Cairo has a lot to see and do and in five days you can get the full experience. Read on to discover the best itinerary if you don't want to miss anything.
There are some places in Egypt's capital that are a must-see. In this tour I propose to impress you with the pyramids, meet the pharaohs, visit museums, get lost in charming neighborhoods, a trip to Alexandria and, of course, a cruise on the Nile. Enjoy!
Day 1: Discover the splendor of Egypt: the pyramids of Giza and the Coptic Quarter
I suggest you start your trip to Cairo in style, with a half-day visit to the pyramids of Giza and a stroll through one of the most beautiful neighborhoods of the city: the Coptic Quarter. Are you ready to look up and be left with your mouth open?
Book an organized tour to visit the pyramids of Giza: Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus
Giza is located 18 kilometers from Cairo and is home to the pyramids of the pharaohs Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus. Each of the tombs is surrounded by an impressive burial complex built more than 4000 years ago. And of course, I do not forget the famous Sphinx.
If you travel to Cairo, a visit to Giza is worth it. To make the most of it, I recommend that you hire an organized tour: they take care of the transportation and the visit to the pyramids with a guide specialized in the history of Egypt.
Among these tours there are different options: some include in addition to the explanations and transportation to Giza a camel ride (it is a very cool experience that I recommend), lunch or tickets to the funerary monuments. Take a good look at the conditions offered by each one and choose the one that interests you the most. If you are going on your own and you have to balance schedules, I tell you that the complex opens between 6:00 and 20:00, and tickets to the pyramids cost approximately between 4 € and 8 €.
Enjoy getting lost in the narrow streets of the Coptic Quarter
The Coptic Quarter is a network of narrow streets fullof surprises for the traveler. Want to know everything there is to see in this neighborhood? I tell you the most emblematic places.
The Coptic quarter is located within the walls of the ancient fortress of Babylon. You can try walking through its streets and let your intuition guide you: you are sure to stumble along the way with corners and monuments that leave you speechless, such as the Hanging Church of Cairo, the Church of St. George, the Church of St. Sergius or the Synagogue of Ben Ezra. All these places are impressive monuments that are concentrated in a relatively small space, so you can walk around it.
It is not a very big neighborhood, but it is so full of history that you can spend several hours here. If you want to learn everything that happened in these streets, I also recommend a visit to the Coptic Museum. Its collections are amazing and the explanations give you a clear idea of life in Cairo and the evolution of the city.
(The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm and it is necessary to reserve a ticket. Tickets cost about 5€).
End the day with a dinner in the neighborhood
To rest after all you have seen today, I recommend staying for a drink in the same neighborhood. This way you can not only get the impression of the monuments, but also the daily life.
A very cozy place near the Coptic Museum is HanaDaysKitchen, the food is typical of this area of the Mediterranean, the place is very nice and is well priced (you can eat for about 15€ approximately).
And if you like to enjoy the city at night, check out these recommendations.
Day 2: Tour historic Cairo
On the second day of your Cairo itinerary, I suggest a visit to the Citadel of Saladin and the buildings housed in this impressive compound, in addition to a visit to Al Azhar Park and its mosque.
Start the day with a historical walk: visit the Citadel
- The Cairo Citadel or Citadel of Saladin: It is a medieval fort that began to be built in the thirteenth century on a promontory (so you have good views) to defend the city from the Crusaders.
- The following rulers of Cairo were adding buildings until the nineteenth century, so a walk through this enclosure will give you a very faithful idea of the history of the city: In the Citadel of Saladin there is much to see.
- Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is divided into two parts: the North and South Enclosures, where the National Military Museum and the Muhammad Ali Mosque are located respectively. There you can also find other buildings not to be missed. It is open from 9 am to 4 pm and the entrance fee is approximately €4.
Ana's Traveller Tip
Public transport does not reach the Citadel, so I recommend taking a cab. The price will depend on your starting point, of course, but cabs in Cairo have very affordable prices: the flag down costs about 0.25€ and the price per kilometer is about 0.15€. You can calculate the total price of your trip here.
Admire the Alabaster Mosque
The Muhammad Ali Mosque is also known as the Alabaster Mosque, because it is covered with this material. It is also famous for housing the tomb of Muhammad Ali and for its form of domes on domes.
It's amazing, isn't it? The opening hours are also from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but you have to pay a separate entrance fee (about 3€).
