There is no doubt that the city of Alexandria city is one of the most beautiful cities in Egypt. It is the second-largest city in the country and the largest one on the Mediterranean Sea. Alexandria is well-known by the locals as “The Pearl of the Mediterranean”. It is a famous tourist destination in the country, visited by many looking to enjoy the sea air while exploring the city’s rich history and attractions.
Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great, the King of Macedon, in 331 BC when Alexander came to Egypt. It is said that if you dig anywhere in Alexandria, you will uncover artefacts from the ancient world. it was also the home of the Great Library of Alexandria, which burned down during the Roman era and has now been rebuilt, and the colossal Pharos Lighthouse which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Over the centuries, the city became an important hub of the Hellenistic civilization and was the capital of Egypt before Cairo for about 1000 years, until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in AD 641 when they founded the new capital of Egypt which was called Fustat before it was named Cairo later. Since the 18th century, Alexandria has become a major centre of the international shipping industry and one of the most important trading centres in the world and this is due to the overland connection between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.
The city of Alexandria has a Mediterranean climate with warm summer and rainy winter, where the temperature average in the summer is 31 °C and in winter it decreases sometimes to 12°C. The best time to visit Alexandria is in the summer from March till June and in autumn from September till November. The city has the main airport, Borg el Arab Airport, which is located 25 km away from the city centre, and mainly serves destinations in the Middle East and North Africa.
Alexandria is full of many historical places to visit, that history lovers will admire. Let us take a look at those famous attractions in the city and what activities you can enjoy there.
Things You Can Do in Alexandria:
1. Qaitbay Citadel:
While walking along the Corniche road heading west, you will find the Citadel of Qaitbay that was built in 1477 by the sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf El-Din Qaitbay. It is located on the Mediterranean Sea coast and was built in the same place as the Lighthouse of Alexandria which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and was destroyed by an earthquake. It was built to prevent the important Egyptian port city from attack and was damaged during the British bombardment of Alexandria. You can explore the citadel from inside and see the stone-walled chambers and climb up to the roof to look out over the wonderful view of the Mediterranean. Don’t forget to visit the naval museum located in the citadel.
2. Bibliotheca Alexandrina (The New Library of Alexandria):
Bibliotheca Alexandria was the largest and most renowned library of the ancient world and a main cultural centre that is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. After burning down during the Roman era, it was rebuilt in 2002 as a nod to the ancient library and to recapture the spirit of knowledge and learning. The new design resembles a giant sun disk presiding over the waterfront. Inside the Library’s huge reading area, you will find eight million volumes.
Enter the Bibliotheca and explore its many exhibitions, such as the Manuscript Museum that contains wonderful collections of ancient texts and scrolls, and the Antiquities Museum that includes Greco-Roman antiquities and statues found during the underwater exploration in the harbour. It also houses many art exhibitions throughout the year and a Science Museum and Planetarium.
3. Montazah Park:
Montaza Park is located on the Mediterranean Sea in the eastern region of Alexandria. It is a complex and royal garden. The park contains tall palm trees, trimmed lawns, and blossoming flowers that were imported by the royal court. Montaza Park was constructed by Khedive Abbas Hilmi II as a hunting lodge in 1892, then came King Fouad who extended it by building the Haramlik Palace in 1932. The Montazah Palace is designed with Florentine towers and unfortunately, it is not opened to the public, but the park is opened for everyone. It is a wonderful place to relax or take a walk or have a picnic after a long day visiting Alexandria’s attractions, and you can enjoy the sea views, and eat at the restaurants and cafes in the park.
4. Pompey’s Pillar:
Pompey’s Pillar is located on a hill with the remains of ancient walls, architectural fragments which include the only ancient monument left standing in the southwest region of the city. The column was built in 300 AD, and it consists of red Aswan granite with a Corinthian capital with a height of 27 meters and it was built in honour of the Roman emperor Diocletian, who supplied food for the starving city when Alexandria was under siege. The column rises from the ruins of the ancient and famous Serapeion, a temple that was located there which was once used to store the overflow of manuscripts from the Great Library of Alexandria.
