Alexandria What to See and Do

Alexandria, Egypt, What to See and Do

Alexandria in Egypt, a cultural center without equal in antiquity, today is an extraordinary city full of things to see and visit. A true melting pot that was home to important mathematicians , painters , essayists and writers . Cradle of legends and stories that link characters such as Cleopatra and Alexander the Great , founder of the city. Alexandria in Egypt was famous for its lighthouse , a wonder of the ancient world that has now disappeared, and for its library , the country’s center of knowledge. A stop in Alexandria in Egypt is unmissable during your trip to the country. Immerse yourself in its unique atmosphere between forts overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and a rich history to discover thanks to its attractions, between modernity and history.

Alexandria, Egypt, Why visit it

Visiting Alexandria is an unmissable experience to discover the rich history of Egypt and completely immerse yourself in its roots, between history and modernity. This city, called Alexandrea ad Aegyptum in Latin , is the second largest in the country and overlooks the Mediterranean Sea for 32 km . This allowed it to be a fundamental commercial and military port for the entire known world. Among the most important traces of its maritime past, in fact, we find the fort built on the ruins of the Alexandria lighthouse , one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. This city owes its name to its founder, Alexander the Great , who wanted its construction in 331 BC. about. Furthermore, among the most famous things to see in Alexandria, Egypt, we find the legendary library which was destroyed due to a fire, today Bibliotheca Alexandrina .

But not only that, visiting Alexandria in Egypt is also an excellent opportunity to visit ancient amphitheaters and catacombs from the Roman era, as well as cathedrals and mosques. In this way it will be possible to totally immerse yourself in this city and its history, which represents one of the true cradles of the country’s culture and knowledge .

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Read also: 14 top tourist attractions in Alexandria and easy day trips

10 Things to See in Alexandria, Egypt

So let’s discover together in this guide the 10 things to see in Alexandria, Egypt !

1. The Alexandrian Library

In the past the center of culture of the ancient world , the Library of Alexandria collected over 500 thousand manuscripts and all the philosophical, scientific and artistic culture of the time. Today it is the most up-to-date multimedia and physical library in the Arab world. Located on the eastern part of the seafront of Alexandria in Egypt, the library represents one of the points of interest to discover during a visit to the city. In the past, every boat that entered Alexandria had to stop in this legendary place , handing over all the manuscripts, thus giving the possibility of copying them .

The scholars who worked and exchanged ideas in this place of knowledge also tried to measure the circumference of the earth for the first time . Here the first astronomical maps were born , the first studies on the nervous system began and the techniques for autopsies were refined . This center of knowledge was destroyed several times, the first in 48 BC and the second in 642 AD . from a large fire . It was completely rebuilt creating a futuristic disc-shaped structure , which opened in 2002 . Today it contains over 8 million manuscripts and books , digital and otherwise, on an area of ​​over 800 thousand m² which connects it to the University of Alexandria. Furthermore, the library is also the ideal point to start a beautiful walk along the city’s seafront .

Alexandrian Library

2. Montaza Palace

Thanks to the fresh breeze coming from the Mediterranean , Alexandria has always been a much sought-after destination during the summer, especially by Egyptian rulers who live in the capital Cairo. For example, the viceroy Abbas Hilmy II , who had his summer residence, the magnificent Montaza Palace, built near the Corniche of Alexandria in Egypt ; also called El Montazah Palace . This attraction, absolutely among the things to see in Alexandria, Egypt, was built in the 20th century . It still has its large park , overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Furthermore, its architecture perfectly combines the Florentine and Turkish styles, taking inspiration from the Palace of Florence .

These walls still hide the viceroy’s apartments , but the interior of the palace, following the end of the monarchy in the country, cannot be visited. Instead, it is possible to spend a few hours relaxing in its garden or in its bay , after purchasing the entrance ticket . Here the environment is extremely well-kept, full of lush palm trees and pines as well as flower beds: the ideal place for a picnic or a walk in the countryside. After its semi-private bay of Mamoura there is a bridge that connects it to a small island , where you can enjoy swimming in a very clean private beach, unmissable among the things to do in Alexandria, Egypt.

Montaza Palace

3. National Museum of Alexandria

If you don’t know what to see in Alexandria, Egypt, you can’t miss a visit to the National Museum . Located right in the city center, inside it is possible to discover the history of the city thanks to an exhibition on 3 floors . Furthermore, the museum is housed inside the al-Saad Bassili Pasha Palace , recently renovated and built taking inspiration from Italian architecture . The exhibition is based on the main eras of the country’s history, ranging from the ancient age to the Greco-Roman age , arriving at the Coptic and Islamic traditions . Furthermore, jewels belonging to the royal family and a very ancient numismatic collection are also collected here .

