48 hours in Riyadh – What to see

48 hours in Riyadh - What to see

Our trip in Saudi Arabia is started from here, from Riyadh and in this post “48 hours in Riyadh – What to see” I would like to give you some suggestions for discovering this city.

We went here between the end of August and the beginning of September, we knew it was very hot, but it was hotter than we thought. Luckly it is a dry hot! And luckly we like the hot season, do you remember our trip to Morocco?

If you, like us, travel in the summer I advise you to organize yourself well so you can stay in closed air-conditioned places during the hottest hours.

Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia and it is one of the richest cities in the world. It is located on a plateau in the centre of the peninsula. It is also the most populated city in the kingdom, it has more than seven million inhabitants and it is very big, you will realize this already from the plane flying over the city.

48 ore a Riyadh - Vista dall'alto

The word Riyadh means garden, the city was a stop station for the caravan that crossed the desert and found rest here.

Next to tall skyscrapers, super modern buildings of strange shapes, there are old houses built with mud and straw 

48 hours is not a long time to visit all the attractions of the capital of Saudi Arabia, but if you organize yourself  you will be able to see many attractions.

In the city the level of pollution is very high: due to the high temperatures and the low cost of oil, they do not save on the use of air conditioning and the use of cars. Very few people, perhaps none, travel on foot and therefore during rush hours the roads, avenues with at least three lanes, become impassable. 

Everywhere there are air conditioners that blow cold air, even in the gardens there are air conditioners! In museums they are always on even if there are no visitors.

Here’s what you absolutely must see during your stay

48 hours in Riyadh - Masmak Fort

Our first day began with a visit to Masmak Fort. It is located about 12 kilometers from the center of Riyadh. From our hotel Ashbonh Hotel Suites we moved to Masmak Fort by taxi. In Riyadh you often travel by taxi, in addition to “traditional” taxis you can use Uber and Careem, the latter is a little cheaper. I recommend downloading both apps and comparing them to see which one offers the best price.

Masmak Fortress is a citadel built in 1865 during the reign of Imam Abdullah bin Faisal, until 1932 it was the residence of the royal family, the center of power and economy. It is considered a symbolic place of Saudi culture since for a long time this fort repelled the enemy’s advances.

This palace is surrounded by solid high walls built as protection from enemies. It has two entrances and small openings in the walls that were used to fire rifles during battles.

The entrance door still has the marks of the 1902 battle to retake Riyadh: Prince Fahad bin Jiluwi threw his spear with the intention of aiming at Ajlan bin Rashid. He missed his aim and the tip of the spear stuck in the door, creating a deep crack that can still be seen today.

Today the palace has been transformed into a museum and inside its rooms and corridors there are photographs and information panels that allow you to better understand Arab history.

The fortress is open every day, the opening hours vary depending on the day: from Sunday to Thursday the opening hours are from 8:00 to 21:00, on Friday from 16:00 to 20:00 and on Saturday from 9:00: 00 to 20:00.

Access is free

I recommend you to visit the fortress early in the morning, you will find only few tourists because the tourist tour arrive here in the late morning. During our visit we were the only tourists.

If you visit the fortress during summer do not worry about the high temperatures: the air conditioning is everywhere even in the garden!

Riyadh - Masmak Fortress

48 hours in Riyadh - Deera Square

Near Maskam Fortness there is Deera Square, the Riyadh’s main square. It is also known as “chop chop” square, this is where public executions took place, you can still see the channels where the blood of the executed flowed.

Around the square there are cafes and a souq where is possible to buy souvenirs at good prices. The sellers are not pushy and do not try in every way to get you into their shops. 

If you like Arabian slippers, you are in the right place.

Incense is also very popular, you will find many shops selling incense to burn. By the way, do you know how incense is made?

Riyadh - Deera Square

48 hours in Riyadh - Kingdom Centre

In Riyadh there are many skyscrapers and extravagant buildings.

The tallest skyscraper in the city and in the whole of Saudi Arabia is the Kingdom Center considered the symbol of the capital of the kingdom.

It is a skyscarper of 41 floors, 302 meters high and inside there is a luxury mall, offices and the Four Seasons Hotel.

The Kingdom Centre, designed by Ellerbe Becket, was completed in 2002 and has since become a symbol of Saudi progress. For its design it won a prestigious international award.

At the top of the skyscraper there is a bridge that connects the two ends: the Sky Bridge. The bridge is 65 meters long and from here you can enjoy a spectacular 360° view over the entire city.

Its shape seems a corkscrew, it’s curious if you consider that we are in a state where drinking alcohol is prohibited!

Kingdom Centre

Sky Bridge

We love going up to the tallest building in the city and admiring the view (Malaysia, Dubai, London, ….) so we couldn’t miss this opportunity and went up to the Sky Bridge.

To get on the Sky Brigde, you must enter the shopping center and go up to the first floor. On the right side is the ticket office and the entrance to the sky bridge. Once you have purchased the ticket, you go up with the first lift to the seventieth floor in about 50 seconds, here you change lifts and in less than 40 seconds you reach the 99th floor. You will find yourself 300 meters above the ground, on the bridge that connects the two ends and allows you to see the whole city. Particularly evocative is the moment of sunset and the following moment during which the city lights come on: beautiful!

