10 Exciting Tunisia Roman Ruins Every History Fan Must See

Are you a fan of history and do you love Roman ruins? Then it might be a surprise for you, but Tunisia is THE PLACE TO BE! Tunisia is jam-packed with amazing historic sights spanning antiquity, Phoenicians, Roman, Arab and Ottoman times. As I love Roman ruins, I visited as many as possible. And I was very surprised by the amount of Tunisia Roman ruins that you can visit and are worth your time.

As things can get a bit overwhelming with the number of Roman ruins in Tunisia and the different names of places to visit, I share with you my top 10 with the most exciting Roman sites in Tunisia. As per usual, I share my practical tips on how to get there, what to see and look out for, for the best experience.

Join me as we tour Tunisia, to find the best Roman ruins sites around Tunisia! Let’s discover history together.

I paid for everything in full myself. I was not paid or sponsored. All my opinions and experiences are my own.

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Woman standing in front of a square ancient arch, framing a Roman temple in the distance
One of the best views of the temples in Dougga, Tunisia

Tunisia Roman Ruins – A Brief History

Tunisia, with its strategic location on the Mediterranean coast, has an amazing history with footprints left by various civilizations. The range goes from antiquity with Berber indigenous people to the rule of Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, and Ottomans. 

The region was first settled by the Phoenicians around the 9th century BCE, who founded Carthage. Carthage became a powerful city-state but was eventually destroyed by Rome in 146 BCE during the Third Punic War

The Romans rebuilt Carthage and made it the capital of the province of Africa Proconsularis. Tunisia flourished under Roman rule, with cities, amphitheaters, aqueducts, and temples sprouting across the landscape with Emperors Trajan and Hadrian commissioning many works. 

You can still see this legacy today in the remarkably well-preserved ruins scattered throughout the country. Most sites ask for a small entrance fee and the sites are mostly abandoned and still undiscovered by hordes of tourists. This makes them a dream for any history buff to visit!

Roman scripture on an ancient stone
Amazing Roman inscription that you can still read today

My Top 10 Best Roman Ruins in Tunisia

As I wanted to visit a new country, in the early days of spring and with decent temperatures, Tunisia quickly caught my eye. But when I learned Tunisia has so many amazing Roman sites and unique ruins, I was sold and booked my tickets the same day.

I rented a car and toured the country for more than 2 weeks, and visited a lot of Roman ruins. Even I was a bit ruined-out at the end of the trip.

I visited many smaller ruined sites around Tunisia and some bigger ones. Here are the ones I think are a must-see for anyone interested in history and who loves to see some ruins.

Exterior view of a 3-tier arched Roman amphitheater
The exterior of El Jem Amphitheater is nothing short of spectacular

Roman Ruins in Tunis

Tunis, the capital of Tunisia is likely the place where you’ll arrive. Either by plane at Tunis-Carthage International Airport or by ferry from Italy or France.

I stayed for 2 nights in Sidi Bou Saïd to explore the Roman ruins in Tunis.

1. Ruins of ancient Carthage – the must-visit sites in Tunis

Carthage, once the heart of the ancient Carthaginian empire, is a UNESCO World Heritage site brimming with ruins from both the Punic and Roman eras. 

Key highlights include the Antonine Baths, one of the largest Roman bath complexes in Africa, and the Byrsa Hill, which offers stunning views of Tunis and the Bay of Tunis.

I joined a bike tour to easily cycle around Carthage and find the different ruins. This was an excellent way to see the ruins of ancient Carthage.

I highly recommend a guide as the different ruins lay scattered across modern-day Carthage. The guides really offer an amazing insight into the history of the city, which forms a great base if you decide to explore more of Tunisia on your own.

Book your guided bike tour of the ruins of Carthage here

Woman taking a selfie with roman ruins and the sea in the background
The view of the sea from the Antonin’s Baths is pretty amazing

How to get there: Carthage is easily accessible from downtown Tunis. You can take a 20-minute train ride on the TGM (Tunis-Goulette-Marsa) line from downtown Tunis to Carthage Hannibal station. From Sidi Bou Saïd it is only a few stops on the same train line. Taxis are very affordable too.

