Located on the west bank of Cairo’s River Nile, Giza is synonymous with Egypt’s biggest-ticket ancient site—the Great Pyramids. Yet with Cairo nearby, there’s more to see and do here than explore these age-old tombs, even if you only have a day or short airport layover to spare. Here are our tips for spending one day in Giza.
Begin with a half-day tour of the standout site—the pyramids. Most tours are private, so you can explore the three tombs—the Great Pyramid of Cheops and the Khafre and Menkaure pyramids—as you wish, with a guide recounting their secrets and stories. After admiring their exteriors, pay extra to enter any that are open: Their chambers were once the resting places of their namesake pharaohs. Then, inspect the plateau’s other relics, including the Great Sphinx, crumbled Valley Temple, and Solar Boat Museum—home to a stunning pharaonic funerary barge discovered buried near the Great Pyramid.
Cairo’s Egyptian Museum is a close second to the Giza Pyramids on most visitors’ must-see lists, so devote this afternoon to its extraordinary exhibits. From the pyramids, continue to the über-atmospheric museum and downtown Cairo, making for a full day’s sightseeing with easy transport—a big bonus in the congested city. Focus on the highlights of the museum’s 120,000 artifacts with help from your guide: admiring pharaohs’ jewelry, statues, mummies, and the treasures of boy-king Tutankhamun, including his gold death mask. After a visit here, many tours extend into Old Cairo to see its mosques, churches, and Khan El Khalili bazaar—a vast indoor-outdoor souk of perfume, gold, spice, and souvenir stalls.
After a busy day, slow the tempo. Many visitors choose to view the Giza Pyramids afresh: either on a camel or horse ride in the orange-gold of sunset or at a sound-and-light show that brings their history to life with dazzling lights, music, and commentary. Alternatively, book a River Nile dinner cruise and admire Cairo’s twinkling sights as you enjoy an onboard dinner, along with belly dancing and whirling dervish shows.