18 things to see in Cairo: the best attractions and things to do

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Cairo, the Egyptian capital, was founded on the banks of the Nile River and today, immediately after Lagos, is the most populous city in Africa.
Cairo is a real concentration of history and culture and you will notice it from the first moment you set foot. From the great Mosques that you will encounter, Islamic heritage of sultans and emperors, to Pyramids, real testimony of Ancient Egypt and of the Pharaohs, passing through museums, ancient necropolis (unmissable that of Giza) and colorful and "spiced" souks. Finally, during a trip to Cairo, a suggestive cruise on the Nile, to discover surprising natural landscapes, is inevitable.

We are sure that all this will make you absolutely fascinated by this city, so we have gathered in this article the most important and unmissable attractions of the wonderful capital of Egypt.


  1. Necropolis of Giza
  2. Egyptian museum
  3. Souk of Khan el-Khalili
  4. Cairo Citadel
  5. Muhammad Ali Mosque
  6. Cairo Tower
  7. Al-Azhar Mosque
  8. Sultan Hassan Mosque
  9. Al-Azhar Park
  10. Orman Botanical Garden
  11. Pyramid of Djoser of Egypt
  12. Remains of the Babylon Fortress in Cairo
  13. Coptic Museum of Cairo
  14. Hanging Church (Hanging Church)
  15. Tahrir Square in Cairo
  16. Museum of Islamic Art
  17. Abdeen Building
  18. Ben Ezra Synagogue
  19. 10 things to do in Cairo
  20. User questions and comments

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1 - Necropolis of Giza

Surely the most important and best known archaeological site in all of Egypt, as well as the first stop for every visitor to the city of Cairo as it is just 20 km from the center. The Necropolis of Giza, today well protected by UNESCO, is a complex of monuments, real testimony of the ancient Egyptian civilization, which inside it houses the Pyramid of Chefren (the only one that still has the ancient Tura limestone roof on the top), the Pyramid of Menkaure (the smallest), la famous Sphinx and the Pyramid of Cheops (the largest): one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.
Egyptologists date the beginning of the construction of the pyramids to around 2.500 BC
The way in which the huge boulders that compose them were transported still remains a great mystery today, at the center of theories and conspiracies.

It will be advisable to have water, snacks and a hat with you, taking care to leave bulky cameras and tripods in the hotel (for which you may be asked for a supplement), thus opting for photos taken with your smartphone, NEVER inside the pyramids.

  • It is preferable to purchase a private tour (from € 18,00) to take you to your destination. Alternatively, metro line 2, from Martyrs to Sakiat Mekki 10EGP / € 1,00. From there, taxi to Al Haram 38EGP / € 2,00. Get directions
  • 8:00-17:00 (Ottobre-Marzo); 7:00-19:00 (Aprile-Settembre)
  • 12EGP / 6.00 for admission to the complex 200EGP / € 10,00 for access also inside the Great Pyramid.

2 - Egyptian Museum

Opened in 1902 and built by the Italians Giuseppe Garozzo and Francesco Zaffrani, the Egyptian Museum of Cairo is absolutely the most complete museum in all of Egypt as the richest in historical artifacts of the ancient civilization. The objects inside are 150.000, including tablets with engravings, statuettes, masks, bas-reliefs, various furnishings that are part of the funeral accessories.

Among the most important attractions of the museum, the room of Tutankhamun: which exhibits the entire treasure found inside his tomb; and the Hall of the Royal Mummies: which exhibits the embalmed remains of the most important pharaohs.

Obviously, it is essential to purchase the priority ticket in advance. To take pictures with SLR you need to pay a supplement of 50EGP / € 2,63. Finally, the Hall of Royal Mummies requires a separate 100EGP / € 5,00 entrance ticket

  • bus line 111 (19EGP / € 1,00) stops near Giza Pyramid ComRamses Station, 541 meters from the museum (6 minutes on foot). Alternatively, metro line 2 to Sadat (19EGP / € 1,00), from there continue on foot for 542 m (6 minutes). Get directions
  • 9: 00-19: 00 (Monday-Wednesday); 9: 00-21: 00 (Thursday and Sunday); 9: 00-16: 00 (Friday and Saturday).
  • 160EGP / € 8,40 adults; 80EGP / € 4,20 students.

