Visiting Jeddah – A City Guide
As one of Saudi Arabia’s liveliest cities, Jeddah is renowned for multi-faceted shopping venues, Middle Eastern eateries, family-friendly entertainment and the 30-kilometre-long Jeddah Corniche on the Red Sea coast. It’s also an important commercial, government and port centre.
Jeddah: city layout and top attractions
Cosmopolitan modern Jeddah is evident at every turn, but the most cherished section of town is the historical neighbourhood of Al-Balad.
The old-town blocks still harbour reminders of the city’s past in the form of multi-storey coral houses and ancient gates that were once part of the city walls. It’s also where you’ll find traditional markets, Arabic fashion, historic mosques and old-world cuisine.
Corporate and government offices, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have a presence in Al-Balad, as do modern shopping centres. Madina Road runs through the area and is home to some of the city’s most important businesses.
The Jeddah Corniche is lined with popular beaches, amusement parks, restaurants and some of the best hotels in Jeddah. Fakieh Aquarium, at its northern end, houses many fascinating sea creatures, and offers daily dolphin and sea lion shows.
The concierge recommends…
Eating Out in Jeddah
Dining in Jeddah takes in everything from tiny food stalls in Al-Balad serving shawarma and falafels to Western-style chain restaurants and traditional Lebanese and Turkish eateries. Jeddah’s large Filipino community makes its mark on the dining scene too.
For authentic Turkish cuisine, try Turkouise on Al Rawdah Street, known for its Tarsus kebab. Lebanese eatery Reem Al Bawadi in North Jeddah offers outdoor dining and a tempting sweets counter downstairs.
Filipino dishes like kare-kare, a thick stew made with oxtail and peanut sauce, are available at places such as Barrio Fiesta at the Al-Mahmal Centre. At the Filipino Souk near the Saudi City compound you can graze the street stalls and discover other national favourites.
Western-style restaurants abound in Jeddah, including Texas Roadhouse and The Cheesecake Factory in the LeMall complex on Tahlia Street. The entire centre is devoted to food, and also hosts the city’s favourite Starbucks, which has WiFi.
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Shopping in Jeddah
There’s no shortage of shopping destinations in Jeddah, from high-fashion malls to labyrinthine traditional souks in the narrow streets of the old town.
The old town’s Souq Al Alawi is the most popular in Jeddah. Here you can pick up everything from aromatic frankincense and Arabic perfumes to vibrant scarves, leather sandals and coral jewellery. Clothing, dates and Arabic coffee beans make great souvenirs.
The liveliest shopping strip in the city is palm-lined Tahliya Street, home to malls, individual boutiques and luxury designer stores such as Giorgio Armani and Versace.
The Red Sea Mall, between King Abdulaziz International Airport and the coast, is where you’ll find familiar brands such as Timberland, Victoria’s Secret and Nike. There’s also bowling and go-karting to keep the little ones busy.
Speciality Souks in Jeddah
Culture & Nightlife in Jeddah
Nightlife in Jeddah doesn’t include pubs, nightclubs or alcohol. Nonetheless, gathering spots exist in restaurants like Vertigo Cafe and Grill in the Palestine Commercial Centre, known for its contemporary decor and lively music.
Cafes at some of the best hotels in Jeddah stay open late, including the poolside 360 Cafe at the Intercontinental Hotel on the Corniche.
Jeddah’s cultural scene revolves around its prestigious museums and art galleries. The Jeddah Municipality Museum in Al Balad traces the city’s history through everyday artefacts such as fishing equipment and hand-carved furniture.
The Al Tayebat City Museum at Al Tayebat International City fills nearly 300 rooms with recreations of former Saudi civilisations, including rock carvings, ancient paintings and pottery. It’s also a remarkable example of traditional Hijazi architecture.
Jeddah’s contemporary art scene is also thriving. The Athr Gallery on Tahlia Street shows montages and abstract works by prominent Saudi artists, as well as more traditional kaleidoscopic Arabian patterns.
Must-Visit Jeddah Galleries
Leisure in Jeddah
Jeddah is a family-friendly city, with a waterfront theme park and a planetarium.
Al Shallal Theme Park on the Corniche has thrill rides with evocative names such as Super Shot and Telecombat, and you can also enjoy arcade games, boat rides and ice skating.
At Fakieh Planetarium you can view constellations and galaxies, learn about astronaut training and discover what it’s like to live in space, thanks to a full-dome screen with digital technology and surround sound.
Scuba diving enthusiasts will relish the chance to explore the coral reefs of the Red Sea. Shore diving is possible from northern beaches such as Al Nakheel Beach and Blue Beach, while several private companies operate offshore expeditions.
Day trips from Jeddah