Riyadh travel guide

Riyadh Tourism | Riyadh Guide

You're Going to Love Riyadh

Riyadh is a sprawling city of 6.5 million, the capital of Saudi Arabia, and a major financial and administrative center of the nation. You'll find it a busy and very modern place, with much to offer the curious traveler.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Riyadh

1. Great Food

The city offers a wide selection of restaurants from cheap to fine dining, including classic Saudi and Middle Eastern cuisine and many Indian and Pakistani options.

2. The Kingdom Centre

This skyscraper is worth a day's visit on its own, and includes a shopping mall and the stunning Skybridge on the 99th floor that connects the two towers of the building.

3. World-Class Golf

There are several golf courses within a half hour's drive of the city, including the Dirab Golf & Country Club.

4. Dune Bashing

Explore the desert dunes that surround the city in an ATV rental for a bout of dune bashing.

5. Shopping Malls

The city plays host to several sleek modern shopping malls, full of clothes, electronics, books, CDs, and much more.

What to do in Riyadh

1. Masmak fort: Standing Watch Over Riyadh

This one-time fort is constructed of mud and clay bricks, incorporating four corner turrets that once acted as watchtowers. The walls are exceptionally thick, and were once prepared to defend the city in battle. Today it is a museum, located in the old quarter at the heart of Riyadh. The museum's collections include antique weapons, agricultural tools, and costumes from throughout the history of Saudi Arabia. There are shops and restaurants in the immediate area, including the Deira souk, or market.

2. Ancient Diriyah: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Once the home of the Saudi royal family, the town of Ad'Diriyah is located about 16 miles northwest of Riyadh. The historic area of the town includes two main sections and many quarters or neighborhoods. There are ruins of the palace and old city to explore, along with a variety of other activities such as shopping at the Bujairy marketplace, walking by the waterfalls, or stopping at a restaurant or cafe. Ad'Diriyah is accessible by foot.

3. National Museum of Saudi Arabia: An Impressive Collection of National Treasures

One of the most important museums in the country, the National Museum of Saudi Arabia documents the history, archeology, and culture of the Kingdom in a number of collections. Objects on display include documents, antique tools, weapons, sculptures and other artwork, along with mineral and rock samples, and much more. The museum is housed in a modern building with interactive displays, and a gift store for souvenirs. There is a fee for entry.

4. Kingdom Center: The Building with a Hole

The Kingdom Center is one of the tallest skyscrapers in the country, rising 990 feet in height. The design incorporates a hole that is created by an inverted arch, with a 184 foot walkway or Sky Bridge across the top. The Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh and luxury apartments are incorporated into the building, along with a large shopping mall. The Sky Bridge offers spectacular views from above the city, and is accessible to the public. Tickets are available for purchase on the Gallery level.

5. Al Faisaliyah Center: A Star Dome

The Al Faisaliyah Center is the fourth-tallest skyscraper in Saudi Arabia, and was the Kingdom's first skyscraper. The 875-foot-high structure includes corporate office space, upscale apartments, and a three-story luxury shopping mall. The building design incorporates separate sections that taper as they rise up, intended to minimize sun exposure, with observation decks at some of the floors on the way up. There is a restaurant at the top, located inside a glass ball that sits 656 feet above the city, making for excellent views while dining.

1. Masmak fort: Standing Watch Over Riyadh

This one-time fort is constructed of mud and clay bricks, incorporating four corner turrets that once acted as watchtowers. The walls are exceptionally thick, and were once prepared to defend the city in battle. Today it is a museum, located in the old quarter at the heart of Riyadh. The museum's collections include antique weapons, agricultural tools, and costumes from throughout the history of Saudi Arabia. There are shops and restaurants in the immediate area, including the Deira souk, or market.

2. Ancient Diriyah: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Once the home of the Saudi royal family, the town of Ad'Diriyah is located about 16 miles northwest of Riyadh. The historic area of the town includes two main sections and many quarters or neighborhoods. There are ruins of the palace and old city to explore, along with a variety of other activities such as shopping at the Bujairy marketplace, walking by the waterfalls, or stopping at a restaurant or cafe. Ad'Diriyah is accessible by foot.

3. National Museum of Saudi Arabia: An Impressive Collection of National Treasures

One of the most important museums in the country, the National Museum of Saudi Arabia documents the history, archeology, and culture of the Kingdom in a number of collections. Objects on display include documents, antique tools, weapons, sculptures and other artwork, along with mineral and rock samples, and much more. The museum is housed in a modern building with interactive displays, and a gift store for souvenirs. There is a fee for entry.

4. Kingdom Center: The Building with a Hole

The Kingdom Center is one of the tallest skyscrapers in the country, rising 990 feet in height. The design incorporates a hole that is created by an inverted arch, with a 184 foot walkway or Sky Bridge across the top. The Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh and luxury apartments are incorporated into the building, along with a large shopping mall. The Sky Bridge offers spectacular views from above the city, and is accessible to the public. Tickets are available for purchase on the Gallery level.

