things to do in downtown cairo
Egypt,  Travel

4 Best Things To Do In Downtown Cairo

From incredible museums to Nile views and hidden gems, here’s my ultimate guide to the best things to do in downtown Cairo. 

There’s so much more to downtown Cairo than the Egyptian Museum!

I’m an expat who’s spent nearly a decade exploring Cairo and I love downtown for its chic cafes and historic villas.

Here’s my ultimate local’s guide to the best things to do in downtown Cairo – and how to take your own walking tour of this unforgettable district.

1. Take a walking tour

downtown cairo

If you want to explore this authentic heart of the city, join an organized tour or hire a guide.

The Cairo D-Tour sets off every Friday morning and is a brilliant way to see downtown from its cafes to landmark cinemas. Led by an expert tour guide, it gives insight into the everyday lives of residents, their histories, hopes and worries.

Mosaic Club, led by experienced tour guide Zein, regularly holds tours around Cairo and beyond. It’s best to check their Facebook page for upcoming events.

2. Sail on a felucca

felucca downtown cairo

felucca downtown cairo

felucca downtown cairo

An invigorating sail along the river in downtown Cairo is a great way to take in the city lights along the peaceful Nile waters.

You can also bring your own food on board for an evening meal, or get a group of friends for dinner with a view.

A felucca is a small traditional wooden sailboat used in the Mediterranean region. You can rent them (crewed by a local sailor) at hourly rates from a few spots around the Kasr el Nil Bridge.

There’s also another spot for felucca rentals in the quieter suburb of Maadi, near the Grand Cafe, that’s better for nature and distant views of downtown.

Neon party boats blasting loud music are also widely popular. But I recommend the calmer and wind-powered felucca.

You can book a felucca sail online from a travel agency. Or just head to the Kasr el Nil bridge to the felucca stands and negotiate your own rate with the captain.

With a bit more planning, you can also book a longer felucca sail around the ancient Egyptian monuments in Upper Egypt. I once took a three-day sail from Aswan on a felucca and it was the experience of a lifetime.

For a more luxurious experience, book a dahabeya – a two-masted sailboat that’s bigger than a felucca. Travel agencies all offer such sailing experiences.

3. Have lunch at Felfela

felfela cairo

It seems all tour guides takes their groups to this popular downtown eatery. And they’ve got a point.

Felfela is a historic restaurant dating back to 1959 that oozes charm. There’s plenty of seating, and lots of ambience amid the draping vines and chirping birds.

The food is good (but not great) and the menu has a wide selection of all the Egyptian classics including ful, falafel and lots of vegetarian options. There’s beer on the menu too – perfect for a leisurely lunch.

4. Indulge in some street food

koshari

Downtown has lots of incredible street food.

For a taste of koshari, Egypt’s incredible (and vegan) national dish that combines pasta, lentils, tomato sauce, fried onions and more, head to the overrated but reliable Koshary Abou Tarek or the very decent Koshari al-Tahrir.

Head to Gad for delicious ful and falafel sandwiches, shakshouka, lentil soup and more.

For more luxury dining, you’ll want to head to suburbs like Heliopolis or New Cairo, which boast some of the city’s finest restaurants.

But if you want an excellent meal without leaving downtown then head to the Nile Ritz-Carlton in Tahrir Square. This hotel boasts the excellent Italian restaurant Vivo, and Culina – a Mediterranean restaurant with some Egyptian dishes on the menu.

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downtown cairo

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