An Exciting Itinerary to Explore Riyadh

Updated On: November 09, 2021

The once closed off, unexplored country is now open to everyone to explore! With its 2030 vision, Saudi Arabia is now venturing into a journey of opening itself to the whole world. Since the beginning of this new vision fostered by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, the country’s tourism has peaked like never before.

Situated between two different continents, Saudi Arabia is over 2.1 million sq km. It is almost as large as Western Europe. With its huge size, the country offers a wide range of scenery. The newness of tourism in the country attracts curious travelers. Going on a trip to explore Riyadh would be a very good idea nowadays. The country cares a lot about tourism which ensures that you will have the best experience.

Explore Riyadh

An itinerary to explore Riyadh is a mixture of culture and modernity. The landmarks and important monuments in Riyadh present the country’s timeline from its foundation until the modern day. Many festivals and seasonal events take place in the city annually. Try to plan your visit at a proper time to attend at least one of them.

The country is huge. The distance between its cities is very big. So, in this article, we have grouped the attractions in each city together. We have selected the most important ones to include in a week and a half itinerary.

The Capital City of Riyadh

Riyadh is the capital city of Saudi Arabia. From historical monuments to luxurious skyscrapers, the city is full of things to see and activities to do.

Tour Historical Diriyah

Explore Riyadh, Diriyah
Diriyah, Saudi Arabia

Start your journey to explore Riyadh by visiting the birthplace of the first Saudi kingdom, Diriyah. Historical Diriyah was the capital city of the first Saudi Kingdom. Nowadays, it is a suburban area located in the vicinity of Riyadh.

The historical neighborhood is popular for its mud-brick walls and distinctive architectural design. Ruins of the first kingdom are still standing. The monuments show the damage caused to the city by the Ottoman Army.

The ruins were declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2010. Ever since, restoration plans have been carried out to preserve the historical site. The attraction is open to the public Saturday to Thursday, from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. On Friday, the visiting hours are from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

Relax at Al Bujairi Heritage Park

Also located in Diriya, Al Bujairi Heritage park is the perfect spot for a nice picnic. The park has an architectural style inspired by the surrounding area. Plan to go there in the evening to enjoy nicer weather and a relaxed atmosphere.

The park stretches over 60,000 square meter. Green landscapes cover the whole park. Rare flowers, different plants, and thousands of trees ornate the park. Al Bujairi Park is located on a low piece of land, surrounded by higher rocks. This creates scenic views of the park.

Al Bujairi Heritage Park is also home of Gazelles, Llamas, sheeps, and other animal species. The animals roam freely around the park. You can pet them and take some photos of and with them. Various lakes seep through the park, adding to the scenery and cooling the weather down.

The park is open all day, everyday and entry is free. However, try to avoid the weekends as the park is very busy then. Plan half a day for the visit and explore Riyadh’s natural side. Wear something comfortable and walking shoes to be able to get around the park easily.

Visit King Abdullah Park

A piece of green land in the middle of Riyadh! That is right. Riyadh, the city located amid the desert embraces an oasis-like park within its borders. Explore Riyadh’s fabulous oasis that is officially known as King Abdullah Park. King Abdullah Park is stretched over 2 km. The park is the go to location for many families and individuals looking for a relaxing day.

The park is famous for its dancing fountains. However, this is not all that the park offers. King Abdullah Park is overflowing with green lawns, vibrant gardens, and thick bushes. With its wide stone and brick paths, the park is the dream of all of the runners.

Various facilities are included in the park. Children’s playgrounds attract hundreds of families to the park. In the middle of the park, an interactive fountain is situated. The fountain is very interesting and always has people surrounding it. An artificial ice skating area is also located by the fountain.

The best time to visit the park is at night. This is the time when the scorching hot sun has already set and the weather is cooler. The fountains at the park definitely help in breaking the heat and providing a nice breeze. The park charges an entry fee of SAR 10 ($2.67) per adult and SAR 5 ($1.33).

Different sites and activities would crowd your list as you want to explore Riyadh. Make sure to squeeze in a picnic or even just a walk at King Abdullah Park.

Learn About History at The National Museum of Saudi Arabia

The National Museum of Saudi Arabia was established in 1999. It is a part of King Abdulaziz historical center. The Museum is a great place to learn about Arabian prehistory, history of the whole Arabian Peninsula, and the story of Saudi Arabia’s establishment and unification.