Time to spend: Plan to spend at least half a day exploring the various sites within Carthage, although history enthusiasts might want to dedicate a full day to soak in all the details. The different sites are located far from each other as the modern-day Tunisian port city is built on all the Roman ruins.

views from Byrsa Hill on Carthage and Tunis and the ruins of Carthage beneath you
The views from Byrsa Hill on Carthage and Tunis and the ruins of Carthage beneath you, are amazing!

2. The Bardo Museum in Tunis

The Bardo Museum, housed in a former palace, is renowned for its extensive collection of Roman mosaics, considered among the finest in the world. The museum also features statues, sarcophagi, and other artifacts from various periods of Tunisian history.

When you visit the other Tunisia Roman ruins, you’ll often find signs that the mosaics have been transferred to the Bardo Museum, so it is really recommended to plan a visit to the Bardo Museum to see the best treasures.

How to Get There: The Bardo Museum is located in the Le Bardo district, about a 15-minute drive from central Tunis. Taxis are a convenient way to reach the museum.

Time to Spend: Allocate at least two to three hours to explore the museum’s vast collection, but art and history aficionados may find themselves spending a half day or more. Relax in the café for another round.

Woman standing in front of a Roman mosaic depicted on the wall in a museum.
Some of the mosaics in the Bardo Museum are larger than life!

Roman Ruins around Tunis

Not far from Tunis, you’ll find a few other interesting Roman sites that you can easily visit on a half-day trip from Tunis. Or you can include them on your Tunisia itinerary, as I did.

I rented a car in Tunis and drove around Tunisia for 2 weeks, but you can book a tour or hire a taxi for the trip.

Arches over spanning mosaic floor in a ruin
The old bathhouses are usually the biggest and the still-standing remains are pretty impressive

3. Utica near modern-day Utique

Utica, one of the oldest Phoenician settlements in Tunisia, boasts impressive Roman ruins including a forum, baths, and a theater.

The site also features well-preserved mosaics and an on-site museum with artifacts from the ancient city. If you understand French, it is well worth hiring a local guide to discover some hidden treasures.

How to Get There: Utica is located about 30 kilometers northwest of Tunis. You can best reach Utica by car, with the drive taking around 40 minutes.

Time to Spend: A visit to Utica typically takes around two to three hours as it is one of the smaller Roman ruins on this list.

A woman taking a picture from the car window of a Roman arched aqueduct spanning the road
With my rental car, I could easily stop to see the Roman aqueduct

4. Uthina (Oudna)

Uthina, also known as Oudna, offers a sprawling site with a well-preserved amphitheater, a capitol, and several large villas adorned with mosaics. The underground cisterns are particularly fascinating and highlight Roman engineering prowess.

The signs look faded and walking routes are mere suggestions. So take your time to wander around, get lost, or focus on the main attractions.

How to Get There: Uthina lies about 30 kilometers south of Tunis, accessible via a 40-minute drive. Renting a car is the most convenient option, make sure to include a stop at the aqueduct for great views. The train station of Oudna is located 4km away from Uthina. You can also book a day trip from Tunis with stops in Zahouan and Oudna here.

Time to Spend: You should plan on spending around three to four hours exploring Uthina, depending on how much roaming around you’d like to do. The site is pretty exposed, so come early morning or later in the afternoon.

Woman standing in front of a Roman Amphitheater with an arena and 2 tiers of seating
The Amphitheater of Uthina is amazing and it is one of the first things you see when you walk the modern walkway from the entrance

5. Thuburbo Majus

Thuburbo Majus, once a major Roman town, is home to extensive ruins including the Capitol, a forum, several temples, and baths. The summer residence with its intact mosaics offers a glimpse into the luxurious life of Roman elites.

The windswept site is quite remote so it might be worth your time to combine it with a visit to Zaghouan and the water temple.

How to Get There: You’ll find Thuburbo Majus roughly 60 kilometers southwest of Tunis, 80 km from Hammamet, and 115 km from Sousse. It is best to visit by car which takes 40 to 60 minutes depending on your location. I visited Thuburbo Majus on a day trip from Sousse.

