Get to know one of the most beautiful parts of Tunisia – a symphony in blue and white with breathtaking views over the Gulf of Tunis. Sidi Bou Said has become famous in particular due to a trip of the renowned painters Klee, Macke, and Moillet in the 1920s.
Photo: Typical house in Sidi Bou Said - KHL
After having explored (again) the traditional medina (old town) of Tunis and the chic neighborhood Berges du Lac, it was about time for another visit to Sidi Bou Said. This charming coastal village,which is said to be the most beautiful in all of Tunisia, has literally enchanted me – and not only me. The easiest way to get there from my hotel Mövenpick du Lac Tunis was by cab (just about 20 minutes). Taxis are pretty cheap in Tunisia, just make sure that they have a taximeter in order to avoid long discussions with the drivers. From downtown Tunis, you can also take a train. Very cheap (less than 1 USD per trip),but not as clean and comfy as you may have guessed. During the trip, you can see some suburbs of Tunis such as La Goulette, Le Kram and the elegant Carthago with all its ancient sites. You will find my article on Carthago here. The trip to Sidi Bou Said lasts about 30 minutes, trains depart regularly from Tunis Central Station at the end of Avenue Bourguiba, the grand boulevard in the capital city.
Photo: Beach café in La Goulette - KHL
Sidi Bou Said is located on a cliff high above the Mediterranean Sea, therefore the views are simply breathtaking. It is a bit hard to climb up to the center of thevillage – just take it as a great exercise for your legs and butt. Most importantly, wear comfy shoes!
At the entrance of Sidi Bou Said, I have to make a stop at the patisserie of Madame Hachicha. Delicious Tunisian cakes will sweeten your climb up the hill. There are lotsof souvenir shops, andstreet vendors are trying to give you flowers as a gift,but expecting a „bakshish“ (tip). However, the stunning views and picture taking are free of charge. You just can´t stop taking photos of all the beauty. Sidi Bou Said is so very instagrammable.
Photo: Knock, knock - typical door - Houssem Sfaxi
On your way up you will pass by the famous Café des Nattes. However, I save my coffee for later and clamber up to the first viewpoint over the Mediterranean, the historic Carthago and the city of Tunis in the background. A wonderful blue sky adds to the picturesque scenery, what a perfect day. Most houses in Sidi Bou Said are well-groomed, white with blue doors, shutters, and balconies. Awesome!
Photo: Typical view in Sidi Bou Said - KHL
My next stop is at the restaurant Dar Zarrouk with its wonderful patio and an unparalleled view over the ocean of the houses of Sidi Bou Said. Today is Sunday, so obviously „tout Tunis“ is meeting up here. Big local families andbeautiful, stylish ladies with lots of makeup are enjoying their Sunday lunch. Oh yes, you can get alcohol at Dar Zarrouk. Apart from that, meals are good, nicely presented and not too expensive; service is also ok.
Photo: Table is set at the Dar Zarrouk restaurant - KHL
The little „hôtel de charme“ Dar Said just close by belongs to the owners of Dar Zarrouk. What a lovely elegant and charming place, if there wasn´t the grumpy receptionist who obviously does not like to talk. In any case, he lets me have a look around. Old and beautiful furniture everywhere, little corners with artwork and a pool with a fantastic view, wow! Would love to spend a few days here.
Photo: Pool with a view at the Dar Said - KHL
In the meantime, my local friend Houssem has arrived and will act as my tour guide for the rest of the day. He chases me from one site to another, so much to explore in Sidi Bou Said. „You have to see the little castle Ennejma Ezzahra!“ Ok, we are going down a steep little street to reach this historic building of the early 20th century. We continuously have to make place for cars. This street is one of the few in Sidi Bou Said where they are allowed.
