Exhibits at the Alexandria National Museum.

© Cristian Zamfir/Shutterstock

Alexandria National Museum

Top choice in Alexandria

This excellent museum sets a high benchmark with its summary of Alexandria’s past. Housed in a beautifully restored Italianate villa, the small but thoughtfully selected and well-labelled collection does a sterling job of relating the city’s history from antiquity until the modern period. Look out especially for the beautiful tanagra – terracotta statues of Greek women – and the discoveries found underwater in the Mediterranean.

The museum's ground floor is dedicated to Graeco-Roman times, and highlights include a sphinx and other sculptures found during underwater excavations at Aboukir. Look for the small statue of the Greek god Harpocrates with a finger to his lips (representing silence); he was morphed from the original Egyptian god Horus and is also connected to Eros. Also check out the beautiful statue of a Ptolemaic queen, with Egyptian looks and a Hellenistic body.

The basement covers the Pharaonic period with finds from all over Egypt. Note the false doors, which were the link between the living and the dead, and the reserve heads that were placed near the corpse as a substitute for the head in the afterlife.

The top floor displays artefacts from the Byzantine, Islamic and modern periods, including coins, Ottoman weapons and jewels. Don’t miss the exquisite silver shield. Early coexistence of Alexandria’s major religions is represented by a carved wooden cross encircled by a crescent.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Alexandria attractions

1. Jewish Cemetery


This intimate walled Jewish cemetery has largely escaped vandalism and is pretty well kept. The many graves stand as lonely reminders of Alexandria's once…

2. Museum of Modern Art


This wonderful and little-visited collection of 16th- to 20th-century paintings reflecting the city's cosmopolitan flair is housed in an old villa. Some…

3. Coptic Cemetery


The Shatby area of central Alexandria has been a home to the city's necropolis for centuries, although this Coptic cemetery is a more recent (for…

4. Bibliotheca Alexandrina

0.56 MILES

Alexandria’s ancient library was one of the greatest of all classical institutions, and while replacing it might seem a Herculean task, the new…

5. World of Shadi Abdel Salam

0.59 MILES

The World of Shadi Abdel Salam, named for the late cult-film director, painter, script writer and set designer born in Alexandria in 1930, shows a display…

6. Planetarium


The planetarium at Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a futuristic neon-lit sphere, looming on the plaza like a mini Death Star from Star Wars. It shows 3D films…

7. Manuscript Museum


The Manuscript Museum at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina hosts a beautifully displayed collection of ancient texts, antiquarian books and maps, including a…

8. Antiquities Museum


The Antiquities Museum at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina has a well-curated exhibition of artefacts that romp from the Pharaonic, through the Greek and Roman…