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How to Plan One Day in Jeddah

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5 months ago

Are you visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time? Here for the Mecca pilgrimage? Or do you have 24 hours in Jeddah on the way to Al Ula? Regardless, you’ll want to make sure you have a solid itinerary for one day in Jeddah!

Set on the shores of the Red Sea, Jeddah has been the gateway to Arabia for centuries. Saudi Arabia is currently undergoing huge changes, as Vision 2030 transforms the face of the country. With Jeddah at the forefront of these changes, there is no better time to plan your Saudi Arabia vacation

white washed heritage buildings in the al balad district of Jeddah
Heritage buildings in Jeddah’s UNESCO World Heritage Al-Balad District

In this Jeddah travel guide, I’ll be sharing all of our favorite tourist places, including where to find the best parties in Jeddah – yes, you read that right!  

Before you go: Visas for Saudi Arabia

Trips to Saudi Arabia have become so much easier in the last few years.  

ruins of hegra at al ula - one of the top things to do in saudi arabia
Saudi Arabia is full of beautiful places, including the Nabatean ruins at Al Ula

Most Western nationals are eligible for a Saudi Arabian eVisa or Visa on Arrival. For more information on visas and everything else you need to know before visiting Saudi Arabia, we have you covered.

Getting to Jeddah

You’re probably wondering, where is Jeddah?  

Located on Saudi Arabia’s western Red Sea coast, Jeddah has a major international airport with strong connectivity to the rest of the world.  

American travelers to Saudi Arabia have direct flights from USA to Saudi Arabia. At the time of writing, Saudia Airlines offer direct flights from Jeddah to New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

Canadian travelers flying from Canada to Saudi Arabia will need to change via any of the major American, European or Middle East hubs – but with so many flights to Jeddah, you probably won’t have to wait for a long for a connection!

European and British travelers, I have a huge tip for finding super cheap flights from Europe to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government is currently subsiding Wizz Air flights from Saudi Arabia to a select few budget hubs in Europe.  

We’re talking heavily subsided, with flights often around €20! These flights make trips to Saudi Arabia often as cheap as a European weekend getaway!

minaret in old jeddah white

At the time of writing, the cheap flights to Jeddah were operating from Bucharest, Budapest, Larnaca, Milan, Rome, Venice and Vienna. My tip? Get yourself on a cheap flight to one of these cities and grab a bargain! If you time your flights right, you should be able to get from anywhere in Europe to Jeddah for less than €100!  

old wooden balconies in jeddah

If the budget hack doesn’t work out for you, Saudia and European airlines fly direct to Jeddah from London, Paris, Madrid and other major European cities.

As the gateway to Mecca, Jeddah also has direct flights to every major city in the Islamic world. From Baku to Istanbul to Kuala Lumpur, you won’t have trouble finding a flight to Jeddah!

jeddah corniche with modern building behind
Jeddah’s Corniche

Local tip: Check your Jeddah Airport terminal! Too many travelers go to the wrong terminal – and they’re not easy to move between.

The budget airlines and a few other carriers fly out of the old Jeddah Airport terminal (North Terminal). If you are flying in or out of the North Terminal, you cannot rent a car at Jeddah Airport’s North Terminal. You will need to take bus (very limited hours!) or a taxi. 

royal family of saudi arabia in cafe with white flowers and traditional bedouin woven couch

The distance between the old North Terminal and the new main Jeddah Airport car rental center is about 20 minutes by car.  I must confess, I didn’t realise the terminals were so disconnected before arriving… but my mistake is your insight!  The taxis at the airport know that travelers are often stuck here and charge exorbitant rates to shuttle you to the main Jeddah Airport rental car companies.  

people walking in pedestrian mall in jeddah with white minaret in background

Your best bet? Pre-buy a local eSIM and download the ride-sharing applications Careem and Uber beforehand. This way, you can avoid the hassle and pay fair rates!  

white mosque with palm tree in jeddah

And while we’re on the topic of the North Terminal, I would recommend eating before your departure flight. The North Terminal Jeddah Airport restaurants are very limited! 

How to get around Jeddah 

The Jeddah metro does not open until 2025 but don’t worry, I’ll be sharing a huge update when it finally does open! 

jeddah sea ocean with corniche and woman under palm tree
A moment of serenity at the Jeddah Corniche

Until then, you have two options when getting from the Airport to Jeddah: renting a car or using taxis and ride-sharing applications like Careem or Uber.  

And for women travellers: there are no longer any restrictions on driving for those visiting Saudi Arabia as a woman!   

green building architecture in jeddah al balad

Travel tip: Saudi Arabia is one of the only countries where I am consistently asked to show my International Driver’s Permit. Make sure you arrange your IDP before visiting Saudi Arabia!  

Where to stay in Jeddah 

I personally like to stay in the historic Al-Balad neighborhood or specifically at the Grand Star Al Saha. But many of my friends prefer the more central areas closer to the corniche and modern restaurants.

One day in Jeddah 

Now that you have all the information about getting here, it’s time for our ideal one day itinerary in Jeddah. If you’re looking for a guided tour, we recommend a private guided tour by a local (it’s excellently done).

