Jan 31, 2023
Saudi Arabia’s capital city, Riyadh, is a sprawling metropolis home to more than seven million people. And with everything from historical sites to modern skyscrapers, museums to amusement parks, it has something for everyone – locals and visitors alike. Strapped for time on your next trip to Riyadh? Here’s how to best experience the city in 24 hours.
Riyadh offers a wide variety of shopping experiences ranging from the traditional to the modern. For starters, the city is home to many souqs (open-air markets) – bring your best bargaining skills to Deerah Souq (also known as Souq al-Thumairi), where the cash-only shops sell Arabic goods such as coffee pots, silver and textiles, and souvenirs such as old coins and banknotes. Shoppers looking to splurge should head to Kingdom Centre. The sixth tallest skyscraper in the country with a sweeping cutaway at the top, the mall is home to numerous designer boutiques including Fendi, Hublot and Gucci. There’s even a women-only shopping floor for those seeking a more discreet shopping experience. Need a break from browsing? Head up to the mall’s sky bridge: at 300m above ground level, it offers breathtaking views of the city.
Start your sightseeing at the National Museum, which offers a great overview of Arabian history, culture and art. Across two floors, there are eight galleries covering everything from the origins of life and ancient Arab civilisations to the birth of modern Saudi Arabia. Marvel at dinosaur fossils, rock carvings, manuscripts and more; there are also models of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Mada’in Salih and Jeddah Old Town.
For another glimpse into Riyadh’s past, Old Dir’aiyah (or Ad Diriyah) is the place to be. Constructed from mud and brick, this ancient city was the original home of the royal family and the birthplace of the Saudi state. While only some ruins of the old city are still standing, the site has been spruced up with new promenades lined with palm trees. Don’t miss seeing the old fort, the city gate and the clock tower.
Aviation enthusiasts should make a stop at the Saqr Al Jazeera Aviation Museum, where you’ll find a large collection of fighter jets, weaponry, uniforms, insignia and historical documents, all detailing the history of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Air Force.
Riyadh is also known for its film, music and art festivals. For example, the immensely popular MDLBEAST Soundstorm music festival draws big-name acts every year – 2022’s headliners include Bruno Mars, Post Malone and DJ Khaled, to name a few.
Travelling with kids in tow? At World Sights Park, the little ones will love seeing miniature versions of famous international landmarks, such as the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower. Alternatively, pack a picnic and head to Al Hair Park, located around 45km from Riyadh, where the headline attraction is a scenic lake complete with a mini cascade.
The mercury can hover around 40°C in the summer months, so cool off from the heat at Snow City Riyadh, a popular amusement park where kids and adults alike can try ice tubing, sledge mobiles, bumper cars and much more.
For an adrenaline rush, book a quad biking tour through the desert and motor up and down the dunes, or opt for a camel tour instead. Other fun-filled outdoor highlights in and around Riyadh include sandboarding and sand sledding – similar to snowboarding and snow sledding, albeit in a desert environment.
Fancy yourself as the next Lewis Hamilton? Get behind the wheel at Doos Karting, the country’s first multi-level go-karting arena. Here, you can hurtle around a 350m track at speeds of up to 80km/h, competing against other drivers to earn a coveted spot on the podium.
Make Fraser Suites Riyadh your luxurious home away from home. Ideally located in the thriving financial district of Olaya and minutes away from many of the best places to visit in Riyadh, it’s the perfect base for both business and leisure travellers.