thumb|300px|The Kingdom Centre and northern Riyadh, seen from the Al-Faisaliya building

51 things to do

All Places Saudi Arabia

National Museum

Undoubtedly the top sight in Riyadh, this museum (opened in 1999) is done up with the latest technology and is very accessible to visitors, with almost everything available in English. There are so many video presentations and mini-theatres that you could probably spend an entire day here doing virtual tours of Madain Salih or watching re-enactments of the Prophet Mohammed's battle of Medina. Highlights include a ''kiswah'' cloth that once covered the Qaaba in Mecca. Half the time, though, it feels more like a propaganda exercise than a museum: the display on plate tectonics starts with a quote from the Quran, the history of the Sauds is rather airbrushed, and the display on the birth of Mohammed, reached from the clash and noise of the ''Jahiliyah'' (age of ignorance) by riding an escalator up into a room of soothing, pastel light while a choir of angels sings, has probably inspired a few conversions to Islam. ''Note'': Many cabbies will not recognize the English name, ask for the neighboring Murabba Palace (''Qasr al-Murabba'') instead.

SEE   —  +966 1 402 9500 —  Map


Teatro is an amazing find in the small area between Olaya and Kind Fahad Road. The bachelor side (the only side visited this trip) looks like a very odd dance club. We were escorted to the "VIP room" and were not told about the extra SAR 30 charge per person. Although this was disappointing, the area is a mix of 1960's mood lighting, lava lamps, odd kitsch, and a hunter's room with hunted animals every where. Add in Pink Floyd's "The Wall" (a bit of irony for the Kingdom) and a few huge screen TVs - the place is a den for sports fans in Riyadh. We were told the place sells out on football nights. The food was international in style and average. The pizza had too much cheese. Overall the food was average, but the decor and oddity of finding a place like this in Riyadh will entice a return visit during a football match. There is a family side that looks just as interesting.

The Globe

Suspended 240 meters above Riyadh in the giant glass ball of the al-Faisaliah building, the Globe is ''the'' hippest cafe-restaurant and probably the single best splurge in town. So dimly lit at night that the waiters fade into the shadows, you can settle back in a plush leather seat, order a bottle of (non-alcoholic) bubbly, puff on a Cohiba and watch the lights of the city twinkle below. Reservations required, but they'll make one for you at the lobby if there's space. On the way out, stop at "the experience" level outdoor viewing platform.

DRINK   —  +966 1-2732000 —  Al-Faisaliah

Kingdom Centre

Undoubtedly Riyadh's most stunning piece of modern architecture, at 305m the Kingdom Centre is the second tallest building in Saudi Arabia and quite a sight, especially when lit up at night. The centre hosts an (expensive) three-story shopping mall, with one floor reserved for women, but the main reason to visit is the 99th-floor '''Skybridge''' connecting the two peaks at a height of 300m. Best visited at dusk or after dark, from here you'll get great views over the vast and flat but well-lit expanse of the city.

SEE   —  No. 94, Al Olaya


Next to the Great Mosque and the ''mutawwa'' headquarters, this nondescript expanse of cement is known by expats as '''Chop-Chop Square''' as convicts are publicly beheaded with a scimitar here. Executions take place on Friday mornings (but not every week), just after the noon prayers. Beware that any Westerners nearby have been known to be taken to the front row and forced to watch the whole thing, in order to further shame the condemned. It is forbidden to take photos of executions or to record videos of them.

SEE   —  Map

Mama Noura Juice Center

Immensely popular chain which does excellent thick, fresh juice cocktails as well, but the main draw here is the famous ''shwarma'', arguably Riyadh's best. They're minuscule in size but cheap at SR4 a pop, so most people order at least three! The menu (available in English) also covers freshly baked pastries, kebabs and some Lebanese treats. Place your order and pay first, then queue at the counters. You can eat in at the diner-style high counters among towering piles of fruit, but most opt for take-away.

Masmak Fortress

The heart of old Riyadh, this was the fortress stormed by King Abdul Aziz and his men in their daring reconquest of Riyadh in 1902. Renovated in 2008 to an inch of its life, the mud brick structure now looks like it was built yesterday, but the museum inside does a pretty good job of recounting the story of the raid and has some fascinating photos of old Riyadh as well. Alas, the second half is devoted to extolling the greatness of the Sauds in everything from agriculture to education.

SEE   —  Deira

Mirage Restaurant

Taiwanese-Saudi run Chinese restaurant offering a variety of foods from throughout Asia, stick to the Taiwanese or Chinese menu items. The pigeon is a great appetizer as an alternative to the deep fried appetizer menu. The restaurant is accepting of business mixed gender groups. Ask for a table on top of the illuminated fish tanks in the center of the restaurant. Getting there can be difficult as it is in a side strip mall, look for the pagoda top and the neon Chinese gate.


Dubbed no less than the best restaurant in Saudi by a certain well-known travel guide, one can only presume that either standards in Riyadh have skyrocketed or this place has gone into terminal decline. With decor unchanged since the 1970s and an uninspired buffet (no ''a la carte'' menu) of the usual Arabic standbys, the only visitors seem to be tour groups and hotel guests -- the locals know you can get better stuff for a fraction of the price elsewhere.

