The Montazah Palace in Alexandria has an ornate bright white facade with burgundy details.
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15 Must-See Palaces In Egypt (A Local’s Guide)

Egypt is known for medieval mosques and pharaonic wonders. But did you know it’s also home to some splendid palaces that range from Islamic to Rococo?

Egypt’s royal palaces are well worth exploring for their fascinating blend of Islamic, Ottoman and European architecture. You’ll even find a Hindu-inspired palace in Cairo built by a Belgian baron.

I’m an expat living for over a decade in Egypt and I love exploring the country’s royal residences and majestic gardens. These palaces are fascinating for their fusion of architecture styles. And they’re a welcome escape from the bustling city.

So here’s my ultimate guide to the most breathtaking palaces you must see in Egypt – from Nile-side museums to hidden gems.

1. Abdeen Palace, Cairo

tickets: 100 EGP | open 9am to 3pm | on the map

This palace in the heart of downtown Cairo was once the Egyptian president’s sumptuous residence.

Abdeen Palace has now been transformed into a fascinating museum filled with paintings, gold clocks and millions of francs worth of Parisian furniture. It houses a vast silverware collection, an arms collection and an exhibit devoted to the royal family.

There are also curiosities in the collection – like gifts given to Egyptian leaders and presidents, including a Japanese model of a Samurai crown and a golden-plated AK-47 from Saddam Hussein.

2. Montaza Palace, Alexandria

This splendid 19th-century palace – overlooking the Mediterranean in Alexandria – was once the summer residence of Egyptian royalty.

Today, Montaza Palace is famous for its gardens with their avenues of palms, miniature palaces, pavilions and manicured flower beds.

The Salamlek Palace was first built in 1892 as a hunting lodge for the royal family. The larger Haramlek Palace and gardens were later added in a beautiful mix of Ottoman and Florentine styles.

The 350-acre gardens are well worth a visit for their sea views and restaurants in the park. And there’s also a beautiful hotel right on the grounds. The Helnan Royal overlooks the sea. And it was built in 1964 to house dignitaries visiting Egypt for the second-ever Arab League Summit.

3. Gezirah Palace, Cairo

The Gezirah Palace was built to entertain visiting dignitaries during the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.

And it’s now the centerpiece of the Cairo Marriott Hotel in Zamalek, a leafy island just across from downtown. The palace is nestled between the hotel’s twin towers – and yes, you can visit even if you’re not staying there!

Have a drink at the hotel’s Garden Promenade cafe, right alongside the palace’s ornate columns, for a look at this Oriental gem. There are lavish rooms inside (once part of the palace) where you can unwind with a cup of mint tea.

This cafe is one of my favorite hidden gems in Zamalek. And it’s a great spot to unwind after a day of browsing nearby art galleries and book shops.

4. Cairo Citadel

Built by Saladin in 1176-82 to protect Cairo from the threat of Crusaders, the Citadel housed Egypt’s rulers for 700 years from the 13th to the 19th century.

The Cairo Citadel is technically a palace because it was home to royalty for centuries. Though it’s probably not what comes to mind when you think of a palace!

Mohammed Ali was the last ruler based at the citadel. Before him, the Ayyubids, Mamluks and most Ottomans ruled over Egypt from this hilltop.

5. Gawhara Palace, Cairo

There are two separate palaces inside the Cairo Citadel that are now museums.

The first is the Gawhara Palace, which was once used as a personal residence by Muhammad Ali.

This palace includes gold inscriptions and Ottoman-style majesty mixed with Turkish and European baroque. It houses Muhammad Ali’s gilded wood throne and a 1,000-kilogram chandelier.

6. Harim Palace, Cairo

The Harim Palace is the second palace housed inside the Cairo Citadel.

It’s now the Citadel’s Military Museum that chronicles Egypt’s military history.

The building was once Muhammad Ali’s luxurious private residence. And you can still see the elaborate ceilings and frescoes in many of the rooms.

7. Baron Palace, Cairo

This strange and fantastical palace inspired by a Hindu temple is surrounded by urban legends.

Filled with a cacophony of deities, elephants and Roman statues, this architectural smorgasbord was built in 1910. It was the residence of Belgian Baron Empain, a wealthy entrepreneur who founded the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis.

The palace boasts ornate ceilings, chandeliers and a beautiful spiral staircase. An exhibit narrates the story of the charismatic baron and the history of Heliopolis.

Urban legend says there’s a secret underground tunnel linking the palace to the baron’s crypt at a nearby cathedral. More sinister tales say the palace is haunted by the baron’s wife and daughter, both suspected suicides.

8. Said Halim Palace (aka Champlion Palace), Cairo

This abandoned palace is a splendid example of Cairo’s fin de siecle opulence now turned to dusty decay.

It’s closed to the public but you can still view the entire facade through the gates. Walk around the building (which covers 1,800 square meters) to marvel at the crumbling regal architecture.

