9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Hammamet
Hammamet has a wonderfully quaint location, snugly wrapping around a cove on the Cap Bon Peninsula. This is Tunisia's original tourism resort. With its sandy beaches and pretty, well-preserved Medina (Old Town), it's a gentle introduction to the culture and traditions of North Africa. Sightseeing here usually comes second to general lazing about in the sun, but if you find yourself itching to get off the beach, Hammamet is perfectly placed as a base to explore the rest of Cap Bon's tourist attractions.
Surrounded by its original 15th century walls, Hammamet's maze of narrow and winding lanes within the town's Medina (Old Town) hosts a wealth of well-preserved traditional Tunisian architecture. Some of the alleyways have been covered, so even in the heat of summer the Medina remains cool and shady - making an exploration here a pleasant respite from the harsh sun. There are plenty of shopping opportunities with local embroidery, ceramics, leather goods and carpets all on display, though wares tend to be on the pricey side within the Medina shops.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hammamet
2 Hammamet Cultural Centre (Villa Sebastian)
In Hammamet's southern hotel zone (beyond the Hotel Continental), the Cultural Centre is housed in the sumptuous Villa Sebastian. George Sebastian, a wealthy Romanian who was the first of many wealthy Europeans to settle in Hammamet during the early 20th century, built the structure in the 1920s. The beautiful villa gardens host the Hammamet International Festival of Music and Drama every July and August, Hammamet's biggest annual event. If you're in town at this time don't miss it.
If you've come to see the villa and have an interest in history, head further along the coast (between the Samira Club and Tanfous Hotel) to find the excavation site of the Roman settlement of Pupput. The ruins of the site (Hammamet's first settlement) are sparse, so are probably only of interest to the most enthusiastic history buff.
3 Great Mosque
The Medina is full of gorgeously restored examples of traditional Tunisian architecture, but two of the most important buildings are the Great Mosque and the Sidi Abdel Kader Mosque which adjoin each other. The Great Mosque was built in the 15th century and restored in 1972. Its rectangular minaret is a particularly fine example of Islamic architecture. The Sidi Abdel Kader Mosque was built in 1798 and now functions as a madrassa (Islamic school).
Hammamet's 13th century Kasbah (fort) isn't as well preserved or impressive as the Kasbah of Sousse, but it is still worth visiting. There is an interesting museum inside which explains Hammamet's colourful pirate lair history and later Spanish occupation. Climb up to the ramparts for magnificent views across the Medina and picturesque fishing harbour.
Nabeul is the Cap Bon Peninsula's largest town, edged by a long sandy beach extending round the Gulf of Hammamet. Surrounded by intensively cultivated agricultural land, the town's Friday Market is a bustle of fresh produce and local action that photographers will love. It's also a craft-making centre and shoppers can pick up lovely locally made pottery and plaited mats. Textiles are available here at cheaper prices than in Hammamet.
The Archaeological Museum (Avenue Habib Bourguiba) is an excellent introduction to the history of Cap Bon with exhibits of Punic and Roman finds from local excavation sites (although the best of the finds are displayed in the Bardo Museum in Tunis).
Location: 10 km north of Hammamet
Only discovered in 1952, the site of Kerkouane is thought to have been settled by the Phoenicians from the 6th century BC, long before Carthage was founded. A village of fishermen and dyers, it was razed to the ground by the Romans during the Third Punic War and never rebuilt so the original layout of the Punic town has been preserved intact. The town was laid out in the shape of a horseshoe and enclosed by a double ring of walls with two gates. Excavations have revealed mainly the network of streets and the foundations of buildings, with marble-floored houses that boast red and white mosaic decoration (much of which has been preserved). In many houses the rooms were laid out round a central courtyard with a fountain. Particularly notable is that almost every house had its own bathroom. There are also drainage channels, which show that the town had a highly developed drainage system.
Also of interest are the remains of a dye factory, with tubs hewed from the rock in which the shellfish (murex) used to make the purple dye were collected. The Phoenicians had a monopoly on the production of murex dye, which was the most prized dye of ancient times (almost 5,000 shellfish being required to produce a gram of dye). A small museum beside the excavation site illustrates the history of Kerkouane and the archaeological work that has been carried out since 1966.
Location: 86 km north of Hammamet
7 El Haouaria
At the northern tip of Cap Bon is the fishing village of El Haouaria, which is famous for its falcon spotting opportunities during spring, when the birds descend here as part of their migration to Europe. The village has a long tradition of training falcons to hunt quail. If you visit in May try to catch their Falconry Festival when you can witness the skills of the village falconers in action.
A few kilometres northeast are El Haouaria's Roman Caves, formed by quarrying of the sandstone coastal cliffs first by the Carthaginians and later by the Romans. Shafts of up to 30 m long can be seen.
Location: 109 km north of Hammamet
Kelibia's fortress crowns a 150 m crag above the town. Originally built by the Byzantines, it was enlarged and strengthened under the Hafsid dynasty. The fortress walls have been excellently preserved and there are magnificent views from the bastions, extending to Sicily in clear weather.
Location: 76 km north of Hammamet
The hot springs of Korbous have been frequented since Roman times, when the area was known as Aquae Calidae Carpitanae. Ahmed Bey rediscovered the springs in 1801 and established a spa complex here. Rich in minerals, the water is said to help the treatment of skin conditions such as eczema and also to help ease the pain of rheumatism and arthritis. There are more hot springs to check out just 2 km north of Korbous. Hamma el Atrous springs have a wonderful settling, with pools cascading down into the sea and steaming temperatures of up to 50°C.
Location: 68 km northwest of Hammamet
Other Notable Attractions
This local market centre is surrounded by agricultural land and has a picturesque Old Town district, where the architecture has a distinctively Andalusian feel to it. The 17th century Malikite Mosque, roofed with semicircular tiles, and the Hanafite Mosque with its octagonal minaret are two of the most interesting buildings to search out. If you're just after a lazy afternoon in the sun though, the Soliman Plage (beach) is a popular and pretty stretch of sand.
Location: 40 km north of Hammamet
Cote du Soleil
About 8 km north of Soliman, the MC128 highway runs along the cliff-fringed coast of Djebel Bou Korbous, known as the Cote du Soleil (Sunshine Coast). This 12 km stretch is one of the most beautiful roads in Tunisia. On the right, steeply scarped hills rise up to 419 m, while on the left side sheer cliffs tumble directly down to the sea. There are various viewpoints along the road where you can pull over and soak up views extending as far west as Carthage.