Cairo in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Although the city of Cairo has a lot to see, 48 hours are enough to know the essentials and enjoy this historic city. As long as you have a well planned itinerary which is what you will find in this post.

Carlos Bleda

Carlos Bleda

9 min read

Cairo in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Cairo | ©giannipavone

Are two days enough to see everything Cairo has to offer? 48 hours are enough to visit most of the wonders of the city and cross off our list the most important things, but, obviously, we will have to leave some things behind. To make the most of these 2 days, I have prepared an itinerary designed to optimize your time and get to know the monuments and must-see places in Cairo.

Day 1: Tour of ancient Egypt: The pyramids, the sphinx, the Egyptian museum

Getting to know the Pyramids| ©Rckr88
Getting to know the Pyramids| ©Rckr88

The first 24 hours in the capital of Egypt have a clear objective. To know the part related to ancient Egypt:

  • Pyramids of Giza: the first stop is for the most important monuments of Cairo. These are located in a complex on the outskirts of the city about 15 kilometers from the center of the capital that you can reach by any transport, especially if you book an excursion to the Pyramids of Giza from Cairo. You can visit the burial chambers inside the pyramids, but the entrance fee is separate.
  • For its part, Cheops is the most famous and relevant and entering its guts costs about 3 euros per person at about the exchange rate. However, the queues are longer and having limited time my recommendation is that if you want to enter one, you opt for the one of Mycerinos. Less traveled but equally interesting. The pyramids are not the only interesting point of the complex, the following we see below.

Book an excursion to the Pyramids of Giza from Cairo

The Sphinx

The Sphinx| ©Jorge Láscar
The Sphinx| ©Jorge Láscar

Although located in the same complex as the pyramids, the Sphinx deserves a separate mention. It is one of the most famous sculptures of the ancient world and is believed to represent the Pharaoh Khafre.

The Sphinx can be admired from its base and you will be amazed by its imposing presence. In addition to the absence of its nose, which is on display in London, it is common to see scaffolding around it used for restoration work and maintenance of a spectacular monument, but one that is in serious danger.

Saqqara and Memphis

Menfis and Saqqara are located 40 minutes away from the pyramids of Giza. Two points also essential to know the ancient Egyptian civilization. In fact, Memphis was the ancient capital of the empire.

To go from Giza to this point it is best to hire a joint tour to visit the pyramids and Saqqara and Memphis. But there is also the option of taking a cab, negotiating the price, we can leave very economical.

Memphis was a city full of palaces and monuments, while today is a town of low houses but houses a museum with some of the strongholds of the city in its golden age. In its open-air museum highlights a 10-meter figure of Ramses II in addition to sphinxes, mummification tables and obelisks.

After seeing Memphis, it is time to cross the Nile and in about 20 minutes to reach Saqqara. In Saqqara is the oldest building in the world: the funerary complex of the pharaoh Zoser, dating from 2650 BC. The other must-see is the step pyramid which was the tomb of Pharaoh Zoser and one of the first pyramids ever built.

Book an excursion to the Pyramids of Giza, Saqqara and Memphis

Egyptian Museum

Outside the Museum, start of the Tour| ©a rancid amoeba
Outside the Museum, start of the Tour| ©a rancid amoeba

No visit to the Giza Pyramids and Memphis and Saqqara complex is complete without a visit to the Egyptian Museum. This museum houses the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts in the world and you can hire a tour that combines for example an excursion to the Pyramids of Giza and the Egyptian Museum from Cairo.

In total there are more than 130,000 objects of various kinds and from all periods of Egyptian history. The museum is located in Cairo, so it is necessary to return to the city. To see it thoroughly we would need almost 2 days of this itinerary so we must prioritize certain pieces. The most relevant and well known are those belonging to the pharaoh Tutankhamun. The golden funerary mask of the pharaoh is, in addition to the symbol of the museum, the most valuable. His coffin or the throne are also fundamental pieces of all those found in his tomb.

  • How much does it cost: it costs about 3 euros per person and if we want to access the room known as the room of the mummies must pay about 5 euros extra. You can also book a guided tour of the Egyptian Museum, for about 40 euros. Highly recommended if you are a fan of Egyptian art.
  • Museum opening hours: themuseum is open until 19:00 hours from Monday to Wednesday and until 21:00 on Thursdays and Sundays. On Fridays and Saturdays the museum closes at 16:00.
  • Where is it: it is located in Tahrir Square and to get there, being in Cairo, it is best to do it by metro taking lines 1 or 2, with the red and yellow colors, to the station stop Sadat.

Dinner in Tahrir Square

Tahrir Square itself is ideal to end the day after seeing the museum. It is an area with lots of atmosphere and several places to dine, besides being close to the Nile on its banks is also a good area to approach afterwards.

Book an excursion to the Pyramids of Giza and the Egyptian Museum

Day 2: Downtown Cairo

Streets of the Coptic Quarter| ©rsaezn
Streets of the Coptic Quarter| ©rsaezn

After an intense first day immersed in ancient Egypt, it's time to get to know downtown Cairo. In a second day much quieter and with less travel, you will visit the most important historical sites within the borders of the city.

These are the fortress of Saladin and the churches and points of the Coptic Christian quarter. To culminate the visit it is best to visit the bazaar of Khan Al-Khalili and take a material souvenir of the capital of Egypt.

