Only 25 minutes away from Sousse, Monastir is a coastal town with a very rich historical past. If you are here looking for a beach destination filled with interesting history and culture, Monastir is your must-go.
Owing its prestige to Caesar and Habib Bourguiba, Monastir has a rich history you will be amazed to explore. Before 1960, the date where Habib Bourguiba, a native of Monastir, had become the first President of the Republic, Monastir has its name mentioned in the majority of the international history books with special focus on roman or African history. It's mainly thanks to Caesar, the roman general used this town as a base camp during his African campaign against Pompey.
Bourguiba has a special place in the hearts of locals. The man who played a major role in the independence of the country dedicated an important budget for his hometown to improve its infrastructure and maintain its monuments.
As we cannot but recommend Monastir as a summer destination, we conceived a complete guide to help you navigate the town smoothly.
How to Get to Monastir
By car :
From Tunis, the ride to Monastir is around 2 hours. You need to follow the A1 highway till you reach the exit to Kallaa Soghra. From there you will take the way to Skanes till you reach Monastir.
From Sousse, the ride is only 25 minutes. All You need to do is to follow the road to Skanes.
For the way to Monastir, Google Maps is very reliable.
By plane :
If you’ve made up your mind on setting Monastir as your starting point, flights from many European capitals are available. Ranging from three to four hours, your flight will be that long or tiring. Bear in mind that direct flights are only available in certain seasons.
If you’re in Tunis, Tozeur or Tabarka, check internal flights with Tunisair and Nouvelair.
Your arrival terminal is called Monastir Habib Bourguiba International Airport and its abbreviation is MIR IATA.
There are regular train services from Tunis to Monastir with two daily trips. Please check the railway official website to know more about the exact hours, here.
The station is located next to Barcelone metro station and it's also called "Barcelone". One way ticket is less than 10 usd.
Your arrival station (train station) is called “Gare Habib Bourguiba Monastir”, which translates as “Monastir railway station”.
From Moncef Bey station, you will easily find a louage, a big taxi with 8 passenger sits commonly used for transport in Tunisia. to Monastir or Sousse. We highly recommend taking the one available on the station when you go there. As the time of louage is not predictable, these big taxis tend to go to their destinations once the number of customer is complete. If you take a louage to Sousse, you will easily find a louage from Sousse to Monastir.
Always make sure to go the louage station early in the morning to multiply your chances in finding one.
Good to know: there is no bus line between Tunis and Monastir. Opt for the above-mentioned means of transportation.
The Best Time to Visit Monastir in Tunisia
Due to the convergence of two climate zones, the Mediterranean and desert climates, Tunisia often experiences more than 300 days with sunshine annually. The Mediterranean region north of Monastir is known for its dry and sweltering summers. In June, the daily average high is 29 °C.
The average daytime temperature is currently 30.6 °C with more than 10 hours of sunshine. In July and August, daytime temperatures frequently soar well beyond 30 °C. Monastir's summer comes to an end in September. With summertime temperatures hovering between 20 °C and 30 °C, the first rain showers are to be anticipated.
In October, temperatures continue to drop, with daytime highs ranging from 21 to 26 °C. Monastir experiences wintertime lows of about 16 °C. There are occasionally sunny days interspersed with chilly, rainy, and windy ones.
The best months to visit Monastir are April, May and June. This period marks the beginning of summer break, so the prices are lower than the hot season's. Also, it's at this time that the city starts to become busy.
Monastir Itinerary: Great Things to Do
Visit the Ribat of Monastir
You cannot miss visiting The Ribat of Monastir and entering the housed-in Museum of Islamic Art. Owing its name to its function during the Arab Abbasid dynasty in the 8th century, the Ribat served as a monastery used by soldier monks to pray and fight invaders. According to mythology, if you held the ribat for three days, your spot in paradise is guaranteed.
