In the ancient world, Tunisia was home to the Carthaginian empire. Today, visitors will find a country emerging from its Arab Spring and embracing tourism with open arms. Its pristine white sand beaches and rich cultural history make Tunisia a country worth thoroughly investigating, but in our busy, modern world one often only has a few days to spare. So we've condensed some of our favorite Tunisian gems into an itinerary that would fit in a long weekend.
One of the most stunning views Tunisia has to offer is Sidi Bou Said, a coastal town just outside of the capital Tunis (accessible by train, but recommended to take a taxi, which are remarkably affordable). With its cobblestone streets and picturesque blue and write buildings, the village feels like a post card, and is popular with locals and tourists alike. It's a great place to enjoy a cup of green tea, served sweetened with mint and pine nuts, while overlooking the Gulf of Tunis.
As an unapologetic museophile, the National Bardo Museum was a highlight of my time in Tunisia. Tunisia's history spans the Carthaginian, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires, and the Bardo Museum has relics of each. The real stars here are the mosaics, especially a Roman-era depiction of the twelve months that covers an entire floor. Tragically, 24 people died when ISIS-affiliated terrorists opened fire at the museum in 2015. The museum has since built a beautiful memorial for the victims by the entrance-- a sobering reminder of a senseless attack that shocked the nation.
The Medina is one of Tunisia's main tourist attractions, and for good reason. This labyrinthine market features much of the best of Tunisian craftsmanship. Whether it's a handwoven rug, made by nomadic Berber tribes, or an olive wood cutting board, there's something here for everyone. Like in most bazaars, the price here is always negotiable, especially if you plan on buying multiple items. Many of the cafés in the Medina have rooftop seating, which provide a great place to listen to the evening call to prayer from the historic Zaytuna Mosque, first built in 863 (the 141 ft minaret was constructed later, in 1894.)
Tunisian cuisine offers many delicacies, but none as beloved as couscous, a dish made from semolina with many regional variations. One of our favorite local dishes is kafteji, a delicious mixture of fried peppers and egg, often eaten with bread to help cut the heat.
Normally, we don't advocate eating anything other than local cuisine on a short trip, but Tunis is home to one of the best burger places we've visited anyway, Le Zink in El Menzah 1. The burgers are juicy and cooked to perfection, and the fries are served with a garlic aoli dreams are made of. Surprisingly for a burger place, the salads are also remarkable.
The recently opened Four Seasons picked Gamarth for its seaside location, but our favorite beaches are further south, near Nabeul. Although there are plenty of all-inclusive resorts, we much prefer to book our own place on AirBnb. The Turquoise-blue water ranks amongst the prettiest we've seen outside of the Caribbean, and is worth a visit in its own right.