How to make the most of your time in Saudi Arabia's bustling and booming capital
Where to stay: Stay at the Fairmont Riyadh if you’re visiting the city for business and want to be closer to the centre and the King Khalid Airport (a 15 minute drive from the property). The hotel opened in January this year and is part of the Business Gate community which features over 70 multinational and regional companies. If you’re travelling for leisure, opt for the Radisson Collection “African-style” resort overlooking Saudi Arabia’s Nofa Wildlife Park near Riyadh. Opened in late 2018, the resort boasts 57 bungalows and villas overlooking the park, which is located an hour and a half’s drive away from the same airport.
Where to enjoy the view: You’ll find the best view of the city from the 99th floor of Kingdom Tower, Riyadh’s third tallest skyscraper and home to the famous 56-meter sky bridge. Take one of its two lifts to the top to enjoy the views during the day or at night. The tower is also home to a shopping mall boasting restaurants and a cinema. If you’re looking for a luxury hotel stay, you can also find The Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at the Kingdom Center.
Where to dine: Go to the Globe Lounge in Al Faisaliah Tower to enjoy a cosy and dimly lit meal coupled with spectacular views of the city. The globe is an enormous glass ball made of 655 glass panels suspended below the top of the tower. Some of the best dishes on the menu include the Wagyu steak and Canadian lobster. The tower has four other restaurants to choose from, though we doubt you will be disappointed with the lounge’s experience, particularly if you go at sunset.
Where to shop: Where other than Deerah Souk can you experience the Saudi bazaar? The phrase ‘haggle till you drop’ is used to describe this bustling market where tourists can find everything from hand-woven carpets to 24k Arabic gold and spices. Situated behind Masmak Fort, the souk is also a great spot to buy souvenirs like key chains and traditional Saudi goodies; just make sure you bargain for a low price.
Where to? The Edge of the World. Located nearly 90 km northwest of Riyadh, the breathtaking rock formation of Jebel Fihrayn lives up to its nickname ‘The Edge of the World’. While it is a common trekking spot for tourists, it is worth visiting just for the view. The formation which is part of the Tuwaiq Escarpment is a massive natural wall which rises 1,000 feet from an ancient ocean bed towards the sky. Stand on the edge of the cliff to feel as though you are on the edge of the world. Take the hour and a half drive down from Riyadh via a 4×4 vehicle but make sure you get clearance.
Where to be a tourist: Visiting Riyadh’s national museum is a must when in the city. Located in the King Abdul-Aziz Historical Centre, it stretches across two floors and 28,000 sq m, and is divided into eight halls boasting a diverse collection of antiques, manuscripts and artefacts representing different eras. Tourists can enjoy audio and visual presentations in English or Arabic. If you have the time, visit the Naila Art Gallery, which was set up to support the local creative scene and establish a link between national and international art communities. It offers a full calendar of events including workshops and art talks.