It may surprise you to know that there are plenty of fascinating places to visit in Cairo that aren’t just the Pyramids of Giza. You can go mosque and church hopping, shop in one of the oldest markets in Egypt and eat delicious food.
A lot of people told us that we would hate Cairo but actually, we loved it! At times Cairo is frustrating and exhausting but when you lean in it rewards you a thousand times over!
In this post, you will find our favorite things to do and plenty of tips for your trip to Cairo. We stayed for 5 days in Cairo.
How to get there
Where to stay
We stayed at the Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino which we recommend. It is a beautiful hotel and the location is great.
How to get around
The Pyramids of Giza
One of the ancient mysteries that captured the hearts of people all over the world and is on many people’s bucket list is visiting the Pyramids of Giza.
This area on the edge of Cairo makes a great half-day visit. You can read more about visiting the Pyramids of Giza here.
In 1979, Islamic Cairo became a World Cultural Heritage Site.
This area is full of things to see and do. You could spend days wandering the streets in Islamic Cairo.
- Salah El-Din Citadel
- Al-Muizz li-Din Allah al-Fatima Street
- Bab Zuweila
- Khan el-Khalili
- Ibn Tulun Mosque
- Al-Azhar Mosque
- Al-Azhar Park
- Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan
- Al-Rifa’i Mosque
Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan
As enormous as this Muslim place of worship is, it is equally elegant. It was built between 1356 and 1363 by Sultan Hassan. Sultan Hassan took the throne at the age of 13, and was deposed and reinstated no less than three times, then assassinated shortly before the mosque was completed.
Beyond the entrance, a dark passage leads into a peaceful square courtyard surrounded by four iwans (vaulted halls). The iwans are home to the madrassas or education centers of the four Sunni Islam schools of thought: Shafi’i, Maliki, Hanafi, and Hanbali.
Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm and the entrance fee is 80 LE per person. You can get there by Careem or on foot depending on where you are staying in the city.
The contemporary Al-Rifa’i Mosque stands opposite its historic counterpart, the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan. This place of worship was built over 43 years, finally being completed in 1912. Constructed as part of the 19th-century Egyptian ruler’s plan to both modernize the capital city and embrace the glory years of Egypt’s Islamic history, the mosque’s design is particularly influenced by Mamluk architecture.
Members of modern Egypt’s royal family, including Khedive Ismail and King Farouk, are buried inside.
Salah El Din Citadel
The Citadel of Saladin is a medieval Islamic-era fortification built by Salah ad-Din and further developed by Egyptian rulers. It was the seat of government in Egypt and the residence of its rulers for nearly 700 years from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Its location on the Mokattam hills commands a strategic position overlooking the city and dominating its skyline.
- Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque
- The Mosque of Muhammad Ali
- The views from the terrace
As you walk around Cairo, you will see the citadel from almost everywhere, because of its location on the Mokattam hills.
Salah El Din Citadel is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm and the entrance fee is 200 LE per person. You can get there by Careem or on foot depending on where you are staying in the city.
Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque
The mosque of Al-Nasir Muhammad was built in 1318 during his third and longest reign as the royal mosque of the Citadel. It was highly cherished by Mamluk sultans and used by the Mamluk occupants of the Citadel.
The mosque was used as storage and prison during the British occupation. This led to its destruction, but it was restored in 1848.
Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm and the entrance is included in the citadel ticket.
Mosque of Muhammad Ali
The Muhammad Ali Mosque is also called the Alabaster Mosque because of the shining marble which covers its inner and outer walls.
The clock tower in the courtyard was given to Egypt by King Louis Philippe of France in 1845. In return, the obelisk that originally stood at the entrance of the Luxor Temple now stands in Place de la Concorde in Paris.
The Mosque of Muhammad Ali is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm and the entrance is included in the citadel ticket.
While at the Citadel, make sure you visit Gawhara Terrace for one of the best views over the city! From here you have a beautiful view over Islamic Cairo and on a clear day, you will be able to see the Pyramids of Giza.
A madrassa was established here in 988, growing into a university that is the world’s second-oldest educational institution.
The Al-Azhar Mosque is open daily and the entrance is free. Don’t forget to be respectful!
Khan El-Khalili is open daily from 9 am till sundown. The most interesting time to visit Khan-El-Khalili is around 6 pm. There will be a lot more people at the market and it will feel much more alive than in the morning.
Al-Muizz Li-Din Allah Al-Fatima Street
Along this street, you can find madrassas, mosques, antique shops, markets, and hammams.
Walking Al-Muizz was one of our favorite experiences in Cairo. Yes, it’s noisy and chaotic, but the people are friendly, the street food is delicious, and walking down one of the oldest streets in Cairo is an unforgettable experience!
The Madrassa and Mausoleum of Qaluim are one of the most beautiful complexes on this street.
For a spectacular view of Islamic Cairo and Al-Muizz street, you can climb both of the minarets.
Bab Zuweila is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm and the entrance fee is 40 LE per person. You can get there by Careem or on foot depending on where you are staying in the city.
Directly after Bab Zuweila, you can find the Tentmakers Market. This street is one of the remaining medieval specialty quarters. It takes its name from the artisans who produce the bright fabrics used for the ceremonial tents at wakes, weddings, and feasts. They also hand-make wall hangings, cushion covers, carpets, and bedspreads. We bought some beautiful carpets for our apartment here.
The Tentmakers Market is open daily from 9 am – 6 pm.
Ibn Tulun Mosque
It is built around an open square courtyard which allows natural light to travel through. You can climb the minaret for a beautiful view over the mosque.
The Ibn Tulun Mosque is open daily from 8 am – 4 pm and the entrance is free.
Al-Azhar Park is open daily from 9 am – 10 pm and the entrance is 10 LE per person.
- Hanging Church
- Church of St. George
- The Coptic Museum
- Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus
Church of St. George
The church dates back to the 10th century. The current structure was rebuilt after a fire in 1904.
The Church of St. George is open daily from 8 am – 4 pm. The entrance is free.
The Coptic Museum is open daily from 8 am – 4 pm. The entrance is 100 LE per person.
The Hanging Church
The Hanging Church is open daily from 8 am – 4 pm. The entrance is free.
Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus
The Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus is open daily from 8 am – 4 pm. The entrance is free.
Extremely narrow roads wind their way up to the Cave Church. This is a busy place, as trucks filled with trash arrive from all parts of the city. Rubber, metal, paper, and plastic are all sorted and packaged together, and later sent to China and other places to be used in the manufacturing of new materials.
It may be a hard, dirty, unhealthy way of life, but everything has value and gets recycled and reused.
Explore Downtown Cairo
Koshary or Koshari is Egypt’s national dish. It is popularly found on the streets and served in carts and restaurants. It is a layering of rice, macaroni, lentils, and chickpeas topped with tomato sauce, garlic, vinegar, and fried onions. Koshary is one of the cheapest and most filling meals in Egypt.
You can find the best Koshary at Abu Tarek in Cairo.
Qasr El Nil Bridge
It is always vibrant with street vendors selling roasted nuts and the music of boats passing along the river. We loved hanging out here in the evening.
the Egyptian Museum is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm. The entrance fee is 200 LE per person.
The Cairo Tower is open daily from 9 am – midnight. The entrance fee is 200 LE.
We recommend you have dinner at Zooba. We had a delicious Hawawshi there. You can find more dishes to eat in Egypt here.
Day-trip to Saqqara and Dashur
Dashur is an ancient, royal necropolis that is located 40 km south of Cairo.
Dashur is where the ancient Egyptians perfected their pyramid-constructing skills. It is here that several of the first pyramids were built. You can read more about Dashur here.