Established in 796, the ribat witnessed a meticulous restoration in 1970. This renovation made it a great spot for international filmmakers looking for old and authentic locations. Famous cult movies like Quarter to Two Before Jesus Christ and Monty Ponthy have scenes filmed in the Ribat.
If you’re a movie buff, this is your place to be.
Visit the Mausoleum of Habib Bourguiba
Habib Bourguiba is a statesman who served as the nation's first president of Tunisia from 1957 to 1956 after serving as the Kingdom of Tunisia's prime minister. Known as the “father of Tunisian independence”, Bourguiba is well revered in Monastir, his birthplace and hometown.
The Bourguiba Mausoleum was built on the precise spot where the parents of the "Father of the Nation" were buried. It is a symmetrical building with two 25-m minarets on either side. Under the gleaming dome, the president is laid to rest.
The finest materials were employed during the more than 20-year construction process, including olive wood, marble, and pure gold. The "Supreme Fighter"'s personal items are on exhibit in a recreation of his office in a nearby room.
Visit The Great Mosque
Dating back to the ninth century, the Great Mosque was expanded by the Zirids in the eleventh century. While it’s smaller than the Bourguiba Mosque, it’s an interesting place to visit if you are into history and architecture. Some of the columns' inside capitals date back to antiquity.
Have a Coffee at Monastir Marina
In La Marina de Monastir, you can have a break with a unique view. La Marina, aka Harbor, is a small miniature of the cultural diversity of the town, the beauty of its nature and landscape and the open mindedness of its people. As the port has 386 berths for yachts and steadily gets 100% of occupancy the last few years, you can expect many travelers from the four corners and all walks of life.
You can sit in one of the numerous cafés and pubs in La Marina, watch yacht owners, locals and tourists navigating their daily life and enjoy your cup of coffee.
The Old Port el Kahlia
Known as the “Ancien Port el Kahlia”, the port lies near between the Hospital Fattouma Bourguiba of Monastir and the university Faculty of Medicine of Monastir. If you are into chill and authentic vibes, we recommend visiting the port and enjoying its refreshing calmness.
You can also enjoy a break at Café Restaurant El Grotte, a nearby café, and sip a mint tea while cherishing the mesmerizing view.
Zaouia of Sidi Mansour Ba Yazid
Wherever you go in Tunisia, stumbling upon a zaouia, aka mausoleum, is not that surprising. Monastir is not an exception. If you want to know more about islamic mysticism, this is your chance to get a glimpse of the architecture of mausoleum, the rituals locals conduct in these places and their importance to the local culture.
Dating back to the 17th-century, it’s fair to say the place is well-preserved.
Sidi el-Mézeri Cemetery
Lying between the mausoleum and the ribat, the large cemetery remains a history witness on the urban program led by Habib Bouguiba to improve the infrastructure and modernize the city. This program entailed a big destruction plan where the third of the city was demolished.
Things don’t always go on a plan. This is the lesson we can learn from this visit. Just next to the cemetery, you can see the two octagonal structures, containing the memorial to the Seven Resistance Martyrs.
Where to Stay in Monastir in Tunisia
Marina Cap Monastir Appart Hôtel
In La Marina of Monastir, there are a few blocks of apartments specially made for hosting people visiting the city. Unique in its concept, the rooms in this hotel are located next to the harbour where yacht owners sail and some of them prefer to stay for a few months.
Options cater for all travelers and visitors, whether they are solo travelers, couples or family. Regardless to what apartment you will pick, you can expect an experience very similar to Airbnb. You have your own apartment, where you can cook for yourself or bring in your food.
Nestled in the heart of La Medina, Dar Benti is the place to be if you are on an average budget. With prices ranging from 90 usd to 150 usd, the guest house caters for one of the best housing experiences, similar to Moroccan riads and Tunisian authentic guesthouses.
Near to all the attractions you are craving to visit, you can always be sure to tell people you’re “going back home” after your beach afternoons or mornings filled with adventures and discoveries.
