cairo one day itinerary
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The Perfect 1 Day Cairo Itinerary (A Local’s Guide!)

Cairo is an underrated city full of hidden gems. Here’s my local’s guide to the perfect Cairo one day itinerary. 

After years of living in Cairo, I’m still exploring the city and discovering something new. And it’s a shame that many tourists often rush through here.

If you only have one day in Cairo – spend it wisely. Avoid the tourist traps and the overrated attractions. Focus on the experiences that are truly special and spend some time exploring them.

Cairo is a huge city with lots of traffic jams. A lot of online one-day itineraries don’t take this reality into account.

You’re not going to pack in a half dozen attractions across the city – that will only leave you exhausted.

But with a streamlined itinerary and some good planning, you can experience the best of Cairo in a single day.

Here’s my perfect one-day itinerary on how to spend 24 hours in Cairo wisely. I’m a longtime expat living in Cairo and this is the advice I wish I knew when I first visited!

Cairo one day itinerary:

1. Giza and the pyramids

cairo one day itinerary

The pyramids are very touristy – but also very much worth seeing.

The Giza pyramid complex should be your first stop on the ideal one-day Cairo itinerary. The pyramids are genuinely breathtaking when you see them for the first time.

And they still impress me after all these years, when I’m on my way to dinner and catch a glimpse of their dusty peeks through the taxi window.

But these ancient wonders are not surrounded by desert, as they’re often shown in photos.

They’re in the middle of Giza, a densely packed city that’s one of the largest in Egypt. And Giza is technically just outside of Cairo – which means at least an hour in a taxi.

The Giza pyramids are also notorious for aggressive vendors, persistent guides that offer you their “bargain” services, and determined camel and horse riders.

It’s not surprising that many tourists (and Egyptians) remember their visit to the pyramids as stressful and hectic at best.

Here’s my advice to avoid the hassle

cairo one day itinerary

  • Head out early in the morning to avoid traffic: The pyramids open at 8 am so arrive as early as possible to avoid the crowds and get your tickets. If you’re visiting in the summer, get to the plateau as early as possible to avoid the day’s heat.
  • Take a taxi: The city’s white taxis are notorious for overcharging tourists, rigging their meters and taking you in circles through the suburbs. And while most of them are honest, it’s better not to take chances. Use Uber or Careem for all of your rides.
  • Hire a tour guide: I love solo travel, but I wouldn’t recommend it in Giza. Hire a local Egyptian tour guide and you’ll get a lot more from your visit. A guide will save you time at the plateau and take you to hidden gems you’d otherwise miss. The aggressive vendors will also leave you alone if you don’t appear lost and alone.
  • Skip the souvenirs: They’re overpriced and include more bickering and bartering than they’re worth. Focus on the history and majesty of the pyramids and leave the shopping for later.
  • Eat well: It’s tempting to grab lunch from the local falafel (aka taamiya) stand, but don’t take chances with your gut this early in the day. Head to Pizza Hut (yes, really) right across from the Sphinx for what’s probably the world’s best fast-food restaurant view. For a more leisurely lunch, head to 9 Pyramids Lounge (reservations recommended,) which is Giza’s first restaurant right on the plateau. Right across the street, the Marriott Mena House has some incredible restaurants that are pricier but worth it for the ambiance.

Giza plateau guide:

cairo one day itinerary

Allow 2 or 3 hours for visiting the plateau, and dress comfortably in the summer. Thin and loose linen works best, while jeans or a tight t-shirt are nightmares in the humidity.

There are two entrances to the plateau. One is directly in front of the Sphinx, and the other is on a hill near the Great Pyramid. I would recommend entering at the second entrance and then making your way down towards the Sphinx.

The complex includes Khufu’s Pyramid, known as the Great Pyramid of Giza, which is the biggest and oldest of the three pyramids. It’s the only site of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that’s still intact. There are two smaller pyramids called Khafre and Menkaure, and three even smaller pyramids containing Khufu’s wives and sisters.

The Sphinx is the other famous landmark of the Giza plateau: an enormous limestone statue with the body of a lion and a human’s head.

Read 5 Stress-free ways to see the Pyramids for more tips on experiencing the pyramids without the hassle!

