Did you know that US Travel and News ranked Cairo as number one in the Best Places to Visit in Africa and The Middle East. You should definitely visit Cairo ASAP and when you do don't miss out on these spectacular sights.
Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx
It is normally on the top of travelers lists and the main reason most people head to Egypt in the first place! The pyramids and Sphinx are the only remaining monuments of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is easy to see why they are the country's most famous tourist attraction.
Location: The Pyramids of Giza sit about 11 miles southwest of downtown Cairo on the Giza Plateau. Traffic in Cairo can be pretty bad so make sure to allow enough time to get there if you are visiting in the early morning. I suggest staying in the Marriott Mena House so you are right across the street from the gorgeous structures. If you don’t stay across the street it's best to hail a taxi or take a bus tour to the site.
Opening Hours: Pyramids are open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. You cannot enter early to watch sunrise or sunset at the pyramids.
Entrance fee: It will cost you 160 Egyptian pounds for adults and 80 Egyptian pounds for students to enter the site. The standard ticket include access to the Great Sphinx and the property's temples. To enter the interior of the pyramids' you must buy a separate ticket. These cost a range of prices depending on which pyramid you want to enter. I entered The Great Pyramid of Khufu while in Cairo and paid 100 Egyptian pounds. It was definitely worth the money. **the fees are always changing - when you arrive you will find a board listing the prices. I have included a picture of said board that shows the prices I paid while in Cairo.
Pro Tip: If you’ve read a bunch of my articles for Cairo then you’ve heard this before and I apologize if I sound like a broken record. But, I highly suggest staying at a hotel overlooking the pyramids - I did and it truly made my trip to Cairo spectacular. I stayed at Marriott Mena House and you can read my full review here.
While many museums across the world have Egyptian relics visiting the Egyptian Museum in Cairo is a must do. You’ll see some fascinating items and leave in pure disbelief at just how old everything inside is. One of the most exciting things to see in the Egyptian Museum is the relics of King Tut. But you should know that he really wasn't an important king in Egyptian History... like at all. Never-the-less, it was very cool to see the items from his rein since he is so well-known in the modern world.
I visited Cairo in November 2018 and toured the older Egyptian museum. Let me be completely honest…. It is stunning from the outside, with its towering pink facade, but on the inside, it is dusty, old, and devoid of air conditioning. That being said, a brand new huge museum - with an opening date sometime in 2020 - is currently being built and I will definitely be returning to tour it.
Location: The Egyptian Museum is located in central Cairo and you can even access it from the Sadat metro station. Alternatively, you can get there by taxi, tour bus or car – a parking garage is located adjacent to the museum.
Opening Hours: The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission Cost: You’ll pay 75 Egyptian pounds (around $8) per person to enter the museum. All tickets include access to most of the Egyptian Museum's exhibits, plus restrooms, a gift shop and a cafe. You'll also find several vendors selling souvenirs outside the museum.
Salah El-Din Citadel
If you have a good amount of time in Cairo you should plan to devote a whole day to the Salah El-Din Citadel. It is quite possibly the most popular non-pyramid attraction in Cairo. This massive fortress is located in Islamic Cairo and was constructed in the late 1100s by Salah al-Din - meaning it has some serious history.
Inside the Citadel are many things to see, but The Mohamed Ali Mosque is the most visited site by far. I wouldn't miss out on exploring the other two mosques as well. The Citadel also houses several museums. You definitely shouldn't miss Gawhara Palace, which former Ottoman army commander Mohamed Ali built for his last wife.
What to wear inside: Remember to cover up like you would when visiting other Islamic sites. Not sure what to pack for a trip to Cairo? Check out my packing list for Egypt here.
Getting there: The Salah El-Din Citadel is located in the southern part of Islamic Cairo and is about 4 miles southeast of downtown Cairo. I would advise you to take a taxi or better yet, join a bus tour to the property.
Opening Hours: The site is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. During Ramadan there are reduced hours. On Fridays, mosques in the citadel, are closed for the Islamic Sabbath.
Admission Cost: Admission to the Salah El-Din Citadel costs 60 Egyptian pounds (or around $7). This ticket will include entry to Gawhara Palace and all of the fortress' mosques and museums. You will pay extra for access to the property's restrooms and for any drinks and snacks purchased on-site.
