Sidi Bou Saïd is one of the most photographed locations in Tunisia. Home to artists and poets, the charming Sidi Bou Saïd is a vibrant village, resembling Santorini, located just north of Tunis on a cliff’s edge. The stunning eagle’s eye harbour views of the glistening turquoise Mediterranean Sea, complemented by the cute white and blue houses make it an Instagrammers’ dream location!
Sidi Bou Saïd’s quaint cobbled streets are full of blossoming orange trees, bougainvillaeas, vibrant Tunisian doors, art shops and the visit-worthy restaurants, cafes and boutique hotels. It shouldn’t be missed when you visit Tunis.
Dar Bou Saïd Hotel.
This elegant, award-winning 19th-century boutique hotel, draped in bougainvillaea trees and fragrant orange blossoms, is rich in character and Tunisian details. The theme of chalky, brilliant white and vibrant blue is seen throughout the whole property, with beautifully detailed tiles adding to the authenticity of the residence.
Each of the 24 rooms are individually designed, some with lavish detailed ceilings – like something you’d see in the Bordo museum – which make guests feel like royalty. The entire hotel is calm and has a beautifully dated yet romantic feel to it. The lush, green gardens overlooking the Mediterranean and the blossoming, fragrant flowers all add to the relaxing and luxurious vibe.
The hotel also boasts a small spa with its own hammam, four gorgeous courtyards and there is a small swimming pool where you can also have your freshly-prepared breakfast and lunch, all from locally-sourced produce. This is served by the friendliest staff on cute round, white metal tables around the pool.
The hotel is just a stone’s throw away from one of the most gorgeous restaurants in all Tunis, Dar Zarrouk. Also, it is very close to the historic sites of Carthage and Marsa, making it the perfect base location in Tunis.
Regarded as one of the most expensive restaurants in Tunisia, Dar Zarrouk has a view to die for. Overlooking the yacht-filled harbour and with a distant storm brewing, the panoramic views really do take your breath away! *take a look in the VLOG at the end*
The service here is immaculate, the waiters speak great English and actually understand what veganism is. Since I already had red couscous, I wanted to try the yellow one with raisins and nuts. The presentation is fresh with a modern twist. My couscous was bright yellow, and not as delicious as the red one. I found this one to be a bit more bland and dry, even with the sauce. As it is not a vegan restaurant, I can recommend it more for the view, their fruit platter and the undeniably great service. However, it would be nice to see more vegan options, as they grow so many fresh veggies in the area.
Bambalouni was the first taste of Tunisia for me. It is so light and fluffy, it melts in your mouth. It is a traditional pastry resembling a doughnut, which is cooked right in front of you. I opted out of the sugar smothering, but it was just as enjoyable with minimal sugar. I was so impressed with it, I started brainstorming names for my Bambalouni store in London; Marshiis Bambalouni anyone?
Café Des Delicés
This is another must-visit location in Sidi Bou Saïd. Café Des Delicé’s view and the Santorini-esque round domes are images you see plastered all over the Internet. It made such an impression on me when we came here straight after landing to see the sunset, I even skipped the dessert to go and take as many pictures and videos, as it is so pretty and photogenic! There is a popular pizza which people order when here, but I couldn’t have it as it is not vegan.
It would be scandalous if you come to Tunisia and not try a local hammam. The hammam is a traditional way of bathing in countries such as Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco. It is a public place where local go to get a proper wash. Men go separately from women and their young children. To be honest, most people have never been properly washed unless they have had a hammam. It cleans out every single bit of dead skin and dirt, adds to circulation, thus helping to eliminate cellulite, then your body can breathe again after all the layers of dead skin has gone. You would be amazed at how much stuff comes off you!
As I love mingling with the locals and experiencing their way of life, we asked Moncef and Senna, the locals who were showing us around, to arrange for us to experience an authentic hammam. There was not a single tourist to be seen, in some random location. Senna handled everything; we just tagged along and did as we were told.
As we arrived at the secret location, their version of a hen party was happening. All the girls get together and go for a good old wash, with music, nibbles and dancing in the changing area. It did feel like we were intruding on something quite personal, but they were so lovely and even offered us the tea and sweet treats they were having and encouraged us to join in!
I and Lucy, the other female journalist on the trip, felt self-conscious when we were fully clothed because everyone else was half naked. After changing into our bikinis we were sent off to the steam room to get ready for the scrub of the century.
My lady was a veteran Hammamer. Wearing a wet sarong over her naked body, she reminded me of one of my grandmothers back in Siberia. With hand gestures and smiles, she directed me in the different positions she wanted to me scrub me up, on a huge slab of marble.
I was given my own brand new kesse, a type of glove that they use for the exfoliating (scrubbing) and she was determined to scrub off every bit of that sketchy fake tan I had on!
After the scrub, she also applied a natural mud body mask, while giving me a massage. There is something so nurturing about being washed by another woman like that, I guess it reminds me of back home in Russia and the Banya, when my mother and grandmother used to wash me as a little girl in a similar setting. I left feeling like a newborn baby, and was humbled how something as simple as a public bath, connects us all women as one. No matter what you are wearing, your body size or faith – in a hammam, where we are all half naked, you can see that we are all from the same cloth, and are all beautiful.
Tunisia is a stunning country and has left a special place in my heart. Don’t listen to what you see in the news and book your first flight out there and soak up every taste, scent and sight that this welcoming country has to offer.
See what else is there to do in Tunis, like the museums and history here.
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