Coptic Quarter

Visiting the Coptic Quarter is a must, as it is one of the nerve centers of tourism in the city of Cairo. This is located south of the Citadel of Saladin, about half an hour by bus or 15 minutes if we take a cab.

This neighborhood is the home of the Coptic Christians and a place of special relevance for Christians in general, as tradition has it that it was the place where he took shelter: the holy family (Jesus, Mary and Joseph) during their stay in Egypt. That is why the neighborhood is full of churches and monasteries linked to this tradition.

There are several interesting points within the ancient walls of Babylon that border this neighborhood. The first is the hanging church. So called because it was built over the gate of the wall, although it is also known as the church of Santa Maria.

The other two churches to visit are the church of Santa Barbara, in honor of the martyr after whom it is named, and the church of St. Sergius and St. Bacchus. The latter is the oldest in the Coptic quarter and was built over the cave in which, according to legend, the holy family hid. But there are not only churches, there are also mosques such as Amr Ibn Al As which was the first built in Egypt, or synagogues such as Ben Ezra. There are countless religious sites highly recommended to see and a point that unites them is the Coptic museum.

Saladin Citadel

Entrance to the Citadel| ©Dan
Entrance to the Citadel| ©Dan

It was the same leader who gives its name who commissioned the construction of the Citadel of Saladin in Cairo to protect against attacks from European empires in the twelfth century. Currently, this walled complex is the most visited monument in the city of Cairo. There are many points of interest inside the Citadel of Saladin and it is best to visit it at leisure.

There are several buildings to visit, starting with the imposing palace of Gawhara and continuing with its beautiful mosques:

  • Sultan Hassan Mosque, Ibn Tulun Mosque and Al Rifa'i Mosque are the most important to be found inside the citadel.
  • In addition to these buildings there are also museums that house pieces related to the history of the place. These museums are the carriage museum and the military museum. The latter is the most interesting of them as it is the most linked to the history of the fortress.

But the Citadel of Saladin is more than a set of buildings. Another of its main virtues lies in its location, as it is located on top of the hill of Mokattam in the center of Cairo and gives us one of the best views of the capital of Egypt. It is almost mandatory to walk along its walls and stop to enjoy the views. The general admission is around 7 euros for the entire complex.

Islamic Quarter

Mosque of the Islamic Quarter| ©Nathasha
Mosque of the Islamic Quarter| ©Nathasha

This neighborhood extends through the center of Cairo from the foothills of the hill of the Citadel of Saladin, so it is an interesting place to visit. It owes its name to the fact that it was once one of the most important Islamic centers of the world, but it is really more a medieval neighborhood with lots of charm.

Among its streets you will find many mosques, squares, stores and interesting places. Its mosques are perhaps the most important, but many of them do not allow entry to non-Muslim tourists as they are sacred places for their religion. But the neighborhood offers much more:

  • We can visit, for example, Midan Al Hussein Square where two of its most important mosques are located and it is also a place where many restaurants and terraces are concentrated. Al Azhar Park is also located in this neighborhood and is one of the main parks in Cairo.
  • I recommend you also go through the Sharia Al Muizz Li Din Allah Street where there are a large number of mosques and stores very interesting and where you reach our next destination, the Jan El Jalili market. Also known as Khan El-Khalili Bazaar.

Khan El-Khalili Bazaar

Also known as the Khan El-Khalili market, this place was the cradle of trade in Egypt and the entire Middle East in ancient times. Today, it is a huge bazaar full of stores of all kinds and cafes that make it the ideal place to shop and relax with a coffee and sweets to put the perfect finishing touch to a two-day trip to Cairo.

The market is located in the center of the Islamic part of Cairo, in a walled area that contributes to give it a very attractive ancient and traditional atmosphere. Inside the El-Khalili Bazaar there are almost a thousand stalls where we can find everything from typical food and spices to handicrafts through stalls of fabrics, jewelry or perfumes. Anything you can imagine is here.

Visiting it in the afternoon or evening is ideal because we can walk through the stalls quietly and complete the visit by dining in some of its legendary cafes where in addition to traditional dishes you can taste the traditional teas and smoke the typical shishas. For this reason, it is undoubtedly one of the best things to do at night in Cairo.

It is certainly the perfect place to say goodbye to Cairo after 48 hours and take a traditional souvenir of a trip that surely you will not forget.

Book an excursion to the Khan El-Khalili Bazaar

Tips for visiting Cairo in 2 days

Cairo Metro| ©Andrew A. Shenouda
Cairo Metro| ©Andrew A. Shenouda

To optimize and make the most of a 48-hour trip to Cairo there are a number of things to keep in mind. Here are some tips that can help you:

  • The most important thing to optimize time is to get your tickets for the monuments in advance to avoid queues and know how to move from one place to another. Cairo is a chaotic city and if we do not know how to move around we can lose a lot of time. For the most tourist places there are usually tourist buses that go directly and to move around the city it is best to take a cab or metro.
  • Although it is obvious, I remind you that Cairo is very hot and that in places like the pyramids of Giza there are few shadows. Go prepared with hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. In any case, if you have to choose a month, choose the winter months to visit the Egyptian capital.
  • It is important to remember that in the most religious places such as churches and mosques you should cover your arms and legs. This is especially sensitive for women so it is advisable to carry a scarf to cover up in these cases.