48 Hours in Cairo: The Ultimate Itinerary

Beautiful view of Cairo and the Nile from above, Egypt
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Cairo is renowned for ancient historical sites such as the Great Pyramid of Giza, as well as cruises along the Nile River. However, there is much more to see and do in the famed capital city of Egypt: It is also home to the country's national museums, restaurants serving up a host of traditional Egyptian dishes, and major shopping markets and bazaars that tourists can enjoy getting lost in. In order to guide you in making the most of a weekend in Cairo, we’ve put together this itinerary to guide you during your visit. From shopping 'til you drop at the local shops to learning about the history of this great city, here’s how you can enjoy a magical 48 hours in Cairo.

01 of 06

Day 1: Morning

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9 a.m.: After arriving at Cairo International Airport (CIA), head to your hotel and try to check in early or drop your bags off with reception. One of the best hotels in Cairo to stay at is the 5-star Marriott Mena House; located at the base of the Giza Pyramid Complex, it offers stunning views of the iconic attraction. Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee at the hotel's Lobby Lounge before setting off for a day of sightseeing and fine-dining around town.

10:30 a.m.: Next, head out on a morning tour with a guide to take in the mystical 4,500-year-old Pyramids of Giza, which consist of three pyramid complexes: the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure. Enjoy walking around the ruins and taking those Instagram-worthy shots in front of the Sphinx and other artifacts within the Pyramids complex. Afterwards, cross the Nile River to check out the Egyptian Museum, coined as one of the oldest archaeological museums in the Middle East; here, you can take in additional ancient artifacts and stunning Egyptian art pieces.

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02 of 06

Day 1: Afternoon

Hanging Coptic Church (El Muallaqa)in old Cairo, Egypt

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2 p.m.: For lunch, head to Naguib Mahfouz café, named after Nobel Prize Laureate and Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz. Located in the center of downtown Cairo, the café features stunning Arabic interiors, with hospitable staff sporting traditional Egyptian vests serving up traditional Egyptian dishes on gold plates. Try fattah (layers of rice, fried flatbread, chunks of meat, and garlic tomato sauce), paired with meats like lamp chops and BBQ delights; afterwards, polish it off with a cup of freshly brewed coffee or some flavorful shisha.

4 p.m.: Take the Mar Girgis metro to the Coptic Cairo neighborhood to view the Hanging Church, also known as the Church of the Virgin Mary (the church’s Arabic name is "al-Muallaqah," which means “The Suspended”). As it was built atop the gatehouse of the Babylon Fortress, it appears to be suspended over the passageway, hence its unique nickname. It can be reached by entering through massive iron gates adorned with beautiful Biblical mosaics. Ornately decorated with touches of ebony and ivory, the church is home to three sanctuaries dedicated to St. George, the Virgin Mary, and St. John the Baptist. After marveling at the beauty of the Hanging Church, be sure to stop by the nearby Coptic Museum to view additional artifacts and art pieces.

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03 of 06

Day 1: Evening

Cairo Jazz Club

Courtesy of Cairo Jazz Club

6 p.m.: A visit to Cairo would be incomplete without dining at the popular Zooba Eats restaurant, located on 26th of July Street. The international chain restaurant became famous for turning popular Egyptian street foods into delectable gourmet plates cooked with the finest local ingredients. Classic Egyptian dishes served here include falafels and shakshouka sandwiches made with Zooba’s own freshly-baked bread. With outdoor seating and multi-colored designs and patterns, this local gem offers an upbeat atmosphere to accompany your meal.

8:30 p.m.:  If you’re looking for a post-dinner nightcap before heading back to your hotel, then check out the Cairo Jazz Club, the city's premier live music hub. Hosting both local and international artists, the club puts on a range of musical offerings beyond jazz: rock, hip-hop, and DJs spinning on the ones and twos. As you listen the to some of the best performers around town, sit back and relax with an intricately-mixed cocktail.

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04 of 06

Day 2: Morning

National Museum of Egyptian Civilization

Courtesy of National Museum of Egyptian Civilization

10 a.m.: Opened in April 2021, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) debuted with a bang when it transported 22 royal mummies from the Egyptian Museum in an event known as the Pharaoh’s Golden Parade. The museum's main hall highlights ancient Egyptian artifacts dating back to prehistoric times, and its Fatima-era dye-house showcases the country's historic role in the textile industry. Cultural shows and art workshops are also on offer.

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05 of 06

Day 2: Afternoon

Shops in Khan el-Khalili in Cairo, Egypt

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2 p.m.: Situated in the Garden City neighborhood of Cairo is Taboula, a classic Arabic restaurant famed for its fusion of Lebanese and Middle Eastern comfort food. Must-try menu items here include the Egyptian mezzas—small, tapas-like plates—as well as meat and chicken grills. Round out your meal with either arak (a Lebanese spirit) or wine.

4 p.m.: When in Cairo, you'd do well to shop for hidden treasures in the souks and bazaars. There are several great places to shop, but the best would have to be Khan el-Khalili Bazaar. It is situated in the Islamic Cairo area, near Al-Azhar Mosque (which we recommend visiting before your shopping expedition). The bazaar is best known for colorful embellished fabrics, glistening silver jewelry, and spices, all of which make for good gifts and souvenirs. Remember that prices are never set in open-air markets, so take your time to barter with the sellers (but not too much of course).

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06 of 06

Day 2: Evening

Egypt, Cairo, Nile with skyline and downtown area from Garden City at sunset
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6 p.m.: If you only have a short amount of time in Cairo, a one-hour sailing trip on the Nile during sunset is truly idyllic. For a classic experience, book a ride on a felucca, a traditional wooden sailboat commonly used in the eastern Mediterranean. This is a great option for both families and solo travelers, as you can meet others on a group sailing. Some Nile River cruise companies in Cairo will even take care of your transfers.

8 p.m.: Finish off your trip by eating at the award-winning Le Pacha dining and entertainment venue, located off the banks of the Zamalek neighborhood. Originally a floating palace from 1901, this "landmark on the Nile" offers first-class service, stunning views from the water, and prime dining choices. Among the seven restaurants are the Parisian bistro-style Le Steak; L’Asiatique, which serves up Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Indian cuisine; and Le Tarbouche - Akl Zaman, which offers authentic traditional Egyptian dishes such as mezze, rice with veal shanks, and a variety of grilled meats.