Cairo is located along the Nile less than 150 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, Cairo has long been the center of trade, culture, and government for the Egyptian people. It is a huge city, noisy, and polluted in many neighborhoods, but it is also fascinating and full of fun things to do.
Cairo is abundant with places, attractions, and outings. While most cities can boast several centuries or even a millennium of existence, Cairo’s and Egypt’s history can be traced back as far as 5,000 years. In that time, they have experienced the influence of 5 major world religions, 8 major dynastic houses (the ancient reigns of the Pharaohs’), and invasions by the Persians, Greeks, Romans, and the Ottomans.
Whether you are a resident or visiting Egypt and looking for top tourist attractions and some non touristy things to do in Cairo. Here is a list of top family friendly outings and attractions in Cairo if you are looking for some fun and adventure as a couple or with the kids:
- Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphinx
- Sites and Sounds show at the Giza pyramids (evening show)
- Saqqara and Dahshur pyramids
- The Pharaonic Village
- Sail the Nile
- Nile cruise boats
- Cairo Tower
- Visiting the Bazaar (Old Marketplace) – Khan El Khalili
- Coptic Cairo Tour
- Islamic Cairo Tour
- Al Muizz Street
- The Cairo Opera House
- The Egyptian Museum
- Cairo Aqua Park and Crazy Water Aqua Park
- Dream Park, Faby Land Amusement Parks
- EGYPT NATIONAL CIRCUS
- CIRQUE DU SOLEIL (planned events)
- Cairo Festival City Mall
- Mall of Arabia
- Mall of Egypt
- City Stars Mall
- Unleashed: Let you anger and frustration out
- Trampoline park: Gravity Code, Air Zone
- Escape Room places: Escapers, Escapology Egypt, Escape Room Cairo, Trapped Egypt
- Fight Club Laser Tag
- Kee Action Paintball
- Adrenaline Egypt: Paintball, aqua fights, bazooka fights, laser tag
- Cooking classes: Eatery, Cairo Kitchen Point 90
The last 150 years alone, Egypt has been under the control or influence of the French and British before achieving an independent republic status in the 1952. Today Cairo is one of only a handful of places on the planet that a person can visit and see glimpses of how life was over 4 or 5 millennia ago. You can travel through time over 4 millennia in a single day. From trips along the Nile to ancient pyramids, Cairo is living history.
Things to Do in Cairo with the Family: Top Attractions
Cairo is one of the most family-friendly destinations in the Middle East. Family destinations in Cairo can be interactive and educational. Most of these activities can be booked in advance with a tour or through a hotel concierge.
Touring the Pyramids
So the obvious destination when traveling to Egypt, and more specifically, Cairo, is the Giza Pyramids. This is great because many of the Pyramids are located within 30 minutes off the city.
The Giza Pyramids of Khufu (Cheops), Khafre (Chephren), Menkaure ( Mycerinus), and the Great Sphinx at Giza
The most common destination is the Great Pyramids of Giza. These structures are over 4,500 years old and provide a wealth of insight into the ancient world. In many cases, visitors can book tours that include camel rides around the Pyramids to get a feel for how people traveled to these structures in antiquity.
Visitors can see the Pyramids of Khufu (or Cheops), Khafre (or Chephren), Menkaure (or Mycerinus) as well as the legendary Sphinx. In some cases, you can book private tours for under US$100 that last several hours. You can enter the pyramids and walk through the pyramids tunnels for an extra ticket. Expect it to be a humid and exhausting climb though.
Within the same area you can see the solar barques at the Solar Boat Museum. This boat was restored to the original look after it was discovered back in 1954.
The Grand Egyptian Museum is built in the same area and is one of the largest museums in the world.
The Sights and Sounds Show at the Pyramids
Enjoy this show at night with magnificent lighting, visuals, and audio show that explains some of the history of the pyramids and the Sphinx and the Egyptian civilization in general. Book your tickets ahead.
How to get to the Giza Pyramids
You can go by taxi, Uber, or by underground metro. I do not recommend public buses, but you can also park near the pyramids if you have a car. The Giza area close by has many restaurants and bazaars to offer.
Saqqara and Dahshur pyramids
Few miles south you can visit the pyramids of Saqqara and Dahshur. These pyramids are different than the ones at Giza as they were built at a different time. In Saqqara, you can experience the Step Pyramid. In Dahshur, visitors can tour the Bent Pyramid (one of the world’s biggest construction errors) and the Red Pyramid, named for the Red limestone that was used in the construction process.
