Egypt is one of those countries that is best known for its history with antiquities from over 6000 years ago and it’s great Temples. Though it is mostly known for the Giza pyramids, they’re other places to visit in Cairo that should not be overlooked. Most people that travel to Cairo just visit the Giza pyramids and then later head to either Dahab or Sharm el sheik missing out on some major Cairo tourist attractions. So if you’re looking for what to do in Cairo, then here are the best places in Cairo that you should add to your itinerary.
Best places to visit in Cairo
1. The Giza pyramids and the Sphinx
Of course, the Giza pyramids have to top the list of the best places to visit in Cairo for every traveler. These magnificent sites that were built centuries ago are one of the remaining 7 wonders of the ancient world. Millions of tourist flock in every year majorly to see the great pyramids of Giza and it’s no surprise that it is one of the most visited Cairo attractions and Egypt as a whole. I wrote a complete guide about visiting the Giza pyramids in one of my previous posts which you find here to get more information about the price, location, how to get there and what to expect.
Just in front of the Giza Pyramids, the Sphinx lays with the head of a human and the body of a lion. It was constructed by Pharoah Khafre with the sole purpose of guarding the Pharaohs’ tombs. You can explore the Giza pyramids but if you want to skip the lines while purchasing the ticket, learn aboou the hostory of the pyramids, i’d suggest going for a guided tour. There are many tours you can opt for but this particular Half day private tour from getyourguide is what i recommend to get the most of your Pyramids tour.
2. The Egyptian Museum.
Located in the heart of Cairo, the museum harbors all the ancient history of Egypt. It houses the world’s largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities. The museum was established by the Egyptian government in 1835 near Ezbekeyah Garden but over the years it’s been moved to several places. And in 1902, it was moved to its current location in the Tahrir Square.
It is always open from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 4 pm. With the price of 120 Egyptian pounds, you get to see everything from centuries ago. Most of the artifacts are well-preserved even up to date including the mummies. Some of the major highlights in the Museum include the Tutankhamun’s death mask and sarcophagi, Pharaoh’s lion throne, the Egyptian jewelry collection, and the Royal mummies collection. However, taking photos in the mummies room is highly prohibited.
Regardless of how huge the current Egyptian Museum is, the Egyptian government has constructed the Grand Egyptian Museum which is yet to officially open in late 2019 and it is anticipated to be the biggest museum in the world housing over 100, 000 artifacts from Egypt’s ancient days. With the new Grand Egyptian Museum being in great proximity with the Giza pyramids, this will definitely be one of the best places to visit in Cairo.
One thing i still regret about my visit to the Egyptian Museum is not paying for a tour guide. After the visit, i felt like i didn’t lean more about Egypt’s history as much as i had wanted. All i did was wander around the Museum, read a few writings that were available but they weren’t much. And i was a bit jealous of people who had a private tour guide explaining to them everything they saw (ofcourse they had earphones on so no one out of the group could hear the info delivered) and it was a bit too late to get one. So if I ever get a chance to go back, i’d definetely pay for a guided tour and this is what i’d go for as i’ve read a number of positive reviews about it. I hope you don’t make the same mistake i did, so before you go, book this private guided tour to learn even more about the ancient life of Egypt.
Have more days in Egypt? Check out this Perfect Egypt Itinerary for 5 to 10 days to see other places you can visit other than Cairo.
3. Cairo Citadel.
The Cairo Citadel also known as the Citadel of Salah ad-Din may not be one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world but it is one of Egypt’s landmarks and an Islamic medieval fortification in Cairo. The mosque of Muhammad Ali that sits in the center of the Citadel is the main reason why most people visit this place. The architecture of the Mosque has a resemblance to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul as it was built by a Turkish architect making it not only an architectural wonder but also one of the greatest Cairo landmarks.
Cairo Citadel is located on Mokattam Hill as it can be seen from far away and it was done so as a way of seeing attackers from afar and to make it difficult for them to be attacked. It is also surrounded by a huge wall which was built with the sole purpose of protecting the city against enemies.
A visit to the Citadel also gives 360 degrees views of Cairo city from the large Gawhara Terrace. On clear days, you can even get a glimpse of the Giza pyramids. Other places to see around the Citadel include; the El- Nair Mosque which is just northeast of the Muhammad Ali Mosque. It is a collection of other smaller museums like the Police Museum, National military museum, and the Carriage Museum.