3 - Souk of Khan el-Khalili

Khan el-Khalili is one of the main attractions in Cairo. This is the souk of the old city, that is a large market as crowded as it is noisy, but with unique and spicy colors and scents.
Khan el-Khalili is famous for being the second largest market in the Middle East, right after the Istanbul Bazaar.

It is made up of a succession of craft shops, where you can really find everything: from trinkets to herbs of all kinds, from silver jewelry to spices and the traditional costumes of belly dancers.

Visiting it will be a truly suggestive experience and you can also practice your bargaining art.

Don't forget to stop in El Fishawi: the Café of Mirrors. Charming and very, very old, it dates back to 1769.

  • It is 3 km away from the center, about 40 minutes on foot, but to halve the journey you can take the metro and get off at the Mohamed Naguib stop. Get directions
  • 9 pm (CET)
  • Free

4 - Citadel of Cairo

It is also known as the Saladin Citadel and is a fortification of the city, which was built around 1176-1183 and was the seat of power for 700 years.
The purpose was to protect the city from the incursions of crusaders from Europe.

The Citadel stands on a hill thanks to which it boasts a rooftop terrace offering a beautiful view of Cairo. Moreover, inside there are several buildings, mosques and museums: Gawhara Palace or Palace of Jewels, Carriage Museum, Military Museum, Sultan Hassan Mosque, Ibn Tulun Mosque and al-Rifai Mosque.

In the city, the use of Uber is very popular, extremely convenient and cheap, it is a valid alternative to official taxis.

  • It is 5 km from the center, but there are no reliable and punctual means of transport. The best solution is to take a taxi to take you right in front of your destination. Get directions
  • 8: 00-17: 00 (Mon-Fri); 8: 00-16: 00 (Sat-Sun). Throughout the Ramdan period the complex closes at 16pm.
  • 50EGP / € 2,40

5 - Muhammad Ali Mosque

This is located in the Cairo Citadel impressive mosque, as well as one of the most important in Cairo, built between 1824 and 1848, also known as the Alabaster Mosque: due to its alabaster cladding.

This mosque does not reflect the Egyptian style and at first glance it is very reminiscent of those of Istanbul, because the construction was ordered by Muhammad Alì Pasha who wanted it in Turkish style, as he was an Albanian military in the period in which Albania still belonged to ' Ottoman Empire.
On the inside walls, there are numerous verses of the Koran, whose handwriting is so elaborate that it can only be read easily by experts. At the back of the mosque, a beautiful terrace it will make you enjoy an excellent panorama.

Remember to wear appropriate clothing inside the sacred places. No to shorts and tank tops. For women: cover the hair with a scarf.

  • Reach the Cairo Citadel preferably by taxi, again due to the lack of transport and the walking distance. Once in the Citadel, the Muhammad Ali Mosque is right in front of you. Get directions
  • 8 pm (CET)
  • 140EGP / € 7,40 adults; 70EGP / € 3,70 accredited students.

6 - Cairo Tower

Built between 1961 and 1965, the Cairo Tower is located on the island of Gezira: a piece of land that it stands right in the middle of the Nile River. This structure is the second most important monument of Egypt after the Pyramids of Giza also it was for years the tallest tower in all of Africa with its 187 meters. It is possible to go with an elevator to the top of the tower where you will find a restaurant and a rotating terrace which will give you the best view of Cairo.
This building, in addition to being one of the most important tourist destinations in Cairo, is also the place where Egyptians go, on the occasion of Islamic or country-related festivals.

To make the most of the Belvedere over the city offered by this building, it is advisable to choose days with clear and clear skies.