The National Museum of Saudi Arabia is housed within a modern edifice and surrounded with flower gardens. The museum exhibits everything; Neolithic rock art, replicas of old Saudi cities, antiques from the Islamic era, and more. Visitors can also go on interactive tours in which they will be transported to different ages and eras.

The museum has 8 different halls. Each hall is dedicated to a certain historical era. The various halls are arranged chronologically, starting from prehistory to modern day Saudi Arabia. These halls are Man and the Universe, Arabian Kingdoms, The Pre-Islamic Era, Prophet Mohammad’s Mission, Islam and the Arabian Peninsula, First and Second Saudi States, The Unification, and The Hajj and the Two Holy Mosques.

While visiting Saudi Arabia for tourism has not always been possible, a visit to the National Museum of Saudi Arabia would grant you the opportunity to know a lot about the country’s history and culture. The museum is usually crowded during the weekend. If you are not a fan of big crowds, try to schedule your visit on a weekday.

Whether you are visiting Saudi Arabia as a tourist or trying to explore the country as a resident, visiting the National Museum of Saudi Arabia is a must in your quest to explore Riyadh. Entry to the museum is for SAR 10 ($2.67) and kids enter for free.

Explore Riyadh’s History at Al Masmak Fortress

Explore Riyadh's history at Al Masmak Fortress
Al Masmak Fortress, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

You cannot fully explore Riyadh without learning about its significant history. Al Masmak Fortress is a great place to do so. Al Masmak Fortress holds an important place in Saudi Arabia’s history.

The fortress was captured by King Abdulaziz, the founder of modern day Saudi Arabia, in 1902. The capture of the fortress marked the fall of Riyadh into the king’s control, which was a remarkable historical event that changed history.

From Al Masmak, King Abdulaziz Al Saud conquered and united the different kingdoms and provinces that make up the country of Saudi Arabia as we know it today. Throughout history, the fortress has served many purposes. It was originally built as a garrison house. It was then turned into a warehouse for ammunition after the raid of King Abdulaziz. Following the unification of Saudi Arabia, the fortress was turned into a prison.

Nowadays, Al Masmak Fortress is a museum that tells the story of Saudi Arabia’s unification. With different artifacts and audiovisual presentations, the fortress offers a walk through Saudi Arabia’s history to its visitors. The fortress is made of clay and mudbrick. It features four watchtowers and thick walls.

Visiting Saudi Arabia would never be complete without touring Al Masmak Fortress. The fortress is open to visitors Saturday to Thursday. The visiting hours are from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm. The fortress is then open again from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm. There are no entry fees to the fortress.

Shop at Souq Al Zal

Looking to buy some souvenirs while visiting Saudi Arabia? Souq Al Zal is the perfect destination for you! Explore Riyadh’s traditional shops at the souq.

Souq Al Zal is just a stone’s throw from Al Masmak Fortress. If you are visiting Al Masmak Fortress, consider shopping at Souq Al Zal. It is the best shopping place for traditional goods.

Souq Al Zal literally means “the carpet market”. Al Zal is more precisely a handmade rug that covers only a part of the floor. So, as its name suggests, the main product sold at the souq. However, it is not the only one.

Shops sell almost all traditional goods. These include perfumes, oud, handmade leather sandals, thobes, and gowns. The quality and authenticity of the goods vary. So, make sure to check what you buy thoroughly.

Shops sell almost all traditional goods. These include perfumes, oud, handmade leather sandals, thobes, and gowns. The quality and authenticity of the goods vary. So, make sure to check what you buy thoroughly.

Beyond shopping, the souq offers other activities. Auctions are held every Friday and Saturday right in the wake of the afternoon prayer (Asr). Attending the auction is an experience in itself even if you are not going to buy anything.

Souq Al Zal is open daily from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm, and from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Allow yourself a minimum of two hours to explore the souq. Also, plan to have some tea or coffee with dates at one of the cafes in the area.

Check Out King Abdulaziz Racetrack

Saudi Arabia is the home of the world’s richest horse race. So, any itinerary for visiting Saudi Arabia won’t be complete without a horse race in it!

The country has an amazing horse racetrack located in its capital. The venue built in 2003 is a very popular weekend destination for locals and tourists alike. The King Abdulaziz Racetrack exemplifies the country’s rich equestrian heritage.

