The Egyptian capital city of Cairo is one of the world’s most fascinating destinations. Steeped in history, it also has a modern-thinking approach and a rich diversity of attractions. While the Pyramids and Great Sphinx are among the most famous places in Cairo, the city boasts so much more … peaceful felucca rides along the majestic River Nile, fascinating museums, interesting architecture, heaving markets, laid-back shisha coffee shops, and much more.
Cairo is a huge city with an even huger population. It’s in the top-20 biggest cities on the planet and one of the world’s most densely populated cities. This can be quite intimidating for first-time (and even repeat) visitors. Finding peaceful spots away from the crowds can be difficult, and deciding what to add to a Cairo itinerary can be challenging. Plus, many people may have safety concerns following civil unrest.
Don’t worry at all about visiting Cairo—we’ve got you covered! After reading our list of the best places to visit in Cairo we’re sure you’ll be eager to book your trip. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re travelling solo, with that special person, in a group of friends, or with the family.
Spoiler: A few of these best places to visit in Cairo are bound to blow you away!
Best places to stay in Cairo
Giza is a can’t miss destination for travellers visiting Cairo. It is home to the exquisite Pyramids of Giza, as well as the world-famous Sphinx. Be sure to take your time enjoying these incredible attractions and making as many memories as you can.
- Be amazed by the size and architecture of the Great Pyramids of Giza.
- Explore the desert and nearby attractions on horseback or by camel.
- Step back in time at the Pharaonic Village, a living museum of Egyptian history.
Now onto the fun stuff: the best places to visit in Cairo!
These are the BEST Places to Visit in Cairo!
Are you ready to take a deep dive into this mysterious metropolis? There’s a reason Cairo features on every Backpacking Egypt Travel Guide and we can’t wait to give you the inside scoop on the thousands of years of history, deserts and tea you will discover here. Get your flippers on and let’s get going!
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#1 – The Egyptian Museum – A fascinating educational place to visit in Cairo
Why it’s awesome: Housed in a huge and beautiful building that dates back to the early 1900s, the Egyptian Museum is the best place in Cairo for insights into ancient civilisations, archaeological discoveries, Egyptian history, and local culture from through the ages. While not all exhibits are displayed at the same time, the museum is home to an impressive 120,000 or so items. It’s a Cairo must-do for anyone keen to learn more about the country’s fascinating past and eager to ogle an extensive assortment of objects. The museum boasts the biggest collection of antiquities from the times of the Pharaohs of anywhere else in the world.
What to do there: Allow plenty of time to fully appreciate the many treasures housed within the Egyptian Museum, one of the most fascinating attractions in Cairo (you may even want to stay in a hostel nearby and come back twice). Marvel at the advanced nature of ancient societies as you see the remains of papyrus, used for written communications, and metal coins from ancient Egyptian, Roman, Greek, and Islamic civilisations.
Travel through various epochs as you gaze upon coffins, statues, stone furnishings, tiles, eerie death masks, engraved stones, and more. Items recovered from the tombs of the Pharaohs are especially fascinating and you can even see several mummified bodies of former royalty. Highlights include the golden death mask of Tutankhamun, the stern statue of Khafre, depictive tiles from the reign of Rameses III, the grave mask of Psusennes I, and the large stone statue of Amenhotep III ad Tiye.
#2 – Old Cairo – One of the most religious places to see in Cairo
Why it’s awesome: The atmospheric Old Cairo is filled with some of the most important landmarks in Cairo. The historic area is home to places that were ancient cities, including al-Askar, Fustat, and al-Qatta’i. It contains the remains of what is often referred to as Islamic Cairo and also Coptic Cairo (the historic Christian part of the city). There are historic religious buildings from three major faiths—Islam, Christianity, and Judaism—as well as ruins of old fortifications from the Roman era, museums, and other places of interest. A sense of history hangs in the air and there have been attempts to preserve the ancient structures.
What to do there: Explore Cairo’s oldest area and see the various religious buildings that reflect the city’s varied heritage. Visit Ben Ezra Synagogue, which was established in the 1100s in an old Coptic church. It is the oldest surviving synagogue in the country. You can also see the city’s oldest mosque: the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As. Constructed when the Arabs conquered Egypt, the attractive mosque features many traditional Islamic elements and is open to visitors outside of prayer times.
You’ll likely hear the call to prayer sounding from the mosque throughout the day. Tour the area’s historic churches, including the Church and Monastery of St. George, the Church of St. Sergius, the Church of St. Barbara, and Kasriet El Rayhan Church. One of the most unusual things to do in Cairo is seeing the eye-catching Hanging Church (Sharia Mar Girgis), which sits on two older supports from the Roman fortress and has a nave that hangs over a passageway. Absorb the historic air as you stroll through the remains of the Roman-era Fort Babylon, and view a huge assortment of religious memorabilia in the Coptic Museum. If you’re here at the right times of the year, it’s a great spot to observe Cairo’s best festivals, such as Coptic Christmas, Eid and Ramadan.
