How to Spend 2 Days in Cairo Egypt Itinerary
When we think of Egypt, the Great Pyramid of Giza is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Therefore, there is no way you are visiting Egypt without first stopping in Cairo. However, when planning a trip to Egypt, you may not realize that you don’t need that much time in Cairo. In fact, 2 days in Cairo will give you ample time to see the major attractions of this city.
Most people will fly in and out of Cairo International Airport, which may give you some additional time in the city. I highly recommend starting your Egypt vacation in Cairo first, with 2 full days.
So, in this Egypt guide, I am sharing how to maximize 2 days in Cairo, including the best attractions, travel tips, where to stay, and more!
If you were to spend 3 days in Cairo, I would actually recommend you to spend your 3rd day with a day trip to Alexandria.
Related: First time in Egypt? Read these Egypt Travel Tips!
Egypt Travel Tip: When arriving at Cairo Airport, you will need exactly $25 USD for your Visa on Arrival. Check Skyscanner for the best flights. You can also exchange your money at the airport since you will need Egyptian Pounds (also known as EGP or LE). Credit cards (Visa & Mastercard) are accepted at most major attractions, but overall, cash is more commonly used.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- How to Spend 2 Days in Cairo Egypt Itinerary
- Getting Around Cairo for this 2 Itinerary
- 1 of 2 Days in Cairo – Ancient Egypt (Pyramids and Saqqara)
- Day 2 in Cairo, Egypt – Old Cairo
- Where to Stay For 2 Days in Cairo
- 2 Days in Cairo Wrap-up
Getting Around Cairo for this 2 Itinerary
Before jumping straight into this Cairo itinerary, I want to recommend against driving a car in Cairo. The driving in Egypt is insane, as you will soon come to find. So, in this Egypt travel guide, we will not be covering driving around Egypt.
That leaves you with bargaining with a cab, getting a Uber (not available for everything), going on group day trips, or hiring your own driver.
Private Guide in Egypt
My recommendation will be to get your own personal hired driver and local guide (what we did). By doing this, you will get to do and see exactly what you want in Cairo. You can even just hire a driver to bring you to your desired areas, but if this is your first time in Egypt, I highly recommend having a local guide.
There is so much history in Egypt, and having an Egyptologist explain what is going on will be extremely helpful. The only con to having your own private guide is that it can be expensive compared to the other options. However, it is very, very, worth it.
We used George Marsa Alam & Luxor Transportation, and had an excellent experience. They provided all transportation (even airport pick-up and drop-off), along with our guide.
Group Tours in Egypt
The next best way to get around Cairo is by doing day trips. This will likely be with other people, but they usually always cover the main attractions to see.
The cons here will be the flexibility of a private tour, and having to be with a group of others. Some of you might want to be around other people. You can find a lot of good Egypt tours here.
Uber and Cabs in Egypt
Some may choose to use Uber to get around. The only con here is sometimes it can be hard securing an Uber at certain places. You will also need good wifi. If you were to use Uber, it would work best for your day 2 in Cairo since everything is near each other in the city center.
Last is bargaining with cab drivers, but I would recommend against this one – especially if it is your first time in Egypt. This can feel like a real hassle, and start your trip off on a sour note.
1 of 2 Days in Cairo – Ancient Egypt (Pyramids and Saqqara)
On day 1 in Cairo, we are going to start with the main reason you came to Egypt, and that is to see the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids. The order you choose to see these sites doesn’t particularly matter, but I will give you some information to help you decide.
If you want to view the Pyramids from oldest to newest, following history, you should start at the Saqqara Complex. This is where the first-ever stone Pyramid structure was built. Next, you will head to Dahshur, and then Giza.
On the other hand, if you really want to see the Pyramids of Giza with fewer crowds, you will want to start at the Great Pyramid.
During our trip to Egypt, we saw the Pyramids in the order of history. However, I think I would have seen Giza first if I could do it all over again.
I am putting the itinerary order on how I would have liked to do it, but the order you see them doesn’t matter. As long as you see them all on day 1, you’re good!
Giza Pyramid Complex
Let’s start off this Cairo itinerary with the main attraction, The Giza Pyramid Complex. It is also known as the Giza Necropolis or The Giza Plateau and this is where you will find the Great Pyramid of Egypt and the Sphinx.
