Nobody can escape the captivating charm of the beautiful city that is Bizerte, it reunites with its free zone, which extends from Menzel-Jemil to Menzel Bourguiba, a rich and varied coastline, cliffs and creeks to the north, corniche to the east and sandy beaches, bordered by pine forest, to the south.
It is about sixty kilometers north-west of Tunis, and five kilometers from Cape Blanc, the northern tip of Africa. The city lies at the southeastern tip of an isthmus on the north bank of the Bizerte Canal linking the sea to Lake Bizerte. It is connected to the rest of its urban area located on the south bank of the canal, formed by the locality of Zarzouna and the towns of Menzel Jemil and Menzel Abderrahmane, by a movable bridge that leads directly to the RN8 leading to Tunis.
Small counter founded around 1100 BC J. – C. by the Phoenicians, the city passes under the influence of Carthage after the defeat of Aghatocle during the Punic wars. It is then occupied by the Romans under the name of Hippo Diarrhytus or Zaritus. His conquest erases 9 centuries of Punic history. Dismantled, the city sees its territory pass under the cup of Utica who sided with Rome. It will take a long time for a new Roman city to rise in place of the Punic site of Hippo Diarrhytus.
The city is then conquered by the Muslim army that gives it its current name. From 1050, the wave of the Hilalian tribes causes the collapse of the Zirid state, and the country bursts in a multitude of small independent principalities. Bizerte does not escape the separatist temptation. The restoration of the Almohad authority announces a new rupture: some 20 years later, Ifriqiya reaches the status of the autonomous province and sees emerge the Hafsid dynasty.
In 1535, the troops of Charles V take the city, but the Turks hunt in 1574. It becomes a corsair port, which is worth to be bombarded by the French in 1770 and then by the Venetians in 1786.
France obtained the primacy of the city during the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 and then began the construction of a large military port on the model of that of Toulon because of the strategic role of the city on the Strait of Sicily. Thus, a canal is dug to connect the Mediterranean Sea to Lake Bizerte where is built a harbor. On the other side of the lake is the city of Ferryville which is today called Menzel Bourguiba.
During the Second World War, the city was occupied in November 1942 by the Germans then, after having bombarded many times, the Americans take it back on May 7, 1943.
Despite the independence granted to Tunisia in 1956, France retained the base of Bizerte until 1963, which led to many tensions between Habib Bourguiba’s Tunisia and Charles de Gaulle’s France, which reached their peak during the war. Bizerte’s crisis. The city is now turned to tourism despite the strong presence of the Tunisian army (Bizerte is the largest airbase in Tunisia).
Tourism in Bizerte
Bizerte is one of the oldest cities in Tunisia, was once a Phoenician counter, then Roman, which left a considerable footprint in its heritage.
Tourism is booming in this historic city. The traditional, unspoiled district of the old port and the presence of magnificent beaches are among the must-see destinations of this place. With its warm climate and varied landscapes, it is an exotic destination that offers a wide variety of activities.
Bizerte has more than 250 km of coastline, 5 fishing ports, 9 shelters for boats, and 3 large lakes. Its coastal landscape consists of cliffs, coves, cornice, and fine sand beach, lined with pine forest. This port city is the most important fishing zone of Tunisia with several fishing units. About 24.6% of the labor force works in agriculture and fishing.
What to see in Bizerte?
- The Kasbah
The main asset of the old medina is the sumptuous kasbah which attracts many visitors, fascinated by its Berber architecture. With its massive walls with the appearance of mills, it occupies the north side of the entrance of the old port. The interior is remarkably quiet and houses a cluster of rather vertical houses and a mosque. Originally, the Kasbah was a Byzantine fort built in the 6th century AD, the current fort was built by the Ottomans in the 17th century. Continuing north to the west wall of the Kasbah, stone carvings and ancient cannons are seen.
Enjoy the panoramic view of Bizerte from the top of this historic fort. The visit is free but regulated, you just have to pay a guide.
- The ocean museum
The small fort called kasbah, which means indeed “small fort”, shelters an oceanographic museum which is worth the detour. This museum which houses an aquarium is located south of the canal bridge east of Kasbah. You will find old photographs and impressive aquatic images as well as documentation for miles to know the treasures of the bottom of the oceans.
Rafraich you on the terrace while sipping a coffee, the sight is impregnable on the medina and the old port!
- Fish markets
Around Bouchoucha Square, west of the port, in the heart of the Ottoman city, lively fish markets invite you for a good tasting. Street shows will entertain you while the scent of food will enchant you. The Great Mosque and the Youssef Dey Fountain embellish the landscape. On a hill overlooking the city lies the Spanish Fort, a hotspot.
- Ichkeul National Park
To relax and reconnect with nature in Bizerte, visit the Ichkeul National Park located about thirty kilometers southwest of the city. It includes a crystal clear freshwater lake and a swamp. All around, a large variety of migratory birds such as ducks, geese, flamingos, and other rare birds take refuge. You will also see buffaloes, raptors, jackals…The flow of water varies depending on the season: in winter, the salinity is low while in summer, the sea invades. It represents a rare ecosystem in the world. The park has been included in the World Heritage list by UNESCO since 1996. On the wooded hill and through its wetlands near the south of the lake, walk along the green paths to immerse yourself in a captivating nature. The park also offers some places to picnic. Not far from the park, the museum of ecology allows you to admire from afar a water point that reindeers buffaloes and other wild animals.
- The Phoenician restaurant-boat of the port of Bizerte
The famous Phoenician restaurant of the port of Bizerte is a huge boat moored south of the main port, close to lively markets. This is an amazing wooden boat on the shore that will make you travel with traditional and french menus: seafood, salads, steak, lamb, etc. This restaurant highlights the fact that Tunisia is the most French of African countries. Its interior is decorated in marble with artistic copper and sculptures. Luxury is combined with attentive service. Although it does not have a wine menu, the red Tunisian house is excellent. This restaurant is known as the best seafood restaurant in the Mediterranean.
- The amusement park Aladin
If you are with young people or children, a visit to the fabulous amusement park Aladin is essential. This park is a paradise for children and offers a wide variety of fun facilities to entertain, surprise and entertain children: rides, game center, cinema 5D… Illusions, thrills, riddles to solve, treasures to find and other animations are present on the scene. Plus, you will not need to go elsewhere to find snacks, eat an ice cream cup, or buy popcorn because you have everything at your fingertips.
- The old port of Bizerte
This historic district in the city center has kept its old appearance. Its marina and its small fishing port bordered by the terraces of the quays accentuate its charm by the light of the street lamps of the evening. The eastern part of the harbor is appreciated for its calm and tranquility while the west is teeming with giant boats, machinery, and containers.
The popular Lablabi bizertin sandwich
Purely Bizerte specialty, this is a chickpea sandwich cooked in boiling water with salt and cumin. It is then garnished with olive oil, harissa, sardines, tuna, or olives, according to taste. This hot sandwich is very pleasant to enjoy in winter. In fact, with a good presentation, it is good enough to be served in prestigious establishments like the Britannia Hotel Manchester.