Look at yourself in the mirror of the Gawhara Palace
Just at the entrance of the Citadel is a building that will catch your attention. It is the Gawhara or Jewelry Palace, a palace that Muhammad Ali designed as a private residence for his wife.
As soon as you enter there is a beautiful gilded mirror, and also in this palace was the famous room from which Ali ruled Egypt. You can also see the original furniture and the small garden of the house.
- Take a break at Al Azhar Park: It's about time for a break, don't you think? This park is about 7 kilometers away and you can get there by cab in less than 15 minutes for about 5€. From Al Azhar Park: you can enjoy unique views and a peaceful environment. You can also take the opportunity to stroll around, breathe clean air and have a drink in its cafes. The service is good, and the scenery, a luxury. And another thing! The Ayyubid wall or wall of Ayubi, more than 800 years old, was discovered there. One more reason to take a walk around this magical place. It is open between 9 am and 10 pm, the entrance fee is about 1€.
- Be impressed by the Al Azhar Mosque: This amazing building is home to the oldest university in the world. The Al Azhar Mosque is located in El-Darb El-Ahmer (if you go by public transport, the nearest station is Bab El-Shaaria) and can be visited every day except Friday from 9:00 to 11:00 and from 15:00 to 17:00. Admission is free, but it is customary to tip the person who opens the doors.
End the day with a delicious Middle Eastern meal
Very close to the Al Azhar Mosque is a restaurant that I really liked. At 126 El Azhar Street is Kababgy El Azhar Fahrahat, where they offer typical Middle Eastern food. They specialize in grilled food.
Yes, it tends to get crowded and it is not what you would call spacious, but the service is fast and the prices are affordable. You can have a good dinner for about 15€.
Day 3: Stroll through the souk and the Museum of Islamic Art
On the third day in Cairo, I propose a very special tour: start at the famous Khan-El-Khalili souk, go through the Mirror Café and spend the afternoon at the Museum of Islamic Art. A sure hit.
- Takea stroll through the Khan-El-Khalili souk: I recommend that you start your third day in Cairo with a magical experience: visit the Khan-El-Khalili souk. This typical Egyptian souk is open from 10 am to 3 pm, and there you can find everything: spices, jewelry, clothes and decorative objects, hidden and piled up in the small stores that give the market its shape and identity. A must for travelers in Cairo.
- Lunch at El Fishawi, the cafe of mirrors: Very close to the souk, in El Gamaliya, is a typical and famous cafe for its atmosphere. The walls are full of mirrors and the history of the cafe, of legends: it is said that it takes its name from a gangster of the bazaar.
- Discover the treasures of the Old Quarter: walking towards the Museum of Islamic Art you can enjoy some of the treasures of this neighborhood, such as Bab Zuweila, one of the gates of the wall of the Old City of Cairo. No reservation or entrance fee is required, it is an open-air monument for the enjoyment of all who pass by. Also nearby is the Palace of Abdin, an impressive building in which the former rooms of royalty have been converted into a museum.
- Enjoy the Museum of Islamic Art: In the old quarter you will also find the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, with one of the most important collections in the world. They have pieces dating from the seventh to the nineteenth centuries and not only from Egypt. A jewel. The Museum is located at 20 Square, Ghayt Al Adah. It is open between 9:00 and 17:00 and the approximate price is 5€.
- Try Cairo seafood in a local restaurant: Very close to the Museum there is a seafood restaurant where you can end the day with typical products. Gambary Afandi is a place where you can eat a good seafood dish for less than 10€. It is at 18 Sami Al Barodi and no reservation is needed.
Day 4: Take an unforgettable excursion: the city of Alexandria
Alexandria is a famous place all over the world, so I recommend you not to miss it. There are organized tours that pick you up at your hotel and take you there by private transport (by bus it takes about two and a half hours), besides telling you the history and anecdotes of each of the places you visit. There is so much to see that they usually last all day (approximately 12 hours).
The different excursions offer tours that usually include interesting places such as the Roman Amphitheater, the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa, the Library of Alexandria and the City of Quatby. Don't miss this tour!
Travel back in time: The Roman Amphitheater
You can't miss the Roman Amphitheater of Alexandria (open from 9:00 to 17:00 and costs about 3€, although if you go with a tour they will arrange the itinerary and tickets).