Time to Spend: Allocate at least two hours to thoroughly explore the site. As I was the only visitor at the site and it was the last of the Roman ruins I visited, I toured the grounds fairly quickly.

Roman ruins of a capitol hill with columns standing tall against a cloudy blue sky
The main capital structure at Thuburbo Majus really stands out from the surrounding farmland.

Other amazing Roman Ruins in Tunisia

Although Carthage and the other sites in and around Tunis were great, the best Roman cities and ruins lay more inland in Tunisia.

I rented a car for a 2-week tour of Tunisia, and I included as many Roman sites as I could. 

Arched gateway to a big courtyard with 3 ruined temples in the background
The Capitol gateway in Sbeitla was one of the most spectacular ones I’ve seen in Tunisia

6. Ancient city of Dougga

Dougga, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is often considered the best-preserved Roman small town in North Africa, and my personal favorite. 

I loved the Capitol, the theater with breathtaking views, the Licinian Baths, and numerous temples and houses.

Sadly, I visited in the late afternoon and hired a local guide on-site. And because of this time restraint, we ran through the site. Combined with the heat it was an exhausting experience. Nevertheless, I feel I got a pretty good overview of Dougga. 

views of a restored Roman inner courtyard garden
This is a view of an ancient herb garden which they reconstructed with the plants that were most likely to have been used in Roman times.

How to Get There: Dougga is about 110 kilometers southwest of Tunis, taking approximately two hours by car. If you don’t have a car, there are plenty of day trips from Tunis and tours that include Bulla Regia and Dougga.

Time to Spend: I recommend more than half a day to a full day to explore Dougga’s extensive ruins and appreciate its picturesque setting. I wish I had that amount of time. I visited in under 2 hours and got a pretty good overview of the highlights as I was with a guide. If I had visited on my own, I would have taken 4-6 hours easily with more resting stops, and photo opts but would have missed some historical details.

I stayed 2 nights at Dar Kedija to visit both Dougga and Bulla Reggia.

Old Roman temple structure against a clear blue sky
The temples in Dougga are in a pristine state and stand spectacularly against the blue sky

7. Bulla Reggia

Bulla Regia is famous for its underground villas, designed to keep inhabitants cool during the hot summers. The House of Amphitrite and the House of the Hunt feature stunning mosaics and intricate architecture.

The site is really rural and wildflowers grow rampant. I visited when it was nearly 40 degrees and cut my visit short.

How to Get There: Bulla Regia is situated around 150 kilometers west of Tunis, near Jendouba. The drive takes about two and a half hours. Often, a trip to Bulla Regia is combined with a guided tour of Dougga, check for tours here.

Time to Spend: Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours at Bulla Regia to explore its unique underground dwellings. Half a day if you really take your time. I combined Bulla Regia with the archeological site of Chemtou, which has a great museum but it was too hot to tour the site on foot.

View on the underground 2nd level of an ancient house supported by columns and a mosaic floor
It was nice and cool in the underground houses in Bulla Regia

8.Site of Mactaris (Makthar) near modern day Maktar

Maktar, an ancient Numidian city later developed by the Romans, features an impressive array of ruins including a triumphal arch, forum, basilica, and several temples. The schola juvenum, a unique circular structure, is particularly noteworthy.

The site is enclosed and is basically a green hill with the sites scattered around along the edges. Walking around Maktar with views of the modern city through the ruins rumble put everything in perspective.

How to Get There: Maktar is located about 150 kilometers southwest of Tunis, taking roughly two and a half hours to reach by car. Find a tour from Tunis that includes Mactaris here.

Time to Spend: A visit to Maktar typically requires around three to four hours. There is a small museum on site and you can walk across the street to admire the arches at the roundabout too.

Purple irises in front of Roman ruins
The site of Makthar was covered in purple irises

9.Ruins of Sbeitla (Sufetula) in modern day Subaytilah

Sbeitla, known for its trio of Roman temples dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, offers a remarkably well-preserved site. Other notable structures include the large baths, the theater, and the stunning Arch of Diocletian.

