19 Best Things to Do in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
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See also: Where to Stay in Riyadh

An amalgamation of the past and the present, Riyadh features a mix of majestic castles and tall skyscrapers.

If you dream of visiting ancient fortresses and palaces, the Saudi Arabian capital just might be the place for you to check out.

Riyadh's downtown area is the city's tourist hub and where you'll find a lot of exciting historical spots.

The city boasts modern attractions as well, including fascinating museums and a 99-story skyscraper that offers the best views of Riyadh.

Ready to explore the best of what this capital city has to offer?

These are the best things to do in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia:

Visit the Famous Al Masmak Fortress

Exterior of Al Masmak Fort
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Al Masmak Fortress is one of Riyadh's most famous tourist attractions and will attract all history buffs.

Situated in downtown Riyadh, the fortress is entirely made up of brick, mud, and clay.

It played a significant role in the city's history.

The place was built in 1865 and was also where Riyadh was recaptured in 1902.

A display in Al Masmak Fortress
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The word "masmak" is Arabic for "strong," and people used to believe that kingdom of Riyadh would end if this strong fort were to collapse.

Today, Al Asmak Fortress is a vast museum dedicated to the old kingdom.

Its architecture will make you want to explore what the museum has to offer.

It contains all the facts about the history of Riyadh's once immensely cultural kingdom.

Historic weapons in Al Masmak Fortress
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Shop for Gold and Local Crafts at Deerah Souq

A vendor at Al-Thumairi Souq
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Deerah Souq is locally known as Al-Thumairi Souq.

It's situated on the famous Thumairi Street, close to Al Masmak Fortress.

Al-Thumairi Souq can be called a shopper’s paradise in the heart of Riyadh.

Filled with gold and pricey artifacts, it's quite a luxurious place to shop.

The souq is home to a considerable number of shops that sell gold, platinum, silver, and bronze jewelry, as well as clothes, handicrafts, and different gifts.

You can find a lot of shops that sell fascinating antique pieces, making a visit to this market feel like a trip to old Riyadh.

When shopping in the souk, you must keep in mind that you have to bargain as much as you can.

Don't be shy, and do your best to score a good deal!

Tour the Majestic Murabba Palace

Exterior of Murabba Palace
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The Murabba Palace is one place that you must not miss out on in Riyadh if you want to know about the city's ancient royal history.

Now a museum, the palace served as the home of King Abdul Aziz, the founder of Modern Saudi Arabia.

This historic building contains structures and architecture dating back over a thousand years.

Grand doors of Murabba Palace
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The palace's main attraction would have to be the King Abdul Aziz Historical Center, which showcases actual items that belonged to the late king.

It also features a Rolls-Royce that was Winston Churchill gifted to the king in 1946.

The Murabba Palace is located in the same complex as that of Deerah Souq and Al Masmak Fortress, so you can cover all these attractions in one day.

Details of Murabba Palace
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Enjoy the City Views from the Kingdom Centre Tower

Night view of Kingdom tower in Riyadh
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Want to see how much the old city shines from above?

You can get the most beautiful view of Riyadh from the Kingdom Centre Tower, one of the tallest skyscrapers in the city.

Daytime view of Kingdom Centre Tower
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Located on Kingdom Centre's 99th floor, the Sky Bridge overlooks some of the most breathtaking scenes of Riyadh.

For the best experience, visit this place at night when you can see the city lights.

Embark on a Road Trip around Riyadh

Roads in Riyadh
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With petrol found in abundance in the Middle East, Riyadh offers some of the lowest petrol prices.

So, why not take advantage of this?

Road trip cars exploring edge world in Riyadh
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While in Riyadh, one of the best ways to enjoy the entire city is by going on a road trip.

This will also help you discover hidden gems.

The sunsets and sunrises are some of the best scenes in Riyadh, so do try to catch a sunset in the desert.

Desert road at Riyadh
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Check Out the National Museum of Saudi Arabia

Exterior of National Museum in Riyadh
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The National Museum of Saudi Arabia is one of the city's newest attractions.

