Let's discover the best things to do in Muscat Oman to help you plan your itinerary! Should you have only one day or several days, below is a list of places to visit in Muscat as well as activities depending on what you like: architecture, history, water, nature etc... (with a map of Oman). But Oman is much more than just its capital Muscat, so I also recommend some day trips to discover more of the beautiful Omani landscapes.
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Best things to do in Muscat - Short answer
In the article below, I am describing all my favorite things to do in Muscat in terms of Architecture, Nature, culture...
But if you want a short answer, I think the top 3 Must-do in Muscat Oman are:
- Touring the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
- Exploring the old town in the Mutrah area with the Souq and fish market
- Hiking in the hills to see the unique city from a higher viewpoint
VIDEO: one day in Muscat
And before I develop, you can watch this short video to give you a feel of what you could see in Muscat in just one day:
Some of those places to see in Muscat even made my list of top things to do in Oman!
Tourism Map of Muscat Oman
It is not so easy to get oriented in the Capital City and find all the places to see in Muscat. The city is spread and separated by hills. To help you, I have drawn a map and collected information about transport options.
Below is a map I draw with the various touristic areas of Muscat and the main things to do in each.
Currently planning a trip around Oman? Want to see more maps to help you plan your road trip? Check out my eBook:
Be overwhelmed by the beauty, not the planning!
ARCHITECTURAL - What to see in Muscat
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
If there is one place to visit in Muscat, it is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. It is an architectural masterpiece both from the outside and from the inside. It is the absolute top thing to do in Muscat.
Discover many more photos and Information to plan your visit in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque article.
Royal Opera House Muscat
Another recent building in Muscat is the Royal Opera House. With handcrafted decors all around, you might not even notice how technical the building is, but is it also a masterpiece in that sense. This is why the Opera is one of the main places to visit in Muscat either as a tourist or for a performance.
Discover many more photos and Information to plan your visit in the Royal Opera House article.
Forts and Palace
The heart of Muscat is around the Sultan's Qasr Al Alam palace and the two 16th century Portuguese forts of Al Jilali and Al Mirani. They are not open to the public but you can admire them from outside.
Discover many more photos and information to plan your visit in the Forts and Palace article.
There are many more mosques in Oman. Most of them are not opened to the non-muslims. However you can go to Mohammed Al Ameen Mosque, well rated in trip advisor. And you can check out the list of Muscat Mosques by OmanTripper.
BEACHES - Muscat Beaches and water attractions
Qurum beach (or by its full name Shatti al-Qurum) is the main beach in Muscat.
It is a long stretch of Golden sand where locals come relax during the weekend.
Inside Muscat, you can also fin a small beach at Kalbuh, East of the old town corniche.
To find other Muscat beaches, you have to go a little out of town. You can enjoy: Qantab beach, Sifah beach, Bandar Jissah, Yiti beach...
Boat excursions from Muscat
Another great thing to do in Muscat is to discover the shores to the South by boat. From the Al Rowdha Marina, you can take 2 or 3 hour tours including dolphin watch, snorkeling, or just enjoying the work of erosion during daytime or at sunset.
Or you can already book a Snorkeling tour to the islands
The Mazara dam is just outside of Muscat in the mountains. It is not always flowing but people say the lake is beautiful.
CULTURAL - Things to do in Muscat Oman
There are many other attractions in Muscat you should consider, some are touristic others are less, but here there are:
If you want to glimpse at the life of Omani people, the Fish market is a must place to visit. Active early morning you can see the boats arriving, the fish being sold and then prepared. It is one of my favorite activities in Muscat but wear closed shoes!!!
Discover many more photos and information to plan your visit in the Muscat Fish Market article.
Muscat old city and Souq
Not far from the Fish Market you can walk through the old city and the Souq, especially the gold section.
Discover many more photos and information to plan your visit in the Muscat Corniche and Souq article.
NATURE - Muscat Tourism
If you want to move a little and capture some great views of the city, you can hike above Riyam. It is an original activity in Muscat to get away from the crowds.