Not all houses are equally interesting but some include some hidden interesting mosaics in situ. 

The site of Sbeitla is located on the other side of the main road, and the town of Subaytilah is across the road. Here, you’ll also find a nice museum.

As the site of Sbeitla is flat and has hardly any trees or shade, things start to melt together a bit into a hue of sandstone color, especially on hot Tunisian days. 

Woman standing in front of colossal temple ruins
Having an epic time taking pictures in Sbeitla

How to Get There: Sbeitla is around 250 kilometers southwest of Tunis. It’s a three-hour drive, so consider combining it with an overnight stay in the region. Police are pretty strict on where you can and can’t go but the city of Subaytilah is safe and open for foreigners. Always check the latest travel advice from your government.

Time to Spend: Allocate half a day to a full day to explore Sbeitla’s extensive ruins. However, I visited Maktar and Sbeitla on the same day and visited at the end of the day. It took me 2,5 hours to roam the site but I didn’t go into all the ruined houses and structures. 

I stayed 1 night at the nearby Sufetula Hotel with a balcony overlooking the Sbeitla ruins.

Woman sitting on a balcony overlooking the sandstone ruined site of a Roman city
Enjoying the views from my balcony of the site of Sbeitla

10.El Jem Amphitheater

Saving one of the best Roman ruins in Tunisia for last, the El Jem colossal amphitheater is really a GEM with a capital G!

It was the 3rd largest in the Roman world, which could hold up to 35,000 spectators. The nearby museum and the impressive collection of mosaics add to the site’s appeal. This is the 3rd Unesco Word Heritage site on my list, so 100% worth it.

How to Get There: El Jem is about 200 kilometers south of Tunis, accessible via a two-hour drive. Alternatively, you can take a train from Tunis which takes around two and a half hours. From nearly Monastir or Sousse it is only a 1 hour drive. You can easily book tours from Tunis that include Kairouan, tours from Hammamet, or a tour from Sousse.

Time to Spend: Because of its proximity to the coast and the beach resorts of Monastir and Sousse, the El Jem Amphitheater was much busier than any of the other Roman sites in Tunisia combined. It was the first time I saw hordes of tour groups from all over the world. Really take your time to climb to the top tiers, go underground, circle the arena, and enjoy the views from the stands. It took me well over 3 hours to take all the pictures I wanted to take and let my imagination run free.

Spectacular wide angle view of the interior of an ancient Roman Amphitheater with dramatic grey clouds and a modern African city in the background
The amphitheater of El Jem is spectacular, especially with the dramatic clouds drifting over

Roman sites in Tunisia

Tunisia’s rich Roman heritage offers a real treasure trove of ruins waiting to be explored.

From the majestic amphitheater of El Jem to the underground villas of Bulla Regia, to the complete city of Dougga and the collection of finest Roman mosaics in the Bardo museum.

Woman seen from the back, taking in the views of old Roman Amphitheater
Taking in the views of El Jem Amphitheater

Each site provides a unique glimpse into the grandeur of the Roman Empire. Whether you’re a seasoned history buff or a curious traveler, my top ten Roman ruins in Tunisia promise an unforgettable journey through time.

So pack your bags, grab your camera, leave your beach towel for a day, and get ready to step back into history as you explore the remarkable Roman legacy of Tunisia.

Helpful tips and tools for your Tunisia trip
  • The Bradt Tunisia Guidebook is a recent guide for information and practical travel tips. Purchase your copy here.
  • Book your hotels in Tunisia via Booking.com or Hotels.com
  • Find your direct flights to Tunis, Tunisia here
  • Did you know you can also travel by ferry from France and Italy to Tunis? Find your ferry tickets here
  • Book your tours and activities direct with GetYourGuide or Viator
  • Find your car rentals in Tunisia here
  • Unfortunately, things can and do go wrong when you travel in Tunisia. World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.

Let me know if you have any specific questions or need help planning your own trip. If you thought this post was helpful or fun to read, let me know in the comment section below. Or share it with your friends or on social media! And make sure to come back for more travel stories next time.

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