From summiting impressive sand dunes to visiting historical defense forts, Oman’s capital city is filled with adventures waiting to happen! Here are 15 of the best things to do in Muscat and some of the top attractions in Muscat, according to locals!
There are many things to do in Muscat. Whether you are an adventurer or a nature seeker, Muscat will have something for you! The city is home to some of the world’s most beautiful scenery and sights. It is warm, peaceful and full of hidden gems. If you’d like to explore the local spots in addition to the top attractions in Muscat, here is a list of where to go and what to see in the city!
Warning: you WILL fall in love with Muscat
Below are a few extra resources that can help make your Muscat trip smoother:
Find affordable flights on Kiwi, a booking site that mixes and matches flights from different airlines to find the best/most economic route (Kiwi offers a money-back guarantee if you miss a connection).
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The Best Things to do in Muscat
1. Off-roading at Al Nahda Sand Dunes
One of the (most exciting and) best things to do in Muscat is off-roading at the Al Nahda Dunes near the city. Due to the geographical formation of Oman, off-roading is an incredibly popular activity amongst the locals. They mostly happen on Fridays around late noon. During this time, hundreds of 4x4s will head towards the Al Nahda Sand Dunes that lay an hour away from Muscat center. Dozens more will attempt to summit these 10-20-meter ranges. It is super fun to watch!
Anyone can join in on the action, but unless you have a great car or know how to safely navigate the hills, I’d recommend you to just watch from afar.
My friend asked if I wanted to sit along for a ride but I was terrified of the car flipping over! I don’t think I’d recommend anyone to do so unless you take plenty of safety precautions and/or really trust the driver
I’d also like to point out that there were practically no women in sight. Lots of children did accompany their uncles and brothers, so I’d say it’s a safe environment!
2. Discover Hidden Streets near Mutrah Corniche
Muttrah Corniche is one of the most popular destinations in Muscat. It offers beautifully paved sidewalks and gorgeous architecture. The path lays beside the Gulf of Oman and rests against the backdrop of mountain ranges. Other than strolling along Muttrah Corniche, another fun thing to do in Muscat is to discover the hidden streets that sit beside the Muttrah Souq.
These streets give a glimpse into the livelihood of Omanis that other urbanized areas may not be able to depict. The narrow pathways and colorful buildings are very fun to explore. Take a look at the details of the doors and walls, as they provide much insight into traditional Omani architecture and design.
Remember to respect locals’ privacy!
3. Negotiate Prices at the Mutrah Souq
The Mutrah Souq is a great place to shop for souvenirs. It is home to hundreds of vendors and thousands of products. From colorful scarfs to scented candles, one of the most exciting things to do in Muscat is to stroll along the crisscrossing paths that define one of the biggest souqs in Oman.
Not only will you come across some beautiful merchandise that can be gifted to family and friends, but you will also be able to appreciate the historical significance of these narrow walkways. The souq has around 200 years of history and is one of the most fascinating attractions in Muscat.
Always negotiate the price with the vendor! If you aren’t comfortable with haggling, remember that this is the norm in Asia. Most people will expect you to barter, thus the initial cost will be quite high. Sometimes, you can make a purchase at 35-50% less than the original offer!
4. Sunset at the Rooftop Bar in the Crown Plaza Hotel
The Crowne Plaza is a beautiful hotel that sits in Qurum Beach, Muscat. The hotel is great for a weekend getaway not just because of its gorgeous interiors, but also because of its excellent rooftop bar that overlooks the beach.
You don’t have to order a drink to catch the sunset. In fact, you don’t even have to spend a night at the Crowne Plaza. For those that just want to listen to some music and relax at the open bar area, simply walk through the hotel lobby towards the back of the hotel. There, you can grab a seat on one of the sofas and order a bite or two.
This is one of the best things to do in Muscat for those who’d like to enjoy a more laid-back environment.
5. Explore the Sultan Qaboos Mosque
The Sultan Qaboos Mosque is a stunning mosque that sits in Oman. It is a colossal piece of architecture that can house up to 20,000 worshipers and is one of the top attractions in Muscat. You can simply spend hours wandering the halls of the mosque and marvel at the intricate designs of the interiors.
In addition to one of the largest single carpets in the world, the Sultan Qaboos Mosque has sparkling chandeliers and a library that you can goggle at. The visiting hours for non-Muslims are between 8 am and 11 am from Saturday to Thursday.
6. Munch on Mishkak at the Al Hail Beach
Mishkak is one of my favorite street foods in Oman. This delicious snack consists of meat (beef, chicken, squid, etc) and is marinated with a variety of spices before grilled to perfection. They are extremely popular in Muscat and you can often find food stalls on most populous streets during nighttime.
If you do eat meat, one of the best things to do in Muscat is to head to Al Hail Beach. It is nothing fancy, just a humble area off the side of the road that has a dozen or so people. Nonetheless, it is a hidden gem that made me fall in love with Muscat.
Here, you will find small trailers and BBQ stands side by side serving burgers, Mishkak, and other snacks. You will also notice that most night-time dwellers are men, though no one seemed to give me a double-take when I was there enjoying a bite.
Even if you are a vegetarian, you can still soak up the energy at one of these joints. Simply order a juice, sit back, and enjoy the daily routine of Omanis.
7. Enjoy a Musical at the Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House in Muscat is a beautiful structure that is located on Sultan Qaboos Street in the Shati Al-Qurum district of the city. It can accommodate up to 1100 people and features a theatre, landscaped gardens, a market with cultural goods, restaurants, and an art center.
