Sidi Bou Saïd, Tunisia

The enchanting village of Sidi Bou Saïd, northeast of Tunis, is often called Tunisia's most beautiful village. Its picturesque ambience of blue and white and the fantastic view of the Mediterranean Sea have inspired many an artist's soul.

Due to its dreamlike beauty, Sidi Bou Saïd is the most visited village in the country and one of our top 10 sights of Tunisia. It originated in the early 13th century as a spiritual center and soon became a magnet for artists and eventually tourists - no wonder, because its idyllic charm hardly anyone can resist.

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PICTURES: Sidi Bou Saïd

Photo gallery: Sidi Bou Saïd

What is the best way to get to Sidi Bou Saïd?

The picturesque artists' village of Sidi Bou Saïd is located just outside Tunis, the capital of Tunisia - © Filip Fuxa / Shutterstock
© Filip Fuxa / Shutterstock

The picturesque artists' village of Sidi Bou Saïd is located in northeastern Tunisia on the Gulf of Tunis, about 20km from the capital Tunis and just near the historic ruins of Carthage. Sidi Bou Saïd is easily accessible by the "TGM" train from Tunis to La Marsa, which takes about half an hour. Cars must be parked in the paid parking lot and are not allowed to pass through the village.

Tip: If possible, schedule your visit to Sidi Bou Saïd on a weekday. On weekends, there is a lot going on here and the winding alleys are full of visitors who are also enchanted by the flair of Sidi Bou Saïd.

History of Sidi Bou Saïd

Traditionally decorated door in the villa district of Sidi Bou Saïd in Tunis, Tunisia - © LouLouPhotos / Shutterstock
© LouLouPhotos / Shutterstock

Sidi Bou Saïd takes its resonant name from a saint and mystic named Abou Said bin Khalef ibn Yahia Ettamini el Beji, who settled here in the early 13th century to develop Sufism and made Sidi Bou Saïd his holy place after his death.

So-called marabouts, spiritual hermits, used to make up the population of Sidi Bou Saïd. In the 16th century, the Moors came to the village, whose architectural legacies still characterize the townscape of Sidi Bou Saïd today.

Sidi Bou Saïd only acquired its image as an artists' village at the beginning of the 20th century, when the French-British banker's son Baron Rodolphe d'Erlanger established his residence in what was then a fishing village. He loved painting and music and organized meetings and artists' get-togethers in his palace, now Ennejma Ezzahra ("twinkling star").

It is also thanks to him that Sidi Bou Saïd was placed under monument protection in 1915. The strict building regulations associated with this still apply today and thus Sidi Bou Saïd was able to retain its unmistakable charm. After his death in 1932, he bequeathed his estate to the Tunisian state.

Why are the houses white and blue?

The traditional colors of Sidi Bou Saïd are blue and white - this cannot be overlooked in the beautifully decorated courtyards, Tunisia - © Christian Wilkinson / Shutterstock
© Christian Wilkinson / Shutterstock

Not only in Sidi Bou Saïd, but in many southern countries, especially in Greece, the houses are whitewashed and have blue doors and shutters. Why? The white reflects the sun's rays and keeps the heat out of the houses, the strong blue is supposed to drive away pesky insects.

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Sights in Sidi Bou Saïd

The artists' village of Sidi Bou Saïd in Tunisia is known for its colorful architecture and design - © Nataliya Hora / Shutterstock
© Nataliya Hora / Shutterstock

The beautiful village is today a dreamlike composition of colorful architecture and beautiful arts. The dominant colors in Sidi Bou Saïd are unmistakably a strong blue and pure white. Colorful vases, ornate door and window decorations, fragrant flower arrangements and other accessories on almost every house wall create subtle splashes of color - perfect photo motifs wherever the eye looks.

Museum of musical instruments

Ennejma Ezzahra, the former palace of the "founder" of Sidi Bou Saïd, is now open to the public as a museum of musical instruments and still functions as a center of Mediterranean music. The surrounding gardens and also the building itself are a real feast for the eyes.

Café des Nattes

From the café in Sidi Bou Saïd you have a fantastic view of the Mediterranean Sea, Tunisia - © Bojan Pavlukovic / Shutterstock
© Bojan Pavlukovic / Shutterstock

After a walk through the enchanting ambience, we recommend a stop at the famous Café des Nattes, immortalized by the German expressionist August Macke in his watercolor "View of a Mosque" in front of the minaret of an Islamic house of worship. In the typical Moorish café, tea with mint and the traditional shisha, the water pipe, can be sampled. The terrace offers panoramic views to kneel down.

Sea view

Speaking of panoramic views to get down on your knees - you'll find them almost non-stop in Sidi Bou Saïd. The village is located on a cliff directly on the Mediterranean Sea, so the picture-perfect architecture is further enhanced by the dreamlike view of the deep blue Gulf of Tunis. Already the German painter and graphic artist Paul Klee and the French writer and Nobel Prize winner André Gide were inspired by its stunning panorama to their works.

Souqs of Sidi Bou Saïd

If you stroll back along the main street, you will pass many a souq and will certainly find one or the other colorful souvenir to take home. By the way, there are no fixed prices for the countless cloths, pieces of jewelry, water pipes, handicrafts, figurines and the particularly beautiful ornate bird cages - everything is negotiable.

Tip: Again and again the locals "give away" flowers to the tourists and ask for money afterwards. Sometimes they get uncomfortable if the given amount does not meet their expectations. It is best to buy a flower right at the beginning, then you have your peace for the rest of the day.

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