Alexandria Travel Guide
Alexandria is a city like nowhere else in Egypt, where the culture and commotion of Cairo meets the calming, salty breeze of the Med.
Popular with Egyptian tourists who flock here each summer to escape the desert heat, ‘Alex’ - as she is known to her friends – is largely neglected by European visitors who know little of the charms of Egypt’s second city.
But this is a surprisingly varied coastal metropolis and there’s much to enjoy along the seemingly endless Mediterranean cornice.
The Cornice - With an excess of 20km of romantic coastal views, this is a city that’s made for strolling. There’s no finer, simpler and cost effective way to enjoy the city than to promenade along the bay stopping occasionally to dangle your legs over the banks and stare longingly out to sea (download pdf map of Alexandria Cornice).
Food – You’re never more than 30 seconds away from a café or restaurant serving fabulous Middle Eastern grub and mind bogglingly good seafood. Stuff your face to your hearts content for just a few euros and then walk it all off along the cornice (see above).
Shopping – Alexandria has a lively shopping district that stays open late and does a roaring trade in men and ladies fashion garments, boots, sunglasses and perhaps surprisingly for an Islamic country, raunchy lingerie.
Although you may not see the big labels of the US and Europe there are certainly deals to be done and bartering with the shopkeepers is all very much part of the experience. Read more about Shopping in Alexandria
Historic/Modern Sites - Although nothing to challenge the mighty structures of Upper Egypt, Alexandria’s various dynasties have left behind them museums full of ancient relics and a handful of respectable sites.
The Citadel at Fort Qaitbey sits on the rocks once occupied by the lighthouse of Alexandria.
More modern places of interest include the city’s many mosques, Coptic churches and synagogues, several museums and of course, the ‘modern’ Library of Alexandria which takes centre stage along the strip.
Beaches – Outside of the summer months Alex is a little too cool for hardcore sunbathing and during the summer it’s a little too busy; so it’s true that there are better destinations in Egypt for a ‘pure’ beach holiday.
That said if the above points are of appeal, the beaches around Alexandria and the northern shore are certainly a definitive bonus. Read more about Alexandria Beaches
Unlike Cairo - which sprawls outwards on either side of the River Nile - Alexandria runs parallel to the Mediterranean shoreline for some 20km.
Fort Quaitbay – the city’s toy castle – sits at the far west of the strip, while the Montaza Palace complex signifies the end of the coastal strip to the East.
It’s along the cornice that lies between the two that most of the city’s hotels, cafés and restaurants are located.
Downtown – the central district - is about 3Km east from the Fort and is set back in the streets and alleys that lie behind the Sofitel Cecile hotel (where Churchill and others have rested).
It’s here that you’ll find the city’s shopping district and centre of street life. Head further inland and you’ll also find the main train station and the Roman sites mentioned above.
Following the Cornice East from Downtown you’ll find the impressive edifice of Alexandria’s modern library (20 - 30 minute walk from the Cecile) and the university buildings around Sota.
About half way towards Montaza Palace you’ll cross the Stanley Bridge, a 400m flyover that zips over an amphitheatre like beach and bay.
The photogenic structure is a quirky and popular hangout in the summer for local ‘Alexandrians’ both day and night.
The road from Stanley Bridge continues west and leads into the San Stefano district, the supposedly luxurious mid town neighbourhood.
Home to some of the larger hotels chains and private beaches, it’s here that you’ll find the colossal, Vegas-style Four Seasons Hotel complete with its own Starbucks and shopping complex on the ground floor.
Finally some 20km from the Fort are the splendid Walled Gardens of the Montaza Palace complex which contain some of the city’s best beaches and hotels.