Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia
Sidi Bou Said is a picturesque village on a hill, located 17 km from the city of Tunisia, at the foot of which the waves of the Gulf of Carthage lap. The main tourist attraction here is the game of rich contrasts: the snow-white walls of buildings in the company of piercing blue window frames, shutters and curly bars. In general, Sidi Bou Said is a living Impressionist canvas: splashes of bright pink bougainvilleas on white plaster, azure sky and a sea of classic “sea wave” color. No wonder Paul Klee and our compatriot Alexander Rubtsov worked here, and since 1915 it has been forbidden to change anything in the appearance of buildings. Check itypeusa for other cities and countries as well as brief information about Africa.
How to get to Sidi Bou Said
The fastest and most convenient way is to take a taxi from the center of Tunisia. A trip during the daytime will cost about 15-19 TND.
If you want to save money, take advantage of the TGM Skytrain. Its terminal station – Tunis Marine – is located in the center of the capital not far from the clock tower. Trains leave every 10 minutes, it takes about half an hour to get to Sidi Bou Said. The cost of the trip is about 1.60 TND. From the TGM Sidi-bou-Said station, without crossing the path, go right along the slightly rising street. Having reached the square with a sculptural composition depicting doves and jasmine bouquets, turn left and go up the steep winding street – this is the beginning of Sidi Bou Said.
The prices on the page are for September 2022.
Restaurants and cafes in Sidi Bou Said
The famous Café des Nattes – “cafe on mats” – proudly bears the banner of the inventor of the now widely served Tunisian mint tea with pine nuts. In addition, this is the most cinematic cafe in Tunisia – its interiors with spiral green-red columns and benches covered with mats flashed in a good dozen films, including the French saga of the restless Angelique. You can climb the steep stairs to the indoor hall, as well as sit on the outdoor terrace or choose a table on the square at the foot of the cafe.
Café Sidi Chabaane boasts breathtaking views of Tunis harbor, Carthage, the presidential residence and Cape Bon stretching along the horizon. It is always crowded here and in the summer there may be problems with a free table.
In the cafes of Sidi Bou Said, it is customary to rob tourists mercilessly, apparently relying on the popularity of the establishments and the view from the terraces. For a glass of freshly squeezed juice (about 5 TND) they can safely demand 10 EUR. To avoid this, ask for a menu or study the prices written on the information board above the bar.
You can have a bite to eat in Sidi Bou Said at eateries located on both sides of the main street. The standard Tunisian assortment is offered: sandwiches and shawarma, pizza, ice cream and drinks.
You can drink spring water for free in the source of St. Said, which is located at the foot of Sidi-bu at the beginning of the tourist ascent on the left side of the garden. The water is delicious and is believed to have healing properties.
Sidi Bou Said is an Impressionist painting come to life: splashes of bright pink bougainvilleas on white plaster, azure sky and a classic sea-green sea.
Sidi Bou Said also has full-fledged restaurants with excellent cuisine and service. These include Au Bon Vieux Temps and Dar Zarrouk: a cozy romantic interior in the local style, a beautiful view of the surroundings from the outdoor terrace, French and Tunisian cuisine. Focus on 130-150 TND for a full meal for two.
Sidi Bou Said Hotels
Most tourists are limited to a one-day visit to the town. Whether you want to prolong your enjoyment or just enjoy the views of the harbor at night, there are a couple of small hotels at your disposal. Recommended include La Villa Bleue with fantastic panoramic sea views and well-maintained rooms (about 630 TND per room) and Hotel Dar Said – a designer hotel located in a rich private villa, rooms from 420 TND. In the summer of 2010, Claudia Cardinale was spotted here.
Shopping: what to buy in Sidi Bou Said
Hard sell – this is how English-language guidebooks speak about the manners of local souvenir sellers. Trade here is really bazaar, obsessively and with unnecessary passion. However, there are a lot of items that deserve attention: an abundance of ceramics of different styles, traditional mirrors and embossing, and even a few antique shops. You need to buy souvenirs in Sidi Bou Said, having an idea of the average cost of things – sellers usually break astronomical prices, however, they are easily reduced by rough bargaining.
5 things to do in Sidi Bou Said
- View the Gulf of Carthage and the yacht port from the observation deck of the city.
- Take a picture against the backdrop of a white house with blue shutters.
- Drink tea with pine nuts at the Café des Nattes.
- See how the European elite of the early 20th century lived in the Dar Ennejma Ezzahra house-museum.
- Dine at a restaurant with a Big View Dar Zarrouk.
Entertainment and attractions
Sidi Bou Said is all one big attraction, an open-air museum city. Actually, you can just walk here, holding your breath from the bright colors and the breathtaking view that opens from the observation deck (do not forget to walk to the very end of the cobblestones of the main street). However, in addition to the landscapes, Sidi Bou Said has something to offer tourists.
Dar el-Annabi is a private 18th century home owned by a wealthy Tunisian family. Most of the mansion is open to the public, and the owners still live in the rest of the rooms. The interior of the house has been preserved in the smallest detail, down to antique wash mugs, kitchen utensils and family photos. Here you can wander through the numerous rooms and patios, look at artifacts and have a cup of tea with nuts under the shade of blooming bougainvilleas. Mannequin figures reproduce typical scenes of Tunisian life: from smoking a hookah to a wedding henna ceremony. Entrance is about 8 TND, opening hours are from 9:00 to 18:30.
In Sidi Bou Said, Paul Klee and our compatriot Alexander Rubtsov worked, and since 1915 it has been forbidden to change anything in the appearance of buildings.
Dar Ennejma Ezzahra (“House of the Shining Star”), also known as the Museum of Arabic and Mediterranean Music, is located at the beginning of Sidi Bou Said, on a street perpendicular to the central one. The mansion was built between 1912 and 1922 by the extravagant art lover Baron Rodolphe d’Erlanger. This is a striking example of artsy art deco with an Arabic twist. Here you can walk along the terraces of the planned territory, take a look at the Presidential Palace and the ancient Phoenician trading port lying below, sit on ceramic benches in the Persian garden under the splash of the fountain and explore the interior of the baronial dwelling. The music museum, located in several rooms of the mansion, also deserves attention. The exposition includes musical instruments of the countries of North Africa and the Mediterranean, notes, records, posters and gramophones. Entrance – 5.85 TND.
For a couple of extra dinars, the caretakers of the mansion will conduct a tour of the halls and open the premises that are closed to the public. One of these stores a wonderful collection of paintings by Baron d’Erlange – a talented person is talented in everything!