Visiting Riyadh – A City Guide
Though deeply traditional in many ways, Riyadh is also one of the wealthiest cities in the world, with extravagant modern architecture rising over the golden desert sands.
Riyadh: City Layout & Top Attractions
Riyadh has a contemporary highway system, with King Fahd Road running from the financial area in the north, through the central Olaya district to the city’s old quarters in the south.
King Fahd Road is lined with many of the Kingdom’s most recognizable landmarks, including the modern Kingdom Centre
, with its 300-ton sky bridge, and Al Faisaliyah Center
, featuring a huge globe made of 655 glass panels.
Stay at one of the centrally located Riyadh hotels and use your IHG® Rewards Club members benefit for exclusive “YOUR RATE” offers to stay near Al Olaya’s renowned restaurants and entertainment.
The downtown area is home to Al Batha and Al Dirah
, two of the oldest and most diverse neighborhoods. In Al Dirah you’ll find Masmak Fortress
, a 19th-century mud structure and museum, and Al-Thumairi Gate, one of nine original city gates.
King Khalid International Airport
(RUH) is about 22 miles north of the city center. The Izdihar district, halfway between the airport and city center, offers affordable hotels like Holiday Inn® Riyadh Izdihar.
Eating Out in Riyadh
on Al Takhassusi Road showcases Saudi culture, both on your plate and in its décor, which resembles an historic Arabic village building. This is the place to try hashi
, baby camel prepared with traditional Najd-region recipes.
Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Street, nicknamed Tahlia Street, has Western-style eateries serving pasta, pizza and sandwiches, while Al Batha district is known for its Filipino cafés.
in Kingdom Tower caters to the international crowd, diplomats and visiting dignitaries, with fine dining, a cigar bar and an oxygen bar. A family-friendly brunch on Fridays provides entertainment for children.
Shopping in Riyadh
For a traditional street market
experience, head to Souq al-Thumairi in Al Dirah district, where a dizzying collection of small shops sell everything from musical instruments to daggers and hand-woven textiles. Deira Souq is where to go for antique watches, traditional clothing and hand-carved furniture.
Visitors interested in upscale shopping can redeem their IHG® Rewards Club points for a stay at InterContinental® Riyadh hotel to be a short drive from designer shopping at Al Faisaliah Mall
. Mamlaka Mall in the Kingdom Centre has an entire floor devoted to women’s fashion.
Culture & Nightlife in Riyadh
The National Museum
highlights everything from Arabian art to ancient architecture, and has a life-size recreation of a Nabataean tomb. At King Saud University
, the Antiquities Museum
showcases artifacts from archaeological excavations, including pottery, coins, frescos and statues.
Nightlife in the traditional sense is nonexistent, as alcohol is forbidden throughout Saudi Arabia. Evening coffee and nonalcoholic drinks are served at the best hotels in Riyadh, including Addiwan Tea Lounge.
Leisure in Riyadh
The Diplomatic Quarter Gardens, a 5-minute drive from the city center, include over 30 parks with lush vegetation, water features, a children’s playground, picnic areas and sports courts. They’re open to the public every day for free.
Outside the city at Lake Kharrarah Park, you can spread out a picnic or hit the red sand dunes for sandboarding and dune-buggying.