It's filled with displays that showcase Saudia Arabia's culture and history.

Handwritten Quran in National Museum of Saudi Arabia
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History geeks can spend an entire day here browsing through the different artifacts and documents.

You can spot several old items that were once associated with the kings and queens of the Arabs.

The museum itself is quite an attractive work of architecture.

The grounds of National Museum of Saudi Arabia
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Try the Best of Riyadh's Local Cuisine

Yemeni food in Riyadh
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Are you a foodie trying to find your place in Riyadh?

You have absolutely nothing to worry about because Riyadh is an excellent destination for food lovers.

The city boasts a mouth-watering culinary scene.

Kabsa dish in Riyadh
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Apart from local Saudi Arabian cuisine, Riyadh's restaurants feature some of the best Middle Eastern, Lebanese, Indian, and Pakistani dishes, among other Asian flavors.

Riyadh's must-try dishes include the following: kabsa, Saudia Arabia's national dish made with meat, vegetables, and rice; shawarma; and broasted chicken served with garlic bread and hummus.

Experience the World-Famous Al Safi Dairy Farm

Riyadh is home to the largest integrated dairy farm in the world, verified by the Guinness Book of World Records.

The dairy farm is home to over 50,000 cows.

There are a lot of tour operators that can take you around the Al Safi Dairy Farm.

One of the best things about the farm is that it takes hygiene and sanitation very seriously.

Upon entering the farm, any car or tour bus undergoes a complete sanitization.

They also give you a chance to feed the baby cows.

Watch the City from the Al Faisaliah Tower

Exterior of Al Faisaliah Tower
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Part of modern Riyadh, Al Faisaliah Tower is one of the most luxurious towers in the city.

Its pointy structure captures a lot of tourists' attention.

There is a large golden ball at the top of this tower.

Top part of Al Faisaliah Tower
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It's dedicated to a similar Arab design that once represented the Arab kingdom.

Similar to the Kingdom Centre Tower, it has 44 floors and several lookout points.

You can get a good glimpse of the city from above.

There also happens to be a mall at the base of this tower.

Go Hiking at the Wadi Hanifah

Hiking trail at Wadi Hanifah
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The Wadi Hanifah is part of a vast desert that features many hiking trails.

This valley spans 120 kilometers and runs from northwest to southeast.

There are several nearby streams where you can dip in your toes and enjoy the nature scenes.

A lake at Wadi Hanifah
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Many date trees and desert plans surround this desert oasis as well.

If you want to have a picnic or a barbecue, there are some designated spots to enjoy these activities.

The Wadi Hanifah wetlands
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Explore Al Bujairi Heritage Park

Daytime view of Al Bujairi Heritage Park
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Modern Riyadh has a lot of things to check out, and Al Bujairi Heritage Park is one of them.

This picturesque park has a tranquil ambiance,s inviting visitors to relax, walk around, and enjoy the views.

Date trees on the grounds of Al Bujairi Heritage Park
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Located in the Wadi Hanifah, Al Bujairi Heritage Park is also a great place to shop for souvenirs and sample the local cuisine.

It's filled with restaurants, cafes, food stalls, and a market.

Those who love caffeine should take this opportunity to try Saudi Arabia's traditional coffee.

Night view of Al Bujairi Heritage Park
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See Exotic Animals at Riyadh Zoo

A bear at Riyadh Zoo
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Known to locals as Malaz Zoo, Riyadh Zoo was established in the district of Al-Malaz in 1957.

King Saud bin Abdulaziz erected it to house the animals he received as gifts from different nations.

Elephants at Riyadh Zoo
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This 55-acre zoo is home to nearly 1500 animals representing 196 other species.

Like the Arabian desert, leopard oryx are likewise threatened by extinction in this region.

For international visitors who wish to create fantastic vacation memories, a trip to Riyadh may be highly delightful.

