15 Sousse sights worth seeing
As one of the most popular resorts in Tunisia, the seaside town of Sousse perfectly combines all the charms of sightseeing and educational tourism and beach holidays. On the one hand the sea and sun, luxurious hotels, beaches and lots of entertainment on the coast in the suburban Port El Kantaoui, and on the other hand an abundance of unique historical Sousse attractions, mainly concentrated in the old Medina quarter.
No wonder this ancient North African city continues to enchant all who visit it to this day. After reading this list of the most visited and interesting places in the city, you will find the answer to the most important question: what to see in Sousse.
The Old City of Medina
Old City of Medina | Photo: Kike’s / Flickr.
Medina (translated from Arabic as “city”) is the traditional name for the medieval area of the ancient Arab towns. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, the Sousse Madina is considered one of Tunisia’s finest examples of Arab architecture, which has been preserved almost unchanged over the centuries. The Medina is a must-see because it is the main attraction of Sousse.
The winding streets of the historic center are densely packed with traditional white and blue houses. The entire Old City is surrounded by a two-kilometer ring of powerful fortress walls, which were built from huge stone blocks, left from the ruined ancient Roman buildings. Originally, there were six gates leading into the ancient city, of which only two have survived: Bab al-Habli on the south side and Bab al-Gabi on the west. Wandering through the narrow streets of Sousse Medina is like stepping back in time a few centuries.
In addition to seeing the many sights and visiting the colorful shopping district with stores and oriental markets, you will have an indescribable pleasure just to walk around the Old City, imbued with the atmosphere of antiquity. Wandering around the Medina, don’t miss the unique underground reservoir La Sofra, with a capacity of 3,000 m³, which probably dates back to the Roman Empire. The tank was used to supply the inhabitants of Medina with drinking water until the 20th century.
Address: Médina de Sousse, Sousse, Tunisia.
The Ribat Castle and Monastery
The Ribat Castle and Monastery | Photo: Andrew Skudder / Flickr.
To the northwest of the Great Mosque of Sousse is one of the main attractions of the city, the Ribat Fortress Tower. It was only a link in the chain of 800 fortifications built by the Aglabid dynasty along the Tunisian coast.
Only a few of the fortifications have survived. In the cells of the fortress lived warrior-monks who in peacetime carried out their religious duties and in case of danger formed the first line of defense against enemy attacks.
According to some scholars, these Muslim righteous men served as an example for the creation of later Christian orders of chivalry. Ribat’s strong fortress walls served as a reliable defence for the local population against invading invaders and as a base during both offensive and defensive military operations.
Address: Ribat de Sousse, Sousse, Tunisia.
Fortress Fort Kasbah
Kasbah Fortress | Photo: wikimedia.
Built in 859 AD on the site of an earlier Byzantine fort, the Kasbah Fortress is one of the most majestic historical monuments in Sousse.
The 30-meter high fortress tower of Khalef el-Fata is considered the oldest tower in all of North Africa. After the construction of the Kasbah fortress it took on the role of patrolling military tower of the Ribat fortress.
The tower of Khalef el-Fata is now a functioning lighthouse. Kasbah Fortress is located on a hilltop at the south west corner of Sousse. Its upper platform is 50 meters above the top level of the Ribat Tower, making it a great vantage point for panoramic views of the ancient Medina.
Address: Kasbah, Sousse, Tunisia.
Sousse Archaeological Museum
Sousse Archaeological Museum | Photo: wikimedia
This remarkable museum is second only to the Bardo Museum in Tunisia in terms of the richness of its collection of antiquities. Most of the artifacts on display at the museum date back to the Punic Wars, as well as to the Roman and early Christian periods. It will take at least two hours to see the unique exhibits of the museum.
The Archaeological Museum is located in the southern part of the historic fortress of Kasbah. All of its exhibits are unique in their own way, but especially interesting is the collection of Roman mosaics depicting mythical characters and animals. They include Apollo and the Muses and the Triumph of Bacchus in Room 3, the Medusa (one of the pearls of the collection) in Room 2 and the Seasons and Months (a mosaic found in El Djem) in Room 9.
Address: Sousse Archaeological Museum, Rue Abou Kacem Echabi, Sousse, Tunisia.
The Great Mosque of Sousse
Вид на Великую мечеть Сусса. | Фото: János Korom Dr. >14 Million views / Flickr.
