11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Bizerte
Bizerte is a coastal gem of Tunisia's north that has yet to be discovered by many tourists. Although it is a main industrial centre for the country, the old town along a picturesque canal remains untouched by the bustling major port. Here in Bizerte's centre are the major sightseeing attractions, with the rambling maze of the Medina leading you to the water's edge where fishing boats bob beside the Kasbah walls. When it's time to put your feet up after all that wandering, sun-seekers can snooze upon a long sandy-fringed shore just outside of town.
Bizerte's Arab Medina (Old Town) wraps around the picturesque Vieux Port (Old Harbour) area and is a bustling hub of traditional craft work. Within its winding labyrinth of narrow alleyways and covered souks are the workshops of metalworkers and carpenters, and the stores of butchers and grocers. The streets are named after the craftsmen who live and work there: the smiths in the Rue des Forgerons, the armourers in the Rue des Armuriers, the carpenters in the Rue des Menuisiers and the butchers in the Rue des Bouchers. It's a highly atmospheric place for a wander, and unlike the Medinas of Hammamet and Monastir, it has not been flashily restored so it still oozes with all the exotic charm of the Orient.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bizerte
The 17th century Kasbah lies just on the north side of the Vieux Port. Its walls (open to the public) allow you fine views of the old harbour if you climb up to the top. The Kasbah's interior is occupied by houses and contains a 17th century Hanafite mosque.
3 Old Harbour
Jam-packed with colourful fishing boats, Bizerte's Vieux Port (Old Harbour) is linked by a canal to the large outer harbour (Avant-Port). The Phoenicians were the first to build the canal here, linking the lake of Lac de Bizerte to the sea. The harbour here has been an important part of Bizerte's economy for centuries, and the town became a naval base in 1881 under the French Protectorate. Today the outer harbour continues to be one of Tunisia's main ports, but the lovely old harbour is a tranquil world-apart only used by local fishermen bringing in their daily catch.
4 Rebaa Mosque
Sitting between the Medina's souks and the old harbour is the 17th century Rebaa mosque, with a distinctive octagonal minaret that has obvious Ottoman design influence on its gallery facade. If you're seeking out some local colour, don't miss an early morning trip to the fish market adjoining the mosque. This vibrant bartering hub is the perfect opportunity for keen photographers to capture some shots.
Location: Place Slahedine Bouchoucha
5 Fort Sidi el Hani
On the south side of the Vieux Port, opposite the Kasbah, is the little fort of Sidi el Hani. Like the Kasbah, it dates from the 17th century. It has been restored to an excellent level and houses a small but interesting oceanographic museum (Musée Océanographique). If you climb the stairs up to the fort terrace there are excellent sightseeing views across town, with the Vieux Port and the Kasbah in the foreground.
6 Fort d'Espagne
On a hill, northeast of the Kasbah, are the remains of the massive Fort d'Espagne flanked by an old cemetery. Ottoman pirate Eudj Ali built the fort between 1570 and 1573, during Bizerte's pirate lair days. It was constructed for protection against Spanish attack as the Spanish navy frequently responded to Eudj Ali's raids on their trade ships by attacking Bizerte. From the terrace there are panoramic views of the Medina and Old Harbour with the modern industrial harbour beyond.
To Bizerte's north, the coastal road (known as the Corniche) skirts a series of long sandy beaches lined by hotels, restaurants, holiday apartments and elegant villas. Although Bizerte is lesser known as a seaside resort than Sousse and Djerba, many European operators are beginning to discover the attraction of the town's mile-long white sand beaches. If you're looking for a sandy spot that has been less built up, head to the south. The beaches of R'Mel, Ras el Djebel, Raf-Raf and Sidi Ali el Mekki are among the most beautiful stretches of coast in the area and have yet to see any resorts creep onto their sand.
8 Lake Ichkeul
This massive lake is unusual because it has water that is partly fresh and partly salt. One of North Africa's most important bird watching sites during the winter months, when heavy rainfall makes the lake flood its shores and the marshland flora begins to bloom, hundreds of thousands of migrant birds from Europe settle here. The surrounding lake marshland is a nature reserve, dominated by the bulk of Djebel Ichkeul (511 m) and there is an interesting ecology museum on the hill's base.
As well as the many varieties of birds, the lake area is home to small numbers of water buffalo - Tunisia's largest mammal and now an endangered species. There is also interesting endemic flora in the marshlands, including pink and pale purple garlic, occasional fritillaries with bell-shaped flowers ranging in colour from crimson to yellowish-green, various species of rushes, reeds and irises and water lilies.
Location: 35 km southwest of Bizerte
9 Andalusian Quarter
Between Bizerte's Kasbah and Fort Sidi el Hani lies the Quartier des Andalous (Andalusian Quarter), established during the 15th and 16th centuries by the Moors who had been expelled from Spain. Only a few of the charming and highly photogenic old lanes, boasting characteristic blue wrought-iron window grilles and doors, have been preserved.
10 Cap Blanc
If you have your own wheels, an attractive day trip from Bizerte is to Cap Blanc (10 km north). Leave town heading along Boulevard Habib Bougatfa and continue on the Corniche, passing the beaches and hotels of the area. About 2 km beyond Cap Bizerte with its lighthouse, a little side road branches off on the right to Cap Blanc. This is the most northerly point in Africa. Here, the cliffs tumble steeply down to the sea, and the crystal-clear water is a top diving spot.
11 Bey Youssef Fountain
This elegant fountain, roofed with green glazed tiles and decorated with Andalusian designs, is in Bizerte's Vieux Port and dates to 1642. Now dry, it was once famed for the quality of its water. It still boasts an inscription in both Turkish and Arabic that says, "drink of the spring of Paradise and you will be the better of it."