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Cairo’s big city buzz complements the austerity of its pyramids and sand-covered tombs that mark it as the oldest civilisation in the world. A fast paced city, it holds together a 20 million-strong population, honking traffic, squawking street sellers, blankets of smog, and a general frenzy of activity. It’s a city in transition that has all the sorts of more-ish quirks and hassles that make it so captivating. The best places to stay in Cairo are a few boutique hotels and the obvious Five Star luxury destinations.
Cairo is a bit East meets West. Islamic Cairo and Coptic Cairo form a rhizome of minarets, medieval schools, mosques, monasteries and ancient churches of the native Egyptian Christians. Wander through the streets to soak it all up and then visit the Egyptian Museum, which houses the glittering artefacts of this melting pot.
To the West of the city lie the ancient pyramids of Giza, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, and a must to visit. Thirty kilometres to the south of the city, the Pyramids at Zosser are well worth visiting, less touristic than Giza, and not far from Memphis, Egypt’s under-visited ancient capital.
For shopping, Cairo offers a wealth of spice markets (Abdal – Rahman Harraz), antique bazaars (Souq al – Gomaa), papyrus makers and bookbinders (Said Delta and Amd El Zaher), funky jewellery (Sami Amin), Egyptian cotton (Moumaya), and silk kaftans (Atlas).
The real charms of the city are the stolen moments of calm spent drinking tea with a shop owner, reading a book in a small oasis of quiet, perhaps the leafy garden of your hotel, or marvelling at the frenzy of the day after a delicious seafood supper (try Samakmak).
Cairo is a safe city to travel around, though since the revolution in 2011, it’s best to check the FCO website for travel advice. Taxi or metro are the easiest forms of transport, or even taking a felucca down the Nile, scenic and efficient! Four days in Cairo is a must in order to really get a sense of the city. It's intense, so take it slowly so as not to burn out in the first two days of arrival.
The best places to stay in Cairo are those that offer green spaces, roof top terraces with sea or Nile views, and essences of Egypt! These might be a few charming boutique hotels, a few budget spots with balconies, and some Five Stars that have boutique flair as well as good facilities.
On a budget:
- Gawharet Al Ahram Hotel in Cairo – simple rooms with charming balconies very close to the Giza pyramids.
- Le Riad – brightly coloured rooms, rich fabrics, Egyptian artwork, excellent roof terrace for laid back cocktails in the evening.
- Villa Belle Epoque – a charming country house, colonial-style verandahs, romantic bedrooms, large garden and pool, traditional cuisine.
- Four Seasons First Residence Cairo - a grand hotel with glamourous boutique flair. Opulent rooms and suites, views over the river, excellent Thai, Lebanese, Italian restaurants.
- The Mena House Hotel - boutique luxury on a grand scale, close to the Pyramids in Giza, romantic bedrooms, stunning gardens, excellent Italian restaurant.
- The Gabriel - a good choice for movers and shakers for its lively roof top bar and fine dining restaurant 'Salt'. The rooms are more glitzy glamour than stylish.
Best Hotels in Cairo
Gawharet Al Ahram Hotel 100 rooms from $17Cairo (Giza)
A cute hotel with simple rooms close to the Giza pyramids. Charming balconies and terraces, a good traditional restaurant, and roof top pool. Excellent value, ideally suited to those on a budget.Value chicSights nearby - Close to the Pyramids in Giza, Cairo University, Giza Zoo, and First Mall Cairo.Sailing - Can be booked nearby.Views - Great views from hotel
Talisman Hotel 24 rooms from $60Cairo
A lovely little boutique with bargain prices. Colourful simple rooms have lots of space and characterful decoration. Walking distance to excellent restaurants. Perfect for visiting Cairo on a shoe string without staying in a hostel.Value chicSailing - Cruise the Nile on a felucca.Sights nearby - Pyramids at Giza and Zosser.Local markets - Good for local colour.Recommended by - I Escape, Fodors
The Mena House Hotel 420 rooms from $104Cairo
A romantic Five Star hotel close to the Pyramids. Elegant traditional suites have four poster beds, killim rugs, and Egyptian antiques. Excellent Italian, Indian and traditional restaurants. A top of the range spa, enormous pool, and stunning grounds. A grade.Foodies - Italian, Indian and traditional restaurants.Views - Spot the pyramids!City Style5* Luxury - Very high service standards.
The Gabriel from $105Cairo
A glitzy luxury hotel in the West of the city. Contemporary rooms and suites have chrome and red colour schemes and all the mod cons. Salt restaurant serves award-winning fusion cuisine. A lively bar and rooftop terrace. A great choice for young and energetic foodies.Foodies - Fusion Mediterranean and Asian.Lively - Bar and live music nights.Sights nearby - City Stars, Virgin Mary's Tree and Cairo International Stadium.SpaRecommended by - Tablet
Kempinski Nile Hotel 191 rooms from $124Cairo (Garden City)
A hotel in an unrivalled location on the river's edge. Five Star luxury includes a state of the art spa, a wonderful Italian restaurant, chocolaterie, and a lively roof top bar and nightclub. Contemporary classic rooms and suites are palatial with all the mod cons. For the luxury traveller.Lively - The hotel has its own nightclub on the roof top.Views - Stunning river views.Spa breaksCity Style
Villa Belle Epoque 13 rooms from $159Cairo (Maadi)
The best boutique hotel in Cairo. A country house with colonial verandas, a luscious garden, swimming pool, and an excellent traditional restaurant. Characterful rooms have antique furniture, delicate fabrics, and private balconies. Romantic, family friendly, a chic home from home.Romantic BreakCity StyleSights nearby - Pyramids at Giza, Step Pyramid at Zosser, El Azhar mosque or Khan el Khalili.Sailing - Cruise the Nile on a felucca.Recommended by - I Escape
Four Seasons First Residence Cairo 269 rooms from $174Cairo
A grand Five Star hotel with a boutique feel to it. Centrally located with views over the Nile. Gorgeous rooms and suites with tasteful decoration, balconies, and all the mod cons. A choice of Italian, Thai and Lebanese restaurants. State of the art spa, pool and tennis courts. Very luxurious.Foodies - Italian, Thai, Lebanese restaurants.Views - Stunning river views.City StyleFamiliesRecommended by - Kiwi Collection
FOUR SEASONS CAIRO AT NILE PLAZA 366 rooms from $262Cairo (Garden City)
A Five Star hotel in a fantastic riverside location. Luxurious rooms and suites with creamy furnishings, all the mod cons and balconies. A choice of Italian, Chinese or traditional restaurants. Two huge pools, terraces, excellent spa, and unrivalled views. For the luxury traveller.Foodies - Italian, Chinese, traditional restaurants.Views - Stunning river views.Romantic Break5* Luxury - Very high service standards.