The ancient Tunisian city of Sousse is packed full of unique things to see and do, with its myriad of historical attractions steeped in mystery and intrigue.
Located 140 kilometres of south of the capital, Tunis, in the central-eastern parameters of Tunisia, Sousse has been Arab-Islamic since the 7th century AD, and its array of medieval landmarks continue to serve as a legacy of that far-gone era. But nowadays, this is also a place well geared towards tourism. We’ve picked out 7 things to do in Sousse that you won’t find anywhere else.
Step back in time at an archaeological museum
Among Sousse’s most prestigious cultural venues is the Sousse Archaeological Museum, which can be found within the city’s fortified quarter. Home to a stunning collection of 2nd and 3rd century Roman mosaics, the museum allows visitors to step back in time and get a sense of daily life in those ancient times. Highlights include a richly coloured mosaic of Neptune, the Roman God of freshwater, standing in his chariot, and another depicting Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, riding in a satyr-driven chariot pulled by tigers.
Rue Abou Kacem Echabi / Tues-Sun 9am-5pm
See how wealthy natives once lived
Offering a unique cultural experience, Dar Essid Museum shines a light on the lifestyle enjoyed by a wealthy Tunisian family of a century ago. Located within the historic medina, the museum is actually a privately owned manor once lived in by an aristocratic. The home has been extremely well preserved, retaining many of its original furnishings. Visitors can explore the children’s bedrooms, the kitchen, and the terrace, as well as admiring the building’s beautiful tiling and gorgeous view across Sousse from the top.
Boulevard Yahia Ibn Omar, 65 Rue des Remparts / Mon-Sun 10am-6pm
Soak up the old town atmosphere
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sousse’s stunningly preserved medina (old town) district is one of the finest surviving examples of medina architecture in Tunisia. Its warren of alleyways is surrounded by a winding circuit of walls, built in CE 859, following the same line of the original Byzantine-era walls. Narrow lanes are lined with tightly packed house, and although there are monuments and shopping opportunities aplenty, it’s just as good to spend an afternoon ambling aimlessly and enjoying the old-world atmosphere.
Hit the beach
After a hard day’s sightseeing in high temperatures, what better respite than a trip to the beach, where the gentle winds and soothing waters will help cool you down? Named after a local Muslim holy figure, Boujaffar Beach is an easy walk from the city centre and attracts large numbers of sun-seekers throughout the year. Families can picnic on the sandy strip, and swimmers take a dip in the crystal-clear waters or indulge in high-octane water sports. Meanwhile, beach shacks are on hand selling snacks and drinks to keep everyone well refreshed.
Visit a traditional bazaar
Pulsating with sights, sound and smells, there’s nowhere quite like a public market for getting under the skin of a place. And in Sousse, the Souq Er Ribba is like stepping into a traditional medieval bazaar. While the market roof is contemporary in design, what goes on underneath is anything but, with haggling and jostling for the best bargains all serving to deliver a sensory overload for everyone who comes here. If nothing else, it’s the perfect place to pick up a great value gift or souvenir.
Check out some quirky contemporary art
One of Sousse’s most distinctive landmarks, the Dar Am Taïeb is the brainchild of local sculptor Taïeb Ben Hadj, who has transformed his large residential villa into a giant, eclectic contemporary art museum. Making use of recycled materials – including colourful stuffed men made from jerrycans and scrap metal – the museum offers visitors a fascinating insight into the modern Tunisian creative scene through its amazing collection of at work and sculpture.
Explore ancient catacombs
Unearthed in 1888, the vast complex of earl Christian catacombs on the western outskirts of Sousse is a sight to behold. Home to a maze of underground passages and chambers hewed from soft local rock between the 2nd and 4th centuries, some 15,000 people were wrapped in shrouds and buried here in wall niches, often placed one above the other and closed by tiles or marble plaques. Three main sections of the complex are open to the public, but you should check in advance as they are sometimes closed for lengthy periods.