Alexandria is the second biggest city in Egypt and a popular choice for travellers who want to enjoy a beach break. In the time of Alexander the Great, it was the most important city in the world. For visitors today, it combines history and ancient monuments with delightful beaches and warm weather.
Alexandria is still home to many significant Roman and Greek buildings and ruins. New historical ruins are being discovered all the time, but one of the most interesting ones is the ruins of the original Library of Alexandria which was built in 246BC. At its peak, it was a hub of knowledge in the Greek Empire, housing over 400,000 scrolls. However, it was destroyed around the time of the great fire of Alexandria; some historians believe it was destroyed in the fire; some believe it was destroyed in Emperor Aurelian’s siege. Today, the ruins are open for exploration, the storerooms are all that is left, and it can be a little creepy exploring the underground rooms. However, it is interesting to learn about the ancient library and why Alexandria is keen to make its current library, Bibliotheca Alexandria, one of the world hubs of modern learning.
Dining out is a delight in Alexandria, most restaurants are in historic buildings, by the water, offer creative cuisine, or a mixture of the three. There is a large mix of traditional Egyptian fare as well as international cuisine available in the old town. The old town is also extremely walkable, so follow your nose while you explore the streets. If you have room for dessert, be sure to head to Brew and Chew for their innovative sweet treats.
At night, Alexandria is so pretty, be sure to visit the Corniche in the evening to walk off your meal. This beachfront promenade is 10 miles long, but don’t feel like you have to do the whole 10 miles post-dinner! The combination of the lit-up buildings, the calm ocean, and the sea breeze is delightful. Strolling hand in hand with a loved one, or staring out to the ocean with a friend is a great way to relax before heading back to the hotel, or onto a bar.
Egypt is an Islamic country, so alcohol is only served in hotel bars, and public drunkenness is frowned upon. However, there are plenty of hotel bars to choose from, some staying open until 4 am! Cap d’Or is a great place to start, a traditional Alexandrian bar which has been lovingly restored and attracts a bohemian crowd who marvel at the decorations, enjoy seafood and cold beer. The Sky Roof at the Windsor Hotel is another great bar with amazing sea views and fantastic music. They have an extensive range of drinks on offer to delight its international guests.
Alexandria has hot and humid summers and mild and rainy winters. The best times to visit are spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November). The heat and humidity aren’t too extreme, and the city is less crowded.
The official language of Egypt is Modern Standard Arabic; however, in practice, most Egyptians speak Egyptian Arabic. It is the language spoken by the people and in all media. The majority of Egyptians, particularly those whose job requires them to interact with tourists, will speak English or French as well.
VOYA’S FAVOURITE PLACES TO VISIT INCLUDE
The Catacombs of Kom el-Shuqqafa are the largest known Roman burial site in Egypt, and one of the largest in the world. It was discovered in 1900 by accident when a donkey fell into them. The catacombs themselves are a perfect example of the Roman and Greek fusion of architecture that was adopted in Ancient Egypt. There are numerous rooms to explore in the three levels of catacombs, including a banquet hall where relatives could enjoy a feast in honour of their dead.
Montazah Gardens are an oasis in the bustling city. It is the gardens for the Montazah Palace, the royal family’s summer home in Egypt. The palace itself is closed to the public, but the gardens are a delight to wander through. The gardens meet the sea, and there is a small beach there, as well as the Helnan Palestine, an iconic Alexandrian hotel.
VOYA'S FAVOURITE PLACES TO STAY INCLUDE
The Helnan Palestine – In 1964, this hotel was built within six months under the orders of President Gamal Abdel Nasser. He was hosting the second ever Arab League Summit and needed somewhere to house all the dignitaries flying in. The President chose the location himself to offer the best views in Alexandria and hand-picked the hotel design to ensure it was absolute luxury. Even today, the guest list of the Helnan boasts celebrities and royalty.
Four Seasons Alexandria at San Stefano – This is the hotel to stay in if you want modern luxury. As expected from a Four Seasons property, the service and amenities at the hotel are top-notch. The spa is split over two levels and offers a full range of treatments inspired by traditional Egyptian beauty rituals. The hotel is situated on a private beach, and it has an outdoor infinity pool and an indoor heated pool.
VOYA'S FAVOURITE DISHES TO TRY
One of the most famous dishes in Alexandria is fondue. They prepare a seven cheese fondue which you order with meat to create a hot meaty, cheesy sauce to dip soft bread into. This indulgent dish is only found in Alexandria, so it is a must-try when you holiday in this part.
Alexandria is a Mediterranean city, so delicious fresh seafood is abundant here. Head to one of the seafood markets for freshly caught, good quality seafood and take your own seafood to some of the nearby grills which will cook it up for you in delicious sauces. You only pay the cooking fee, rather than full price for the dish and you get to have a delicious local dish with hand-picked seafood.