Monastir, located on the central coast of Tunisia, is a vibrant city steeped in history and culture. It is home to the Mausoleum of Habib Bourguiba, the first President of Tunisia, and the stunning Ribat of Monastir, an Islamic fortress that dates back to the 8th century.
The city is also known for its beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters, making it a popular destination for water sports enthusiasts and sun-seekers alike. Additionally, Monastir’s marina offers a range of activities, from boat trips to fishing excursions, providing something for everyone.
Monastir is not only a tourist destination but also a center for education and learning. It is home to the University of Monastir, which attracts students from all over the world, contributing to the city’s cosmopolitan atmosphere.
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Attractions & Things to do in Monastir
1. Ribat of Monastir
The Ribat of Monastir is one of the oldest and most important Islamic fortresses in North Africa. Built in the 8th century, it was initially used for military and religious purposes. The fortress offers a panoramic view of the city and the Mediterranean Sea from its watchtower. A small Islamic museum within the complex houses artifacts related to the site’s history.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes as there’s a lot of walking involved in exploring the Ribat. The steps leading to the watchtower can be steep.
2. Mausoleum of Habib Bourguiba
This mausoleum is the final resting place of Tunisia’s first President, Habib Bourguiba, who led the country to independence. The grand structure, featuring gold domes and minarets, reflects a blend of modernist and traditional Islamic architecture. It’s not only a significant historical monument but also a work of art.
Travel Tip: Photography is allowed in the mausoleum, but be respectful of those who are visiting to pay their respects.
3. Monastir Beach
Monastir Beach is a clean and beautiful stretch of Mediterranean coastline perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports. The clear blue waters and golden sands make it a popular destination for both tourists and locals. Nearby cafes and restaurants offer an array of dining options.
Travel Tip: The beach can get crowded, especially during the summer. Arrive early to secure a good spot.
4. Marina Cap Monastir
This marina offers a scenic setting with yachts, fishing boats, and promenades lined with cafes and shops. It’s a great place to stroll, enjoy a meal, or simply sit and watch the boats go by. The marina also hosts various events and festivals throughout the year.
Travel Tip: Check the event calendar for any special activities or concerts that might be taking place during your visit.
5. Old Medina
Monastir’s Old Medina is a labyrinth of narrow streets, filled with shops selling everything from spices to textiles. The architecture here, with its arches and cobblestone pathways, is a testament to Tunisia’s rich history and culture. The souks offer an authentic experience for those looking to delve into local life.
Travel Tip: Bargaining is the norm in the souks, so don’t be shy about negotiating prices.
6. Great Mosque of Monastir
Constructed in the 9th century, the Great Mosque of Monastir stands as a monumental example of Islamic architecture. Unlike other mosques in Tunisia, this one is not adorned with lavish decorations, giving it a unique and austere beauty. Visitors are allowed entry except during prayer times.
Travel Tip: Dress modestly when visiting the mosque, covering your arms and legs, and remove your shoes before entering.
7. Stade Mustapha Ben Jannet
For sports enthusiasts, the Stade Mustapha Ben Jannet is a modern stadium that hosts various football matches and other athletic events. With a capacity for around 20,000 spectators, it offers a lively atmosphere particularly during local and international matches.
Travel Tip: Tickets for matches can usually be purchased at the stadium on the day of the event, but it’s a good idea to arrive early for popular matches.
8. Monastir Museum
Located near the Ribat, the Monastir Museum offers a rich collection of artifacts that depict the history and culture of the region. Exhibits include Roman mosaics, Islamic art, and historical documents. The museum offers a comprehensive look at the area’s past.
Travel Tip: The museum is relatively small, so it won’t take too long to explore. Combining a visit here with the nearby Ribat makes for a full day of historical exploration.
9. Golf Flamingo Monastir
This 18-hole golf course offers a green escape in the heart of the city. Well-maintained and featuring a variety of challenges, Golf Flamingo Monastir is a great way to unwind. The clubhouse provides all necessary amenities, including equipment rental and dining options.
Travel Tip: The course can get hot during the summer months; consider booking early morning or late afternoon tee times to avoid the heat.
10. Spring Land
Spring Land is an amusement park suitable for families and offers a variety of rides and attractions. From roller coasters to water rides, there is something here for everyone. It’s an excellent way to keep children entertained while visiting Monastir.
Travel Tip: Weekends and holidays can get crowded. Consider visiting on a weekday for a less hectic experience.
Unique Activities in Monastir
1. Private Horseback Riding Trip
Embark on a unique horseback riding experience in the scenic landscapes of Sousse and Monastir. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, this private trip offers a chance to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty of the Tunisian countryside.
2. Sousse and Monastir Sightseeing Tour
Experience the best of Sousse and Monastir in this comprehensive sightseeing tour. From the ancient ruins and historical landmarks to the vibrant markets and local culture, this tour offers a deep dive into the heart of Tunisian heritage.
Day Trips from Monastir
1. Sidi Bou Said
This picturesque village, known for its blue and white architecture, offers stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a perfect place for a leisurely day of exploring and shopping for unique crafts.
Travel Tip: The village is hilly, so wear comfortable walking shoes.
