leisure: Riyadh

Riyadh

DIR'IYAH DISTRICT

Venturing 20km northwest of Riyadh will bring you to Dir'iyah District, a historic region that enjoys independent administration within the emirate of the Saudi capital. Sitting on the bank of Wadi Hanifa, the city was once the seat of the Saud family from 1745 and capital of the first Saud state. A 14 km wall with several watchtowers was constructed during Al-Imam Abdul Aziz Bin Mohammad Bin Saud's reign to fend off attackers. Today, visitors will find several al-Saud palaces throughout the Dir'iyah District, including the Royal Palace (Salwa Palace), settlement areas from the First Saudi State and public buildings (including Dreesha Fortress). It was proclaimed a site of patrimony by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in 2010.

Ideal for: Architecture enthusiasts
Group size: Two to 20
Timings: Daily 9am to 4pm
Top tip: Take hardy hiking shoes

MURABBA PALACE

King Abdul Aziz gave the green light for work to commence on the palace in 1936 to establish both a residence for his growing family and government office for governing the royal court and holding functions. It would later become the venue where a historic agreement to begin oil exploration in the Kingdom was signed. The initiation of a telegraph system and introduction of several regulations for public works projects, labour and travel were also carried out at the palace. On the upper levels, visitors will find traditional crafts and clothes on display.

Ideal for: Afternoon tour
Group size: Two to 20
Timings: Daily except Saturdays from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 9pm
Top tip: Ideal for avoiding the heat

NATIONAL MUSEUM

A rich tapestry of history is waiting to be discovered at Riyadh's King Abdulaziz Historical Centre, a museum complex built over the old King Abdulaziz quarter. The beautifully landscaped, wide-open site is a popular attraction for tourists wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Visitors roaming around the landscaped park will find a series of outdoor gardens, running water features, 360 km of pathways and open lawns. A glimpse into the area's past awaits at the National Museum of Saudi Arabia, which is located within the same complex. Other nearby features include a library, mosque, King Abdulaziz's Murabba Palace and gardens and Darat Al Malik Museum, which incorporates the renovation of the Treasury building. The National Museum examines Saudi's history and celebrates the life of the Kingdom's founding father King Abdulaziz. It also provides an insight into the country's historical, religious social and natural heritage. Photographs and artefacts, videos and theatres reveal how Saudis used to live in years gone by.

Ideal for: Full day museum tour
Group size: Two to 20
Timings: Get in early to avoid the rush
Top tip: Take a tour guide

MASMAK FORT

The most historical monument in Riyadh, Masmak Fort has withstood both historic battles and the test of time. Built in 1865 on the site of an older fort, the mudwalled construction was stormed and recaptured by King Abdulaziz and his men during the daring reconquest of 1902. Extensive renovation work was carried out in the early 1980s to restore the building to its original state. Today, it stands as a monument to Abdulaziz and his reunification of Saudi Arabia. Within the fort, visitors will find traditional dress and crafts, a diwan with open courtyard, functioning well, square watch and mosque. Just 200 metres southeast of Masmak Fort is Al-Thumairi Gate, one of nine gates that once led into the city. The walls surrounding the gate were pulled down in 1950.

Ideal for: A tour of the old quarters
Group size: Two to 20
Timings: Men: 8am to 12pm and 4pm to 9pm Saturday, Monday and Wednesday; Women and families: 8am to12pm and 4pm to 9pm Sunday and Tuesday, 9am to 12pm Thursday
Top tip: Enjoy a traditional Arabic coffee in the coffee shop