jeddah itinerary

One day in Jeddah Itinerary [+ what to do for 2 days]

Jeddah is the perfect introduction to Saudi Arabia.  Known affectionately as the “Bride of the Red Sea”, this port city is indeed adjacent to the Red Sea.  Jeddah is the city where many traders have visited over the centuries and where many pilgrims heading to Makkah (Mecca) arrive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  The city is easy to navigate for Western visitors – everyone spoke excellent English with us or found someone who did, and the city and its inhabitants are friendly and open to tourism visitors.  We didn’t have a lot of time in the city, so here’s our one day in Jeddah itinerary.

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We visited Jeddah on a long layover.  With a Stop Over Transit visa (which I wrote about here) available from Saudia Airlines and the Saudi Tourism Authority, you have the opportunity to spend up to 96 hours in the Kingdom.  Our stopover was for 3 nights and included a free transfer from the airport to our hotel and one free night in a hotel (the great Crown Town Hotel is the one we selected from their list – we then paid for 2 extra nights in the same hotel).

We arrived from Tunis, Tunisia at Jeddah International Airport (JED), met our transfer at the tourism booth at airport arrivals, and picked up the excellent introduction to Jeddah guide from them too (make sure you collect one it has some great ideas and places to go!) and then we headed to our hotel for a good night’s sleep before embarking on exploring Jeddah.

Jeddah tourism brochure

Getting Around Jeddah

Before I get into where to head for your one day in Jeddah, you’ll need to consider how you’re going to get around.  The historic old town area of Jeddah might be relatively small, but even from there to the Fish Market is a good 30-minute walk.  It was 33 degrees (91.4 F) when we visited and, while on our one day Jeddah itinerary we did walk nearly 11 kilometers (6.83 miles), I don’t recommend it, and we certainly came nowhere near getting to most places on foot.

You’ll need to either rent a car, take a taxi, or use a ride-sharing service to explore Jeddah in a short time.   We simply tapped up an Uber for all our transport.  It was simple, worked really well and all our drivers were great.  Regardless of how you get around Jeddah, if you’re flying out of the airport, then I wrote about the options available when going from Jeddah to the airport here.

If you’re going to use ride shares like Uber, then you’ll need a local SIM card – I wrote about the best options for Saudi Arabia Sims.

EASIEST WAY TO VISIT

Al Balad Jeddah

Take a tour of the Al Balad Historical Area

Take a tour in an air conditiond vehicle with an English speaking guide of the historical area of Jeddah, Al Balad. Get to explore the alleyways and souks.

Uber isn’t the only rideshare in town, there are others, like Careem and MyTaxi.  There’s the benefit that you don’t need cash for an Uber – you can read my article here on cash, paying for things, and all things money in Saudi Arabia.

Don’t forget if you rent a car, then you’ll have the added complications of finding somewhere to park, which isn’t always easy or quick here in Jeddah.

You can find all these great places to see in Jeddah on the map that I’ve included later in this article.

Get a great breakfast in Jeddah

Our hotel included breakfast in our rate, and so we were able to explore many of the superb Saudi Arabian breakfast items.  And a strong cup of coffee too.  However, if you don’t get breakfast included, then it’s worth making a stop at one of Jeddah’s breakfast hotspots.  The cuisine in Jeddah is VERY internationalised and you can find pretty much any cuisine you want.  But you’re in the Kingdom, so it’s worth checking out where you can get traditional breakfasts.

My favorite breakfast item was “Foul Medames”.  Mashed fava beans with seasoning, mixed with olive oil and lemon juice.  Served with warm pita bread it’s a gloriously moreish and filling breakfast. 

Foul Medames Saudi Breakfast

Try also Mana’eesh – savory pastries like flatbreads topped with herbs and spices (aka za’atar), and sometimes cheese and meat – eat hot from the oven.

Taybat Al Hejaz is one of the top places to eat a traditional breakfast in Jeddah.  Breakfasts here are good value for money and it’s always packed with locals. 

Head to the Fish Market in Jeddah

The central fish market in Jeddah is a wonder.  It’s about a 30-minute walk from the historic old part of Al Balad in Jeddah, although I don’t recommend walking.   It’s clean, and there are some incredible-looking fish here.  Many of the species are caught locally (Balad) and yet more come from further afield.  Local fish are cheaper.

Fish at the Jeddah Fish Market

Our Uber driver, Abdul, who picked us up from the fish market was delighted with Nigel’s name.

“It’s the same”, he said, “as one of our fish.”  The “najil”.  Yeah, we can see that.  So Nigel now responds to “Red Grouper” as well as his given name.

There’s a restaurant here, where you can take fish that you buy in the market and get it cooked.  It wasn’t open when we visited, but you may be luckier!