It was an open-air performance hall, built in marble and prepared to perform plays for 800 people. Can you imagine? Around it there is a very nice garden, and some mosaics. The mosaics belonged to the baths next to the amphitheater, ask the guide!
- Visit the catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa: These catacombs are spectacular. The opening hours are from 8:00 to 16:00 and the entrance to visit them costs more or less 4€, although the entrance is usually included in all organized tours because it is a must-see in Alexandria. This is one of the monuments that belong to the 7 Wonders of the Middle Ages, and when you take a look at it you will understand that this classification is completely justified. Impressive.
- Stroll through the Library of Alexandria: Introductions are superfluous. The Library of Alexandria is a library and cultural center built in memory of the famous library of antiquity, burned in the fire of Alexandria. It houses 8 million books, four museums, four other art galleries and a manuscript restoration laboratory. Not to be missed. It is open from 10:00 to 19:00 and the entrance fee is about 4€.
-Admirethe citadel of Quatbay: Built on the ruins of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria, the citadel is a defensive fortress of the fifteenth century restored in the twentieth century. It served its purpose in different war conflicts during the past centuries, but today it houses a Naval museum and the Oceanographic Museum of Alexandria
Day 5: Bid farewell to Cairo in style and sail down the Nile
I have booked some very special things for this last day in Cairo. Something that is not very common in this city is a lookout point high enough to appreciate the city in its full extent. I recommend you to climb the Cairo Tower and let yourself be impressed. Also visit the Egyptian Museum and above all, do not miss a cruise on the Nile, the water heart of Egypt. The rest I'll tell you below, read on!
- Visit Gezira Island: Geriza Island is a piece of land located in the Nile River. It was formed in the 14th century, although it was uninhabited until, in 1830, Mehmet Ali built a palace on it. Then came other palaces of other later rulers, and today also houses such interesting places as the Museum of Islamic Ceramics, the Egyptian Museum of Modern Art,
or the Cairo Opera House.
- Enjoy the city from the heights: Climb the Cairo Tower The Cairo Tower
measures more than 180 meters, that is, it is higher than the pyramids of Giza. It was built in the 20th century, but the architect decided to use the same materials of Ancient Egypt: it is made of granite. You will recognize it right away: it is a telecommunications tower reminiscent, with the metal lattice that covers it, of a lotus flower.
- At the top there is an observation deck that you can't miss, as well as a revolving restaurant that shows diners a 360º view of the city (although I recommend you take a look at the weather forecast before you go, because sometimes the city of Cairo is covered in thick fog. Getting there is very easy, as it is in the neighborhood of Zamalek, on Gezira Island, very accessible by metro line 2. The entrance fee is approximately 4€ and it is open all day, from 8:00 to 0:00.
- Treat yourself to a meal: There are many places to eat near the Egyptian Museum. If you want to enjoy Egyptian or Lebanese cuisine in a special setting, the Carlton Hotel has an open-air restaurant in its garden called Bab El Sharq, with views of the museum and belly dancing shows. Open daily between 5:00 p.m. and 1:30 a.m., the address is 1113 Corniche El Nil.
- Spend the afternoon at the Egyptian Museum: 15 minutes by cab from the souk (the trip can cost you about 5€), in Qsar El Nil, the Egyptian Museum is a marvel to discover. It has the most important collection of Pharaonic antiquities in the world, but also has earlier and later historical remains: from the pre-dynastic period to Greek and Roman antiquity.
It is a unique and immense collection, so to make the most of it I recommend that you hire a guided tour. It is well worth it.
End your trip with a cruise on the Nile
To end your five-day tour of Cairo I reserve a very special activity: a cruise on the Nile with dinner. This river is a fundamental part of the city and its history, and you have many options to navigate it.
These cruises usuallylast about 3 or 4 hours and have an average price of between 30 € and 50 €, depending on whether they include show or according to the menu. A unique way to say goodbye to Cairo.
What do you think of the itinerary? Egypt is a country so full of treasures that it is inexhaustible for the traveler, but with this five-day tour you can have a great experience.
If you have more days available in the area, I recommend that you also visit places near Cairo. For example, nearby destinations that are very worthwhile are the Red Sea, which is very accessible from Cairo, or an organized excursion to Fayoum. Great.
I hope you enjoy Cairo as much as I did. Have a nice trip!