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Riyadh Travel Guide: Things to Do & Weekend Highlights

Updated: Feb 17

Our first trip of the year was to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Sun-drenched facade of the historic Masmak fort in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Masmak Fort

This weekend Riyadh guide is your map to unlocking the city's magic, from must-see landmarks to hidden alleyways where the real charm unfolds. It was a laidback trip, just barely scraping the surface. We hope this short things to do guide will be helpful.


ITINERARY FOR THINGS TO DO IN RIYADH

Land in Riyadh Masmak Fort

Bujairi Terrace Diriyah and Al Turaif district

TABLE OF CONTENTS
FLIGHTS + VISA

We flew from Dubai to Riyadh with Flyadeal, the flight is basic BUT they always have amazing deals going on.


We did the visa online using our GCC residency. You can also apply for a tourist visa using a valid long term EU, UK, US Visa. The immigration was easy, hardly 5 minutes, no questions asked.

LANGUAGE

Unlike the UAE or Qatar, English isn't commonly spoken in Saudi Arabia. Arabic is the main language. In certain touristy places, you will have people who speak English, so this was useful for us.


BEST TIME TO VISIT

Early November to March is always the best time to visit the Middle East.


CURRENCY

Best to carry Saudi Riyals for smaller transactions.


MUST BRING ITEM

Even in the winter, the sun shines bright in this part of the world. I highly recommend carrying an effective sun-protection for any of time of the year.


HOW LONG TO SPEND IN RIYADH

Saudi Arabia is a massive country, one of the largest in the region. So it should come as no surprise that Riyadh is a huge city as well. You can easily spend 5-7 days just exploring the different corners and landscapes here.


WHERE WE STAYED

Since this was a short trip, we chose to stay in the middle of the city in Radisson Blu. The breakfast was great, so were the vegetarian ala carte menu options.


CAR VS GETTING AROUND

The best thing to do while exploring Riyadh city is by renting a car. However, we decided against it because it is a chaotic driving experience. I don't recommend driving here unless you are very familiar with driving in similar conditions.


If you are there for a few days, you can easily hail a taxi service like Careem to go around, this also keeps the cost down.


SOLO TRAVEL + SAFETY

This was not a trip I did alone, that said, there is no reason not to go solo here. Just exert common sense and dress conservatively. There is no need to wear a hijab.


HIGHLIGHTS
Masmak Fort

This historic fort in the heart of Riyadh city is a beautiful place to start your trip. This is where modern Saudi Arabia began. The fort and the courtyard are both massive.

Built in 1865, the structure made out of clay and mud-brick, it has four defensive walls in the corners of a square design.

On the inside is a museum describing the history of the founding fathers. There are also beautiful old souqs that line up along the streets on either side, definitely great for picking up street eats or trinkets. If you find Middle Eastern architecture interesting, then this is a place you shouldn’t miss!


Old Diriyah Fortress

The one place you shouldn’t miss when in Riyadh. This is a ticketed acivitiy - go online and buy tickets to enter the area.

Intricate details of Diriyah's UNESCO World Heritage site, whispering history
Diriyah, Riyadh

This whole area is like a step back in time, where the air is filled with the aroma of delicious food. This is also the place where started, way back in the 18th century, you can still see the mud-brick houses. This is truly the grandparent and most certainly the heart of this city.

I loved the touch of sophisticated modernity as we walked through the narrow streets of Al-Turaif, spotting ornate wooden doors called “Najdi”. On the inside, you will find exhibits of the culture of Saudi Arabia. Fascinating look into its past.

It is also worth staying until evening here to catch the sun go down.

Bujairi Terrace

Bonus tip: if you are a vegetarian like us and want to try local cuisine with a twist, then try the restaurant Takya in Bujairi Terrace; gosh what a treat this place was. Don’t miss it

Kingdom Tower

This is a ticketed activity. This was very similar to the Dubai Frame but a more modest version. Still great views of the city - highly recommend you go at night.

FINAL THOUGHTS

So there you have it, a quick and easy trip to kick off 2024. There is definitely so much more that this city offers, from hikes at the edge of the world to gardens and many hidden gems. We will certainly be back to delve into this enigmatic country that is trying to catch up with the world, and doing a decent job too.


Thanks for reading. Leave your questions and comments below.

Lots of love,

Anki


To explore more destinations, be sure to check out other blogs for additional insights.

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