2. Khan el Khalili

cairo one day itinerary

After a morning at the pyramids and lunch with a view, take an Uber to Khan el Khalili – Cairo’s famous medieval souq. Its dense, vibrant alleys are packed with historic mosques, Ottoman-era mansions and plenty of shopping.

Islamic Cairo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 14th century. And it’s lined with masterpieces of medieval Islamic architecture and some of Egypt’s most beautiful mosques.

Split your time at Khan el Khalili into two parts. First: take a guided walking tour so you don’t miss any of the incredible mosques and historical sites. Second: take a few hours to wander, shop for souvenirs and explore the small alleys full of scarves, perfumes and spices.

Khan el Khalili walking tour

moez street cairo

If you want to tackle Khan el Khalili on your own, take an Uber to Azhar Mosque and start your walk from there. This street map is a great start to plan your tour. It features all the main attractions you’ll find along Moez Street – the main pathway through the souq.

Al Azhar Mosque is a gorgeous, recently renovated masterpiece. Founded in 970, it’s now regarded as the highest authority in the Islamic world for the study of Sunni theology. It boasts an open-air courtyard paved in white marble and surrounded by Mamluk-era minarets.

Cross Azhar Street and have a tea with mint at El-Fishawi cafe, one of the city’s oldest cafes and the famed hangout of Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz. It’s an old cafe in a narrow alley that’s always lively with musicians and groups of friends smoking shisha.

And don’t miss Bab al-Ghuri, a gate filled with shops selling colorful lamps. At night the lights illuminate the historic walls and the picture-perfect arches.

Islamic Cairo landmarks you shouldn’t miss:

cairo one day itinerary

  • The Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Barquq: One of the city’s greatest architectural feats from the Mamluk era, this religious complex has a stunning courtyard with a richly decorated interior.
  • Bayt Al-Suhaymi: This historic Ottoman house is an example of how a wealthy merchant lived in medieval Cairo. The house was built in 1648 with fine mashrabiya windows, marble floors and wood furniture. It’s on a narrow lane just off Moez Street and you’ll need a ticket to enter.
  • Al-Hakim Mosque: This unique mosque is named after a Fatimid caliph infamous for his bizarre laws. The mosque was used throughout its long history as a prison, a fortress for Napoleon and a school.

Read 11 Must-See Hidden Gems in Islamic Cairo for a deeper look at this gorgeous neighborhood.

Shopping in Khan el Khalili:

khan el khalili

souvenirs in egypt

Leave time to wander and browse for souvenirs during your Cairo one-day itinerary.

Souvenirs in Cairo range from the kitsch and plastic to the handmade. You’ll find anything from spices and alabaster figurines to pottery, lamps and applique wall hangings.

Don’t miss 26 Amazing Souvenirs to buy in Egypt for a complete guide to Cairo shopping.

3) Felucca ride and downtown Cairo

nile river

Wind down in the evening and give your feet a rest. Head to downtown Cairo and hire a traditional felucca sailboat for a trip down the Nile River. If you walk around the Qasr el Nil bridge towards the Four Seasons Nile Plaza, you can find a line of boats and negotiate a price.

For a quieter experience, head to the nearby leafy suburb of Maadi near the TGI Fridays. Get a felucca from there for a quieter and greener river sail.

Summing up

what to see in cairo

Planning a Cairo one day itinerary can feel overwhelming. It’s a huge and bustling city, and there’s a lot to experience.

But with some wise planning – and a good guide – you can get a great taste of this vibrant city.

I would love to hear from you! What’s on your Cairo one day itinerary?

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what to see in cairo

12 Comments

  1. Do you recommend any good guides? We will be there for 1 day and instead of using a tourism company would much prefer a local guide.
    Thank you for an amazing post.

    1. Unfortunately I don’t! I had a few good guides in the past, but I can’t recommend them anymore because they’re either overcharging now or out of business.

      I’d recommend that you check Tripadvisor and they have a list of local guides plus their rankings and reviews.

      1. Can you pls recommend the spots which I need to cover in a 2 days Cairo trip? Can you make a short and crisp itinerary for me where I would get the places I need to visit serially.

