Best things to do in Alexandria
Find out more about those top places in Alexandria
Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in the 3rd century BC and was famed as one of the most spectacular cities of the classical age with the towering Pharos Lighthouse and Great Library considered wonders of the ancient world. Sadly, little of Alexandria’s former splendor survives today having been destroyed by earthquakes, burned to the ground, submerged by the sea or built over in the city’s rapid 19th and 20th century development. However, what the city lacks in ancient history it more than makes up for with ample colonial heritage. Unlike other Egyptian cities, Alexandria’s streets teem with French patisseries and the faded grandeur of fin-de-siècle hotels while the city’s flea markets sell sepia photographs and other bric-a-brac dating to the city’s golden age as the 19th century playground of Europe’s rich and famous.
Built to replace Alexandria’s famed ancient library, the jaw-dropping Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which opened in 2002, has swiftly become Egypt’s premier cultural hub. With a host of fascinating museums – including one dedicated to the city’s ancient heritage – and a vast reading room that can accommodate more than 2000 people, the Bibliotheca has something to please all visitors. Guided tours of this modern marvel run throughout the day.
Built over the remains of the Pharos Lighthouse in the 15th century, the Citadel of Qaitbay is one of Alexandria’s most iconic attractions. With ornately decorated castellation and stone hewn from the great lighthouse itself, a tour of the citadel is a must when visiting Egypt’s second city.
With most of Alexandria’s ancient heritage long gone, the city can feel sorely lacking in comparison to the wonders of Giza or Luxor. However, fascinating archaeological tours look beyond the modern metropolis and show you the sites and remnants of the ancient wonders of the world, including the iconic Lighthouse of Alexandria.
One of Egypt’s most spectacular 19th century buildings, the Montaza Palace is a glorious blend of exotic oriental detailing, Victorian confidence and the chic of the French Riviera. Today the palace is a museum dedicated to its former occupants, the Muhammad Ali dynasty, and its gardens are one of the country’s most picturesque.
Discovered in 1900 when a donkey disappeared through a sinkhole in a city street, the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa are an immense Roman burial ground beneath the metropolis. Built in the typical Greco-Roman style, the catacombs are spread over three levels and were the last major monument built to the ancient Egyptian gods.
Built on the gravesite of a 13th century Sufi saint from Murcia in present day Spain, the ornate Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque is testament to the interconnection of the Mediterranean world. Tours of the mosque are recommended as expert guides can reveal the location’s complex religious history.
Founded in the 9th century, the Nile-side city of Rosetta developed into one of Egypt’s most important cities during the era of Ottoman rule. Just a short tour from Alexandria, the city’s old world charms are bound to enthrall any visitor with medieval-looking shops selling traditional wares in the labyrinthine souq, Ottoman mansion houses shaded by citrus tree lined streets and a cooling Mediterranean breeze offering respite from the Egyptian heat.