Riyadh is a sprawling city of 6.5 million, the capital of Saudi Arabia, and a major financial and administrative center of the nation. You'll find it a busy and very modern place, with much to offer the curious traveler.
The city offers a wide selection of restaurants from cheap to fine dining, including classic Saudi and Middle Eastern cuisine and many Indian and Pakistani options.
This skyscraper is worth a day's visit on its own, and includes a shopping mall and the stunning Skybridge on the 99th floor that connects the two towers of the building.
There are several golf courses within a half hour's drive of the city, including the Dirab Golf & Country Club.
Explore the desert dunes that surround the city in an ATV rental for a bout of dune bashing.
The city plays host to several sleek modern shopping malls, full of clothes, electronics, books, CDs, and much more.
This one-time fort is constructed of mud and clay bricks, incorporating four corner turrets that once acted as watchtowers. The walls are exceptionally thick, and were once prepared to defend the city in battle. Today it is a museum, located in the old quarter at the heart of Riyadh. The museum's collections include antique weapons, agricultural tools, and costumes from throughout the history of Saudi Arabia. There are shops and restaurants in the immediate area, including the Deira souk, or market.
Once the home of the Saudi royal family, the town of Ad'Diriyah is located about 16 miles northwest of Riyadh. The historic area of the town includes two main sections and many quarters or neighborhoods. There are ruins of the palace and old city to explore, along with a variety of other activities such as shopping at the Bujairy marketplace, walking by the waterfalls, or stopping at a restaurant or cafe. Ad'Diriyah is accessible by foot.
One of the most important museums in the country, the National Museum of Saudi Arabia documents the history, archeology, and culture of the Kingdom in a number of collections. Objects on display include documents, antique tools, weapons, sculptures and other artwork, along with mineral and rock samples, and much more. The museum is housed in a modern building with interactive displays, and a gift store for souvenirs. There is a fee for entry.
The Kingdom Center is one of the tallest skyscrapers in the country, rising 990 feet in height. The design incorporates a hole that is created by an inverted arch, with a 184 foot walkway or Sky Bridge across the top. The Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh and luxury apartments are incorporated into the building, along with a large shopping mall. The Sky Bridge offers spectacular views from above the city, and is accessible to the public. Tickets are available for purchase on the Gallery level.
The Al Faisaliyah Center is the fourth-tallest skyscraper in Saudi Arabia, and was the Kingdom's first skyscraper. The 875-foot-high structure includes corporate office space, upscale apartments, and a three-story luxury shopping mall. The building design incorporates separate sections that taper as they rise up, intended to minimize sun exposure, with observation decks at some of the floors on the way up. There is a restaurant at the top, located inside a glass ball that sits 656 feet above the city, making for excellent views while dining.
With the hot desert climate, the most popular time to visit is in winter, between November and March, when there is often a little rain, in contrast with the very hot, dry summer.
King Khalid Airport (RUH) is located about 21 miles to the north of Riyadh. Taxi fares vary by zone, and a trip to the central area of the city should cost about SR70 to 90.
There are daily train connections to Dammam, passing through Al-Hofuf and Al-Hasa. Be aware that you will need to arrive a bit early to pass through security.
Highway 40 runs east-west through Riyadh, linking the city with Dammam. The causeway from Bahrain to Al-Khobar connects the city with destinations to the north.
Riyadh's bus station is located about 10 miles to the south of the downtown area, with connections available to Dammam, Jeddah, or Mecca.
Stay in contemporary luxury at the Al Faisaliah Hotel, a 5-star property with a stylish Italian restaurant. The Nassma Hotel Apartments offers furnished units with kitchenettes and a living room area.
Al-Murabba - this district is where you'll find the King Abdulaziz Historical Center, which includes the National Museum of Riyadh and Murabba Palace.
Al-Bathaa - this neighborhood is home to budget-priced shopping and dining options, and it's the hub of the city's minibus system if you're feeling adventurous.
Olaya and Sulaimaniyah - these two areas are the heart of the city's business district; here you'll find upscale hotels and restaurants.
There is no public transportation in Riyadh as yet. Two subway lines are currently being constructed, with opening scheduled for 2019. There is a minibus system with cheap fares of SR3, but it is somewhat confusing, with no posted stops, and is not usually feasible for tourists.
Official taxis are white. Fares start at SR5, with most trips within the city costing SR30 or less.
With limited public transportation, a car rental can be a good way to get around the city, but be aware that only men are permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia. There's a Sixt outlet in town, and a compact rental starts at about SR110.
You'll find many of the city's large shopping malls on Olaya Road and Tahlia Street. The large Souq al-Thumairi is located next to the Masmak Fort.
Hyperpanda and Carrefour are found throughout the city. A quart of milk costs about SR4.20, and a dozen eggs is about SR6.65.
Eat local at the Najd Village, which is designed just like a typical desert village and offers classic Middle Eastern dishes like kabsa. Mains start at SR15, with set menus from SR100. Located in the Al Faisaliah Tower, the Globe offers international cuisine and great views of the city starting at SR100.