Let’s Change Your Misconceptions About Tunisia, Shall We?

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Terrace covered in mosaics in Tunis
Photo: Courtesy of Lonely Planet

Landing in Tunis, over the rolling hills and sandy coastline, in glorious sunshine amidst clear blue skies, I’m hooked from the off. Tunisia may have had it tough in recent times – with media sensationalism not helping – but it’s fast becoming a tourist hotspot. And it’s not hard to see why.

The souks rival those in Marrakech, its ancient ruins and museums excite even the most well-travelled culture vultures, there’s a vibrant food scene, and the beaches gloriously stretch on for miles – there’s not much more you could ask for in terms of a relaxing city break, especially given that Tunis is recognized as one of North Africa’s most easygoing cities.

Need to Know

The Residence Tunis Exterior
Photo: Courtesy of The Residence

But if that wasn’t reason enough to take you to Tunisia, The Residence Tunis is. The resort may be located just 25 minutes from the airport, but once you drive through its gates and arrive outside its impressive entrance, you’ll be transported to a whole other world.

The sheer scale of the property, which is situated on the Gammarth coast, is arguably its most prominent feature – read: high ceilings, endless archways, towering palm trees, and sweeping views out to sea. You also can’t help but take in the unbelievable smell. The Residence Tunis is officially the best smelling hotel I’ve ever been to – and I soon learned that the local orange blossom is to thank, as it makes its way into everything from the refreshing welcome towels to the property’s scent diffusers. But it’s not just the fragrant smell that I fell in love with, it was everything that resides on the Tunis bucket list – culinary offerings and endless adventures included.

What You’ll Like

The Residence Tunis Sea View Room
Photo: Courtesy of The Residence

What The Residence Tunis has done so brilliantly is draw inspiration from local cultures and styles to create a property that’s completely in sync with its surroundings. Each room – whether it’s a suite or not – has been designed to exude harmony and serenity whilst reflecting the artisanship and essence of the city. I stayed in the Sea View Room, which felt a world away from the bustling souks that await outside. The guestrooms are spacious, yes, but it’s the little touches that put them in a league of its own.

Mine was flooded with natural light and offered stunning views of the pool and the Mediterranean Sea – not to mention the fact it smelled so good. That probably had something to do with the fact that jasmine is left on pillows each night, while a vase of fresh flowers greets guests each day. Scent is clearly very important to The Residence Tunis – and it’s amazing how you feel good when your surroundings smell good. It’s this attention to detail that make the rooms so special, from the cool local artwork that adorns the walls to the miniature yet ornate Tunisian doors that serve as window shutters. There’s even a lounge area where sumptuous cushions and textures reign supreme.

What You'll Love

The Residence Tunis Spa Thalasso
Photo: Courtesy of The Residence

The spa – all 3,500 square meters of it, to be exact. It also happens to be one of the most reputable thalassotherapy destinations in the region, FYI. Tunis may only be a six-hour flight from Dubai, but after a day of traveling, you’re bound not to feel your freshest. And what better way to unwind than being smothered in warm oil and massaged into oblivion? Especially when the spa is so gorgeous. Bright, light, intimate, and cozy – it’s not trying to be moody or atmospheric. It’s just effortlessly spot-on. There are mini courtyard gardens and plants around every corner, and the space feels alive as natural sunlight floods in and dances off the walls. Peaceful it is, fussy it’s not.

Seeing as this is the land of hammams, you have to visit the oriental hammam for a proper Tunisian scrub or take a dip in one of the amazing baths, where a water massage will sort you right out. And speaking of water, the spa’s showstopper has to be the huge indoor pool filled with fresh saltwater from the sea. Inspired by Roman baths (Italy is in the vicinity, after all), it’s set at a blissful 30°C all year round. As for the setting? The pool is surrounded by pink terracotta walls and located under a huge domed ceiling, and offers views of the palm-lined gardens outside – it’s simply magical.

Staying Put

El Dar The Residence Tunis
Photo: Courtesy of The Residence

Despite the fact that there’s so much going on outside the hotel, don’t be surprised if you find it hard to make your way out – especially when it comes to dining. With five restaurants ranging from Chinese fine-dining at Li Bai (home to killer dumplings) to a relaxed poolside grill by the name of Zembra, it’s safe to say you won’t run out of options.

Fancy one of the best bowls of pasta outside of Italy? L’Olivier is the place to go, serving up organic breads and fresh Mediterranean cuisine amidst intimate archways bathed in candlelight. Or, seeing as you’re in Tunisia, El Dar is the ticket if Tunisian cuisine washed down with fresh mint tea tickles your fancy. Here, you can tuck into local fish and grill meats while being treated to performances by local musicians, all in a truly Instagrammable setting – think: rustic wood details, flickering lanterns, and regional artwork alongside a palette of greens, reds, and whites. Be sure to try the local specialty, brik. This deep-friend tuna and egg turnover will have you coming back for seconds. And thirds.

Venturing Out

Sidi Bou Said Tunisia
Photo: Courtesy of The Mediterranean Traveller

There’s so much to do beyond the gates of The Residence Tunis, which poses one problem: where to start? But of course, we’ve done the work for you, scouring a few key places worth exploring during your trip – all under 30 minutes from the property.

If a spot of shopping is what you’re after, then a trip to the UNESCO-listed medina is a must. Here, you can find local trinkets and artefacts ranging from textiles and homeware to shoes and bags (and everything in between). Be sure to get lost in the winding streets and pose for a photo or two in front of the city’s famous colored doors – they’re not hard to find. And if something cultural is more your speed, then you’ll feel right at home in the suburb of Carthage. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is steeped in history, boasting ancient ruins beautifully framed by the azure Mediterranean Sea.

And speaking of the bright blue sea, you’ll forgive yourself for thinking you’re in Santorini when you arrive at the cobbled streets of Sidi Bou Said. The birthplace of the late fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa (and now home to the Dar Alaïa museum), it’s known for its beauty, especially thanks to a color palette of blues and whites complemented by fuchsia bougainvillea. Sidi Bou Said’s distinctive architecture is a mix of Andalusian and Ottoman styles, truly reflecting Tunisia’s many neighbors. Use your time in this town to enjoy a fresh juice in one of the many clifftop cafés, discover and purchase some local artwork, or simply walk around the postcard-perfect streets.

Santorini, eat your heart out.

Carthage Tunisia
Photo: Courtesy of @FrankieRozwadowska

For more details or to book a stay at The Residence Tunis, click here.

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