The capital city of the small island state of Bahrain, Manama has a rich history dating back centuries and has long played a role as a trade hub - something that has continued into the present day thanks to the country’s oil-rich fortunes. The result of this influx of wealth means the city boasts an arresting mix of old and new, with towering monuments to modernity like the twin towers of the Bahrain Financial Harbor and those of the Bahrain WTC proving to be as much emblematic of Manama as the historic Bab Al-Bahrain souq and centuries-old Bahrain Fort world heritage site. As befits a capital, Manama is also home to a number of globally-important sites - from one of the world’s biggest mosques in the form of the Al Fateh Grand Mosque, to the renowned Beit Al Quran complex and its Islamic museum. It is also home to a number of national prestige projects - such as the National Theatre of Bahrain and Bahrain National Museum, both of which sit on the waterfront. And, if your holiday plans involve simpler pleasures like family-friendly waterparks or shopping extravaganzas in large malls - well, you’ll find precisely that as well. Read on for some of the top things to do in Manama, Bahrain.
1. Explore Manama's historic souq at Bab Al-Bahrain
The ‘Gate of Bahrain’, this historic former coastline feature now lies a little way inland thanks to land reclamation projects, but it still serves as the main entrance to the Manama Souq. Its glistening white walls and arch lend a trip to the historic market a real moment of arrival. Located in the Customs Square - which is thought to have been the region’s first-ever formal public space - Bab Al Bahrain is also home to a tourist information office, making it a handy first stop for travellers seeking tips when exploring the city. Of course, once you pass through its arch you’ll also find yourself in the historic Manama Souq, a partially pedestrianised bazaar in which you’ll find all manner of goods and nick-knacks, from crucibles and jewellery to spices and sweets.
Address: Bab Al Bahrain Avenue, Manama 304, Bahrain
Website: DBab Al-Bahrain
Opening hours: Sat - Thu: 9am - 12.30pm, 4pm - 8pm (closed on Fri)
2. Tour one of the world's largest mosques, Al Fateh Grand Mosque
One of the world’s largest mosques, the stunning Al Fateh Grand Mosque - which was built in 1987 - can accommodate more than 7,000 worshippers and covers an area some 6,500 sqm (almost 70,000 sq. ft.). Its stunning design blends traditional architectural tenets with modern building materials - the dome, for instance, is made from fibreglass and holds the record for being the largest dome ever made from the material. As well as serving as a still-active mosque, the building is also open for tourist tours from 9am to 4 pm, and, since 2006, it has also housed the National Library of Bahrain.
Al Fateh Grand Mosque
Address: Awal Avenue Corner Al Fatih Highway، Bahrain
Opening hours: 9am - 4pm (daily)
3. Visit the popular Water Garden
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
A popular spot in many a Bahrain resident’s childhood, Manama’s Water Garden has delighted generations with its amusements, traditional rides and array of water features and paths. In more recent times an ambitious refurbishment project has got under way, involving the removal of many old structures and the installation of new landscaping features, irrigation system, a wooden bridge and walkway and water fountains with light features. Work was still under way into September 2019, but the finished phoenix-like “rehabilitation” may be complete by the time of your visit - so it might be worth checking with a local tourist information centre before heading over.
Address: Sheikh Mohammed Avenue, Manama, Bahrain
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4. Marvel at rare manuscripts in Beit Al Qur'an
One of the most highly-renowned Islamic museums of the planet, Beit Al Qur'an features a host of rare manuscripts and a valuable and exhaustive collection of the Qur'an which are spread across 10 halls and 2 floors. This large complex, which contains up to 50,000 books, features Qur'anic manuscripts dating back as far as 700AD. And, as well as its internationally important collection, it is also home to a functioning mosque, library, madrasa school and an auditorium.
Beit Al Qur'an
Address: Building No.17، Rd No 1901, Manama, Bahrain
Opening hours: Sat - Wed: 9am - 1pm & 4pm - 6pm; Thu: 9am - 1pm (closed on Fri)
5. Take in a top show at the National Theatre of Bahrain
Set on the waterfront, alongside the aforementioned National Museum, the National Theatre of Bahrain first opened its doors in November 2012 and is one of the largest theatres in the entire Middle East. Its main 1001-seat auditorium - a homage to the 1001 Arabian Nights - has played host to some major theatre productions and musical acts from across the globe. Indeed, this striking emblem of modernity has played host to everything from the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Ballets to famous composer Yanni. As well as the main auditorium it also houses a smaller 150-seat studio theatre. Which acts will you see during your visit?
