Oman, known as the Sultanate of Oman, carries its charm compared to other Arabian countries because of its unique culture and heritage. You can easily spend up to a week if you are visiting Oman on a vacation or stopping over for a layover. The main tourist attraction is the capital city of Oman, Muscat for thrilling terrain, fresh air, clean beaches, dazzling souks and traditional local delicacies. In this post, we will talk about the Top free things to do in Muscat.
- Take a Free/Self-guided walking tour in Muscat
We believe a walking tour is the best way to explore the city as you can see the details of the city up close. Instead of just viewing the monuments, you can traverse the heart of the city. Walking tours give you a chance to soak up the atmosphere and feel the energy of the local crowds. Whether you’re stopping over for a day or planning a longer visit, we believe a walking tour is the best way to truly experience the city. We recommend you take a self-guided tour from below,
GPSMYCITY offers self-guided walking tours in Muscat. You will need to download the app "GPSmyCity " from the iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app has a detailed tour map as well as photos and background information for the featured attractions. The navigation function of this app will guide to one place to another. This app works offline, so no data plan is needed while using this app.
The best and most economical way to explore a city is to do self-guided tour of its most important neighborhoods. If you would like to take such a walking tour to Muscat Coastline, you can use the help of self-guided tours offered by Lonely planet. This walking tour will be around 8 km and can take up to 4-5 hours.
- Take a tour of 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 and it tool 600 women four years to weave this carpet. The entire building is massive, capable of hosting up to 20,000 worshippers, and the walls are adorned with intricate mosaic designs. The main prayer hall is amazingly beautiful. Spare some time to take a walk along the halls and study the handcrafted details of the mosque. It is truly a one-of-a-kind piece of art.
You might be surprised to see Omani women approach with dates and Arab coffee when you visit the Sultan Qaboos Mosque. The people are friendly and more than happy to share their stories and cultural insights. This is one of the few mosques in the city that welcomes non-Muslims to enter and tour, however, be aware of the rules when entering and exploring the area. The visitors must dress modestly, covering arms and legs. You can refer to our guide on the dress code for visiting the mosque, here. The mosque is open to tourists from Saturday to Thursday, from 8:00 to 11:00.
- Visit a Wadi
- Wadi Shab
A whimsical gorge, warm blue water pools, and a hidden waterfall, Wadi Shab certainly comes under the top free things to do in Oman. Getting to Wadi Shab is quite easy as it takes about 1.5 Hours from Muscat. To reach the hiking start point, you would have to take a short boat ride (available from 8 am to 5 pm). It will take you around 40-50 mins to reach the first pool from where the boat dropped you. It will be a moderate hike as you will have to climb over the boulders and walk along a slippery narrow canyon wall. The Wadi Shab hike is a bit uphill but once you reach the top, you will be mesmerized to see a dazzling blue water pool. The finest part of the Wadi Shab tour is the swimming in perfectly clean, blue and warm pools. The view is so incredible, and the pool is so clear and wide that you could see up and down the gorge. You will need to swim and reach to the end of the third pool to see the waterfall. This will be an amazing experience and we are sure you will get some insta worthy pictures!
- Wadi Al Arbeieen
Wadi Al Arbeieen is about 90 minutes’ drive from Muscat. However, it is well worth the trip. The oasis is a real treasure, with freshwater, craggy rock formations, singing birds and local plant life. You will need a minimum of three hours to explore the area, and longer if you really want to take it in. It is a great way to see Oman beyond the sandy dunes and intricate architecture.
- Sultan’s Palace (Al Alam 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 of 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 gardens 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 beautifully 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 on our list of top 10 free things to do in Muscat.
- Take a walk on the Mutrah Corniche and visit the Mutrah and Gold Souk
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 souk, which sells wares from all over the world and brings to mind the traditional Arabian bazaars. One can find antiques, textiles, hardware and jewelry 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.
- Mutrah Souk
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 harbor 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.
- Visit a 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 tranquility – 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. It is a famous picnic spot as it is in the heart of the city Muscat and there are plenty of palm trees to provide shade.
- Al Fizayah Beach
Al Fizayah beach in Salalah is about a 5 km long pristine white sand beach with clear water and a stunning landscape in the background. It is about 64 km away from Salalah International Airport. You will have a peaceful experience as unlike other beaches in Oman, this beach is untouched with less commercial activities.
- Jebel Akhdar
Jebel Akhdar, translates to the Green Mountain, is the area around the Sayq Plateau in Ad Dakhiliyah Governorate of Oman. The journey takes around 2.30 hours to reach from Muscat and accessible only by four-wheel drive. Jebel Akhdar is the second-highest point in Oman. The cooler weather, old villages, canyon and terrace plantation makes Jebel Akhdar a top tourist destination to visit in Oman. You can go for a hike to this mountain on your own or you can take a day trip from Muscat. The map of the mountains with all the places to visit in Jebel Akhdar Oman would be available at the visitor center near a checkpoint. We recommend you go for a night stay to enjoy the amazing sunset and sunrise.
- Visit a handicraft market
- Nizwa Souk
Nizwa Souk is located within the walls of the famous Nizwa Fort, which makes its design a combination of 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 jewelry, 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.
- Wahiba Sands
Named after the nomadic Wahiba Bedouin tribes, Wahiba Sands is a desert region stretched over 200 km from the Eastern Hajar Mountains to the Arabian Sea. The region also called as Sharqiyah or Sharqiya Sands, is best known for its amber-colored sands and towering dunes, some standing up to 100 meters high. Whether its dune bashing in a 4x4 vehicles or quad bike, taking a camel ride, zipping through the dunes on a sandboard or just chilling and witnessing the beautiful sunset, a desert safari in the Wahiba Sands is must experiencing thing to do while in Oman. The desert is about a 3-hour drive away from Muscat on the Muscat-Sur Highway at Al-Mintirib. The guided tours for one or two days are available from Muscat. October to April which are the winter months in Oman are the best time to visit the Wahiba Sands.