You can learn the secret of how the Red Pyramid turned from its original white color to red as well as learn what the hieroglyphics in the pyramids mean.
The Pharaonic Village
Many places have tourist attractions that recreate a point in an area’s history and Cairo is no exception. The Pharaonic Village is a peek into the past history of Cairo and Egypt. The village has different exhibits each day, but among the more popular include: Tut Land Park, Nefertari Yacht, Cleopatra Studio, Art Center, Escape The Tomb, Cinema 9D, and a Petting Zoo.
In addition, the Pharaonic Village features several restaurants where visitors can sample the local cuisine and well as familiar international foods, shopping centers, and entertainment such as films, music, and puppet shows. If visiting a restaurant, mention the village’s website to get possible discounts.
For those who wish to learn even more, the village features exhibits that vary from the ancient time of the Pharaohs to modern Egyptian figures such as Anwar Sadat and Gamal Abdel Nassir. They even have exhibits on Nubian and Chinese history.
The prices will vary depending on what you wish to do there, but some activities can run as low as US$5.
Sail the Nile
The history of Egypt is tied directly with the Nile. The first civilizations in Egypt were built along the Nile as it was the main water source in what was a huge desert. As populations grew, they traveled further south along the Nile.
Tourists can experience the wonders of the Nile by sailing the river on ancient wooden sailboats known as feluccas. These boats provide tours of up to 10 people to enjoy the mysteries of the great Nile River.
These river tours are fairly inexpensive (usually under US$10 to $20 for the family) and can be booked through most of the hotels in Cairo or directly at special hubs on the Nile. The tours usually last under 2 hours and some will have the option of having the tour catered so you can have a picnic on the boat while enjoying the scenery.
It should be noted that these boats were designed thousands of years ago so they don’t feature a lot of modern safety features. If you are touring with kids, make sure the tour offers life vests and be extra careful with younger children.
Nile Cruise Boats
Book a lunch or dinner in one of several cruise ships that will take you site seeing around Cairo on the Nile. Some come with entertainment programs including belly dance, Tannoura performers, and music bands with open dinner buffets. One of the most famous cruise boats is Nile Maxim. Some of the biggest hotels in Cairo operate their own Nile cruise boats. Check with your hotel.
Cairo Tower: View Cairo From Over 600 Feet Above the City
In the 1950s, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser ordered the construction of what was then going to be the largest structure in Northern Africa. The Borg Al-Qahira Tower (Cairo Tower in Arabic), as it’s formally named, is 614 feet tall and is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Cairo.
The tower has an observation deck at the top where visitors can take in a 360 degree view of the city. They can also use the telescopes on the structure to get an even closer view or specific areas.
The tower also features restaurants and lobby murals depicting the history of the area. Many believe that the best time to visit the tower is in the evening after dark to see the stunning views of the lights throughout the area.
Visiting the Bazaar (Old Marketplace) in Cairo
Anyone who has watched a movie that is set in an ancient time period will invariably see a scene involving a marketplace. In Cairo, this image comes alive at the Khan Al-Khalili Bazaar. Dozens of merchants sell their wares to thousands to tourists and locals each day.
Khan Al-Khalili is one of the best and oldest places in Cairo to get souvenirs of your trip. But it’s not just the products that they have that make the place memorable. The experience of haggling with slick-talking merchants and hearing the amazing (albeit probably exaggerated) descriptions of their products combine the shopping experience with a bit of interactive theater for the visitors.
Along with the merchandise, the bazaar also features artisans such as glassblowers, metalsmiths, and painters. For those who get thirsty or hungry, the bazaar also features a number of restaurants, coffeehouses, and street food vendors throughout the marketplace. El Fishawy is the oldest and most famous coffee house and Naguib Mahfouz Restaurant and café is also very famous and named after the Noble prize winning Egyptian novelist.
Coptic Cairo Tour
While Egypt is primarily a Muslim country, they do have a Christian community and is rich with biblical type churches and places in historical Coptic Cairo. The area is important for Christians around the world as it is believed that Jesus, along with His mother Mary fled to Cairo when King Herod was attempting to kill Him.
For this reason, the area is known for its many churches, including: Church of the Holy Virgin Monastery and Church of St. George (Greek Orthodox) Nunnery and Church of St. George (Greek Orthodox) Saint Barbara Church Saint Mary Church Saint Mercurius Church Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church The Church of Saint Menas, and The Hanging Church
In addition to churches, many other tourist attractions exist in the Coptic area of Cairo, including the Babylon Fortress.
