Archeological museums, a labyrinthe medina, white sand beaches and awe-inspiring Roman ruins; here are the best things to do in Sousse.
One of Tunisia’s oldest cities, Sousse boasts a history stretching back to antiquity. Founded as a Phoenician trading post, the city soon fell under the sway of Carthage, and then Rome. Known to the Romans as Hadrumetum, the city’s prosperity continued into the Byzantine era, but it was with the arrival of the Arabs in the 7th century that Sousse took on its current name as it evolved into an important Islamic centre.
Sousse reached its zenith during the rule of the Aghlabids, who left enduring landmarks such as the Ribat and the Grand Mosque, which you can still see today. Following Tunisia’s independence from France, Sousse began to attract the first package holiday tourists in the 1950s, and today, the city’s white sand beaches are lined with resorts. The Medina of Sousse has still retained much of its historic character, however, and away from the hotels, the city is packed with great sights like the Archeological Museum.
If you’re planning a trip to Tunisia, then keep reading, as we countdown the best things to do in Sousse.
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The best things to do in Sousse
Located around two hours from Tunis (you can take a Louage or hop on the train from the capital), Sousse is best known for its sun-soaked beaches. The coastline here is built-up with resorts and all-inclusive hotels, and if that’s your thing, you can get bargain price deals here, especially in the shoulder season.
But don’t just stay in your hotel. It’s all too easy to get trapped around the pool, but given that there are so many great things to do in Sousse, and in the surrounding region, it would be a crime of epic proportions not to explore the city.
If you’ve booked yourself in for a week long stay, you’ve got plenty of time to visit the Medina of Tunis, the Great Mosque and the Archeological Museum, and time left over for a few day trips to El Jem, Kairouan and Monastir. For something a little bit different, you could even book yourself into a historic hotel in the Medina of Sousse itself, rather than following the crowds to the beach.
1. Explore the Medina of Sousse
The Medina of Sousse serves as both a historical relic and a living, breathing component of the city’s present-day culture. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Medina is encircled by imposing stone walls and entered through grand gates.
Once inside, you’ll find yourself traversing narrow, labyrinthine alleys lined with traditional Tunisian homes and shops. These souks offer a variety of local goods, from aromatic spices to finely crafted textiles and Tunisian football shirts.
The Grand Mosque, dating back to the 9th century, is a key architectural feature, offering insights into the Islamic influences that have shaped the city. Another landmark within the Medina is the Ribat, an Islamic fortress with a commanding view of the surroundings from its watchtower.
But beyond the structures and the wares, what really imbues the Medina with life is the daily hustle of its residents — shopkeepers haggling, artisans at work, and families socialising, contributing to a sense of continuity that bridges the past with the present.
2. Step into the past at the Archeological Museum of Sousse
Located within the city’s Kasbah, the Archaeological Museum of Sousse offers an enlightening journey through Tunisia’s ancient history. The museum is particularly renowned for its collection of Roman mosaics, which is one of the most extensive in Africa.
These finely crafted mosaics depict mythological scenes, daily life, and geometric patterns, providing valuable insights into Roman artistry and beliefs. The museum also features artefacts from the Punic and early Christian eras, including statuary and inscriptions, further enriching its narrative scope.
Originally built as a fortress during the Aghlabid dynasty, the Kasbah itself adds an extra layer of historical context to the museum. The stone walls and towers of this ancient structure contrast sharply with the delicate artefacts housed within, symbolising the city’s blend of military might and cultural refinement.
3. Discover Tunisian culture at the Dar Essid Museum
Dar Essid, situated in the heart of Sousse’s Medina, offers a unique window into traditional Tunisian domestic life. This 19th-century home, now converted into a museum, showcases the everyday experiences of a well-to-do family of the era.
The residence features intricately decorated rooms, complete with period furniture, ornate textiles, and finely crafted metalwork. What makes Dar Essid particularly interesting is its authentic layout – from the central courtyard to private family quarters and servant spaces.
You can explore the daily routines and social customs that shaped life in historical Sousse through well-preserved artefacts and interiors, making Dar Essid one of the most unique museums in the city.
