Things to do in Muscat

Oman’s capital city, Muscat has transformed over the past decades but still retains a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere, as well as many reminders of its long and cosmopolitan history. Here is our list of the Top 10 things to do in Muscat.

  1. Take a City Tour by Car in Muscat or take the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour
  • City Tour by Car

Spend a lovely day exploring Muscat with an expert guide. Walk through the Old Town and learn of its fascinating history. Discover the history and culture of Muscat at the Bait Al Zubair Museum. By taking a city tour either by a bus or by a car, you will explore Muscat and discover the heart of this vibrant capital city. From the towering mosques to quaint Portuguese side streets, you will visit the historic old Town as well as the new City.

We would like you take a tour with the best and the highly reviewed, hence we would recommend you take the city tour by Sunshine Tours. Trip duration can be half day (4 hours) or a full day. They will cover all the major attractions in Muscat. You can also take a tour by Gray Line who also offer a GPS enabled multilingual audio guide in five languages with the tour. On this tour, you will explore Muscat on a half-day tour of the traditional markets and city landmarks, such as the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and learn about the history and modern-day culture of the cosmopolitan city.

  • Hop On Hop Off by Big Bus Tours

Big Bus Tours is the largest operator of open-top bus sightseeing tours in the world, providing sightseeing tours in 22 cities across four continents.

You can hop on the bus to discover all the must-see monuments, landmarks, and architectures from the open-top Big Buses. You would have generally seen the buses in their maroon color. You can then hop off to explore the rich tradition at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque or the Mutrah Souk. You can easily spend the full day to travel and explore the city. Muscat has various pick-up and drops off points near all major attractions.

We will cover important details such as prices, what to expect, what you will see on your journey and additional activities that may be included.

You can opt for a classic or a premium ticket option.

  • Classic Ticket

Includes a 1-day ticket, goes through a comprehensive route and covers all major attractions.

Cost: USD 77.10 for adults and USD 44 for children

  • Premium Ticket

Includes a 2-day ticket, goes through a comprehensive route and covers all major attractions.

Cost: USD 81 for adults AND USD 53 for children

You can also buy ticket options with combos for Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Visit their website for more details.

 

       2.  Visit the Souks

  • Mutrah Souq

One of the oldest souks in Oman, Muttrah Souk is the most famous Souk and makes itself a must-visit and top attraction in Oman. The souk stretches within the city of Mutrah and is located on the harbour of the old town of Muscat. Based on a traditional ancient Arab architecture style, the souk has narrow lanes and alleys with small shops and kiosks under a wooden roof, these stores selling typical Omani products like Omani sweets and Halwa, clothes, handicrafts etc.

  • Gold Souk

Just like the Gold Souk adorning Old Dubai, the Gold Souk is also a top attraction point in Muscat and is a five-minute walk from the main souk entrance through the Mutrah Corniche. The covered lane leads through textile shops, and the gold souq is a left turn just before re-entering the Corniche. If you feel comfortable getting lost, the alleyways behind the main gold souq are home to shops selling precious stones and silver, where artisans sit in a muddle of uncut, semiprecious stones, making rings and pendants in various designs.

  • Nizwa Souk

Nizwa Souk is located within the walls of the famous Nizwa Fort, which makes its design a combination between ancient and contemporary Omani architecture. The souk consists of several small stores that mainly sell traditional and local Omani products and crafts like Omani daggers, traditional clothes, silver crafts and jewellery, pottery and local food. Some of these stores don’t only sell their products, but they also manufacture them, and most have been doing so for many years as a family business. Walking through Nizwa Souk is an unmissable opportunity to buy amazing souvenirs and take splendid pictures.

  • Sohar Handicrafts Souk

The Sohar Handicrafts Souk is located near the Sultan Qaboos. The souk is distinguished by its exceptional Arab and Islamic architecture. It was established to encourage Omanis to work in and protect local ancient Omani industries like silver, leather, ceramics and palm leaf handicrafts, making traditional Omani weapons like the Omani Khanjar (dagger), honey and Halwa fabrication (traditional Omani sweets), making wool and cotton textiles and crafting perfumes and herbal medicines.

  1. Visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

This stunning mosque is an absolute must-see for any visitor to Muscat. It lives up to its royal name. The chandelier is plated with 24 carat gold and made with over 600,000 Swarovski crystals. Furthermore, the Persian carpet is one of the largest in the world. The entire building is massive, capable of hosting up to 20,000 worshippers, and the walls are adorned with intricate mosaic designs. This is one of the few mosques in the city that welcome non-Muslims to enter and tour. The mosque is open to tourists from Saturday to Thursday, from 8:00 to 11:00.

  1. Have a long delicious Omani meal at Orient Restaurant & Café or Al Angham

Eat like a local wherever you go!

Omani Shuwa is considered as one of the main dishes in Oman. It consists of tender, spiced, delicately cooked meat or you can have a delicious dessert such as Omani luqaimat, a crispy fried dough dumpling soaked with date syrup!

You can taste these two delicacies along with other traditional local favourites at Orient Restaurant & Café or Al Angham (next to the Royal Opera House).

You can also take a food tour to sample the delicacies in Muscat. We would recommend you take Omani Food Tour or feel like an insider on the Authentic Omani Home Dining.

  1. Explore the Museums or a Perfumery

 

  • Bait Al Zubair

This is a private museum, funded by the prominent Zubair family of Oman. This local heritage infuses the museum’s collection – in fact, many of the artefacts on display are from the family’s private compilation. Some of the items on display include ancient weaponry, fabulous jewellery, historic stamps, household implements and traditional costumes. Outside of the museum, there is a garden that features an Omani village, a souk, a boat display and a traditional water distribution system. Getting to wander around this environment truly helps visitors immerse themselves in the traditional Omani way of life.

