Visiting Manama – A City Guide
From ancient forts to luxury shopping malls, Manama has plenty to offer. The city attracts weekenders and families with its rich culture, markets and restaurants. Set in the heart of the Persian Gulf, Manama’s beaches and waterfront parks are the ideal escape from the bustling city.
Manama: city layout and top attractions
Manama’s a compact city, with most places a short drive away. The Central Business District and Diplomatic Area run along the city’s northern coastline, encompassing shops, luxury hotels and a dramatic skyline. Heading south leads to Juffair and Adliya, with their restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Across the bay is Muharraq, Bahrain’s old capital, where handsome traditional houses line narrow, dusty roads.
The first stop for many is Bahrain Fort (Qal’at al-Bahrain), a beautifully preserved, UNESCO-listed site that was the capital of the ancient Dilmun civilisation. The nearby site museum documents the fort’s past. History buffs can dig deeper at Bahrain National Museum. For retail therapy, Manama Souq, behind Bab al Bahrain in downtown Manama, is a maze of alleyways with perfumes and textiles on offer. The Bahrain International Circuit, home to the Bahrain Grand Prix, is southwest of Manama.
The concierge recommends…
Eating Out in Manama
Manama is replete with options to suit all budgets and appetites. A leisurely brunch at a waterfront café, where you can see and be seen, is a favourite weekend activity.
Upmarket Seef is a hub of fashionable cuisine. Restaurants such as Asha’s and Bushido provide fine dining experiences, while Café Lilou serves up fresh European-inspired food. Adliya and Juffair are packed with more casual options, including Middle Eastern cuisine and shisha waterpipes at the popular Verandah Café. Amwaj Lagoon, with affordable, family-friendly options, is a favourite with locals looking to escape the city.
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Shopping in Manama
Even unenthusiastic shoppers will relish Manama’s souqs, traditional markets full of vibrant colours and spicy fragrances. Friendly bargaining is expected. If you prefer air-conditioned comfort, Manama’s got lots of malls, too.
Rows of friendly traders offer clothes, household items, perfumes and jewellery at Manama Souq. Browsing among the pearl shops at Souq al-Qaisariya makes for an essential Manama shopping experience.
You’ll feel like a local as you venture into Manama Central Market, where fruit, veggies and fish are at their freshest. To watch local artisans at work, and pick up a souvenir or two, head to the nearby Craft Centre.
On the other end of the shopping experience, Moda Mall has luxury brands aplenty, while Seef Mall and City Centre Bahrain cater to more moderate budgets.
Best things to buy in Manama
Culture & Nightlife in Manama
Manama has a lively cultural scene, with festivals and exhibitions taking place throughout the year at Bahrain National Museum, Bahrain National Theatre and other venues across town.
The annual Spring of Culture festival, from February through April, features a smorgasbord of traditional and contemporary dance, music, art and theatre. In summer, the Bahrain Summer Festival celebrates home-grown talent and folk culture.
The Diplomatic Area is home to Bait al Quran (House of Quran), a vast complex dedicated to Islamic studies. Inside, you’ll find Quranic manuscripts dating to the earliest days of Islam, as well as rice and grains engraved with verses. Across the bay on Muharraq, Arad Fort regularly hosts cultural events in its open-air courtyard.
Boasting clusters of clubs, bars and pubs, Juffair is where Manama’s nightlife is. American Alley is a popular place to start. Adliya has a bohemian feel and live music venues.
Contemporary art galleries in Manama
Leisure in Manama
Manama is packed with parks and waterfront promenades. Early morning and late afternoon are popular times to go for a walk. As the mercury hits its midday peak, many seek refuge in shopping malls.
King Faisal Corniche offers relaxing sunset strolls, while Al Fateh Corniche has a small Dolphinarium offering a chance to swim with the dolphins if you book in advance. Further west, Budaiya Botanical Park is an oasis of lush trees and date palms.
Kids and adults love cooling down at Wahooo! Waterpark in City Centre Bahrain. Magic Planet, an indoor amusement park, is ideal for burning off excess energy.
Day trips from Manama