Skip to Content

Coptic Quarter Cairo: Visiting The Coptic Orthodox Church In Cairo

The Coptic (Christian) quarter of Cairo, especially the famous Orthodox Hanging Church, is a must-do on any Cairo itinerary.

Cairo’s Coptic Quarter is the ‘Old Cairo’ – it’s an ancient part of the city that is built on the Ancient Babylon Fortress. It was the original city for centuries, and was around long before the Cairo as we known now even existed.

A visit to the Coptic Quarter is a great way to spend a couple of hours if you’ve got one or two days in Cairo. Here’s all you need to know to enjoy a trip to the Coptic Quarter in Cairo.

Coptic cairo quarter hanging church orthodox

Why Should You Visit The Coptic Quarter In Cairo?

The Coptic Quarter is the Christian area of Cairo and is very interesting to visit. Many visitors are even surprised to discover there is a Christian area of Cairo – but Christians were here long before Islam came to the land of Egypt in 639 AD.

The term ‘Coptic’ refers to the Coptic Orthodox Christians, who are the largest denomination of Christians in Egypt and The Middle East. Their language, the Coptic language, evolved from the last language of the Ancient Egyptians. 

The Coptic Quarter is home to some of the oldest Christian churches and structures in Egypt. It is also believed that the Holy Family lived here for a while when they fled into Egypt to escape Herod, so it is quite a special place for Christians to visit.

The Coptic Quarter is one of the best places to see in Cairo, and the area has gained UNESCO World Heritage Status. The historical area is pretty compact with everything close together, making it easy to stroll around.

It is a nice and quiet pedestrianised area, so it certainly makes a great contrast from all the chaos and traffic in downtown Cairo, or in the bustling Khan-el-Khalili Market in Islamic Cairo. Many people love the peaceful atmosphere that The Coptic Quarter offers.

Coptic Quarter Opening Times

The Coptic Quarter is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day. If you want to visit at the quietest time, it’s best to visit on a weekday morning, as it gets busy with locals and Egyptian tourists on the weekends.

Entrance to the churches is free.

What To See In The Coptic Quarter, Cairo

The Coptic Quarter is pedestrianised, and you will see all the main sights – the fortress and the main churches, on the main path so it’s easy to navigate your way around by yourself.

Smaller churches are located down the alleyways, and the cemeteries are behind this.

You will see many ancient Roman ruins when walking around and the area is full of unique churches, many dating back to the 4th Century AD.

There is one famous Church in particular that you must visit: The Hanging Church (officially Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church).

Coptic cairo quarter hanging church orthodox

Hanging Church (Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church)

This ancient church, built in 690 AD, is a masterpiece of Coptic architecture.

The Hanging Church is elevated slightly as it was built suspended over the Water Gate of the Babylon fortress. When it was built, it appeared to be ‘hanging’ in mid-air as it is suspended over a passage, which explains how it got its name.

It would have been more impressive to see when it was first built, when the ground level was several metres below what it is these days, as it would have appeared to be hanging. The pillars of the gatehouse would have been seen much easier.

Nowadays it doesn’t really look like it is hanging as the ground has risen since the church was built.

Go inside the church, the interiors are stunning, adorned with intricate woodwork, icons and religious art made of ebony and ivory.

Babylon Fortress

The ancient ruins of the Babylon Fortress are really impressive to see and are one of the first sights you’ll see as you enter the Coptic Quarter.

The Babylon Fortress once guarded the Nile and served as a stronghold for various civilizations. It was built by the Romans in 100 AD.

Saint Sergius and Bacchus Church (Abu Serga)

Dating back to the 4th century, making it the oldest church in Egypt, the Abu Serga church is believed to be built on the resting spot where the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary and baby Jesus) stayed for three months during their flight into Egypt, so it’s definitely worth a visit.

You can find this spot in the crypt of the church, 10 meters deep. You can also see the well where the Holy Family drank from down in the crypt.

Church Of St George (Mar Girgis)

Built in the 10th century, this is one of Egypt’s few round churches. The church is built on top of an ancient Roman tower, and the interior of the church is stunning, with its stained glass windows.

This is one of just a handful of churches in the Coptic Cairo area that is still in use, and visitors of all religions are welcome to visit. 

Ben Ezra Synagogue

The Ben Ezra Synagogue is located right behind The Hanging Church. It was originally built as a Coptic Church in 882 AD, but the Abraham Ben Ezra bought the church and converted it to a synagogue.

It’s believed that the baby Moses was found on the site of this spot.

As there are very few Jews in Cairo, the Synagogue isn’t an operating place of worship any more. Instead, it serves as a museum. 

Food & Shopping In Coptic Cairo

There are also some souvenir shops in the Coptic Quarter, where you can buy Coptic crosses and Coptic artwork. There aren’t restaurants, just a few shops selling drinks and snacks.

How To Get To Coptic Cairo

You can either get to Coptic Cairo by Uber or by taking the metro. This is actually one of just a handful of the tourist locations in Cairo that you can reach via metro as it has its own metro station. The metro stop is called Mar Girgis.

While Coptic Cairo is in a congested area of central Cairo, it is also easily accessible by Uber. Just put ‘Mar Girgis’ into your Google Maps as your destination, and it will take you to the entrance of the Coptic Cairo complex.

Safety In The Coptic Quarter Cairo

Sadly over recent years, as the Coptic Quarter is the centre of Christianity in Cairo, many Churches in the Coptic Quarter have been victim to a number of terrorist and violent attacks.

As a result, there is a police check point at the entrance where you need to show ID, and the area is now pedestrianised with many tourist police around for extra security.

This has stopped a lot of tourists coming but I hope it won’t stop you from visiting this beautiful place.

Other Coptic Christian Areas In Cairo To Visit

There is another Coptic Christian area of Cairo that I also really recommend to visit. It has a lovely church at the top of the neighbourhood that is built into a cave on the side of a mountain.

coptic christian cave church Cairo

However, the area is eye-opening. It’s known as Garbage City, and it is exactly what it sounds like. 

Garbage City is a very poor poverty-stricken slum in Cairo where people literally live in the garbage.

The neighbourhood is covered in rubbish: the streets, the roofs, everything and it smells very bad there. The living conditions are very poor and there is a lack of sewers, electricity and running water.

It is a side of the city that nobody cares to see, but I encourage you to go and see this place for yourself to really uncover the real Cairo. It’s about a 15-20 minute drive from the Coptic Quarter.