The palace was built for the Ottoman statesman Said Halim Pasha by Slovanian-Italian architect Antonio Lasciac, the builder of palaces in Cairo and Istanbul. It was later turned into a boy’s school after nationalization.

It’s a great stop on a walking tour through downtown Cairo. And the Egyptian street food legend Koshary Abu Tarek is just a few steps away.

9. Princess Fatma Al-Zahra Palace (Royal Jewelry Museum), Alexandria

The Fatma Al-Zahra Palace is an architectural gem known for its blend of European and Islamic styles.

And it’s now home to Alexandria’s Royal Jewelry Museum with its impressive collection of more than 11,000 pieces of royal jewelry, coins, clocks and portraits of Egypt’s royal family.

The palace was completed in 1923 and served as a residence for the princess. It’s filled with paintings, gilded ceilings and ostantatious pieces like gold chessboards and jewelry commissioned by European designers.

The princess’s property was confiscated after the 1952 Egyptian Revolution. And it was turned into a public museum in 1986.

10. Manasterly Palace, Cairo

This Ottoman Baroque palace is perched on Rawda Island next to an ancient Nilometer (dating back to 861 CE).

The palace is a beautiful hidden gem known for its Rococo influences and musical concerts. It contains painted bird figures and a terrace overlooking the Nile.

For an afternoon off the beaten path, you can easily combine a visit to this lavish palace with a stop at the Nilometer and at the nearby museum of legendary Egyptian singer Um Kolthum.

Manasterley Palace was built in 1851 by Cairo’s first-ever governor. It witnessed the establishment of the Arab League in 1945 and meetings between King Farouk and other Arab leaders.

11. Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil Palace, Cairo

This Nile-side palace now houses a museum with a collection of Impressionist paintings to rival European exhibits.

It’s a real hidden gem that lets you enjoy Egypt’s royal history – and masterpieces by Monet and Renoir – in an intimate setting.

The 1905 neo-Classical palace stands alongside the Nile River and was purchased by Mahmoud Khalil and his wife for their family residence.

The palace is now the Khalil Museum, which finally opened after a decade-long closure and the high-profile theft of a priceless Van Gogh.

The Khalil Museum is a touching labor of love by the Egyptian politician and his French wife, brought together by their love of art. The museum contains a massive collection of Impressionists that the couple gathered over decades.

12. Manial Palace, Cairo

This sumptuous 20th-century palace boasts lavish halls, quirky exhibits and wonderful gardens filled with exotic plants.

Manial Palace was built by Mohammed Ali Tewfik, a prince known for his love of collecting antiques and passion for Islamic art, heritage and culture. Though the prince never actually ascended the throne – Egypt became a republic in 1953 and the prince spent the rest of his life in exile.

Manial Palace is a testament to everything the prince collected and loved, from French tapestries to fine horse saddles and porcelain vases.

Because where else can you see Indian ficus trees, paintings of the pyramids and stuffed ducks all in one place?

13. Aisha Fahmy Palace, Cairo

The Aisha Fahmy Palace is a beautiful Nile-side gem in the ornate Italianate style with stained glass windows, art exhibits and winding staircases.

This palace is only open to the public during art exhibits – and those have varying schedules so it’s best to just stop by if you’re in the neighborhood.

Head inside for brilliant rococo interiors, frescoed and silk-lined walls, fireplaces and a grand staircase topped with stained glass windows. And don’t miss the summer rooms with sweeping views of the gardens and the Nile.

The palace was built in 1907 for Egyptian aristocrat Ali Fahmy, King Farouk’s army chief and Aisha’s brother. Aisha bought the palace after her brother’s death and lived there throughout her tumultuous life.

14. Beshtak Palace, Cairo

Built by a Mamluk emir in the 14th century, the Beshtak Palace is one of the gems of medieval Islamic architecture that line Cairo’s famous Moez Street.

Emir Sayf al-Din Bashtak built the palace as his residence alongside the main thoroughfare of medieval Cairo.

The remains of his palace are a rare surviving example of Cairo’s 14th-century domestic architecture. The palace has a towering reception hall with a wooden ceiling, mashrabiya and a marble fountain.

You can visit Beshtak Palace with your combination ticket to Moez Street. It’s small but impressive.

15. Sakakini Palace, Cairo

This lavish French Rococo palace is known for its rich facade stuffed with cupolas and statues of the four seasons.

It was built in 1897 by Syrian Gabriel Habib El Sakakini, who came to Egypt as a day laborer on the Suez Canal. Sakakini quickly rose in ranks after he solved a rodent problem on the canal by bringing in loads of hungry cats.

He was rewarded with more prestigious work and eventually moved to Cairo.

Sakakini Palace isn’t currently open to visitors. But its splendid facade is still worth a look – it’s a surreal sight set amid modern apartment blocks.