Its 27 rooms and gardens contain over 40 thousand finds , from 331 BC to 640 AD, the year of the Arab conquest. The museum was founded by Viceroy Abbas II in 1892 and many Italian archaeologists directed it, making great contributions to its collections, such as Achille Adriani . The exhibition is visited clockwise and chronologically, starting from the entrance. One of the most famous artifacts in the museum is undoubtedly the circular mosaic of Ptolemy III’s wife, Berenice II . The National Museum is open from 9.00 to 17.00 and the cost of the ticket is 5 EGP, you also need to purchase a photo pass .

4. Qaitbey Fort in Alexandria, Egypt

If you don’t know what to do in Alexandria, Egypt you can’t miss a visit to Qaitbey Fort. This fortress , also called the Citadel of Alexandria , is located right on the ruins of the lighthouse and was built in 1400 . Overlooking the eastern port , Sultan Qaitbey wanted it to create a further defense for the city, thus protecting it from Turkish attacks. Furthermore, the fort was built by recycling the remains of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, destroyed in 1303 due to a violent earthquake . Today we can observe a reconstruction of the citadel, after the English bombed it . Inside, in fact, it is possible to admire a Naval Museum , stop for a break in its bar or eat something at the restaurant inside its courtyard.

Inside the central tower it is possible to admire maritime finds and artefacts dating back to the Napoleonic fleet . Furthermore, the fort includes one of the oldest mosques in the city, which is not operational today. However, its architecture represents one of the most beautiful examples of fortress in the entire Mediterranean. A visit inside the citadel will allow you to discover an incredible engineering project , with a three-story labyrinthine structure carved into the stone.

Qaitbey Fort in Alexandria

5. The Roman Amphitheatre

Among the things to see in Alexandria in Egypt we certainly find its Roman Amphitheatre. One of the most famous monuments of the period, dating back to the 2nd century AD . Furthermore, this structure represents the only example of a Roman-style theater in all of Egypt. Its discovery was quite accidental during the Polish excavations of 1960 . In fact, archaeologists were looking for the burial of Alexander the Great , under Napoleon’s temple . Today the amphitheater is located in Kom Edikka square and has been skilfully restored, thus bringing to light the immense auditorium . There were various external decorative columns on different floors and, most likely, its structure also included a dome , now lost. Furthermore, this amphitheater could boast 16 rows of seats made of marble.

Most likely, this theater was destroyed by the same earthquake that collapsed the lighthouse in Alexandria, Egypt. Fortunately, today we can still observe part of the magnificent mosaic floor and the white marble of the columns that supported the dome. Furthermore, within the same archaeological site there is also the Villa degli Uccelli . This villa-museum was created to protect and avoid the movement of 4 magnificent bird mosaics, still in excellent condition.

Roman Amphitheatre

6. Pompey’s Column and Serapium

One of the most famous archaeological sites if you don’t know what to visit in Alexandria during your trip is the Serapium , also called Serapeum . Inside there is Pompey’s Column , built entirely with red granite from the quarries of Aswan. Approximately 29 m high , it is decorated at the top with a Corinthian style capital . Its name was a mistake by the Crusader soldiers, thinking that it was on the tomb of the general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus . Instead, this column was erected for Diocletian in 300 AD , as can also be read from the inscription on the base.

Pompey’s column, as anticipated, is part of the serapium and dates back to the 3rd century BC . This temple was dedicated to the Egyptian cult of Serapis , a deity of the Ptolemaic and Greco-Roman periods, a union between the ancient Apis and Osiris . To reach the Serapium it was necessary to climb a hundred marble steps , finding yourself inside the temple in front of the enormous statue of the divinity. The statue was destroyed together with the temple in 391 AD by the Christian community, led by Theophilus . The column is the only part of the temple that has come down to us, together with a few finds, such as the black basalt statue of Apis and the commemorative plaque of the Serapium , exhibited at the National Museum of Egypt Alexandria. Among the remains of the temple, we can observe pieces of columns and remains of sphinxes from the Ptolemaic period.

