Riyadh is the capital as well as being the largest city of Saudi Arabia and has a population of around 5 million people, which is vast and sprawling with Arabian culture throughout. The first thing you will notice are the traditional clothes, where men wear the thawb and abaya for women. This sets the tone for the city and there are many historical sites like old fortresses and palaces to see and there are a bunch of interesting museums to explore. Riyadh is home to many modern shopping malls as well as traditional markets and there are plenty of activities to partake in.
The best area to stay in Riyadh is the Olaya district, which is situated in the centre of the city. This neighbourhood is second to none for all types of hotels and is the main shopping area with modern and traditional types of shops lining the streets along with various restaurants that offer international cuisine. The Faisaliah Tower and the Kingdom Centre are exceptionally close and there are many other tourist attractions close by.
The Olaya district is well-known for being the heart and soul of the city and is rightfully praised as it is an area that is Arabian throughout. This neighbourhood is also the main financial area and therefore is home to many tall skyscrapers, which gives the skyline that “wow” factor and there are ample photo opportunities. One of the closest tourist attractions to the hotels in Olaya happens to be one of the tallest buildings in the country and that is the Kingdom Centre. This is a breath taking piece of architecture, which stands close to a thousand feet and is wonderfully lit up at night and wins many admirers. At the centre, you will find a shopping mall with huge special floors for each sex and shops sell various items and objects like clothing and jewellery. The centre also contains many expensive apartments as well as being home to one of the most luxurious hotels in the city, the Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh. However, as well as going shopping, the main reason to visit the Kingdom Centre is to experience the Skybridge and this is found at the top of the building, which gives you some of the best views in the city as it is largely flat. Another major tourist attraction is the National Museum, which has many exhibitions on various aspects that are to do with the country’s history and culture and there are many pieces of evidence to explore. Right at the other end of Olaya district is another familiar icon, which is the Faisaliah Tower. This place is another exceptionally tall skyscraper and is famous for its unique ballpoint pen shape and in particular the luxurious restaurant at the top of the tower along with a cigar lounge, which is surrounded in a golden ball. The building itself contains a shopping centre with many leading brands, where many things can be bought like electronics, clothing and food. Between the two points of interest, the strip is full of shopping malls and you could fill the rest of your days looking around each one and you will find anything and everything. If you are into your football, head to the huge stadium along King Fahad street, though this is off limits to women.
You will never run out of places to eat in the city and you will notice many of them find themselves inside shopping malls, however take a look around all the main streets in the area and you will find plenty of them with better views. The great thing about Olaya is the selection of cuisine with countless traditional, Pakistan and Indian restaurants but there is also European, American and other types. For a romantic night, try Mondo or Spazio, which have the highest quality foods and most outstanding views. Being an Islamic country, Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow the sale of alcohol, so there are no bars or nightclubs or even cinemas for that matter but there are many cafes that offer shisha’s. Expats in the country go to their own compound areas where they have parties, so if you like to drink it could be well worth it in asking a foreigner. The Olaya district is full of brilliant and top quality hotels with most of them modern, spacious with excellent facilities and provides the best vista.
Other areas to stay in Riyadh
This district is one of the oldest areas in the city and unsurprisingly hosts some of the best attractions. The Masmak Fortress is one of the major attractions in the neighbourhood, which is made out of clay and mud and was built in the 19th century and is notably famous for being wrestled between various armies. The Murabba Palace is another palace built out of mud and clay, which was built by the then King Abdul Aziz as he wanted something better in terms of defence and harder to conquer. Another interesting place to see is the Deira Square, which is infamously known as the place where they publicly behead convicts and this happens usually at the end of the week. Do watch out though, because if you happen to be there at the time of an execution, they sometimes force Westerners to the front to put more shame on the convict. For shopping, there are a few malls in the area but try and get to the Souq al-Thumairi, which is the most famous traditional market in the city and specialises in Arabic goods like pottery, carpets and jewellery. There are a good amount of traditional Arabic restaurants but hotels are scarce and are not of the same quality as the Olaya neighbourhood.