There is no time limit for staying, you can stay as long as you want. We went on Sunday and it wasn’t crowded: just some tourists and some locals. The only tourists we met in Riyadh we met here.

From the top the view is beautiful but the organization is not so much, there are no explanations and curiosities about the skyscraper and its construction, information that I instead had during the visit to the Petronas in Malaysia and the Burj Kalifa in Dubai. Even the elevator did not impress us, unfortunately no panoramic view!

The entrance ticket costs 69 SAR and access is possible every day from 12:00 to 22:30, on Fridays from 16:00 to 22:30. It is possible to pay for the ticket with cash, debit card and credit card.

Riyadh - Sky Bridge

48 hours in 48 ore - Diraiyah

Ancestral homeland of the Al Saud family of Wadi Hanifa, was the first capital of the Saudi Kingdom.

Diraiyah is located a few kilometers from Riyadh and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2010. It is one of the most evocative places in the city.

Diraiyah includes the redeveloped Al Bujairi area, a labyrinth of pedestrian streets with cafes and craft shops, and the At-Turaif area.

Riyadh

At-Turaif is an open-air museum, with beautiful traditional mud-brick buildings recently renovated. Get lost in its alleys, enter the buildings and get to the top where there is a beautiful place to drink and eat.

Very nice to visit this area during the sunset when the city lights come on and create a particular atmosphere.

There is a beautiful garden that you can visit freely, an immense palm grove where you can cool off.

Al Bujari is the most modern area with souvenir shops, bars and restaurants.

During summer the access is free, during the other months it is usually necessary to purchase a pass to access the site.

Diriyah - At-Turaif the royal residence of the First Saudi State and UNESCO World Heritage Site

48 hours in Riyadh - Murabba Palace

Murabba Palace was founded by order of the King Abdulaziz Al Saud, the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was built 2 km from the old Riyadh, in line with the development and expansion of the city at that time. The palace and its surroundings look like a mini city. The king moved there with his family in 1939, making it their official residence and headquarters for managing state affairs. It is built in the shape of a square surrounded by walls, the palace has 32 rooms divided over 2 floors.

Only some rooms are still furnished, many are unfortunately empty.

Entrance is free, opening hours are from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 17:00 to 20:00. On Fridays it is only open in the afternoon, from 5pm to 8pm.

Murabba Palace

48 hours in Riyadh - National Museum

Usually I do not like museums, especially archaeological ones where you can see shards found during excavations. Well, this museum is something completely different, I found it very interesting and I was happy to have visited it.

The building is modern.

Inside the National Museum there are eight galleries: “the Man and the Universe” gallery: there you will learn about the origin of the universe and the solar system. In the “Ancient Arab Kingdoms” gallery you will feel immersed in the civilizations that have existed since the 4th millennium BC. to the 2nd century AD You can also see the religious and social patterns of life before Islam in the Pre-Islamic Era Gallery. In the Prophet’s Mission Gallery, you can learn about the Prophet’s life, starting from the revelation to his hijrah in Medina. You can watch a documentary on the history of Saudi Arabia’s unification in the Kingdom’s Unification Gallery. The Hajj and Two Holy Mosques Gallery exhibits the urban development of Masjid Al-Haram and Masjid Al Nabawi.

The museum is open from 9am to 8pm Saturday to Wednesday and from 2pm to 8pm on Thursday and Friday. It is closed on Sundays and like the main attractions it is completely free.

At the entrance there is a coatroom where you must leave backpacks and bags.

Riyadh - National Museum

Where to Eat

In Riyadh there are many restaurants, fast food, street food, some are very expensive and some are cheaper.

If you want to eat in a very tipical Arab place you absolutely must go have to Najid Village. It is a restaurants with typical dishes in a typical location. You can eat in the open space on i “rooms” with privacy sitting on the floor on carpets and cushions, We tasted various dishes, all very good especially bread called tamees and camel meat.

For us Westerners it is very strange to see that there are parts closed by booths and/or curtains, they are reserved for Arab families. Here women can remove their veils and dine with more freedom.

Riyadh - Najid

If you are travelling with teens, take a break at Shake Shack, it is a very popular fast food among young people

Supermarkets

Everywhere you will find supermarkets, both small and large, with local products or large international brands. Local products are very cheap while big brands are more expensive. Supermarkets inside malls are generally much more expensive than supermarkets outside.

Many places are open 24 hours a day.

Pay attention to the prayer times, in those moments everything stops, the shops and the restaurants close and reopen at the end.

Where to Stay

Riyadh is a very big city so whatever place you choose you will still be far from some attractions. We opted for a fairly central area, near the Kingdom center.

We stayed at the Ashbonh Hotel Suites, a clean and quiet hotel on the main road a few meters from the sky bridge. The rooms are apartments with bedroom, a large living room with two sofas and a large screen, and a small kitchenette. The air conditioning is both in the living room and in the bedroom. The hotel is close to the metro stop under construction so at the end of the works it will be even more convenient.

Remember: if you want to have your room cleaned you have to ask at the reception otherwise they won’t come  to clean.

 

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