Read more: 14 Things to Do in Hammamet, Tunisia
4. Take in panoramic views from the Ribat
The Ribat of Sousse is one of the oldest and most well-preserved Islamic fortifications in North Africa. Dating back to the late 8th century and originally serving as both a military base and a place of worship, the Ribat played a crucial role in the Islamic defence system along the Mediterranean coast.
Constructed mainly of stone and featuring robust walls and watchtowers, it offers a striking example of early Islamic military architecture. You can ascend the Nador Tower, the Ribat’s central watchtower, for panoramic views of Sousse’s Medina and the nearby coastline.
5. Go underground and explore the Catacombs
The Catacombs of Sousse offer a remarkable glimpse into the early Christian history of North Africa. Located southwest of the Medina, this underground network stretches for nearly 5 kilometres and contains as many as 15,000 tombs.
These catacombs were mainly used between the 2nd and 4th centuries CE, during a time when Christianity was spreading across the Roman Empire. The tunnels are often narrow but well-structured, featuring inscriptions and symbolic engravings on the walls.
Visiting the catacombs provides an intimate experience of ancient burial practices and early Christian life, however, it can be difficult arranging tours as the local government seem to continually open and close the catacombs to the public!
6. Visit the Great Mosque of Sousse
The Great Mosque of Sousse, situated in the city’s Medina, is an iconic religious structure that reflects the Islamic architectural ethos of simplicity and function. Constructed during the 9th century under Aghlabid rule, the mosque features a prominent square minaret, one of the oldest of its kind in the region.
Unlike many other Islamic religious sites, the mosque is devoid of elaborate ornamentation, sticking to a minimalist aesthetic. The interior courtyard, surrounded by arched porticoes, serves as a tranquil space for reflection. The Great Mosque is not just a site of worship but also a historical landmark that encapsulates Sousse’s rich Islamic heritage.
7. Explore Port El Kantoui
Port El Kantaoui, located a short distance north of Sousse, presents a modern contrast to the city’s historical landscape. Designed as a luxury marina, it attracts visitors and locals alike with its range of aquatic activities and boat tours.
The marina is lined with a promenade featuring cafes, shops, and restaurants, offering both local and international cuisine. Scuba diving, fishing trips, and jet-skiing are popular activities here. Additionally, the area is home to a number of high-quality golf courses, making it a favourite spot for sports enthusiasts. Port El Kantaoui offers a contemporary leisure experience while retaining a distinct Tunisian flavour.
8. Experience Thalassotherapy
Thalassotherapy, the therapeutic use of seawater and marine elements, has gained significant popularity in Sousse, aligning well with the city’s coastal setting. Numerous wellness centres and spas offer thalassotherapy treatments, capitalising on the natural abundance of mineral-rich Mediterranean seawater.
These facilities often provide a range of services including seaweed wraps, salt scrubs, and hydrotherapy baths, designed to improve circulation, detoxify the body, and promote overall well-being. Located within luxury hotels or standalone centres, thalassotherapy in Sousse offers a revitalising experience that complements the city’s array of leisure activities, making it a sought-after destination for health-conscious travellers.
Read more: 18 Best Places to Visit in Tunisia
9. Dig into the local cuisine
Forget the hotel buffet, because sampling the local cuisine is an adventure in itself. Offering a rich blend of flavours influenced by Mediterranean, Berber, and Arab culinary traditions, Tunisian cuisine is seriously underated.
One of the quintessential culinary experiences is trying the local couscous, often served with fish, lamb or vegetables and laced with aromatic spices. Brik, a deep-fried pastry filled with egg, tuna, and capers, is another must-try.
The Medina has a fantastic range of eateries and food stalls where you can sample Tunisian pastries and sweets like ‘makroudh’, a semolina-based dessert filled with dates and nuts. Fresh seafood is abundant in beachside restaurants, featuring dishes that make the most of the Mediterranean’s bounty, while Escargot is a suprising local delicacy introduced by the French.
10. Go to the beach
Sousse boasts an excellent selection of beaches along its extensive Mediterranean coastline. Boujaafar Beach is the most popular, owing to its proximity to the city centre and its wide expanse of golden sand. It’s an ideal spot for sunbathing, swimming, and people-watching.
