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12 Best things to see & do in Cairo

  • Cairo, Upper Egypt, Egypt

Last updated: 19 August, 2023
  • Cairo, Lower Egypt, Egypt

Landscape of the Giza Plateau, showing 3 large pyramids and 3 smaller ones infront

Bucket List Experience

Pyramids of Giza & the Sphinx

The densely-crowded Egyptian city of Giza – on the West Bank of the Nile just outside of Cairo – welcomes millions of tourists every year to visit one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites.

The Giza Plateau, wedged between the city’s borders and the Western Desert, is a remarkable complex of gargantuan stone pyramids, several cemeteries, and a giant statue of a mythological sphinx – all dating back to 2,500 BC.

Good for age: 8+

  • Cairo, Lower Egypt, Egypt

Close up of a funerary mask in the Egyptian Museum

Bucket List Experience

Egyptian Museum

Ancient Egypt produced one of the greatest of all civilisations and this two-storey museum is the storeroom for some of their finest artefacts. Tutankhamun’s treasures are the big draw, but there is so much more to see.

Covering more than 3,000 years, it provides an overview into the creation and development of so much that we use in our own lives, from furniture and jewellery to fabrics and sculpture. The Louvre, British Museum, Turin Museum, and New York Metropolitan all have great Egyptian collections but none come close to this.

Adult price: £6

Good for age: 13+

  • Cairo, Cairo Governorate, Egypt

The Bent pyramid at Dahshur, Cairo, Egypt

Bucket List Experience

The Pyramids of Saqqara & Dahshur

Just 20 miles south of Cairo, the lesser-visited Dahshur and Saqqara (also spelt Sakkara) are home to some of the world’s best-preserved ancient sites. With far fewer crowds.

Dahshur is home to pyramids even older than those in Giza – the first ever pyramids built by the Egyptians. The most famous is the Bent Pyramid – so named because of its irregular pyramid shape – built between 2613 and 2589 BC by King Sneferu.

It was followed by a second pyramid, The Red Pyramid, named after the red limestone used in its construction. The Red Pyramid is the 3rd largest in Egypt. The two biggest – Khufu and Khafre – were built at Giza by King Sneferu successor, his son Khufu.

Saqqara was the necropolis for the ancient city of Memphis, the first capital city of Egypt. The area is home to multiple smaller pyramids and a number of tombs of nobles and generals. The highlight here is the Step Pyramid of Djoser, built in around 2700 BC for Pharoah Djoser. It’s the oldest stone building in the world. Surrounding the Step Pyramid is an interesting funerary complex.

The city of Memphis itself is estimated to have been founded in 6000 BC. There’s not a lot left – just remnant ruins in an open-air museum – though the giant statue of Ramesses II makes this worth a stop.

There’s an excellent documentary on Netflix about one such tomb discovered in Saqqara. Worth a watch before you go (or even if you’re not).

Good for age: 13+

  • Cairo, Cairo Governate, Egypt

The mile-long road between the city’s two medieval gates cuts through medieval Cairo along a street still referred to as ‘Between the Palaces’.

The palaces have gone, but a walk along this thousand-year-old street takes in grand mansions, royal tombs, lively souks, spice traders, perfume distillers, a hospital that dates to the time of the Crusades, and some of the world’s finest Islamic monuments. It’s real Cairo – away from the tourist masses.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 1-3 hours

Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo

  • Cairo, Cairo Governate, Egypt

Islamic Arts Museum Building in Cairo, Egypt

Experience

Home to one of the world’s richest collections of Islamic art, this treasure trove displays over 100,000 artefacts spanning 1,400 years, encompassing ceramics, textiles, manuscripts, woodwork, and metalwork. Exhibits range from the early Islamic period to the Ottoman era, each telling a part of a story of artistic mastery and cultural exchange.

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 18+

  • Cairo, Cairo Governate, Egypt

Coptic Christian clothes in Ancient Egypt.

Experience

Coptic Cairo

The Coptic Church is among the oldest churches of Christianity and was started in Egypt.

This small complex/enclave in Old Cairo, founded in the 6th century, was a stronghold for Christianity in Egypt both before and during the Islamic era. Today it encompasses numerous historical sites relating to the period, including the Babylon Fortress, the Coptic Museum, the Hanging Church, the Greek Church of St George and many other Coptic churches, all housing Coptic artefacts.

It’s a pilgrimage site for Christians and a significant cultural landmark, offering a glimpse into the early Christian roots of Egypt.

Good for age: 18+

Egyptian Textile Museum

  • Cairo, Cairo Governate, Egypt

Entrance of Egyptian Textile Museum, Cairo

Experience

Egypt has long been famous for exceptional textiles (think Egyptian cotton sheets). This small museum weaves together the intricate narrative of the country’s textile history, through an array of artefacts dating from the Pharaonic to the Islamic era. Exquisite pieces on show include ancient linen, Coptic tunics, and Islamic-era textiles with intricate designs.

Adult price: £2

Good for age: 18+

Al-Azhar Mosque

  • Cairo, Cairo Governate, Egypt

an ancient and incredibly beautiful mosque Al-Azhar Mosque in the center of Cairo against a blue sky on a sunny day

Experience

One Cairo’s earliest mosques, the Al-Azhar is a stunning representation of Islamic architecture and a beacon of Islamic learning. Its enchanting courtyards, ornate minarets, and expansive prayer halls echo with the rich history of the Fatimid Caliphate. The mosque’s interior dazzles with intricately carved woodwork and marble.

Good for age: 18+

Khan el Khalili Souk

  • Cairo, Egypt

Lamp or Lantern Shop in the Khan El Khalili market in Islamic Cairo

Experience

This labyrinthine bazaar teems with vendors peddling an array of goods from handcrafted jewellery, textiles, spices to antiques and souvenirs. Navigating its narrow, bustling alleys, lined with historic Islamic architecture, feels like stepping back in time. Amidst the crowds and the chaos, you’ll find traditional coffeehouses and eateries serving local delights.

Good for age: 13+

The Citadel

  • Cairo, Cairo Governate, Egypt

wall fortications of the citadel in cairo

Experience

Constructed in the 12th century by Salah El-Din, this magnificent medieval Islamic fortification served as the seat of government for nearly 700 years. It’s home to a number of significant historical monuments, including the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, known for its beautiful alabaster structure, and several interesting museums like the Military Museum and the Police Museum.

Adult price: £10

Good for age: 18+