Discover many more photos and information to plan your hike in Muscat.
The Riyam park is great for a stroll. It includes 2 hills giving scenic views of mountains and the corniche. There are also a great playground for children.
In the photo it is the green area under the Incense Burner Tower.
Qurum natural park
Another classic is the Qurum Natural Park located in the Qurum residential area. A well maintained park in the heart of the city.
You can also drive in the hills behind the park for more views of Muscat.
MUSEUMS - Places to visit in Muscat
I had only 2 days in Muscat and was not in the mood for museums having just lost my brother. However, I have researched them instensively and collected a list of you. First some notes:
- Raters on Tripadvisor have placed Bait Az-Zubair and the Armed Forces Museums in the list of top things to see in Muscat.
- The National museum has now opened in its new building (since december 2015). Apparently it is really modern so it might make soon the top list.
- As those museums do not have official websites, it is difficult to make sure you have the proper opening hours. I did my best, but cannot ensure those are correct.
And here is the list:
Ruwi - Al Mujamma St
Weapons, clothing, instruments and defence systems
8AM-1PM / 3PM-6PM
Bait Al Barandah
Mutrah - Al-Mina St
History of Muscat since its geological formation to the present
Sat-Thur: 9AM-1PM / 4PM-6PM
Mutrah - Al Saidiya Street
Omani artefacts and collectables: weapons, jewellery, clothing, household item…
Mutrah - On Al Bahri Road
Oman's history from the Neolithic times to the present + view of the Corniche
Sat-Thur: 9:30AM-11:30AM / 4:30PM-7PM
Natural History Museum
In the Ministry of Heritage and Culture building - Oman’s geography and geology, flora and fauna
Center - Al Saidiya St
Oman culture - jewellery, crafts and Omani ships
Al Qurum - Sayh Al Malih St
Processes of formation, exploitation and processing of how crude oil and natural gas
7AM-12PM / 1PM – 4PM / Thur: 7AM-12PM
Al Alam Street
Relics of ancient civilizations: stone tombs, rock carvings, agricultural tools, stone necklaces…
9:30AM-1:30PM / 5PM-7PM
Center - Qasr al-Alam St
History and documents related to the relationship between France and Oman
9AM-1PM most of the year + 4-7PM Oct to Mar
Al Qurum - Sayh Al Malih St
Sun - Thu: 8AM - 3PM
Ruwi - In the Central Bank of Oman
Succession of currencies circulated in the Sultanate of Oman, both paper and metal
Sat- Wed: 8:30AM -12:30PM
Muscat sightseeing - how to get around (transport options)
My experience of taxis in Oman was not really good. Mostly because they only knew the major sights but not the streets. Apparently they do that part time, so their knowledge of the city is limited. But if you drive only between major sights, airports and main hotels it should be ok.
You have to agree on the price beforehand. There is a plan to introduce meters but it is not yet implemented... Between the various areas of the city it should not be more than 5 to 10 OR (13 to 26 USD as of Dec 2015).
Not really buses, the baisa buses are minivans not clearly marked. If you want to attempt it I recommend asking locals.
Hop on Hop off Bus by BigBus - considering the spread of the city, it is quite practical. The first bus departs Mutrah Souq at 9am and buses depart every 30 minutes until 5pm (last return at Mutrah Souq at 6:45pm). Timings are subject to change especially during Ramadan.
Driving in Muscat
I was really surprised how easy it is to drive in Muscat. The roads are in very good conditions, people are courteous and calm. The old town is where sometimes there are traffic jams but otherwise, I think it is a good solution. For more information check out my article dedicating to Driving in Oman.
Organized tours / private guide
You can also join organized half day or day tours or book with a private guide. In that case, you just have to sit back, relax and follow the guide. For a full day private tour of the city, count 200 to 300 USD.
Day trips from Muscat
If you have some more days in Muscat but don't want to go on a round trip one of the things to do in join a day trip. Many are possible and below is a selection of the best ones.