Al Azhar Mosque
Located in Islamic Cairo, the Al Azhar Mosque was founded in AD 970 and is one of Cairo’s earlier mosques. Its sheikh is considered the highest theological authority for Egyptian Muslims. The building is a gorgeous blend of architectural styles and has been enlarged numerous times over more than 1000 years. The one thing you cannot miss is the tomb chamber, located through a doorway on the left just inside the entrance.
Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan
Located in Islamic Cairo this mosque built between 1356 and 1363 is massive yet elegant, and is regarded as the finest piece of early Mamluk architecture in Cairo. Beyond the recessed entrance, a dark passage leads into a peaceful square courtyard surrounded by four soaring iwans (vaulted halls).
Coptic Cairo is a part of Old Cairo which encompasses the Babylon Fortress, the Coptic Museum, the Hanging Church, the Greek Church of St. George and many other Coptic churches and historical sites. It is strongly believed that the Holy Family visited this area and stayed at the site of Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church (Abu Serga) making it a very important site to visit while in Cairo.
The Hanging Church in Coptic Cairo
One of the oldest churches in Egypt, the Hanging Church has a history that dates back to the 3rd century. You won’t want to miss it.
Khan Al Khalili
There are many must-have treasures at Cairo's famous Khan al-Khalili bazaar and shopping there is a thrilling experience. You'll have to make sure your bargaining skills are up to par - it is expected here. When I went to Khan al-Khalili our guide ensured us that it wasn't rude - AT ALL - to barter with any shopkeeper. "Whatever his starting price is, offer him a third. And don't pay more than half what he initially offered" he said! While this may seem strange, and rude, again - it is not.
I went home with too many things to count and needed to buy more luggage for the flight back. My favorite two items I got in Khan al-Khalili were a gorgeous full sized living room rug - purchased for only $30 US. And twinkling lantern that was only $8 US. There are now both sitting in my living room and looking at them every day reminds me how much I loved Khan al-Khalili Market.
Inside Khan Al Khalili
One of the best places to eat in all of Cairo is inside Khan Al Khalili at Qahwet Fishawi. And after shopping and picture taking inside Khan Al Khalili you'll need a break and some good food. You cannot miss Qahwet Fishawi (known in English as Fishawi’s Café) for mint tea and shisha with a side of beautiful photos and people-watching. Qahwet Fishawi of Cairo’s oldest coffeehouses, and is usually packed to the with both Egyptian and foreign tourists. Inside has an old-world charm and dark wood furnishings and gorgeously colored walls.
Al Azhar Park
Sitting at the eastern edge of Islamic Cairo is the beautiful Al Azhar Park, one of Cairo's largest parks. It's hard to believe that this was formerly a garbage dump - but Al Azhar Park now features an array of fountains, polished gardens, copious recreation areas, and even a few restaurants. The one thing you can't miss inside Al Azhar Park though is Ayyubid wall.
How to get there: You can reach Al Azhar Park by taxi or on foot from Islamic Cairo. The market Khan el-Khalili sits less than a mile away. Downtown Cairo is only 3 miles to the west. Do not plan on driving (and renting a car in Cairo isn't advised anyway) since parking in the area is limited and expensive.
Entrance Fee: All visitors will be charged 10 Egyptian pounds (or about $1). This will include access to bathrooms and the Ayyubid wall (one of the top things to see in the park). Additional charges apply for items purchased at the park's cafes and restaurants.
Opening Hours: The park hosts visitors every day from 9 a.m. to midnight. For more information, visit the Al Azhar Park website.
A tall latticed tower – Cairo's very own Eiffel Tower - is a must snap for Instagram and to take in its gorgeous views. The Cairo tower used to be the tallest structure in North Africa, and even though it has been replaced, it still is the only place to get a full panoramic view of the city. I suggest visiting first thing in the morning for the clearest light or during dusk for a sunset shot. The tower is crowned by a circular observation deck and a rotating restaurant.
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a travel guide for Egypt along with you. Here are some books I recommend...
One of the most common questions I get: What is the best camera for travel photography? I personally love my Nikon D5600. I use the kit lens and a Sigma wide-angle lens (for Nikon) which I am genuinely obsessed with.
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com).