The second largest city in Tunisia, Sfax, cannot boast of increased tourist interest, although it is located on an excellent stretch of white sandy coast 100 km south of Mahdia. Sfax for Tunisia is primarily a major port and an important commercial center: according to popular belief, all the most successful businessmen come from here. Despite such an official and not fun-loving character of the city, an attentive tourist will find a lot of interesting things in Sfax: an old, not “postcard” and perfectly preserved medina with markets, hammams, mosques and caravanserais, an archaeological museum and a museum of folk traditions, as well as the colonial part of the city, built in the best traditions of French urban planning. However, there are still opportunities for a beach holiday: an hour away by ferry lies the amazing beauty of Kerkenna Island, where life seems to have stopped in the time of Odysseus.
How to get to Sfax
Sfax is an important transport hub in Tunisia, it is easy to get here from almost all corners of the country, primarily from the capital, from where direct trains, buses and minibuses depart to Sfax. The journey from the city of Tunis by bus will take about 5 hours and will cost about 15-20 TND. The easiest way is to use the luage – the minibus goes directly to Sfax without stops, departures are regular, the journey takes about 3.5 hours, the fare is about 18-20 TND. The only inconvenience is the need to wait until all 8 places are filled, but you usually don’t have to wait long. You can also arrive in Sfax by train from the capital – you have to spend about 3.5 hours on the road, a ticket in a comfortable class will cost about 15-20 TND.
From Sousse to Sfax can also be reached by train in 2 hours, bus or luage (a little longer), the approximate fare is 10-16 TND. The journey from Mahdia to Sfax will take a little over an hour, the most popular transport is luage, the fare is 7 TND. You can get from Hammamet to Sfax by train or use the same luage, however, in this case you will have to change in Sousse (6 TND plus 10-12 TND). For Tunisia climate and geography, please check TopPharmacySchools.
Transport in the city
The most convenient way to get around Sfax is by yellow taxis. Payment by meter, when boarding, you must make sure that the driver turned it on. The city center is easy to get around on foot: the linear layout of its French part will not let you get lost. And in the medina, even more so, you have to walk only on foot – the streets here are narrow, and transport does not run. This does not apply to scooters, however, so remember to follow the rules of caution. On the main square of Sfax, carts-“cales” are waiting for riders. For a contractual fee of 10-15 TND, they will ride you with a breeze and the sound of hooves around the fortress walls of the medina and along the “European” streets.
The most charming attraction of the Sfax medina is the Hug me lane.
The hotel fund of Sfax is focused primarily on businessmen: there are practically no resort hotels here, all options are located within the city. You can stay in two good hotels – Mercure Accor and Syphax or in, without exaggeration, magnificent Les Oliviers. Tourists are also waiting for private mini-hotels in the city’s medina – this is a great way to experience Tunisian life in the old fashioned way.
You cannot find good beaches within the city – in search of an unspoilt and picturesque stretch of coast, you should leave Sfax to the north or south along the coastline. The best beaches in the region are located on the Kerkenna Islands.
5 things to do in Sfax
- Take a walk in the most authentic medina of the country, embracing a stranger (or a stranger) in the lane Hug me.
- Try shrimp with Sfax sauce.
- Take a day trip to the Kerkenna Islands to enjoy the beaches, the sea and the frozen time.
- Imagine yourself as the characters in The English Patient in the Blacksmiths’ Quarter.
- Buy the best sweets in Tunisia in one of the famous patisseries.
Cuisine and restaurants of Sfax
Sfax is famous throughout Tunisia for its confectionery, it is believed that the most exquisite sweets are made here. For a kilogram of small goodies, they will ask from 18 to 35 TND, you can ask for a set of a little bit from each type for a total weight of half a kilo or a kilogram. In Sfax restaurants, you should order fish and seafood with Sfax-style sauce, which is pieces of finely chopped tomatoes with garlic and parsley, seasoned with olive oil.
Entertainment and attractions of Sfax
The ancient and authentic medina of Sfax is an Arab city behind the fortress wall without any trace of tourism: life here flows exactly the same as a couple of centuries ago. It makes sense to start a “swim” in the heart of the city from the Bab Divan gate (14th century) – they are easily recognizable by the three arches above the entrance, and they are located directly opposite the central square of Sfax. The Great Mosque dates back to the 9th century, entry for non-Muslims is prohibited, but you can admire its powerful walls and minaret (which is based on the minaret of the Kairouan mosque) from the outside. Next, you should go into the labyrinth of covered markets – the first to meet you will be the Fabric Market, lit up on the set of The English Patient under the guise of Cairo, and the dyers’ street – almost like in the Fez medina! And a little further away is the Blacksmiths’ Quarter – it also hit the film.
You can get acquainted with the life of the wealthy inhabitants of the medina in the Museum of Folk Traditions “Dar Jelluli”. This is a typical old house, turned into a museum through the efforts of its owners, the original furnishings of the 18-19th centuries are preserved here, while the building itself dates back to the 17th century. Even in the medina, it is worth seeing the tomb of the Islamic Sufi Sidi Amar, built in the 14th century (today it is a popular place of pilgrimage) and take a steam bath in the ancient Hammam of the Sultan (women from noon to 16:00, men – from 16:00 to midnight).
The most charming attraction of the Sfax medina is the Hug me lane. Its width is only about half a meter, and two people can disperse here only by touching each other.
“New City” (Ville Nouvelle) – the French colonial part of Sfax, spread out on this side of the Bab Divan gate. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops, as well as wide streets with shady ficus trees and benches. The most striking examples of colonial architecture are the city hall and the French consulate in Place de la République. The city hall also houses the archaeological museum, which displays finds from ancient Roman ruins.
From Sfax you can take a ferry to the idyllic islands of Kerkenna. The almost complete absence of civilization, endless beaches and azure shallow sea – these are their distinguishing features.