This mosque was originally built in 670 and was used not only as a temple, but also as a defensive structure with strong brick walls. Perhaps this explains the resemblance of the Great Mosque to a fortress. The construction was repeatedly rebuilt and restored, but it got its final look in 851 – a few years after the city was rebuilt by the Aglabid dynasty.
The Great Mosque of Sidi Oqba in Kairouan served as the prototype. Earlier the two defensive towers served to protect the harbor, later the domes were added to the minarets. A feature of the design is the external staircase leading from the courtyard to the tower. The inner courtyard of the mosque, surrounded by battlements, is an architectural work of mixed antique and oriental style.
It is surrounded on three sides by galleries of high pillars and horseshoe arches decorated with kufic script borders. The vaulted gallery in front of the prayer hall, comprising 13 naves, was added in 1675.
Earlier the prayer hall included only three spans with cylindrical vaults. By the 10th century, however, it was already too small so it was extended with three extra aisles with higher cross vaults on the side of the wall facing the holy Kaaba in Mecca. The beautifully decorated main dome, which is located above the quadruple vault, was previously located above the vault in front of the mihrab.
Address: Grande Mosquée de Sousse, Rue Othmane Osmane, Sousse, Tunisia.
Sousse Market Place
Sousse shopping quarter.
The shopping area in the Medina of Sousse is an ideal place for shopping lovers. To get there you have to walk along the colorful Rue el Aghalba past the Grand Mosque towards the western part of the Medina. On the left is Rue d’Angleterre, which leads south to the beginning of the market area.
Partly covered by a canopy, this neighborhood is imbued with the bustling and colorful atmosphere of the East. In the narrow side alleys, local artisans peddle their metal and wooden wares, while the central shopping streets sell traditional souvenirs for tourists. Here you can passionately wander during the day, trying to find something special – something you want to take home as a souvenir of Tunisia.
Address: Ribat Shop, Rue Al Madina Almounawara, Sousse, Tunisia.
The Octagonal Minaret of Zaouia Zakkak
The octagonal minaret of Zaouia Zakkak.
The common name Zauya Zakkak refers to the colorful 17th-century minaret, an octagonal four-story tower that resembles Renaissance architecture in style. The outside of the tower is decorated with colorful tiles and intricate carvings. In fact the minaret is only part of the religious complex located in the northern part of the Medina (old town) of Sousse.
It also includes a mosque, a madrasa (religious Islamic school) and a mausoleum. The arcade of the courtyard with its antique style columns, among other architectural features, is very eye-catching. The Zahouya Zakkak complex is considered one of the best preserved examples of Ottoman architecture. It is a holy place for Muslims and strangers (non-Muslims) are not allowed in.
Address: Zaouia Zakkak, Rue el Aghalba, Sousse, Tunisia.
Catacombs of Sousse
Catacombs of Sousse.
Sousse Catacombs, found in 1888, is one of the most unusual sights in the city. They are a labyrinth of underground passages and chambers carved into the soft rock. The catacombs, dating from the 2nd to 4th centuries, are about 5 km long. A total of about 15,000 dead bodies were found here, wrapped in shrouds and buried in niches in the walls.
The niches were arranged on top of each other in several tiers and were covered with tiles or marble slabs. The underground labyrinth consists of 250 galleries forming four main shafts.
Three of the galleries were excavated: the Catacombs of the Good Shepherd, 1.6 km long (6,000 tombs, late 3rd century), the Catacombs of Hermes (2,500 tombs, 3rd century) and the Catacombs of Severus (5,000 tombs, early 4th century). Some of the niches, preserved in their original form, are equipped with glass partitions – this allows all the details of an ancient burial to be seen.
Despite the considerable length of the catacombs, only a small section of the dungeon with vaults fortified against rockslides is open to visitors. The Archaeological Museum of Sousse offers unique finds from the catacombs.
Address: Catacombs of Sousse, Rue Abdelhamid Lasska, Susah, Tunisia.
Port of El Kantaoui
Port of El Kantaoui. | Photo: Tony Hisgett / Flickr.
Port El Kantaoui, located 6 km from Sousse, is the ideal place for beach lovers and a variety of activities. The modern resort, which opened in 1979, is always popular with tourists.