National Theatre of Bahrain
Address: Shaikh Hamad Causeway, Manama, Bahrain
Website: National Theatre of Bahrain
Opening hours: 10am - 5pm (daily)
6. Splash the cash with a shopping trip to Bahrain Mall
Shopaholics will be in retail heaven at this next entry. The multi-storey Bahrain Mall is a veritable temple to commerce, its 70,000 sqm (750,000 sq. ft.) of shops boasting more than 120 international brand names. Set within the heart of the retail district, it houses Arabian perfumeries, a range of banks, electronic suppliers, numerous fashion outlets, book sellers, household goods, and an array of jewellers - to name but a few. Little wonder then that it welcomes close to half-a-million visitors every month. Indeed, such is its popularity, that it actually attracts shoppers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
The Bahrain Mall
Address: Avenue 28 Building 184, Block 410 Sanabis, Manama, Bahrain, Bahrain
Website: The Bahrain Mall
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 10am - 10pm; Fri - Sat: 10am - 12am
7. Enjoy water slides and cool dips at Wahooo! Waterpark
If you’re seeking a little family-friendly fun, or eager to cool off in the hot Persian Gulf sun, then a visit to Wahooo! Waterpark will almost certainly make it onto your travel itinerary. From its Lazy River ride to its range of more than 10 colourful, adrenaline-fuelled water slides there’ll be plenty of attractions to keep you all entertained. Arguably the most thrilling of these is the self-styled Master Blaster - a 190 m (623 ft) long beast that sends riders hurtling at speed and is “not for the faint-hearted”. The park, which features inside and outdoor attractions, stretches across an area of some 15,000 sqm (160,000 sq. ft.) and boasts the world’s first full-size indoor surfing machine - the Flowrider. Away from the slides, the park is also home to the Rain Fortress - a large water-themed jungle gym, complete with water cannons and slides.
Address: City Centre Bahrain, Building 2758, Road 4650, Manama – Bahrain
Website: Wahooo! Waterpark
Opening hours: Mon - Tue & Sat: 11am - 8pm; Wed: 11am - 10pm; Thu - Fri: 11am - 9pm (closed on Sun)
Price: 11 USD onwards
8. Ease your cares away at La Fontaine Centre for Contemporary Art & Spa
After the thrills and spills of the waterpark, you’ll likely be ready for a little rest and relaxation. The La Fontaine Centre for Contemporary Art & Spa, which is set within an historic 150-year-old architectural gem of a building, features an array of contemporary art galleries - as well as an exclusive spa and Pilates/dance studio for easing away the stresses of everyday life or for chilling out during a break in your sightseeing. The site also features an open-air amphitheatre in which to enjoy the sun, and a fine-dining restaurant where you can tuck into some tasty treats to accompany the ‘food for the soul’ that is on offer elsewhere. Its menu features a wide array of dishes, from soups and pastas to seafood, steaks and poultry.
La Fontaine Centre for Contemporary Art & Spa
Address: Road No 639, Manama, Bahrain
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 11am - 11pm (closed on Mon)
9. Bring your entire family to Adhari Park
Back to some frantic family-fun now. Adhari Park features no fewer than 22 outdoor and 17 indoor amusement park rides for you, your friends and family to enjoy. These range from flying carousels, spring rides and go-karting to more sedate pleasures like a road train, horse carousel bumper and mini-bumper cars. The park, which sits next to the Adhari National Park and stretches across 165,000 sqm (almost 1.8 million sq. ft.), also boasts 10 food outlets, a family entertainment centre, artificial lakes and a number of retailers. There’s also more than 1,200 car parking spaces, for ease of access by road.
