jeddah waterfront

Discover the highlights of a weekend in Jeddah, like exploring the waterfront. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

How to Spend an Unforgettable 3 Days in Jeddah

As the gateway to the Islamic holy sites of Mecca and Medina for centuries, the Red Sea port city of Jeddah is a haven of culture, history and tradition. Wander along the sun-soaked corniche, visit some of Arabia’s most modern cultural attractions, and dine on uniquely Saudi culinary delights on a long weekend in Saudi Arabia’s second city.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.


It may divide opinion, but you can’t miss catching sight of The Bicycle, a 1980s-era sculpture of a large, rusting bicycle designed by artist Julio Lafuente that stands as a towering landmark to remind visitors where they are in the city.

Pass the bicycle roundabout and head for the corniche to officially start your weekend at Jeddah Light, believed to be the world’s tallest lighthouse, standing 431 feet tall at the entrance to the port.

floating mosque
Take a stroll by Al Rahma, the floating mosque. (Photo: Getty Images)

Meander along the coastal path to the Floating Mosque, Al Rahma, a modern mosque complete with a large turquoise domed roof that appears to hover over the water at high tide, surprising onlookers. Free to visit, this religious building is a welcome escape from Arabia’s typically prickly midday sun.

Next, head for the jet of water spraying high above the Jeddah skyline and make a stop to admire King Fahd’s Fountain. Its powerful water spray makes this the tallest fountain in the world — it can shoot saltwater from the Red Sea some 1,000 feet into the air, refreshing spectators.

As the day wanes, stop off for a fine dining experience at Zodiac Cuisine, one of the most popular high-end restaurants in the city, for steaks or locally caught fish. Enjoy a shisha (water pipe) on the outdoor balcony as the sun sets on the horizon.

End your first day in Jeddah basking in the glow of the brightly-lit “Jeddah” sign along the water’s edge. Relax on the terrace at Craze Lounge with a glass of nonalcoholic “Saudi Champagne” — apple juice, soda and sparkling water — and watch the lights glistening on the sea.


arabian breakfast
Tuck into a traditional breakfast. (Photo: Getty Images)

Start your morning at Taybat Al Hijaz, eating a traditional Saudi breakfast alongside the locals. Arabian staples like foul (fava beans in a spiced sauce), hummus and falafel, and debyazah (fruits, nuts and apricot seeds in a thick, fruity soup) are served in seemingly endless quantities here, washed down with a super-sweet, tooth-numbing date syrup and rosewater jallab drink.

As the intense midday sun shines down on Jeddah, head for the Fakieh Aquarium, the only public aquarium in the country. More than 200 species of rare fish, aquatic plant life and sea mammals are on show here, including an impressive underwater glass tunnel that brings you within touching distance of huge sharks, a rescued giant turtle exhibit and a penguin habitat.

Next door you’ll find Fakieh Planetarium, a unique glass dome that transports you into space, complete with 4K videos and the remarkable sounds of the solar system.

For a quick lunch, try Khayal Restaurant, one of the most popular local eateries among the well-heeled of Jeddah society. It is tradition in Saudi culture to order a number of meze dishes and share them with friends, family and strangers. Traditional plates like chicken kebab halibi, shawarma and myriad tajines are washed down with a large menu of fresh fruit juices and alcohol-free cocktails.

After lunch, head to Athr Gallery, perhaps one of the most unexpected places to find in Jeddah. Since opening in 2009, this modernist gallery, housed in a whitewashed warehouse building, has been a hub for local artists to explore and display their interpretations of contemporary Arabian culture and art.

For dinner and evening cocktails, the Lusin restaurant on Al Sheikh Avenue is the place to be. You can’t go wrong with the restaurant’s unique take on Armenian cuisine. Fatoush, stuffed grape leaves, mutabal (grilled eggplant mashed with sesame paste) and kibbeh are served alongside fresh rosewater and fruit juices in a romantic and serene setting — dimmed lighting, spotlights over tables and white stone walls add to the memorable atmosphere.


ceramics at the souk
Shops for souvenirs at the souk. (Photo: Getty Images)

Sunday marks the start of the working week in Saudi Arabia, so expect busy roads in the morning. Get away from the morning rush in Souk Al Alawi, the heart of traditional shopping in the city. Located in the old quarter of Al Balad, the souk lies near the historic entrance to the road to Mecca at Makkah Gate.

The early morning hours find the souk’s stall vendors stocking up their shops with glistening gold bangles and necklaces, distilling huge bottles of fragrant oudh, and piling colorful spices in gravity-defying mounds to entice shoppers.

Visit one of the stalls for a cup of authentic karakdeh (hibiscus petal tea) and pick up a few boxes of flaky, nut-filled baklava and halva for breakfast or a light lunch.

Take a taxi to Al Tayebat International City, a museum complex showcasing a curated selection of artifacts and cultural icons spanning 2,500 years of Arabian history. Housed in an ornate coral building with bay windows and wooden-lattice-shuttered windows, the museum includes exhibits on Islamic and Jeddah history and the formation of the state alongside more contemporary exhibits.

Round off the day at El Diamanté — one of the hippest restaurants and lounges in the city, popular with younger Saudis. The restaurant is a haven of Saudi modernism at its finest. Dim lighting, dark walls and an industrial-style ceiling draw attention to the large slanted glass windows that look out onto Jeddah. El Diamanté’s steaks, fresh salads and breads, and fantastical cakes plated in the most imaginative ways are the talk of the town.