  • Address of the Fish Market in Jeddah:  As Salamah, Jeddah 23436, Saudi Arabia
  • Opening Times of the Fish Market in Jeddah:  05:00 to 22:00 (best in the morning)

Rehydrate in Jeddah

Jeddah is hot, hot, hot.  And even with the limited walking that we did it was easy to get dehydrated.  There are shadows to hide in within Al Balad, but it’s worth making a plan to stay hydrated.  Water, of course, is important, but so too is a drink called Sobia.  It’s a traditional drink in Saudi Arabia made of barley, cinnamon, cardamom, and sugar and it helps your body to retain water.  It’s particularly popular during the holy month of Ramadan.  And yes, I liked it!

Red Sobia and White Sobia

It’s a cold drink and while it’s available in white, red, or brown, with the red coloring coming from a strawberry flavor and the brown from tamarind, we could only find the red and the white.    Try it at the café of the same name, Sobia, in Al Balad.  I’ve marked it on the map.  Drinks cost 11 SAR each, and you can pay here with cash or card.

  • Sobia Café, Al Balad Jeddah Address:  6890 Barhat Amru Ibn Hilal, Al Balad District, 3192, Jeddah 22236, Saudi Arabia
  • Sobia Café Opening Times:  10:00 – 23:00 (Fridays 15:00 – 23:00)

Explore the Ancient Gates of Jeddah in Al Balad

Marking the traditional entrances to the old town area of Jeddah, Al Balad, (it translates to “the City” in English) are the ancient gates of Jeddah.  The wall that originally surrounded the old City was built by Hussain Al-Kurdi, one of the Mamluk Princes, to protect the city from the marauding Portuguese on the Red Sea.  Originally there were six gates along the city walls.  The walls are no longer standing, they were torn down in the 1940s, but you can find a rebuilt Old Jeddah Gate, by Allegiance Square and the Bab Sharif Gate in the south. 

The most famous of the gates, however, is the Bab Makkah Jeddah.  Jeddah has for centuries been known as the gateway to Makkah (Mecca).  This three-arched gate is a historic monument in the oldest area of Jeddah.  The gates are lit at night, so if you’re exploring Al Balad then it’s particularly atmospheric.  There was also an amazing cool breeze blowing as we stood underneath it, and that at the time was a major win!

The Makkah Gate Jeddah

See our map for the locations of the Jeddah Gates

Check out the UNESCO World Heritage Al Balad in Jeddah

Al Balad dates back to the 7th century when the city of Jeddah was founded by fishermen.  This oldest part of Jeddah is found now in Al Balad.  Al Balad has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2014 and the buildings date from the 16th century.   They are unique, built from coral limestone brought from the Red Sea.   The woodwork of the “rawasheens” – the ornate woodwork bay window coverings is also protected in this part of the city.   This decoration came about following the opening of the Suze Canal in 1869 – when rich merchants began decorating the traditional coral limestone buildings in this way.

Historic Al Balad Jeddah

There’s much restoration going on in Al Balad, to preserve these buildings, and you’ll need to gaze up and look closely to see some of the more ornate and beautiful history here.   There are two museums of note here in Al Balad.  They’re usually open on an evening from 17:00 until 22:00 – as you’ll most likely be eating at this time on your one day in Jeddah itinerary, I’ve included them in the second part of this article, adding a second day.

Rawasheens in Al Balad

Take a late lunch in the Red Sea Mall of Jeddah

Now you’ll kill two birds with one stone with this activity in Jeddah. Food and escape from the heat.  Eating in a mall at lunchtime in Jeddah is a great way to escape the heat of the day and honestly, by now you’ll be more than ready for a little air conditioning.   When we visited Jeddah the temperature was hovering around 33 degrees (91.4 F) and I was positively melting.  I’m not a big shopper, but the cool of the mall was very, very welcome.

Oh, and we were there also to buy a GoPro before we visited the next country on our trip, the Maldives.  We tend to eat our main meal of the day in the evening (and here in Saudi when it’s cooler that makes a lot of sense), so we were able to snack and have coffee in the mall.

The Red Sea Mall is also a good place to stop off on the way up to see the next stop on your Jeddah itinerary, the famous floating mosque of Jeddah.

Once you’re done with drinks, snacks, or lunch, you’ll want to head outside again, and pick up your transport (we recommend using Uber for a short trip in Saudi Arabia).

  • Address of Red Sea Mall, Jeddah:  Ash Shati, Jeddah 21146, Saudi Arabia
  • Opening Times of the Red Sea Mall, Jeddah:  09:00 to 12:00 (midnight).  Fridays 13:00 to 01:00

Discover the Al Rahmah Mosque aka the floating mosque of Jeddah

You’ll find the Al Rahmah Mosque, also known as the Fatima Al Zahra Mosque, or the floating mosque on the more northerly part of the Corniche in Jeddah.  Jeddah’s Corniche is the road that hugs the coast for 30 kilometers (86 miles). 

