The Top Things to See and Do in Alexandria, Egypt

The beautiful Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque is just one of the historically significant sights to see in Alexandria
The beautiful Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque is just one of the historically significant sights to see in Alexandria | © agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo
Laura Pioli

History buffs should make a beeline for Alexandria, Egypt. Situated on the glittering Mediterranean, just three hours from Cairo, it was once home to the enormous Lighthouse of Alexandria – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – as well as the Great Library of Alexandria. Today, it features an uber-modern reimagining of the library, plus a host of historic spots, including the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa and the Royal Jewelry Museum. Check out Culture Trip’s guide to the top sights and activities in Alexandria.

1. Serapeum of Alexandria

Historical Landmark

Alexandria Egypt.The Sphinx statue at Pompey s Pillar and The Serapeum. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.
© Kat Kallou / Alamy Stock Photo

Dedicated to Serapis and built by Ptolemy III, the temple of Serapeum is one of several religious centres in Alexandria. While it was mostly destroyed by the Romans in 391 CE, a few of the original pieces are left on the site such as Pompey’s Pillar, which is framed by two large sphinxes. In the past, the temple was also one of the most important annexes of the Great Library of Alexandria. The Serapeum is definitely worth a visit due to its historical importance and the beautiful location.

2. Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Library

Aegypten, Alexandria, Bibliotheca Alexandrina
© Hackenberg-Photo-Cologne / Alamy Stock Photo
Built in 2002 as a memorial to one of the largest and most important libraries in antiquity, Bibliotheca Alexandrina honours the Great Library of Alexandria, which was burned down in the 1st century and many of its precious books destroyed. The modern library may not be as important and rich as the previous one, yet it’s still a large library and a major cultural centre, including three museums, four art galleries, a planetarium and a laboratory where they rescue and fix old manuscripts. They also have a good section of children’s books, which can be fun to explore if you’re on holiday with your kids.

3. Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque

Mosque

This well-known mosque is dedicated to the 13th-century Alexandrine Sufi saint, Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi, and it also contains his tomb. Originally erected in the 1300s, it was redesigned and built in its current form by Eugenio Valzania and Mario Rossi between 1929 and 1945. The temple is certainly one of the most beautiful mosques in Egypt, as well as one of the most spiritually significant places to go to while visiting Alexandria. Its traditional architecture is stunning, and it sits right next to the Citadel of Qaitbay.

5. Alexandria National Museum

Museum

Inaugurated in 2003 and located in a restored Italian palace that used to house the United States consulate, this museum contains more than 1,800 artefacts that narrate the history of Alexandria. You’ll be able to admire works from the Hellenistic period, including a varied range of objects such as jewels, weapons and coins.

6. Montazah Palace Gardens

Park

A grand 1930s royal palace in Turkish & Florentine styles, with large gardens, now a public parkTaken @Alexandria, Egypt
© Tjetjep Rustandi / Alamy Stock Photo
Originally built for King Farouk, this stunning palace – located on the eastern side of the city – boasts a large garden and gorgeous views over the Mediterranean. The palace, featuring a unique yellow and red design reminiscent of both Istanbul and Florence, is sadly not open inside for visitors, but you are welcome to stroll through its beautiful gardens, dotted with palm trees and rare plants.

7. Royal Jewelry Museum

Museum

Formerly the palace of the Egyptian royal family, the Royal Jewelry Museum is a hidden gem in the heart of Alexandria. Inside the renovated 1919 villa, you’ll find nearly 11,000 items including diamond-studded tiaras and smoking sets made from gold, left behind by the royal family after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. Admire the walls lined with oil paintings and stained-glass windows, a great place to visit for those interested in art and history.

8. Stanley Bridge

Bridge

Egypt, Alexandria, Stanley bridge at sunset
© Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
This 400m (1,300ft) bridge offers great panoramic views of the Mediterranean. It was designed to complement the Royal Montazah Palace. You can cross on foot or drive over it on your way to the Corniche. Below, there is a small sandy beach for swimming during the summer months, plus a remarkable array of top restaurants which come alive during the evening. Stroll along here after dinner for the best photo-worthy shots.

9. Souq District

Market, Egyptian

At the western end of Tahrir Square, you’ll find a bustling souq area, filled with market stalls where you can get fish or meat, stop at a café or find shops selling everything from spices to Arabian lanterns. It’s roughly divided by trade – haberdashery, gold and silver, herbalists and food. Make sure you try ful (an Egyptian stewed fava bean delicacy).

10. Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa

Historical Landmark

Discovered by accident in 1900, these catacombs are the largest known Roman burial site in Egypt. The catacombs – built in the 2nd century CE – consist of three tiers of tombs and chambers, into which the dead bodies were lowered. Keep your eyes peeled for Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, dressed as a Roman soldier. You can easily walk from the site to Pompey’s Pillar, as both are located in Karmus.
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