The historic city of Muscat is diverse, with loads of ancient edifices and modern buildings. It is a perfect blend of old and new. From the masterful contemporary Opera House to the 400-year-old Mutrah Fort, the city offers a mixed array of architecture for history buffs and the like to devour. It offers pristine beaches, decadent dining offerings, and a host of activities to learn about Omani culture. An eclectic mix of Arabian adventures and stunning treasures awaits travelers during a visit to Muscat.
Stopover at Mutrah Fort
Mutrah Fort sits on top of a rocky, narrow hill overlooking the Sultan Qaboos Tourism Port. Visiting the fort is a rite of passage for any tourist visiting Muscat. Its comprised of three circular towers, which still hold old cannons that were used for protection in the past. Visitors can also enter the castle located at the fort during the week. It can be reached via Mutrah Souq towards the office of Wali Mutrah, and then turning right towards the fort.
See a Show at the Royal Opera House Muscat
The contemporary Royal Oman Opera House Muscat was the brainchild of the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. The Opera House serves as the main focal point of cultural exchange to Oman. It hosts diverse artistic performances and educational programs. From the iconic American jazz artist Chick Korea to the annual military music concert that takes place in celebration of Oman’s National Day, the Royal Opera House is a fantastic architectural marvel to enjoy.
Find Treasures at Mutrah Souk
Once the local trading place for merchants before they set sail to the China and India trade routes, Mutrah Souk is now one of Muscat’s top market places. Visitors can barter for Arabian gems, including dazzling antiques, traditional Omani clothes like dishdashas, and its famed silver jewelry. Don’t leave the market without purchasing or eyeing a traditional Omani Khanjar dagger, which is still worn by men for ceremonial occasions. It is located near the Mutrah Fort.
Dine at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa
The Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa is set near a rural mountainside and the glistening Gulf of Oman. It has several romantic and family-friendly settings for not only relaxing but dining. Bait Al Bahr offers fresh seafood by the Gulf of Oman. Decadent choices include a mixed seafood platter of grilled lobster, prawns, and kingfish. If you’re interested in a more traditional Omani setting, then Al Tanoor, located at the Al Bandar Hotel on the Shangri-La complex, is the choice for you. It offers live cooking stations and an Arabian tent backdrop.
Visit Al Alam Palace
Coined the “Flag Palace,” Al Alam Palace is located in the center of Old Muscat. It is one of the six royal residences and the ceremonial palace of His Majesty the Sultan. While the palace is not open to tourists, the sparkling blue and gold structure is worth visiting to take a stroll on the palace grounds and snap a few pictures. Neighboring government buildings include the Ministry of Finance and the National Museum, which is located across the road.
Stroll Through the Oman National Museum
As the flagship cultural center of Oman, the Oman National Museum is the foremost place to visit to take a peek into Omani heritage. Opened in 2016, the museum faces the Al Alam Palace, and in its own right, has a grand design that fits its surroundings. It offers state-of-the-art conservation facilities, a UHD cinema, more than 7,000 objects, 33 immersive digital experiences, and discovery areas for children.
Drop by the Beach
Muscat is home to stunning beaches for you to lounge by or take a walk along. Located on the northern coast, Shatti Al Qurum is the most famous beach in the region. It is near the upscale Diplomatic District, which you can’t miss with the glistening white buildings and country flags from around the globe flowing in the wind. Smoke shisha overlooking the beach at one of the cafes along the path or dine at the Crown Plaza. The white sandy Sifah Beach, located on the eastern coast of Muscat, is another favorite of locals and ex-pats alike. It’s great for camping or a day visit.
Toast to the Good Life
Muscat offers a range of bars for the party-goers to indulge in masterful cocktails. The world-famous Polynesian lounge Trader Vic’s sits adjacent to the Intercontinental Hotel. Who doesn’t enjoy a drink that comes in a coconut? Another stand-out is Siddharta Lounge by Buddha-Bar, located in the W Hotel. The pool lifestyle concept offers an outstanding backdrop of a sunken bar and infinity pool for relishing a finely mixed cocktail.
Observe Culture at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
The most iconic landmark in all of Muscat is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. The Mosque holds up to 20,000 worshippers and covers around 416,000 square meters. It also houses a library that contains 20,000 reference volumes in science, Islamic culture, and a mesmerizing chandelier, which is one of the largest in the world. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the mosque every day, except on Fridays, from 8:30 until 11 a.m. It’s imperative to dress modestly as well; women should cover their heads.
Enjoy Fine Dining
The dining scene in Muscat is made up of a mix of Omani traditional cuisine and delicacies from around the world. Ubhar restaurant prides itself on providing the highest level of Omani hospitality and culture. With its modern design and fusion of Omani dishes, Ubhar delivers a great option from more conventional restaurants. Next, with a name like The Restaurant, located in The Chedi hotel, it undoubtedly stands on its own merit. The Restaurant provides the most elegant setting, with its crystal chandelier-lit dining room and commanding bay windows—delight upon your choice of Middle Eastern, Indian, Asian, or western cuisine.
Cruise on an Omani Dhow
A dhow is a traditional Arabian wooden boat, which dates back to being used through the generations in Oman. The spectacular vessels are available for sunset cruises, dinner cruises, or even private charters for tourists. Dhows generally pass top tourist locations like the Sultan Palace, Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and Qantab. Several tour operators are available from Muscat Yacht Club, located at Marina Bander Al Rouda.
Eat Traditional Food at Bait Al Luban
Anthony Bourdain put the famed Bait Al Luban restaurant on the map after he visited Oman. ‘Al Luban’ translates to frankincense, which is a source of kindness and soothing atmosphere in Omani culture. Bait Al Luban offers an assortment of traditional Omani foods, including shuwa, a unique Omani specialty of meat slathered in a copious blend of oil and spices, wrapped in palm leaves, and cooked over hot flames underground for hours.
Snorkel in the Arabian Sea
With a host of pristine beaches to choose from, Muscat is a prime snorkeling destination for water enthusiasts. Coral Ocean Tours offers half-day trips where you can experience not only snorkeling with sea creatures but also a bit of dolphin watching! Oman is an emerging snorkeling destination, becoming one of the top choices in the world.
Shop 'til You Drop
One thing Muscat does not fall short of is shopping mall options. Oman Avenues Mall is one of the largest malls in Oman, composed of more than 72,000 square miles. It is made up of 150 international and regional brand shops, as well as having a gym, cinema, children’s entertainment center, and a bowling alley. If you don’t get enough of your shopping fix at Oman Avenues Mall, then head to one of the oldest malls in Muscat, City Centre Muscat. It is home to more than 220 international lifestyle brands, 24 international dining outlets such as Nando’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, as well as 10-screen VOX Cinemas, the largest in Oman.
Behold Bait Al Zubair Museum
Opened in 1998, Bait Al Zubair is one of the first heritage and cultural centers in Muscat. It houses one of the largest permanent art collections and artifacts in the country. The immaculate building is a sight to see, as it was one of the first recipients of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos’ Award for Architectural Excellence. It is made up of six separate buildings, a garden with a miniature Omani village, and an aflaj irrigation system (an ancient Omani water channel).