Saudi Arabia’s capital, and beating economic heart, has long been a destination for business travellers. More recently, Riyadh has seen a growing number of hotels catering for the influx of tourists looking to take advantage of the easing of restrictions in visiting the Kingdom.
Anyone going to Saudi Arabia must visit Riyadh. The bustling modern capital, with its glass-and-steel-studded skyline, boasts a wealth of fine-dining and shopping options, but it also has history and heritage to spare.
With museums, art galleries and architectural sites as well as business and conference centres, there are a multitude of reasons to spend time in the Saudi capital – and an equally wide variety of hotels catering for every type of traveller.
Al Faisaliah hotel is located in one of Riyadh's most iconic buildings | Courtesy of Al Faisaliah / Hotels.com
Al Faisaliah Hotel is one of Riyadh’s finest, and is located in one of the most iconic buildings of the capital’s skyline. The hotel is located on the upmarket city centre street of Oalya, and surrounded by the luxury shopping centre, entertainment complex and offices that make up the Al Faisaliah Centre. This five-star property boasts 224 rooms and suites furnished in a modern style with nods to traditional Saudi handicrafts, and you’ll find all the amenities you’d expect from a world-class hotel, including conference facilities, meeting rooms, a gym complete with an indoor pool, private 24-hour butler service, and a health club and spa. But the real jewel in the hotel’s crown, both literally and metaphorically, is the Globe Restaurant, inside the iconic golden sphere that tops the Al Faisaliah tower.
Riyadh’s Four Seasons occupies another of the city’s best known skyscrapers – the Kingdom Centre. Formerly the tallest building in Saudi Arabia, the complex was developed by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a member of the Saudi royal family and a businessman. The Centre’s instantly recognisable silhouette, with the inverted arch topped by a ‘skybridge’, is visible from almost everywhere in the city. The hotel has 274 rooms and suites, two restaurants, and a gym that includes squash courts and a basketball court. Facilities like that don’t come cheap of course, but if you want the best of the best, then the Four Seasons won’t disappoint.
Fraser Suites is another luxurious five-star hotel, specialising in full-service apartments. The 95 units include spacious living and dining areas, kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms. The hotel complex boasts spas, saunas, pools, a fitness centre and excellent play areas for children. Like the Al Faisaliah, Fraser Suites is right in the city centre, in the Olaya district. If you’re looking for that ‘home away from home’ vibe at the very top end of the market, Fraser Suites is well worth a look.
Taking its name from the Arabic for “sweet desert flower”, this modern building prides itself on being “the most renowned business hotel in Riyadh”. The hotel offers free high-speed internet, and a ‘premium’ speed is also available for an additional charge. The Al Khozama has everything you’d expect from a high-end hotel aimed at the business traveller – a gym, spa, conference facilities – and a restaurant that serves “authentic” Italian cuisine for lunch and dinner.
Located in Riyadh’s tallest residential building, the Burj Rafal, the hotel has 349 rooms that promise to provide “a peaceful oasis amidst a dynamic city”. The hotel is under the ownership of Riyad REIT, which owns the tower itself. With a shady outdoor pool and full spa facilities, it’s a great place to relax, and the views from the top of the 70-storey tower are truly spectacular.
If you’re looking for something slightly more affordable than five stars, then this property, run by the international Comfort Inn chain, is a good place to start. Expect comfortable beds, good Wi-Fi and, in the larger suites, kitchen facilities, including a hot plate, a refrigerator and a microwave. There is a small café attached to the hotel that’s perfect for a quick snack or a cup of coffee, and the downtown location is convenient for most places you’d ever want to go in Riyadh.
Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton is a favourite among members of Saudi Arabia’s elite, including the royal family. The hotel is designed to feel like an oasis in the desert, with landscaped gardens and 600-year-old olive trees that keep it secluded from the hustle and bustle of the city. As you’d expect from the Ritz Carlton chain, this five-star hotel caters to the upper end of the market. It’s popular not only as a place to stay either – its 62,000 square feet (5,800 square metres) of event space is regularly rented out for lavish weddings, conferences or other company events. Its multiple dining options include Hong, a Chinese restaurant, Azzuro, an Italian-themed eatery and even a sports lounge complete with its own bowling alley that serves American classics.
Like an upmarket alternative to Airbnb, Vivienda Villas are essentially laid out like private homes, complete with spacious living rooms and seating areas, multiple bedrooms and fully equipped kitchens. Spread over four separate sites throughout the city, they’re perfect for groups or families – the outdoor pools proving particularly popular with children. Of course, if you don’t fancy making use of the cooking facilities, there are fine-dining options as well. Plus, of course, gyms, lounges and everything you’d expect from a high-end hotel.