Where to Eat in Monastir
Wherever you go in Monastir or elsewhere in Tunisia, you will find small shops proposing fast food menus. From Kafteji, Fricasé to Tuna sandwich, you can make your belly happy with less than 2 usd.
For budget travelers who want to save a bit, we recommend Restaurant Binnet Darna. Authentic food made with simple ingredients and suggested with interesting prices.
Mid range Restaurants
For those who can go for menus exceeding 10 usd, you can opt for seafood plates, seafood pasta or traditional Tunisian dishes such as couscous and oja in one of the restaurants mentioned below.
Dar Bibi comes in the head of the list with a varied menu of traditional food and
While in Monastir, you cannot get enough of seafood. It’s that simple. Le Pirate seafood is the address you absolutely need to visit if you’re a seafood lover.
Flowing between a sea terrace and indoor dining space, Ferik is your go-to restaurant if you want to have lunch or dinner by the sea and enjoy romantic moments with your partner and friends. This doesn’t mean it’s not suitable for singles.
For a fancier options, you can give Hôtel Hilton Skanès Monastir Beach Resort a try. The hotel sits near to the city’s most famous monuments, namely aMarina Cap Monastir and the Ribat.
Guests have the opportunity to dine in a very exquisite indoor restaurant and bar. Both Mediterranean food and traditional Tunisian cuisine are represented on the menu.
We highly recommend spoiling your taste buds with seafood dishes elevated with modern flair.
Day Trips from Monastir
Visit El Jem : Biggest Roman Amphitheater in Africa
El-Jem, which is surrounded by olive orchards, is about 60 miles from Sfax and Sousse. The town is home to a massive amphitheatre that dwarfs the arenas in Nîmes and Arles and is the largest remaining Roman structure in Tunisia and in Africa.
With a population of approximately 40,000, the city was one of the richest in antiquity. The amphitheater must be visited, especially if you’re into history and anthropology. Don’t forget to stop by the archaeological museum, that has myriad ranges of antiquities.
Visit Mahdia : The Traditional Fishermen City
If you’re into unique destinations, we highly recommend the traditional fishermen city, AKA Mahdia. Even though the city witnessed a tremendous rise in tourist influx in recent decades, travelers still don’t grasp how genuinely beautiful and authentic Mahdia is.
Once serving as a Phoenician trading center and then becoming Aphrodisium during the Roman era, Mahdia has managed to preserve its unique character, authenticity and the vicissitudes of history. Get a glimpse of the city's flourishing intellectual and artistic life by visiting the artisans’ stores and entering the Great Mosque.
If you’re craving more immersive experiences, indulge yourself in the unique Mediterranean vibes and go for a traditional fisherman boat tour. In these tours, you will explore life from the eyes of a fisherman and learn how to fish the traditional way.
In this true seaside paradise, we highly recommend spending the night in Dar Evelyne and trying their authentic food and dishes.
Spend a Day in Sousse
Your trip to Sousse starts off only after 20 minutes from taking a louage, aka big taxi, from the Medina of Monastir next to the train station. Good to know that the fees of the louage from Monastir to Sousse is less than 1.5 usd.
Once you google either Monastir or Sousse, you will notice that these two cities are like a twin. You need to visit them both when you set your foot in one of them. The reason behind this is quite simple. Both cities share similar culture, history and weather. They both boast great turquoise beaches and chill atmosphere.
As the second-largest city, Sousse caters for a great culture-filled tour. Ranging from the Medina, Ribat, Kasbah to the Sousse Archaeological Museum and Sousse Great Mosque, you will enjoy getting yourself immersed in the unique history of this part of the country and its hidden stories.
If you’re more into beaches, visit Port el Kantaoui or go for a swim in Bu Jaafar Beach.
Monastir, the Beach Destination with Lots of History
When visiting a new destination in the summer, it can be difficult to decide whether to spend your time taking in everything the country has to offer or giving in to “the dolce far niente” lure we’re all craving in our summer vacations. If you want to experience both the Tunisia’s rich history and its beaches, Monastir is the place to be.