With its big French-built boulevards and French-style buildings all around the city centre, it is quite a destination.
Stroll through the historical neighbourhood along the hillside or get a spectacular panoramic view over the whole city from the Casbah of Algiers (a UNESCO world heritage site).
There are so many exciting things to do in Algiers that you won’t have any trouble planning your holiday. Keep reading for my 10 favourite attractions.
Algiers is a mix between the past and the modern era. From the first people settling here over 1,000 years ago, it has now grown into a large city with a metropolitan population of more than 3,5 million occupants.
Algiers is also home to only the second metro system in the whole of Africa (the first one is in Cairo, Egypt).
This is a smooth and comfortable way to travel around the capital while discovering the top things to do in Algiers
There’s currently a lot of construction being carried out around Algiers by Chinese workers, so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of Chinese people around the city.
Some of the construction by Chinese companies in Algiers includes:
- A brand new terminal at Algiers International Airport
- One of the world’s biggest mosques with the world’s tallest minaret 265m (874 feet) high, as well as a 20 000 square metre prayer hall capable of accommodating up to 120 000 worshippers (and a one-million book library)
- A vast extension to the metro (which will connect the airport to the city centre)
Top Places to Visit and Things To Do In Algiers
There are so many things to do in Algiers, the largest city and capital of Algeria.
This city is a real gem and one of the world’s most underrated capitals in the world.
1. Walk Around the Casbah
The Casbah of Algiers was once a narrow maze of streets along the hills overlooking the Mediterranean sea built in the 16th to 18th century, protected by a wall surrounding the city. It is one of the most unique places in Algeria.
Today it’s the historical and traditional heart of Algiers. Many local artists and handicraft shops are located around here. Visiting these shops is one of the top things to do in Algeria; forget just Algiers.
I’m not a fan of hiring guides, but I’ll highly recommend them here. Not only because it’s easy to get lost, but also to tell you the history of the city. He would also know which buildings are worth a visit and where you can get the best view over Algiers.
The Casbah was added to the Unesco World Heritage List in 1992. You can spend a full day exploring and getting lost in the back streets here. So if you’re unsure of what to do in Algiers, then you can always visit this world-renowned site.
Closest Metro station to the Casbah: Place des Martyrs.
2. Visit the Martyrs’ Memorial
The Martyr’s Memorial Monument on the hills overlooking Algiers is often considered to be one of the best places to visit in Algeria. If you only gone visit one site during your visit to the city, this is one of the things to do in Algiers.
The Martyr’s Memorial is located just above the Botanical Garden Hamma and the National Art Museum (Le Musee National Des Beaux-Arts).
It was built to commemorate the Algerians who were killed in the Algerian war for independence against the French between 1954 to 1962.
This was a war where almost 1,5 million people lost their lives (Algerian historians put the death toll at 1.5 million Algerian victims while French historians say around 400,000 people from both sides were killed).
Built only back in 1982, with a height of 92 metres (302 ft), is it easy to spot from just about anywhere in Algiers.
Things to do inside the monument include looking around the national museum of the War of Independence, which is quite nationalistic and anti-French. However, it’s easy to understand why.
The museum has A LOT of artefacts from the war on display, a part of the exhibition is quite gruesome, showing the way the French tortured and killed local freedom fighters. Unfortunately, the description inside the museum is only in French and Arabic.
You’re not allowed to take any photos inside the Museum either.
Closest Metro Station: Jardin d’Essais (then it’s a 1 min cable car ride walkway).
There’s a cable car between the Martyrs Memorial and a station just above the Botanical Garden. The ride takes less than a minute.
3. Visit the National Museum of Fine Arts of Algiers (Le Musee National Des Beaux-Arts)
The National Museum of fine art is an obvious stop between the Botanical Garden and Martyr’s Memorial. I’m not a big art fan, so for me, the most impressive thing here is the view from the rooftop balcony.
The Museum is over several floors, with the first two floors being filled with statues and sculptures, the top level is filled with older art and paintings.
Once again, if you’re not an art fan, it is still worth a visit for the view from the balcony, which is one things to do in Algiers.
In 1962, only a few weeks after Algeria gained its independence from France, 300 works of art were brought to the Louvre in Paris from the Museum. This shipment included works by Monet, Delacroix, Courbet.
The negotiations over the returning of the art and whether it should indeed be returned to Algeria were a contentious issue in France and a cause for outrage in Algeria.
Closest Metro Station: Jardin d’Essais.
4. Relax in the Botanical Garden
Established in 1832, today, the botanical garden covers an area of 58 hectares (140 acres).
Today, it’s home to an estimated 1200 different species of plants in the garden. There’s also a small cafeteria located here for if you get snacks.
When the sun gets too strong and you want to relax for a bit, the Botanical Garden is a great place to relax, with it being only a few steps from a metro station.
Closest Metro Station: Jardin d’Essais.
