With a metropolitan population of over 22 million people, Cairo is the Capital of Egypt and the third largest city in Africa (just behind Lagos in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kinshasa in Kenya).
With an impressive extension of 214 km2, Cairo is indeed an enormous sprawling metropolis and a city of contrasts, where ancient history meets the bustling energy of a modern metropolis.
The first time I visited Cairo I was just 13 while on a family trip, and I remember my visit as one of those experiences that opened up my perception of the world and how enormous, chaotic, gorgeous, and complicated it truly is!
This vibrant and culturally rich city has long been a center of art, commerce, and culture in the Arab world for millenials, and today it is still one of the most incredible and complex cities you can visit in the world! 🙂
In this brief article, we will take you on a virtual journey of those that we believe to be the best 7 hotspots in Cairo you absolutely cannot miss when visiting for the first time!
The treasures, the history, and the unique charm that make this Egyptian urban sprawl a must-visit destination are there waiting for you, so let’s dive right in! 😀
DISCOVER THE 7 BEST PLACES
TO VISIT IN CAIRO ON YOUR FIRST TRIP IN THE CITY!
1. Cairo’s Ancient Heart: The Egyptian Museum
The best place to start your journey in Cairo is surely the Egyptian Museum, situated in Tahrir Square.
This world-renowned museum houses a staggering collection of artifacts from ancient Egypt (including the treasures of King Tutankhamun!), and it’s the ideal place to start uncovering the roots of Egyptian Culture.
As you explore the museum’s labyrinthine halls, you’ll come face-to-face with statues, and exquisite jewelry that date back thousands of years.
If you’d like an extra look into ancient Egypt’s Heritage, you could also include in your tour a visit to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, a recently expanded part of the national museum, renovated in October 2022 with the opening of a new mausoleum, which today it presents itself as one of the most modern and well-kept museums in Africa!
2. The Iconic Giza Plateau
No visit to Cairo is complete without a trip to the Giza Plateau, home to the world-famous Pyramids of Giza and the enigmatic Sphinx.
Gaze in awe at the towering pyramids, which have stood the test of time for over four millennia!
The best way to visit the pyramids is surely joining a guided tour that could explain to you more in detail their history and secrets.
Since my first visit, I still remember the names of the three pyramids (Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure), and I treasure the memories of entering in the pyramid of Khafre to this day!
Yes, because you can enter two of the three pyramids: the Khufu pyramid (the largest one) is always open to the public, while the other two (the Khafre and Menkanure pyramid) are open on alternate years.
Entering the pyramids is an experience: although there’s not much to see inside today (just tight descending and ascending tunnels, no adorned rooms or tombs), it truly gave me an “adventurer” feel hard to forget!
Note: if you suffer from claustrophobia, that might not be for you! 😉 ).
In addition to the pyramids, on the plateau don’t forget to take a pic with the most famous Sphynx in Egypt, standing just in front of the three pyramids!
Last but not least, if you’re wondering (like I did the first time) if it’s possible to climb the pyramids: well, that’s a no-no, as you could get three years of prison or be banned from Egypt forever (but there’s a video of a teen who did it and filmed for all of us to see!) ;D
3. Khan el-Khalili Bazaar: A Shopper’s Paradise
Khan el-Khalili is Cairo’s most famous bustling and historic market, where you can immerse yourself in the sensory delights of Egypt.
Lose yourself in the narrow alleyways filled with shops selling spices, textiles, carpets, jewelry, hookah accessories and an array of exotic foods and goods.
Don’t forget to haggle for your purchases, as bargaining (to death xD) is an essential part of the market experience 😉
4. Islamic Cairo: A Glimpse into History
Taking a stroll in the winding streets of Islamic Cairo (one of the most famous quarters of the city) is a “thousand and one nights” experience and a huge chance to explore the city’s rich history and architectural treasures.
I can’t find words to describe it better than “hell on earth”: sounds of cars, motorbikes, tuc tuc to the nth-degree and the worst traffic you can imagine!
People coming and going from everywhere, animals arriving from right and left, music, shouts, noises, din in every corner, perfumes and strong odors that come together in a unique mix that assaults you!
The Islamic Cairo is yes a real hell, but also a wonderful, unique, incredible experience, that will make your senses spike, leave you astonished, perplexed, and shocked but also void inside when you leave!
Unique, incredible and unforgettable!