Las Vegas Beach offers a quieter experience with its pristine conditions and crystalline waters, making it a favourite among families. For those interested in watersports, Chott Meriem and Ekhira beaches provide optimal conditions for windsurfing and jet-skiing.
Read more: 15 Best Things to Do in Tunis, Tunisia
11. Be awed by the Roman ruins of El Jem
A day trip to El Jem from Sousse offers an unforgettable encounter with one of North Africa’s most impressive Roman ruins. Located approximately 70 kilometres from Sousse, El Jem is home to an awe-inspiring amphitheatre, which is remarkably well-preserved and comparable in grandeur to Rome’s Colosseum.
Built in the 3rd century CE, this colossal structure could originally accommodate around 35,000 spectators. Its labyrinthine underground passages, where gladiators and wild animals were once kept, are open to exploration.
The town also hosts a small but informative archaeological museum displaying mosaics and artefacts from the region.
12. See the holy city of Kairouan
Situated about 90 kilometres from Sousse, Kairouan is one of Islam’s holiest cities and one of Tunisia’s nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city is most famous for the Great Mosque of Kairouan, an architectural wonder dating back to the 9th century.
Another point of interest is the Aghlabid Basins, ancient cisterns once part of the city’s sophisticated water system. The medina’s narrow streets are lined with shops selling traditional crafts and sweets, including the famed makroudh, a local pastry. Kairouan provides a deep dive into Tunisia’s religious and historical landscape, making it an excellent day trip option when you’re staying in Sousse.
13. Day trip to Monastir
Monastir, situated just 20 kilometres south of Sousse, makes for an easily accessible day trip. One of the city’s standout attractions is the Ribat of Monastir, a fortified Islamic monastery that offers panoramic views from its tower.
The Mausoleum of Habib Bourguiba, the founding father of modern Tunisia, is another must-see, noted for its lavish architecture and cultural significance. The city also features a marina and several beaches for those seeking leisurely activities. From historical landmarks to recreational spots, Monastir offers a balanced mix of attractions that make it an excellent complement to a stay in Sousse.
Read more: 15 Things to Do in Tunis, Tunisia
Map of the best things to do in Sousse
Here’s a map of the best things to do in Sousse, Tunisia:
FAQ: Things to do in Sousse
Here’s an FAQ on the best things to do in Sousse:
Q1: What are the top historical sites to visit in Sousse?
The Medina, the Ribat, and the Great Mosque are must-visit historical landmarks. For a deeper dive into the city’s history, the Archaeological Museum houses an extensive collection of Roman mosaics.
Q2: Are there any beaches close to the city centre?
Yes, Boujaafar Beach is within walking distance of the city centre and offers a wide expanse of sand and sea for sunbathing and swimming.
Q3: Can I engage in watersports in Sousse?
Certainly, activities like windsurfing, jet-skiing, and parasailing are available, especially in areas like Chott Meriem and Ekhira beaches.
Q4: What family-friendly activities are there?
Apart from the beaches, Sousse is home to various water parks that provide a fun-filled day for families. You can also visit Port El Kantaoui for boat tours and other child-friendly activities.
Q5: Are there options for wellness and relaxation?
Yes, thalassotherapy is popular in Sousse, with various centres offering seawater treatments, seaweed wraps, and hydrotherapy baths.
Q6: Can I take day trips to other cities?
El Jem, Kairouan, and Monastir are popular day-trip destinations from Sousse, each offering unique historical and cultural experiences.
Q7: Is shopping a good activity in Sousse?
Absolutely, the Medina offers a variety of traditional goods, from spices to textiles. Modern shops can be found in and around the city for those seeking contemporary wares.
Q8: Are there any unique museums?
Dar Essid is a unique museum located in the Medina, offering insights into traditional 19th-century Tunisian domestic life.
Q9: What kinds of food should I try?
Tunisian cuisine is rich and varied, featuring dishes like couscous, brik (a kind of pastry), and a range of seafood options, especially in beachside restaurants.
Q10: Is Sousse a good place for nightlife?
Yes, the city offers a range of options for evening entertainment, including bars, cafes, and clubs, particularly in tourist-heavy areas like Port El Kantaoui.