Once little more than a desert outpost, Riyadh is now one of the Middle East's fastest growing cities, and there are plenty of activities in the Saudi capital to entertain eager expats. Westerners will need to adjust their social expectations, though, as local Sharia law forbids alcohol, nightclubs and bars.

But even with these restrictions, expats can find plenty to see and do in Riyadh. Here are a few of the most popular attractions and activities to enjoy in Riyadh.


Attractions in Riyadh

National Museum of Saudi Arabia

Forming part of the King Abdul Aziz Historical Centre, the National Museum is a local landmark that gives insight into the history of Saudi Arabia. Its eight exhibition halls contain captivating displays of Saudi culture in its past and present forms.

Masmak Fort

A grand structure, this clay-and-mudbrick fort was originally built in 1865. It was the site of the famous Battle of Riyadh in 1902, which ultimately was one of the most important battles leading up to the unification of Saudi Arabia decades later in 1934.

Wadi Hanifa

The Wadi Hanifa is a 75-mile (120km) valley that cuts through the city. Various public spaces have developed along the valley. These make for ideal weekend barbecue and picnic locations. For the athletically inclined, there are also runs, cycle routes and hiking trails.

Salam Park

A burst of green against the desert backdrop, Salam Park features lush lawns, date trees and an artificial lake. Expats can go boating, have a leisurely lunch or simply lie back in the shade while the kids entertain themselves on the playground. Several restaurants provide snacks, but packing a picnic basket and relaxing at the lakeside is highly recommended.