#3 – Al-Qarafa – One of the more unique places to visit in Cairo!
Why it’s awesome: Al-Qarafa is also commonly known as the City of the Dead. One of the eeriest neighbourhoods in Cairo, the large area contains cemeteries, burial grounds, tombs, and necropolises. The City of the Dead was the final resting place for people from all walks of life, with large and elaborate mausoleums erected for prominent members of society and leaders, and simpler graves for regular members of the community. Burials have been taking place here for many years, since the establishment of the first city of Fustat in the year 642. With poverty and a huge population, some people began using the larger tombs as housing, with squatters haunting the grounds reserved for the dead.
What to do there: Walk through the City of the Dead, which stretches for around 6.4 kilometres (four miles). Admire the diverse funerary architecture and compare and contrast the large and opulent tombs with the smaller grave markers and crumbling edifices that show the ravages of time. You’ll see large plots dedicated to entire families and the grand structures that honour Egyptian rulers, famous scholars, Islamic saints, and other significant people.
Don’t miss seeing the striking Mausoleum of Imam al-Shafi’i, along with its neighbouring mosque. Among the biggest free-standing mausoleums in Egypt, the monument dates back to the early 1200s and is an important place of pilgrimage for Muslims. It’s definitely one of the most unusual places to visit in Cairo.
#4 – Manshiyat Nasser – One of the most underrated places to see in Cairo
Why it’s awesome: Manshiyat Nasser is something of an offbeat place to visit in Cairo. And, it definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Located close to the Moqattam Hills, the area is often known as Garbage City. The streets are overflowing with trash, with piles of rubbish even on rooftops and outside doorways. Local people, known as the Zabbaleen, collect the trash from Cairo’s homes and transport it to their village to sort through for recyclable items.
Despite the smells and unsightly appearance, the refuse disposal method is highly effective, with around 90% of all rubbish being repurposed, reused, and recycled. The village was featured in a documentary, which wanted to highlight conditions for local people and tell their story. The area is also home to one of Cairo’s awesome under-visited gems: The Monastery of Saint Simon.
What to do there: Adventurous travellers might enjoy exploring Garbage City and chatting with local refuse collectors and rubbish sorters. Do keep in mind, however, that this is still a residential area and be careful not to encroach on people’s privacy, indulge in poverty tourism, or act inappropriately. Also, wear sturdy footwear and prepare yourself for sights, sounds, and smells that may be overpowering. Learn more about Coptic Christianity in the local village church and peek inside the many cave churches that dot the mountainsides.
One of the major hotspots in Cairo’s Garbage City is the huge Monastery of Saint Simon. Also known as simply the Cave Church, the gigantic place of worship can seat around 20,000 worshippers. Indeed, it’s among the biggest Christian churches in the entire Middle East region. Marvel at the intricate carvings that depict biblical scenes and appreciate the many statues and sculptures. Take a seat and be in awe of the size as you enjoy a few peaceful moments of reflection.
#5 – Khan el Khalili Bazaar – A great place in Cairo if you love to shop!
Why it’s awesome: The large and colourful Khan el Khalili Bazaar is one of the best places in Cairo for shopping, photography, and experiencing local life. Drawing large numbers of both locals and tourists, the area had become the heart of foreign trade in the city by the end of the 15th century. It is still a major shopping area today, and visitors can find a huge array of goods. There are also small coffee shops, street food vendors, and restaurants where tourists can mingle with locals and rest and recharge for a while. The remains of ancient structures add to the historic ambience.
What to do there: Walk through the large and busy souk (market) and see the huge selection of stalls and shops that sell everything from jewellery and precious stones, souvenirs, and clothes, to shisha pipes, artisan crafts, and spices. The ornate mirrors and lamps are especially eye-catching and make wonderful gifts for yourself or loved ones.
Don’t forget to haggle to get the best rates and to enjoy a local experience. Wander down the labyrinth of small alleys and follow the sound of clanging to watch craftspeople at work. You can see metalworkers and woodworkers creating a variety of useful and decorative items. Call into a coffee shop for a traditional cup of tea and sample an array of tasty goods. Admire the architecture, including the handsome gates of Bab al-Ghuri and Bab al-Badistan, and the neighbouring al-Hussein Mosque.
Keep in mind that while Cairo is the safest city in Egypt, tourists in bazaars can be easy targets for pickpockets. Be sure to follow basic travel safety guidelines by being aware of your surrounding and keeping your valuables close to make the most of your experience.