EAT   —  Khozama Centre 7F

Al Khozama

Once among Riyadh's top hotels, but now getting a bit long in the tooth. Somewhat cramped but clean rooms. The location right next to al-Faisaliah is excellent though. The pool right by the hotel is outdoor only and not as clean as you'd hope for, but hotel guests can use the fitness center in the next building (Khozama Center, 1st floor) which offers a superb gym, a large indoor pool, tennis and bowling. Free internet in the business rooms (5th floor).

SLEEP   —  +966 1-4654650 —  Olaya Rd


Modern, stylish hotel offering four-star quality at reasonable price compared to its branded equivalents, but service is rather inept. Free (but not tremendously fast) wireless internet, small indoor pool and limited gym (open only in the evening). Cafe on mezzanine for buffet breakfast is relaxed, 8th floor restaurant dinner buffet expensive at SR120 but tasty.

SLEEP   —  +966 1-2931230 —  King Fahd Rd

Marriott Riyadh

In desperate need of a facelift and awkwardly located to the east of the city core. About the best that can be said is that it's clean and quiet. Once you're in the room, you can easily imagine you're in any Marriott in the US, even the bathrooms look identical. Superb, large-size indoor swimming pool and excellent fitness room (included in room charge).

SLEEP   —  +966 1-4779300 —  Map

Al Faisaliah

At the foot of the Al Faisaliah skyscraper, this is one of Riyadh's swankiest malls, anchored by a Harvey Nichols department store. The food court on the third floor is among the best in the Kingdom; the one in the basement, on the other hand, is deserted. There is a fun park in the basement near the entrance on Olaya road. Families only Wed-Fri.

BUY   —  Olaya Rd

Souq al-Thumairi

Also known as ''Antique Souq'', this is Riyadh's most touristy souq, which isn't saying all that much. It specializes in Arabic goods cheap and expensive, authentic and fake, with carpets, coffee pots, daggers, jewelry and more. Most of it is made elsewhere, nothing is authentically Saudi. English is generally spoken, and haggling is obligatory.

BUY   —  Deira

Scoler Express

One of half a dozen cafes in the alley between al-Faisaliah and the Khozama Hotel, this is the only one that's not an obvious chain outlet. The menu has a good range of drinks hot, cold, caffeinated and juicy, including espressos made with fancy Tonino Lamborghini gear, and the outdoor seating is cooled down with a nifty water spraying system.

DRINK   —  +966 14622780 —  Khozama Center

Murabba Palace

Riyadh's second old mud-brick palace, built by King Abdul Aziz after he conquered Masmak Fortress and figured he should built something harder to conquer. This two-story structure does indeed look pretty intimidating, but permits are no longer needed to venture inside, where you can find sights including the first royal Rolls-Royce.

SEE   —  Map


Avadh is a traditional north Indian restaurant on the Tahlia strip (western style shops/restaurants). The family section is quite nice. The food is traditional, authentic, and expensive in comparison to other Indian restaurants. The naan and roti are fresh. The lamb "dum style" was the best dish of those ordered.

Al-Malaz Restaurant

No-frills, somewhat fly-blown South Indian eatery that's always packed thanks to tasty food, low prices and generous portions. At lunchtime, you can get four curries (meat or veg), pickles, fresh veggies, rice, chapattis, pappadums, dessert and tea, all with infinite refills, for the scarcely credible price of SR6.

EAT   —  off Olaya Rd


Chain Italian restaurant that caters to families. The selection is decent, but quality is lacking. If you go, try the Spaghetti Curry dish - fried chicken, peas, pineapple curry pasta - sounds weird, but tastes good. If going as a bachelor group (all males), the room is off to the side with limited service.

EAT   —  North Ring Rd.

Jarir Bookstore

The two-level flagship store of Saudi Arabia's largest bookstore, most of the store is actually taken up by a wide range of computer gear, stationary, music and DVDs. The best English-language magazine and book selection in Saudi — which, alas, isn't saying all that much.

BUY   —  Olaya Rd

Ya Mal Asham

All the ambience of a giant school cafeteria, but there's a great selection of Arabic food from shwarma to soups, grills, stews and desserts and the "take a tray and point" style of ordering makes it easy to choose (although they do have an English menu as well).

EAT   —  Olaya Rd

Sahara Mall

Enormous mall on the northern side of the city. The mall has 180 shops anchored by a Tamimi supermarket and features what may be the largest food court in the city — and if you can't find what you want here, the adjacent '''Sahara Plaza''' annex has more.

Radisson Blu Riyadh

Very comfortable modern hotel with a Scandinavian touch. Nice gym with two saunas and pools, free Internet and a rather good breakfast. Has four in-house restaurants including a Japanese and an Italian one.

SLEEP   —  +966 1-4791234 —  King Abdulaziz St

Holiday Inn Al-Qasr

Formerly the ''Howard Johnson Olaya Palace'', but thoroughly renovated and reopened in 2007. Modern design, decent rooms, central location, basic gym. Internet SR100/day, breakfast buffet SR105.

