What are the best Historic Sites in Tunisia?
Carthage was one of the most powerful cities of the ancient world and spawned the powerful Carthaginian Empire which dominated much of the western Mediterranean. The ruins of this famed city can be found on the outskirts of modern day Tunis.
The best way to begin exploring these ruins is probably by visiting Byrsa Hill and the Carthage Museum. The museum hosts a collection of Carthaginianand Roman artefacts including marble sarcophagi and a model of Punic Carthage.
Other key points of interest include the impressive Antonine Baths, the Roman Amphitheater, Roman villas and reconstructed Roman theatre of Carthage. Among the best preserved Punic remains are the Magon Quarter, Punic Port and unnerving Sanctuary of Tophet.
Dougga in Tunisia is the location of the extremely well-preserved ruins of an ancient site inhabited by a series of cultures, notably the Numidians, the Punics, the ancient Greeks and the Romans.
Dougga boasts a series of impressive ruins amidst its seventy hectares, including a 3,500-seater theatre, an amphitheatre, temples such as those of Juno Caelestis and Saturn, public baths, a forum, a trifolium villa, two triumphal arches and the remains of a market. The incredible state of preservation of Dougga combined with its mix of cultural influences led UNESCO to list it as a World Heritage site in 1997.
Enfidaville War Cemetery is a World War II Commonwealth cemetery housing the graves of 1,551 soldiers who died in the course of the North Africa Campaign, particularly the Tunisia Campaign. Of these graves, 88 are unidentified.
The Tunisia Campaign was fought between Allied and Axis forces from 1942 to 1943, with the Axis surrendering on 13 May 1943. The area in which the Enfidaville War Cemetery is located and the surrounding area of Tarkouna saw fierce fighting near the end of this campaign and most of those buried there perished in the period of March to May 1943.
This incredibly large and well-preserved Roman amphitheatre is El Jem’s star attraction and draws visitors from around the world.
From the outside, the El Jem Amphitheatre bears a striking resemblance to its older and larger – although not significantly larger – counterpart in Rome, the Colosseum. In fact, with its abundant original characteristics such as its tiered seats, arches and elliptical stone walls, which are intact up to 35 metres in places, many argue that the El Jem Amphitheatre is in better condition that the Colosseum.
The Medina of Tunis, the historic quarter of the capital of Tunisia, is a labyrinth of some seven hundred monuments and buildings, many dating to the period between the twelfth and the sixteenth centuries.
Today, visitors enter the Medina of Tunis via the Bab el Bahr, a gateway also known as the Porte de France, a reminder of Tunis’ time under French rule. It was also under the French that the importance of the medina declined as the city expanded. There is a map of the Tunis of Medina next to the gate, allowing visitors to get their bearings and orange signs can be found throughout pointing to various sites.
The Sanctuary of Tophet holds the remains of a vast number of children’s graves dating back to the Punic period of Carthage. Many historians have speculated that the Carthaginians practised child-sacrifice during times of serious hardship, though this point is hotly disputed.
Today this eerie site can be found near the Punic Port and the Sanctuary of Tophet also contains a Roman necropolis.
The Bardo Museum in Tunis is Tunisia’s national archaeological museum and contains artefacts from throughout the country’s history. From prehistoric items to Punic ceremonial artefacts, the Bardo Museum offers a great overview of Tunisia’s past and the development of its culture.
The most celebrated exhibit at the Bardo Museum is its collection of Roman mosaics. Mostly dating from the second and third centuries, but going up to the seventh century AD, this collection has been amassed from Tunisia’s many archaeological sites, including El Jem, Dougga and Sousse.
8. Bulla Regia
Bulla Regia is a significant Ancient Roman archaeological site with a fascinating set of subterranean villas and other monuments.
Amongst the remains at Bulla Regia, there are its famous two-storey villas, with the lower storey located underground to protect its inhabitants from the elements. A further characteristic of these villas is the fact that many of them contain original Roman mosaics, still in situ.
9. Byrsa Hill
Byrsa Hill forms part of the Archaeological site of Carthage and contains a number of interesting historical places to explore. Once the ancient citadel of this powerful city, Byrsa Hill was the military centre of ancient Carthage and was besieged and destroyed by the Romans in 146BC. Today, the principle attractions to see on Byrsa Hill are the Carthage National Museum and the ruins of the ancient Punic city - known as the Punic Quarter.
The North Africa American Cemetery in Tunisia is a military cemetery and memorial site, mostly for casualties of World War II. In particular, the North Africa American Cemetery houses the graves of those who were killed in campaigns in North Africa and the Persian Gulf.
The North Africa American Cemetery is home to 2,841 graves and a Wall of the Missing inscribed with the names of 3,724 soldiers who went missing in action.