Cairo is a very big city. You can spend 1 or even 3 days in Cairo and still have things to do and see. The traffic in this city is insane, so it will take time to go from one place to another. Don’t make your itinerary too tight.
We explored most of Cairo by ourselves, although we’ve been in Egypt with a guided tour from G Adventures. Although the tour was very nice and we recommend it, Cairo is not included in the itinerary. For us this was a good thing. We will leave more details about the entire Egypt tour that we made at the end of this article.
We plan to go again by ourselves when the Grand Egyptian Museum opens. Until then we will show you how to spend a day in Cairo and also what other options you have in case you plan a 2 or even 4 days city break.
Please use your own good judgment while visiting Cairo. Although we had no safety problems while in Cairo, there can be risks that you need to assess on your own and avoid. Always take some common-sense safety measures, like the ones we describe in the following article. Don’t limit yourself to the measures mentioned by us, and always find appropriate measures that suit you.
Places to avoid. We wouldn’t go to any place without researching it before. Even so, a commonly visited place in Cairo is Tahrir Square. You must be very cautious with this square because protests usually start here.
1. Khan el-Khalili
Khan el-Khalili is the historic center of Cairo. It is a famous bazaar and souq. It is for locals and tourists alike, although not too many tourists get here because guided groups don’t come here.
You can start the walk at Bab al-Futuh, one of the remaining gates in the city wall of the old Cairo. From there, walk south on al-Muizz Street. This is the main street in the historical center of Cairo where you will see a lot of old, beautiful buildings and the daily life of the locals.
Just to mention some of the most iconic buildings that you can see in our photos: Mosque of Al Hakim, Madrasa And Dome Of Sultan Al-Nassir Mohammed, Complex of Qalawun, Mosque of Taghri Bardi, Sabil-Kuttab of Abdel Rahman Katkhuda, and Madrasa of Sultan Al-Ghuri, which is on the southern part of al-Muizz Street, after the intersection with Al-Azhar Street.
Feel free to turn left or right on some of the streets, but never venture too far, especially if it looks shady and if there are no people.
Bab Zuweila is the southern gate of the old city of Cairo. If you wish, you can Climb up to the top of the wall, and the minarets allow a beautiful view over the roofs of old Cairo.
2. Al Azhar Park
This park felt like an oasis in the desert. It is extremely impressive to see such a green and beautiful park in Cairo. After roaming through the hustle and bustle of the city, this park was a welcoming break.
If you go there around noon, then take some food with you for a picnic. This is what locals do. They sit on the grass, listen to the birds, and enjoy their homemade meal. If you don’t have food with you, then there are also a few restaurants around here, but we preferred to go to one of the several shops and get some snacks.
3. The City of the Dead (optional)
If you have enough time, you can check out the cemetery that is just across the street from Al Azhar Park. It is the most famous cemetery of Cairo, a place where life and death occupy the same place. Yes, you got it right, people live here. Due to the housing crisis in Egypt, people that take care of the te toombs in this cemetery live there with their entire families.
This is a place that can be visited and it is a unique thing to see. We haven’t been here because we found out about it too late.
4. The Egyptian Museum (optional)
To be honest, this museum was a bit of a disappointment because they are in the process of moving everything from here to the new Grand Egyptian Museum. The best displays have already been moved, there were empty showcases, and sealed boxes ready for transportation everywhere.
5. Papyrus Making
We were not planning to go on our own to any papyrus shop because we don’t know to distinguish between real and fake papyrus. Our tour guide took us to the Imhotep Papyrus Institute where we’ve seen how they make papyrus, and you can also buy some if you want. Since our tour guide took us here, we trust that this is real papyrus, and not fake.
Depending on where your accommodation is situated, you might want to do this together with the Giza Plateau or the Grand Egyptian Museum (when it opens). Our accommodation was right next to the Grand Egyptian Museum, so the Imhotep Papyrus Institue was always on the way to everywhere we went.
We haven’t taken any photos in the shop, but we do have some videos of the process of making papyrus. You can find the link to our entire one-day in Cairo Youtube video below.
One day in Cairo video highlights
- Grand Egyptian Museum (not open yet)
The Grand Egyptian Museum has not opened yet, but it is planned to open on November 2022. Please check the status of the museum before planning a visit. The building is so big that it is hard to estimate how long it would take to visit, but I would schedule half a day for it.
I’m adding this on the second day because it will be one of the main reasons we will go back for a city break in Cairo.
Day 3 (a)
- The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization
- Coptic Cairo
Depending on how much time you plan to spend at the Civilization Museum and in Coptic Cairo, you might or might not have time for the mosques. You can either leave all the mosques for another day or perhaps go and check only the Mosque of Muhammad Ali.
The Civilization Museum is an impressive building, and it should have lots of mummies in it. We wouldn’t miss this museum next time we’re in Cairo. Although, we are not the type of people that usually visit museums.
Day 3 (b)
- Mosque of Muhammad Ali
- Saladin Citadel
- Mosque-Madrasa of Sultan Hassan
- Al-Rifa’i Mosque
- Mosque of Ibn Tulun
Day 4 - Giza Plateau
Memphis and Saqqara Pyramids. We will cover this day in a dedicated article.
On the map, you can also find a layer with some extras. Those are nice things to see, but not a top priority. Depending on your proximity to them, and on how much time you have, you can include some of those in your itinerary.
Explore the entire country of Egypt with a guided tour
We got a perfect balance of free time to explore every part of Egypt at our own pace, while also getting rid of the hustle and bustle of planning, transportation, tickets, tips, and other services.
Below is an article we wrote about our entire experience while visiting Egypt, including the guided tour.
For information regarding what options you have about how to get from one place to another, you can check out our article regarding transportation in Egypt:
If you wish to discover more places in Egypt or to learn some useful information about traveling to Egypt, then check out our other articles:
It takes a lot of planning for the perfect trip, but packing can sometimes be frustrating. Either packing too many things or packing too few can both ruin a bit of the fun. We’ve perfected our packing checklist over years and we believe it will be of good use for you too. We also have some travel packing tips & tricks to share to save you the hustle we once had.