SLEEP   —  +966 1-4625000 —  Olaya Main Rd

Burj Al-Hamaam

One of the older Lebanese restaurants in town, this sparsely-decorated restaurant has had an enduring reputation. It is especially known for its "Sayyadiyya" and its "Kibbe in pomegranate sauce."

EAT   —  Takhassusi St.

Al Mamlaka

One of the swankiest malls in the Kingdom, with the third floor '''Ladies Kingdom''' reserved exclusively for women. Good food court on the lower level and even a Planet Hollywood restaurant.

BUY   —  Olaya Rd

Al Faisaliah Hotel, A Rosewood Hotel

Luxury hotel offering facilities for meetings, conferences, weddings and events. Also provides accommodations, restaurants and vacation packages for tourists as well as business travelers.

SLEEP   —  +966 1-2732000 —  King Fahd Rd

Sheraton Hotel

Older but well-maintained property about 3 km north of the city center, handy for both the airport and doing business. Good restaurants, but virtually nothing within walking distance.

SLEEP   —  +966 1-4543300 —  King Fahd Rd


Quite good rendition of TexMex with a typical American look-and-feel. If you're from the Northeast of the US, the Buffalo Wings / Tenders are recommended - excellent hotsauce.

EAT   —  Tahlia Street


This very popular Turkish restaurant is packed during the evening hours. Meat is the name of the game here, and it comes in numerous tasty variations. The bread is superb!

EAT   —  +966 1 464 9336 —  Talatheen St

Taste Of India

Indian (North and South) food at reasonable rates. The settings are nice and clean, dishes range from delicious biryanis and tandoors to south Indian rice specialties.

Paragon Family Restaurant

Providing traditional Malabar cuisine, North-Indian and Chinese. Paragon specials are biriyani, kudukka biriyani (served in a pot) and traditional style fish items.

EAT   —  4083852 —  Batha


Modeled after a restaurant in Beirut of the same name, this restaurant has quickly become one of the most popular and reputable Lebanese restaurants in town.

EAT   —  Tahlia St.

White Palace

Pleasant hotel in the Al-Dubat district, with character and a total of 135 rooms, all furnished with a TV and ensuite bathrooms. Singles/doubles SR160/200.


This is an oldest Japanese restaurant in town (dating from the 80's). It is said to be run by Japanese and to serve excellent Sushi. Closed on Fridays.

EAT   —  Oruba St.

Luthan Spa and Hotel

The first and only women-only hotel in Saudi. Most visitors are locals coming here for the spa, but there are also 25 rooms for overnight visitors.

SLEEP   —  +966 1-4807799 —  Aruba Rd

Korean Palace

Korean-run eatery offering reasonably authentic Korean, Japanese, and Chinese food at reasonable prices. Popular with the local Asian community.

EAT   —  +966 1-4631102 —  Makkah Rd

Four Seasons Riyadh

It doesn't get any cooler than staying in the 302-meter Kingdom Tower itself, and the Four Seasons features what you expect from a luxury hotel.

Steak House

Basic chain steak house - think Ponderosa - with a decent selection of steaks and other meat products. One of many locations throughout Riyadh.

EAT   —  North Ring Rd.

Localizer Mall

A great place to visit if you are in Tahlia. They have wide range of clothing store as well as fine dining restaurant such as Outback.

BUY   —  Tahlia St


Iranian restaurant offering a good range of kebabs and a better range of ''mezze'' like tabbouleh, hummus, eggplant, vine leaves etc.

Intercontinental Hotel

Popular hotel for visiting businessmen. Large meeting facilities, good restaurants, close to Olaya Road business district.

SLEEP   —  +966 1 465 5000 —  Map

Najd Village

Probably the restaurant with the nicest decor in Riyadh, traditional saudi food, you will be sitting on the floor."

EAT   —  Takhassusi St.


Probably the most expensive and highest quality restaurant in Riyadh, with varied, international cuisine.

Othaim Mall

A large mall with local and international brands, a food court and a couple of fine dining restaurants.

Cafe Amore

Probably the best, slickest and most professionally-run Italian restaurant in Riyadh.

EAT   —  Tahlia St.

Al Fawar

Cheap and cheerful Lebanese eatery offering tasty shwarma, kebabs, dips and more.

EAT   —  +966 1-4657776 —  Olaya St


OTHER   —  Map

About Riyadh

Riyadh is the capital city and the largest city of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Although much of the common forms of entertainment are limited currently, there are interesting places that can be visited in Riyadh ranging from historic landmarks to the few towers that highlight the transition of the city with more incorporation of modern technology. For most of the year, the climate is brutally hot but it is pleasantly moderate during the winter. The only reliable means of transport in Riyadh is using cars, and thus you would either depend on cabs or you would need to rent your own car. Despite general inflation, generally prices are lower in Riyadh than most other big cities in the world. However, Riyadh is usually a destination that is visited mainly for business.

Source: wikivoyage