5. Alexandria National Museum:
If you want to know more about the history of this beautiful city of Alexandria, then the Alexandria National Museum is a good place to go to start. When you enter the museum, you will see many collections from the Pharaonic period to the Hellenistic heyday and from the Ptolemy dynasty begun by Alexander the Great till the Byzantine and Islamic periods. Besides all of that, some antiquities were discovered in and around the city, including artefacts discovered underwater in the area and there are still some monuments that still exist until today in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Alexandria.
6. Roman Amphitheatre (Kom el Dikka):
The Roman Amphitheatre was discovered by coincidence when workers were removing scrapes to build a governmental building. The Roman Amphitheatre was built in the 4th century and was used since the Roman era through the Byzantine and early Islamic eras for public assemblies and summits. It is a large step theatre, wherein the north of it you’ll find the ruins of Roman baths from the 2nd century and to the east are the remains of a Roman villa and it is known as the Villa of the Birds due to its mosaic floor depicting birds. It is a place that is worth visiting where you can also take some great photos.
7. Royal Jewelry Museum:
This wonderful palace was the former residence of Princess Fatma El Zahraa in the neighbourhood of Zizenia and it was built from 1919 till 1923. It now houses the Royal Jewelry Museum which contains more than 11,000 pieces, some of which date back to the rule of Mohammed Ali Pasha, who was Khedive of Egypt in 1805. Not only does the museum contain jewellery but also old coins, golden clocks, watches, portraits of the royal family in golden frames, dazzling crowns, and King Farouk’s walking stick in gold, as well as numerous jewellery pieces belonging to the former royal family of Egypt.
8. Abu Al-Abbas Al Mursi Mosque:
The Abu Al-Abbas Al Mursi Mosque was built by Algerian sheik Abu Hassan el Maghreby over the tomb of the Andalusian Islamic scholar Abu El Abbas Al Mursi and it is one of the biggest mosques in Alexandria. He was from Murcia, a place in Spain’s Andalusia region at that time, and he moved from there in 1242 to Tunisia till he settled down in Alexandria where he spent 43 years until his death. Then in 1307, the ruler El Sheikh Zein El-Deen built a mausoleum dome and a small mosque over the tomb and it became a well-known pilgrimage spot for Muslims who are passing through Alexandria on their way to and from Mecca. You can admire the beautifully designed mosque with an exquisite facade of swirling Islamic calligraphy designs and motifs.
9. Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa:
The Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa are located in the Carmous district. They contain a mix of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman architecture and monuments. The Catacombs date back to the 2nd century and they consist of three levels made out of rock the deepest part is full of water. The catacombs were discovered when a donkey accidentally fell through the access shaft at ground level in 1900. When you visit the catacombs, there is a spiral staircase that leads down into the underground to the main rotunda, when you reach there, you will find the main burial chamber to your right and the Sepulchral Chapel with 91 outlets that are big enough for three or four mummies and on your left, the Triclinium Funebre room that was used for banquets in honor of the dead.
10. Ras El Tin Palace:
The Ras El Tin Palace was built by Mohammad Ali on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Alexandria. Most of Egypt’s sultans escaped the summer heat at this palace and it became more famous when King Farouk, the last king of Egypt officially abdicated in 1952 and sailed on his yacht out of Alexandria’s harbour heading towards Italy where he spent the rest of his life in exile. It took 11 years to build this magnificent palace, and it was opened in 1847, which makes it the oldest royal palace in Egypt. The palace was built in the Italian style with architectural elements and ornamentation inspired by that era. It was also built over 17,000 square foot, and 12 acres surrounding by Fig Trees Gardens. You can take great pictures from the harbour with the white façade behind you.
11. Cavafy Museum:
Cavafy Museum is a well-known museum in the centre of Alexandria city, dedicated to Constantine Cavafy, a Greek Alexandrian poet who found fame and recognition for his writing after his death. His home was transformed into a museum dedicated to his life and it contains many of his manuscripts and correspondence. Cavafy used to work as a journalist and civil servant, he devoted his work especially his poetry to the history of Alexandria and at that time he became one of the famous literary figures of Alexandria.