5. Al Faisaliyah Center: A Star Dome

The Al Faisaliyah Center is the fourth-tallest skyscraper in Saudi Arabia, and was the Kingdom's first skyscraper. The 875-foot-high structure includes corporate office space, upscale apartments, and a three-story luxury shopping mall. The building design incorporates separate sections that taper as they rise up, intended to minimize sun exposure, with observation decks at some of the floors on the way up. There is a restaurant at the top, located inside a glass ball that sits 656 feet above the city, making for excellent views while dining.

Where to Eat in Riyadh

Eat local at the Najd Village, which is designed just like a typical desert village and offers classic Middle Eastern dishes like kabsa. Mains start at SR15, with set menus from SR100. Located in the Al Faisaliah Tower, the Globe offers international cuisine and great views of the city starting at SR100.

When to visit Riyadh

Riyadh in December
Estimated hotel price
$58
1 night at 3-star hotel
Riyadh in December
Estimated hotel price
$58
1 night at 3-star hotel

With the hot desert climate, the most popular time to visit is in winter, between November and March, when there is often a little rain, in contrast with the very hot, dry summer.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Average
Celcius (°C)
Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Riyadh

Plane

King Khalid Airport (RUH) is located about 21 miles to the north of Riyadh. Taxi fares vary by zone, and a trip to the central area of the city should cost about SR70 to 90.

Train

There are daily train connections to Dammam, passing through Al-Hofuf and Al-Hasa. Be aware that you will need to arrive a bit early to pass through security.

Car

Highway 40 runs east-west through Riyadh, linking the city with Dammam. The causeway from Bahrain to Al-Khobar connects the city with destinations to the north.

Bus

Riyadh's bus station is located about 10 miles to the south of the downtown area, with connections available to Dammam, Jeddah, or Mecca.

Airports near Riyadh

Airlines serving Riyadh

Lufthansa
Good (1,384 reviews)
United Airlines
Good (2,463 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (3,901 reviews)
KLM
Good (292 reviews)
Air France
Good (298 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,074 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (2,657 reviews)
British Airways
Good (938 reviews)
SWISS
Excellent (359 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (935 reviews)
Iberia
Good (668 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (642 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (663 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (203 reviews)
Air Europa
Good (97 reviews)
ITA Airways
Good (36 reviews)
Aegean Airlines
Excellent (115 reviews)
Ethiopian Air
Good (127 reviews)
Pegasus Airlines
Good (172 reviews)
Malaysia Airlines
Good (24 reviews)
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Where to stay in Riyadh

Stay in contemporary luxury at the Al Faisaliah Hotel, a 5-star property with a stylish Italian restaurant. The Nassma Hotel Apartments offers furnished units with kitchenettes and a living room area.

Popular neighbourhoods in Riyadh

Al-Murabba - this district is where you'll find the King Abdulaziz Historical Center, which includes the National Museum of Riyadh and Murabba Palace.

Al-Bathaa - this neighborhood is home to budget-priced shopping and dining options, and it's the hub of the city's minibus system if you're feeling adventurous.

Olaya and Sulaimaniyah - these two areas are the heart of the city's business district; here you'll find upscale hotels and restaurants.

Where to stay in popular areas of Riyadh

Most booked hotels in Riyadh

Narcissus Hotel And Residence
Excellent (8.6, Excellent reviews)
$371+
Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh
Excellent (8.6, Excellent reviews)
$701+
Aloft Riyadh
Excellent (8.1, Excellent reviews)
$192+
Courtyard by Marriott Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter
Excellent (8, Excellent reviews)
$184+
Awfad Hotel
Good (7.5, Good reviews)
$137+
Novotel Riyadh Al Anoud
Good (7.2, Good reviews)
$145+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Riyadh

Public Transportation

There is no public transportation in Riyadh as yet. Two subway lines are currently being constructed, with opening scheduled for 2019. There is a minibus system with cheap fares of SR3, but it is somewhat confusing, with no posted stops, and is not usually feasible for tourists.

Taxi

Official taxis are white. Fares start at SR5, with most trips within the city costing SR30 or less.

Car

With limited public transportation, a car rental can be a good way to get around the city, but be aware that only men are permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia. There's a Sixt outlet in town, and a compact rental starts at about SR110.

Car hire agencies in Riyadh

Avis

Avis
Find car hire in Riyadh

The Cost of Living in Riyadh

Shopping Streets

You'll find many of the city's large shopping malls on Olaya Road and Tahlia Street. The large Souq al-Thumairi is located next to the Masmak Fort.

Groceries and Other

Hyperpanda and Carrefour are found throughout the city. A quart of milk costs about SR4.20, and a dozen eggs is about SR6.65.

Cheap meal
$7.48
A pair of jeans
$82.16
Single public transport ticket
$0.83
Cappuccino
$4.47