The Al Rahma Mosque Jeddah

The Al Rahma mosque was built in 1985 over the water of the Red Sea.  It is bright white with a turquoise dome.  Sunrise or sunset are said to be spectacular here (the day we visited the sun dipped nicely behind a big cloud at the end of the day).   There are decorative inscriptions, and stained glass, and the dome is held up by 8 pillars.   You can check the prayer times in Jeddah here.

  • Opening Times of Al Rahma Mosque Jeddah:  24 hours (but avoid prayer times)
  • Address of Al Rahma Mosque, Jeddah:  Corniche Rd, Ash Shati, Jeddah
  • Cost of Entry of Al Rahma Mosque Jeddah:  Free

Watch the Sunset on the Corniche in Jeddah

The Corniche in Jeddah is a coastal road, it includes recreational areas, pavilions, sculptures, and the highest fountain in the world (more on this soon), and it also leads you to the Saudi Arabia Formula One track!

While the streets of Jeddah might seem deserted during the day, apart from any tourists wandering around, it is as the sunsets that you’ll see the locals coming out.  Watching the sunset on the Corniche, on Jeddah’s Waterfront is a great place to see a slice of local life.

Sunset from the Jeddah Corniche

Families bring tea, and blankets and sit and watch the sunset as the day starts to cool a little.  It’s a great place to watch the sunset here in Jeddah and it’s very family oriented too.

Stand on a Formula One Track in Jeddah

The Formula One Track in Jeddah is in the north of the city, not far from the airport.  It’s said to be the fastest Formula One track on the circuit and has 27 corners, the most of any of the tracks around the world.

When there are events on the Jeddah Waterfront (the Jeddah Yacht Club is located here), they fence off the track, so you can actually walk across it.  Now that’s kind of cool!

On the Saudia Arabian Grand Prix Track in Jeddah

The first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was held here in 2021 – won by Lewis Hamilton.  This is currently the second longest F1 track in the world (the longest is Spa in Belgium), and races only take place here at night, on this 6.175 kilometer (3.83 miles) track.  The max speed that’s been reached here is 322 kilometers per hour (200 miles per hour), although the cars tend to average a mere 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) !!

Have a drink overlooking the Corniche in Jeddah

Saudi Arabia is a dry country.  So you won’t be sipping a Gin and Tonic overlooking the water here.  What you should drink is juice or coffee.  The country is famous for both.  And I have to admit, the juices here were amazing.  So, so strong and tasty. 

The coffee is also distinctive as it is usually lightly roasted and flavoured with saffron, cinnamon, cardamom or cloves. It is served in small amounts and unsweetened but is usually served with something sweet such as local dates.

Don’t miss the King Fahd Fountain in Jeddah

The best view we had of the world’s biggest fountain was on our flight in – we flew into Jeddah on Saudia Airlines from Tunis (here’s our review of the business class flight).  We sat on the left and got great views of the city and also the fountain.

The fountain usually doesn’t come on until the evening, when it’s also lit up and it’s a great spectacle.  Unfortunately, later when we wandered past after dinner, this area of the Corniche was closed (we visited during the Red Sea Film Festival, and this area was roped off for VIPs!)

The King Fahd Fountain Jeddah

The King Fahd fountain jets water up to 260 meters and is the world’s tallest fountain.  It’s named after King Fahd bin Abdulaziz, who ruled the kingdom from 1982 until 2005.  The fountain was opened in 1985 and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records (it beats the second-tallest fountain in Seoul by 58 meters).

Water coming out of the fountain reaches 375 kilometers an hour (233 miles an hour) and it uses seawater from the Red Sea.   The fountain base is designed as a mabkhara – an Arabian incense burner and while it is using seawater, the water passes through a series of filters first, before reaching the pump, to protect it from rust and corrosion.  There are 500 LEDs that light it up at night.

Eat Local Specialties in Jeddah

Jeddah has heaps of restaurants that you can find all over the world, so make sure you find one that serves local food and local specialties.  Jeddah is famous for seafood and fish and also Hejaz cuisine.

You can find great well-priced seafood and friendly staff at the Saedi Restaurant on the Jeddah Waterfront.  Pick the fish, or seafood that you want – the prices per gram or kilo are clearly displayed and you do get to pick the specific fish.  It’s weighed and then cooked as you like it (grilled or fried, with an amazing glaze of local herbs and spices).  If you don’t like spice then let them know.  Saudi food usually makes good use of 4 main spices – cardamom, black lime, cloves, and cumin – so it’s not spicy hot, but spicy moreishly tasty.  Your fish here is served with bread, and dips, and salads are on request.  (We LOVED this place).  Even better it was within walking distance from our hotel, the Crown Town, and so after dinner, we spotted the King Fahd Fountain and then had a slow (it’s hot remember!) amble home.