The Babylon Fortress as it stands today was started in 98 A. D by the Romans and was used as a method of defense and a way to collect tolls along the Nile. This fortress replaced an earlier version that dated back to the 12th century B. C. The fortress was more of a walled city (which encompassed much of Old City) than just a fort. However, much of the city that the fortress protected no longer exists as it did in antiquity.
Many visitors also visit the Coptic Museum. This museum has the most profound collection of Egyptian Coptic artifacts anywhere on the planet. In the museum, visitors are exposed to the history of the area as well as the most important pieces of art in the history of the Copts.
As was mentioned previously, Cairo’s history is rich in part due to the different conquering forces that have occupied the city over the millennia. As such, the museum features a rich diversity of art from such civilizations as: Ancient Egyptian Greek Roman Byzantine, Islamic, and Ottoman. All in all, there are over 15,000 artifacts and exhibits to view in the Coptic Museum.
Islamic Cairo Tour
Cairo has been accumulating the history of many Islamic rulings for the last fourteen hundred years. Some of the Islamic sites go back that far such as Mosque of Amr ibn al-As. Amr was the first Muslim ruler and he is the one actually built Cairo to be the capital of Egypt. It was initially called Fustat, then after some time, a ruling dynasty expanded Fustat and named it Cairo. Before that Alexandria used to be the capital. Cairo in Arabic is called ‘Al Qahira’ and that means the victorious or the defeater city as a symbol that it always defeats conquerors.
Other Islamic site popular for tourists include: Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Bab Zuwayla, Bab al-Futuh, Bab al-Nasr, Mosque of al-Azhar ( some consider it the oldest university in the world).
Other locations include Sultan Al-Ghuri complex, al-Hussein Mosque (whose shrine is believed to hold the head of Husayn ibn Ali the nephew of profit Muhammed).
In the same area you can also visit Salah Al-Deen Citadel, Sultan Hasan mosque, Al-Nasir Muhammed Mosque, Suleyman Pasha Mosque, and Muhammed Ali’s Alabaster Mosque.
Always remember to remove your shoes when visiting a mosque and it is preferable for women to cover their hair as a gesture of respect to these prayer places.
The area is bordered by a historical fortified walls with stone gates and minarets. This was a fence used to protect Cairo from attackers and is called ‘Soor Magra El Oyoun” or the fence of running water springs. It has several ancient gates including: Bab El Nasr, Bab al-Futuh, and Bab Zuweila gates.
Walking down this street is like going back thousand years in history. This is where many of Egypt’s rulers have built mosques, houses, and other state buildings. The street also has a lot of ‘touristic’ shops where you can buy some souvenirs. You need to negotiate prices though.
It is a 74-acres park space located in Islamic Cairo close to Al Azhar Mosque. The park offer nice views of Cairo and beautiful gardens. You can hear the Azan which is the call to prayer from thousands of mosques at prayer times. This is just to name a few of the Islamic era monuments and place.
The Cairo Opera House
One of the more unique experiences in Cairo is that of the Cairo Opera House. The Opera House is not just a single building, but a complex of several venues including seven theaters (both enclosed and open-air), an art gallery, a museum, and a music library as well as rehearsal spaces, classrooms, dressing rooms, a workshop for decorations and sets, VIP halls and a restaurant.
The current opera house was built in 1988 and replaced the previous Khedivial Opera House that burned down in 1971. Khedivial was the first opera house in Africa. Each day, visitors can choose from several events at the various venues to choose from.
The Egyptian Museum
This museum is located close to Tahrir square (the square that became famous during 2012 Egyptian revolution). It has largest collection of Ancient Egypt Pharaonic antiquities in the world. The most famous departments include King Tut’s and the mummies’ chambers. This is a must see attraction. The list of Pharaonic artifacts is endless. You can pay an extra ticket to take a camera inside (no flash).
You can see large number of artifacts, jewelries and statues from different Ancient Egypt kingdoms.
You can go by metro, taxi, Uber, or by car. Parking is not that easy though. I usually prefer to take Uber to this location.
Aqua Parks in Cairo
Cairo Aqua Park
One of the largest aqua parks in the middle east. you can book a room or chalet for the day. It has giant slides and tubes and several pools. It is about ten minutes east of Cairo. It has restaurants. It is locate on Ismailia Desert Rd, Al Shorouk within Cairo Governorate.
This one is located in a city adjacent to Cairo: 6th of October city. You can find here a wave pool, many slides, children pools, and more. Kids can also play at the playground area.
