Alexandria Travel Information

Alexandria -- Tours, Best Time to Go, Getting to Alexandria and Getting Around

Qaitbay Fort from the Water, Alexandria, Egypt
••• Qaitbay Fort from the Water, Alexandria, Egypt. Egypt National Tourist Authority -- © GARDEL Bertrand/Lemis.fr

Alexandria, Egypt travel information includes tours to Alexandria, how to get to Alexandria, when to go and getting around Alexandria.

Page two -- What to See in Alexandria
Page three -- Where to Stay and Eat in Alexandria

Alexandria

 

Alexandria (Al-Iskendariyya, or just plain Alex) is a large cosmopolitan port city on the Mediterranean Sea, named after Alexander the Great. Alexandria was once the center of learning in the Ancient World and even under Cleopatra's rule it rivaled the great cities of Athens and Rome. However, a long period of decline followed and Alexandria became nothing more than a fishing village with a glorious past. In the 19th Century fortunes changed once again and Alexandria grew in stature as an important port and commercial center.

It attracted many Greeks, Italians, Lebanese and other nationalities to its shores. The cosmopolitan influence remains to this day. Up until 1940 in fact, over 40% of Alexandria's population had non-Egyptian roots.

Today, Alexandria is a bustling city of over 4 million (mostly Egyptian) residents. Alexandria has always been popular as a vacation destination for local Egyptians looking to escape the summer heat and enjoy the Mediterranean beaches. Foreign tourists are also discovering how easy it is to visit Alexandria for even just a day or two.

 

Best Time to Go to Alexandria

Winter (December to February) is fairly warm and sunny in Alexandria although the sea will be too chilly to swim in comfortably. A warm, dusty wind (Khamsin) can be bothersome during March - June. Summer is humid, but with a breeze it stays a lot cooler than in Cairo and so many Egyptians will flock to Alexandria in the summer. Book your hotel well in advance if you're coming during the summer months. September - October is a very nice time to visit. Click here for today's weather in Alexandria.

 

Getting to Alexandria and Away

By Plane
There are direct flights from several European and Arab cities to Alexandria including Manchester, Dubai, Athens and Frankfurt. They land at Alexandria's international airport Borg El-Arab.

A busier regional airport -- El Nhouza is used by EgyptAir for flights from Cairo, Sharm El Sheikh, Beirut, Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Dubai, and Kuwait City. Click here for more airlines flying in to El Nhouza.

El Nhouza is much closer to the city center (7 km's) than Borg al-Arab (25 km's)

By Train
There are many train options from Cairo (Ramses Station) to Alexandria and it's usually not necessary to book in advance. The best is the Express train which takes about 2-3 hours (depending on the stops). For schedules click here. The TurboTrain is no longer operating since December 2007 because it was too expensive. A first class ticket costs around US$7 one way.

You can also get a train from Alexandria to El Alamein and Mersa Matruh (handy for those wanting to visit Siwa Oasis), click here for schedules.

And there are several trains a day from Alexandria to Port Said, click here for schedules.

Alexandria has two train stations, and the first one you may stop at (if traveling from Cairo) is Mahattat Sidi Gaber which serves the eastern suburbs of the city. As a tourist you'll probably want to get off at the second train station in Alexandria called Mahattat Misr (Misr Station) which is about a mile south of the city center. A quick taxi ride away from most of the centrally located hotels or a tram ride away from most of the sights.

By Bus
The long-distance bus station is just behind the Sidi Gaber train station (the one in the eastern suburbs of Alexandria - not the main train station). There are regular long-distance bus services to many parts of Egypt. Superjet and West Delta are the main companies. For bus schedules to some of the more popular tourist destinations, click here.

 

Getting Around Alexandria

By Foot
Alexandria is a wonderful city to walk around in. If you want to check out the souqs and the Corniche it's best to walk and enjoy the atmosphere of the city. Many of Alexandria's sights are within walking distance (45 minutes or so).

By Tram
Mahattat Ramla is the main tram station in the center of the city. Trams are cheap and easy to figure out and a great way to get around Alexandria (if you're not in a hurry). You can get to the main train station by tram as well as the Fort and Abu Abbas al-Mursi Mosque and several museums. There is usually a car reserved for just women so check before you get on! Yellow trams travel west and blue trams travel east.

Taxi
Taxis are everywhere in Alexandria, they are painted black and yellow. Ask a local person how much your fare should be approximately and then agree on a fare with your taxi driver before you get in.

