Top 10 Places to Visit in Cairo

Top 10 Places to Visit in Cairo

By Margaux | Updated May. 4, 2023

Cairo is a city with a population of 21.3 million, making it the largest city in the Arab world. This, combined with the fact that it is the capital city of Egypt, explains the huge riches in terms of architectural and historical sights, and its importance for tourism.  

Read on to find out more about some of the top places to visit in Cairo, including natural sights, spots that will help you get a feel for the atmosphere of modern Cairo, and places that will help you understand Cairo's varied past.

1. Khan el-Khalili

Khan el-KhaliliLanter shop in the Khan el-Khalili market
  • Open: 9:30am–11pm daily
  • Recommended visit: 2–3 hours
  • Entry: Free

There is no better place to start exploring Cairo and its hustle and bustle than Khan el-Khalili, the most popular bazaar in the city. There you'll find souvenir shops selling gifts to take home, spices, and restaurants serving up some of Egypt's most delicious fare. It is also a good place to buy silver, copper, and brassware, as well as leather goods, all crafted by local craftspeople.

2. The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization

mummies displayed in the NMECThe mummies on display in the NMEC
  • Open: 9am–5pm daily
  • Recommend visit: 3–4 hours
  • Entry: 200 Egyptian Pounds (8 US dollars)

Focusing solely on Egyptian civilization, the highlight of this museum is undoubtedly the collection of royal mummies displayed alongside technology that shows what is underneath their wrappings. Other exhibits explain and show rituals and burial traditions surrounding mummification, making for an interesting and worthwhile visit especially if you are heading into the rest of Egypt to see some of the mummy's tombs for yourself. The most famous of the mummies that are on display here include Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, and Seqenenre Taa II.

3. The Nile River

cruise ship on Nile RiverCruise ship on Nile River
  • Open: 24 hours a day
  • Recommended visit: 1–4 hours
  • Entry: free

Given the importance of the Nile to Egypt and its history, we recommend seeing the Nile from Cairo. This can either be done through taking in the sights by foot (probably only takes about an hour and is totally free), or through a boat tour or a meal at a restaurant that faces the Nile. The latter two options likely will take a little more time out of your day, but will also help you enjoy the Nile more. When it comes to boat tours, you can either take a cruise with a meal on board, or you can enjoy a traditional wooden felucca tour.

Recommended Itinerary

4. The Hanging Church in Coptic Cairo

The Hanging Church in CairoThe Hanging Church in Coptic Cairo
  • Open: 9am–5pm daily
  • Recommended visit: 1–2 hours
  • Entry: Free

The Saint Virgin Mary's Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the oldest churches in Cairo and all of Egypt, having been built in the 3rd century, when Cairo was an important center for Christianity in the world. Its name comes from its location above a gatehouse of Babylon Fortress, with its nave suspended over a passage. It's a beautiful monument and high up on most Cairo visitors' lists.

5. Al-Azhar Mosque

Al-Azhar MosqueAl-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt
  • Open: 8am–4pm daily
  • Recommended visit: 1–2 hours
  • Entry: 160 Egyptian Pounds (6.5 US dollars)

To learn more about mosques and how they were built in earlier times, the Al-Azhar Mosque is worth a visit, being the first mosque to have been built in Cairo in the 10th century. It is also one of the oldest mosques in the Arab world and plays an important role as a religious institution, as it currently also functions as a university specializing in Islamic law. Make sure you're wearing proper attire, with knees and shoulders covered, and head covered for women, before visiting.

6. Citadel of Cairo and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali

Mosque of Muhammad AliMosque of Muhammad Ali
  • Open: 8am–5pm daily
  • Recommended visit: 2 hours
  • Entry: 180 Egyptian Pounds (8 US dollars)

The Citadel of Cairo and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali are important sights to visit in order to get an understanding of Cairo's role in Egypt between the 13th and 19th centuries. During this time, the Citadel was the seat of government, and the mosque was the largest to be built in the 19th century and one of the most recognizable ones in Cairo.

Recommended Itinerary

7. Muizz Street

Muizz Street is a great street in EgyptMuizz Street is a great, historical and fantastic street in Egypt
  • Open: 24 hours
  • Recommended visit: 3–4 hours
  • Entry: Free

As the center of Islamic Cairo, Muizz Street (also known as Al-Muizz il-Din Allah al-Fatimi Street), is where you will find some incredible examples of Islamic architecture in Cairo. Worth a visit along this street are the Mosque of Al-Hakim bi-Air Allah, the Mosque of al-Aqmar, the Mosque of Sulamayan Agha al-Silahdar, the Mausoleum of Sultan Al-Ghuri, and the Khan al-Khalili Market as mentioned above. A visit during the day means you'll be able to enter some of the monuments, but you can also go for a stroll along here at night to enjoy the evening atmosphere as many of the monuments are lit up and can be enjoyed from outside too.

8. Cairo Tower

Cairo Tower during sunsetCairo Tower during sunset in Cairo
  • Open: 9am–1am daily
  • Recommended visit: 1–2 hours
  • Entry: 60 Egyptian Pounds (3 US dollars)

The Cairo Tower is the tallest structure in Egypt and North Africa, at an incredible 187 meter (614 feet) tall. It was built by an Egyptian architect between 1956 and 1961, Naoum Shebib, and its features were influenced by Egyptian architecture. Today, you can go up the tower to either go to the bar or to the restaurant, and you'll be able to enjoy panoramic views over the capital. We recommend a visit at sunset, so you can see the city with daylight as well as its nighttime panoramas. If you go up on a clear day, you'll also be able to see the pyramids of Giza in the distance.

9. Cave Church

  • Open: 9am–5pm daily
  • Recommended visit: 1–2 hours
  • Entry: Free

The Cave Church, also known as Simon Monastery, is located in Mokattam Mountain in the southeast of Cairo, where most of the garbage and recycling workers live. After a previous monastery was devastated by a fire, the community there decided to build the new monastery inside the mountain. You'll be able to see impressive paintings, stories carved into the walls, and lots of sculptures. The Cave Church can accommodate 20,000 people, making it the largest church in the Middle East.

10. Tahrir Square

Tahrir SquareTahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt
  • Open: 24 hours
  • Recommended visit: 1 hour
  • Entry: Free

Being an important square both in Egypt's older and more recent history, we recommend stopping off at this important sight during your time in Cairo. Recently, you would've seen Tahrir Square on the news as it was the focal point for protests that were part of the Egyptian Arab Spring in 2011, which helped force the resignation of then President Hosni Mubarak. Even more recently, the square saw an interesting parade of mummies as they were moved from the Egyptian Museum (which sits at once side of the square, but which is being replaced by the Grand Egyptian Museum opening in Giza), to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.

Further Reading 

If you were wondering where the pyramids and Giza Necropolis were on the list, they were left off as they are technically in Giza, a separate region to Cairo, but there is plenty more about them and other top attractions in Egypt via the links below:

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