byrsa Hill is the location of the impressive 19th century St Louis Cathedral too. Sold yet?
The Tunisia Campaign was a key chapter in the Second World War, fought between Allied and Axis forces from 1942 to 1943. Today, Tunisia contains various sites devoted to the Tunisia Campaign and its history. The best way to explore the story of this turbulent and tragic time is probably by visiting the Enfidaville War Cemetery, situated in an area which saw fierce fighting near the end of the campaign. The town of Enfidaville itself was captured by the Allied Eighth Army on 19 April 1943, making it a highly evocative spot. Another important site is the North Africa American Cemetery. This too has the graves of the war dead, alongside a chapel in memory of those who fought and died here.
One of the most unique visitor attractions in Tunisia – or indeed anywhere in the world – is the Malga Cisterns. These atmospheric and haunting Roman cisterns were once part of ancient Carthage. The vast ancient storage tanks once supplied water to the entire city and are testament to just how advanced the Romans were. Converted for other uses after the fall of Rome, the cisterns have weathered the years well and are a hugely interesting site to discover.