3 days in Cairo: best things to do and see

Spending 3 days in Cairo, when starting or finishing your Egypt trip in the Egyptian capital? We will tell you exactly where to go, what to do and see, how to get around and where to stay. What is the easiest way to explore Cairo? What are the most beautiful neighborhoods? How much time do you need here and where can you eat the best food? I’ll tell you all in this Cairo city guide for Cairo!

Read more: the 8 top tourist attractions of Cairo you cannot miss.

Cairo | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack
Cairo | Pyraids, Giza | Pyramids, Giza | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack
Cairo | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack

The highlights of Cairo in 3 days

I spent a total of four days in Cairo. That may be a bit much, but it has allowed me to see many sides of versatile Cairo. I would recommend two, but preferably three days, to explore all the highlights of the city. Some of my favorite sights:

  • The pyramids and the sphinx, of course
  • The oldest market in the city of Khan El-Khalli
  • The citadel with a beautiful view of the city and impressive mosques
  • The Egyptian Museum with mummies, sarcophagi and the famous mask of Tutankhamun

Read more: I give more background information about all top attractions in Cairo in my blog about the best things to do in Cairo.

The highlights are clustered fairly practically in the city, making it easy to organize your days. I recommend that you spend three days in Cairo. One day, visit the famous Pyramids and Sphinx in the Giza district, on the outskirts of Cairo. Another day can be devoted to Islamic Cairo: the citadel, the souk, the Bab Zuweila gate and the Hassan mosques are close by. On a third day you can visit the churches in Coptic Cairo in the morning. In the afternoon you can go to the Egyptian Museum and end your day on the trendy Gezira island near the museum.

Cairo | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack
Cairo | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack
Cairo | Souk | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack

Transport: how do you get to Cairo and to get around?

Cairo, of course, is the site of Egypt’s largest international airport, so that’s no doubt how you get here. I myself paid € 238 for a return ticket Amsterdam-Cairo with a short transfer. You can check the current prices with the button below. Your visa is easily arranged at the airport and you do not have to arrange it via expensive sites in advance. Just make sure you have 25 euros or dollar cash with you (no coins), that saves a row for that one ATM.

Cairo is also connected to other places in Egypt by (night) train. In about 10 hours you will be in Luxor and in 13 hours in Aswan. However, keep in mind that there are significant delays, so don’t plan things too tightly the day after arrival. There is a night train with comfortable bunk beds in double sleeping compartments, but it is expensive. For the Aswan-Cairo route, we paid € 75 per person in such a luxury train. For a night train without beds, but with spacious seats, we paid just 300 EGP per person between Cairo and Luxor (last minute). That is really a lot cheaper.

In the city itself you have the metro and taxi. We chose the taxi ourselves; then you will immediately see something of the city. Sometimes taxis have a meter, but it is more common to agree a price in advance. Agreeing a price is not always easy, because drivers often do not speak English. We just gave the amount afterwards that was usual for that ride. For short trips in Cairo, for example, this is 40 to 60 EGP. From downtown Cairo to the pyramids in the Giza district we paid 150 to 180 EGP, and from the airport to downtown Cairo 130 to 150 EGP.

Do you want to avoid discussions and price negotiations with taxi drivers? Then go for the Uber app. Chances are you pay even less. For example, we paid with a taxi between 130 and 150 EGP for a ride to or from the airport, but with an Uber only 100 EGP.

Tip: don’t have an Uber account yet? Via this link you can easily register and get a discount on your first ride.

Transport | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack
Cairo | Egyptian Museum | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack
Cairo | Pyraids, Giza | Pyramids, Giza | | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack

The best neighborhood in Cairo: Zamalek on Gezira Island

Cairo is not exactly a city that is connected by cozy spots and atmospheric neighborhoods. It is mainly a very busy, chaotic and dirty city. The hippest part of Cairo is the Zamalek neighborhood, the neighborhood on Gezira Island. Gezira is Arabic for island. On this island in the Nile you will find a museum for modern art, art galleries, coffee bars and trendy restaurants. It is therefore one of the more popular places to live among expats. We too found this a relief in the middle of dusty, noisy and chaotic Cairo. Recommendations include Lychee for smoothies and juices, Cake Café or Holm Café for coffee with cake and l’Aubergine for dinner and cocktails.

Cairo | Hanging Church | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack
Cairo | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack
Cairo | Egyptian Museum | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack

The best hotels in Cairo

Gezira is an ideal base, if you like to sit close to nice coffee bars and restaurants. On the island itself you mainly have more expensive hotels, such as the comfortable Marriot. But also right next to the island and near the Egyptian Museum there you have nice, but more budget-friendly hotels.

Some good options in different price ranges:

  • Marriot Hotel | Current prices |
    Perfect location on the Gezira island. The hotel has its own casino and several restaurants and cafes.
  • Heritage Hostel | Current prices | including breakfast
    Budget friendly option right next to Egyptian Museum. Comfortable and neat, but a bit old-fashioned. There are private rooms, but also dormitories.
  • Tahrir Plaza Suites | Current prices | including breakfast
    Another budget friendly option right next to Egyptian Museum. Grubby stairwell but very neat, comfortable and clean hotel with nice rooms. Staff are friendly and speak perfect English.
  • 1920s Boutique Hotel | Current prices |
    Not a central location, but a beautiful small-scale boutique hotel in art deco style.
Cairo | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack
Cairo | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack
Cairo | Eish + Mal | Egypt | Egypt | The Orange Backpack

The best coffee bars and restaurants in Cairo

During our time in Cairo, we visited quite a few nice Cairo hotspots. Especially on Gezira Island, as this area has the best hotspots and restaurants in town. On the map below I have summarized all my tips for fun spots! A selection of my favorites:

  • Eish + Mal for live music pizzas
  • Akher Saa for cheap and Egyptian food with locals
  • Lychee for smoothies and healthy salads
  • Cake Café or the Poire Café chain for cakes with coffee
  • L’Aubergine Zamalek for dinner and cocktails

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