The complex itself is huge, so I would recommend arriving when they open, which is at 8 AM. However, I saw people by the Great Sphinx of Giza around 7:40 AM.
The Great Pyramid was built by Pharaoh Khufu around circa 2550 B.C. This is the largest Pyramid in Egypt at around 481 feet high. The Great Pyramid is also the last of the original Ancient seven world wonders that are still standing today.
Once you arrive, you will pay for your ticket. This is where you can decide if you want to go inside any of the Pyramids.
We opted not to since we were planning on visiting the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, which are incredibly decorated tombs.
Eygpt Travel Tip: Make sure to keep your tickets accessible because you will have to scan them after you go through security. Almost all places have metal detector security. You will also see many guards holding large guns. This is normal in Egypt.
Many don’t recommend going inside the Pyramids because getting in and out of the pyramids is difficult, and it’s usually very hot. Additionally, there is nothing inside it in terms of decoration or elaborate hieroglyphics.
You will have to go through a metal detector, and we didn’t have any issues bringing our photography gear in.
Cairo Travel Tip: Go to the bathroom when you first enter, because there aren’t many others. Also, you will have to pay to enter the bathroom. It is 10 Egyptian pounds. Paying to use the washroom is common in Egypt.
After you are inside, there it is, the Great Pyramid of Giza. You can walk right up to it, and even climb up a little. It is such a surreal moment!
There are two other main Pyramids. Khafre’s (Khufu’s son) Pyramid and Sphinx, and Menkaure’s Pyramid. There are several smaller pyramids as well, but those are the 3 main ones.
After enjoying the pyramids up close, make sure to visit the Panoramic viewpoint, for a lovely view, and then up close to the Sphinx.
It is also popular to ride camels or horses here; however, there is a history of these animals being treated poorly. You may want to consider opting out of this.
You will also see a lot of stray dogs and puppies by the Pyramids and around Giza.
Giza Complex Entrance Fees:
- Giza Plateau and Sphinx Adults: 240 EGP
- Entry inside the Great Pyramid Adults: 440 EGP
- Entry inside Pyramid 2 and 3 Adults: 100 EGP
- Giza Plateau, Sphinx, entrance to the Great Pyramid and the Solar Boat Adults: 600 EGP
They were not charging for any camera gear during our visit. For more details, check out my full guide on how to visit the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
Hours: 8 AM – 5 PM
Saqqara Necropolis (Sakkara)
Cairo Travel Tip: Before heading to Saqqara, you might be hungry. If so, you can get food right outside the Sphinx. There is the famous Pizza Hut with an incredible view of the pyramids and Abou Shakra that is right next door. They serve traditional Egyptian food and also share the same great views.
Next, head to see the Saqqara monuments. This is where the idea of the pyramid was born. With 2 days in Cairo, I highly recommend visiting this Ancient UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You are now witnessing the first time Ancient Egyptians built with stone. The Saqqara Step Pyramid of Djoser was built during the third Dynasty, which was the 27th Century B.C. for Pharaoh Djoser. This makes the Step Pyramid around 4,700 years old!
In the Saqqara Necropolis, there are several other smaller pyramids and mastabas (rectangular flat tombs) where nobles and workers were buried.
The entire pyramid complex is oriented to face north, which is the location of the circumpolar stars. These stars never set below the horizon, which, according to the signage at the pyramid, is a sign of immortality.
Entrance Fee: 200 EGP
Hours: 8 AM – 5 PM
Tomb of Kagemni
After walking around the Step Pyramid, make your way to the mastaba Tomb of Kagemni, a Chief Justice and Vizier of King Teti during the 6th Dynasty. He was considered a high official and has a decorative tomb. This will be the first time you will see some very detailed hieroglyphics and original colors.
This includes an offering scene, dancing scenes, a rare scene for reading and writing on papyrus, and sacred perfume offerings for mummification.
Egypt Travel Tip: We know whether a tomb is a King’s or Queen’s tomb by looking for the cartouche. You will recognize it by a vertical oval around a set of hieroglyphics which is their name. Only their names will be circled. Therefore, if there is no oval circle, we know the tomb is not a King or Queen.
To this day, archaeologists continue to uncover more of Ancient Egypt at the Saqqara Necropolis. There is even a Netflix Documentary on it called Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb.
