Muscat, Oman’s capital city, is gaining popularity as a holiday destination. The Sultanate has done a great job in maintaining heritage and preserving nature. It has a stable economy, no conflicts with other nations, and it is one of the safest countries in the World (number 4 according to the World Economic Forum).
So this is our selection of things to do, see and eat in Muscat:
Visit Muscat’s main attractions
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Stunning and immense Mosque, with well kept and large gardens. It worth two visits, one during the day (including the interiors) and one during the night, when you can walk around the gardens and take pictures. It is an impressive and breathtaking monument. The main prayer room is just stunning, as you see in the picture and video below.
Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the mosque every day, except Friday, from 8:30 until 11:00 am. Shoulders, knees and hair (ladies only) should be covered. Sandals are ok and it is probably the best to wear as you need to take them out to enter the prayer rooms. And the entrance is free.
Mohammed Al Ameen Mosque
Not as huge as the Grand Mosque, but equally breathtaking and less busy. It is in a great location with amazing views of the city. This beautiful white marble building also deserves two visits, one during the day and one during the night. In my opinion, they look more imposing during the night.
Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the mosque every day, except Friday, from 8:30 until 11:00 am.Shoulders, knees and hair (ladies only) should be covered. Sandals are ok and it is probably the best to wear as you need to take them out to enter the prayer rooms. And the entrance is free.
Royal Opera House
Another stunning building that worths a visit. It is Oman’s premier venue for arts and culture, with performances all over the year (you can check their calendar here). They offer a guided tour from Saturday to Thursday, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. It costs OMR 3 (~ USD 8) and it takes about half an hour. You will also find restaurants, exhibitions and a market.
There is work in progress to finish an additional building, which will be connected by a bridge that crosses Al Kharjiyah Street.
It is the most popular market in town, with plenty of stands offering everything from perfumes to spices, antiques like khanjars (famous Omani daggers), frankincense, souvenirs, jewellery, textiles and more.
Opposite the market’s entrance you have the main marina in town, so you should take the opportunity to walk by the sea. If you head East you can pass by Corniche Mutrah viewpoint and you can get to the lighthouse as well. And on top of that, if you are lucky you could be able to see the Sultan’s yacht, Al Said, the one in the picture below. It is currently the world’s highest displacement super-yacht (15,850 tons), the most powerful (16,500kW) and fifth longest super-yacht (155m) [Wikipedia].
It is another building worth visiting. It is not immense but quite colourful and picturesque. It is close to the public, but you can still pause in front of its gate and take a picture to the front of the main building, with its famous blue and gold pillars.
The are is surrounded by other government buildings such as the Grand Royal Court and also the National Museum, so there is plenty of parking space if you at no-working hours. The Sultan does not live there and it is only used for ceremonies.
Enjoy Muscat’s beach beaches
Oman Dive Center Beach
They have the best beach in Muscat. It is not actually inside the city, but it is only 20 minutes (32 km) from the centre. It is actually part of Muscat Hills Beach Resort, but you can pay 5 OMR to spend the day. The ticket includes a towel, parasol, umbrella and a small table. You can order food to your table and there is also a beach bar where you can even get alcohol.
Other good beach options within Muscat are:
Al Qurm Beach
It is quite a long (2 km) sandy beach that runs from the edge of Qurm Nature Reserve towards the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The road that goes in parallel (Al Shati) is quite popular among locals, and they use it for cruising on their cars, so be patient if you get stuck in traffic.
The Wave or Al Mouj
Al Mouj Muscat, formerly The Wave, is a luxury residential complex like no other in town. It comprises a variety of properties interspersed with pedestrian walkways, green spaces, inland waterways, and of course a large and sandy beach, as you can see in the picture below. It has little facilities, but it is extensive and quiet, ideal for swimming or relaxing.
Its beautiful boulevard offers over 50 shops, cafes and restaurants. Moreover, it has Oman’s largest private yachting hub, Almouj Marina, and Oman’s only signature PGA Standard golf course. And there are also a couple of luxury hotels as well, such as Mysk Al Mouj and Kempinski.
It is only 12 minutes by car from the airport, which makes it suitable for frequent travellers, and also for tourists to drop by on their way to the airport.
Spend a day at a luxury resort
Al Bustan Palace
Al Bustan is a 5-star luxury resort and spa. It is only 25 minutes from central Muscat and located in Al Hajar Mountains area. It comprises 5 outdoors swimming pools surrounded by palm-filled gardens, a private beach, 3 restaurants, 4 tennis courts, a spa with 17 spacious treatment rooms and more. You won’t be able to visit the ninth floor, as it is reserved exclusively for the Sultan.
The lobby is simply breathtaking and it worth a visit. Fortunately, you can buy a day pass for 15-30 OMR, and enjoy the pool and other facilities for a day.
Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah
Shangri-La is another luxury resort and spa. It is located in the Jissah area, only 30 minutes away from Muscat centre. It comprises a private beach, a full-service spa (hydro pool, herbal steam room, tropical showers, an ice fountain and a relaxation area), 8 restaurants, a huge swimming pool and more.
You can also buy a day pass for 30 OMR, and enjoy the pool and other facilities for a day.
Eat traditional -and international- food
My favourite restaurant in Muscat is Kargeen. It has a large garden with A/C, vegetation, couches, lights and different types of chairs and tables. Inside there is also plenty of room with smoking and non-smoking areas, and all its decoration is pleasant and Arabic.
From the traditional Omani (Arabic) food I suggest Shuwa (picture above) and Ghoozy Rice with Meat, both of them available at Kargeen. Other typical dishes include Harees, Mashuai and Majboos. In terms of sweet, Omani Dates and Halwa are worth trying.
For other types of food, I would recommend:
- Pizza: also Kargeen, as they also own an Italian pizza shop formerly called La Fattoria Della Pizza.
- Italian: Tomato, one of the InterContinental Hotel’s restaurants.
- Indian: Begum’s
- Burgers: Graffiti, Slider Station
- Stake: The Steak Company
- American: Copper
- French: La Brasserie or Paul (Grand Mall)
- Fish and Turkish: Turkish House Restaurant
- Mexican: Pavo Real, Chili’s (Grand Mall)
- Breakfast and lunch: Mani’s, D’Arcys
I would also suggest reading our “Best restaurants in Muscat” post which provides more information about them.
Take a tour and/or a day trip
Wadi Shab is the most popular wadi in Oman, and also one of the main day tours from Muscat. It is essentially a gorge between cliffs, where a fresh stream of water heads towards the coast. You start from its river mouth and walk all the way to its source of water, where a beautiful and unique cave rewards those who made it.
You can simply go on our own by car (1-hour drive) or you can take a tour. Our post “Muscat day trip to Wadi Shab. Swim and hike at the valley” provide all the information you need.
Bimmah Sinkhole is a water-filled depression/sinkhole in the limestone, resulting in a beautiful natural lake of turquoise waters. It is 50 m by 70 m wide and approximately 20 m deep. It is only about 600 m away from the sea, between the coastal towns of Ḑibāb and Bimmah.
Wadi Shab is only 15 minutes’ drive from it, so both attractions are normally part of the same journey.
The sinkhole was formed by a collapse of the surface layer due to a dissolution of the underlying limestone. However, locals believe that it was created by a meteorite, ‘Hawaiyat Najm’, which translates to ‘The Falling Star’ in Arabic, and hence the name.
To preserve the sinkhole, the local municipality developed a park, Hawiyat Najm Park (Haweat Najm Park), around it, along with a stairway leading down to the lake. The entrance to the park is free and there is drinking water, toilets, a playground for children, benches and areas with shade.
Nizwa is an ancient and historical city in the north of Oman. It was its capital in the 6th century and it is well known as one of the first cities to be converted to Islam. The city has its own charming, located on a plane area but surrounded by palm trees. Its main attractions are the Nizwa Fort and a traditional Souq (market).
You can easily get there on your own by driving for 2 hours from Muscat, or you can get a tour. Some of the available tours offer a full day trip to Nizwan and Jebel Shams. The latter is the country’s highest mountain part of Al Hajar Mountains range and comprises beautiful scenery and towns.
Some other good tours are the following:
- Private 4×4 Desert and Wadi Safari – Wahiba and Wadi Bani Khalids
- Snorkeling and dolphin watching
- Fishing trip
Oman Avenues Mall
The newest, largest and most popular mall in town. More than 150 shops, plus cinema, gym, food court, children area with games and entertainment and more. There is also a huge supermarket on the ground floor called Lulu.
Muscat Grand Mall
Smaller than Avenues and separated by a single road only, so it deserves a visit anyway, and you can do both on the same trip. There are plenty of shops as well, free wifi all over the mall, and a Carrefour supermarket inside.
Go out and have a drink
As a Muslim country, alcohol is not something easy to get is Oman. However; there are a few places to grab a beer or cocktail, most of them are hotels that receive international tourists.
My favourite place for this is the English pub Duke’s Bar at Crown Plaza Hotel. It has an amazing terrace facing the hotel pools and private beach. Additionally, the hotel offers day passes to use all the facilities for 10 OMR (weekdays) or 15 OMR (weekends)
Not far from there you have a place that has 3 different options: Ramee Guestline Hotel. On the ground floor, you have Rock Bottom Cafe, an American-themed pub with live music. If you want a more local experience, you can go to the first floor where there is an Arabic club/music space. And lastly, on the same floor, you have Bollywood.
Travel tips and recommendations
- If you are staying or spending some time in Muscat, I would also recommend our posts: Best restaurants in Muscat and Muscat day trip to Wadi Shab. Swim and hike at the valley.
- To find out the best luxury and budget hotels in Muscat, visit “Where to stay in Muscat. Best hotels and resorts“.