Page two -- What to See in Alexandria
Page three -- Where to Stay and Eat in Alexandria

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What to See in Alexandria

Fort Qaitbey
Fort Qaitbey is an impressive building, located on a narrow peninsula where one of the ancient wonders of the world, the famous lighthouse -- the Pharos once stood. The Fort was built in the 15th century and now houses a naval museum. You'll need about an hour to explore the rooms and towers, as well as the museum which houses some interesting weapons. The Fort also offers beautiful views of the city of Alexandria as well as the Mediterranean. A small aquarium nearby is worth a peek.

There are plans afoot to build a large underwater museum in the near future which would showcase some of the exciting recent archaeological discoveries.

  • Entrance Fees - 20 Egyptian Pounds for an adult
  • Opening Times - 9am to 6pm in the summer (closes earlier in winter)
  • Getting there - Walk from the center of town (45 minutes); take a taxi; take a tram (number 15) from Midan Ramla.

The Corniche
The Corniche is a road that runs along the eastern harbour of Alexandria and is the perfect place for a waterfront stroll. There are several restaurants where you can enjoy freshly caught fish. You'll pass some nice examples of Art Deco buildings like the (Sofitel) Cecil Hotel which has been enjoyed by Mohammed Ali (the boxer), Agatha Christie and Winston Churchill among others. A stroll down the Corniche also brings you to several of Alexandria's main attractions (some of which are described further below) like the Ramla square, Cavafi Museum, The Roman amphitheatre, the Attarine District (for shopping) and the Tahrir (liberation) Square.

Treat yourself to a Brazilian coffee, a bubbly pipe or a hot glass of tea in some of Alexandria's wonderful cafes.

Attarine Souk
The Attarine souk is a maize of little streets, too narrow for cars to fit, that houses literally hundreds of little antique shops and boutiques. It's called the Zinqat as-Sittat market (which literally translates to 'the women's squeeze'). You'll find some good deals to bargain for here. It's an uncovered bazaar so it's not as stuffy as others. Local young folks prefer the malls to the souqs these days, so if you're interested in modern Egyptian fashion, that's where you'll find it.

Graeco-Roman Museum
This museum is packed full of fascinating objects reflecting Egypt's encounter with Greek culture during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. You'll need at least a few hours here to view all the objects. There are mosaics, pottery, sarcophagi and much more including a lovely garden filled with statues.

  • Entrance Fees - 30 Egyptian Pounds for an adult
  • Opening Times - 9am to 4pm
  • Getting there - Walk from the center of town (30 minutes) or take a taxi.

Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque
The Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque was originally built in 1775 by Algerians but since that time it has had many renovations and face-lifts, the last major one in 1943. It's now a beautiful building with huge granite pillars, colored glass skylights, intricately carved wooden windows and doors as well as paved marble floors.

Note that women cannot visit inside the mosque but can view the mausoleum and peek in the mosque itself from behind a barrier.

Interesting Ruins

  • Kom el-Dikka (mound of rubble) is a Roman amphitheatre that isn't huge, but very well preserved nevertheless. Excavation continues nearby to reveal the remains of a Roman city. The amphitheatre is a nice place to visit and relax. It's open from 9am - 4pm and is situated on the Raml Station Square.
  • Kom el-Shuqafa (catacombs) are a marvel of technology and art. Built in the late 1st century AD, the Kom el-Shuqafa (literally means "Mound of Shards") is the largest known Roman burial site in Egypt. Since the catacombs were built to house more than 300 dead notables, there are plenty of tombs to explore as well as a banqueting hall. Many of the rooms display a unique fusion of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman decorative artwork. The Catacombs are open from 9am - 5pm and are situated near Pompeys Pillar in the western part of Alexandria. A taxi will get you there. More information about Kom el-Shuqafa...
  • Pompey's Pillar and the Seapuem. Pompey's pillar is an impressive column that stands 30 meters and is made from a single shaft of red granite. Erected in 297 AD, Pompey's pillar rises out of the ruins of the Serapeum, an acropolis erected in honor of Serapis an Egyptian God. Mostly rubble, and a few sphinxes, the Serapeum isn't much to look at, but the pillar is impressive and is the only remaining ancient monument in Alexandria that's still intact.
Al-Montazah Palace

Alexandria Library -- Bibliotheca Alexandrina
Alexandria has historically been a place of learning. It's a city that has attracted poets and writers for thousands of years. In 2002 a new library was constructed harking back to the great library of the 3rd Century BC. Unfortunately it doesn't quite have the same amount of books as it did back then, but there's plenty of room to add to the collection.

