The beautiful coastal town of Sidi Bou Said is a must visit destination in Tunisia.
Famed for its historic streets and gorgeous white and blue buildings, Sidi Bou Said is about as picturesque a spot as they come, with its sea views and bougainvillea-laiden frontages.
Filled with cafes, photographic corners and beautiful rooftops, quaint Sidi Bou Said should not be missed off your Tunisia itinerary, so here’s everything you need to know about visiting it, including top things to do there, where to stay and the best places to eat…
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Where is Sidi Bou Said?
Sidi Bou Said is located just outside the capital of Tunisia, Tunis.
It’s located in a region known as Carthage – the former capital of the country and an important trading post in Roman times.
Situated on a coastal cliff, Sidi Bou Said still boasts a beautiful sea town atmosphere and maintains a quaint, historic charm.
Frequented by wealthy Tunisians, many who come here at the weekend to escape the capital’s suburbs, Sidi Bou Said is quiet and peaceful – the perfect place to base yourself when first arriving in Tunisia.
In fact, I recommend heading here, rather than the capital, as you can easily explore Tunis from Sidi Bou Said if you wish.
Sidi Bou Said provides a much calmer atmosphere than bustling Tunis, is small and easy to get around, and is one of the most touristy places in Tunisia, which makes it a pretty soft landing spot.
But don’t be put off by me calling in touristy!
Given this is Tunisia, the tourist crowds as really pretty low and most visitors here are locals, which only adds to the appeal of this stunning seaside spot.
Why Visit Sidi Bou Said?
If I haven’t already spelled it out, Sidi Bou Said is a beautiful, peaceful coastal town that exudes holiday vibes.
Filled with cute café, stunning streets, as well as traditional Tunisian life, it’s a safe and easy place to enjoy, be that chilling at the coast, sipping coffee with the locals, snapping the historic doorways or visiting many of the ancient UNESCO sites around.
Quite frankly, its charm levels are off the scale!
The perfect place to ease into Tunisia, I felt perfectly safe wandering around here as a solo female, and loved discovering the hidden corners and beautiful photographic moments it provided.
If you enjoyed Chefchaouen in Morocco, you’re going to love Sidi Bou Said, which I consider even more enchanting… not least because it’s far less well known.
Now in the process of becoming UNESCO listed, I highly recommend visiting this lovely spot before everyone else discovers it too!
Brief History of Sidi Bou Said
Evidence of a settlement in this part of Tunisia dates back to Roman times, as well as the Phoenician rule – a seafaring civilisation that settled other parts of the south Mediterranean such as Lebanon too.
The village was expanded in the 11th century by the Almoravids, but didn’t develop into anything like the town we recognise today until the 17th century, when the Tunisian bourgeois, attracted by the clean sea air, built most of the gorgeous traditional Arab-Andalusian houses you can still snap (and stay in) today.
Since 1915, it’s been necessary for all these houses to stick to the strict blue and white colour scheme, which help gave Sidi Bou Said the beguiling allure that remains to today.
Inspired by its stunning design and enchanting setting, Sidi Bou Said attracted artists and radical thinkers from across North Africa and Europe (including Simone de Beauvoir, Matisse, André Gide and Michel de Foucault) and developed a bohemian ambience that still persists in the cafés, shops and overall feel of the place.
Top Things to Do in Sidi Bou Said
When it comes to the top things to do in Sidi Bou Sadi, then seriously wandering around the streets here soaking it all in has to be my top pick.
While not an activity in and of itself, Sidi Bou Said, is the sort of place you can just lose yourself in without a plan.
Perusing the shops, stopping for a tea, gazing over the sea and snapping a million photographs really is an activity here and personally, I can’t think of any better way to spend a day!
The top street for snaps here in my opinion is Rue Taieb Mhiri and its adjoining alleys, where gorgeous blue wooden doorways meet whitewashed walls that stream with bougainvillea and stories!
There’s also the city panorama platform further up this street and, not too far away, the Sidi Bou Said Lighthouse.
If you’re also into the relaxing feels, then heading to the Sidi Bou Said beach, located next to the harbour, is a great idea.
It’s accessed via a steep, small road, and is the perfect place to continue the chilled vibes.
Here the beach is free, but you can rent loungers and parasols if you wish.
There’s also water sports equipment for rent here if you do feel like being a bit more active.
Aside from the relaxing and soaking it all in, there are a couple of historical sites to visit in Sidi Bou Said, with Museum Dar el-Annabi, Palace Dar Nejma Ezzhar and Palais Dar Turki being my top picks.
The latter of these doubles as a guesthouse and wedding venue, but usually you can wander the gardens and peep inside the historic house and courtyard, which is done in the classic Arab-Andalusian style common across Tunisia.
If you’re not staying in a traditional Dar in Sidi Bou Said, then this one gives you a sneak peek into what they look like.
Another traditional space in town is Marsaoui Hammam – if you’re keen to get a classic Tunisian bath experience in Sidi Bou Said, then this is the place!
Including an authentic sauna and scrub experience, this is a tourist-friendly hammam with clear prices and clean surrounds, that also feels very genuine – it’s a great Tunisian experience!