  • Ghalya’s Modern Museum of Art

Interestingly, this is not a modern art museum in the traditional sense. There is a section of the museum dedicated to modern art as we currently understand the term. But the bulk of the museum is about exploring Oman’s past, particularly between the years of 1950 and 1975. The museum reconstructs what a house would have looked like during that time period. It shows an authentic layout featuring a majlis, women’s room, child’s room, kitchen and guest room. The artefacts within are also authentic to the time period, so visitors can really feel like that they have stepped backwards in time and have been invited to the home of an Omani gentleman. The museum is open Saturday to Thursday from 9.30am to 6pm, and the entrance fee is only OMR 1.

  • Amouage Perfumery

This perfume factory is not some harsh workhouse with cold machines. Here, the perfumes are the works of craftsmen and visitors can examine the delicate individual scent components that go into making some of the world’s most luxurious perfumes. Those on a tour have the opportunity to take home free samples, but anyone looking to purchase a proper bottle better have their wallet ready- these high-end perfumes can be quite dear. Perfumes are a huge part of Arabian culture, used to mask the sweat from the sun and provide allure for someone modestly covered up. Furthermore, learning more about Arabian perfumes provides insight into Muscat from a unique point of view.

  1. Visit the Sultan’s Palace

The Sultan’s Palace, or Al Alam Palace, is the ceremonial home of the Sultan, which he uses to welcome state dignitaries. It is one among the six royal residences of Sultan Qaboos located in Muscat, looking out to the Gulf of Oman. The building is certainly eye-catching, with tall trumpet-shaped pillars painted in gold and turquoise. The palace is known for its flamboyant Islamic architecture which is surrounded by lush green garden and the Mutrah Harbour. The interior of the palace is not open to the public, but the grounds are beautiful enough to compensate. Visitors can take photographs from the outside only.

The entire area is home to government buildings, many of which have unique architectural features that are interesting in their own right. The Ministry of Finance, for example, boasts a set of beautiful carved doors painted with phrases from the Quran.

In the words of author Peter J. Ochs, “When you visit the main gates of Al Alam Palace, it is unlike any other capital you will ever visit. The palace itself is elegant but humble in design, unlike the grandiose structures of other capitals”.

The palace is open for 24 hours and entry is free. This definitely is our list of top 10 things to do in Muscat.

  1. Take a walk on the Mutrah Corniche

This lovely corniche is perfect for a leisurely walk or bike ride. The softly lit buildings along the shore, with their latticed windows, make for a perfect backdrop.  For most visitors, however, the corniche’s greatest attraction is its souq, which sells wares from all over the world and recalls the traditional Arabian bazaars. One can find antiques, textiles, hardware and jewellery in the stalls and haggling for a better deal is simply part of doing business there. Furthermore, it is a great place for a tourist to find souvenirs.

  1. Go for a musical at the Royal Opera House Muscat

Seeing an opera is always a grand cultural event. But the splendour of Muscat’s royal opera house makes it well worth a visit just to see the beautiful building. The Royal Opera house is the leading arts and culture center in Oman. The style of the building pays homage to Eastern, Islamic and Western influences, in a nod to the different cultural events hosted here. The building also makes use of clever methods of sound projection, to ensure a vivid concert experience. For only 3 OMR, visitors can book a tour of the building to learn all about its construction.  You’ll also get a chance to admire the Opera House’s collection of instruments, which spans across different decades and regions.

  1. Visit a Wadi or spend a day on the beach
  • Qurum Beach

This is a quiet, charming beach in Muscat that’s great for a day of relaxation under the sun. It’s very easily accessible and boasts golden sands and crystal-clear water. One of the main advantages of this beach is the tranquillity – it’s not excessively crowded, which allows for a peaceful visit. However, there are still opportunities for a bit of excitement, via the nearby cafés and restaurants.

  • Wadi Al Arbaeen

Technically speaking, this wadi is about 90 minutes outside of Muscat. However, it is well worth the trip. The oasis is a real treasure, with fresh water, craggy rock formations, singing birds and local plant life. You’ll need a minimum of three hours to explore the area, and longer if you really want to take it in. It’s a great way to see Oman beyond the sandy dunes and intricate architecture.

  1. Explore the Jabal Akhdar Mountains.

A lush green area on the Sayq plateau, Jebel Akhdar in Oman is considered as the top places to visit in the Oman Sultanate, especially by the locals. It is also known as Al Jabal Al Akhdar or Jabal Akdhar or the Green Mountain Oman. Now accessible via a steep modern road, the plateau offers wadis, terraces and stunning mountains views.

The journey used to take 6 hours but now a road has been built all the way to the main village making. It easy to climb to Jebel Akhdar. This is why it has become a top touristic destination for tourists and locals. It offers cool weather (to escape the Summer heat), old villages, canyons and terrace plantations.

There’s a lot to see in Muscat- The city has its own unique charms that make it special. We hope you’ve found our guide on the Top 10 things to do in Muscat helpful!

About the author

Pri is a true believer in the Rule of Three - she lives between Dubai, Bombay and Washington DC, speaks three languages and has 3 kids under 3. She graduated from Connecticut College and has a Masters Degree from New York University. Pri is a licensed Dubai tour guide, travel blogger, art aficionado, foodie and curious to check out all things new in her city. Pri has been part of the Free Tours By Foot team since 2015 and loves to make customized itineraries for her guests.