Dinner is usually included in the admission tickets. You can only bring light snacks as food is generally not allowed in.
One of the biggest amusement parks in Egypt. Located near 6th October City (very close to Cairo). It has many rides including outdoor slides, car rides, bumper boats, carousels, Ferris wheel, Roller Coaster, Tornado, and many many more. You can spend here more than one day easily.
You can find here theme shops, restaurants, and other types of shops too. Sometimes it gets really crowded, so check before you go.
Mainly indoor amusement park, with rides and arcades and other fun activities. You can enjoy time with kids from 4 to 14 years old and you can have lunch or dinner too.
EGYPT NATIONAL CIRCUS
Started back in the 1960s making it the oldest circus in the middle east. This circus has a lot of history and talents to sow. It has animal shows, acrobats, clowns, the whole package.
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL plans for events in Egypt. Get double the enjoyment, being in Cairo and enjoying this great show at the same time.
Day Tours in Cairo
Some tour companies arrange tours around Cairo including guided tours to the most famous places, lunch or dinner at famous restaurants, and shopping for souvenirs at some Souks (markets). Check with your hotel for more information on available day tours. You can also check online for these tour and compare prices.
Shopping Malls in Cairo
Cairo Festival City Mall
One of largest in Egypt and the middle east. It is around 1.7 million square feet distributed between three floor with well known anchor shops such as IKEA.
tens of restaurants, brand stores, dancing fountains, and an amphitheater where some world famous shows and exhibitions are held. Lie most shopping centers in Cairo, it can be noisy and crowded.
Mall of Arabia
Mall of Arabia is considered the largest in Egypt, this mall is closer to 6th October city and has hundreds of well known brand store and the second IKEA outlet in Egypt.
Mall of Egypt
You can ski in the ski slope and winter garden zone in this mall! This is also a huge mall with around 380 stores and lots of entertainment, cinema complex, playgrounds, and tens of restaurants. It has over 6500 parking spaces.
City Stars Mall
One of the upscale malls in Cairo with many brand offerings and lots of activities for the whole family.
Other Entertainment and Things to Do In Cairo
Unleashed: Let you anger and frustration out
Located at Concord Plaza hotel, Unleashed is place where you can relief your stress. You are given the chance to can smash objects that you can choose from available collections. The hotel is located in New Cairo on 90th st ( EL Tes3een street ).
Gravity Code: Trampoline park
Get some jumping time and have fun with family and friends. This place is located at 3 Skies Plaza, 90th st (EL Tes3een street), behind Americana Plaza, Fifth Settlement, New Cairo.
Air Zone: Trampoline park
One of the biggest in Cairo. Lots of fun time and entertainment. Located at Mall point 90, fifth settlement, el tes3een road, infront of the AUC, Cairo
Escape Room Cairo
Solve puzzles, find hidden objects, and work with a team to get out of a locked room in 60 minutes. Can be really fun for families and groups. Located at 5 Abu El Feda street, Al Zamalek, Cairo.
Another escape room place with more puzzles and mysteries to solve. Located at 90 st. Down Town Mall, New Cairo.
One more choice for escape room entertainment. Located at Sheikh Zayed, in 6th of October city (close to Cairo).
A UK franchise with more puzzles and fun time. Locate at Sheikh Zayed in 6th of October City.
Fight Club Laser Tag
Located in 6th of October city. You can have fun with family and friends chasing targets and achieving you mission.
Kee Action Paintball
Located at Rehab Sporting Club in Rehab city. I recommend calling first to make a reservation.
Here you can choose from different types of games including paintball, laser tag, bazooka fight, treasure hunt, or aqua fight. You can have several days of fun at this place. Located at Street 3, Gate 1,El Hezam El Akhdar (6th of October Agriculture Company, El Sheikh Zayed, In front of Beverly Hills compound.
Cooking Classes: Eatery
Eatery offers cooking classes including Egyptian dishes and popular foods. It is located at several locations: Cairo Festival City, Fifth Settlement, Capital Business Park in Sheikh Zayed, 6th of October City, and at Diplo 3 in the North Coast.
Cairo Kitchen Point 90
Cairo Kitchen Point 90 offers homemade style meals that can be delivered to you in addition to cooking classes for adults and kids. You can learn how to make popular Egyptian dishes here. They are located at Point 90, Fifth Settlement, New Cairo.
Safety in Cairo
One of the main questions about visiting Cairo is safety. For years there has been turmoil in the Middle East and that has made some people reticent to travel to the area. While there are some areas of the Middle East that are unsafe to visit, Cairo is not one of them. For many years, Egypt, and in turn, its capital Cairo has welcomed people of all nationalities, faiths, races, and persuasions.
