Fly to Riyadh
The capital of Saudi Arabia is a beautiful and intriguing city steeped in cultural significance. It is the financial, political and administrative hub of this incredible nation – with an ever-changing landscape guaranteed to inspire. Riyadh has a wide range of fascinating locations to explore, of both a modern and historical nature. It’s the perfect holiday destination for those looking to try something different.
Attractions and Things to do in RiyadhThere’s plenty of things to do in Riyadh, whether you’re looking for activities to get involved with or landmarks to experience, it has everything you could need.
If you’re limited for time during your visit, then here are five things we recommend:
Kingdom Centre Tower
The enormous, iconic tower located in the centre of the city is an absolute must-visit during your stay. Witness the most amazing views from the Skybridge at the top of the Kingdom Centre Tower, which are particularly great in the evening. The tower itself is also a view to behold from the streets of Riyadh.
Price: SR 60 ($16, £11.30) for adults, SR 20 ($5.33, £3.77) for children, free for infants (under two years old)
Opening Times: Saturday-Thursday 10:30am-11:30pm, Friday 4:00pm-11:30pm
Considered to be one of the best and most comprehensive museums in the Middle East, the National Museum in Riyadh consists of eight different galleries across two floors. It’s full of interesting exhibits and displays, showcasing Arabic history in a range of different ways. An unmissable treat for history buffs.
Price: SR 10 ($2.67, £1.88) for adults, free for kids
Opening Times: Men: Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday – 8am-Noon. Women/Families: Monday & Wednesday 8am-Noon. Open to all: Sunday – Noon-2pm, Monday-Thursday Noon-2pm & 4-8pm, Friday 9am-1pm & 4-8pm, Saturday 4-8pm.
Al Masmak Fort
If you’re looking for historical landmarks, then the Al Masmak Fort should be right at the top of your list. The mud-brick/clay castle played a significant role in the Al Saud gaining control over Riyadh, when the exiled Amir Abdulaziz Bin Abdul Rahman bin Faisal Al Saud captured the fortress.
Opening Times: Men: Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday – 8am-2:30pm & 4pm-9pm, Saturday – 9am-noon. Women/Families: Monday & Wednesday – 8am-2:30pm & 4pm-9pm, Friday & Saturday – 4pm-7:30pm.
Al Rajhi Grand Mosque
For many inhabitants of Riyadh, the Al Rajhi Grand Mosque represents the most significant mosque in the city. It is also the largest mosque in the city, with forensic science courses, two libraries and an 18,000 capacity hall for men (2,500 area for women). The prayers are translated into seven different languages.
Saudi Arabia’s largest zoo is based right in the centre of Riyadh, and is available for you to visit at a very reasonable price. It hosts a number of fascinating animals, including the almost-extinct Houbara Bustard, and guarantees a fun day out for the whole family.
Price: SR 10 ($2.67, £1.88) for adults, SR 5 ($1.33, £0.94) for kids
Opening Time: Varies depending on prayer times
Eating OutRiyadh offers a wide variety of different food options and there really is something for everyone!
Although the city is deeply ingrained in Islamic culture, and provides incredible Arabic dishes everywhere you go, there are also many international restaurants for you to try.
We’ve picked out five that you might be interested in:
Name: Terrazo Brazilian Restaurant
A peaceful, relaxed environment with good music provides the essence of this amazing establishment. A variety of different meats are barbecued on the open grill, and served on a buffet for guests to choose from as they like. Located on the terrace of the Faisaliah Hotel, you’ll also be presented with spectacular views of this wonderful city.
Name: Lenotre Restaurant
This high-quality French eatery can be found on the third floor of the Centria Mall, on an outside terrace overlooking the Kingdom Tower. It serves delicious food items that will leave you desperate for more, and has the novelty of being owned by a princess.
Name: The Globe
Type: Middle Eastern/French
A classy, high-quality restaurant that defines fine-dining in Riyadh. The Globe, at the top of the Faisaliah Tower, is renowned for being one of the best eateries in the city, and for good reason. Its dishes vary from traditional Arabic, to more European-based (particularly French) – while High Tea on Friday afternoon is not to be missed.
Type: Around the World
One of the most unique dining experiences you will ever have is at Elements, an “interactive” restaurant that has live cooking stands within an open kitchen. Food from all over the world is served, with a different specialty each day. It could be seafood night, Middle Eastern night or Asian night.
Name: Ata bin Ali Restaurant
Type: Middle Eastern
This particular eatery, popular with the locals, provides excellent Jordanian dishes at very affordable prices. Amazing, home-cooked meals fill the menu to give guests a truly authentic Middle Eastern experience. If you want to avoid the tourist hot-spots, then this is the place for you.
