Algiers for First Time Visitors
Insider tips by a local guide on what to see, do and eat during your first visit to Algiers [El Djazaïr]
by Said HocineNorth Africa Local Guide and Traveler
As a local guide, I have years of experience helping tourists on what to see, find the best places to stay and what to eat while in Algiers.
This guide serves as a go-to resource specially for first time visitors of the Algerian capital.
Algiers, a Breathtaking Journey Through Time
Algiers [El Djazaïr], also known as el-Behdja or Algiers the White, is the capital of Algeria and is nestled between the Mediterranean and towering mountains.
Ottoman palaces, Moorish mosques, Arab architecture, Berber fortifications, French colonial houses, ‘Parisian’ avenues… everything adorns a destination that also stands out for the great and new Mosque, the National Library, the Square of the Martyrs, the Bardo Museum, and various monuments and forts.
Wandering around its arteries, you will discover a true open-air museum with a vast quantity of buildings of public interest.
3rd largest city in North Africa
UNESCO Site: Kasbah of Algiers
The tallest minaret in the world: the Djamaa el Djazaï
Local Guide Tips
Tips for first time visitors, whether traveling alone or in groups. From a local who knows the city and shows it to tourists for decades.
When to Visit
Ideally, go between May and September, when there is less rain. Being a coastal area, Algiers has a mild Mediterranean climate with hot summers and cool and rainy winters.
Expect it to be hot during summer, especially in July and August, but not as hot as in Algerian desert regions.
Areas to Stay
Preferably, choose accommodations in downtown Algiers.
Staying away from downtown will mean being dependent on constant traffic jams to get there. Check the recommendations we provide here.
Getting Around Algiers
The Algiers metro is pleasant, well-maintained, and practical: it appeared in 2011 and is the second metro in Africa after Cairo. It serves the main roads of Algiers. The price of a ticket is 50 DZD (around 30 cents of euros).
If you are looking for a simple and ubiquitous means of transportation for your trips, choose the cab! Very accessible by its price, it is the most used means of transport, and often, people share the race: the occasion to make spontaneous meetings! The price is really accessible, for example, if you want to go to the airport, it will cost you between 1200 and 1600 DZD (between 8 and 11 euros).
There are different ride-hailing apps in Algeria. Yassir was the first one, created in June 2017, and covers a large number of communes in Algiers.
Note: you have to pay in cash and have an Algerian mobile number. There is also Wesselni, a 100% Algerian application, and Heetch which offers its services in Algiers and Oran.
Where to Stay in Algiers – Top 3 Choices
Algiers has many neighborhoods: The Kasbah, Algiers-Center, the Seafront, Bab El Oued, Belouizdad, Birkhadem, Kouba, El-Harrach, Hydra or Bouzareah, from the upper to the lower city.
There are plenty of areas to stay in Algiers, but there are some more suitable for your first visit to the capital.
Lodging in the Kasbah offers a very central location and is ideal for discovering Algiers on foot.
The Kasbah is the Medina of Algiers, the historic old city, founded in the 4th century BC by the Phoenicians and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Kasbah of Algiers is built on a steep slope, leaning against the Bouzaréah massif and near the Mitidja plain.
It has different historical monuments to visit, such as the Great Mosque of Algiers, the Sidi Abd al-Rahman mosque, the Ketchaoua mosque, the Martyrs’ Square, and Dar Aziza Bent al-Bey, a 16th-century palace.
South of the Kasbah, you will find the Palais des Raïs – also called Bastion 23 -, containing three palaces and six douerates (fishermen’s houses). Ottoman architecture blends with Moorish style in a maze of narrow streets surrounded by white houses with flat roofs.
Literally the heart of the modern city of Algiers. Algiers-Centre has the advantage of housing the central station and the ferry terminal. This is the place to stay in Algiers if you are arriving in Algeria, departing to your next destination, or if you have to get on a train the next day.
It is literally the heart of the modern city of Algiers. Adjacent to the Kasbah, Algiers-Center is an area where most of the commercial arteries and administrative institutions of the country (National Assembly, government, Council of the Nation, ministries) are located.
There are two museums to visit in the neighborhood: the Museum of Modern Art of Algiers (MAMA) and the Parenthèse Museum. The University of Algiers 1 is located here: a young student atmosphere in the south of the district. The Carrefour de la Grande Poste is the beating heart of the city of Algiers. Then, while crisscrossing the district, you will find the cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Algiers, the Audin square, and the park of Freedom. Along the sea and the port, there are different chic restaurants to be tried.
Hydra is located south of the city center, a few kilometers from the sea and in particular, the botanical garden of Hamma.
It is a residential, posh, and quiet district where to stay in Algiers, perched on the heights, attracting the wealthy categories and international expatriates. Within it, are chic restaurants of Algerian and international cuisine. An attraction: the zoo of Ben Aknoun, with some rides and especially a large green setting in the middle of this urban jungle.
