Hectic resort in summer, well known for its beaches and its party atmosphere, Hammamet is also a small city with an authentic charm. Turquoise waters, the scent of jasmine, white houses and stone walls gilded by the centuries… its medina fringed by fine sand is particularly poetic. Nearby, the new resort town of Yasmine Hammamet offers a more contemporary setting, while the forests and lemon groves are a real pleasure for nature lovers.
What to see ?
Medina or marina
Wander through the medina with its timeless charm, with its narrow streets and its houses washed in blue lime. At the corner of the outer wall, the Hispano-Turkish fort (16th century) offers a marvellous view over the bay. Take a break at the famous cafe Sidi Bouhadid: the dome of the patron saint of sailors keeps watch over the shore, it will welcome you in with a mint tea or a refreshing drink. Admire the gardens of jasmine and the beautiful villas such as Dar Sebastian (see p. 35) In the new resort of Yasmine Hammamet, to the south of the city, stroll along the marina and the wide avenues, take a break in a beach club or in “Medina Mediterranea”, a theme park with crenelated walls and souks like an old arab city. Feel like nature and authenticity? Head off to explore the contrast of the backcountry with a visit to the Andalusian town of Zaghouan and the hilltop village of Takrouna.
What to do ?
Golf or clubbing
King of beaches and watersports, Hammamet is a holiday destination par excellence. Dance to the DJ nights in the city’s famous clubs, try your hand at paintball or ice skating… In summer, find your favourite stars at the International Festival of Hammamet in the open-air theatre. Or take advantage of the casino and dinner-shows in Yasmine Hammamet. Practice your swing in the hills on the two golf courses, Citrus and Yasmine Valley (45 and 18 holes). Take a rejuvenating break in a spa or thalassotherapy centre. With family, visit the theme park Carthage Land, or the wildlife/safari park Friguia Park (30 km). Sailors, rent a boat in the marina to explore the shores of Cap Bon. Nature lovers, Mount Zaghouan is waiting for you, to go hiking or observe birds of prey. And if you’re a history enthusiast, discover the spectacular Roman ruins of Thuburbo Majus and Oudhna.
What to eat ?
Ojja or carpaccio
A cosmopolitan coastal resort, Hammamet offers visitors a wide choice of restaurants, especially around the old town and the International Cultural Centre. As a couple or as a group of friends, spend unforgettable moments in a medina rooftop restaurant, around a Mediterranean cuisine suffused with warmth. Share a meal of freshly caught fish on a shaded patio on a balmy summer evening. Choose instead a more chic and contemporary setting on the marina at Yasmine Hammamet. Or go for an authentic Italian restaurant and gorge yourself on a creamy risotto and indulgent desserts - many Italians live in Hammamet, and Sicily is only 200 km away… You can also nibble on some typically Tunisian snacks. For example a brik a l’oeuf, or “egg brick”: a crispy sheet of pastry topped with a soft-cooked egg, garnished with capers and parsley. Or try ojja, scrambled eggs in a spicy sauce, to which prawns or spicy merguez sausage is added for flavour. And for a sweet indulgence, treat yourself to artisanal ice cream or a cocktail of sun-gorged fruits.
Where to sleep ?
Big beach hotels, traditional guesthouses
Palaces, holiday clubs or traditional hotels, all sorts can be found in Hammamet. Around the city, numerous seaside hotels with a typically Tunisian charm fringe the beaches. For unforgettable family holidays, they offer vast parks cultivated with flowers, terraces shaded by arbours, swimming pools and activities for all ages. More recently constructed, the hotels of Yasmine Hammamet compete via originality, with their Arabian nights atmosphere and contemporary architecture. Other options: a guesthouse in the medina of Hammamet, or a comfortable rural guesthouse in Zaghouan.
Romans, Turks and Andalusians
Before it became a peaceful village of fishers and farmers, Hammamet in the Middle Ages was a fortified village, inhabited by a community of ascetics who watched the coast and sounded the alarm in the case of attack. Its Fort, which occupies the corner of the outer wall, was enlarged in the 16th century by the Turks during their war with the Spanish over the control of Tunisia. The backcountry of Hammamet was prosperous in ancient times, as can be seen in the ruins of Thuburbo Majus with its magnificent capitol building. The gigantic aqueduct which supplied the city of Carthage with water runs from Mount Zaghouan; its sacred source sprang from the Water Temple. In the 17th century, Andalusians expelled from Spain settled in Zaghouan, giving the village its particular charm. Further south, at the summit of a line of rugged crests, little Berber villages such as Takrouna dominate the plain.
Hammamet and the jet set
In Hammamet, many of the former fishermen's’ houses are today occupied by artists. They could be painters, actors, architects or gallery owners. Tunisians, Italians, French or Americans. Some organise luxurious festivals, while others simply enjoy the sweetness of the summer evenings from the roofs of the medina.
This tradition goes back a long way. In the 1930s, a Roman millionaire, George Sebastian, chose to live in Hammamet and build himself a superb villa there, taking inspiration from the local architecture and Art Deco style. He organised stunning receptions there where artists and writers from across the world could meet. Winston Churchill spent a time there to write his memoirs. Thus Hammamet became a fashionable city, welcoming Giacometti, Man Ray, André Gide, Le Corbusier, Visconti, Jean Cocteau, Guy Laroche and many more. The mansion, Dar Sebastian, is open to visitors and surrounded by a luxurious botanical garden; today it is the International Cultural Centre of Hammamet.
Hammamet is served by airports of Tunis-Carthage (70 km) and Enfidha-Hammamet (50 km). A fast and comfortable coach service runs from Tunis bus station. In and around town, hail a taxi.
Numerous stores selling handicrafts and souvenirs can be found close to the hotels and in the souks of Hammamet. Treat yourself there to ceramic tableware from Nabeul, klims and knotted pile carpets, foutas (hammam towels) with pastel stripes or souvenirs of beaten copper. In the city centre, clothing stores offer you a wide range of products at very interesting prices: leather clothing, shoes, precious and costume jewellery...