For guided day trips from Muscat, I wrote a dedicated article to help chose with my selection of the best destinations.
Sink Hole and Wadi Shab
Wadi Shab is one of my favorite locations in Oman. You can hike one hour through the canyon and finish by swimming. Absolutely stunning! If you have time this is a must do!
On the way back you can stop at the Sink hole; which is very easily accessed from the main road down to Sur. It is a hole in the ground filled with beautiful water and bordered by the sea on one side and mountains on the other.
A classic among tourists stopping one day in Muscat on their cruise, is to get up to Jebel Shams, also known as the grand canyon of Oman.
Discover many more photos and info to plan your trip in the Jebel Shams article
or consider booking a guided tour to jebel Shams
Nizwa is another large city in Oman. The drive will be 1h30min. In the center of the city, you can discover a beautiful Souq, the castle with many cultural displays and climb to the top of the fort for breathtaking views of the oasis.
Wadi Bani Khalid and Wahiba sands
If you don't mind a longer day tour with a lot of driving you can reach Wadi Bani Khalid and the sand dunes of Wahiba Sands. Plan 2h30 drive in each direction. Long, but it gives you 3 different landscapes of Oman in one day: city, wadi and desert!
Or even better you can book a 2-day tour to spend the night in the desert!
For those who love forts and castles, it is a 1h30 min drive to reach Rustaq from Muscat. Do some better planning than me and don't go on a Friday. I was there at prayer time, all the local men were going inside but I could not...
You can also do many day trips to the surrounding beaches along the North and South coast of the many but less known wadis everywhere. The list would be too long.
Muscat has a good variety of Accommodation options: resorts, hotels, guesthouse, Airbnb...
Best areas to stay in Muscat
You can stay near:
- Al Qurum beach to enjoy evening walks on the sands,
- or in Muttrah for more traditional restaurant and experience
- The cheaper options are in the Ruwi area.
Muscat Hotel suggestions
- PRACTICAL - The Coral Muscat Hotel and Apartments is a great location for a base with spacious facilities and with an apartment you can have more freedom - Check out photos and book
- MODERN & GOOD VALUE - The Centara Muscat Hotel is not near the beach so has good value deals with really good accommodations - Check out photos and prices
- LUXURY and CHARM - Located by the beach, The Chedi Muscat is displays Sumptuous decor and a unique atmosphere - it brings the local architecture styles with modern concept - Check out photos and prices
- The WELL KNOWN BRAND - The Grand Hyatt Muscat has a great location by the beach and all the facilities you could need - Check out photos and prices
- CHEAPER OPTION BY THE BEACH - The Al Ferdous apartments offer a great price alternative for those you still want to stay very close to the beach - Check out photos and prices
- or Check out the best rated accommodations in Muscat
Holiday in Muscat - Itinerary
2 days in Muscat
If you have only 2 days in Muscat, I recommend staying in the city rather and going on day trips. There is much to experience
- Morning 1 - explore the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
- Afternoon 1 - Hike between Riyam and Mutrah - if you can't head by car to the forts and palace and visit a museum
- Morning 2 - explore the Mutrah Souq & Fish market
- Afternoon 2 - enjoy a boat tour to see the town from the distance of relax at the beach
Oman itinerary 4 days - based in Muscat
If you are lucky enough to have a little more time, I recommend alternating days in the city and day trips
- Day 1 - Grand Mosque and Hike
- Day 2 - day trip to Wadi Shab
- Day 3 - Mutrah Souq and boat tour
- Day 4 day trip Wahiba Sands or to some forts depending on your interests
Oman itinerary - road trip
However I think the best way to experience Oman is to go on a road trip and stay in different cities. If you are looking for a practical travel guide to help you plan your trip in Oman, check out my eBook:
Be overwhelmed by the beauty, not the planning!
Want to see more of Oman's beauty?
I am curious, please tell me which activities in Muscat makes it on your itinerary...
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