Grilled Prawns from Saedi Restaurant

For a somewhat pricier meal, again on the waterfront, head to Al Nakheel.  This is where to come for the specialty dish of Saleeq Chicken and Milky Rice.  If you’ve never tried a savory rice pudding, then you need to come here.  It’s tasty, interesting, and worth the trip.    You may have to specifically ask for this dish, as we couldn’t find it on the English menu, but they were happy to serve it to us. We came here on our second night in Jeddah.

Saleeq Chicken with Milky Rice

English speakers were harder to find here, but our waiter was fabulous, and we were assigned to one of the super Sri Lankan staff, with whom we chatted about recent trips to Sri Lanka and his hometown of Negombo. 

Make this a 2 day Jeddah Itinerary

Our trip to Jeddah, via Saudia Airlines and the stopover visa gave us 70 hours and 20 minutes to explore the city.  Which is a little more than one day right?  So what I’ve covered above we actually did in two short days.  We took the opportunity to escape in the heat of the day to either our hotel room or to the air conditioning of the Red Sea Mall.   However, it’s easy to fit it all into one day.  And if you do that, then you’ll have time to explore further. 

Here are my suggestions on what to see on your second day in Jeddah

Go to the Aquarium in Jeddah

The Fakieh Aquarium in Jeddah is the first marine exhibition in Saudi Arabia and here, within a stone’s throw of the Red Sea you’ll find more than 200 species, 85% of which are native to Jeddah’s coral reefs.  You’ll walk through tunnels as the marine life swims around you, and get to see life that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else on the planet!

  • Fakieh Aquarium Address: Al Kurnaysh Br Rd, Al Nawras,  Next to, Al Kuranaysh Rd, Jeddah 23413, Saudi Arabia
  • Fakieh Aquarium Opening Hours:  10:00 – 23:00 (Fridays 12:00 – 23:00)
  • Fakieh Aquarium Entrance Fee:   Adults SAR 80, Children SAR 70

Visit the museums in Al Balad

If you’re adding a second day to your visit to Jeddah, then you’ll have time to fit in seeing them on the second day.  I’ll include another local restaurant that you shouldn’t miss that’s within walking distance of Al Balad, but first the museums.

The Matbouli House Museum is an old traditional home in Al-Balad District now operating as a museum.    You’ll find the traditional rawasheens and wooden ceilings as well as stairwells and uneven floors here.

  • Matbouli House Museum Address: Al Balad District, Jeddah 22236, Saudi Arabia
  • Matbouli House Museum Opening Times:  17:00 – 22:00
  • Matbouli House Museum Entrance Fees:   10 SAR

Located in an 1800s house, the Nassif House Museum displays the traditional crafts and architecture – which have been retained despite several renovations.  The house was built in 1880 and is a glorious 106-room coral stone mansion!

The artwork in the house dates to the 19th century and there’s a library here housing more than 16,000 books!  This was once the home of King Abdulaziz AlSaud, so you’ll be walking the same halls as royalty!  

  • Nassif House Museum Address: Al Dhahab, Al-Balad, Jeddah 22236, Saudi Arabia
  • Nassif House Museum Opening Times:  17:00 – 22:00
  • Nassif House Museum Entrance Fees: Free
Nassif House Museum

Map of Things to Do in Jeddah

You can see the full map of Jeddah’s things to do here.

Map of how to spend 1 or 2 days in Jeddah

Eat More Local Specialities in Jeddah

I’ve got two more super offerings for local food for you here in Jeddah.  The first is a chain.  And it’s one that the Saudis love more than KFC.  That’s right.  It’s not just the Koreans who’ve adopted fried chicken as a staple food, it’s also the Saudis.

The Al Baik chicken shops are beloved by Saudis.  This fried chicken comes with its own secret spice mix.

Next up is a little street food, (although this is street food in a café setting) and this is within easy walking distance of Al Balad – so you can eat before heading to the museums or afterward.  Naji Al Harbi serves tasty, juicy kebabs with yogurt sides and is a firm favorite in the area.

Travel Tips for Saudi Arabia

Final Words on a Perfect Jeddah Itinerary

I really didn’t know what to expect on our visit to Jeddah.  Clearly, this is a conservative country, so I wore long loose trousers and a long loose blouse the whole time I was there.  I didn’t wear, nor did I feel the need to wear a headscarf, although I had one in my bag at all times.  For us, an agenda that fitted into one day in Jeddah was the perfect amount of time but actually having two days in Jeddah meant that we could take it a lot easier in the heat.  We loved the opportunity to explore the food here over the time we were here and it was a great introduction to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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