Carthage Walking Tour, Tunis

Carthage Walking Tour (Self Guided), Tunis

Carthage is a modern, upscale seaside suburb of Tunis and a unique place of archaeological and cultural value, situated at the site of an ancient capital of the Carthaginian (Punic) civilization, which fell to Rome in the 2nd century BC.

The settlement was founded by the Phoenicians in the first millennium BC and, after being destroyed by the Romans in the course of three Punic Wars, emerged as Roman Carthage, the major city of Africa Proconsularis (Roman province on the North African coast), eventually becoming one of the most important trading hubs of the Ancient Mediterranean and one of the most affluent cities of the classical world.

Following the conquest by the Byzantine Empire, Carthage was then occupied and used as a fort by the Muslims, from 698 until the 13th century, when the Crusaders took it during the Eighth Crusade. For another 900 years, until the early 20th century, Carthage had been little more than an agricultural village, though. It started to develop into a coastal suburb of Tunis and was finally incorporated as a municipality in 1919.

The archaeological site of Carthage was first surveyed in 1830, upon which The Carthage National Museum was established, in 1875. The open-air Carthage Paleo-Christian Museum contains the exhibits excavated here, under the auspices of UNESCO, from 1975 to 1984.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient ruins has made Carthage a major tourist attraction. Here, alongside centuries-old monuments, such as the Baths of Antoninus – the largest set of Roman thermae built on the African continent, the Carthage Amphitheatre, and the Punic Port – reminiscent of what ancient Carthage would have looked like, back in the day, you will find more modern landmarks, such as The Acropolium of Carthage, a Roman Catholic cathedral constructed in 1890.

To explore more closely these and other prominent locations of Carthage, take our self-guided walking tour and discover the historic part of Tunisia's capital in all its splendour!
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Carthage Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Carthage Walking Tour
Guide Location: Tunisia » Tunis (See other walking tours in Tunis)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Acropolium of Carthage
  • Musée National de Carthage (Carthage National Museum)
  • Carthage Amphitheatre
  • Parc des Villas Romaines (Park of the Roman Villas)
  • Thermes d'Antonin (Baths of Antoninus)
  • Carthage Paleo-Christian Museum
  • Punic Port
1
Acropolium of Carthage

1) Acropolium of Carthage

The Acropolium of Carthage is a Roman Catholic church in Carthage. The cathedral rests on Byrsa Hill among the ruins of Carthage. It was constructed in 1890 when it was known as Cathedrale Saint-Louis de Carthage, or Saint Louis Cathedral.

The cathedral was built on the ruins of a temple dedicated to Eshmun, the Punic god of healing. It was dedicated to Saint Louis due to that being the spot where he was killed during the Eighth Crusade.

The building was designed by French architect Abbot Pougnet. He used Byzantine, Gothic and Moorish architectural styles to create a unique place of worship. It has two square towers, two cupolas and a series of spires. The building is laid out in the shape of a Latin cross.

The Acropolium of Carthage has not been used as a place of worship since 1993. It is now a venue for public events and concerts. It is also a popular tourist attraction. Those who glimpse inside the Acropolium will find numerous artifacts and mosaics that date to the late 19th century.

Tip:
You can take the stairs to get to the 2nd level, but there's no access to the roof/bell towers.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 8am-6pm; Sun: 8am-4pm
2
Musée National de Carthage (Carthage National Museum)

2) Musée National de Carthage (Carthage National Museum)

The Carthage National Museum is one of the two main archaeological museums in the region (the other being the Bardo National Museum), and is located atop Byrsa Hill. It was founded in 1875 by Cardinal Charles Martial Lavigerie, on the premises of a monastery, and was known initially as the Museum Lavigerie.

The museum received its present name in 1956. Opened as a national museum for the first time in 1963, it is the product of excavations conducted by European archaeologists, particularly those made by Alfred Louis Delattre.

In 1975, excavations exposed a Late Roman house with fragments of Roman mosaics and, further off the property, there was a large church dating to the 5th century AD. Building plans to create a site museum went into effect in 1983, with the actual opening taking place a year later.

Among other things, the Carthage National Museum, located near the Cathedral of Saint-Louis, allows visitors to appreciate the magnitude of Carthage during the Punic and Roman eras. Some of its best pieces, found during the excavations, include limestone/marble carvings, depicting animals, plants and even human sculptures. Of special note is a marble sarcophagus of a priest and priestess from the 3rd century BC, discovered in the necropolis of Carthage. The museum also has a noted collection of masks and jewelry in cast glass, Roman mosaics including the famous "Lady of Carthage", and a vast collection of Roman amphorae. The exhibits also include numerous items from the Byzantine period, as well as ivory objects.

The National Museum underwent extensive restructuring during the 1990s, and has now been redesigned to accommodate new discoveries on the site of Carthage, especially those from the searches conducted under the UNESCO auspices, from 1972 to 1995.

Tip:
A ticket bought here allows access to all historic sites in the Carthage area, such as the Roman Theater, the baths, villas, etc.
Consider hiring a guide to bring you around and explain the history of Tunisia and the story behind the ancient ruins.
Early or late evening is the best time to visit, as there are fewer tour buses then.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
3
Carthage Amphitheatre

3) Carthage Amphitheatre

The Carthage Amphitheatre is a Roman venue constructed at the end of the 1st, beginning of the 2nd century AD. This is one of the three African amphitheatres built atop a flat ground rather than a hill; the other two being El Jem and Thapsus.

An inscription certifies that the amphitheatre had been in service from 133–139 AD. It was then expanded further, during the 3rd century, to earn great admiration from visitors, especially during the Middle Ages. Its total capacity was 30,000 seats.

