Are you planning a visit to El Jem in Tunisia? This ancient Roman amphitheatre is magnificent! El Jem is one of the best-preserved Roman stone ruins in the world, and for its age (built around 238 AD), it’s very impressive! This is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979 and must be on your bucket list when visiting Tunisia.
Here’s everything you need to know to plan your visit.
How to get to El Jem in Tunisia
We took a day trip to visit El Jem from the coastal city of Monastir. We based ourselves here for few days at Cap Marina Aparthotel.
Our breezy two-storey apartment costs 68 TND per night ($24.00). It’s located right on the picturesque marina and we had a range of restaurants and cafes around us and it’s an easy 10-15 min into the city and Old Town.
The views of the marina from our Aparthotel in Monastir
A day trip to El Jem in Tunisia is also easy if you base yourself in the city of Sousse. This is a popular option with travellers as Sousse is a good hub to explore this region of Tunisia. My recommendation for a good budget accommodation in Sousse is Hotel Paris. The hotel is located in the Medina, it’s clean and comfortable and their prices are unbeatable. If you need a little more comfort and you have a bigger budget to spend, then the Sousse Pearl Marriott Resort is your best option.
Take a louage from the station to get to El Jem in Tunisia
To get around in Tunisia, louage public transportation is very convenient, reliable and affordable. For any trip to a new destination, you first need to get to the ‘louage station’. Once you arrive here, line up at the ticket booth and purchase a ticket for your destination. You will receive a ticket/receipt with two pieces. Your ticket shows the price paid and also the number plate of the vehicle taking you there.
It’s easy to find the minivan for your destination as there are city signs posted. The driver will take the small piece of the receipt and you can get into the vehicle. You need to wait until it fills up with more passengers, but it never seems to take too long. Many Tunisians move around the country by louage.
If you don’t have your own vehicle, the best way to reach El Jem in Tunisia is to take a louage.
The journey to El Jem
To get to El Jem from Monastir, we first had to take a louage to Sousse. We learned that Sousse is the hub to visit many other cities, hence why we had to go here first and change rides to continue on to El Jem.
The louage ticket from Monastir to Sousse was 2250 TND per person ($0.80 cents ). This is a 20 min drive. We then purchased another ticket in Sousse station for El Jem 5900 TND each ($2.05 ) and caught a different vehicle. The journey time is 1 hour.
The town of El Jem is relatively small. The amphitheatre is close to the louage station. Louage is the public transportation (minivans) to get around in Tunisia. This was our preferred means of transport used to get around the country. The train station is also nearby. You can easily walk to the amphitheatre and the museum, and around town.
Price of a ticket to visit El Jem in Tunisia
You can purchase a ticket to the amphitheatre at the small booth just in front. The price is 12000 TND ($4.00 USD).
NOTE: Keep your entrance ticket as it will give you entry to the Archeological Museum afterwards (highly recommended).
More about the amphitheatre of El Jem
The amphitheatre of El Jem in Tunisia is magnificent! One of our favourite places to visit in the country.
El Jem, in Tunisia, has to be one of the greatest examples of Roman architecture in Africa. The ancient cities of Sabratha and Leptis Magna we visited during our trip to Libya are on par. It was built solely for bloody contests and sporting events, and it also worked as a cistern to accumulate rainwater. The Romans were incredibly innovative in terms of building architecture and structures with multiple uses.
It provided seating to accommodate more than 30,000 spectators. The amphitheatre was once the stage for gory battles between gladiators & criminals and wild animals. The animals ( usually lions, tigers and wild boars) would be starved and beaten for several days before a show. The incredibly stressed and hungry wild animals would provide better entertainment for the spectators.
Underneath the amphitheatre, there are two intersecting underground passages. This is where the gladiators and wild animals entered the arena for battle. It’s easy to imagine the passages being once lined with cells and enclosures where the animals and fighters would be held before the bloody games started.
El Jem in Tunisia is INCREDIBLE
Similar to the colosseum in Rome, there are three different levels. You can climb to the second and third levels and take some spectacular photos of the arena. Each of the three levels had 30 arches originally. Surprisingly, there are still more than 60 that remain.
And unlike visiting the colosseum in Rome, you won’t need to shuffle elbow to elbow with a thousand other visitors. El Jem in Tunisia doesn’t receive a staggering number of tourists at all. In fact, during our visit in early December 2021, we saw just six other people here.
For us as visitors, what a dream it is to have such an incredible place literally to ourselves, but more people need to experience this site. I’d love to see more travellers visiting El Jem in Tunisia and continue exploring the rest of the country. The medina in Tunis, another UNESCO World Heritage site was another amazing experience, our top 5 things to do in the Medina in Tunis will keep you busy.
Don’t miss the Archeological Museum El Jem in Tunisia
When planning your visit to El Jem, ensure you allow enough time to go and visit the Archeological museum afterwards. It is AMAZING! It’s only a 10-minute walk from the amphitheatre.
The museum entrance is included in your ticket from the amphitheatre, so be sure to keep it to show upon entry.
The mosaics in particular are amazing in the archeological museum in El Jem in Tunisia
The museum has an extraordinary selection of well-preserved Roman-era mosaics adorning the walls and floors in many sizes.
There are countless Roman artifacts here too. Seriously, this is an incredible museum. The mosaics and artifacts were found in El Jem and the surrounding area and brought to the museum to preserve.
TOP TIP: Make sure you venture through to the rear of the museum to visit the House of Africa. This Roman villa from AD 170 was also excavated from the centre of El Jem in Tunisia and transferred to the museum and reconstructed for display. There are some stunning mosaics on the ground that I absolutely loved!
Marty standing near just one of the many huge mosaics in the museum
Where to Stay in El Jem
There are two good options for comfortable and affordable accommodation in El Jem.
Hotel Julius is your best option. It is located only 1km from the amphitheatre and there are rooms with amazing views of the structure.
Dar Ammar is another recommended option, yet this hotel is approximately 3km from the colosseum. Dar Amman is situated nearer to the beach. It’s a good thing that taxis are very affordable in Tunisia, so it will cost you no more than $1.50 to get to the amphitheatre if you don’t wish to walk.
Don’t forget to organise Travel Insurance
Never leave home without travel insurance! Seriously, things don’t always go to plan. When that happens, it’s good to be covered.
We use and recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance. We’ve used this company for more than ten years now and they’ve covered us in more than 150 countries.
SafetyWing Travel Insurance is another fantastic travel insurance company. It was created by travellers, for travellers. These guys offer Travel Medical Insurance that covers people from all over the world, while outside their home country – The best part is that COVID-19 coverage is included in their very affordable plans.
Rach is a self-confessed travelling foodie. Her passion for food and culture has seen her eat her way through 187 countries. She's currently on a big food adventure to visit EVERY country in the world!
When Rach isn't travelling, you can find her at the beach, drinking coffee or wine with friends or chowing down on the best eats around her home city of Melbourne, Australia.