Andalusian style architecture of the seaside town of Sidi Bou Said with its colorful white and blue buildings was used as a prototype when designing the complex. The resort is located in a picturesque place – around a huge harbor, and the center of the complex is the port, equipped with more than 300 berths for yachts.
Along the coast there are numerous luxury hotels and apartments, as well as shopping centers, cafes and restaurants with the best national cuisine. The port of El Cantawy offers a wide range of recreational and sports activities – golf courses, horseback riding clubs, thalasso centers and sports clubs. Among the most popular marine activities are boat trips with transparent bottoms, deep sea diving, sea fishing and catamaran rides.
Address: Port el Kantaoui, Hammam Sousse, Tunisia.
Sousse market. | Photo: mimi anderson / Flickr.
For anyone looking for a genuine local market, head not for the tourist-oriented parts of the medina but for the Sunday Market at the entrance to the catacombs of the Good Shepherd. It is always lively and chaotic with stalls of souvenirs and handicrafts, livestock vendors, etc., all haphazardly scattered around the market.
Also, keep in mind that like any local market you may be exposed to certain (not always pleasant) smells, especially near the stalls with the animals.
Address: Sunday market in Sousse – Weekly market, Sousse, Tunisia.
Takrouna village.| Photo: Chaim Gabriel Waibel / Flickr.
Takrouna is an old Berber village located 6 km from Enfidha and about 45 km from Sousse. Due to its location on top of a rocky hill surrounded by flat terrain, the villagers continue to lead a secluded lifestyle.
A visit to Takrouna provides an opportunity to see the architecture and furnishings of the Berber stone houses as well as to experience the traditional family life of these ancient people. The village is home to six families, descendants of the ancient Berber people (indigenous Africans who converted to Islam in the 7th century). The locals are mainly engaged in agriculture and carpet weaving.
In the center of the village attracts attention a small mosque and the tomb of the revered saint there – Sidi Abd-el-Qader. Enfidha itself is a bustling center of commerce, surrounded by farming pastures. On Sundays there is a wonderful local market. There is also a small but very interesting museum, located in the building of the former temple.
The museum displays unique finds such as early Christian mosaics from excavations in Uppenna (5km to the north) and Sidi Abich (3km to the north) and valuable collections of Roman and Byzantine pottery.
Address: Takrouna, Tunisia.
Sidi Bou Mendil Mosque in Herglah.| Photo: wikimedia.
The small town of Khergla is located on a coastal rocky stretch, mottled with sandy bays. It stands on the site of the ancient Roman frontier town of Horraca Caelia, which in the 2nd century AD separated the two historical provinces of Byzacena and Zeugitana.
No archaeological and historical monuments of that era have survived to this day because during the Arab invasions of this ancient Roman settlement was completely destroyed. However Hergla has an interesting 18th century mosque with an amazing dome, built using the method of architecture of Bulla Regia, the capital of the Numidian Kingdom in the 3rd century BC.
Address: Hergla, Tunisia.
A little strange, but this many kilometers long beach of Sousse is named after the local Muslim saint Bujaffar. The coastal beach area with soft sand attracts a large number of locals and foreign tourists.
There is a rental shop where equipment for water sports enthusiasts is given out, as well as equipment for entertainment on the beach. Kiosks sell refreshments and ice cream.
Resort hotels own only a few sections of the coastal zone, but for a small fee, any vacationer (even those who do not live in a hotel) can get there. In sunny weather, the beach is filled with people – the townspeople like to hold family picnics here, and tourists enjoy a beach holiday. A nice way to spend a pleasant evening is a stroll along the local promenade.
The address is Bou Jaafar Beach, Sousse, Tunisia.
Qalaout el Qubba Museum
Qalaout el Qubba Museum | Photo: wikimedia.
The building of this ethnographic museum is an example of a typical oriental building (funduq). It was built presumably at the end of the 11th century. The most striking detail in its architecture is the unusual large dome above the central part of the building – with zigzag ridges on the outside and corrugated details on the inside.
In the exhibition halls one can see genre scenes from the daily life of Tunisians during the Ottoman period. Festive, religious and everyday scenes are recreated with the help of mannequins in national costumes, household items and traditional musical instruments.
Address: Musée el Kobba, Sousse, Tunisia.
Dar Essid Museum
Dar Essid Museum.