  • Metro line 2, from Martyr to Gezira 19EGP / € 1,00, from there continue on foot to the tower (764 m, 9 minutes). Get directions
  • 8:00 - 00:00 (winter); 9: 00-1: 00 (summer).
  • 70EGP / € 3,40

7 - Al-Azhar Mosque

Founded by the Fatimids in 970 AD, this mosque is one of the best known in the Islamic world. It was founded as a place of worship and study, in fact still today it is the seat of the homonymous university, which teaches the history of Islam and the different schools of thought. Certainly one of the most interesting places in Cairo from a cultural point of view, without neglecting the charm and beauty of the building which fully reflects the oriental style. Modernized and enlarged several times, the building now has five minarets in five different architectural styles: these are evidence of the different dynasties that followed one another and exercised their control over Al Azhar.

  • It is 3 km from the center. The nearest metro stop is Mohamed Naguib, about 2 km away (30 minutes on foot). The nearest bus stop is Al Hussein Hospital-AL Daraasa, 500 meters away (7 minutes on foot). Get directions
  • 8 pm (CET)
  • 10EGP / € 0,50

8 - Sultan Hassan Mosque

The largest mosque in Islam, built in the Mamluk Islamic period (1356-1363) by order of Sultan Hassan, known to the Egyptian world for his crazy and eccentric expenses, including this mosque.

The structure, in addition to being really large, is also very flashy, just think of the courtyard paved entirely with mosaics and all the splendor that awaits you inside. Today it is considered one of the most impressive and extraordinary monuments in Cairo. Certainly one of the most important tourist attractions.

  • It is almost 3 km from the center, but on the route there are no metro stops to shorten the journey. On foot it would take more than half an hour, so we recommend that you take a taxi to your destination. Get directions
  • 8 pm (CET)
  • 60EGP / € 3,15 adults - 30EGP / € 1,57 students

9 - Al-Azhar Park

Al-Azhar is one of the most curious and famous naturalistic attractions in Cairo, its real green lung. It is a large green park to be discovered, strolling through its avenues typically adorned in Islamic style, surrounded by royal palms, acacias, jujubes and characterized by the curious company of herons and egrets.

This park will be able to transmit tranquility and make you relax, as well as of immerse yourself in a pleasant exotic environment. Inside you will also find restaurants where you can enjoy excellent, spicy and traditional Egyptian cuisine.

  • The park is 3,5 km from the center. Also in this case we recommend taking a taxi, due to the walking distance and the absence of metro stops along the way. Get directions
  • 9 pm (CET)
  • 20EGP / € 1,00

Always carry a map of the city with you and follow it scrupulously. In a big city like Cairo (which is the sixth largest city in the world) getting lost is very likely and getting information from the locals could unfortunately prove very difficult, as many do not speak English.

10 - Orman Botanical Garden

To stay on the theme of parks and gardens, another place that is definitely worth a visit if you are in Cairo is this botanical garden, near Giza. Compared to the park we suggested earlier, this one is different and does not in fact have typical Islamic ornaments, but inside you will find a rich and varied vegetation such as palm trees, bamboo, conifers, roses, cacti and succulents. Also could not miss the lotus flower pond and the rock garden.

  • metro line 2, from Matyrs to Dokki 19EGP / € 1,00. From there, walk to the Botanical Garden (1,5km, 17 minutes). Get directions
  • 9 pm (CET)
  • 10EGP / € 0,50

11 - Pyramid of Djoser of Egypt

Also known as the "Step Pyramid", the pyramid of Djoser stands in the necropolis of Saqqara and was built by the architect Imhotep, in honor of the ruler of the III dynasty Djoser.
The pyramid consists of six mastabas and inside the pyramid there are galleries and wells dug directly into the rock, in which a deposit of mummies of the royal family was found.
The white and turquoise ceramics that were found inside the pyramid and the very heavy slabs of pink granite, which covered the burial chamber, are very famous.
It is said that in the distant 1821 the explorer Girolamo Segato managed to enter the room discovering that it had already been violated by unknown persons.

