From hip downtown eateries to legendary Egyptian icons and leafy hidden gems, here’s my ultimate list of the best cafes in Cairo.
Cairo boasts some incredible cafes with flavorful brews and great vibes to give you a taste of the city’s bustling daily life.
They’re great spots to rest from sightseeing, have lunch with a view or just soak in the ambiance.
I’m a long-time expat in Cairo and this is my ultimate list of the best cafes in Cairo – and the tourist traps to avoid!
These are all the cafes I go to myself and always recommend to friends – listed by neighbourhood so you can find a great spot wherever you’re staying:
1. Oldish (downtown Cairo)
This adorable eatery is a little oasis in downtown with its funky decor, lively outdoor patio and a menu with some great Egyptian classics.
Indulge in some comfort food in an easygoing venue that’s popular with locals, young people and students from the nearby American University in Cairo.
Head to the brick-lined patio filled with comfy bamboo chairs. This cheery outdoor space has colorful potted plants and traditional window shudders painted in pastels. It’s a fun and quirky cafe with a great ambiance – and a good place to try some Egyptian classics along with your favorite coffee order. They also have great vegetarian options, too.
You’ll also find pizza, a good mix of international dishes and great juices and iced coffees.
Recommended: Try the oriental breakfast with fresh juice and falafel. Or indulge in some local Egyptian favorites like stuffed vine leaves and lemon mint juice.
Nearby: Oldish is right off Tahrir Square and walking distance from the Egyptian Museum. There are some great murals nearby from the city’s revolutionary times. And don’t miss the great bookstore inside the AUC campus, right next door.
Cafe Corniche is inspired by the Egyptian cafes of yesteryear with its copper lanterns and wood paneling – and it’s an incredible spot to dive into some traditional desserts.
Tucked inside the Intercontinental Cairo Semiramis, this small and cozy cafe is perfect for a light lunch – and some tasty desserts. They have a good sandwich menu too and some tempting ice cream options.
Sip on a Turkish coffee and browse the local papers amid this cafe’s old-world charm and friendly service. Indulge in some syrupy oriental sweets that go perfectly with a strong brew. It’s especially magical during Ramadan when the cafe makes all the holiday favorites from scratch, including konafa and basbousa.
Cafe Corniche overlooks some greenery along the hotel’s front drive. For Nile views, head to the section just behind reception where there’s a desert stand, coffee, the occasional piano music and tables with views of the river and downtown.
Recommended: The ice cream and sorbets are delicious. For a light lunch, try the cheese sambousek and lentil soup.
Nearby: Cafe Corniche is just off Tahrir Square and a short walk from the Egyptian Museum. Head to the Qasr el Nil bridge (across the street) for more views of the river and the downtown traffic.
Eish & Malh is a hip Italian eatery and cafe inside an old restored building in downtown – and they often host some great live music events too.
The cafe is part of the recent revitalization of downtown Cairo. And Eish & Malh (Arabic for bread and salt) is brilliant for an afternoon espresso and thin crust pizza.
It’s also an example of how a grey downtown space is given new life.
Their enormous arched windows have views of an old synagogue across the street. And they’re great for people-watching along this vibrant stretch of downtown. The colorful and funky decor includes some creative murals and red vases with sunflowers.
Eish & Malh regularly hosts fun events like Dinner & Oud that make it a great spot to catch some traditional music. There’s also Brunch & Jazz for a laidback weekend vibe. Check their Facebook page for upcoming events – especially around popular holidays and Ramadan.
Recommended: Try the Margherita or Frutti Di Mare pizza for that classic Neopolitan goodness alongside your favorite coffee order.
Nearby: Eish & Malh is right at the Kodak Passageway, a once drab alleyway that’s been transformed into a pop-up gallery space and pedestrian walkway. The Kodak Passageway has benches, lots of greenery and some original art deco lighting. It’s worth a stroll through the boutiques and old apartment buildings with winding staircases.
This small and cozy cafe has delicious lattes and carrot cakes, right in the heart of downtown at the foot of the iconic Cinema Radio.
Nestled in a quiet passageway that leads to the famous theater, SIP has great outdoor seating along the mosaic-paved pedestrian pathway. It’s a great spot to enjoy a bit of quiet away from the honking traffic of downtown, to meet friends – or get some work done away from the noise.
Inside there are mosaic floors, potted palms, and sunny seating including plush couches straight out of a Pinterest board.
This alleyway is part of the revitalization of downtown Cairo and Cinema Radio, originally built in 1932, has now been restored to host art and cultural events.
SIP is a prime spot to take in some of the history of the golden age of Egyptian cinema.
Recommended: Try the flat white and carrot cake.
Nearby: Don’t miss the little Diwan bookshop right next door to load up on anything from beach reads to Egyptology coffee table books.
For a look at a cheap streetside cafe – with shisha, lively crowds and plastic chairs along the pavements – head to the area around Access Art Space.
The gallery has for years been at the center of young and modern Egyptian art – and it’s surrounded by several cafes to unwind in the evening with a shisha and tea.
Downtown tourist traps:
Cafe Riche is often recommended as a historic cafe in the heart of downtown. It’s the former hangout of writers and revolutionaries during the British occupation. And it must have been incredible in its heyday.
But unfortunately, it’s now a tourist trap with bland food and some of the worst service I’ve ever had in Egypt. And I’m not alone – this place gets consistently bad reviews from locals and tourists alike. So unless you’re friends with the management, just grab a photo of that pretty facade and walk away.
