Riyadh Uncovered: 10 residents reveal their favourite spots
Riyadh Uncovered: 10 residents reveal their favourite spots
Discover, or rediscover Riyadh with ten residents who share their top rated things to do and places to eat in the capital
Riyadh has embraced progress at lightning speed – seamlessly blending past and future.
From centuries-old souks and a burgeoning contemporary art scene to endless fine-dining destinations, parks, and futuristic architecture, the capital has something for everyone.
Who better to ask about the best places to go than the people who call it home?
VP of Human Resources, International Systems Engineering
Favourite Place: Bujairi Terrace
“Nestled in the heart of Diriyah – the birthplace of Saudi Arabia – and offering views of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, At-Turaif, Bujairi Terrace should top your Riyadh bucket list,” Nouf Aljuaid says. “As you walk in, you’re welcomed by the scents of oud and Saudi coffee floating in the air, and the architecture transports you back in time. Enjoy a cup of coffee and walk around the area before heading to At-Turaif Living Museum and the old village.”
Aljuaid also suggests taking a ride on the merry-go-round, which has seats shaped like Saudi coffee cups and camels. And for dinner, her top pick is Villa Mamas, which serves traditional Bahraini cuisine in sophisticated interiors.
“There, the mozat laham [a slow-cooked braised lamb shank topped with its own gravy] and the crispy and creamy umm Ali are a must,” she says.
Sarah Al Samihan
Holistic wellness coach and yoga instructor
Favourite Places: Riyadh Women GettingFit Community, Elixir Bunn Coffee Roasters (Al Nakheel branch)
“I can’t get enough of Riyadh Women GettingFit, the largest women-only fitness community. Founded by expat Zuzana Kalous, it provides free group activities and events like mall walks, outdoor hikes, and online fitness events that are great for engaging in physical activity while making new connections,” Sarah Al Samihan says.
When she’s not working out, Al Samihan enjoys late-night get-togethers with family and friends in one of the city’s many cafés. “One of my favourites is Elixir Bunn Coffee Roasters, where you can sip great coffee from around the world or buy Saudi-grown beans to brew at home,” the coach adds.
For a social afternoon with friends, Alsafeeq Café is a fun option with its games and puzzles. However, on the days Al Samihan needs to work, she heads to Ashjar Cafe.
“With indoor trees, a calming fountain, and meeting rooms you can book, it makes for an ideal workspace,” she explains.
Professional footballer, presenter, and founder, Solve & Evolve
Favourite Place: Diriyah
“A place I love is Diriyah – a vibrant destination that encapsulates the essence of Saudi Arabia’s rich history and forward-thinking vision,” Mo Adams says. “Historically significant as the birthplace of the first Saudi state, Diriyah harmoniously combines the conservation of our architectural heritage with state-of-the-art amenities, luxury hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, and museums.”
Adams adds Diriyah is home to several festivals and art exhibitions, making its cultural scene “a magnet for tourists and locals alike.” He recommends planning a visit during the winter season, to attend one of the events or exhibits for an authentic experience of the culture and history.
Tech innovator and founder, Skools
Favourite place: Urth Caffé, Diplomatic Quarter
“The Diplomatic Quarter holds a special place in my heart as I have many childhood memories there. Over the years, it has evolved into an even more captivating multicultural destination that exudes a sense of belonging and connectedness,” Rawan Almogbil says.
The innovator proposes starting your day with a stroll in one of the parks in the area, and then making a pitstop at Urth Caffé on Oud Square to try its famous cold Spanish latte and coconut cake. For lunch, Almogbil recommends Monopoly’s pizzas before continuing your walk to AlMashtal Community House & Creative Incubator, “where you can immerse yourself in a vibrant showcase of art and music,” she says.
Founder and CEO, MZN Bodycare
Favourite Place: Souq Al Zal
“On Friday afternoons, you’ll find me strolling around Souq Al Zal, the historical market of Riyadh. It’s a place that invites you to take your time. From the fragrant smell of bakhoor to the colours of the rugs on display in every corner, and the chatter of the sellers, it ignites all of your senses,” Muzon Ashgar says.
The entrepreneur advises visiting the antique auction sellers because they “have fascinating stories to tell about the treasures they sell!” And for a more curated selection of local craft items and a coffee, Ashgar recommends heading to Accents Boutique on Al Thumairi Street, not far from Masmak Fort.
Chief investments officer, TAM Development
Favourite place: Al-Bustan Village & Bujairi Terrace
“While I don’t have the time to explore Riyadh as much as I would like, I have found solace and contentment within the community I reside in, Al-Bustan Village,” Eyad Ramlawi says. “Boasting facilities such as swimming pools, gyms, retail shops, and even spas, it exudes a sense of community that truly makes it feel like a home away from home.”
When he does go out, one of Ramlawi’s favourite spots is Bujairi Terrace, which allows visitors to indulge in fine dining while enjoying live music and breathtaking vistas over Diriyah.
Coach, mentor, team leader, and ESL instructor
Favourite Place: EL&N and huna, Panorama Mall
“I like to always try new cafés and restaurants. Luckily, there’s a lot to choose from here! My kind of place would be somewhere that’s quiet and cosy, but allows me to watch the hecticness of the city from a distance – and with great service,” Rihan Mustapha says. “For instance, last week, we had a delightful experience at EL&N in Panorama Mall, a very Instagrammable café featuring a retro Cadillac, bright pink neon lights, and Miami-style florals.”
Mustapha adds that huna (also in Panorama Mall) is a must for those seeking a creative space to work and socialise. According to the mentor, it’s a “great concept where food, arts, and culture meet.”
Women’s empowerment advocate and entrepreneur
Favourite Place: AlMousa Complex, Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale
“As an art and design lover, I’m always browsing different areas for new and unique pieces. Al Mousa Complex is a good place to start. Dating back to the 1980s, it now hosts many exhibitions and art galleries, like Naila Art Gallery,” Maha Shirah says.
She adds that in Diriyah, JAX District is becoming a creative hub, and the recently launched Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale hosts a public programme of cultural events worth visiting.
“But, most of all, I enjoy older places, and I always go back to Al Owais and Taiba markets [collectively known as the Kuwaiti market], or Al Maigliah, where I dig for little treasures,” the entrepreneur says.
If you’re planning to visit these places, her advice is to go in the morning to avoid the traffic and enjoy some peace.
Artist and founder, Gharem Studio
Favourite Place: Wadi Hanifa, Diplomatic Quarter
“I grew up surrounded by trees and mountains in the southern region, and I miss nature the most,” Abdulnasser Gharem says. “To escape from the bustling city, I enjoy the nature trails in the Diplomatic Quarter and Wadi Hanifa, a beautiful valley running 120km from the north-west to the south-east of the capital.”
Gharem likes to watch his son ride freely on his bicycle and sit with his daughter in the open spaces. He says the variety of mostly native trees is very well thought out and the landscaping has a natural feel.
“This is where I go when I need to think about a new artwork or prepare a new solo show,” he says.
Architect and photographer
Favourite Place: Al Dirah neighbourhood
“I love Al Dirah, the centre of the old city of Riyadh. From historical buildings such as Masmak Fort and mud brick houses, to traditional markets and modern cafés and boutiques, this area is full of life,” Sarah Alansary says. “Strolling through these old streets gives me a nostalgic feeling, like a little glimpse of what it was like to live here in the past.”
The creative also loves how eclectic Al Dirah is, as it combines a mix of cultures, buildings of various eras, and people of all ages. For Alansary, the best time to visit is in the afternoon, during Souq Al Zal’s antique auction.