Things to do in Cairo

Things to do in  Cairo

In the footsteps of pharaohs

Gateway to Egypt, Nile-side Cairo delivers an intoxicating and often intimidating blend of ancient, modern—and medieval. The Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx occupy pole position in most people’s list of things to do in Cairo, alongside the Egyptian Museum, Memphis, Saqqara, and Dahshur. Yet the medieval old town also holds UNESCO World Heritage status, and the Khan El-Khalili bazaar district, Cairo Citadel, and Christian Coptic Cairo entice travelers to go deeper. A dinner cruise or a felucca ride are lovely ways to discover the Nile, one of Earth’s great rivers.

Top 15 attractions in Cairo

Egyptian Museum (Museum of Egyptian Antiquities)

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A centerpiece of Tahrir Square, the Egyptian Museum (Museum of Egyptian Antiquities) has been a mecca for Egyptologists since it opened and houses some of the world’s greatest ancient relics. While some collections are moving to the new Grand Egyptian Museum, it remains a must-see for anyone interested in ancient Egypt.More

Giza Pyramids

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One of the most mysterious Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (and the only one still standing), the Pyramids of Giza—the Great Pyramid of Giza (Khufu Pyramid), Pyramid of Khafre, and Pyramid of Menkaure—still live up to more than 4,000 years of hype. Seeing these 4th-dynasty pyramids and their guardian Sphinx rising from the Giza Plateau is a must on any trip to Cairo (and the reason many travelers find themselves in Egypt).More

Nile River

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Measuring a mighty 4,150 miles (6,680 kilometers) from end to end, the Nile is the longest river in the world. It's also the lifeblood of Egypt, flowing through the heart of the Sahara desert and passing through cities, including Khartoum, Aswan, Luxor, and Cairo, before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria.More

Khan El-Khalili

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With a history dating back to the 14th century, the Khan El-Khalili bazaar is Cairo’s signature shopping destination. It’s an intoxicating warren of streets, houses, and merchants selling everything from gold and spices to shisha pipes and toy camels, not to mention the inevitable scarabs, pyramids, and belly-dancer costumes.More

Memphis

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During Egypt’s Old Kingdom period, Memphis, located near Cairo, was home to the pharaohs who built the pyramids. But domestic architecture didn’t last like the pyramids did, so most all that remains of Memphis today is the Mit Rahina open-air sculpture museum.More

Saqqara (Sakkara)

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Set about 18 miles (30 kilometers) south of Cairo, Saqqara (Sakkara) was the burial place for the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, now in ruins. The site features a small sphinx and several pyramids—the most famous of which is the Step Pyramid of Djoser, which represented a major advance in building techniques.More

Old Cairo (Misr Al-Qadima)

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Located in south Cairo on the Nile’s east bank, Old Cairo, also known as Misr Al-Qadima, dates to the sixth century BC and occupies the sites of several early Egyptian capitals, including Fustat. Merging into Islamic Cairo to the east, its heart is Coptic Cairo—home to a crumbled Roman fortress and numerous early medieval Coptic churches.More

Cairo Citadel (Citadel of Saladin)

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Standing proud above the hubbub of the modern city, the Cairo Citadel (Citadel of Saladin)) is one of Old Cairo’s most striking sights. First built by Saladin in the 12th century, during the Crusader conflicts, the fortress complex houses palaces, museums, and mosques, including Muhammad Ali’s 19th-century Alabaster Mosque.More

Sphinx (Great Sphinx of Giza)

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The 66-foot-tall (20-meter-tall) Sphinx of Giza is an icon of ancient Egypt, and the subject of continued debate regarding its meaning, age, and original builder. With the head of a human and the body of a lion, the Sphinx—one of the world’s largest and oldest statues—is said to symbolize strength, power, and wisdom.More

Alabaster Mosque (Mosque of Muhammad Ali)

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The citadel of Saladin—and the Cairo skyline—is dominated by the Alabaster Mosque (also known as the Mosque of Muhammad Ali). Modeled on classic Turkish architecture, it took 18 years to build the structure (1830-1848), with a complete restoration taking place in the 1930s. It was commissioned by Muhammad Ali, ruler of Egypt from 1805-1849, who lies in the marble tomb inside.More

Cairo Tower (Burj al-Qahira)

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Standing 614 feet (187 meters) tall on Gezira Island, the Cairo Tower (Burj al-Qahira) is one of Cairo’s most recognizable landmarks. Completed in 1961, with a striking lattice exterior designed to resemble a lotus flower, the tower is topped with a café, an observation deck, and a revolving restaurant.More

Hanging Church (Al-Muallaqa)

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Tucked among Coptic Cairo’s winding streets, the Hanging Church is more than 1,000 years old. Enter the 19th-century façade to find icons, elegant screens, a marble pulpit, and a window onto Roman ruins beneath the church. The Hanging Church is an important site for Egyptian Christians, as well as one of Coptic Cairo’s top attractions.More

Great Pyramid of Giza (Khufu Pyramid)

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The last surviving wonder of the ancient world, the Great Pyramid of Giza is also known as the Khufu Pyramid or Pyramid of Cheops, in honor of the pharaoh who built it around 2570 BC. The oldest, largest, and tallest of the three Giza pyramids, it is full of narrow tunnels and eerie chambers that are open to visitors.More

