From the outside, Dar El Jeld Hotel & Spa’s unassuming building set in the heart of Tunis’ sprawling Medina looks like any other. Its bright yellow intricate doors laced with black iron studs and knockers might be the only signs of what lies beyond… But seeing as beautiful doors are two to a dozen in the city, it was still a surprise to find an elegantly plush and contemporary boutique hotel in Tunis behind the facade, after walking through a series of stonewalled and tiled rooms.
The location of Dar El Jeld – a boutique hotel in Tunis
Tunis is often overlooked as a city break getaway with visitors heading to European destinations but with just a flight time of three hours from London it really makes sense if you’re looking for an adventure, plus a wonderfully diverse mix of different cultures and traditions as well as a history spanning centuries. It also has the largest Medina in the world which is also a UNESCO Heritage Site. What was once fortified by stone walls decimated by the French, spanning some 8km, its maze of cobbled streets and souks offer visitors a myriad of different gems to discover. And Dar El Jeld is perfectly situated for the hustle and bustle. Close to all the main sights, you could even head to the seaside at Sidi Bou Said just 20 minutes away.
Don’t let the exterior fool you. As with many boutique hotels in Tunis, converted palaces and Dars centre around open-air courtyards that were originally built to receive guests. But these now make for breathtaking communal spaces and this hotel in Tunisia has two of them which proudly illustrate the finest local artistry and handiwork.
The hotel has a TARDIS-like quality which extends to the suites. With only 16 rooms, it means Dar El Jeld can afford the luxury of making their accommodation enormous. My ‘standard’ suite consisted of a hallway, living room with a desk and entertainment system, bedroom with a king-sized bed and another flatscreen TV, a gargantuan storage area and cavernous bathroom with his-and-her sinks, a sunken tub and rain shower. Even though my suite was spacious, it felt homely. I often find it difficult to drift off to sleep, even in my own home. No problem here. The super-soft pillows and firm but supportive mattress meant I was asleep in no time.
With free WiFi across the whole hotel, a Lavazza coffee machine, tea and mineral water, fragrant toiletries and bath salts, super soft white robes and slippers, as well sweet treats delivered including fresh figs and chocolates as standard, it all adds up to a luxurious offering. The rooms have a wow-factor and you’d be looking to pay double if not triple the price in European cities.
Dar El Jeld Restaurant and Food
Dar El Jeld has a destination restaurant which is just a few minutes walk from the hotel. It is known for traditional Tunisian cuisine with a modern twist on staples including tagine and couscous, the Tunisian national dish. Being a Sunday, the Dar El Jeld restaurant was closed, so while I wasn’t able to eat there, I was able to sample the hotel’s cuisine at their rooftop restuarant.
It was a balmy night and being able to watch the twinkling lights sparkle across Tunis, while sipping an ice-cold glass of Tunisian wine was rather lovely. The menu offers a mix of traditional Tunisian and European dishes, and I took some time deciding. My starter of a calamari salad was delightfully fresh and zesty, which was perfect because I went for a rare fillet of beef for my main meal. It was all cooked excellently and a fine indication of why the main restaurant is so popular with foodies from around the world.
Breakfast for hotel guests is served on the roof terrace restaurant, too, – either inside or out. It has an assortment of different bread, fruits, cold meats and cheeses, as well as made-to-order eggs. One thing I can guarantee – you won’t be hungry.
Dar El Jeld Spa
Having never experienced a Hammam before, I was slightly apprehensive before heading into the spa. A Hammam (or Turkish Bath) is a traditional bathing ritual where steam and scrubbing ensures you are buffed and sparkling clean. The first thing to reveal is that you can’t be shy. A Hammam is done while you’re pretty much naked because every part of your skin needs to be exposed for maximum benefit.
The Darl El Jeld Spa is everything that I expected from a traditional spa, with heady aromas, pristine tiles, fluffy towels, and friendly staff. My French isn’t great, but even I managed to communicate with my therapist, who smothered me in algae before urging me to lie in a steam room for some time. Once I showered, I lay on a special table before I was scrubbed with a loofah mitt and rinsed, as well as given a massage. The effect, as I enjoyed laying down for a snooze in the relaxation area? My skin felt baby soft!
Verdict of Dar El Jeld Hotel & Spa
Dar El Jeld Hotel & Spa may have only begun receiving guests just over a year ago but its status as one of the leading boutique hotels in Tunis is firmly in place. The hotel effortlessly combines an uber-chic vibe with traditional nods, from the modern yet comfortable furniture to a series of interesting artwork. If you’re looking for an excellent base to explore the Medina, souks and cultural sights from The Bardo Museum and even the coast, Dar El Jeld’s team can help organise your every wish or command.
Even though there is a delicate balance of exuding the right amount of trendy and offering a relaxing getaway to escape from the Medina’s crowds, Dar El Jeld gets it just right. Bright young things will fit right at home, with perfectly placed Instagrammable spots, while couples, groups of friends and even families will find the hotel comfortable and modern but not too ostentatious.
With prices starting from £140 per night for a junior suite, those looking for a city break with an edge, a well as a high-end boutique hotel in Tunis, at reasonable prices, then Dar El Jeld is the perfect choice for a Tunisian holiday.
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