Located in Greater Tunis, a short train ride north from the city centre is the artist’s settlement of Sidi Bou Saïd.
Originally a destination for pilgrims visiting the tomb of the Sufi holy man after whom the village is named, Sidi Bou Saïd became popular with artists, musicians and poets in the 19th century, along with the wealthy crowd from Tunis. In the 1920s, the village attracted artists from Europe, including Paul Klee and August Macke and the Ecole de Tunis developed under the influence of them.
It’s clear what the artists were attracted by! The picturesque hilltop location of the village offering fabulous views, the pretty white washed buildings with accents of blue, cobbled lanes and the relaxed coastal atmosphere are just a few of the charms of this place.
1-5. Views and street scenes around Sidi Bou Saïd. The cypress trees and colourful bougainvillea give this place a very Mediterranean feel
1-11. The village is a marvellous melting pot of European and Islamic influences, evident in the architecture, food and of course the artwork made there. The blue accents look fabulous with the clear blue sky
Sidi Bou Saïd remains an artistic centre, being home to many handicraft shops, galleries and artist studios. The steep main street is lined with art and craft shops, selling jewellery, clothing, pottery, paintings and traditional birdcages. It also blocks access to most vehicles and as much of the village is pedestrianized, it’s a treat to wander around the cobbled streets and take in the atmosphere.
Some of the old palaces and mansions operate as museums and are well worth exploring. A visit to the traditional Café des Nattes for a glass of the local specialty – mint tea with pine nuts – is a must! There are many other cafes and restaurants to enjoy a leisurely meal while taking in the spectacular views across the rooftops and out to the Mediterranean.
1. Looking down on to the shops in the steep main street 2. One of the locals enjoying the afternoon siesta! 3. The fabulous interior of the Café des Nattes 4. Mint tea with pine nuts 5. Sundowner, anyone?
1-3. The lovely Dar Fatma guesthouse – a perfect mix of contemporary and traditional Tunisian style and a great place to base yourself while you explore the area. The roof terrace, complete with plunge pool, is the perfect spot to while away an afternoon
1. If you’re in town for a longer visit, don’t miss don’t miss exploring the medina in Tunis city centre 2. The nearby ruins and museum at Carthage are amazing 3. Take a break at the Villa Didon, complete with Philippe Stark furniture, and marvel at the view across Carthage and the Bay of Tunis