12. Alexandria Opera House:
Alexandria Opera House or Sayed Darwish Theatre, as it is called by locals, was built in 1921 by the French architect Georges Park and it is located in Fouad Street, one of the famous streets in Alexandria. Its design was inspired by the Vienna Opera and the Odeon Theater in Paris. For years the opera house has been neglected but in the year 2000, Sayed Darwish Theater was included under the list of Egyptian heritage, intensive operations began to renovate it and after years, the opera returned to its previous glory and splendour. It became qualified, after the restoration, to compete with other famous opera houses in the world. In 2004, a grand opening was held and now the opera holds many concerts throughout the year, which makes it a great place to visit for a unique night out in Alexandria.
13. El Alamein War Memorials:
It is the place where the Allies’ first decisive victory in World War II’s North Africa campaign took place and now a memorial stands to honour the forces that died there. The war memorial is located 112 kilometres west of Alexandria. It is a day trip from the city and people from all over the world come to Egypt especially to visit El Alamein War Memorial. For those who don’t know about the El Alamein war place, it took place in 1942 between the allied forces and the axis and resulted in many casualties on both sides. When you are there, you will have the chance to visit the El Alamein War Museum that shows you an overview of the El Alamein campaign with many photos, clothes, weapons, and memorabilia from the era. The interesting thing in El Alamein is that each country that took part in the war has its war memorial such as the German Memorial and the Italian Memorial, in addition to the commonwealth memorial.
14. A Walk on the Corniche:
The Corniche of Alexandria is one of the main symbols of the city. You will love walking along the seaside and admiring the coast of this Mediterranean city. The corniche was designed by the Italian-Egyptian architect Pietro Avoscani in 1870, where it starts from the Citadel of Qaitbay till you reach Montazah Park. You can relax at any of the restaurants and cafes along the corniche, beside the beautiful hotels with wonderful views of the Mediterranean.
15. Fouad Street:
One of the top attractions in this beautiful city, Fouad Street was named after King Fouad who ruled Egypt until 1936, and it is located in the downtown area of Alexandria. The street was founded in the 3rd century specifically in the Ptolemaic era and it was called the Canopic Way at first. What distinguishes this street is the Greek and Italian architectural style of its buildings and one of these examples is the Alexandria Opera House and the National Museum that was built in the Italian style. A long time ago, many foreign communities lived in Fouad Street, like Italians, Greeks, French, Armenian, and one of the famous people who lived there is the English novelist Lawrence Darrell and the Greek poet Cavafy. The street is filled with modern restaurants that serve a variety of food, from Chinese to Mexican to American and more.
16. Alexandria Tram:
It is one of the oldest tram systems in the world and is not only the first transportation system in Egypt but in all of Africa as it was established in 1860. You ride the tram and start to explore the city and it is one of the few trams in the world that uses double-deck cars. The tram consists of 20 lines operating on 32 kilometres, it is not expensive and it can take you all around Alexandria in a short time.
17. The Site of Abu Mena:
Abu Mena was a monastery complex and Christian pilgrimage centre built over the tomb of the martyr Menas of Alexandria and it is located 50 km south of Alexandria. Abu Mena was put on UNESCO’s World Heritage in Danger list due to a rise in the water level that made most of the foundations of the remaining structures unstable or likely to collapse. If you do have time, you can visit Abu Mena and see a World Heritage Site before it disappears forever.
18. Spend a Day at Abu Qir:
Located about 24 kilometres northeast of Alexandria, Abu Qir has a rich history. A battle took place in Abu Qir in 1798, where Nelson (British General) defeated the French fleet and there is a small island in Abu Qir named after Nelson which is, by the way, a nice place to spend time there and go for a swim in the sea. Abu Qir also witnessed the victory of Sir Ralph Abercromby against the French army which forced them to evacuate Egypt. This could be interesting for naval history lovers, but you can also visit Abu Qir for the delicious seafood. Abu Qir has many lovely fish restaurants that a lot of people from Alexandria and even from other cities visit throughout the year. You can have this wonderful meal while watching the sunset on the Mediterranean, and taking pictures too. It is a wonderful way to end your day in Alexandria.