Photo: Breathtaking views from the Ennejma Ezzahra - KHL
Photo: Pomp and abundance at Ennejma Ezzahra - KHL
Ennejma Ezzahra was the home of the British d´Erlanger family. You can still admire the colorful rooms with abundant furniture and paintings, as well as a fantastic exhibition of old photos and Tunisian music instruments. The entry fee is 5 TDN per person, less than 2 USD. The views from the terrace are second to none, the lovely smelling garden reminds me of the famous Alhambra of Granada in Southern Spain. The museum closes at 5 pm, so we finish taking photos and … time for a caffeine shot! We climb up the small staircases at the Art Café to enjoy our espresso (and mint tea) over the roofs of Sidi Bou Said. Perfect Sunday vibes!
Photo: Coffee break at the Art Café - Houssem Sfaxi
„Did you know that the famous fashion designer Azzedine Alaia had a house here in Sidi Bou Said?“ asks Houssem. No, I did not … and sure, I want to see it. At „Dar Alaia“ some of the extravagant clothes of the Tunisian designer who passed away in 2017 are exhibited. Alaia lived in Paris and visited his home city to spend some time in one of the most beautiful locations of Sidi Bou Said, with stunning views over the Mediterranean. The entrance to Dar Alaia is free of charge and makes up for the fact that some of the great galleries which Sidi Bou Said is also famous for are closed today.
Watch my little video about Dar Alaia:
„Now I will show you a few typical alleys where usually hardly any tourists go,“ says Houssem. Gosh, I know what´s coming, more climbs on steep little streets. A foot massage would just be perfect now, but never mind, the walk is worth the effort. We have a lovely chat with an older local lady who obviously has traveled the world. „As much as I love so many places on our planet, I am always happy when I come home to my Sidi Bou Said.“ I can imagine, Madame! I am just asking myself how old people are managing their daily life here with all the staircases, but most of them are usually living with their families. That way they enjoy the help of young family members. A very nice aspect of Tunisia, old people are not neglected but remain part of their families.
Slowly, the sun is going down over the Gulf of Tunis, providing a breathtaking play of colors. The mosque close by is dipped in a wonderful orange,while the „muezzin“ is calling for the early evening prayer. Feels a bit like 1001 nights…!
Photo: Sunset delights - KHL
Time for a quick walk to the famous Café des Délices, not for coffee, but just for a few more photos of the Gulf of Tunis at sunset. Without exaggeration – this view is one of the nicest views I have ever seen.
Photo: View from Café des Délices - KHL
Before I forget – Sidi Bou Said has a very nice small sandy beach. You can obviously swim here in the summer – it may just be a bit tiring to climb up to the city center again after your beach fun.
For dinner, Houssem recommends „The Cliff“ in the neighboring village of Sidi Dhriff.
It is recommendable to take a cab for the short trip. As the name suggests, this exclusive restaurant is located on a cliff with – again – a wonderful view over the Mediterranean. Today is the day of stunning views! Food is good at „The Cliff“, just with a very limited selection for vegetarians. I have – again – a mushroom risotto which tastes well and sip a local red wine („Chateau Mornag“), not bad at all. In any case, this is the great end of a perfect Sunday in Tunisia!
Photo: Early evening on the terrace of "The Cliff" - Houssem Sfaxi
As already mentioned in my other articles, you can perfectly combine Sidi Bou Said with the capital city of Tunis, the historic and elegant Carthago and the beach resorts in Gammarth and La Marsa (many rich Tunisians live there). I can highly recommend the two Mövenpick Hotels in this area, the brand new one in Berges du Lac and the other one right on the lovely beach of Gammarth.
Photo: Mövenpick Hotel Lac du Tunis - KHL
Photo: Beach close to the Moevenpick Hotel & Resort in Gammarth
You will find my articles about both hotels here
A few words about safety in Tunisia. After the incidents a few years ago, security measures were tightened. In downtown Tunis, you see quite a lot of police. Before entering the airport, hotels and museums, your luggage is checked. Tourism is by far the most important industry in Tunisia so there is a big interest to avoid attacks. During my trips, I have never felt uncomfortable. And as in every country of the world, you should respect a few rules such as avoiding large groups of people. And after all, there is no 100% safety in any country.
See you in Tunisia!
Photo: View from Café des Délices - KHL
Photo: Local graffiti - KHL
Photo: Selfie with my tour guide Houssem