It’s a shame that most visitors to Egypt bypass its second largest city. Whether it’s because they’re looking for culture and history in the likes of Cairo and Aswan or for sea and beaches in Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada, Alexandria doesn’t often feature on the list for many tourists. It certainly wasn’t on mine, initially drawn to the temples of Luxor and the markets of the capital, but cheap flights from neighbouring Jordan meant that I would be doing myself a major financial disservice if I didn’t fly into Alexandria, because as Egypt was the last country on my 10 week trip, I was travelling on a very tight budget.
I was surprised by how much I loved it.
Smoking shisha in fashionable, idyllic cafés overlooking the waterfront? I did this. Visiting centuries old ruins? You bet. Going for morning strolls along the 10 mile corniche, watching families enjoy the sandy beaches and glittering Mediterranean water? I was in heaven. Even getting lost in winding streets, stumbling upon beautiful mosques and speaking broken English and Arabic with friendly locals whilst eating delicious baked goods and drinking Turkish coffee was wonderful.
My advice is this: if you’re thinking about visiting Egypt, don’t discount Alexandria. It was definitely my favourite city, and one which I’d certainly never considered before until my hand was forced.
Where To Eat
One of the most important questions both at home and abroad: where is good to eat? Luckily, Alexandria has many places which are great. With delicious food and great ambience, each of these eateries is worth checking out if you have the time (and stomach!) to do so.
Foul Mohamed Ahmed
Great for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this restaurant is renowned for its speciality dish: foul, a simple yet memorable plate of smashed fava beans seasoned with tahini, lemon, cumin and garlic. With cheap prices and gorgeous traditional dishes including melt-in-your-mouth falafel and fried cheese, Foul Mohamed Ahmed is a huge hit with locals, so if you come here during peak meal times, be prepared to wait a short while. Although easy to miss on the busy streets, you’ll be able to catch the constant stream of people milling in and out.
Delices is delicious! It’s also beautifully elegant. Around the corner from Foul Mohamed Ahmed, Delices is ideal for a leisurely drink and snack. With a huge selection of desserts which your eyes can widen and pour over upon entry, this stunning restaurant has a huge selection suitable for everyone at any time of day including pancakes, pastas and petit fours. There’s too many items to list, but if you fancy anything from a Greek spanakopita to a Canadian poutine appetiser and baklava to finish in a streamlined, sophisticated interior, Delices is for you.
Alexandria is known for its seafood, and Kadoura is known as one of the best restaurants to try that seafood. Freshly caught from the Mediterranean waters along the corniche, upon entry you choose anything from the catch of the day which could be prawns, squid, perch and more, all enjoyed whilst overlooking the sea in which it came from. With sides of rice and crispy calamari alongside local dishes, Kadoura is a place with striking views and reputable food.
Brazilian Coffee: a good selection for coffee lovers.
Selsela Café: breath-taking views of the waterfront.
Chez Gaby: an Italian dream.
El Kobissi: for one of the best fresh mango juices in town.
What To Do
There’s so much more in Alexandria than I thought there was, certainly enough to fill more than the four days I spent there! Whether you spend one day relaxing in the numerous cafés with a coffee and the next being in awe of the bibliotheca, there’s no shortage of activities suited for all.
One of the biggest sites in the city, Bibliotheca Alexandria is an architect’s dream. With numerous museums and galleries, a planetarium as well as stacks and stacks of books (there’s six specialised libraries!), the original bibliotheca burned down before it was rebuilt in 2002.
Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque
One of the most beautiful and historical mosques in Egypt, it contains the tomb of Sufi saint Abdul Abbas al-Mursi, a Spanish scholar. Built primarily in 1775, the cream coloured mosque was later redesigned in the mid-1900s in the style of old Cairo.
Citadel of Qaitbay
A 15th century fortress, it was erected on the same site as the Lighthouse of Alexandria (considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world but severely damaged by earthquakes in the 11th and 14th centuries), and was considered one of the most important defensive strongholds along the Mediterranean Sea. Situated at the end of the corniche, it’s a stunning walk to reach it.
Once part of the Serapeum Temple, Pompey’s Pillar, built by the Romans in 297AD, is one of the largest monolithic columns ever erected. The temple is also considered the daughter of the old Library of Alexandria, having once housed a large collection of the books that didn’t quite make it into the prime spot. Be sure to also check out the sphinxes at the complex,as well as the catacombs!
Montaza Palace – a beautiful public park which was once a royal palace in the 1930s.
Alexandria National Museum – Egypt through the ages.
Royal Jewellery Museum – Jewellery and works of art from the Muhammad Ali era.
Where To Stay
Fancy a room which overlooks the beautiful waters? Or maybe one surrounded by the hustle and bustle of this incredibly busy city? Alexandria has accommodation to suit all budgets and preferences.
Semiramis Hotel (from £14)
Located in downtown Alexandria, the Semiramis Hotel has a beautiful beachfront location. With most of the rooms featuring sea views, the hotel is in an ideal place for exploring what the city has to offer.
Royal Crown Hotel (from £27)
Just 10 minutes away from Al-Salam theatre and the catacombs, the Royal Crown Hotel is located near a variety of eateries and Alexandrian landmarks. Some rooms here also have sea views.
Tolip Hotel Alexandria (from £74)
A 5-star hotel which offers an outdoor pool, spa, gym and five different restaurants, Tolip Hotel Alexandria is close to Stanley Bridge and the Alexandria Aquarium.
Romance Alexandria Corniche (from £90)
You guessed it, this gorgeous hotel is situated along the corniche, and all of the rooms feature stunning sea views. With two gourmet restaurants to choose from, this hotel also offers floor to ceiling windows just to ensure you get the most perfect view all round.
Of course, there’s always options for (sometimes breath-taking) apartments and houses on Airbnb too.