Alexandria Travel Guide

Travel to Alexandria

The ‘Pearl of the Mediterranean’ is one of the greatest cities every known – and it’s reinventing itself as a 21st-century cultural hotspot. It’s a hip fusion of Old and New Worlds, developed by emperors, eyed by usurpers and enlivened by the harmony of so many cultures and continents converging.

This is Egypt’s second-largest city, but it has its own distinct flavour that sets it apart from other major cities in the country. The city was founded by Alexander the Great and then developed under the Ptolemaic dynasty. This infused Alexandria with a strong southern-European character that still defines its unique rhythm. 

In the 19th century, the city was reborn as a cosmopolitan hub and a city of arts and culture. This attracted poets, painters and philosophers to its seaside Corniche. While Alexandria’s renaissance was ultimately cut short by unrest in the 1950s, it was not forgotten. Today, Egypt’s cultural capital is in bloom once again.

“You could travel the world
But nothing comes close
To the Golden Coast
Once you party with us
You’ll be falling in love
Oh oh oh oh”
– Katy Perry

The hotels and resorts in Alexandria feed its international flair. First-rate facilities line the narrow, 20 km stretch of coastline along the Mediterranean. There’s plenty to do here, from taking a chance at a casino on the Corniche to slipping into a wet suit and exploring Cleopatra’s sunken palace.

Alexandria broadcasts a bold dose of 21st-century energy to match its Old-World charms. Its harbour is still Egypt’s most important, and a surge in regional tourism earned it the title of ‘Arab Tourism Capital’ back in 2010. This rich and historic city remains a hip and happening place. Slow it down; drink it in; and watch this bohemian city play out before you. 

Alexandria’s maritime tradition is ancient, indeed. Over the millennia, many ships have gone down off its shores, and some still lie on the seafloor waiting to be explored. While Egypt’s other dive centre on the Red Sea is better known for its coral reefs and marine life, the area offshore of Alexandria is famous for its wreck sites.

Diving into the Mediterranean is like plunging into submerged maritime museum. These waters hold more than shipwrecks. Entire palaces and even ancient cities were rocked by earthquakes and ultimately slid into the sea, to the extent that thousands of Pharaonic and Roman monuments are now preserved underwater. Sphinxes, Roman columns, ancient wine presses and even remains of the Pharos Lighthouse – one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World – litter the seafloor.

The best ancient ruins are found in Abu Keer Gulf, some of the wrecks and submerged cities date back to 300 BCE. These are a few of the most famous dive sites near Alexandria:

Aminotheese City
This was an entire city, complete with temples, monuments and houses. It was dedicated to the goddess Isis, and many handmade artefacts remain.  

Heraliqueon City (the Sins City):
Pilgrims once travelled to worship Isis. The city was active in the time of the Pharaohs, and continued into the Byzantine era before it was swallowed by the sea. No one is sure why it’s called the ‘Sins City’.

Cleopatra’s City
Built by Alexander the Great in 300 BC, this royal city with palaces and monuments went on to even greater fame under Cleopatra. There are also shipwrecks to explore in this area.

Cleopatra’s Palace
Found in the Western Port of Alexandria, this royal district includes debris from Cleopatra’s sun boat and a statue of Mark Antony.

Quaitabay Fort
This is actually a collection of three dive sites that include a Roman shipwreck along with other sunken vessels that sailed during the reign of Cleopatra. 

Alexandria’s shops run the gamut from modern, air-conditioned emporiums to eclectic antique shops dealing in vintage European furniture from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Grand shopping malls feature international brands and designer boutiques along with modern restaurants and entertainment venues.

But there are as many traditional venues in this ancient city of culture. An Old-World souk lines the western side of Midan Tahrir. A bit of friendly haggling is expected here, and there are plenty of bargains to be had.

Europeans began to flee Alexandria in the 1950s, and many left their homes fully furnished. This fuelled a robust antiques market that still flourishes on Attarine Street. Even if you have no intent of shopping for antiques, this street is worth an hour or two for a late-afternoon stroll. Finally, Alexandria is known for the coffeehouse and café culture. People-watching with a cream cake and a cup of tea along Saad Zaghloul Square is something of a national pastime.