Flamingos at Riyadh Zoo
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Be Amazed by the Exhibits at the Museum of Illusions

Be prepared to have your senses fooled by fantastic illusions that will leave you speechless through an unforgettable encounter.

The Museum of Illusions provides a platform for social and enjoyable trips into the realm of illusions that has charmed generations of visitors.

New adventures and enjoyment with friends and family may be had in this unique location in the Arab world.

Children love it, but it's also a great spot if you're still a kid at heart.

Take a closer look at each optical illusion and installation in our hologram gallery.

Your mouth will drop in awe at the rich history of these magnificent works of art.

You'll learn about perception, vision, the human brain, and science via amusing and fantastic stunts, making it simpler to grasp why your eyes see things that your brain can't.

Don't miss out on the fun and informative games and puzzles in the playroom.

Though entertaining, these brain teasers may also be quite time-consuming.

Have Fun at the Museum of Happiness

A trip to this groundbreaking attraction will raise your dopamine levels.

This museum has a lot to offer children between the ages of 7 and 12.

It's a pleasant location, as the name implies.

This one-stop shop is located in the heart of Riyadh, on Airport Road.

Ice cream, cotton candy, and lemonade are included in the price of admission.

You may also hire a professional photographer, and you can purchase an image of your choice after the trip.

You and your kids will love the multi-sensory installations and exhibits.

The city's major art venue, Naila Art Gallery is a great place to see various shows by up-and-coming and established local artists.

The Private works of art in the gallery's collection are reason enough to go.

Art Riyadh, a yearly celebration of the arts, has given the gallery a new platform for discovering contemporary artists, promoting established artists, and organizing art workshops.

Aside from that, it provides art consults to those in attendance.

Artistic consciousness is nurtured through various educational seminars and lectures that focus on the study of culture, criticizing, and analysis.

In addition, visual instruction on how to approach a work of art may enforce aesthetic preference.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Take a Day Trip to the Historic Town of Diriyah

The historic town of Diriyah
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Are you interested in taking a side trip outside Riyadh?

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Diriyah is a historic town located 20 minutes from the city center.

The town isn't just your average tourist spot, as it was extremely important to the city of Riyadh.

A craftsman in Diriyah
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Diriyah served as the original residence of the House of Saud, Saudi Arabia's royal family.

It was also the capital of Saudi Arabia once upon a time.

The city was destroyed when a war prevailed between the Saudi armies and the Ottomans.

Vintage items in Diriyah
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Go on an ATV Adventure at Red Sand Dunes

People climbing Tuwaiq Escarpment
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Are you looking for an adventure in the desert?

When in Saudi Arabia, grasp the opportunity to bike in the dunes.

Red Sand Dunes is the perfect place to enjoy some action.

Rent an ATV and set out on an adventure amid the desert.

People riding ATVs at Red Sand Dunes
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The Tuwaiq Escarpment provides some excellent views in the background.

Just make sure you go when the heat is tolerable, as the place gets pretty warm.

If you're traveling with a group and aren't interested in riding the dunes, there are also a lot of picnic spots that you can use.

Scenic view of Red Sand Dunes
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Trek the Magnificent Rock Formations at Acacia Valley

Daytime view of Acacia Valley
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Acacia Valley is a part of the Tuwaiq Escarpment and is one of the most scenic places you must check out near Riyadh.

It's an hour and a half away from the city, but the magnificent rock formations are worth the 90-kilometer journey.

Adventure lovers must try to trek this beautiful valley.

The place will make you feel like you are standing right on the edge of the glove.

When you look down, you'll be rewarded with some of the best views you'll see in your lifetime.

A legend says Acacia Valley was not a part of the mainland.

It was immersed deep inside the ocean and resurfaced several thousand years back.

Final Thoughts

Riyadh has a more remarkable history than most people think, and its local culture has been beautifully preserved.

Prepare to have your views changed by this lively city when you see its majestic castles, vast fortresses, bustling bazaars, and towering skyscrapers.

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