Travel info for visiting Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia

A picturesque village with a bewitching charm


Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia

GPS: 36.870254708184, 10.342256187523

Plan my route

Based about twenty kilometres north of Tunis, Sidi Bou Said is a charming village nestled on a small hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It is named after an ancient Muslim religious figure who lived in the village in the 13th century (the saint Sidi Bou Said). More recently, the village has earned the nickname “the balcony overlooking the Mediterranean” or “the city of blue and white” because of the brightness of its whitewashed houses. These are adorned with beautiful blue wooden doors and shutters in the colours of the Mediterranean. With its white domes, this Tunisian destination compares perfectly with the perched villages of the Greek island of Santorini.

The foundation of the village of Sidi Bou Said dates back about a thousand years. It was built under the imperial Berber dynasty of the Almoravid in the 11th and 12th centuries as an observation post and advance guard. During this medieval period, the Moorish empire ruled over a large part of the Maghreb, the Sahel and the Iberian Peninsula. Watchtowers and defensive walls were erected to protect the Gulf of Tunis from outside attacks. In the 13th century, Sidi Bou Said became a place of spirituality of Sufism (esoteric, mystical, spiritual and initiatory current of the Muslim world) embodied by the saint Sidi Bou Said (from his full name Abu Said ibn Khalef ibn Yahia Al-Tamimi Al-Baji). This site is naturally a living teaching place of Islam. Attached to the historical ruins of Carthage, the village was gradually taken over by the elite of the Tunisian capital from the 17th century onwards, who built sumptuous holiday homes in Islamic-Andalusian architecture.

Sidi Bou Said is a picturesque and romantic village with a bewitching atmosphere. It includes ancient palaces and villas accessible through a labyrinth of cobbled streets and alleys that are a pleasure to explore on foot. Discovered by wealthy Europeans at the end of the 19th century, Sidi Bou Said’s rich heritage was soon threatened by the increasing urbanisation of its land. At the beginning of the 20th century, the French baron Rodolphe d’Erlanger fell in love with the place and had a sumptuous palace built in the local architectural style. He named it Ennejma Ezzhara (“Star of Venus” in Arabic) and the aristocrat contributed to the city’s classification. This Afro-Islamic cultural centre attracts many artists, writers, painters and musicians from all over the world. The notable visits of Chateaubriand, Gustave Flaubert, Paul Klee and Simone de Beauvoir have all contributed to making Sidi Bou Said a world-renowned place of inspiration.

Read more

  • The traditional Islamic architecture and Andalusian style buildings
  • White houses with wooden balconies and richly decorated blue doors (some with designs created with nails); mashrabiyas (screened windows that act as natural ventilation)
  • The romantic atmosphere of the place with its smart villas and beautiful bay
  • The Ennejma Ezzahra Palace housing the Centre for Arabic and Mediterranean Music (CMAM) and the mausoleum of Sidi Bou
  • The Dar El Annabi museum, an 18th century Tunisian house nicknamed the “The Palace of a Thousand and One Nights”
  • The breathtaking view of the Gulf of Tunis, the archaeological site of Carthage and the Mediterranean Sea from the lighthouse; the small marina below the village
  • The rich vegetation (palm trees, orange trees, bougainvillea, eucalyptus, prickly pear trees, jasmine flowers…)
  • Enjoying a traditional tea with almond or mint tea with pine nuts on the terrace; bambalounis (sweet doughnuts sold in the street); the souk (bazaar), the beach and the arts and crafts shops of the village; boat trips in the Mediterranean Sea
  • The Samsung Blues Festival at the Ennejma Ezzahra Palace (early March); the Mediterranean Arts Festival (April); the International Poetry Festival of Sidi Bou Said (June); the Mûsîqât traditional music festival (October)
  • Sidi Bou Said was one of the first localities in the world to benefit from measures to protect its heritage at the beginning of the 20th century. A decree promulgated in 1915 imposes blue and white in any new construction in the city and prohibits at the same time any anarchic construction on the promontory of the village.
  • The Ennejma Ezzahra Palace was acquired by the Tunisian State from the descendants of Baron d’Erlanger. In 1989, it was the first Tunisian historical monument to be classified since the country’s independence (in 1956). This palace of great artistic influence has been converted into a museum and houses the headquarters of the Centre for Arabic and Mediterranean Music (CMAM) for which the baron was passionate.
  • The neighbouring city of Carthage was the scene of a number of Punic Wars between the Carthaginians and the Romans in ancient times. Led by the general Hannibal, a master of military strategy, they inflicted the Roman Empire’s heaviest defeat at the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC despite their severe numerical inferiority. Many decades later, the Third Pudic War resulted in the destruction of Carthage after a three-year siege by Roman forces (149–146 BC). Only recently, in 1985, a peace treaty was symbolically signed between the mayors of Tunis and Rome to end the conflict between the two cities.
  • The village of Sidi Bou Said is very easily accessible by train (stop at the Abou Saïd station) from Tunis or the seaside resort of La Marsa via the TGM (Tunis-Goulette-Marsa).
  • Renting a bike on site can be an excellent way to discover the surroundings of the village and enjoy its beautiful bay.
  • Plan to spend more than one night here to take the time to wander around the village and soak up the local lifestyle. This will give you time to stop off at Carthage, also accessible by train, to admire the Roman remains of this famous archaeological site founded by the Phoenicians nearly 3,000 years ago.
  • The marina of La Goulette, the souks of Tunis and the beach of La Marsa are to be discovered in the vicinity (3 kilometres from Sidi Bou Said, this beach is linked to the city by a footpath).

Where to eat

  • Café des Nattes
    (famous for its mint tea)
  • L'arbre à couscous
    (large choice of couscous)
  • Le Golfe
    (sophisticated dishes)

Where to go

  • Archaeological Site of Carthage
    (in the footsteps of Hannibal)
  • Carthage National Museum
    (collections from the excavations)
  • Le Carpe Diem - Tunis
    (trendy and lively bar)

Where to stay

  • La Chambre Verte
    (friendly and peaceful)
  • Hotel Dar Saïd
    (with typical architecture)
  • La Villa Bleue
    (top decoration and service)