This is the English version of my blog GDAMAS (Portuguese language, online since 2010). I'm still working on it. English is not my native language. Please, feel free to correct me.
Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great, was a power base for Cleopatra VII (the famous Cleopatra — yes, there was more than one). To this day, it is one of Egypt’s most popular destinations.
I regularly see people confused when considering how to add Alexandria to the travel itinerary. How many days? Where to stay? What to see?
In fact, most tourists dedicate only one day to Alexandria. They do not sleep there. The idea is to go to Alexandria from Cairo and return in the same day — two land trips.
In the same day? Isn’t that crazy, Damas?
Normally, I would not take this idea. It is unpleasant to be in a rush during a trip. But I have an exception for Alexandria.
Alexandria is worth a visit. There is no doubt about it. But it is not worth staying there and sacrifice visits to other key places in Egypt.
With this in mind, we discard two of those doubts: Where to stay, and how many days to stay in the city. Let us check now a list of must-see places.
Ready to plan your day in Alexandria? Get your Cleopatra or Alexander the Great costumes and come with me.
Day trip to Alexandria
Travelling from Cairo
The simplest way from Cairo to Alexandria is by land. Tourists must be prepared for two and a half hours of travel, 220 km (136 miles) ahead.
Have everything arranged with your travel agency or tour guide. After all, there must be a vehicle and a driver at your disposal.
It is important to leave Cairo early on to prevent a fast-paced tour in Alexandria. At the end of the day, you head back to Cairo.
Damas, should I worry about the quality of the roads in Egypt?
No. Roads linked to tourist areas in Egypt are in good condition.
Must-see sites for your day trip
The following list brings essential places to your trip. It is quite limited for obvious reasons. We need to remember the time lost to go to Alexandria and the time to return to Cairo.
A competent tour guide manages your day so you can see all of the suggestions below. And, even better, it is possible to have lunch in a renowned restaurant that I will show at the end of this post.
Kom El-Shuqafa’s catacombs were found accidentally in 1900, when a mule fell into a hole and local workers rescued it.
The site is still considered the largest Roman-style burial area in Egypt. In addition, it is one of the last construction works dedicated to the religion of Ancient Egypt.
The catacombs spread over three levels of chambers and tombs, open in rocks 35 meters deep. The bottom floor is flooded, so tourists should not get there.
- Ticket: 40 Egyptian pounds
- Locate it now on Google Maps
Here we find the remains of the Pillar of Pompeii and the Temple of Serapeu.
The Pillar is a column of red granite from Aswan. It rises 30 meters high above the ruins of Rhacotis, former settlement where Alexander the Great founded Alexandria. The triumphal column was built in 295 AD in honor of Emperor Diocletian. Researchers believe there was on the top a statue of the emperor mounted on a horse.
The remains of the Temple of Serapeu spread around. The temple was one of the most important centers of knowledge of that time.
- 30 Egyptian pounds
Library of Alexandria
This is the most popular site for a day trip to Alexandria. Curiously, it is a modern construction.
Modern? Damas, all my life I’ve learned about the old Library of Alexandria. What happened there?
Unfortunately, the original Library of Alexandria was destroyed. The latest version, built less than 200 meters away from the place of the old one, was inaugurated in 2002. It is a brilliant piece of architecture. There is room for up to eight million books. The reading room is the largest in the world.
A comprehensive visit is impossible in a day trip. You can buy a ticket for an express visit. With a local guide, you walk through some of the major sections of the giant building.
- Basic ticket, with local tour guide: 70 Egyptian pounds
This great defensive fortification was built in 1480 AD on the orders of Sultan Qaitbey. It sits on the place where existed the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
There may not be time to explore the interior. Talk to your tour guide.
- 25 Egyptian pounds
And when you are hungry…
You are going to spend a full day in Alexandria. Before heading back to Cairo, you will naturally need to eat.
One of Alexandria’s best restaurants is Fish Market. It is located in a privileged place. Glass walls overlook the stunning blue sea in the background.
The name says it all: House specialty are fish and seafood. But there are other typical delights. I always eat there the tasty pita. You cannot miss it. By the way, the menu shows reasonable prices.
Fish Market is also a place that attracts celebrities. Right at the entrance, we see some pictures of those who have been there already. An example is Roger Moore, the eternal James Bond.
Have fun in Alexandria! 🙂