King Teti Tomb – The Funerary Complex
According to our guide, King Teti’s burial chamber is one of the more detailed Pyramind tombs to see. The Pyramid itself is no longer intact. It just looks like a dirt mound.
We explored our way down the tiny shaft, where even my 5’3 stature had to walk bent over. Once you’re inside, it opens up into three rooms. You can find a ton of small hieroglyphics on the walls. On some of the ceiling, you will see stars, and the room on the right has the sarcophagus.
If you plan on visiting The Valley of the King’s tombs in Luxor, King Teti’s tomb is nothing in terms of decoration.
Serapeum of Saqqara
For an additional cost, you can explore The Serapeum. It is worth it, in my opinion. The Serapeum is really unique and just a short drive from King Teti. Walking down, you will pass the Hemicycle of the Greek Philosophers and Poet Statues.
When visiting the Serapeum, you will walk down into a large tunnel with gigantic stone tombs. They look like they can fit elephants. They say the tomb was for the bull Apis, yet, there is still a lot of mystery behind it, and our guide felt that these tombs were not used for bulls.
Many truly don’t know how they got these giant stones down here all the way from Aswan, how they cut them so perfectly, and why so many were empty. The sign said looters, but our guide was not too sure. It is a mystery – or aliens – just kidding, or am I?!
I believe it was an extra 150 EGP per person – but our guide paid for this one for us.
Dahshur World Heritage Site
Just a short distance away, we are heading to Dahshur to see the first attempt at a true pyramid. It is called the Bent pyramid because the sides are somewhat angled, making it look bent. It was built under the Old Kingdom around 2,600 B.C. under Pharaoh Sneferu.
I would also highly recommend adding this to your 2 days in Cairo itinerary.
Because of the Bent Pyramids’ shape, it has helped keep the surface intact from weather, which is truly special for us to view today.
Archeologists believe construction was stopped on the Bent Pyramid because the builders believed the steep angles made it unstable. Therefore, they didn’t use the Bent Pyramid and instead built Red Pyramid, which is about .6 miles away. This is the first successful “true” pyramid with smooth sides to ever be built.
The Red Pyramid is the 3rd largest pyramid standing at 344 feet high. You can even go into the Red Pyramid if you like, but it is quite a climb up.
Entrance: 60 EGP
Additional Day 1 Attractions in Cairo
We found the above itinerary was the most we could see in one day, since the sun sets around 5 PM in November, and most attractions close at 5 PM. However, some also suggest hitting Memphis since it is near Dahshur.
If you do want to try and fit Memphis in, I would make sure to do the Giza Pyramids first and leave Memphis at the end. Memphis was the first capital of Egypt. It is an open-air museum with Ancient statues. Because of time, we skipped this.
Additionally, if you are looking for something to do at night, you can consider a night cruise on the Nile River. These usually include Belly Dancing, music, food, and drinks.
Day 2 in Cairo, Egypt – Old Cairo
Get ready for another early start in Egypt. Now that you have seen the main Ancient Egyptian sites of Cairo, we will explore Egypt’s religious history and the Egyptian Museum.
Again, you will want to wear your comfortable walking shoes, and have something like a scarf that can cover your shoulders and knees for religious sites.
Related: Get my full Egypt Packing List!
Salah El-Din Citadel (Cairo Citadel)
Start the day off at the Cairo Citadel, also known as the Citadel of Saladin. The original construction was in 1176–1183 by Salah ad-Din (Saladin). This impressive military fortification served as the residence of its rulers for about 700 years between the 13th – 19th Centuries.
Throughout the years, major construction and additions were added to the citadel. You can enjoy panoramic views of Cairo from the Citadel, see where they used to keep prisoners, a Military museum, and 2 stunning mosques.
The most impressive, in my opinion, is The Mosque of Muhammad Ali (alabaster mosque). It was commissioned in the early 19th Century. This Ottoman mosque has some beautiful alabaster and a grand chandelier with hanging lights.
The Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun Mosque is an early 14th Century mosque. This one has an open courtyard, and you can see the re-use of some ancient Egyptian pillars.
Entrance Fee: 200 EGP
The Hanging Church
Next, we will head over to Old Cairo, also known as Coptic Cairo. While around 90% of Egyptians are of the Muslim faith, there is still about a 10% Coptic Christan community. The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is the most famous and likely oldest Coptic Church in Cairo.
