The capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, may have started out as the country’s main financial hub, but ever since tourists started pouring in, Riyadh’s quickly become much, much more.
Whether you’re a tourist looking for adventure, a foodie that adores a spectacular view or a wannabe historian that can’t wait to sink their teeth into Saudi’s vast culture and history, you can be assured that Riyadh has it all.
Al Masmak Fortress
Riyadh is a sprawling city with a modern look, but that doesn’t mean it has forgotten its deep-rooted history. In fact, stroll over to the heart of Riyadh in the city’s old quarter and you’ll find the 150-year-old Al Masmak Fortress. Built in 1865 and steeped in history, the citdel is made of mud bricks, and saw the rise of the Kingdom that is today. Basically, you can too once you explore it.
Open Sun-Thu 8am-9pm, Fri 4pm-8pm, Sat 9am-8pm. Al Thumairi Street, Ad Dirah (+966 11 411 0091).
Imagine telling your friends and family that you’ve stood at the edge of the world. Impressive, right? Well, dust off the hiking boots and get ready for a trek through the rolling mountains of Jebel Fihrayn – otherwise known as The Edge of the World. Located around 90km on the outskirts of the capital, it stretches 600km as part of the Tuwaiq cliffs, but not to worry, as you can get tour guides (including the Alsarh Saudi Tours in Riyadh) to drive you straight to the base of the edge, and from there it is only a 15- to 30-minute walk to the iconic point. Hikers can take alternative routes to make it more of a sightseeing tour (watch out for camels and even fossils).
Open Sat-Thu 9am-10pm, Fri 4pm-10pm. Jebel Fihrayn, Riyadh (+966 53 304 3399).
Riyadh Gallery Mall
Would it really be a trip without going on a shopping spree at one of the most popular malls in Riyadh? The massive Riyadh Gallery is your top spot. With three levels of shopping, restaurants and a huge amusement park for the little ones to play around in, the massive mall has everything from international brands with luxury goods to high-street stores, to coffee shops located around the lake for that quick Riyadh pit stop before getting back shopping.
Open Sat-Thu 9am-midnight, Fri 2pm-midnight. Riyadh Gallery Mall, King Fahd Road, www.riyadhgallery.com (+966 11 207 8111).
Riyadh doesn’t take the term Sky Bridge lightly, and neither should you. Boastings the highest views of Riyadh (and well beyond), the capital’s Sky Bridge on the 99th floor is a sight to behold. It’s a popular tourist destination, so expect quite the crowd, but it’s all worth it once you snap and few pictures when the city lights up and night.
SAR60. Open Sat-Thu noon-11pm, Fri 4pm-11pm. Al Olaya, Riyadh.
The Globe Lounge
Strolling through Riyadh and come across a golden globe inserted in a tower? It’s brilliant to ogle at, but it’s even better to dine in. The Al Faisaliah Hotel houses The Globe Lounge, a swanky restaurant inside a golden ball boasting 360-degree views of the city. It’s made entirely of glass panels, making it a stunning spot to head to at night. And, it offers a top fine-dining experience, serving up modern European cuisine by chef Arumugam Rajesh. Not one to pass up.
Open Mon-Sat noon-2.30am, Sun noon-midnight. Al Faisaliah Hotel, Al Olaya, www.alfaisaliahhotels.com (+966 11 273 2222).
The National Museum of Saudi Arabia
For an in-depth look at Saudi Arabia’s long history and intriguing cultures, the Kingdom’s biggest and most entertaining museum will do the trick. Also hosting modernist architecture and flower-wreathed gardens, The National Museum of Saudi Arabia is spread across eight halls, each boasting a different exhibit and theme. First off, you’ll want to, appropriately, explore the first hall, Man and the Universe, featuring the earth’s history, and then head along to explore the ancient civilizations during the early, middle and late Arab kingdoms. Along with Neolithic rock art and replicas of the buildings of old Jeddah, easily spend the day here.
Open Mon-Thu and Sat 8am-8pm, Fri 4pm-8pm, Sun 8pm-2pm. King Faisal Road, Al Murabba (+966 11 402 9500).
The King Abdullah Malaz Park
There’s nothing like taking in all the sights and walking through a 318,000sq m park. The King Abdullah Malaz Park is huge, as it is the largest park in the region, after all. However, that gives it plenty of room to fit in tonnes of food stalls and venues, playgrounds and green rolling hills for kids to go wild in, and plenty of spots to set up a DIY picnic in.
Open daily 1pm-midnight. Al Ameen Abdullah Al Ali Al Naeem Street, Al Malaz.