Best Places To Visit in Algiers in a First Trip
Algiers is a city full of life and full of details!
It has undergone many transformations due to its busy history, so you can see for example Hausmanian architecture next to buildings of the Ottoman Empire.
It can be discovered through the alleys of the Kasbah, classified by Unesco, or through its numerous colonial buildings. You will not miss the Ketchaoua Mosque, the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa, one of the only Christian basilicas in Africa, the sublime Palais des Raïs, the Dar Aziza Bent el-Bey palace, or the Grande Poste.
It’s among one of the main reasons to visit Algeria.
There is a lot to see, so if this is your first trip, here are a few places you should not miss.
The Martyrs’ Memorial or Maqam E’chahid is a must-see since you can see it wherever you are in Algiers.
Erected in 1982 and culminating 92 meters and a true symbol, it is the most visited monument in Algiers. It is dedicated to the fighters who died for the Algerian independence.
Located on the heights of the city, it offers one of the best views of Algiers. It is accessible by two cable cars, including the one of the Jardin d’essai, convenient to continue your visit easily!
It is the medina (old town) of Algiers, it is the symbol of the Algerian culture, with its traditional and sometimes thousand-year-old houses. Real city in the city, breathes life at every turn of the street.
You can have recourse to a guide for a historical tour of the place or find your way because let’s face it: the Kasbah is a real labyrinth! And don’t hesitate to talk to the craftsmen and discover their goldsmith’s work: if you’re nice, you can even access some of their roofs to discover a well guarded but magnificent view of Algiers!
Formerly called “the Government Square”, is located in the center of Algiers, at the foot of the Kasbah and the port. It was renamed “Place des Martyrs” to pay tribute to the victims of the war during the Independence.
Recently renovated, the square is worth the detour since it is the junction between several of the city’s must-sees. Don’t hesitate to stop there for a few minutes, whether to admire the view of the port or simply the architecture.
The Garden Hamma
Located below the memorial of the martyrs, it is a botanical garden very appreciated by the Algerians.
If you are looking for a bit of nature and a change of scenery in the heart of Algiers, it is the ideal place for a pleasant stroll. It is accessible by metro, open all year long from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, its access is paying (150 DZD, that is to say around 1 euro).
Count a minimum of 2 hours to visit the entire garden.
Notre Dame of Africa
The basilica is a bit out of the way but clearly worth a visit! It is located in the district of Bologhine and dominates the bay of Algiers.
You can visit it and admire its impressive architecture, but also enjoy the square. It is nicknamed Madame l’Afrique and is since 2012 part of the Algerian cultural goods.
The Bastion 23 (Palais des Raïs)
Under this enigmatic sobriquet hides the Palais des Raïs, a monument dating from the Ottoman Empire.
It is located around ten minutes by foot from the Martyrs’ Square. With its oriental architecture, it is one of the most important monuments of Algiers. We were able to observe different exhibitions, both historical and artistic.
The mausoleum of Sidi Abderrahmane
Our visit to the mausoleum was brief but memorable. It is one of the oldest mosques in Algiers. The thinker Siddi Abderrahmane (the patron saint of Algiers) is buried there.
It is a spiritual symbol for the Algerians, and we could realize it: Inside, the silent atmosphere, mixed with the magnificent ornaments and the architecture of the place plunges us into an almost mystical atmosphere!
The Great Post Office
Built in 1910, it is located in downtown Algiers. It is served by the subway (Tafourah station – Grande Poste), you will not be able to visit the interior because it is currently under construction to become a museum on the history of the post and telecommunications in Algeria.
It has been recently restored and the monument now displays a completely renovated façade.
The Great Mosque of Algiers (Djamaa el Djazaïr)
The Great Mosque of Algiers is the third largest mosque in the world with a total area of 400.000 m2.
This stunning mammoth mosque is also deemed the tallest building in Africa as its exquisite minaret is about 870 ft high with a 37-floor observation deck atop.
It can fit up to 120.000 worshipers and has got a 7000-car parking lot.
Port of Madrague
Algiers is a coastal city: No excuse to miss the Madrague port!
The port is accessible by car in less than an hour from downtown Algiers, and if you like fish, you will enjoy it: the restaurants are varied, and the products are directly brought by the fishermen, fresh guaranteed!
The archaeological site of Tipaza
If you like history and archeology, the site of Tipaza is perfect for you! Not everything on the site has been cleared, so there are ruins all over the city.
It is a very pleasant place to walk around and especially to admire the sea which surrounds the site. It takes about 1 hour and a half to get there.
The National Museum of Fine Arts
The largest art museum in the Maghreb and Africa with 8000 works.
Built in 1927, it dominates the Jardin d’Essai in the Hamma district and contains painted works, drawings, engravings, and old prints. Also a fine collection of sculptures, old furniture, decorative art, ceramics, glassware, as well as a collection of numismatics.