It costs around 30 Egyptian pounds to enter the Citadel and just like entering any other mosque, your legs and shoulders must be covered to access the Mosque of Muhammad. But if you came a bit unprepared, you pay an extra 10 Egyptian pounds to rent a cover. But if you want to go for a guided tour of the citadel and old Cairo in general, you can find the perfect tour here on getyourguide plus reviews of satisfied previous clients.
Related post: The ultimate guide to traveling to Egypt
The Cairo Tower is not only one of the major Cairo attractions for tourists but also one of the most recognizable modern monuments in Cairo. It is the tallest structure in Egypt and the whole of North Africa with 187 meters and 90 floors and once the tallest in Africa until 1971 when it was surpassed by Hillbrow Tower in South Africa.
The tower has an elevator so you shouldn’t be worried about taking all those stairs. It is sometimes considered by some people to be the second most famous site in Cairo after the Pyramids of Giza.
The best time to visit the Cairo Tower is in the evening as it’s the best place to catch an amazing sunset and to also see the beautiful lights of the city as the sun falls. Like the Cairo citadel, the Cairo tower offers 360 degrees views over Cairo city except that it just gets better.
5. River Nile
One of the other places to go in Cairo is the Nile River. With its source as Uganda, Egypt also shares the benefits of this largest river in the world. For many years ago the River Nile was the main source of water for ancient Egypt and it still is.
The famous river Nile is just a few minutes walk from Tahir square in Cairo downtown. Ramble around the river banks while enjoying the cool breeze and taking in the incredible views.
To enjoy the Nile even more, go for a Nile river cruise. You can go for the traditional felucca boat ride or opt for this fancy dinner Nile river cruise. The Nile river dinner cruise also come with a belly-dancing show to make the cruise even more entertaining. Whichever option you choose, you’re bound to have a spectacular time on the Nile.
6. Khan El Khalili market.
The Khan el Khalili market is one of the places to visit in Egypt Cairo to fully immerse yourself in the livelihood of locals in downtown Cairo. It is the most famous street market in Cairo and it would be such a shame to visit Cairo and not go to this bustling market that has all the merchandise you can think of.
If you want to buy souvenirs from Cairo, this is the best place to go. They sell almost everything from oil perfumes, handmade accessories, gold-coated kitchenware (the seller might try to convince you that it’s pure gold – try not to fall for it because it is obviously not ) and many other traditional crafts. Besides the shops, there are many restaurants and coffee shops where locals and tourists meet to drink tea, smoke shisha and enjoy different kinds of entertainment.
Extra tips to know before going to Khan El Khalili Market.
- The market is crowded with a lot of people so be sure to keep your valuables safe.
- Don’t forget to bargain before making any kind of purchase.
- The best time to go to the market would be in the night at around 7 pm as you get to experience Cairo at night and the bargaining chances are pretty high at that time.
- Khan el Khalili market is one of the places in Cairo to learn more about the locals and how they live.
7. Museum of Islamic art
Though the Museum was closed down due to a car bomb attack back in 2014, on the 24th of January, it was restored to its glory and reopened in January 2017. With a collection of exceptional woodwork and plaster artifacts from all over the Islamic world, the Museum of Islamic art in Cairo is considered as one of the greatest Islamic art Museums in the whole world making it one of the best places to visit in Cairo for individuals who want to learn more about the Islamic faith through art.
The museum holds over 100,000 items with over 4,500 on display and others kept in storage. Some of the Middle Eastern artistry displayed in the museum include the carved marble tombstones, the Ottoman tile work, Ayyubid ceramics, carpets, rare manuscripts of the Qurans and many others.
8. Memphis Open Air Museum
Memphis was the capital of Egypt in the Old Kingdom era although currently, the city sits in ruins of the ancient artifacts. Although it’s in ruins, the Memphis is a registered Unesco World Heritage site and officially recognized as an Open-air museum.
The highlight of visiting the Memphis is the colossal statue of Ramses II (which misses the king’s feet) which is carved in limestone. The statue that is 10m (33.8 ft) long lays in a beautifully built pavilion making it one of the Cairo places to visit.
Memphis also has other artifacts including the giant alabaster Sphinx which weighs over 80 tons, the remains of granite statues showcasing Ramses, granite coffins and other ruins.
To get the most out of your visit to the Memphis Open-air Museum, combine your trip with a visit to Saqqara and Dashur as they are in close proximity.
There is no doubt the Giza pyramids are the commonest pyramids in Egypt but they are definitely not the only ones. The Saqqara pyramids are believed to be the oldest pyramids in the country with the pyramid of Djoser (also known as the Step pyramid) being the first-ever true pyramid to be constructed.
