Riyadh

Located in the Riyadh Province, and known as the cultural capital of Saudi Arabia, you'll find many spectacular places to visit in Riyadh.

Places to Visit in Riyadh

Located in the Riyadh Province, and known as the cultural capital of Saudi Arabia, you'll find many spectacular places to visit in Riyadh.

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Cultural Capital of Saudi Arabia

The word Riyadh is derived from the Arabic word ​​rawḍah which means ‘gardens’ or ‘meadows’. This is in reference to the immense fertility and lush green gardens of the area. Riyadh city is not only the administrative and political capital of the country but is also referred to as the cultural capital of Saudi Arabia due to the various cultural centres in the city like the King Abdulaziz Historical Center (National Museum).

 

Riyad saw a rapid transformation from being a small desert village to a modern city with tall skyscrapers. The 99 story tall Kingdom Center is an iconic landmark of the city and ranks as the fifth tallest skyscraper in the country. The city of Riyadh is situated at the centre of the Arabian peninsula, a historically important trade route that offers a great fusion of different cultures and traditions.

 

History

The first mention of Riyadh is recorded by an Arab chronicler and dates back to 1590. The city was established on the ruins of the ancient city of Hajr in the Yamamah region. This place used to be the epicentre of the trade caravans. Originally a fortified village, Its rapid growth from the 17th century onwards has been truly astounding. It continued to serve as the capital for the ruling dynasties thought history and with the proclamation of the unified Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, it was made the capital of Saudi Arabia.

At Turaif is the historical district in Riyadh which was the home royal family of Saudi Arabia until 1818. It is only a 30 minute drive from King Khalid International Airport  and has recently been restored as part of the billion dollar Diriyah Gate Project. 

At Turaif was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010 and is now known as the At Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors to At Turaif can also visit the nearby Al Buraiji Heritage Park and Buraiji Terrace which offers world class restaurants and cafes.  The Bujairi Terrace restaurants overlook the historical and beautifully restored At Turaif district.

 

Geography

Riyadh is situated at approximately 600 meters above sea level. The landscape mostly consists of plateaus of the Najd (highland) region. Even though the region contains mountains and escarpments like Al-Khuff, Jilh Al-ʿIshār, and Ṭuwayq, the area consisting of Riyadh city is almost flat by nature.

 

City Layout

Riyadh has undergone a massive transformation due to the influx of new residents, migrant workers, and expats. The skyline is highly recognisable with towering buildings like the Al-Faisaliah Tower and the Kingdom Center dominating the skyline. Being the capital city, Riyadh also contains important government buildings as well as a separate Diplomatic Quarter that houses foreign embassies and international organizations.

 

The city is designed on a well-organized grid system that consists of city blocks of 2 km by 2 km. This system allows easy access and navigation. There are over 4,000 mosques in the city along with numerous shopping centres, with a large portion of the population living in proximity to them. The new King Abdullah Financial District is also an impressive infrastructure project funded by the Public Investment Fund as is the new Riyadh Metro which is planned to be the centrepiece of the city's new public transport system.

 

Cultural Life

The core of the city along with its souks form the lifeline of the city. These marketplaces witness a huge footfall and are considered Riyadh tourist destinations. In line with the local traditions, most of the recreational activities and events are for families. Privacy is paramount as per the norms of the land and therefore segregation is practised. Despite this, you will also find events and activities for a mixed audience. Expats can also enjoy being part of the numerous cultural events that take place around the city and can discover Riyadh’s best places.

 

Riyadh is not only the cultural capital of Saudi Arabia but in the year 2000, UNESCO chose Riyadh as the Arab world’s heritage capital. The city comprises several centres that show evidence of culture and they include; King ‘Abd al ‘Aziz center, National Museum, and Al-Jinadiriyyah. The King ‘Abd al ‘Aziz Historical Center (National Museum) offers a great depth of knowledge and is a top destination for tourists visiting the city.

 

Popular Attractions

Both the Sky Bridge of the Kingdom Center and the Faisaliah Tower offer great views of the city. To access the sky bridge, you have to take two lifts to reach the 99th level of the Kingdom Center. From here the city skyline can be enjoyed during the daytime as well as during the night and is perfect for Riyadh sightseeing.

 

Apart from the National Museum, you will also find other great museums like the Al Masmak Palace Museum and the Diriyah Museum. Visitors interested in learning the history and getting a first-hand look at the desert village life must visit the Historical At-Turaif District as well as the Ushaiqer Heritage Village and the Murabba Historical Palace.

 

The Riyadh National Zoo is another popular tourist attraction. Located in the heart of Malaz, the Riyadh zoo is home to over 1,500 animals in over 40 species including endangered species. A fun place for kids providing exclusive entertainment points, the zoo also features restaurants, cafes, toilets, and even prayer halls.

 

Lastly, Riyadh also offers some exceptional natural wonders like the Heet Cave, Al Bujairi Heritage Park, and Jebel Fihrayn, where you can witness some breathtaking, uninterrupted views of the horizon from the ‘Edge of the World’.