The Mosque of Ibn Tulun, dating back to the 9th century, is a must-see hotspot within the Islamic Cairo quarter and an exquisite example of Islamic architecture, with its distinctive spiral minaret.
Nearby, the Sultan Hassan Mosque and the Al-Rifa’i Mosque are equally impressive and offer a glimpse into the city’s religious heritage!
5. The Citadel of Saladin
Perched on a hill overlooking Cairo, the Citadel of Saladin is a historic fortress that has guarded the city for centuries.
Inside its walls, you’ll find the stunning Mosque of Muhammad Ali, often referred to as the Alabaster Mosque due to its gleaming white exterior. To my opinion, this is the most gorgeous mosque you can visit in Cairo, truly hauntingly gorgeous!
After exploring the mosque’s grand interior, don’t forget to enjoy the panoramic views of Cairo from its elevated position: on clear days you might also be able to spot the three giant pyramids in the distance! ;D
A quick tip: to visit the citadel, I suggest you join a guided tour or get a private guide, there are almost no explicative panels around, and visiting alone would not be the same educative and instructive experience!
6. The Coptic Quarter: A Journey through Christianity
Surprise, surprise: Cairo is not just a city of Islamic heritage but also a place of Christian significance!
The Coptic Quarter is a quiet quarter home to ancient churches, including the Hanging Church (Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church) and the Coptic Museum.
Explore the rich Christian history of Egypt and marvel at the intricate Coptic art and architecture, an excellent location to spend couple of hours strolling around and taking a break from the chaos of Egypt capitals (the Coptic quarter is also the quietest place in Cairo! 😉 ).
7. Al-Azhar Park: An Oasis of Greenery
Entering in another dimension!
Are you looking for peace and tranquillity?
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city at Al-Azhar Park, a lush oasis in the heart of Cairo.
This beautifully landscaped park offers stunning views of the city’s skyline and is a perfect spot for a leisurely afternoon stroll or a picnic.
Once you cross the historic walls encircling the park (which by the way, date back to the 12th century!), in the Al-Azhar Park you will find an unreal environment!
The park, which costs around 2Euro to enter, is kept in Swiss-like conditions with no trash at all and not a single blade of grass out of place! Palm trees adorn the promenade and the grassy hills offer the ideal place for a picnic above the mess of the Cairo Metropolitan City!
Extra info: Travel Visa for Egypt
The visa requirements for Egypt may vary depending on your nationality, the purpose of your visit, and the duration of your stay.
Egypt typically offers different types of visas, including tourist visas, business visas, and transit visas.
- Tourist Visa: Most travelers visiting Egypt for tourism purposes need a tourist visa. These visas are usually valid for a specific duration, such as 30 days, and can often be extended if you wish to stay longer. Travelers from many countries can obtain a tourist visa upon arrival at Egyptian airports, while others may need to apply for one in advance through an Egyptian embassy or consulate.
- Visa-Free Entry: Some countries (mostly neighboring Arabic countries) have visa-free agreements with Egypt, allowing their citizens to enter for a specified period without a visa. The duration of visa-free stays and eligibility may vary, so it’s important to check the specific requirements based on your nationality.
- Visa requirements can change over time, check with the nearest Egyptian embassy or consulate or consult the official website of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs or visaexpress.com to verify the most up-to-date visa requirements based on your nationality and the purpose of your visit.
Additionally, you may also want to inquire about any changes or updates related to visa policies, as these can be subject to revisions by the government.
And here we come at the end of this article 🙂
In this article, we’ve seen the 7 most gorgeous hotspots to visit in Cairo during your first visit!
All in all, Cairo is a city that bridges the gap between ancient wonders and contemporary living.
Its vibrant streets, rich history, and warm hospitality make it an enchanting destination for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the heart of Egypt.
Whether you’re exploring ancient pyramids or sipping coffee in a trendy cafe, Cairo offers an unforgettable experience that combines the past and the present in a way that is uniquely its own.
Before going, I would like to ask you:
Was the article useful to you?
How do you think it could be improved?
Have you been to Cairo already? How was your experience?
Let us know in the comments below! 😀
Hereafter I will leave you a few articles that you might also be interested to check out:
- Blog: Travel Curiosities, Fun Facts and Travel Tips
- Destinations of the World: Discover More Cool Destinations!
- Travel Italy: All you Need to Discover the Bel Paese!
Thank you for reading, and see you in the next article!
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