The hammam is open every day except Tuesday, with female access between 10am and 6pm, and male access between 7pm and 10pm.
And finally, you can miss visiting the famous Carthage ruins and Punic Harbour just outside Sidi Bou Said.
2 very important historical sites (the ruins are even UNESCO listed), Carthage used to be the capital of the African province of the Roman Empire and was a huge Mediterranean trading port and incredibly affluent city as a result.
This historical site today is comprised of the city ruins, as well as battle sites, monuments and museums relating to the ancient empire that are dotted around it.
Included in this are the Carthage Punic Port and Museum, which are must visits, along with the Carthage National Museum.
You can wander these sites independently, but my recommendation is really to take a guide so you can understand more about what you are seeing.
Where to Stay?
The best accommodation in Sidi Bou Said are local apartments or guesthouses known as Dar.
These provide modern comforts amidst traditional décor and beautifully impart the feeling of Sidi Bou Said.
Dar Fatma provides good value double rooms with beautiful views over the coast from its rooftop terrace.
Dar Said offers a mix of rooms from deluxe doubles to standard singles. Brilliantly located in the heart of Sidi Bou Said, it’s clean and comfortable with a fantastic welcome!
La Villa Bleue boasts a great location with parking and delicious breakfasts too. The views are lovely and it has a pool!
Where to Eat?
Café des Nattes is the classic cafe in Sidi Bou Said you have to visit.
Once frequented by the great artists and thinkers of the 18th and early 19th century, it has survived to this day, remaining almost unchanged.
Sipping a coffee or mint tea here, you can just imagine the conversations that would have taken place in times gone by.
If you’ve been to Tangier in Morocco, then you’ll know what I mean!
For the Instagrammers and photographers among you, it’s all about heading for a drink or bite to eat with the best view in town at Café des Delices (also know as Café Sidi Chaabane).
If you’ve seen any amazing shots of Sidi Bou Said, with sweeping elevated coastal views, they were probably snapped here.
Restaurant Chargui is another top place to get dinner in the centre of Sidi Bou Said.
The outside terrace gets a lovely breeze and they serve up traditional Tunisian food with a relaxed local feel.
Head up to the top terrace for the best sea views.
When to Visit?
The best time to visit Sidi Bou Said is during the spring and autumn months, when the warm temperatures and low rainfall making visiting northern Tunisia a delight.
May, June and September are the best months in my opinion. when clear skies days with long daylight hours are ideal for sightseeing and sunbathing.
Learn more about the best time to visit Tunisia, including a month by month breakdown here.
How Long to Spend There?
I recommend 2 days for Sidi Bou Said, which will allow you to explore this gorgeous town to its fullest, as well as enjoy a day trip out to the nearby Carthage ruins and Punic harbour.
How to Get There?
Sidi Bou Said is incredibly close the Tunisia’s main international airport – Tunis-Carthage – which is why many people head there when they first arrive into Tunisia.
The perfect place to acclimatise to a new country, Sidi Bou Said is only about a 20 minute drive from the airport and can easily be made in a taxi.
I recommend the rideshare app Bolt to ensure guaranteed prices and avoid any potential language barriers.
Flights into Tunis-Carthage Airport arrive from across Europe and the Middle East.
As always I use Skyscanner to find the best flight prices.
How to Get Around?
It’s easy to walk around Sidi Bou Said, as the centre is compact and cobbled – in fact most of it is pedestrianised, so cars are a no-go!
When it comes to exploring beyond the town to nearby attractions such as the Carthage ruins, I recommend either using public transport or taking a half day tour.
Public transport is obviously cheaper, and you can use both the train or the bus to get around Carthage or into Tunis from Sidi Bou Said.
The TGM suburban railway operated by Transtu is the rail service you need. Line 1 operates to Carthage.
A bus service is also available – I recommend asking locals for the latest updates.
Alternatively, and especially if you’re into history, you may appreciate taking a day your from Sidi Bou Said, in particular to the Carthage ruins, so that you can learn more about this UNESCO historical site.
Check out these top day trips for more ideas.
Top Packing Items for Sidi Bou Said
For a full list of what I recommend you pack for Tunisia and what to wear in this country, especially as a female traveller, check out this article I write.
Otherwise, here’s a list of my top 5 packing items for Sidi Bou Said in particular…
#1 Good Camera – You’ll definitely want to do some snapping here!
#2 Decent Daypack – Needed to carry everything with you on day trips
#2 Water To Go Bottle – Ideal for drinking the tap water safely
#4 Comfy Walking Shoes – Key for sightseeing in comfort
#5 Portable Charger – A must for ensuring your phone and camera stay charged all day
Travel Insurance for Tunisia
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Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Travel Money for Tunisia
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Recommended Tunisia Tours
Alternatively, if you’d rather not travel Tunisia independently, these top Tunisia tours are another great way to experience an adventure here.
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And there you have it, my complete travel guide to Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia.
Hopefully this article will help you plan and enjoy an amazing time in this stunning Tunisian town.
It really is a must visit!
Are you planning to head to Tunisia soon?
Have any questions about travel there?
Then drop them into the comments box below and I’ll get back to you…