Cairo puts a heavy emphasis on safety and you will see a strong military presence in the city and surrounding areas. But this is true in almost any capital. For example, you will see a strong military presence in Washington, D. C., as it’s the seat of government and the military, is headquartered there. The same is true for Cairo.
That being said, it’s a major city and as with any major city in the world, you should always be cautious. The United States Department of State recommends the following for U. S. citizens traveling in Egypt: Stay alert in locations frequented by Westerners. Avoid demonstrations and crowds. Obtain comprehensive medical insurance that includes medical evacuation. Although demonstrations were common few years back especially after Egyptian revolution in 2011, it is not that common anymore. The government put restrictions on demonstrations in attempt to bring back order to the streets. Check our article: Things to know when travelling to Egypt about safety guidelines.
Americans can enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. Follow the Department of State on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. Similar programs are available in many other governments. Review the Crime and Safety Report for Egypt. These are good rule of thumb for travelers from other countries such as Canada, the U. K., and Australia to Cairo and each country has tips and advice from their own State Department.
Many people worry about traveling to a foreign country due to language barriers. The official language in Cairo is Arabic. But over the past 2 centuries, there has been a heavy British (and French) influence in the area, so many Egyptians are multi-lingual in Arabic, English, French, and a few other languages. Many that don’t speak English, due to the vast influx of tourists each year, many of the locals in Cairo can understand some English and do their best to work with tourist to figure out what is being said.
In addition, technology can help. Both the Google Play and Apple App Store have a number of translator apps that can be downloaded which allow a user to speak into their device in English and the device then repeat the statement in Arabic. This can go a long way in helping you get around not just in Cairo, but the Middle East as a whole.
Food When visiting Cairo
You would expect Cairo to be full of Arabic and Mediterranean style foods. And it is. But because Cairo is an international destination, the culinary influences are far greater than standard Middle Eastern fare. Check our article Travelling to Egypt: Going Without Vaccinations and Food and Drinking Water Safety before jumping into this experience
It’s quite common to find food that you would find in any restaurant in the U. S., Canada, the U. K., and Australia. Foods such as sushi, pizza, steak, and fish and chips can be found side by side with Middle Eastern favorites. But many like to immerse themselves in the culture of the city and traditional Middle Eastern and Egyptian cuisine that is among the best rated in the Middle East.
Dishes such as the Kebab (lamb meatballs) or Mahshi Coussa (roasted squash stuffed with meat), Wine Leaves Dolma (grape leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables), Hummus, and Moutabal (grilled chopped eggplant with sesame paste, yogurt, lemon juice, and olive oil). Other dishes include Fatta, Koushary, Moloukhia.
You can find very reasonable prices in many famous restaurants. The best food in my opinion isn’t found in fancy restaurants. The best food is at restaurants that are really famous while not so expensive. And throughout the Southern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries, there is no better food than shawarma.
In Cairo that many Shawarma places can be found around the city. It slow-roasted chicken, beef, or lamb shawarma wrapped in hand made flatbread served with rice, or French fries and a salad. The price can vary, but most will cost under US$4.
Many are surprised to find that Cairo has quite a few bars. Egypt is more liberal than its other Muslim neighbors when it comes to the licensing of bars in the country. Many of the bars have international themes such as Irish or British Pubs, American sports bars, and even jazz clubs.
One of the more popular bars in Cairo is Almaz. Almaz is located in the Swiss Inn Hotel. The bar combines the best in Egyptian foods with great cocktails, and live entertainment each night. Anyone looking for a night out without the kids may want to check out Almaz.
Cairo has so much to offer. To start with, it offers over 4,500 years of history in addition to the beautiful art, the incredible cultural sites, the friendly and helpful people, amazing views, and wonderful food and drink, just to name a few great aspects.
If you do visit Cairo, keep in mind that you are visiting an Islamic country with a number of laws that may be relatively strict. It’s important to always keep that in mind. While Egypt may be among the more liberal Islamic countries, it isn’t going to tolerate behavior that demeans its culture.
In addition, be sure to check to see what you need to visit the country. Some will require tourist visas. All will require valid passports. It’s also important to know how to contact your local consulate or embassy when traveling in case there are issues such as losing your passport.
Cairo is a fun and educational destination for the whole family that everyone will remember for a lifetime. My kids still talk to me about our visit and are always asked by their friends and teachers about this unique experience.