5. El Fishawi (Historic Cairo)
Tucked inside a narrow alleyway in the bustling Khan el Khalili souq, El Fishawi is one of Cairo’s oldest cafes.
Dating back to 1771, this Cairo icon is packed with mashrabia, chandeliers, enormous mirrors and lots of historic charm. Sip on some mint tea, listen to live oud music, puff on a shisha and take in the lively atmosphere of Historic Cairo.
But be prepared: this isn’t exactly the place for quiet conversation. You’ll be interrupted by a constant stream of street vendors trying to sell you prayer beads, necklaces and other trinkets. And you’ll be charged tourist prices for tea and coffee – without an official menu in sight.
But El Fishawi is worth a stop to experience that old Cairo coffeehouse atmosphere. It boasts a rich history as the watering hole for two centuries of Egyptian intellectuals, artists and writers. Illustrious guests include King Farouk and Nobel-Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, wrote parts of his Cairo trilogy in the cafe’s back room.
Recommended: Try the traditional Egyptian mint tea, served in battered enamel teapots with sprigs of mint on the side. In winter, try some sahlab – a hot, creamy wheat drink topped with nuts and raisins.
Nearby: El Fishawi is in the heart of Khan el Khalili, Cairo’s historic souq. Azhar Mosque is just across the street and Moez Street is a few steps away.
On Google Maps:27X6+2X (though once you get close, it’s best to ask the locals for directions)
6. Garden Promenade Cafe (Zamalek)
This charming cafe is surrounded by lush gardens, Grecian statues and the ornate columns of the historic Gezira Palace.
The Garden Promenade Cafe, inside the Cairo Marriott Hotel, is a gorgeous outdoor space to bask in the sun, savor a lazy brunch and people-watch. And it’s right at the base of the Gezira Palace – a shimmering, Oriental-style palace built especially for the opening of the Suez Canal.
Long rows of tables shaded by orange parasols and framed by well-manicured palms and greenery. The open-air delight also hosts a live jazz band every Wednesday and Sunday evening.
Recommended: There’s a short but sweet dessert menu for cheesecake and oriental pastries that go perfectly with coffee.
Nearby: Many great Zamalek boutiques, art galleries and concert venues are a short walk away. There’s also a great Diwan bookstore just across the street.
This cozy cafe is filled with antiques, old lanterns and rococo furniture with tall windows offering leafy views of Zamalek.
Antique Khana is a great hang-out spot filled with charm and an eclectic collection of antique busts, teapots and other curiosities. If anything catches your eye, many of the antiques are for sale.
There’s a small menu with sandwiches, salads and snacks, and the occasional live music performance on weekends. The walls are lined with books in many different languages and genres that you can peruse over your coffee.
Recommended: Try the creme brulee – it’s always done well.
Nearby: Antique Khana is in the heart of Zamalek, steps away from the Cairo Marriott and a slew of eateries, art galleries and boutiques.
This quirky and colorful cafe has an array of different rooms, overflowing bookcases and comfortable couches packed with embroidered cushions.
Sufi Cafe has a distinctly Egyptian feel with its khayamiya pillows, kilim rugs, turquoise walls and paintings of whirling sufis.
The cafe is inside an old apartment and therefore it’s made up of various different rooms. Each room has its own distinct feel – whether that’s lanterns and deep orange walls or colorful cushions and wooden bookcases.
Sufi Cafe also boasts a collection of rare books and various works on Sufism and spirituality. You can peruse these over your coffee – and many are available for sale.
Recommended: Try the sweets along with your favorite coffee order.
Nearby: All the boutiques, art galleries and eateries of Zamalek are just steps away.
This bohemian chic bistro is perched on a balcony overlooking historic Heliopolis – and it’s packed with antiques and curiosities that feel like an enchanted attic.
Tree Trunk has a cozy interior where feathers, bamboo lights and mandala murals abound. It’s full of personality – and a great spot to unwind as you explore the less-visited but fascinating district of Korba.
The breezy balcony is lined with the columns and arches typical of Heliopolis architecture.
And there’s an extensive menu, too. Tree Trunk is technically a bistro with burgers, pizza and pasta on the menu. Though it’s also my favorite spot in Heliopolis to sit back with a coffee.
Recommended: There’s a great breakfast menu and lots of vegetarian and vegan options too.
Nearby: Tree Trunk is in the heart of Korba, a historic district of Heliopolis known for its unique architecture. The Baron Palace is nearby.
This family-owned cafe in Korba Square is small but mighty with a mouthwatering selection of French pastries, croissants and artisanal desserts made from scratch.
Bouchee is a bustling neighbourhood cafe that’s always lively. There’s a sleek and modern interior with a coffee counter and a few narrow tables. The displays offer a great selection of pastries, eclairs and macaroons.
A few outside tables have views of the historic Heliopolis buildings with the Greek Orthodox church just across the street.
Bouchee is a real treat for fresh pastries made with premium ingredients. The crowd is young and friendly and the location, right on Baghdad Street, makes it a prime starting point for a Heliopolis walking tour.
Recommended: Try the croissant with zaatar and feta for a taste of Egyptian flavors. The Paris-Brest pastry (with praline cream) is outstanding.
Nearby: The Baron Palace is about a 20-minute walk away.