The racetrack hosts 10 daily horse races. The results of each race are displayed on the electronic leaderboard. The 5000-seat grandstand flanks the finish line. Trackside viewing areas offer the best vantage point of the finish line, as well as up-close encounters with the racing talent.

The racetrack is open to the public, however, reservations are required. Allow yourself at least half a day to explore Riyadh’s biggest horse race track. Start your day by watching one of the races taking place. Then, enjoy a nice dining experience in the venue’s upscale restaurant.

Explore Riyadh’s Traditional Market at Al Deira Souq

Another local market to check in Riyadh is Al Deerah Souq. The souq has a plethora of small shops arranged in rows. The shops are arranged by product. Each group of shops that sell similar products are bunched together. This arrangement allows you to compare prices.

The shops sell different products. Among the products you can get at Al Deerah Souq are carpets, traditional clothes, souvenirs, and even furniture. The prices are very affordable. Even with the good prices, most souq goers still bargain with sellers. So, if you are looking to hone your bargaining skills, Al Deerah Souq is the place to go.

Al Deerah Souq is also known among locals as Deerah gold souq. As the name suggests, the souq is most famous for its gold shops. While the gold mined in Saudi Arabia is regarded as some of the best in the world, Deerah gold souq is the best place to shop for Saudi gold.

Like the rest of the souq, go into the gold selling part of the souq ready to haggle. Experienced hagglers at the souq start at one shop, haggle for the best price then leave. They walk through the souq, haggling and trying to find the best price. Once they find the price they are satisfied with, they go back to the first shop and see if the seller would match that price.

If you decide to check Al Deerah Souq while visiting Saudi Arabia, here are some points to take into consideration. The souq is usually crowded, so be prepared for that. Try to dress comfortably to be able to walk around freely. While the souq opens daily from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm, avoid going at noon as the weather would be unbearably hot. Finally, do not worry about language barriers as most shop owners speak English so language shouldn’t be a barrier.

Attend Janadriyah National Festival

Explore Riyadh
Saudi men enjoying Al Janadriyah Festival, Riyadh

If you are in Saudi Arabia in the first half of March, explore Riyadh’s cultura event, Al Janadriyah National Festival! It is a two-week cultural festival held outside Riyadh city. Sponsored by the Saudi National Guard, Al Janadriyah National Festival has been taking place in the first half of March since 1985.

The festival features a wide variety of activities. Camel races, a popular tradition sport in Saudi Arabia, are held at the festival. Other activities and shows include Arda dances, arts, living history, falconry, traditional arts and crafts. The government also seizes the opportunity to showcase its institutions and services.

In the festival, every Saudi region is represented. Miniatures showcase the provinces’ cultures, architecture, traditions and culinary. You can walk through the different miniatures to get to know about the different cities of Saudi Arabia. From Jizan to Assir to Mecca, Medina and the North Borders, each Saudi administrative region is exhibited.

Apart from cultural exhibitions and sporting activities, the festival’s true enjoyment is street food. Locals of different Saudi regions bring their traditional dishes to the festival to sell them. Both savory and sweet are present at the food stalls.

We recommend you try Yaghmush, small meat fritters from the Hijazi region, and mutabaqs, thin pies stuffed with vegetables or meat. If you are looking for a lighter option, go for samboussa, very similar to Indian samoussa. There are also different sweet dishes. The best for most people is Masoba, a banana and honey pudding.

The festival is a great opportunity to see locals in contact with their culture. Like most places/events in Saudi Arabia, Al Janadriyah National Festival opens from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and then from 4:00 pm to 12:00 am.

Things to Consider While You Explore Riyadh

With all the civilization in the capital city, Riyadh is still located in the desert. This means the weather is too hot in summer and cold in winter. The best time to visit and explore Riyadh is from March to early May. However, if you cannot plan your visit at that time, avoid going out at noon.

Another point to take note of is dressing modestly. The culture in Saudi Arabia is conservative to a good extent. Both men and women are expected to dress modestly. That means no short outfits, sleeveless shirts or revealing clothes.

Riyadh is not pedestrian friendly. This is in great part due to its weather. There is also no comprehensive public transportation system. So to get around while you explore Riyadh, you will have to rent a car, take a taxi, or Uber.

So here you have it! These are the important sites you need to check to explore Riyadh. Grab your pen and start planning your trip to the newly touristic city!

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