10 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 center for the country, the old town along a picturesque canal remains untouched by the bustling major port. Here in Bizerte's center are the major tourist 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 harbor) area and is a bustling hub of traditional craft work. Within its 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 armorers in the Rue des Armuriers, the carpenters in the Rue des Menuisiers, and the butchers in the Rue des Bouchers. A meandering stroll through the highly atmospheric lanes here is top of Bizerte's things to do. Here, unlike inside the medinas of Hammamet and Monastir, the alleys have not been flashily restored, so it still oozes with all the exotic charm of the Orient.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bizerte
The kasbah district lies just on the north side of the vieux port. Its walls (open to the public) allow you fine views of the old harbor if you climb to the top. The kasbah's interior is occupied by houses and contains a 17th-century Hanafite mosque. Its fortifications sit on foundations that began life as a 6th-century Byzantine fort, but the building works you see today were constructed during the 17th century under Ottoman rule. Opposite the kasbah walls is the much smaller Fort Sidi el Hani.
Address: Harbour Drive, Vieux Port
3 Old Harbor
Jam-packed with colorful fishing boats, Bizerte's vieux port (old harbor) is linked by a canal to the large outer harbor (avant-port). The Phoenicians were the first to build the canal here, linking the lake of Lac de Bizerte to the sea. The harbor 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 harbor continues to be one of Tunisia's main ports, but the lovely old harbor is a tranquil world apart, only used by local fishermen bringing in their daily catch.
Location: Vieux port
4 Rebaa Mosque
Sitting between the medina's souks and the old harbor is the 17th-century Rebaa Mosque. This distinctive Bizerte landmark has an octagonal minaret that has obvious Ottoman design influence on its gallery facade. If you're seeking out some local color, don't miss a morning trip to the fish market adjoining the mosque. This vibrant bartering hub is the perfect opportunity for keen photographers to capture some shots of daily life. Be aware that you'll have to get up early to catch most of the bustling action, and be prepared for quite the malodorous overload.
Location: Place Slaheddine Bouchoucha
5 Fort Sidi el Hani
On the south side of the vieux port, directly opposite the kasbah, is the smaller, golden-stoned fort of Sidi el Hani. Like the kasbah, it is an Ottoman construction and 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 to the fort terrace there are excellent sightseeing views across town, with the vieux port and the kasbah in the foreground.
Location: Vieux port
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 harbor with the modern industrial harbor beyond.
Address: Boulevard Saadi Carnot
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.
Location: Corniche; north from Bizerte center
8 Lake Ichkeul
This massive lake is unusual because it has water that is partly fresh and partly salt. It is one of North Africa's most important bird-watching sites during the winter months, when heavy rainfall makes the lake flood its shores, the marshland flora begins to bloom, and 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 meters) and an interesting ecology museum is 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. Interesting endemic flora is also in the marshlands, including pink and pale purple garlic; occasional fritillaries with bell-shaped flowers ranging in color from crimson to yellowish-green; various species of rushes, reeds, and irises; and water lilies.
Location: 35 kilometers 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 Muslims who settled here after being 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, and the neighborhood can look rather rundown in parts, but the alleys that do hold onto scraps of their former style ooze quaint, old-world atmosphere.
Location: Bizerte waterfront
10 Cap Blanc
If you have your own wheels, add a Cap Blanc excursion to your things to do list. Leave town heading along Boulevard Habib Bougatfa and continue on the Corniche, passing the beaches and hotels of the area. About two kilometers 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.
Location: 10 kilometers north of Bizerte