19. Cleopatra’s Palace:
Diving is one of the lovely and unique activities in Alexandria. In other diving centres in the rest of Egypt, you can see the colourful coral reefs, but here, you get to explore ancient underwater ruins. One of the best places for diving in Alexandria is the eastern harbour area, where you’ll find Cleopatra’s Palace and you will be able to see the toppled statues and columns strewn underwater. It is the place where you will find the place where many treasures were excavated and are now on display in many of Alexandria’s museums.
20. Stanley Bridge:
It is another beautiful attraction that you can visit in Alexandria. It is the first bridge in Egypt to be constructed over the sea and it was built in the late 1990s. The bridge preserves the architectural style of the famous and cosmopolitan city, and it became a famous landmark on the coast of the city after it was opened in 2001. Stanley Bridge is 400 meters long and 30 meters wide and it has four towers designed in the Islamic style. The reason for building Stanley Bridge is to expand the road as the narrow two-way street was suffering from too much traffic. Walkthrough the bridge and look down to the water beneath you and take some pictures with a lovely view.
Restaurants in Alexandria
While exploring the beautiful city of Alexandria, you will probably want some time to relax and have a good meal. So, here is a list of some of the many restaurants and cafes that are spread all around Alexandria, offering delicious meals and different cuisines.
1. Windsor Palace Rooftop Café:
This lovely café is located on the rooftop of the Windsor Palace Hotel which was built in 1906, the view there is fantastic where you can see the eastern port, Qaitbay Castle, and most of the coast of Alexandria. It serves different kinds of drinks and food from different international cuisine.
2. Mohamed Ahmed Traditional Food Restaurant:
One of the best places in Alexandria that have been serving the famous local food Falafel and fuul for more than 60 years, it is located in El Raml District, one of the famous districts in Alexandria. The restaurant not only serves falafel and fuul but also serves egg dishes and cheese, it might be a small restaurant but it is worth trying. Mohamed Ahmed was visited by many famous people, such as Queen Sophia of Spain.
3. El Lol:
A great place for seafood lovers, it is like a little cottage on the beach where you can watch the fishermen bring in their haul of the day which will then be cooked and prepared for you while you sit looking at the beautiful sunset. The wonderful thing there is the sea view with a lighthouse in the background, this restaurant is located in the El Max area.
4. Greek Club (White and Blue Restaurant):
Another one of the famous restaurants in the city, it is located at the Greek Club just near Qaitbey Citadel and serves Greek food and seafood with an amazing view of the sea. You make sure when you go there at sunset time to take some amazing pictures and at night to see the bright lights of the Corniche.
5. Teatro Restaurant and Café:
The café is more like a cultural café that hosts many activities, like artistic performances, parties, dialogues, and open discussions with young people. The decorations there are lovely and made of arabesques in the Fatimid era style. The restaurant consists of two floors, where the first floor is the restaurant and the café, and the second floor has a gallery where hand-made accessories are on display. The restaurant serves many drinks and oriental dishes that you should try.
6. Chez Gaby:
It is an Old Italian restaurant located in Fouad Street since 1979. It serves pizza, pasta, and other Italian classic dishes. The restaurant names the dishes after the family members of the owners and close family friends. Chez Gaby au Ritrovo is a place that is worth a try.
In a city is a well-known place for its cafes and patisseries, Délices is one of these places that was founded in 1922 and it is located at Raml Station. It is owned by a Greek family, and it serves some delicious desserts. You can go there and enjoy your time there and sample the lovely desserts on the menu. It is a short walk to the aquarium from here as well.
8. Farag Abou Khaled:
The best place in Alexandria to serve Alexandrian specialties that you may not find elsewhere. The restaurant serves all kinds of meat dishes, served in many ways whether in a sandwich, grilled, or on a platter, and the restaurant is located in front of the famous mosque in the city; Abu Al-Abbas Al Mursi.
