The Historic Sites in Egypt tell the story of a land which was home to one of the most iconic civilisations of the ancient world, the ancient Egyptians. Whether it’s the famed silhouette of the Pyramids of Giza or the allure of the Valley of the Kings, these great wonders draw tourists from around the world.
Yet, the historic sites of Egypt also reveal so much more about this nation’s past. Roman amphitheatres, Greek ports and World War II battle sites, they all number among the many historical plances in Egypt and are well worth a look.
There’s a host of top Historic Sites in Egypt to visit and among the very best are Giza, Abu Simbel and Cairo Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. Other popular sites tend to include El Alamein Battlefield, Dendera and Abydos.
We’ve put together an experts guide to Egyptian cultural monuments and landmarks, with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of Historic Sites in Egypt, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the best Historic Sites in Egypt?
Giza is a tourist hotspot and the site of some of Ancient Egypt’s most famous landmarks, including the largest pyramid on Earth. Giza is home to the pyramids of kings Khufu, Khafra and Menkaure. The largest pyramid in Giza, and in the world, belongs to the second king of the Fourth Dynasty, Khufu or “Cheop”.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Giza is also where one finds the Great Sphinx. Estimated to date back to 2528–2520 BC, some Egyptologists believe that this majestic half man, half lion is modeled on Khafra. Several other tombs and Queens’ pyramids pepper Giza’s landscape, some of which are open to the public, most notably, the tomb of Seshem-nefer IV.
Abu Simbel is an archaeological site in Egypt housing a series of incredible Ancient Egyptian monuments, especially a number of rock temples. The most famous sites at Abu Simbel are the two Temples of Ramesses II. The site was rediscovered in 1813.
One of the most startling sights at Abu Simbel is the main hall of the Great Temple. This was also cut into the sandstone and along the hand hewn length are two rows of Osirid statues of Ramses, each one 30 feet high. Incredibly, the temples at Abu Simbel were once located elsewhere, but were moved – with the help of UNESCO – to their current location in order to protect them from flooding. The place they once stood is now under water.
Saqqara is home to eleven major pyramids sprawled over six miles, including the first ever pyramid, known as the Step Pyramid and funerary complex of pharaoh Djoser. The site is filled with historical treasures, not least of which is the Serapeum where the Egyptians buried the sacred bulls of Apis. The Egyptians believed these bulls were reincarnations of the deity, Ptah. The bulls are perfectly mummified and contained in enormous granite coffins.
Saqqara is massive and, for those short on time the best places to see are in the north, including the Serapeum, Djoser’s funerary complex and, in between these two, the Mastaba of Akhti-Hotep and Ptah-Hotep, the son and grandson of official Ptah-Hotep. There are numerous ways to tour Saqqara, including camel, horse and donkey tours available around the Step Pyramid.
Even though the Villa of the Birds is one of Alexandria’s most recent discoveries, in a city of beautiful antiquity it should definitely be on your list. Unearthed in 1998 the villa is so named for it’s incredibly detailed pavement. It depicts recognisable birds including the pigeon, peacock, parrot, quail and water hen as well as a panther and a stylised rosette design using tiny cubes of marble, glass paste and stone.
Around 10 metres below street level, the Roman villa complex also includes gymnasia, baths, an Odeon theatre and residential areas and even though fire damaged the mosaics in the late 300s it still covers 110 square metres. Tickets are available where you buy your tickets to the 13-white marble terraced-amphitheatre and information panels are dotted all over the complex that tells the incredible story of the Villa of the Birds.
El Alamein Battlefield in Egypt was the site a major victory by the Allied forces during the Second World War. The victory was a vital turning point for the Allies, summarised succinctly by Winston Churchill: “It may almost be said, Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.”
Today, El Alamein Battlefield is surrounded by numerous memorials, cemeteries and sites to the different Allied and Axis forces who fought there. Several 1942 battlements and bunkers can be seen from the roadside together with several plaques, including one on the Alexandria-Marsa Matruh Route which shows the furthermost position reached by German and Italian forces.
The Dendera complex lies approximately 50 miles north of Luxor and contains some of the best preserved and most accessible ancient Egyptian ruins to be found in Egypt, including temples, tombs and even a Christian chapel.
The most prominent site in the Dendera complex is the Ptolemaic-era Temple of Hathor. Dating back to the first century BC, Dendera’s Temple of Hathor was continually developed throughout the Ptolemaic and Roman eras and contains references to both Egyptian rulers and Roman Emperors – including Nero, Domitian & Trajan.
Many tourists will visit Dendera on a day trip from Luxor and, given that a number of tour companies offer this option from many Luxor hotels, this can be the most practical way to explore the Dendera complex and Temple of Hathor. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Egypt.
Abydos is an important Ancient Egyptian site located about 50 miles north-west of Luxor which contains a wealth of tombs, temples and other archaeological remains. Many visitors will visit Abydos – along with Dendera – either by train or organised tour from Luxor.
Covering a vast area, Abydos has offered up many historical sites and much of the area still remains uncovered. It is perhaps best known for the well preserved remains of the Temple of Seti I. This is the principle tourist attraction of the Abydos site, and in fact much of Abydos is not open to the travelling public. Other notable historic sites at Abydos include the Osireion, the symbolic tomb of Osiris, the necropolis of Umm el-Qa’ab and the Temple of Ramesses II.
The underground library of Alexandria, found underneath the ruins of the Serapeum, consists of a series of subterranean tunnels and storerooms where it is believed part of the collection of the Great Library of Alexandria was stored.
The Great Library itself was constructed in the third century BC and was the most famous library of the ancient world. However, the underground library – or at least the construction itself – remained in use until the destruction of the Serapeum in 391AD and may have been used for religious purposes by worshippers of Serapis.
Today visitors can explore these underground chambers and see the niches in the walls where the documents were stored. This site also features as one of our top ten tourist attractions in Egypt.
The Luxor Temple in the city of Luxor, Egypt was once a sacred temple built in honour of the deity Amun. It is incredibly well-preserved and, with its statues of Ramesses II, it is clear that several pharaohs and other leaders added to it at later stages, including Tutankhamun and later even Alexander the Great.
From its Avenue of the Sphinxes to its looming archways and giant statues, the enormous Luxor Temple is a breathtaking site.
The Cairo Museum of Egyptian Antiquities contains the most comprehensive and important collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts in the world. Indeed, it is said to have over 100,000 pieces in all.
From smaller objects such as coins and piece of papyrus to statues of pharaohs and the magnificence of the Royal Mummies room with its eleven mummies (although entry is subject to an additional entry fee), the Cairo Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is the place to see some of the most significant finds from this period.
Perhaps the most famous part of the Cairo Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is its Tutankhamen collection, which includes the iconic funereal mask of the boy king as well as several other objects related to this pharaoh.