5. Visit the Notre Dame d’Afrique
Built back in 1872, Notre Dame d’Afrique is a Roman Catholic Church. It’s one of the most famous landmarks of Algiers. It’s located on a cliff overlooking the Bay Of Algiers. There is a great view from here over the Bab El Oued neighbourhood.
It’s a famous landmark, and carved behind the altar has the words, “Notre Dame d’Afrique priez pour nous et pour les Musulmans”, meaning “Our Lady of Africa, pray for the Muslims and for us”.
Closest Metro Station: No metro close by, but a taxi should cost no more than 400/500 from anywhere in the city centre.
6. Admire the French Architecture
The whole city centre of Algiers will remind you more of being in Europe than in Africa.
One of the best places to admire the French Architecture is along with the Rue Didouche Mourad.
The famous Grand Post Office is located here, maybe one of the world’s most impressive post offices. It is definitely one of the grandest Algiers tourist attractions.
7. Visit One of the Top Attractions of Algiers – Palais des Rais
One of the most historical buildings in Algiers, this is one of the very last surviving parts of the lower Casbah.
Located right next to the waterfront, the buildings here are three palaces and six houses, whose history goes back all the way to 1750.
It’s also home to the Centre des Arts et de la Culture, which hosts some fine art and photographic exhibitions. During my visit, there was even an exhibition on Chinese art.
Travel Tip: There’s a small beach behind Palais des Rais if you want to dip your toes in the Mediterranean sea.
8. Visit The Ketchaoua Mosque
The Ketchaoua Mosque was built in 1612. The mosque was built during the rule of the Ottoman Empire, before it was turned into the cathedral of St Philippe by the French in 1845, and then back into a Mosque when Algeria got its independence in 1962.
The Mosque was once at the centre of the city.
It’s strategically located, standing on the first of the Casbah’s stairways. It’s today one of the best-preserved historical buildings in all of Algiers.
9. Walk the Boulevard Along the Waterfront
The waterfront in Algiers is a pleasant walk along the wide sidewalks, full of French Architecture and European-style buildings.
It’s a perfect place for an early-evening walk to watch the sunset and enjoy a fresh breeze from the Mediterranean sea.
10. Enjoy a Beer With the Locals
Algeria is a Muslim country, so you can not find beer or alcohol in a lot of places. It’s actually pretty hidden, so ask your hotel if they know a local bar.
The local bars are kinda strange, hidden behind thick metal doors with no signs.
You will have to ring the doorbell to the guard to open the door.
When you get inside one of these bars, you will be met by the highest density of smokers I have ever experienced. But man, what a friendly crowd! Everyone was so happy to see a foreign tourist.
Everyone, even the owners, came over to greet me and to share a bottle of wine and beer.
Not much English was spoken, but still enough to discuss the Football World Cup that was going on during my visit.
Where to Stay in Algiers
During my visit to Algiers, I stayed at Hotel ABC, a centrally located hotel, only 2 minutes walk from the main street, friendly English speaking staff, clean, decent size room with good shower and Wifi.
They can also put you in contact with tour guides if you’re unsure of what to do in Algeria.
There are currently no backpacker hostels or guest houses in Algiers or Algeria, so basic hotels or Airbnb is your best option if you are on a tight budget.
Is Algiers Safe?
Algiers is a super safe city. You will see a lot of police around the city and the rest of the country too, but they are all friendly and will never bother you.
You will see a local woman wearing the same cloth style as in Europe, some in jeans, t-shirt, tank tops, dresses, hijabs etc. I felt 100% safe all the time in Algiers.
Getting Around Algiers – Algeria’s Only Metro
Getting around Algiers is super easy using the metro or tram system. It’s only one metro line with 19 stations, and there are no interchange stations.
The metro line is currently being extended all the way to the Airport with another ten stations.
If you can’t reach your destination by Metro, a taxi is an easy option, the price should be no more than 400/500D DZD to anywhere around the city centre, and surprisingly all four cabs I used in Algiers spoke English.
A taxi from the Airport to the city centre cost 1000 – 1500 DZD, but you will probably be better of arranging a driver from your hotel to pick you up at the airport.
Overall Experience of Algiers, Algeria
I really liked Algiers. It was a friendly and pleasant city to walk around, there were excellent local restaurants (many selling top French Cuisine) and coffee shops, and the locals were super friendly and welcoming.
I genuinely believe that if Algiers had been located across the Mediterranean sea, in Spain or France, that Algiers would have been on a level with Barcelona or Marseille, etc.
So, if you ask me what to visit in Algeria, I will tell you to go to its capital city.
You will never have to worry about finding things to do. Algiers, when it comes to tourism, has plenty of sites to see.
A lot of easy day trips to UNESCO world heritage sites like the Roman Ruins at Djemila or Tipasa are available to keep visitors busy here after your finishing with doing all the top things to do in Algiers