Al-Bakri, an 11th-century Arab Andalusian historian and geographer of the Muslim West, in his account of the building described it as "the most wonderful in Carthage”. “This building is composed of a circle of arches supported by columns and topped by other things similar to the forefront arcades," he wrote. “On the walls of this building, we see pictures representing animals [...] can be distinguished figures that symbolize the winds: the East looks smiling, and the West has a frowning face.”

Another Medieval traveler, Arab Muslim geographer Al Idrissi, was also clearly impressed by the "circus building consisting of approximately fifty arches", saying, "at the top of each arch is another arch, and the arch of the lower arch. We see various figures carved in relief and curious representations of humans, animals, ships, all executed with infinite and immense skill".

Since the monument was raided by looters, the original stone and metal have been leveled to the ground. Thus, only the arena has survived till the turn of the 20th century, with a grove of pine trees in the middle. Later, the wall has been restored as well.

In 1887, a cross was erected in the center in memory of the martyrdom of Christians, namely Perpetua and Felicity, the two female saints of the Catholic Church.

Nowadays, the amphitheatre is still used for summer festivals.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
4
Parc des Villas Romaines (Park of the Roman Villas)

4) Parc des Villas Romaines (Park of the Roman Villas)

The Park of the Roman Villas sits on Odeon Hill, northeast of the Carthage archaeological site. The park is open to tourists who wish to see a well-preserved Roman villa, mosaics and the aviary.

The only villa that remains in good condition is the Villa of the Aviary. Significant restoration took place in the 1960s that focused on this villa. It has pink, marble columns, a square courtyard and a namesake mosaic of birds resting in foliage. It sits among a garden and an arboretum.

This villa has a terrace that opens onto the street. It also has an atrium, ceremonial apartments, a gallery and a foyer. There were also private apartments, baths and shops.

Primarily built in the 2nd century, most of the villas in this area are in disrepair, which stands in stark contrast to the highly restored Villa of the Aviary. In addition to villas, the site is also home to an amphitheater that was excavated in 1999.
5
Thermes d'Antonin (Baths of Antoninus)

5) Thermes d'Antonin (Baths of Antoninus)

The Baths of Antoninus, aka the Baths of Carthage, are the largest set of Roman thermae built on the African continent and one of three largest built in the Roman Empire. They are also the largest outside mainland Italy and the only remaining Thermae of Carthage dating back to the Roman era, precisely between 145 and 162 AD (built during the reign of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius).

The name is somewhat misleading as to the construction's origin; the dedicatory inscription notes that the Baths were built "with the permission" of the emperor, rather than by him directly.

Because of the ferocious predation that raged upon the site, to date, only a large part of the basement and a few vestiges of the ground floor have survived. Indeed, for centuries, this site had served as a stone quarry, used to provide construction material for Tunis and other cities throughout northern Mediterranean, and was seen largely as nothing more than “a colossus demolished and stripped of almost all its architectural and ornamental elements”. Its proximity to the shore only made things worse.

The complex was identified at the early 19th century and classified as a historic monument in 1901. The excavations carried out since the end of World War Two have resulted in the creation of an archaeological park. The glorious ruins of the Baths basement were excavated, for the first time, in 1944.

Following the UNESCO international campaign, the Antonine Baths were included in the World Heritage List in 1979, and then made into the national park of Carthage and Sidi Bou Saïd.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the most important landmarks of Tunisia.
The magnificent ruins, extending for over 300+ meters, provide an idea of the magnificence of this place in its heyday, when the missing vaults rose to a height of more than 29 meters, approximately an eight-storey building.

Tip:
If you have some knowledge of Carthage, then visiting independently would be fine; but if you don't, consider getting a tour as there isn't much information around the ruins.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
6
Carthage Paleo-Christian Museum

6) Carthage Paleo-Christian Museum

Carthage developed from a Canaanite Phoenician colony into the capital of a Punic empire which dominated large parts of the Southwest Mediterranean during the first millennium BC. The ancient city was destroyed by the Roman Republic in the Third Punic War in 146 BC and then re-developed as Roman Carthage, which became the major city of the Roman Empire in the province of Africa. It remained occupied during the Muslim period and was used as a fort by the Muslims until the Hafsid period when it was taken by the Crusaders with its inhabitants massacred during the Eighth Crusade.

The archaeological site was first surveyed in 1830, by Danish consul Christian Tuxen Falbe. Excavations were performed in the second half of the 19th century by Charles Ernest Beulé and by Alfred Louis Delattre. The Carthage National Museum was founded in 1875 by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie. Excavations performed by French archaeologists in the 1920s first attracted an extraordinary amount of attention because of the evidence they produced for child sacrifice. There has been considerable disagreement among scholars concerning whether child sacrifice was practiced by ancient Carthage.

The open-air Carthage Paleo-Christian Museum has exhibits excavated under the auspices of UNESCO from 1975 to 1984. The site of the ruins is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built on an excavation site, the sight lies above the former Carthaginian basilica.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
7
Punic Port

7) Punic Port

The Carthage Punic Port and Museum recalls what the ports of ancient Carthage would have looked like before the fall of the city. The historic landmark shows the ruins of the port, which was destroyed by Romans in 146 BC.

The port was filled in after Carthage fell. In the 2nd century AD, Romans began using the area again by porting their merchant fleet in the area. They also built two temples on the site. After four centuries, it was entirely unused and eventually fell into the ruins that exist today.

A small museum rests in the area. It has models of what the port might have looked like when Carthage was in its prime. While the museum doesn't have a wide array of exhibits, it is worth seeing the models that were carefully put together.

Along with the ruins, visitors should go to the Punic Port to catch a stunning view of the Gulf of Tunis and the inlet that surrounds the port.

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