7. The Catacombs of Kom es-Shoqafa

Among the things to see in Alexandria in Egypt we find many archaeological sites of great importance, including the Catacombs of Kom es-Shoqafa. During the medieval period this place was considered one of the 7 wonders, thanks to its structure and the priceless treasures it houses. Kom es-Shoqafa, literally hill of shards , is a necropolis made up of many finds from various sites in the Mediterranean area, precious objects , statues and many tombs . Inside it is possible to find various references to the cult of the dead from the Pharaonic era , but also from the Hellenistic and Roman periods . Furthermore, the staircase you will use to enter the catacombs is the same one that was used to transport bodies from the beginning of the 2nd century AD . This necropolis was active until the 4th century , being rediscovered only in the 1900s by… a donkey who fell into it!

According to historians, these catacombs were originally intended to house only one family , of which there are three sarcophagi . The reason why they were expanded, housing many more bodies and animals, is still unknown today. Furthermore, inside there are the victims of the emperor Caracalla , murdered during his visit to the city after being accused and mocked by the Alexandrians.

8. L’Alexandria Opera House

Opera and classical music lovers visiting Alexandria in Egypt absolutely cannot miss the Alexandria Opera House. This majestic theater was built in 1918 by Sultan Fuad I , calling it the Mohamed Ali Theater , and commissioning the architect Georges Broquen with the project . Inaugurated in 1921 , it has always had a rich calendar of foreign guests and Arab musicians. It was then renamed the Sayed Darwish Theater in 1962 to honor a musical luminary from the Arab world. Over the years the theater has suffered a lot of damage but, fortunately, in 2000 it was included in the Heritage of Egypt , thus beginning the restoration work. Reopened in 2004 by President Mubarak , the Alexandria Opera House still hosts many theater companies from all over the world with ballets and operas, alternating modern and traditional Arab shows, as well as international and local festivals .

Furthermore, the Alexandria Opera Company for Arab music and singers was founded here , as well as the Talents Development Center . The aim is to educate young emerging Egyptian artists thanks to the presence of very important academics and teachers.

9. Antirodes and Cleopatra’s Palace

In the gulf of Alexandria in Egypt, off the coast of its port, there is a priceless treasure : Antirodi , an ancient submerged island . Between reality and legend, it is said that among its remains there is also Cleopatra’s Palace , which sank together with the island on which it stood in 300 AD due to the numerous natural disasters that struck the area. The Greek historian and geographer Strabo described the island in his book Geography , which in the past faced just west of the lighthouse. According to ancient writings it contained gardens, a small port and Cleopatra’s palace, competing in beauty with the more famous Rhodes.

In recent years, underwater excavations began by the archaeologist Franck Goddio . Thanks to these, the remains of a palace were found in the western area of ​​the submerged site, but also important statues such as those of the Ptolemaic sphinxes and the priest of Osiris. Today, work is underway on the design of a wonderful completely underwater museum , reachable thanks to an underwater tunnel that will connect various structures. Its entrance will be near the library of Alexandria, on the Corniche , thus giving the opportunity to admire these treasures submerged for centuries.

10. The Corniche

Finally, among the things to visit in Alexandria in Egypt during your trip, don’t miss a walk along its Corniche. The Alessandria seafront represents the young and lively soul of this city. In fact, here it is possible to practice sports, chat while enjoying the fresh breeze of the Mediterranean Sea and admire the local skyline. Furthermore, from here it is possible to reach the historic center of Alexandria, located between the Mahmudya canal and the two ports. During this walk it is possible to admire ancient and modern buildings, homes of entrepreneurs from all over the world and Egyptians.

Along the Corniche you will also find many clubs , bars and cafés, where you can stop for a relaxing moment. Furthermore, thanks to this walk, you can reach the Qaitbey fort where the famous lighthouse once stood .


Alexandria, Egypt what to see, FAQ

What to see in Alexandria in Egypt in one day?

With a day available to visit Alexandria in Egypt, we suggest the following places: the Catacombs of Kom El Shokafa, the island of Faros, the Qaitbay Fortress and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

What to see around Alexandria in Egypt?

To the north-west of Alexandria we recommend the archaeological site of Abu-Qir, where the exploration of the submerged cities of Heracleion and Canopus is underway.

When to Visit Cairo and Egypt?

If you wish to visit Alexandria and Egypt, the best periods for your trip are from March to April , or from October to November , when the temperatures are pleasant and, especially during the winter it is possible to visit Alexandria during windy days avoiding the ‘excessively hot.

Now that we have seen what to see in Alexandria in Egypt, you are ready to go !

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