        1. Hello M, for the second day I’d recommend you visit Coptic Cairo in the morning, then the Egyptian Museum in the afternoon (in downtown). You can finish off your day with dinner and a walk around downtown in the evening. Or if you still have the energy, Azhar Park isn’t far away and it has nice views of the Citadel in the evening at the Studio Misr restaurant.

  2. HI Dee!
    I absolutely LOVE all your ideas on Cairo!! The best website I’ve come across (and i’ve browsed A TON!!)!!! We will be traveling to Cairo in July (yes, I know it’s going to be super hot!!) and will be there for 4 full days. I’m really struggling to figure out daily itineraries for each of the four days especially given the wide spreading out of many of your suggestions. I think day 1 should be the Egyptian museum (just to give us a good history before we begin) and day 2 the pyramids but just not sure what we can do each of these days beside these main sights…and then day 3 and 4 detailed itinerary too. Any help or guidance you can give would be very much appreciated!! I’m really trying to make the daily sights most efficient in distance and locations!

    We are SO excited to come to your home town!!

    1. Hello Kimberly, thank you so much for the kind words! I’m happy to hear that you’ve found my website helpful.

      Day 1 – You can easily head to the souq in Khan el Khalili in the evening after the Egyptian Museum, since Islamic Cairo isn’t that far from where you’ll be in Tahrir Square.

      Day 2 – You can combine Saqqara (the step pyramid, much more impressive inside than Giza) with your trip to Giza, as it isn’t far. There are also a couple of nice restaurants on the Giza plateau if you want to stay at the pyramids a bit longer for lunch.

      Day 3 – Coptic Cairo combined with a visit to the nearby National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.

      Day 4 – Sultan Hassan Mosque, the nearby Citadel and finishing off with lunch/dinner at Azhar Park.

  3. Hi Dee,

    My Brother has a layover in Cairo and will be going Toronto from there.

    Landing Time in Cairo – 5.10 am
    Report at Airport the same day for catching Flight – 8.00 pm (Though take off time is 1.50 am)

    Can u elaborate in brief what can be covered between this time. And approximately how much EGP shoud he carry to complete the day ?

    Thanks in Advance.

    1. Hi Moiz, I’d recommend for your brother to head straight to Giza in the morning from the airport – the pyramids open at 8 am and if he gets there early then head to the Mena House for a coffee.

      After the pyramids, I’d recommend he skip Khan el Khalili and head straight to Korba, in a Cairo suburb called Heliopolis, to walk around Korba Square and have a meal at one of the many great cafes there. Heliopolis is a good choice for him because it’s about a half hour to the airport (allow 45 minutes to be safe), and it’s historic with interesting architecture (some Indian influences too, btw).

      An Uber from the airport to Giza is about 200 EGP so 400 round trip. Tickets to the pyramids are 200 EGP, and a decent meal in Korba will be about 200-300 EGP. For cheaper fast food, allow around 50-100 EGP. I’d tell him to take 2k EGP for the day just to be safe, and in case he wants souvenirs too. ATMs are plentiful in both Giza and Korba if needed.

    2. Hi Dee,

      It is a great itinery. Could you tell me if This is the best for a small group with kids. We will be in Kairo for a one day with a private guide end of july. Due to probable very high temperature what would be the best itinerary (we are coming by plane in the morning for the whole day).
      Kids are from 8 so we are worry about the heat. But he have a small bus rented jest for our group to easily transfer between places.

      Thank you in advance

      1. Hi Stefan, during summer I’d recommend getting over to Giza as early in the morning as possible to beat the afternoon heat. Then maybe a long lunch or afternoon break when the heat gets too bad, and a visit to Khan el Khalili in the evening when it’s cooled off. Enjoy your trip!

  4. Hi Dee, I found your website super helpful! A couple of questions: When we visit the Pyramids, we want to get a photo with each of us (my wife and I) on a camel with nothing else except the Pyramids in the background – we don’t really need to ride the camels for more than the time needed to take a photo. I’ve read that camel rides are only $3-5 for 30 minutes based on an Egyptian government rule – is that correct? Any ideas how we can get a picture with only the Pyramids in the background – would we need to ride the camels a short distance? My second question is about availability of a large (8″-15″ in height Pyramid or Sphinx) souvenir – are these sold anywhere? They don’t have to be of alabaster (they might be very heavy and expensive?). Thank you!

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