The construction of the facility started in 2007 and its grand opening was in 2011. It is built in a traditional Islamic style with a touch of contemporary Omani architectural influence.
You can take a guided tour that’s offered during the daytime. Better yet, enjoy one of its musicals at night! Check out the schedule here.
8. Learn History at the Many Ancient Forts
Muscat has been an important port city. As such, forts were vital in defending it during the old days.
Al Jalali Fort and Al Mirani Fort sit near Mutrah Corniche and serve as the top attractions in Muscat.
Although visitors can visit Al Mirani Fort by ascending a flight of stairs, its counterpart, Al Jalali can be only viewed from afar.
To better understand Oman’s history and culture, visit one of the forts and opt for a guided tour of the facility. Here, you will learn plenty about Oman and its past.
9. Catch the Sunset at Al Amarat Hill
Oman is defined by rolling hills and vast plantations. Muscat is no stranger to the backdrop of the Al Hajar Ranges. Accordingly, one of the best things to do in Muscat is to cruise along the well-paved Bawsher-Amrat Road and glide into the sunset.
Of course, don’t miss the viewpoints! One of the best places to catch the sunsets in Muscat is Al Amarat Hill. To get here, drive up the twisting Bawsher-Amarat Road. You will find an opening into the mountains mid-way up. Carefully turn into the opening.
It will be a stretch of dirt, where you should drive slowly on. About 5 minutes uphill, you will see a platform with a few parked cars by the cliff. Be careful when you park! Once you walk towards the edge, you will find a spot that has the panorama view of the city.
Muscat offers gorgeous sunsets. I often found myself in awe before endless miles of pinks and purples and blues and reds during the evenings. It’s a sight that shouldn’t be missed!
10. Enjoy a Sunset Dhow Cruise
A ‘Dhow’ is a traditional wooden boat (most of which were fishing vessels), that has been renovated into a floating restaurant. This vessel is often equipped with entertainment and buffet dinners that operate for 1.3 to 2 hours. Dhow cruise is particularly popular in the Dubai Marina. You can also grab a coastal tour in an Omani dhow in Muscat.
Many stop at the Al Bustan Ritz Carlton Palace Hotel and the port of Matrah, as well as the Sultan’s Palace and the Mirani and Jalali Forts.
11. Rent a Quad Bike up the Bousher Sand Dunes
If you are a fan of adventure, one of the best things to do in Muscat is to rent an ATV and summit the sand dunes within the city. There are a number of places within Muscat that let you do this. For example, the sand dunes in Bousher, a district in Muscat, offer ATVs for rental. You can spot lines and lines of them at the bottom of the dunes. As long as you are familiar with the workings of an ATV, it’s really fun to summit the dunes!
It does get pretty sandy going up and down so remember to put a hat on, a mask, and tie your hair up (if you gotta)!
12. Overlook the City near the Cave
Muscat is an incredibly photogenetic city. Everywhere you turn, you can catch sights of mountains and hills. If you are into photography, one of the best things to do in Muscat is to seek out places for a picture or three.
The Cave is a popular late night hideout in Muscat. The design of the of the complex, like its name, is in the form of a cave. It features seven different restaurants and offers cocktails, music, and a late night scene. The Cave sits in Darsyt Park and overlooks part of the city. If you aren’t up to dining out at the Cave, simply opt to visit the exterors and enjoy the view of the buildings and mountains below! There’s plenty of parking available.
13. Visit the Muscat Festival
The Muscat Festival is a popular extravaganza that happens between January and February in Muscat each year. This month-long festivity features sweet stalls, hand-made crafts, exhibitions, and fireworks every night. It is a replica of a traditional Omani village that you can explore and discover.
14. Snorkel at Al Daymaniyat
There are many beautiful diving spots in Oman, one of which is a boat ride away from Muscat.
Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve are an archipelago of 9 small islands around forty kilometers away from Muscat. The island is only permitted to visitors between November and April.
The Daymaniyat Islands are natural and uninhabited. You can spot beautiful coral reefs and multi-colored fish. You can swim among Arabian Picasso triggerfish and Red Sea clownfish amongst other creatures.
To get there, you book a day trip that departs from Muscat. It will be OMR 25/ EUR 60 per person, which includes a visitor’s permit, and a boat tour that lasts between 5 and 6 hours. There aren’t any restaurants on the land, but tours will usually include refreshments and lunch.
Warning: Vegetarians/vegans please look away, GCC citizens you may already have plenty of experience with this!
15. Try Some Camel Milk
But for us carnivore visitors to the Middle East, one of the most interesting things to do in Muscat may perhaps be camel milk!
This isn’t for everyone, but camel is a standard source of protein in the Arabian Peninsula. I was quite hesitant at first, but thought it’d be part of immersing in the culture.
More than the meat itself, camel milk is a ‘high-risk’ duty. I heard from Omani friends your first time trying camel milk will almost always guarantee several bathroom-runs. Can someone confirm this??
One of the best places to try traditional Omani cuisine is at Rozna Restaurant. My friend brought me here on my second day in Muscat. Located inside a refurbished fort, the restaurant serves buffet style lunches and dinners that are simply delicious!
All in all, there is so much to do and see in Muscat. The city is full of surprises and this list can go on and on. If you are still not convinced that Oman should be your next destination, here are 10 reasons why you should visit! Otherwise, I hope you enjoy the country as much as do!