2 Day Itinerary For Cairo, Egypt
Updated: Oct 2, 2019
Whether you’re in the Egyptian capital for a weekend or just a random 48 hours midweek, the good news is that you can squeeze in a lot if you’re a) organized, and b) have energy on your side (and we can help with at least one of those!).
Cairo is huge, and the main sites are spread out, so having a clear itinerary will save you a lot of time and you won’t find yourself rushing in a million directions (and getting stuck in traffic for hours).
So stick with us and we’ll show you the best of what Cairo has to offer -- everything from ancient history to medieval architecture to local food and unbeatable views.
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. For more details on the transportation situation in Egypt, read our full article here.
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 the day, 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 Giza Plateau (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. 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 artefacts, 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.
About 10 minutes by cab from the museum (or 40 minutes walking) is Abou El Sid in the upscale island of Zamalek. Abou El Sid is the must-go-to restaurant if you want classic Egyptian dishes in a super ambient atmosphere (the decor, music, and wall art is enough to make it worth it). They also offer shisha and Egyptian twists on alcoholic cocktails, like vodka with fresh sugarcane juice.
Dishes of theirs that are definitely worth trying: the sharqisseya, a chicken dish with walnut sauce; stuffed vine leaves; the Egyptian moussaka, which is an eggplant stew served with rice; and a mix and match of all their various Egyptian mezzes.
You might like: 12 Local Egyptian Foods You Need To Try
Felucca (duration is up to you)
After dinner, head to DokDok, one of the best places to go for a felucca ride (it’s in front of the Four Seasons in Garden City, about a 10-15 minute car ride away from Zamalek). While a felucca isn’t a sight in and of itself, the Nile definitely is, and one of the best ways to experience the city is while floating leisurely in a felucca.
A felucca is a small sailboat that you rent out for as long as you want (starting from half an hour), and you can just kick back and relax while the felucca ‘captain’ steers you through the calm waters. And that’s part of the eternal appeal of the Nile -- no matter the chaos happening around you, it’s easy to immerse yourself in the fact that you’re sailing down the lifeline of a 7,000 year old civilization.
We recommend starting your day with a typical Egyptian breakfast of fuul (fava beans with olive oil and spices) and taameya (Egyptian falafel). If you want to really feel like a local, walk around Downtown or Old Cairo and stop at one of the many breakfast carts that serve just that. Or if you’re hesitant about street food, you can try Zooba in Zamalek, which serves Egyptian breakfast staples but in a more upscale atmosphere.
Coptic Cairo (2-3 hours)
Once you finish breakfast, head over to Coptic Cairo, an area of Old Cairo established around 400 AD which served as a stronghold for Christianity in Egypt. It’s home to beautiful Coptic centuries-old churches like the Hanging Church, one of the oldest in Cairo, and the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church (Abu Serga) where it’s believed that the Holy Family lived briefly during their journey to Egypt. (For more beautiful churches, cathedrals and monasteries in Egypt, head here.)
There’s also the Coptic Museum in that area, which holds approximately 15,000 pieces and contains the world's largest collection of Coptic artifacts and artwork.
Coptic Cairo is also home to Amr Ibn Al-Aas mosque, the first ever mosque built in Egypt, and Ben Ezra Synagogue, both worth seeing and open to the public.
For lunch, we recommend one of two options -- if you want to experience more local Egyptian fare, then head to Koshary Abou Tarek, a brightly-lit, fast-foodish type of restaurant in Downtown Cairo, who are 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.
If you want a more peaceful and ambient lunch destination where you can kick back and relax a little, you can head to Taboula in Garden City, where they serve awesome Lebanese food as well as local beer, wine and shisha.
For more great restaurants in Cairo, head here.
Islamic Cairo (2-3 hours)
Once done with lunch, head over to Islamic Cairo, home to some of the most beautiful mosques in the world like Sultan Hassan, Al Rifai, and probably one of the most famous, Ibn Tulun.
We recommend starting with Ibn Tulun and the adjacent Gayer-Anderson Museum, one of the oldest and best-preserved homes from the medieval period (the museum closes at 4 pm). One of the largest and oldest mosques in Egypt, Ibn Tulun is built out of mudbrick and still surviving in its original form. It was built in 879 AD and features a beautiful outer courtyard, architectural lecterns and arcades, a 13th century fountain and a famous spiral minaret. For more free tourist attractions in Cairo, head here.
Once done with Ibn Tulun, less than a 15 minute walk will bring you to two giant neighboring mosques, Sultan Hassan and Al Rifai -- for more information, check out 10 of Egypt’s Most Beautiful Mosques.
Local tip: mosques don’t have opening or closing hours. Women should make sure they have a scarf or something to cover their hair with when entering the mosque, and their clothes shouldn’t be too revealing out of respect. Both men and women have to take off their shoes upon entering.
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’re done in Islamic Cairo, hop in an Uber/cab and head to Moez Street in Old Cairo (have the driver drop you off at Bab el Futuh). It’s about 15 minutes away by car. Technically Moez Street & Khan El Khalili are still Islamic Cairo, but we’re just calling them by their names for clarity’s sake. 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 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.
Walk 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). Because it’s popular, there might be a little bit of a wait, so you might want to put down your names on the waiting list at the restaurant and then stroll around a bit.
Quick final stop for shisha & tea
A few minutes walk from Naguib Mahfouz is El Fishawy, 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 there you have it folks. It’s a lot to cram in 48 hours, but we have faith in you. Have fun!