The cozy French colonial area of La Marsa (“anchor”) is located on a picturesque stretch of the northern coast of Tunisia, between Sidi Bou Said and Gammarth. There are few historical sights here, but this “lack” is by no means felt – La Marsa is good for its snow-white mansions with openwork forged balconies and classic French windows with indispensable blue shutters, a magnificent beach for bonton families, “three-fork” restaurants and stylish coffee houses. There are also some of the best nightclubs in the capital and upscale boutiques waiting for buyers. In a word, a lot of classic colonial France plus a light Arabic flair – that’s what La Marsa is.
According to simplyyellowpages, La Marsa, as a separate region of greater Tunisia, dates back to the 16th century, when this picturesque place was chosen by the then rulers of the country – the Turkish beys. The summer palace of Al-Abdaliyya was erected here, around which the Tunisian and Turkish nobility began to settle. The Turks were replaced by the French, who continued the glory of La Marsa as an area “for the initiated.” Today, life here flows measuredly and unhurriedly, and local residents divide their time between relaxing in their own villas, going to fitness, gatherings in cafes, dinners in excellent restaurants and nightly “parties” at cool discos.
On the coast of La Marsa, the views are amazing: in the east, peeps out from behind the hill of Sidi Bou Said, and in the west, Mount Gammartha, covered with coniferous forest, rises.
What to see
The first thing to do is to go to the promenade of La Marsa. Tunisian families with children love to sit on the sand, and sedate elderly Tunisians of French blood walk along the promenade. Cozy cafes and fish restaurants await visitors right at the water’s edge. There are amazing views here: in the east, Sidi Bou Said looks out from behind the hill, and in the west, Mount Gammarta, covered with coniferous forest, rises.
The center of La Marsa is the center of diagonal streets planted with lush ficuses, snow-white colonial mansions with small well-groomed gardens, cute coffee houses and boutiques. It’s nice to take a walk here, looking at the indescribable French-Arabic flavor (exactly in this ratio!).
The Turkish Al-Abdaliyya Palace is a luxurious building in the best traditions of Istanbul. Alas, the inside is empty – the palace is used only as a space for temporary exhibitions. It is worth going inside solely to enjoy the stucco-style openwork ceilings, stained-glass windows and inlaid marble floors. Admission is free, but tips to the caretaker are welcome.
For shopping, head to the Zephyr shopping complex, which houses clothing, accessories, jewelry and perfume stores on four floors. Particular attention should be paid to Le Gourmandise patisserie and Rayhanna, an Arab-Berber jewelry boutique.
The most famous local coffee shop is called Saf Saf and is located on the shady square of La Marsa around an old well. You can have a great dinner with a view of the sea in the restaurants Le Golfe and Le Sindbad – they serve excellent seafood and a wide variety of snacks, as well as an extensive wine list. We recommend hanging out to the sound of music in the “Dome of the Winds” (Kobbet el Hawa) standing right in the sea on stilts, three floors of which are given over to night fun.