Dar Essid is a private house-museum located in a quiet part of the Medina of Sousse. This beautiful house, built in 928, was once home to the family of a wealthy citizen. Today their descendants own the house and decided to turn it into a museum where visitors could immerse themselves in the atmosphere of a rich 19th century Tunisian house.
You first enter the entrance hall, designed to welcome guests, and then into an open, tiled patio. The courtyard is surrounded by living spaces in which the furnishings of the old house have been faithfully recreated – furniture, paintings, unique curtains and baldachins, paintings, clocks, dishes and other household utensils.
Luxury is felt literally in everything, and especially in the interior of the rooms on the first floor – tiling from Andalusian ceramic tiles and Carrara marble, as well as antique furniture from Europe.
The best sights of Sousse: descriptions and tourist reviews
There are not many cities on our planet that can boast of a venerable age. Ancient Sousse, founded back in the IX century BC, belongs to just such. Pearl of Tunisia is probably the busiest resort of the country, which harmoniously combines the Oriental flavor and perfectly developed European infrastructure.
Do not think that the hospitable Sousse, whose attractions reflect its rich cultural and historical life, offers only carefree beach holidays. There is plenty to see and do without leaving its walls, and every visitor will find something to see.
The best example of Arab architecture in the city is the Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old town, which is a tangled maze of narrow streets, is surrounded by a massive fortress wall built in 859 of stone blocks, and the historic center itself, with its unique Arab atmosphere, was formed in the 7th century. Usually the ancient settlement was built around a mosque, and Sousse is an exception, because the house of prayer is in front of the Medina, not in its center.
Not sure what to see in Sousse (Tunisia)? Locals say that the best way to experience the local culture is to walk through the ancient neighborhoods built with white and blue dwellings. It is worth visiting the Old Town, which is a tourist market spread out in the open air. Here be sure to haggle, because the prices for goods are always a few times overvalued.
The Great Mosque.
Numerous historical monuments are concentrated within the Medina and deserve the attention of tourists. In the Old City you will find the Great Mosque, the oldest religious building in North Africa. The main shrine of Sousse, whose attractions reflect its diversity, appeared in 850. The building looks more like a mighty fortress with two watchtowers than a house of prayer. And the main feature of the mosque was the absence of a minaret, which appeared much later. Such an appearance is not accidental, because the structure was built as a defensive one. It protected the port and the fortress of Ribat. After numerous restorations the interior of the mosque which is protected by UNESCO acquired its original appearance.
Non-Muslims are not allowed to visit the religious building, but everyone can visit the museum located inside the prayer house.
Next to the mosque is one of the main attractions of Sousse – the fortress, which was part of a chain of fortifications built by the Aglabit dynasty. The structure, the walls of which protected against enemy attacks from land and sea, had a square shape and was protected by towers at each corner. Curiously, the soldiers guarding the structure were monks. Having given their lives in the service of Allah, they believed that protection from infidels guaranteed them a place in paradise after death.
Today it is one of the well-preserved fortresses built along the North African coast. Its walls are crowned by a former minaret, the Khalifa (Watchtower). Ribat was not only a defensive structure but also a monastery; there was a prayer hall next to the entrance.
Another fortification structure is the Kasba Fortress, the greatest historical monument of the city. Located in the southwest of the resort, it used to be the residence of the local rulers, and during wars it used to be a shelter for the citizens. The ancient landmark of Sousse is famous for its 30-meter Fata Tower, which still serves as a lighthouse. There is an observation deck on top of the tower, which offers great panoramic views.
One part of the fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, houses a museum displaying archaeological finds, and the other is the municipal prison.
Sofra Underground Reservoir
It seems surprising, but without leaving the resort, you can arrange interesting and rich excursions. For example, get acquainted with a little-known attraction of Sousse in Tunisia, located in the Old City. The underground reservoir, which served many centuries ago as the main storage of drinking water, is located in the heart of the historic center. The reservoir dates back to the pre-Muslim era.
The roof of the cistern rests on square pillars that are connected by arches and its walls are covered with a waterproof mixture consisting of coal and ash. It is believed that water was delivered by aqueduct from the river of the town a few kilometers from the resort.
The old town is full of priceless treasures and the architectural and religious complex of Zahuia Zakkak is the proof. It includes not only a mosque but also a Muslim school (madrasah) and a mausoleum. During the Ottoman period, a tall octagonal minaret, considered the most beautiful, was built. It was built of hewn stones and its windows were decorated with blue and green tiles.
