Here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in Alexandria in Egypt, along with famous landmarks, museums, and other points of interest.
Alexandria is renowned as a Cosmopolitan city of northern Africa, with a long history and strategic position on the Mediterranean Sea. Since its founding, generations of immigrants from Greece, Italy, and the Levant have all been part of shaping the city into what it is today.
In ancient times, Alexandria was very much a cultural center with some of the most famous landmarks in the world. Nowadays, it’s a major economic center in modern-day Egypt and the city offers an interesting mix of history and culture.
In this article, I’m sharing some of the best places to visit in Alexandria as well as interesting facts and attractions that shouldn’t be missed while visiting the city.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is one of the most marvelous buildings in northern Africa. The futuristic structure is situated right on the water and is a breathtaking piece of architecture.
It offers room for eight million books and has an unbelievable reading room of 20,000 square meters. Apart from the library the building also houses four museums and art galleries, 15 permanent exhibitions, a planetarium, and much more.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina has been a landmark of the city since its inauguration in 2002. And it stands as a legacy of one of the most important buildings in the ancient world, The Great Library of Alexandria.
Lighthouse of Alexandria
Another landmark of the city used to be the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria. It was built by the Ptolemaic Kingdom and is considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
It had a total height of 100 meters and was once considered the tallest building in the world. The lighthouse was severely damaged by earthquakes in 956 and 1323 AD and wasn’t reconstructed since then.
Today only a humble lighthouse exists in place of the ancient wonder, but it’s still an interesting place to visit in Alexandria.
The Montazah Gardens are a beautifully maintained park oasis that is known for the two Montazah Palaces that are situated here. The Salamek Palace was built in the 19th century as a hunting lodge but also serves as a presidential residence.
The Al-Haramlik Palace was built in 1932 to serve as a seaside residence. Visitors can find a casino and royal museum here. The most relaxing way to spend your time here is by taking a walk through the 150 acres of the royal gardens.
Fort Qaitbey, often also called the Citadel of Qaitbey, is a defensive fortress built in the 15th century. The fortress is one of the landmarks of Alexandria and should not be missed for its great views and monumental architecture.
Especially the massive walls of the fort are very imposing and give an idea of the might this structure once had. The fort enjoys a steady breeze from the sea and plenty of shade from the walls, which makes it comfortably cool even during the hot summers.
Royal Jewelry Museum
The Royal Jewelry Museum is very interesting not only because of its extensive collection but also because it is located in the former palace of Princess Fatma Al-Zahra, a beautiful eclecticist building.
Most of the jewelry on display dates to the Muhammad Ali Dynasty. There are also many pieces of art such as paintings and statues to be found here.
Mosque of Abu al-Abbas al Mursi
The Mosque of Abu al-Abbas al Mursi is one of the most remarkable religious buildings of Alexandria. It contains the remains of the Saint Abdul Abbas al-Mursi who the mosque is dedicated to.
The style of the mosque was highly influenced by the glorious buildings and architecture of Old Cairo. The mosque features a cream-colored facade in arabesque design, four domes, and a beautiful high minaret.
The Serapeum of Alexandria is an ancient Greek temple that was built in the first century BC by the Ptolemaic Kingdom. The temple is dedicated to Serapis, the protector of Alexandria.
The Pillar of As-Sawari is 21 m tall and is the main draw of the site. It is also called Pompey’s pillar due to a historical misreading of the Greek dedicatory inscription on the base. Don’t miss the underground section, it is often overlooked by guests to the Serapeum.
The main public beach promenade of Alexandria, called Corniche, is situated in the Al Ibrahimyyah quarter and is very inviting for walks.
During the day, the sun can be uncomfortably hot in this area because there is not much shade here. So, the best time of the day for a visit is either in the morning or evening when it’s cooler outside.
The Corniche is a popular recreation spot for locals and the promenade is not just a great place for a relaxing walk but the many cafes and restaurants that are situated here are also very inviting.
Some residents of Alexandria come here to fish and watching the fisherman can be an interesting way to get an insight into the everyday life of local Alexandrians.
Alexandria National Museum
A beautiful Italian style palace in the Shatby quarter houses the Alexandria National Museum (ANM). The museum was inaugurated in 2003 by former ruler Hosni Mubarak and offers around 1,800 artifacts that give a detailed picture of the history of Alexandria and Egypt.
The artifacts include jewelry, weapons, glassware, and other objects from the centuries of Egyptian civilization, including objects from Ancient Egypt and the Pharaonic epoch.
The Souq District, located next to the western end of the Tahrir-Square, is one of the highlights of the city. This place is great for its authenticity and the hospitality of the people.
Many carts are brought here, loaded with fruits and vegetables and other goods. This is the perfect spot for people-watching, it is a joy to see how Egyptians bargain over prices.
The atmosphere here is full of life. There are also many food stalls and small cafes here, all of them serve local specialties and are very cheap.
Catacombs of Kom ash-Suqqafa
The Catacombs of Kom ash-Suggafa are considered one of the wonders of the middle ages and a must-visit when in Alexandria. Exploring the mysterious underground tunnels are is a fascinating experience that visitors will never forget.
The Alexandrian tombs combine Hellenistic, Roman, Greek, and Egyptian influences. Apart from the tombs, there are also many statues and archaeological objects to be found here.
This neighborhood is famous for its ancient remains. In the Greco-Roman times, the area served as a residential area for the rich and features a large number of beautiful villas, bathhouses, and theaters.
Even today many of the ruins are well-preserved and offer interesting insights into the history of this great city. Don’t miss the Roman amphitheater, its 13 marble terraces are still remaining. The amphitheater is the only of its kind in Egypt.
Ras el-Tin Palace
The Ras El Tin Palace is located on the Mediterranean Sea and serves as one of the official presidential residences of the country. The palace is the oldest royal Egyptian palace that is still in use.
The palace is a beautiful example of the Italian Renaissance and was constructed between 1834 and 1847. Visitors should keep in mind that the palace itself is not accessible to the public, the gardens surrounding it however are. But this is not a reason not to visit this elegant structure, the views from the gardens are magnificent.
Diving for underwater ruins
There are several interesting diving sites located around Alexandria’s coastline. There are antique ruins found in the eastern harbor area, including several sphinx statues and Roman columns.
However, there are also shipwrecks to be discovered that date to the time of the Napoleonic war. The diving conditions of many sites can be challenging, but for divers that aren’t very experienced, there are also more easily accessible sites available, such as the wreck of a plane dating to the Second World War.
Deir Mar Mina (St. Mina Monastery)
An interesting religious site is the Monastery of Saint Mina. This Coptic Orthodox Church highlights the diverse history of the city. The monastery was built to honor Saint Means and is used as a popular pilgrimage site within Christianity.
Every year thousands of people come here in search of spiritual and physical healing. The Deir Mar Mina is located in a remote area on the western outskirts of Alexandria, its surroundings are dominated by agriculture.
The best way to get here is to take a taxi or join a guided tour, which will also enhance the experience and let visitors learn more about this historical site.
Interesting facts about Alexandria
- It is the second-largest city in Egypt.
- The city was founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great and quickly became a cultural center.
- Alexandria is home to the oldest tram system in Africa, established already in 1860.
- Before the city’s industrial revival in the 19th century, Alexandria was not much more than a small fishing village. The city’s decline started in 641 when the capital was moved.
- Alexandria used to be one of the largest cities in the world, during the Ptolemaic Kingdom.
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