The church was founded in the 3rd Century. Right before entering the church, you will walk by the Babylon Fortress, which was built by the Romans around 30 B.C.
Entrance Fee: Free
St Sergius and St Bacchus Church
After, you will take a short walk over to St Sergius and St Bacchus Church. This is another very old Coptic Church that dates back to the 4th Century. What makes this church so special is the guests who stayed in the crypt.
It is believed that this is where Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus spent several months. This church is also free to visit.
The Egyptian Museum
Known as the oldest archaeological museum in the Middle East, get ready to see the largest collections of Ancient Egyptian antiquities in the world, including ancient papyrus scrolls, the King Tutankhamun collection, precious metals, and so much more!
This is a must-visit with 2 days in Cairo! The museum is located right by the Nile River and Tahrir Square.
You will want to spend at least an hour exploring this museum. There is literally so much to see!
Entrance Fee: 200 EGP – We did not have to pay extra to bring in my camera.
Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM
Before or after visiting the museum, make sure to take a short walk to the famous local restaurant, Abou Tarek.
They serve Egypt’s national dish, and the owner was considered a poor man who worked out of his food cart on this corner. He still works out of that cart, but owns the whole building and has now built an empire. It is a must-visit!
Khan el-Khalili Bazaar
Last, but not least, make sure to visit the famous Khan el Khalili bazaar. Located in Islamic Cairo, you will find all types of souvenirs, shops, spices, and more. One thing to keep in mind is that you may not be able to find genuine items here, although vendors will swear they are.
For example, the item may be made in China, or not real silver or papyrus paper. Just keep that in mind when bargaining your prices. Even if you don’t want to shop, this is a famous bazaar, so just walking through for the experience is worth it.
If you still have energy after this, you can also stop by the Cairo Tower to get panoramic views of Cairo or go to an official papyrus store.
They say these stores are government stores, so you don’t have to bargain, but I find you still have room to bargain. When you visit, they will show you how papyrus is made, and they have many designs to buy if you wish.
Where to Stay For 2 Days in Cairo
Now that you know how to spend the best 2 days in Cairo, let’s talk about where to stay. The main thing you have to decide is if you want to stay in Giza or Old Cairo.
Staying in Giza will allow you to be right next to the Pyramids. You may even have them as a view from your hotel window. The cons about staying in Giza are that the accommodations tend to be less luxurious, and there is not much around aside from the Pyramids.
We chose to stay in Giza, and our hotel view included the Pyramids and the Sphinx. It was really incredible being able to look out the window. I mean, truly a pinch-me moment.
I want to keep it real with you, though. The street was definitely loud, and we could hear dogs barking all night. If I were staying in Cairo longer than 2 days, I would consider spending the rest of my stay near the Nile in Old Cairo.
Just remember, you are paying for the view, and that is it. If you stay in Old Cairo, you will find luxurious 5-star hotels and big chains you may be more used to.
Egypt Travel Tip: If you are staying in Egypt during the high season (October – March), make sure you book far in advance. Rooms go fast, especially if you want the Pyramids in sight.
The Guardian Guest House: This is where we stayed. The staff was extremely friendly, and we could not complain about our view. They also had a rooftop where you can get better views of the Giza pyramids. We could even see the pyramids all light show from our window.
Marriott Mena House, Cairo: If you want a very luxurious experience with the Pyramids in sight, this is where you want to stay! In the past, rooms used to be more reasonable (around $100 – $170 a night), but more recently, have gone up considerably. The property is stunning, so if you are looking to splurge, let it be here.
Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza: If you want to stay in Cairo, the Four Seasons Hotel never disappoints, and it is located right on the Nile River!
Steigenberger Hotel El Tahrir Cairo: With great reviews, Steigenberger Hotel El Tahrir Cairo is located right by the Egyptian Museum, and the decor looks lovely.
2 Days in Cairo Wrap-up
This concludes 2 jam-packed days in Cairo, Egypt! I hope you have the best time in Cairo exploring all that Egypt has to offer!
After Cairo, we flew to Aswan, and then Luxor. You can see my full Egypt Itinerary here!
If you have any questions about this 2 days in Cairo itinerary or feel like I missed something, please let me know.