9. Zephere Restaurant:
It is one of the famous seafood restaurants in Alexandria which is located in El Max. It was founded in 1918 by its Greek owner Dimitri. The restaurant contains 4 halls that directly overlook the sea, including the royal hall, which can accommodate 220 people and there is also the Shark Hall, which overlooks the sea directly through all its windows, and the Max Heritage Hall, which is a summer hall located in the middle of the water in addition to the Main Heritage Hall, which can accommodate about 200 people. The restaurant serves many kinds of seafood like sobet casserole, roe, shrimp cooked in seashells, grilled mousses with butter and sangria in its distinctive way, and shrimp grilled on charcoal. You can go there and have a lovely meal with a great view of the sea.
One of the historical cafes in Alexandria, it was founded in 1905 by two Greeks in Raml Station. You can try its patisserie selection with juice or a coffee. You will see the lovely decorated ceilings and the wonderful wall panels. Also, there is a restaurant that serves some delicious food like pizza and pasta. This café was a favorite place for the Greek poet Cavafy, who worked in an office on the floor above.
11. Sea Gull:
The seafood restaurant is located in the El Max area, it contains a lot of antiques as the owner is an avid antique collector. You can have your meal in the open area in the restaurant with a magnificent sea view, there is also a kids area for kids to play and have fun.
12. Alban Swisera (Switzerland dairy):
It might be a little bit unique restaurant than the other ones, where it serves sausage, chicken panne, and pastrami mixed with a group of cheeses whether in dishes or sandwiches. The restaurant is located on Port Said Street in Camp Chezar, it is a hub for locals and visitors alike.
Places to Stay in Alexandria:
After a long day exploring the beautiful city of Alexandria, rest is a must on this long day to continue your trip in the city, and here are some of the hotels that you can stay in.
The lovely hotel is located inside the Montaza Gardens and overlooks a Mediterranean cove. It was built very fast in only 6 months in 1964 and it is only 12 km away from the city center. It was named Helnan Palestine after a summit was held there to approve the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The hotel welcomed many presidents, royalty, and celebrities, like Jacques Chirac, Queen Sofia of Spain, and Queen Rania of Jordan.
Helnan Palestine offers luxurious furnishings, oriental carpeting and some of its rooms have a fascinating view of the historic Montaza Palace. There is also a swimming pool and the hotel is only a few steps from the beach.
Paradise Inn Le Metropole:
Le Metropole was built in 1902 by Greek and Italian architects with a stunning view of the Mediterranean. The hotel is near many of Alexandria’s attractions like the library of Alexandria, Cavafy Museum, Qaitbay Citadel, and the Opera. The hotel contains two French restaurants and elegantly furnished rooms with a balcony. There is a lovely breakfast served at the Les Ambassadeurs Restaurant which offers French, seasonal cuisine, and the Versailles restaurant also serves French cuisine. It still has a lot of its old magic with the original paintings and antiques. Also, visit the rooftop restaurant where you can enjoy a wonderful meal while watching the sunset and enjoying the sea view.
Paradise Inn Windsor Palace:
Another beautiful hotel located on the Mediterranean Sea is Windsor Palace which was built in 1906. During your stay at the hotel, you can enjoy having breakfast in the morning on the rooftop terrace with an amazing sea view. Many things can be done in the hotel, in Queen Elizabeth Hall you can have a lovely dinner and wine or spend a great time with DJ nights at Skyroof Club Lounge. You will enjoy having a nice time in the surrounding cafes and malls as it is located near many attractions that you will love to visit.
It is a 4-star hotel that was built in 1929 and was owned by a Jewish French-Egyptian family called the Metzgers. This lovely hotel hosted many celebrities like Umm Kalthoum, Josephine Baker, and Al Capone, the rooms there were crusted in red and cream and it is managed by the international hotel chain Steinberger. In World War II, the hotel was used as headquarters for British Intelligence. It is near the National Museum of Alexandria and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.