Address: Building 111، Manama, Bahrain
Website: Adhari Park
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 4pm - 12am; Fri - Sat: 10am - 12am
10. Drop by Little India during your souq visit
Those who pay a visit to the aforementioned Manama Souq will no doubt stumble upon this next entry during their shopping explorations. A corner of this historic bazaar - three streets covering roughly 5000 sqm (54,000 sq. ft.) - is forever part of the Indian subcontinent thanks to a range of shop owners whose ancestry and parentage traces back to India. This means you’ll find an array of fascinating Indian cultural touchstones during your journey through its streets - from the 200-year-old Jai Shri Khrishna Temple to the Bollywood classics you might hear emanating from some of the local eateries.
Address: Bab Al Bahrain Avenue, Al Tijjar Avenue and Al Hadrami Avenue in Manama Souk, Manama, Bahrain
11. Relish the tasty food at Naseef Restaurant
Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account
Offering a range of traditional Bahraini and Middle Eastern dishes, this eatery has been delighting Manama food fans for decades. One of Manama’s higher-rated restaurants, its mango ice creams, in particular, are said to have become a particular right of passage for many a visitor, since first enticing customers almost 100 years ago. Indeed, the restaurant says many people still ask for a mango ice cream “but also love our other flavours”. Its menu also offers a range of breakfasts, lunches and dinners and includes vegetarian and vegan-friendly options. Naturally, halal dishes are also on the menu.
Address: Bab Market, Manama, Bahrain
Website: Naseef Restaurant
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 8am - 10pm; Fri - Sat: 8am - 12am
12. Party at KLUB 360 Bahrain
Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account
Dance fans seeking a place to party up a storm may wish to consider a visit to KLUB 360 Bahrain. This contemporary night club, which is busier at weekends, is open seven days a week - giving you and your friends the chance to party into the wee small hours. It also hosts special events, with some of the past celebrities and top DJs to have made an appearance including the likes of Sean Paul, Craig David, Duffy, Outlaw, house music’s Richard Murray and Dubai’s well-known DJ Crow. Guests should bear in mind, however, that it is strictly smart casual (no t-shirts, hats or trainers), so make sure to dress up for the occasion to ensure you are not disappointed.
KLUB 360 Bahrain
Address: Elite Crystal Hotel, Road 2423, Block 324, Building 1373، Manama, Bahrain
Website: DKLUB 360 Bahrain
Opening hours: 9pm - 2am (daily)
One for the romantics among you now. Picture it; you and your significant other riding Arabian steeds in tandem along the sands as the sun sets, casting gorgeous golden light onto the landscape. Well, you don’t have to just picture it. This special one-hour riding experience - which deliberately avoids the punishing temperatures experienced in the middle of the day - will see participants set off from stables close to the UNESCO world heritage site of Bahrain Fort and follow ancient horse trails dating back as far as 2300BC. Participants can also opt for a photo-opp package upgrade, where they can don traditional Bahraini attire and pose alongside their horse - for a unique, romantic memento.
Arabian Sunset Horse Riding & Stable Tour
Duration: 1 to 2 hours
Welcome to Bahrain’s most popular tourist attraction. The history of Bahrain and the civilisations which once called this area home are celebrated at the Bahrain National Museum, which houses everything from contemporary artworks to a reconstruction of an ancient burial mound, and features archaeological pieces stretching back some 5,000 years. Located next to the National Theatre of Bahrain (more on that a little later) - making a visit to both an enticing prospect - the museum extends across an area of almost 28,000 sqm (300,000 sq. ft.), with some 20,000 sqm (215,000 sq. ft.) of that given over to floor space in two buildings. This tour visits the museum, as well as other sites, such as the Al Fateh Grand Mosque, Bait Al-Qur’an Museum, and even a camel farm before finishing at Manama Souq.
Full Day Private Tour: Treasures of Bahrain
Duration: 8 hours
Time to go exploring
Historical wonders and modern architectural marvels rub shoulder-to-shoulder in Manama, offering visitors many an opportunity to enjoy all manner of sights and sounds. From world-famous ballet production companies in ultra-modern facilities to the cultural and historic charms of wandering the souq’s many stalls, and the thrills and spills of family-friendly waterparks and amusement parks - there’s something for everyone in this corner of Bahrain. Where will your Manama adventure take you?
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