The Sousse Medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site full of rich history and cultural significance. It’s easy to access whether you’re on a beach holiday in Sousse or exploring Tunisia on a country-wide tour.
Here’s an overview of the main things to see in the Sousse Medina, and a few ways to make the most of your time:
What To See In the Sousse Medina: The Sousse Archaeological Museum
The Sousse Archaeological Museum is a great place to start your Sousse medina tour. The museum is on the site of a large 11th-century Kasbah. This ancient fortress sits at the top of a hill that gives panoramic views of the medina and beyond. Although the Khalef tower is closed to visitors, there are other great look-out points.
Sousse’s history goes back nearly 3,000 years, and the museum does a good job featuring history from each of the city’s distinct periods.
Dozens of intricate Roman mosaics are displayed throughout the museum. The mosaics are breath-taking – some of them because of their huge size, while others because of their intricate detail. The immaculate mosaics give insight into life and tradition in Roman North Africa.
There are also rooms dedicated to the Punic and Christian eras. A magnificent baptistry decorated with mosaics is a highlight.
There are other interesting museums in the Sousse Medina that are worth looking into if you want to see more. The Sousse Archaeological Museum is the largest and gives the most comprehensive overview of Sousse’s history. So if you only have time for one museum, this is the one to choose.
Bab il Gharbi means “The West Gate”, and is a short walk down the hill from the Sousse Archaeological Museum. The gate itself is not the main attraction. Rather, this is a great area to explore shops, observe craftsmen at work, taste local street food, or sit down at a cafe for a drink.
There’s also a large residential area near Bab il Gharbi where you can wander the winding alleys and get a sense of what life has been like for centuries in this ancient medina.
What To See In the Sousse Medina: The Grand Mosque and the Ribat
The Grand Mosque and the Ribat are on the far end of the medina near the “Sea Gate” (Bab Bhar). These two important monuments are a short walk from one another and are linked historically.
The Aghlabid dynasty built the Grand Mosque in 851 A.D. during their golden age in nearby Kairouan. If you’ve visited Kairouan’s Grand Mosque, you’ll notice similarities in structure and design. Besides being a place for prayer and religious learning, the mosque was also a military and defense structure.
As with other historic mosques in Tunisia, non-Muslims can enter the courtyard and view the prayer room from the doorways (but not enter).
The Ribat is the oldest monument in the Sousse medina, dating back to 821 A.D. This Ribat was part of a large network of similar fortresses throughout North Africa that served as a warning system against impending attacks from the sea.
After taking in centuries of history, you’re probably ready to dive back into local culture. The fresh produce market (souq) at Bab Jadid is just the place to do that. It’s just a short walk from the Ribat along the medina’s wall.
Many local residents of Sousse come to this souq for their weekly shopping. It’s the least touristy part of the Sousse medina, and a great place to dive into daily life in the city.
Take a stroll around the fresh fish market, taste delicious fruit at the produce stands, and load up on exotic spices at one of the many spice shops.
And if you’ve been brushing up on your 7 Tunisian Arabic travel phrases, the relaxed sellers at this souq would be great to practice on.
The Sousse Medina: Simple Ways to Go Deeper
- Sit at a Cafe. Cafes are a great place to slow down and observe daily life while you’re recharging over a hot mint tea or an ice-cold citronnade (depending on the season). I’d recommend choosing a cafe that locals hang out at. (A note for female travelers: Some cafes in Tunisia are for men only, so you might feel more comfortable finding a cafe with other women customers.)
- Eat lunch at one of the many popular restaurants. There are a variety of great restaurants in the Sousse Medina. Your best bet for finding a quality place full of locals is near the Bab Jadid souq and Bab il Gharbi. What better way to get a taste of local culture?
- Go to a traditional Hammam (Turkish Bath). Feeling in need of a scrub down? A traditional hammam is just the place for you. (Note: For time’s sake you’ll probably want to plan a separate visit to a hammam.)
- Stay in the Sousse Medina. If you like staying where all the action is and want to explore the Sousse medina more, consider staying inside the city walls. One such place is Dar Baaziz. The owner has renovated his centuries-old family home into a bed and breakfast, and wants travelers to appreciate the medina he loves.
The Sousse Medina: For Every Traveler
The Sousse Medina has something for every traveler, whether you love ancient history or experiencing daily life in Tunisia. If you have any questions or would like to include the Sousse Medina as part of a multi-day Tunisia tour, feel free to contact us today!