  • located outside the city about 30 km (40 min by car). It is advisable to reach it by taxi or through organized tours. Get directions
  • every day, 8: 00-17: 00
  • EGP150,00 / € 8,70 (adults); EGP 75,00 / € 4,30 (students)

12 - Remains of the Babylon Fortress in Cairo

Built around 150 AD, during the Augustan age, the Babylon Fortress was an ancient stronghold of Christianity and stood in the heart of old Cairo or Coptic Cairo, opposite the island of Rhoda, where the Nile joins the Red Sea , in that symbolic point that represents the union between Upper and Lower Egypt. It is said that it was built by Sesostris, pharaoh of the 12th dynasty, who after defeating the Babylonians took the prisoners to Egypt to make them slaves. The latter rebelled and built the fortress, just to defend themselves and protect the place where they were.
Of the Fortress today only one tower remains, imposing and suggestive, erected in 98 AD
Next to the remains of the Fortress, it will be possible to admire the beautiful Coptic churches, such as that of San Sergio and Santa Barbara.

The ruins of the fortress are still visible inside the Coptic Museum in Cairo (which we will talk about in detail in the next paragraph), in Via Mar Girgis (Via San Giorgio) and in Fusṭāṭ (Miṣr al-Qadīma Old Cairo).

13 - Coptic Museum of Cairo

It was built in 1908 by Marcus Simaika and still represents a meeting of cultures, preciously preserved among lush gardens and ancient documents and testimonies: Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Ottoman and Byzantine history, including artifacts and statues.

The Coptic Museum is truly an unmissable attraction: a temple of the past, located right inInside the ancient Roman citadel of Babylon. Visiting it will be like taking a dip in the past and the passage from ancient Egypt to the Islamic one will be tangible.
The museum's internal garden is enchanting and the very particular mashrabiyya: typical wooden windows of Islamic art. An opportunity that in the beautiful city of Cairo you certainly cannot miss.

  • metro line 1, from Martyrs to Mar Girgis EGP18,58 / € 1,00. Get directions
  • 9:00AM - 16:00PM
  • EGP50,00 / € 2,70 (adults); EGP25,00 / € 1,35 (students)

14 - Hanging Church (Hanging Church)

Located in the Maadi district, south of Cairo, the Church of Hanging or of the Holy Virgin Mary of Cairo, is perhaps one of the lesser known attractions, but nevertheless very important and absolutely unmissable.

The church is an important stop on the tourist itinerary focused on places linked to the holy family, which characterize the capital of Egypt. Hanging is called "The Hanging Church" because it stands on top of the Roman fortress of Babylon. The interior decorations feature Greek Orthodox icons and thirteen pillars, which respectively represent Christ and the twelve apostles.

  • metro line 1, from Martyrs to Mar Girgis (EGP18,58 / € 1,00).
  • every day, 9: 00-17: 00
  • EGP148,00 / € 8,00

15 - Tahrir Square in Cairo

Not far from the Omar Makram Mosque, it was renamed in 1952, on the occasion of the Egyptian Revolution, and it is the most important square in the city, long the site of the uprisings of the Egyptian Arab Spring.
In the past it took the name of Piazza Ismailia, in honor of Khedive Ismà the Pasha.
Despite the numerous demonstrations and riots that have made this square almost the symbol of an appeal aimed at the fall of the regime, it still remains one of the most beautiful views of this ancient Egyptian capital. Among cultures that mix at the same frenetic pace of the city, a walk in Tahrir Square will represent a concentration of Egypt in just a few steps.
You can reach it by metro line 1, from Martyrs to Sadat (Get directions).

16 - Museum of Islamic Art

Perhaps little known, the Cairo Museum of Islamic Art is one of the largest in the world: 25 galleries and about 2.500 pieces in wood, ivory or glazed glass, carpets, tapestries, manuscripts, Turkish and Persian ceramics, dating back to the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, all from the homes of wealthy merchants or belonging to Mosques and other monuments of the city.
The mashrabiya preserved there are curious: particular tents in l
egno, which were used to shelter the rooms of the houses from the sun and which also allowed women to be able to observe outside without being seen.
The most important object on display is a Mamluk fountain built with semiprecious stones, green onyx and mosaic tiles.