Although the step pyramid is the highlight of visiting Saqqara, there are other pyramids like the Bent pyramids, the Red pyramids and tombs adorned around the entire area that you shouldn’t miss.
10. Hanging church
The hanging church which is also known as the Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church is the most famous Coptic Christian church and also the oldest and biggest church in Egypt making it one of the Cairo top attractions.
The church got its name due to its location above a gatehouse of Babylon fortress in old Cairo and its nave suspended over a passage. To access the church, one must take the 29 steps in front it, a feature that led to early travelers to call it the staircase church.
The church has 110 holy icons with some dating back to the 8th century and the majority from the 18th century. The most prominent holy icons include Jesus, Virgin Mary, St Peter, St Paul, and many others. The church also has a wooden ceiling, a feature that doesn’t just represent ancient craftsmanship but also appealing to look at.
11. Al-Azhar Mosque
Located in Islamic Cairo, Al-Azhar is one of the few mosques in Cairo that stands out considering that Cairo has a number of them – actually Cairo is sometimes regarded as the city of Minarets by travelers due to the countless number of mosques in the city.
The Al-Azhar Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Cairo dating back in 970 AD and also the oldest university in the world although currently, the actual university programs have been removed from the mosque and only prayers take place in the main building.
Since the mosque complex is very big, it is better to access it through Barber’s Gate which takes you to the 10th-century courtyard giving you perfect views of three of the Mosque’s minarets. The highlight of visiting the Al-Azhar mosque apart from admiring the different kinds of exterior architecture is the impressive interior space in the mosque which is filled with a vast number of alabaster columns and luxurious carpeting.
12. Presidential palace/ Abdeen palace
Located on the eastern side of downtown Cairo, Abdeen Palace is one of the official residences and the principal workplace of the president of Egypt. The Abdeen palace is considered to be one of the most lavish palaces in the entire world in terms of paintings, adornments, plus a large number of clocks most of which are decorated with pure gold.
Although the upper floors that used to be the living quarters of the royal family can only be accessed by foreign executives, the lower floors of the palace are open to tourists. The lower floors have a number of Museums including the Silver museum, the Arms Museum, the Royal Family Museum, the presidential Gifts Museum and the recently opened Historical Documents Museum with the Arms Museum housing one of the finest collection of arms in the world.
After visiting the museums and admiring the sumptuous features of the palace, enjoy a walk around the gardens and the courtyard to take in all the beauty that the Abdeen palace offers. So if you were looking for beautiful places in Cairo, then the presidential palace is one of them.
13. Al-Azhar Park
Take a break from the bustling city of Cairo by visiting the Al-Azhar park. The calm environment makes it a perfect place to relax, enjoy some shade during the hots days of Cairo, enjoy the amazing views of Old Cairo and re-energize in one the biggest green area in the entire city hence being one of the best places to visit in Cairo. The tranquility that the Al-Azhar park offers can easily make you forget that you’re in the center of Egypt’s metropolitan city.
The pack which was a gift to Cairo from Aga Khan IV was also named one of the world’s 60 great public spaces in the world by the Project for Public Spaces.
14. Pharaonic Village
Get a glimpse of Egypt’s Pharaonic past by visiting the Pharaonic village. Located on Ya’aquob island, a small island on River Nile, the village covers an area of about 490,000 square meters. Take a memory lane of how village life was like in ancient Egypt by visiting Pharaonic village.
The village also has a number of small museums with some items that were used in villages of the ancients times of the Pharaohs. Although the Pharaonic village may not be very appealing to some adults especially if they’ve been to the other Cairo attractions I talked about earlier on, it’s still one of the fun places to go in Cairo for kids as they’re always actors dramatizing the ancients livelihoods through plays.
15. Baron Empain Palace
A Cairo sightseeing adventure cannot be complete without visiting the Baron Emapin Palace. The architecture of this building is of its own kind – actually it can’t be found anywhere else in Egypt.
Located in Heliopolis suburb of Cairo, the Hindu and Khmer like architecture applied on the Palace is captivating leaving revelers in awe.
Although currently, the Baron Empain Palace is not open to the public due to the ongoing renovations, you can get a chance to see this architecture wonder from outside and take amazing photos as you wander around.
I hope you were inspired by this extensive guide of the places to visit in Cairo to explore the City more beyond the Giza pyramids. Have you been to any of these places? Let me know your favorite places to go in Cairo in the comment section.
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