As the capital and one of the three biggest cities of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is a lively city that offers a lot to see, do, and experience for residents and visitors. It is a city known for luxury, with shopping malls and new developments that stun, as well as incredible food, rich culture, historic sites, and unique landscapes. It offers many visitors to experience much different than what they will find elsewhere and opens their eyes to just some of the beauty that Saudi Arabia has to offer.
Riyadh is a big city, and there is a lot to experience here, so it takes some preparation to make sure you can see and do what you’d like to. So for your trip, here is your travel guide to experience Riyadh, the Gem of the Kingdom.
What to see in Riyadh
There are ancient palaces in Riyadh that are all must-sees, including the Masmak Palace, the Al-Murabba Palace, Prince Muhammad bin-Abdul Rahman Palace, and the Shamsiya Palace.
Riyadh National Museum
The Riyadh National Museum is a must to learn about Saudi culture and heritage. You’ll learn about how the Saudi Kingdom was born and follow its story since then. It is incredible for educational purposes, while also having a nearby water tower that offers stunning views of the city.
Old towns of Manfuha, Wadi Laban, and Ad Diriyah
The old towns in Riyadh give you a glimpse into the Saudi Arabian dynasty from the 15th century. Ad Diriyah is where the first Saudi State was established in 1744, and with renovations and the introductions of museums and places to explore in the present day, it is worth the time to visit. It is a huge district, so be prepared! Al Diriyah also holds several cultural events that share the traditional culture with visitors, and it was here that the first event to celebrate tourists being able to get a tourist visa to visit Saudi Arabia was held.
The five gates
Riyadh has five gates on its ancient walls that hold historical significance. The five gates include Thumaira, Al-Suwailen, Dukhan, Al-Madhbah, and Shumaisi.
Al Masmak Fort
Al Masmak Fort is a site that is important to the history of Saudi Arabia. At this fort was where the city of Riyadh was recaptured in 1902. Now it is a museum and a must-see site to pay respect to and understand the history of Saudi Arabia.
There are some camel trails located around Riyadh, where camels used to climb up on their way to Riyadh. You can find incredible views in many of them and have the backdrop that will allow your imagination to picture the working camels and the times.
The Kingdom Centre
The Kingdom Centre is referred to as Riyadh’s landmark. It is a 300-meter high tower rooted in Islamic tradition, with an elegant structure and symmetry that respects the traditions of Islamic art, as well as housing a mosque, head offices of Kingdom Holding Co., a shopping center, a luxury hotel, residential apartments, restaurants, and more. More about The Kingdom Centre can be found at webuildvalue.com. The prince wanted a landmark for his country, and the Kingdom Centre is a beautiful structure that adds to and reflects the character of the city.
Red Sand Dunes
The Red Sand Dunes are an area of red desert and dunes that you can visit in northeastern Riyadh. You can go quad biking and explore in the Red Sand Dunes. It is a popular weekend destination for Saudis. Bring a blanket or picnic rug you can layout to enjoy the silence of the desert, incredible landscape, and starry sky.
Especially if you haven’t seen the desert before or if it a landscape different than what you see back home, the desert is a must-see.
Ain Heet Cave
The Ain Heet Cave is about 40km from the city center and well worth the adventure! It is a gorgeous underground lake that will leave you in awe.
Getting around Riyadh
It is important to abide by the local laws of Saudi Arabia (as it is everywhere you go) and be respectful of the Saudi culture. Knowing laws pertaining to women is crucial to understand, especially if you are a solo female traveler or traveling with men and women.
- Women are required to be covered from neck to feet, and the face and head in many places as well. Men are required to wear long pants.
- Your passport should be valid for at least six months during your travels.
- You should always have your passport and visa one you while traveling around Saudi Arabia.
- During the five daily prayers in Saudi Arabia, offices, restaurants, and shops will close briefly.
Things to be aware of
- Hiring a cab or car for your time in Riyadh is the best way to get around the city.
- The Saudi Arabian Public Transport System runs buses, but a majority of them are reserved for men.
- In the summer months, Riyadh can reach 50 degrees Celsius as it has a hot desert climate. This makes the cooler months, such as November to March, the best time to visit so you can be out for extended amounts of time.
Shopping and dining & other kinds of amusements
Shopping and heading to the market is something you will certainly not be in lack of selection for in Riyadh.
- Markets or souqs including Souq Al Jamal, Owais Souq, and Deira Souk
- Malls including Kingdom Centre Mall, Panorama Mall, Granada Centre, and Sahara Plaza
You have incredible dining options in Riyadh, including but not limited to:
Najd Village: Najd Village is the most famous traditional restaurant. With traditional décor, including carpets and armrest cushions, waiters in traditional attire, and incredible traditional food served traditionally (eating with your right hand), you’re in for a culinary experience you’ll remember here!
- Al Tazaj
- The Globe
- Lahori Khabay
- White Garden Café
- Munch Bakery
- Saadeddin Pastry
Riyadh is a unique city that is bustling with energy and is a great destination to visit that is worth going to.