  • metro line 2, from Martyrs to Nageeb EGP18,58 / € 1,00
  • 9:00-16:30. Venerdì: 9:00-11:30
  • 156EGP / € 8,20

17 - Abdeen Building

Long a royal residence during the monastic period, Abdeen Palace is now another of the city's most beautiful attractions and is one of the official residences, as well as main office, of the President of Egypt.
Built in a neoclassical style by a French architect, the palace was completed in 1874. Inside there are interesting museums: Museum of Silver, Arms, Presidential Gifts, Historical Documents. Very the mausoleum is also interesting, at one of the fountains in the courtyard, dedicated to a th century Muslim saint.
Curiosity: one of the gilded machine guns kept in the weapons museum belonged to Saddam Hussein.

  • metro line 2, from Martyrs to Nageeb EGP18,58 / € 1,00 Get directions
  • 9: 00-15: 00 (Saturday-Thursday)
  • EGP30,00 / € 1,63 per person

18 - Ben Ezra Synagogue

We are still in the alleys of Coptic Cairo, in front of what is certainly another of the most important tourist attractions of the capital of Egypt. Also called al-Geniza Synagogue, the Ben Ezra Synagogue it rises precisely in that spot where little Moses was found.
During the restoration in the th century many Hebrew manuscripts were found dating back to the th and th centuries, which represent the most important historical archive concerning the transactions of the Jewish community. These documents are now kept at the University of Cambridge.
The last restoration in 1980 brought the synagogue back to its original condition. Although today the synagogue is no longer used as a place of worship, it nevertheless remains one of the most interesting attractions of the city and is one of the most important testimonies of the history of the Jews in Egypt.

  • metro line 1, from Martyrs to Mar Girgis EGP18,58 / € 1,00 Get directions
  • 10: 00-17: 00. Closed on Monday and Tuesday.
  • free

10 things to do in Cairo

  1. Cave Churh tour: venture among fascinating tunnels to discover this incredible church carved directly into the rock. On site, you will also get to know the Zabaleen community: Christians who earn their living by collecting garbage.
  2. Felucca ride on the Nile river: it is a unique and suggestive experience by means of this small boat typical of the place. The tour allows you to admire animals, dense vegetation and small totally deserted beaches. From € 27,00 per person
  3. Nile cruise: if, however, you prefer the comfort to the felucca ride (a little spartan, but certainly more authentic), then you can opt for a cruise on the Nile, with drinks, good food, lights and belly dancing shows. From € 24,00 per person
  4. Shopping in the Cairo Festival City mall: a truly immense mall, complete with an artificial lake and illuminated fountains. For a day of shopping and food
  5. Relax at Ain Sokhna beach: reachable in a couple of hours by bus from Cairo, this enchanting beach on the Red Sea is perfect for a few hours of relaxation among clear waters and very hot and unforgettable sunsets.
  6. Visit to the Birqash camel market: located about 30 km from Cairo, a visit to the market is certainly a suggestive experience
  7. Desert Safari: one of the most adventurous and adrenaline-pumping experiences. You have several possibilities, from jeep or quad safaris to camel excursions. From € 45,00 per person
  8. Sound and light show in Giza: take part in the sensational light and sound show that tells the story of the pharaohs and the Egyptian people, told directly with projections on the pyramids and the sphinx. From € 37,00 per person
  9. Alexandria day tour: a small trip outside the city, to discover another of the most beautiful cities of Egypt: Alexandria. Between archeology, enchanting gardens and mosques. From € 65,00 per person
  10. Taste the Ta'amiyya: one of the main meals of the typically Egyptian street food. Fragrant, cheap and spicy, it is a sandwich filled with broad bean croquettes. Really yummy!

Plan your stay in Cairo: flights and hotels

Egypt is an enchanting and sometimes "difficult" land, our advice to better enjoy a city like Cairo is therefore to opt for an organized tour, with pre-established routes and expert guides, preferably local. For greater speed in moving, it is advisable to move on foot or by metro / uber.

We recommend opting for accommodation in the Gezira district: In addition to being a safe place, it also offers a wide range of tourist attractions, restaurants and indelible views of the Nile.

Between the activities particularly suitable for children, we remember the Botanical Garden, a tour of the Pyramids or the alleys of a souk (always holding them by the hand), colorful and full of little surprises to buy in a few bucks.

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