Dahshur

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Blissfully serene compared to the Giza Pyramids chaos, Dahshur’s desert sands were once home to an impressive 11 large pyramids. Today, two survive, the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid, both built by Pharaoh Snefru around 4,500 years ago. Unusually, travelers can explore inside both of them, as well as a smaller side pyramid.More

Islamic Cairo

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Cairo is known as the "city of a thousand minarets," and that's reflected in its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A journey into Islamic Cairo is a journey into the city’s past, from Fustat, Egypt’s first Muslim capital, to the 1,000-year-old walled city, the Cairo Citadel, founded by 12th-century leader Saladin, and beyond.More

Top activities in Cairo

2-Hour Nile River Dinner Cruise From Cairo
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2-Hour Nile River Dinner Cruise From Cairo

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Private Day Tour Giza Pyramids, Sphinx, Memphis, and Saqqara
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Private Day Tour Giza Pyramids, Sphinx, Memphis, and Saqqara

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Full-Day Tour to Giza Pyramids, Memphis, and Sakkara
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Full-Day Tour to Giza Pyramids, Memphis, and Sakkara

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Private tour: GIza Pyramids, Memphis City & Sakkara Pyramid
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Private tour: GIza Pyramids, Memphis City & Sakkara Pyramid

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Half-Day Tour from Cairo: Dahshur Pyramids Sakkara and Memphis City
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Private Tour To Giza Pyramids,Sphinx With Entry Inside The Great Pyramid
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1 Day tour to Alexandria from Cairo
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Cairo Private Day Tour to Egyptian Museum Citadel and Khan Khalili Bazaar
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Full Day Tour Visiting Coptic and Islamic Cairo
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Full Day Tour Visiting Coptic and Islamic Cairo

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Guided Tour To Alexandria From Cairo
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8 hours Cairo day Tour to Giza Pyramids, Memphis City, Sakkara and Dahshur
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ATV Ride at the Desert of Giza Pyramids
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ATV Ride at the Desert of Giza Pyramids

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All about Cairo

When to visit

Cairo’s ancient sites require serious steps, which can be a sticky business during the scorching summers. Visitor numbers peak during the European winter (mid-October to February), with those same months in Cairo seeing average highs ranging from 67°F (19°C) to 86°F (30°C). To avoid the crowds, the shoulder seasons of spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) are the perfect seasons to discover the city, although sandstorms can be an issue in March and April. For travelers who don’t mind a little heat, May, September, and early October hit the sweet spot.

Getting around

Cairo’s bewildering array of buses and microbuses can be largely impenetrable to travelers who don’t speak Arabic. But the metro is easy to use and covers a couple of helpful routes, with stops at Tahrir Square and Coptic Cairo (keep in mind that two carriages in every train are reserved for women). Most travelers find Uber or regional ride-hailing app Careem easier than metered taxis, where scams are common. Meanwhile, private drivers are your best choice for seeing the ancient sights.

Traveler tips

Egypt’s signature street food is koshary, a tangy but carb-heavy blend of rice, macaroni, lentils, and chickpeas topped off with a tasty mound of fried onions, tomatoes, hot sauce, and a garlic-vinegar drizzle. The Koshary El Tahrir chain (also written Koshari Al-Tahrir) is so popular it’s opened locations in neighboring Saudi Arabia. There’s a branch about a 15-minute walk from the Egyptian Museum.

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People Also Ask

What is Cairo famous for?

Cairo is most famous for the Giza Pyramids, a complex of pharaonic tombs built about 4,500 years ago. Most visitors admire these monumental UNESCO-listed structures—alongside the mysterious Sphinx—before discovering the city’s other attractions, including Tutankhamun’s treasures at the Egyptian Museum and Old Cairo’s mosques, churches, and Khan el-Khalili bazaar.

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How many days should I spend in Cairo?

Two or three days is enough to cover Cairo. Devote day one to the Giza Pyramids and Egyptian Museum to see its mummies and Tutankhamun’s gold burial mask. Next, discover Old Cairo’s mosques, citadel, and Khan el-Khalili bazaar; visit Coptic Cairo's churches; and take trips to nearby ancient Memphis or Saqqara.

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What do tourists typically do when visiting Cairo?

Most Cairo visitors prioritize Giza’s Pyramids before checking out the city’s wider offerings. History buffs head for the Egyptian Museum’s antiquities and then dive into Old Cairo’s many sights. Those wanting a slower pace, meanwhile, are happy browsing the colorful souks and malls and taking scenic cruises on the Nile.

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What can you do in Cairo at night?

Cairo buzzes at night, with shops, bazaars, and restaurants packed till late. Watch a spectacular Pyramids Sound and Light Show or admire Cairo’s sunset and skyline on a Nile felucca (sailboat) or dinner cruise, complete with belly-dancing shows. Alternatively, roam Old Cairo’s lit-up souks, pausing for coffee at a cafe.

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What activities are popular in Egypt?

The popular activities largely depend on location. In the Nile Valley, touring pharaonic-age treasures is tops, with most visitors focusing on ancient pyramids, temples, and museums. Along the Red Sea, other pursuits dominate: relaxing at the beach or pool, scuba diving, snorkeling, and shopping and dining out at night.

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Is Cairo safe to walk around?

Yes. Cairo is safe to stroll around, although women should be cautious about walking alone at night in some areas, and be ready for occasional unwanted attention. Statistically, crime and terrorism risks are low, but it’s wise to stay vigilant, follow local security measures, and keep your valuables safe while exploring.

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Frequently Asked Questions
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