#6 – Cairo Tower – Great place to visit in Cairo for couples!
Why it’s awesome: Standing at 187 metres (614 feet) tall, the soaring Cairo Tower is among the most striking landmarks in Cairo. It’s also one of the top Cairo vacation ideas for couples seeking some romance. Built to resemble a lotus plant (a famous symbol from the times of the Pharaohs), the silver-coloured latticed tower was constructed between the mid-1950s and early 1960s. It was, at one time, the tallest structure in Africa. There’s an observation deck at the top.
What to do there: Admire the distinctive and eye-catching tower from a distance before moving closer. Travel to the observation deck to take in the splendid views of Cairo sprawled out beneath you. Try to spot some of the famous places in Cairo in the distance. Especially great for couples, you can also enjoy a tasty meal in the stylish revolving restaurant. It slowly turns as you dine, completing a full revolution in just over an hour. The menu is appealing with a great selection of local dishes.
#7 – Al Azhar Park – A beautiful outdoor place to visit in Cairo
Why it’s awesome: The award-winning Al Azhar Park is one of the most popular outdoor and natural attractions in Cairo. It was created on the wishes of (and with funding from) Agha Khan IV. It is said that he was dismayed at seeing lots of rubbish across the city and wanted to gift the people a place of natural beauty. The park project required much land clearing and development, but now the people have a lovely space. Designers included traditional Islamic styles in the landscaping, with a combination of heritage, culture, and nature.
What to do there: A terrific place to take the kids and for couples looking for a pleasant spot to enjoy together, there are diverse ways to enjoy the green lungs of Al Azhar Park. Stroll through the shaded orchards, pass under elegant arches that hark back to the times of the Fatimid era, rest in the peaceful seating areas, admire the fountains and other calming water features, and enjoy the ponds. Wander through lovely gardens, designed in an Islamic style, with terraces, flowers, fountains, sunken areas, waterways, and geometric designs. Soak up the views of the old city, especially attractive at sunset, let kids have fun at the play areas, and enjoy a delicious meal in one of the onsite restaurants.
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#8 – Giza – Possibly one of the most important places to visit in Cairo
Why it’s awesome: No list of the best places in Cairo would be complete without the inclusion of two world-famous attractions: The Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Located on a desert plateau within easy reach of the urban area, they really are unmissable hotspots in Cairo.
Giza has grown on the back of the tourism industry and is now one of Cairo’s best places to stay with varied choices of accommodation, eateries, shopping establishments, and nightlife options to serve as an alternative base to Cairo downtown.
What to do there: Ogle at some of the most iconic legacies from the ancient world: the mighty Grand Pyramids of Giza. At the heart of an ancient cemetery for the Pharaohs, they present a magnificent sight. Snap lots of pictures of the Pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. The Great Pyramid of Khufu is the last remaining item listen as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Remember to purchase entry tickets at the gate, as you can’t buy tickets outside the mighty structures themselves. Descend into the steep, narrow, and stuffy passages to feel completely in awe of ancient workers who toiled to produce the enormous structures.
You can also explore a number of smaller tombs around the pyramids, and these are often a lot less crowded. Visit the Solar Barque Museum before continuing to the enormous Sphinx. Marvel at the huge human-cum-lion statue and explore the Temple of the Sphinx for even more wonder. As long as they are treated well and appear healthy, taking a camel or horse ride around the ancient sites is a magical experience. Watch a breath-taking sunrise over the pyramids and return in the evening for an awesome and informative sound and light presentation.
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More top places to visit in Cairo
Explore the affluent area of Garden City, a huge contrast to the historic parts of Cairo. Join a tour of the Egyptian Parliament and Museum, admire the views from the Corniche, take a ride in a traditional sailing boat (known as a felucca) along the Nile, and appreciate art in Beit El-Sennari. Discover the various attractions on the modern Gezira Island, including the Museum of Islamic Ceramics and Cairo Opera House. Art lovers are sure to appreciate places like Gezira Centre of Arts, the Picasso Gallery, and Akhenaten Centre of the Arts.
The 1176 Citadel at the base of the Mokattam Hills is a Cairo must-see for history and architecture buffs, and the Sultan Hassan Mosque is another great place to see in Cairo if you love architecture.
Other fascinating and stunning points of interest in Cairo include Manyal Palace, the Madrassa of Qalaun, the Madrassa of an-Nasr Mohammed, the Madrassa of as-Salih Ayyub, Monastirli Palace (which is home to the unusual Nileometer), Ibn Tulun Mosque, and Bab Zuwayla Minaret. Al Sorat Farm is an awesome place to visit in Cairo with kids, and the Pharaonic Village offers insights and activities for people of all ages.
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