Best things to do in Tunis in summer
With glorious, uninterrupted sunshine and hot days spent splashing in the cooling waters of the Mediterranean, laid-back Tunis gets a huge jolt of energy in summer. Enjoy heady, hedonistic days of swimming in the sea followed by leisurely dinners and bar hopping along beachside terraces and dancing until dawn at the waterfront clubs of Gammarth. With daylight comes a chance to revel in the summer sun all over again; here are the best things to do in Tunis in summer.
It’s not hard to find a patch of sand in Tunisia, and you can even hire a boat from the port in Sidi Bou Said, north of Tunis © efesenko / Getty Images
Have a lazy beach day
Tunisia is blessed with more than 1000km of beautiful coastline, a decent section of which is easily accessible from Tunis. Pack your fouta (thin Tunisian towel) and take your pick from a number of local strands. The beach at Sidi Bou Said is small and sheltered but can get busy in summer, so head to nearby Amilcar Beach for more space and chilled drinks under the shaded terrace of beachside restaurant L’Amphitrite. The service may be erratic, but the prices are cheap and the view sublime. Popular La Marsa Beach is a fun and friendly option with plenty of local amenities such as cafes, toilets and a beach volleyball net, as well as local shops where you can buy picnic items. The long curved beaches of Gammarth offer some of the best spots with sun loungers and waiter service, such as Baboca and Santorini Marin. Local beaches are sadly often strewn with litter, but recent efforts have been made to clean them up: play your part and take any rubbish away with you.
If sunbathing all day doesn’t appeal, what better way to enjoy the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean than out at sea? The beaches around Tunis are well suited to water sports, and paddleboards and kayaks can be hired from Club Nautique in Sidi Bou Said port. If there’s enough of a breeze, windsurfing and sailing lessons are also on offer at affordable rates, or head off on a bigger adventure by chartering Let’s Go Sailing for a private boat trip to the nearby Italian island of Pantelleria.
Shed your winter skin with a scrub at a bathhouse in Tunis © Rengim Mutevellioglu / Getty Images
Get ready for the summer sun with a traditional hammam
Bathhouses have a long history in Tunisian society, and local rumour has it that going to a hammam and getting a gommage (body scrub) before sunbathing enables a deeper tan, so sun worshippers should seek one out for a good cleanse to remove tired winter skin. Local gommage treatments are equal parts bliss and pain as staff remove skin to what sometimes feels like bone level, so the Tunisian phrase ‘bechaya bouchaya‘ is good to know if you need to encourage a slightly more tender approach from the occasionally over-exuberant staff. Spas range from cheap and cheerful to five-star luxury. Mix with the locals at Mayorka Spa in Ariana, which offers hammam and gommage along with massages for a very reasonable 30DT to 50DT. This hammam is clean and functional and will leave you glowing from head to toe. If you want to splurge, head to Mövenpick Gammarth or The Residence to enjoy a gentler yet decadent pampering. Stay for a few hours to make the most of the relaxed atmosphere, drinking mint tea by the pool and trying out the more extensive spa facilities.
An orchestra performs with Tunisian pianist Mohamed Ali Kammoun at the International Festival of Carthage © Yassine Gaidi / Getty Images
Mix music and history at the International Festival of Carthage
Watching a symphony orchestra live in the ruins of a Roman theatre under a blanket of stars is a skin-tingling experience. The annual Festival de Carthage runs throughout July and August with concerts in the restored open-air theatre of Carthage and the intricately decorated L’Acropolium. The wide-ranging programme spans from classical to rap with artists from almost every corner of the globe, including some well-known names.
Outside of Tunis, the musical season continues with international music and jazz festivals in Hammamet, Tabarka, Bizerte and at Dougga’s Sound of the Stones. Electronic music festivals Fairground Festival Sousse and Djerba Fest also attract talented DJs to spin the decks until the early hours. But one of the most thrilling experiences has to be in the colossal amphitheatre of El Jem, where flickering candles set in the walls create a stunning backdrop to the Festival of Symphony Music and makes for a truly memorable experience.
Do a sun salutation in the sand at a yoga session on the beach in Tunis © Michael Duva / Getty Images
Get zen and enjoy the warm summer evenings with outdoor yoga
Take your tree pose to the park and connect with nature or practice poses on sun-soaked roof terraces with the sound of crashing waves to soothe your savasana. Sukoon Experience offers weekly roof terrace yoga sessions through spring and summer, including at sunset, on the roof of the tastefully decorated Sukoon Houses in La Marsa and Sidi Bou Said. Sukoon also runs regular yoga and brunch events, serving up healthy food in collaboration with some of Tunis’ up-and-coming foodies behind some of the most exciting new cafes in the city. These events are ideal for socialising if travelling alone or if you’re new in town. Keep an eye out for their weekend retreats at affordable prices.
Myriam Chibeni‘s weekly sunset classes in Sidi Dhrif Park are the perfect way to wind down whilst appreciating dusk over the city below. If you prefer a soft bed of sand under your headstand, Tunisian Yogini Haifa runs regular classes on La Marsa Beach with English-speaking classes on Saturday mornings and French-led practices on Sundays at 10am.
Tunisia has a much more laid-back attitude to nightlife than its neighbours, and summer sessions can last until the wee hours © Godong / Getty Images
Eat al fresco and party until dawn
Tunis has one of the best restaurant scenes in the Maghreb with a selection of chic modern dining options. Head out for sundowners on bustling sea-fronted terraces at local hotspots The Cliff or Villa Didon and enjoy the pink and lilac glow of the evening sky as it fades into night. Relax in the breezy night air and enjoy a leisurely dinner washed down with good quality local wines. La Villa Bleue and Ocean Club are also good choices for al fresco dining with a sea view.
After dinner, head to the beach bars of Gammarth for late-night dancing. The beach bar scene in Tunis has really taken off over the last few years, and each summer more and more drinking spots are popping up. Unlike many of its neighbours in the region, Tunisia has a more relaxed approach to partying, which has allowed the development of some ultra hip bars that wouldn’t be out of place in the trendiest parts of London or New York. Most of these bars are situated along the coast in Gammarth and are only open during the summer months. Yüka, Jobi and Tiki Bar are firm favourites for dancing on the beach cocktail in hand, whilst Carpe Diem, Wax Bar and Bungalow unveil large summer courtyards to host big open-air parties most nights. Look out for the return of Tangerine, the coolest bar in town, which opens its pink roof terrace from June to September.
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