It is a functioning religious monument and tourists can only admire it from the outside.
Vacationers who don’t know what to see in Sousse on their own can go to the museum, the expositions of which will introduce the rich history of the country. Here is a huge collection of antiquities of Tunisia, and the main part of it is the amazing mosaics of the Roman and Byzantine period with mythological scenes. In addition, visitors can see funerary tombstones and urns, vases and sculptures, sarcophagi and lampstands.
Dar Esseid Private Museum
There are quite a few museums in the city, and some of them are private. You can go on a tour to the unique Dar Essid, which allows you to get acquainted with the life of the city’s elite who lived in the nineteenth century. A curious attraction of Sousse in Tunisia, the photo of which is in the guidebooks for tourists, is located in a small but very beautiful house, which belonged to a local official.
Visitors immediately get to the courtyard lined with colorful mosaics. One can walk through the house, seeing the rooms, the kitchens, and the bathrooms. The servants of the nobility used to live on the roof and there is now a cafe where you can eat while enjoying the beautiful panorama of the old city.
In the first century B.C. the Christians were seen by the authorities as a threat to the unity of the Great Roman Empire. For nearly four centuries, they were persecuted, and even forbidden to bury their loved ones in cemeteries. Thus came the famous catacombs, which have become the most curious attraction of Sousse. They are a ramified labyrinth of underground corridors and chambers carved in the soft rock. Christians not only found their last shelter here, but also conducted various rituals and services.
Archaeologists have found more than 15 thousand people buried underground and covered with stone or marble slabs. Catacombs stretching for several kilometers, consist of 250 galleries, but tourists are only open section of 100 meters long, the arch of which is reinforced, and there is no risk of collapse. Visitors on the tour will see numerous burials through glass partitions.
It is better not to come here with small children, and the entrance is reserved for impressionable tourists, because the rather gloomy place leaves an oppressive impression. There is an ominous silence, undisturbed, and a mysterious gloom. As visitors confess, this corner, filled with mysticism, makes you think about the meaning of life and its transience.
The Dancing Fountains of El Kantaoui
What to see in Sousse (Tunisia)? Among the modern attractions, worthy of attention of tourists is a small complex consisting of fountains, the jets of which “dance” in time with the music. It is located in the area of Port El Kantaoui and attracts hundreds of people who want to admire the amazing light shows.
It is especially spectacular when it is dark and there is no natural light and the beauty of the show is at its best.
Where to go in Sousse (Tunisia) with children?
On the territory of the resort there is a giant water park, which is the best place for a family vacation. Aquasplash opened in 2013 on the territory of Thalassa Sousse Resort & Aquapark, and its guests use the complex for free. There is a huge selection of slides and a wide range of water activities to delight the little ones.
Across the road from the water park is an entertainment complex, which thrills children and their parents alike. The Hannibal Park area is equipped in the style of old Carthage at the time of the great military leader Hannibal. Incredible number of attractions, cozy cafes and restaurants, picturesque corners, where you can make spectacular photos, attracts tourists from different countries.
Those who are puzzled about what to see in Sousse, should visit the zoo and botanical garden Oasis. This is a small park, arranged in such a way that visitors walk along the perimeter of all the aviaries with animals, meeting on their way exotic plants and medicinal herbs. At the entrance you can buy food for the inhabitants of the oasis of wildlife, feeling great in the open, but protected area.
What do tourists say?
Guests of the resort admire its developed infrastructure and amazing beauty. Modern ensembles are in harmony with the ancient streets, which remember the rich history of centuries. Everyone will find something to see here, because the sights are on every step. While some spend their entire vacation exploring the architectural treasures, others spend all day on the pristine beaches, which are considered the best in Tunisia.
Vacationers enjoy going to the resort’s countless shopping establishments, as well as visiting souvenir shops. Sousse is indeed an ideal place for shopaholics.
In addition, tourists note that the paradise corner will not let anyone get bored, and its nightlife is no less interesting. A large number of entertainment clubs and discos are popular among young people having fun until morning. Colorful cozy atmosphere, performances of guest artists, music for every taste beckons guests of the resort.
It has everything for a great holiday, and even the most discerning tourist is satisfied after a trip to Sousse.