National Museum
The national museum is located in a restored palace and contains about 1,800 artifacts that narrate the history of Alexandria throughout the ages. The Museum opened its doors in December 2003.

  • Entrance Fees - 30 Egyptian Pounds for an adult
  • Opening Times - 9am to 4pm
  • Getting there - Walk (it's in the center of town close to the train station) or take a taxi.

Page one -- Tours and Getting To and Around Alexandria
Page three -- Where to Stay and Eat in Alexandria

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Where to Stay in Alexandria

Budget Hotels in Alexandria
Remember, this is Egypt and if you're staying in a budget hotel you have to be a little flexible with your idea of what constitutes a clean room and a well run hotel. To book these hotels you should call them directly and try and book in advance. The country code for Egypt is 20, and for Alexandria you add a 3. If you're in Egypt, dial 03 first for Alexandria.

Hotel Union (20-3-480 7312) is at the top of everyone's budget hotel list for Alexandria. It's a friendly, clean hotel with rooms for reasonable rates (about USD 20 per night) and it's situated along the Corniche, so you can even get a room with a harbor view and balcony. Read reviews.

Other budget hotels that are recommended include the Hotel Crillon (20 3 - 480 0330) which is basic, clean and also overlooks the harbor. The Sea Star hotel (20 -3- 483 1787) is a reasonable choice in the Midan Rimla area, if you can't get a room at either the Union or Crillon.

Mid-Range Hotels in Alexandria
Windsor Palace Hotel is full of old charm and nicely situated along the Corniche so there are rooms with a sea view (although traffic noise is significant). Read reviews.

Metropole Hotel is also an old-world hotel like the Windsor, and built at the turn of the 20th Century. It's very centrally situated (you can walk from the main train station) and generally gets decent reviews.

High-End Hotels in Alexandria
Most of the larger chain hotels are represented in Alexandria. The following are all large, clean, 4-5 star hotels that get good ratings from people who stayed there:

  • The Four Seasons is very expensive but worth it according to most guests who stay here (see reviews). The hotel has a private beach as well as a swimming pool, restaurant and a gym.
  • Hotel Sofitel Cecil is centrally located, overlooking the harbor, and close to the train station. The hotel was built in the 1920's and still retains a lot of its classical charm. Rooftop dining is available at the China House restaurant which tends to get more points for its location than its food. Read reviews.
  • Helnan Palestine is situated in the Montazah Gardens (same location as the summer home of the the President) and offers a quiet respite from the busy downtown area. There's a private beach which is good for swimming. The main drawback is that you'll have to catch a taxi to get to most of the sights. Read reviews.

    Where to Eat in Alexandria

    • Mohammed Ahmed offers traditional Egyptian food including excellent falafel, fuul, fried cheese and kebabs. It's very popular with locals and an excellent place to grab a quick lunch.
    • Kadura is a local favorite and is situated along the Corniche as you walk to the Fort. The food is fresh, cheap and always good. You select your fish, say how you would like it cooked and then enjoy it with rice, salad, hummus etc.
    • The Seagull - if you enjoy a kitsch setting, the Seagull will delight you. It's inside a mock castle and there's a garden with animals in it. The food is fresh and gets excellent reviews. The Seagull is in the resort section of Alexandria called Agami.
    • The Fish Market is an upmarket seafood restaurant offering similar fare as most of the fish restaurants on the Corniche, but with the added bonus of a cold beer or glass of wine to accompany your meal.If you want to just browse around and see what looks good, head for the Eastern Harbor and select a fish restaurant of your choosing. Anywhere at the fish market overlooking the Eastern Harbour.
    the best view
    China House

    Coffee and Pastries

    • Trianon facing the Midan Ramla is an old favorite which was frequented by the Greek poet Cavafy.
    • Brazilian Coffee Store is perfect to grab a coffee on the go. No seats, just a traditional stand up bar situated in the center of town.
    • Delices a local favorite for cakes and pastries, has a store at the central train station.

    Page one -- Tours and Getting To and Around Alexandria
    Page two -- What to see in Alexandria

    Sources and Further Information for Alexandria, Egypt
    Tripadvisor's Alexandria Hotels
    TourEgypt Alexandria information
    Travelpod's Alexandria Blogs
    VirtualTourist Alexandria Guide
    Lonely Planet Egypt Guide
    Egyptian Tourist Authority
    The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell