Authentic and stylish, La Chambre Bleue is a world away from the sleek, cookie-cutter hotel rooms of downtown Tunis. It’s in the cool alleyways of the medina, for a start, and it’s hidden behind greenery and window boxes that look out over the curved contours of the old town. Buzz when you reach the enormous wooden door, and owners Sondos and Marwen will show you up the stairwell past the woodwork atelier, into their gorgeous home.
There are only a handful of rooms (from US90) for guests – the rest are taken by Sondos and Marwen’s stylish daughters – and all are decorated individually. We slept in the enormous suite, which is decked out with blue and white Tunisian ceramics, dark red sofas, writing tables, smooth wood carvings and pop-art style prints. The bed is worth writing home about; it’s carved into the wall, framed with gold and glass and large enough to sleep an entire family. Perfect for a lazy afternoon nap after exploring the medina.
But the best thing about La Chambre Bleue is not the decor or the arty vibe; it’s the chance to chat to the hosts over breakfast and get the lowdown on where and what to check out in Tunis. You can start the day with light and fluffy Tunisian pancakes, topped with apricot compote and sweet sheep’s cheese – it’s a winning combination that’s surprisingly good. There’s also freshly-squeezed apple and pear juice, and mint tea that isn’t saturated with sugar.
Staying here is a great excuse to better get to know the 13th century medina. Most visitors to Tunis only see its shopping areas, but there are hidden historic alleys and cobbled residential streets to explore. Some of the streets are part of a hip restoration movement, sprouting modern chicha cafes (where women are as welcome as men) and gelato bars. If there’s a downside to La Chambre Bleue, it’s that finding it among the winding streets can be a little daunting. It also sits opposite a mosque, so be prepared for the sound of the muezzin calling the morning prayers. Nevertheless, this is one of Tunis’ best kept secrets; you won’t regret slipping through its tall wooden doors.