Riyadh is not necessarily the first city that comes to mind when you want to visit Saudi Arabia. It is the capital and the main financial center of the country, located on a desert plateau in the center of the country.
Little dedicated to tourism until now, the city is transforming itself (like the country). Many development projects are present throughout the city by 2030.
Indeed, many projects have been set in motion in the city of Riyadh by King Salman Bin Abdulaziz :
- Green Riyadh: the objective is to green Riyadh with more than 7.5 million trees and the creation of many green spaces
- King Salman Park: a new 16 km2 park
- Diriyah Gate: located in the heart of At-Turaif (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the aim is to offer a cultural place focused on the heritage of the Arab world
- Riyadh Art: an initiative to accelerate the development of culture and the art world in general in the capital
- Riyadh Sports Boulevard: the goal is to provide residents with more than 100 kilometers of bicycle and pedestrian paths throughout the city
You might as well say that at the moment, the construction sites are well present throughout the city.
In this article, you will find some of my recommended visits at the moment if you are in Riyadh.
Riyadh - Downtown
You can also visit Masmak Palace and Deera Square (also known as Al-Safaa… or “Chop Chop Square”). It was here that executions by beheading took place.
The death penalty is still in force in Saudi Arabia, but executions are now carried out in other places.
Riyadh - Skybridge
The Sky Bridge is located at the top of the Kingdom Centre tower.
This 65-meter long footbridge joins the two sides of the tower at a height of more than 300 meters.
From up there, you’ll get an excellent 360-degree view of the city of Riyadh and the developments taking place.
The cost is 69 SAR for adults (about 25 CAD) and 23 SAR for children under 10 (free for children under 2).
Riyadh - Season
Riyadh Season is an event that lasts several months during the winter (usually from November – March depending on the year). Numerous activities are planned throughout the city, mainly in the evening (from 3 to 4 pm) such as
- Winter Wonderland : an amusement park for children and adults
- MDL Beast Soundstorm: a world-class music festival
- BLVD World (see below)
Riyadh - BLVD World
BLVD World (read Boulevard World) is part of the Riyadh Season festivities. It is a gigantic pedestrian zone especially designed for families.
In all, there are about ten zones presenting the culture and food of different countries including :
- United States
As well as areas for children (or adults) such as:
- Super Heroes
- Combat Village
Count on at least 4 hours to make the tour. The rate is 100 SAR (weekdays) and 150 SAR (weekends). Hours of operation are from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Here are a few photos showing the different areas:
BLVD World - India
The India Zone at BLVD World Riyadh:
BLVD World - Mexico and Spain
Mexico and Spain area at BLVD World Riyadh:
BLVD World - Morocco
Morocco area at BLVD World Riyadh:
BLVD World - China
The China Zone at BLVD World Riyadh:
BLVD World - Japan
The Japan Zone at BLVD World Riyadh:
BLVD World - Greece
The area of Greece in BLVD World Riyadh :
BLVD World - United States and Superheroes
The United States and Superhero Zone at BLVD World Riyadh:
BLVD World - France
The area of France at BLVD World Riyadh:
BLVD World - Italy
The area of Italy at BLVD World Riyadh:
BLVD World - Combat Village
Combat Village is the area that left me wary. In fact, in the middle of this area, there are attractions that could be seen in any fair: shooting balloons with a pellet gun, duck fishing, etc.
On the sides, there are activities more oriented for teenagers or adults like a zombie hunt or a shooting training.
But the problem in my eyes: several arms dealers were also present in the middle of these attractions! It was thus possible to hold real weapons in hand, and even to buy them!
Toy or Weapon. There is no difference here.
Riyadh - In the vicinity
Riyadh - Edge of the World
Even though Edge of the World is only about 100 kilometers from Riyadh, it will take you between 2.5 and 3 hours to get there.
Indeed, the last 30 kilometers will be done in the middle of the desert on stony roads.
You will need an SUV to cross the different obstacles, but be aware that at the end of the road, depending on the path you have chosen, you will probably have to finish on foot.
Once there, the spectacle offered by nature is breathtaking, especially at sunset.
Riyadh - Red Sand Dunes
About an hour’s drive southwest of Riyadh is the Red Sand Dunes.
The best way to explore it is via the Quad. On the spot, you will find many rental companies (count 100 SAR for 1 hour). You can also book a Quad bike activity on Viator.
Riyadh - Where to stay
During my stay in Riyadh, I had the opportunity to test 4 Marriott Bonvoy hotels:
- Riyadh Airport Marriott Hotel
- Le Méridien Riyadh
- JW Marriott Hotel Riyadh
- Courtyard Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter
Riyadh - Credit Cards
Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in Riyadh and Saudi Arabia (including Apple Pay/Google Pay).
My visit to Riyadh was mainly for the MDL Beast SoundStorm Music Festival. But this first discovery of Saudi Arabia through its capital gave me the taste to come back to explore other places of the country.
I must say that the Saudi Arabia pavilion at the Expo2020 Dubai had particularly impressed me. This country seems to be opening up to the world a little more every day and is worth discovering!