A few things to be aware of…
Brunch is incredibly popular at the weekend, as it is in most Arabic states
Restaurants are closed during the fasting hours of Ramadan, however you can still visit supermarkets
Saudi Arabia is a conservative country and Islamic codes of morality are strictly enforced in its capital city
Hotels in RiyadhRiyadh has a number of beautiful, luxurious and accommodating hotels spread around the city.
Whether you just need a room for the night, or a place to call home for a couple of weeks, there are a number of options for you to choose from.
Here are a few that we would recommend:
Hilton Garden Inn (4 Star)
Price: SR 514 - SR 851 ($137-$227, £96-£159) per night
The Hilton brand naturally has a lot of authority all over the world, and it’s easy to see why. The Garden Inn is based in the commercial centre of the city, and offers deluxe rooms with an array of amenities.
Radisson Blu Hotel (5 Star)
Price: SR 562 – SR 1,001 ($150-$267, £105-£187) per night
Based close to the historic centre of the city, this particular hotel is suitable for businessmen on a fleeting visit to the city. It offers luxurious accommodation, four different on-site restaurants and is suitable to host meetings and events.
Al Faisaliah Hotel (5 Star)
Price: SR 1,248 – SR 1,992 ($332-$531, £233-£372) per night
This hotel is undoubtedly world class – consistently attracting the most prestigious guests from around the globe. It boasts its ability to exceed all expectations, through catering to every possible need. Executive suites, excellent business facilities and state-of-the-art health services make this one of the best hotels in the Middle East.
Ibis Riyadh Olaya Street (3 Star)
Price: SR 337 – SR 450 ($90-$120, £63-£84) per night
A more affordable option, the Ibis on Olaya Street offers a comfortable stay with excellent service. It has a fantastic location, right across the street from the Kingdom Centre Tower, and within 30 KM of the King Khalid International Airport.
InterContinental Riyadh (5 Star)
Price: SR 942 – SR 1,488 ($251-$397, £176-£278) per night
The InterContinental describes itself as “an oasis in the desert”, a fair claim given all that it has to offer. Not only does it have incredible, modern rooms – but also beautiful gardens, complimented by a range of sporting facilities. From a 9-hole golf course to floodlit tennis courts, you won’t even want to leave the hotel!
The Weather in RiyadhLike most, if not all Middle Eastern states, Saudi Arabia is hot throughout the course of the year.
However, its warmest time period is typically between May and September, with January and February seeing the lowest average temperatures.
If you’re looking to go for a happy medium, where temperatures are not too hot, then March, April, October and November are you best bets.
EventsThe city of Riyadh offers a host of fun events throughout the year. Here are a few of our favourites:
Name: Riyadh International Book Fair
The largest annual cultural event in Riyadh is the International Book Fair, where authors, publishers and readers all gather for a series of book-related events.
Name: Janadriyah National Festival
This festival takes place in the outskirts of Riyadh, but is accessible to all residents and visitors to the city. Things to look out for include camel racing, dancing and poetry exhibitions, falconry displays and singing.
Name: King’s Cup
Date: February – June
Football is the most popular sport in Saudi, and the King’s Cup is the most prestigious tournament. Riyadh plays host to a number of matches throughout the competition, so you should definitely attend a game while you’re there.
Name: Saudi National Day
Date: September 23rd
To celebrate its independence day, people across Saudi Arabia hold a public holiday on September 23rd every year. There are events in every city, including Riyadh, where people gather to show their appreciation for Saudi culture.
TransportAn efficient, comprehensive public transport system is currently being constructed in Riyadh, and will open in 2018. It will include both bus and train routes.
Until then, the best way to travel around is via car. You can either get a taxi, or hire a vehicle for the duration of your stay.
There are a number of car-hire agencies found at international airports.
Other ConsiderationsReligious Culture
Saudi Arabia is one of the most conservative nations in the world, and its laws are heavily influenced by the Islamic religion. As a result, things like alcohol are strictly forbidden.
You should also be aware of prayer times, which take place several times throughout the day. A schedule can be found here.
The Saudi Riyal is used in Riyadh. SR 1 is approximately equal to $0.27 and £0.19.
This source states that the cost of living is around 50.65 per cent lower than in New York City, and 45.49 per cent lower than it is in London. As a result, Riyadh is an attractive destination for workers from around the world, with strong expatriate populations from Pakistan, India, Egypt and the Philippines.
In Saudi Arabia, the working week runs from Sunday to Thursday, leaving Friday and Saturday as the weekend.
The days typically revolve around prayer times, so don’t schedule anything (even lunch) for any of those moments.
Respect for the Islamic laws is essential. Abide by all the strict rules or you will face consequences from local police.
Finally, we’d advise getting out of the city from time to time. Saudi has other incredible areas for you to explore, while other nations are also within driving distance.
For more information on various surrounding locations, check out our other area guides.