1 Day Itinerary For Cairo, Egypt
Updated: Oct 2, 2019
Even the most basic of towns and cities usually need more than a day to explore, and trust us when we tell you that Cairo is no basic city.
There’s tons to see, whether it be an Ancient Wonder of the World, mosques and churches from the Middle Ages, the longest river on the planet, relics of ancient history galore or just what a modern, bustling Egyptian city of 20 million looks like.
Obviously a day is nowhere near enough to get a handle on what Cairo has to offer, but we understand that sometimes that’s how the cookie crumbles. Hey, better just one day than no day at all, right?
So set your alarm for early in the morning and get your walking shoes ready (for a full packing list for Egypt, head here for women’s clothing tips and here for general useful packing tips), because you have a full day ahead of you!
You’ll be waking up early to be at the Pyramids as soon as they open, so it’s best to have a quick breakfast at the hotel/Airbnb so that you’re on the road ASAP (it takes anything from 30 minutes to an hour from central Cairo to the Pyramids in the early morning). We recommend taking Uber/Careem as the most time-efficient method: here's our full article about different transportation methods in Cairo.
Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx (duration: around 2-3 hours)
Winter opening hours (October to March): 8 am to 5 pm
Summer opening hours (April to September): 7 am to 7 pm
To make the most of your only day in Cairo, try to be at the Pyramids as soon as they open (plus that way you beat most of the tour buses that start rolling up around 10 am). The standard ticket (160 EGP) gains you access to the Pyramids and Sphinx complex.
How much time you spend there depends on you; whether you choose to enter any of the pyramids (for an extra cost), whether you go on a camel/horse ride, and whether you visit the Solar Boat Museum. But it’ll take at least two hours to walk around the complex and take some good pictures, even without any extras.
Local tip: don’t let yourself get bogged down with the touts who’ll constantly try to stop you and offer all kinds of trinkets, camel rides, panoramic views and what have you. Politely but firmly decline and keep it moving.
Head to the Marriott Mena House at the foot of the Giza Plateau (at the bottom of the hill that leads to the entrance of the Pyramids complex) for lunch overlooking the world’s last standing ancient wonder. Their international restaurant, 139 Pavilion, offers beautiful outdoor dining and shisha (no reservations needed). The hotel itself is a historical site to see, considering it’s a converted royal hunting lodge (read more here: 11 Historical Hotels In Egypt You Can Still Stay At Today).
Local tip: if you want a view of the Pyramids while having lunch but the Marriott Mena House is out of budget, then there’s a nearby Pizza Hut with equally impressive views. For more budget Cairo tips, head here.
Museum of Egyptian Antiquities aka Egyptian Museum/Cairo Museum (duration: 1-3 hours)
Monday to Wednesday: 9 am - 5 pm
Sunday & Thursday: 9 am - 9 pm
Friday & Saturday: 9 am - 4 pm
After lunch, start heading back towards central Cairo (again, we recommend Uber/Careem or a taxi). Cairo Museum is on Midan Tahrir where the January 25th Revolution happened in 2011, so while there’s not much to see at the Midan now (it’s back to business as normal), it’s still interesting to see where it all happened with the added convenience of it being en route to the museum.
Home to over 120,000 ancient Egyptian artifacts, the Cairo Museum holds the world’s largest collection of pharaonic antiquities. It’s here where you can see the infamous King Tutankhamun collection, complete with his sarcophagus and gold burial mask. There’s also the Royal Mummy room, with a fantastic collection of mummies. (For more cool museums in Cairo, head here).
How much time you spend here is up to you, with an hour being the least possible amount of time (there’s *so* much to see), while some people spend a whole day here. We recommend not spending more than 3 hours so you can continue on with the day.
Local tip: there are relatively knowledgeable touts there who will offer to work as a guide for a negotiable fee, because many of the exhibits don’t have descriptions. This isn’t a bad idea, but make sure they show you their tour guide certificate so you know their info is credible.
Dinner #1 (optional, because there’s another possible dinner later on that night)
If you’re hungry after the museum, then a ten minute’s walk away is Koshary Abou Tarek, a brightly-lit, fast-foodish type of restaurant in Downtown Cairo, and it’s known for having some of the *best* koshary in town. Koshary in one of Egypt’s proud national dishes, comprised of rice, macaroni, lentils, chickpeas and fried onions all topped with a garlicky tomato sauce.
This restaurant is by no means fancy, no means ambient, and by no means a romantic dining destination (unless your idea of romance is very very quirky, and in that case, rock on).
It’s super cheap (a large plate will cost you less than 10 EGP, which is around 55 cents), it’s fast (try to watch the men who work the koshary line, it’s amazing), it’s 100% vegan, aaaand it’s filling, with the word ‘filling’ underlined seventeen times. So if you’re not super hungry, just get a small portion.
Koshary Abou Tarek menu.
For more great restaurants in Cairo, head here.
Moez Street & Khan El Khalili (duration: up to you)
Opening hours: there’s no official hours, but we’d say most of the shops are open around 9 am to 1 am
Once you’ve gotten your fill of koshary, hop in an Uber/cab and head to Moez Street in old Islamic Cairo (have the driver drop you off at Bab el Futuh). It’s about 15 minutes away by car. El Moez Lideen Allah Al-Fatimi Street (Moez Street for short for obvious reasons) is a 1 km pedestrian street with the greatest concentration of medieval Islamic architectural treasures in the world. Here's our detailed local's guide to Moez Street.
The adjacent Khan el Khalili is a sprawling souq/bazaar where you can buy jewelry, antiques, handicrafts and souvenirs, and it’s also a piece of history, dating back to the 14th century when it was a large caravanserai, housing merchants and their wares. For our full local's guide to Khan el Khalili, head here.
Moez Street: You basically walk down Moez Street starting from Bab El Futuh (one of the three remaining gates to the walled city of Old Cairo) down to Bab el Zuweila, where the street ends. Enjoy seeing the lit-up medieval mosques and other Islamic architecture that date back to the Middle Ages.
Khan El Khalili: when you finish your stroll down Moez Street, head into Khan el Khalili (you’ll have to doubleback, because Khan el Khalili is through alleys about midway down Moez Street). Just plug it into Google Maps or ask one of the shopkeepers on the street. Once you reach the market, get lost in the labyrinths of lanterns and trinkets.
Dinner #2 (or dessert)
If you’re up for another meal or skipped Dinner #1 at Koshary Abu Tarek, then head to Naguib Mahfouz Cafe in Khan el Khalili. Naguib Mahfouz is the most famous restaurant and cafe in the market due to its being run by the Oberoi hotel group -- they have consistently good food and it’s a great place to try local Egyptian dishes (or dessert).
Quick final stop for shisha & tea
You can’t leave Cairo without trying the local shisha and tea -- it’s the fuel that many Egyptians run on. El Fishawy is another extremely famous cafe in Khan El Khalili due to its being open for more than 200 years. Expect to be squeezed into any open chair they have in the alley, even if you end up sharing a table with a stranger, because this place gets crowded, fast. A good spot for people watching and open until the wee hours of the early morning.
So that’s it! A jam-packed but very worth it day in Cairo.
Have 48 hours to spend in Cairo? Then check out our 2 day itinerary.