2. El Djem
Famous for its Roman amphitheater, one of the best-preserved in the world, El Djem provides a captivating journey back in time. You can explore the underground chambers and even stand in the arena where gladiators once fought.
Travel Tip: The amphitheater is open-air and there’s little shade, so bring sunscreen and a hat.
Known as the fourth holiest city in Islam, Kairouan is rich in history and architecture. Its Great Mosque is a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers an in-depth look at Islamic architecture and art.
Travel Tip: Modest attire is required for visiting religious sites in Kairouan, so plan your wardrobe accordingly.
Where to stay in Monastir
Monastir, located in Tunisia, offers a diverse range of hotels for travelers. Whether you’re looking for luxury, budget-friendly options, or something in between, Monastir has something to cater to every traveler’s needs. With its rich history, beautiful beaches, and vibrant culture, the city attracts tourists from all over the world. Here are six hotels that stand out for various reasons:
1. Best Reviewed Hotel
Marina Cap Monastir- Appart’Hôtel (★ ★ ★)
- Description: Located next to the marina and the beach, this apart hotel is ideal for a relaxing stay and is just a 5-minute walk from the city center.
- Price: €45 per night
- Rating: 8 (Very good)
2. Most Luxurious Hotel
Iberostar Selection Kuriat Palace (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)
- Description: Facing the beachfront in Monastir, this hotel features a private beach area.
- Price: €217 per night
- Rating: 8.2 (Very good)
3. Budget Hotel
Hotel Mezri (★ ★ ★)
- Description: Close to the Marina of Monastir, this hotel is located in the wonderful site of the old harbour, facing the sea.
- Price: €16 per night
- Rating: 6.4 (Review score)
4. Hotel for Family
Regency Hotel & Spa (★ ★ ★ ★)
- Description: Located in Monastir, this hotel overlooks the beach and features both indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a balneotherapy centre, and more.
- Price: €41 per night
- Rating: 6.2 (Review score)
5. Hotel for Couples
Royal Thalassa Monastir (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)
- Description: Situated in gardens on Skanes Beach, this hotel offers rooms and suites with balconies and free Wi-Fi internet access.
- Price: €74 per night
- Rating: 8.3 (Very good)
6. Hotel for Solo Travellers
El Mouradi Skanes (★ ★ ★ ★)
- Description: Located in the Skanès region, this hotel offers rooms and suites, each with a private balcony or terrace.
- Price: €36 per night
- Rating: 5 (Review score)
Did you know? Facts about Monastir
- Monastir, also known as Mestir, is located on the central coast of Tunisia, in the Sahel area, and is traditionally a fishing port that has now become a major tourist resort.
- The city is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea on three sides and forms the Gulf of Monastir to the south, offering diverse landscapes including sandy and rocky beaches as well as a cliff stretching over nearly six kilometers.
- Monastir was founded on the ruins of the Punic-Roman city of Ruspina and features a well-preserved Ribat that was used to scan the sea for hostile ships and as a defense against Byzantine fleet attacks.
- The city is served by the Monastir – Habib Bourguiba International Airport, which has flights from most Western European countries and is run by Tepe Akfen Ventures Airport Holding (TAV).
- Monastir has a hot semi-arid climate with hot summers, pleasant winters, much sunshine, and low rainfall year-round.
- The economy of Monastir is based on the industrial sector, tourism, and agriculture, with olive cultivation covering an area of 60,000 hectares and the region producing fishery products, red meat, poultry, milk, oil, and olive.
- The tourist sector occupies the third occupation of the population, with luxury hotels by the sea, golf courses, and the region attracting many foreign tourists.
- Monastir has a museum of Islamic arts, housed on the first floor of the south wing of the ribat, and contains nearly 300 works.
- The city is also a university city, incorporating the University of Monastir, which was founded on September 2, 2004, and covers the governorates of Monastir and Mahdia.
- Tunisian ex-president Habib Bourguiba was born in Monastir, and his mausoleum is located in the city.
FAQ about Monastir
What is the best time to visit Monastir?
The best time to visit Monastir is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) months when the weather is pleasant, and the tourist crowds are smaller.
What are the top attractions in Monastir?
The top attractions in Monastir include the Ribat of Monastir, the Bourguiba Mausoleum, the Great Mosque of Monastir, and the Monastir Marina.
Is it safe to travel to Monastir?
Monastir is generally considered safe for travelers, but it is always recommended to take standard precautions, be aware of your surroundings, and follow local advice.
What is the local cuisine like in Monastir?
The local cuisine in Monastir includes traditional Tunisian dishes such as couscous, brik (a thin pastry filled with tuna, egg, and capers), and tajine (a slow-cooked stew).
What is the currency used in Monastir?
The currency used in Monastir is the Tunisian Dinar (TND).
How to get around Monastir?
Monastir has a good public transportation system, including buses, taxis, and a metro that connects it to Sousse and Mahdia. Rental vehicles are also available.
What is the language spoken in Monastir?
The official language spoken in Monastir is Arabic, but French is also widely spoken and understood. English is spoken in tourist areas and hotels.
Do I need a visa to travel to Monastir?
Visa requirements for Monastir vary by country, so it is recommended to check with the Tunisian embassy or consulate in your home country before traveling.