Riyadh (meaning “gardens”) is the capital of Saudi Arabia and one of the wealthiest cities in the world. It’s home to a slew of top-tier restaurants and quaint tea lounges, the country’s best museums and a World Heritage Site. Riyadh hosted the country’s very first music festival in 2019, where a female singer performed live for the first time in Saudi history. Riyadh has long been a destination for business travellers. Now it’s open for tourists, you can marvel at the sunset view from the Kingdom Centre Tower or explore the Al Masmak fortress, while staying at these top hotels, bookable on Culture Trip.
The award-winning Riyadh outpost of this international chain offers luxury on a large scale. Imagine two huge pools, multiple restaurants and plush tea lounges, a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts and 100 acres (40ha) of landscaped grounds, all in the heart of the city. The rooms and suites are impressive in their size and decor, while the lobby welcomes you with dazzling chandeliers, grand marble columns and Midas-touch levels of gold. The staff all speak six languages as standard and will make you feel like royalty from the moment you check in.
Now here’s a luxury hotel brand making its mark in Saudi. This is Fairmont’s second palatial property in the country. It’s five star all the way; every inch glitters with unique, no-expense-spared Arabian decadence. The rooms and suites are as high-tech as they are opulent – expect interactive tablets to control the TV and sound system. Downstairs there are five restaurants and two spas for men and women – the Gentlemen’s Tonic Spa and Ladies Lounge.
The smooth curves of this hotel loop around a palm-filled courtyard like a desert-themed race track. It is positioned in the heart of the city’s Diplomatic Quarter, close to many a corporate HQ. Rooms and suites are modern and comfortable with clean lines, wooden panelling and spacious bathrooms. Allow the Saray spa to swallow up an entire afternoon with treatments ranging from body wraps to facials, plus a full Turkish hammam is at your disposal.
Get ready for five-star luxury with a hip twist. The vibrant vibes and central location of Aloft Riyadh attract a younger, energetic crowd. On the ground floor, you’ll find the Remix Lounge, a coffee-heavy hangout with colour-pop furniture and shelves holding disco balls instead of books. The loft-inspired guest rooms are modern and polished with Bliss Spa toiletries and all the necessary tech to keep you connected. Cool off at the rooftop pool after discovering the city’s shops and restaurants.
Standard one-bedroom villas here come replete with domed glass ceilings, four-poster beds and a private outdoor pool. Looking to splash out? Book a three-bed luxury villa with over 650sqm (7,000sqft) of space, whirlpool bathtubs, a private swimming pool and dramatic Corinthian columns. In the ground-floor restaurant, head chef Hana Bitar serves up tender steaks, shrimp tempura and chicken cordon bleu, while the nearby bibimbap restaurant, Korean Palace, comes highly recommended by the hotel staff. Goot Resorts sits in a wealthy residential area, so you’ll feel a part of Saudi’s high-society.
Location is key on any city break. Centro Olaya will position you smack bang in the centre of Riyadh, not far from King Fahd Road. Inside the hotel, rooms and studios are luxurious yet functional. The outdoor pool is a quiet place to sunbathe or admire sweeping city views. The Tahlia Street shopping district and Mode Al Faisaliah mall are within walking distance. Nearby dining options include plush tea lounges serving pretty French-inspired cakes, while local hotspot the Mansion has a menu of global cuisine.
Reach new levels of luxury with a refreshing drink on the 26th floor, home to the city’s highest lounge. For dinner, the 56th Avenue Diner is the Hyatt’s fancy take on an American grill, while the award-winning Azure serves a sea-faring menu of authentic Greek and Turkish dishes. The 261 rooms, of which 40 are suites, are top-tier deluxe with floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic city views.
With much of the grand interior dipped in gold (chairs, bedspreads, macarons – you name it), you can expect true opulence at the Narcissus Hotel. Expect a five-star experience across all 280 palatial apartment-style rooms. Choose the Spa Room for an in-room massage bed and jacuzzi bathtub. Impeccable VIP service touches everything – from the watermelons carved into elaborate birds to Rolls Royce airport transfers.
This five-star hotel sits in the Al Faisaliah Centre, an icon of the city skyline. It has 95 rooms and suites furnished in a modern style with nods to traditional Saudi handicrafts. It has hotel facilities in abundance – a gym with an indoor pool, private 24-hour butler service, and a health club and spa. But the jewel in the crown is the Globe Restaurant, which sits inside the iconic golden sphere that tops the tower.
The Four Seasons sits in the Kingdom Centre, once the tallest building in Saudi Arabia. Developed by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a member of the Saudi royal family, it has an instantly recognisable silhouette, with the inverted arch topped by a ‘sky bridge’, visible from almost everywhere in the city. The hotel itself has 274 rooms and suites, two restaurants, and a gym with squash courts and a basketball court.
For a home-like experience, Fraser Suites has 95 units with spacious living and dining areas, kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms. The hotel also has a gym with city panoramas and a rooftop pool – although both can only be used by men. If you’re bringing the kids, there’s a babysitting service and a play zone. Food is served throughout the day at the Dining Room, arrive in the morning for a breakfast buffet.
Found in the Burj Rafal, the tallest residential building in Riyadh, this Marriott hotel offers spectacular views at every turn. Even the most basic rooms come with photo-worthy vistas, while their design and neutral colour palette make them feel surprisingly homely. At the spa you’ll find separate ladies and gents treatment rooms plus an outdoor pool. Come dinner time, head to Tugra restaurant for a Turkish menu created from local produce.
A favourite among the Saudi elite, including the royal family, this Ritz-Carlton is like an oasis in the desert, with landscaped gardens and 600-year-old olive trees that seclude it from the city. Rooms come with exclusive Asprey amenities, a Nespresso coffee machine and a stocked honour bar. A men-only spa has a spectacular freeform pool underneath a temple-like dome. A collection of restaurants serve culinary delights from every corner of the globe; head to Strike Bowling Alley where you can eat American bar snacks over a game of ten-pin bowling or billiards.
Spread across four Riyadh sites, Vivienda offers luxurious private living with the type of amenities you’d find in an upscale resort. And although each of the four locations offers something a little different, all come with an on-site restaurant and bijou gym. Further luxuries can be added to your stay; think private butler and chauffeur services. You’ll stay in a modern villa, each with a unique look – private pools and terraces are available.
Rabiya Jaffery contributed additional reporting to this article.
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