6 am: Central Fish Market in Jeddah 

Cover your noise and watch your feet, as you start for an early morning mingle with local fishermen and Jeddah’s top chefs.  

man selects fish in Jeddah Fish Market
The other side of Jeddah: The Fish Market

Everyone is here for the same reason: the extremely fresh and brightly colored Red Sea fish. The mayhem of the city’s fish market is very different to the polished shopping centres of downtown, making it one of my top things to see in Jeddah!  

red sea fish big red in jeddah

If you’re feeling a little peckish, small stalls at the back of the market offer a great sea-to-plate option for the freshest fish in town!  

8 am: Saudi breakfast 

Saudi cuisine is one of the lesser-known gems of the Kingdom. I always recommend my friends visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time to check out Lazy Masoub in Jeddah’s Al Zahra neighborhood, one of the best places to eat in Jeddah.

For those with a sweet tooth, try the namesake Masoub – a blend of banana, soft bread, honey and Arabian spices.  

masoub and muttabak at lazy masoub restaurant - one of the best restaurants in Jeddah
A Saudi breakfast of Masoub and Mutabbak at Lazy Masoub

For those who start their day savory, I would recommend trying Mutabbak – a Saudi street food favorite, with thin layers of dough filled with mixtures of vegetables, spices and/or meat.  

arabic cartoon in pink and white
Lazy Masoub is famous for its Instagram-friendly aesthetic!

And don’t feel ashamed to order both – I did!

If you want to act like you are living in Jeddah, you need to dive right into Saudi cuisine!

10 am: Morning in Al-Balad  

Al-Balad, the UNESCO recognized historical heart of Jeddah, is easily the top thing to see in Jeddah. In my opinion, Al-Balad is also one of the most beautiful places in Saudi Arabia!

green and white heritage building in balad jeddah saudi arabia
The beautiful heritage architecture of Old Jeddah

Mornings are one of the best times to visit Al-Balad, as the streets are quiet, and the city is still waking up. Take your time to explore the narrow winding alleyways and take photos in front of the bright pastel coral homes.

wooden balcony al balad
The iconic wooden balconies of Jeddah’s Al-Balad

As Jeddah city prepares for tourism, Al-Balad is undergoing extensive refurbishment with new cafes, restaurants and boutique hotels. Don’t worry, so far, the restorations have been extremely careful to maintain Al-Balad’s character. Today, Al-Balad remains one of the most unique places in Saudi Arabia.  

busy market scene in Jeddah's historic Al Balad neighborhood
Street vendors in the lively alleyways of Al-Balad, Jeddah

I would recommend starting at the historic Mecca Gate, where pilgrims coming off the ships at Jeddah would continue towards Mecca. From here, make your way through the alleys, heading in the general direction of the ocean.  

mecca gate at al balad
The historic Mecca Gate entrance to Al-Balad

1 pm: Lunch!  

Around Al-Balad you have many lunch options – so I’m going to leave this one for you!  

Pick up a sandwich in one of the old-school bakeries or stop for some Indonesian food at Wong Solo or Garuda.  

indonesian fried tofu at wong solo, one of the best restaurants in Jeddah
Wong Solo: the tastes of Java in the heart of Jeddah

Eating is one of the top things to do in Jeddah. If you need more inspiration, check out my top restaurants in Jeddah.

3 pm: The Corniche  

As the afternoon sun kicks in, join the families enjoying the Jeddah Corniche – Jeddah’s iconic waterfront promenade.  

modern building by jeddah corniche

The corniche caters to all types of travelers, with beautiful gardens, public sculptures and a whole array of cafes and picnic spots. With street vendors and playgrounds, the Corniche is also one of the best places to visit in Jeddah with a family.  

My favorite section is around Island Mosque (which also makes for a beautiful picture set against the Red Sea!).  

island mosque on the Jeddah corniche
The whitewashed Island Mosque on Jeddah’s Corniche

Local tip: Don’t miss the King Fahd Fountain, just below the corniche. It’s best viewed from the Al Hamra Corniche. 

6 pm: A Lebanese feast 

Jeddah has some of the best Lebanese restaurants outside of Beirut.

lebanese feast in jeddah
Fresh hot pita and my personal favorite, manouche at Leila min Lebnen.

You have many options here, but for the best Lebanese comfort food I have you covered. If Middle Eastern food means felafel, hummus and fattoush, I always recommend either Leila min Lebnen or the iconic Khayal Restaurant. For a more detailed review, check out my top restaurants in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  

If you do end up at Leila min Lebnen, don’t forget to order the manouche. My favorite Lebanese dish (thanks to Michael for the introduction!).

9 pm: Find the party

I promised you the best party in Jeddah and it’s true, the city really does come to life after dark!  

While alcohol is illegal in Saudi Arabia, once the sun sets, I’m sending you back to Al-Balad!  

saudi men at the gold shop in al balad
Young men negotiate at one of the many gold shops in the Al-Balad market

Young families and friends come together in the evenings to drink coffee in Al-Balad’s photogenic coral houses. After dark, street markets spring to life, selling everything from the aromatic spices of Yemen to the best Saudi street food.

If you’re lucky, live oud concerts (a Middle Eastern musical instrument) or Saudi musicians will be performing at some of the cafes around Al-Balad. I promised you a party and Al-Balad will deliver.

green balconies of al-balad at night
There is a certain beauty to Al-Balad after dark

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