Bahrain is a small island state (a kingdom, as a matter of fact) located in the middle of the Arabian Gulf. But just because it is small (it has an area of 765 square kilometres), it doesn’t mean that Bahrain cannot offer plenty of things to do. Visitors love Bahrain not only for its friendly vibe, but also for its well preserved authenticity. There’s also a great Bahrain nightlife scene and there are many expatriates in Bahrain.
If you happen to go to Bahrain, here are a few things to do, and a few places worth visiting while you are there:
1. Bahrain National Museum
Bahrain National Museum was inaugurated on the 15th of December, 1988, and is one of the main cultural landmarks in the kingdom.
The building of the museum was designed by Krohn and Hartvig Rasmussen, and it covers an area of approximately 20,000 square meters. The museum houses a permanent exhibition area, temporary exhibition halls, an art gallery, a lecture hall, a gift shop and a café. Bahrain National Museum exhibits valuable artifacts, documents and manuscripts that take the visitors through 6000 years of Bahrain history, with all its customs and traditions, trades and crafts.
2. Qalat al Bahrain
Known also as Bahrain Fort, Qalat al Bahrain is one of the most important archaeological digs in the Arabian Gulf. The fort, which is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the former capital of Dilmun (the ancient name of Bahrain).
The site was open to the public in 2008 and, apart from the residential, commercial and military structures that have been excavated over the past 50 years, Qalat al Bahrain also consists of 5 exhibition halls and a seaside café offering stunning views of the surrounding area.
3. Bab al Bahrain
Over the years, Bab Al Bahrain (‘bab’ meaning ‘gate’ in Arabic) has become synonymous with Manama Souq, a collection of shops that is located right behind it. However, Bab Al Bahrain is more than just a gate or an entrance. It is one of Bahrain’s cultural landmarks, a building where the government offices used to be located.
In 1949, when Bab al Bahrain was built, the building was actually overlooking the sea… The area around Bab al Bahrain went through some important changes over the years (there is no proximity to the sea anymore), as did Bad al Bahrain itself. The Ministry of Culture undertook a project to preserve Bab al Bahrain and its glory, and moved the tourism sector offices and visitor’s center into the building.
Passing through Bad al Bahrain, you enter the souq where you can find hundreds of small shops that sell everything from food, to clothes and jewelry.
4. Beit al Quran
Beit al Quran (which translated into English means ‘House of Quran’) is considered to be the only institute in the world dedicated solely to the Quran. The building houses a mosque, an auditorium, a school dedicated to the study of Quran, a museum, and it sometimes hosts different art exhibitions. In Beit al Quran, you can find a collection of old Quranic manuscripts, some dating back to the 7th century, as well as more than 50,000 islamic books written in different languages.
5. Al Fateh Mosque
Built in 1987, Al Fateh Mosque is the largest mosque in Bahrain and it is considered to be one of the largest mosques in the world. It can accommodate up to 7000 people and its walls display beautiful Kufic calligraphy (the oldest calligraphic form found in the Arabic scripts). The dome of Al Fateh Mosque is an impressive fiberglass structure and it has been deemed to be the largest of its kind in the world.
6. Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is one of the main attractions in Bahrain due to the incredible conditions in which it has survived for more than 100 years. The tree is considered to a be a marvel of nature, since there is basically no water source running anywhere near or under it. The visitors’ centre offers information about several artefacts discovered in the area.
7. Bahrain National Theater
The theatre was opened in 2012 and filled a big whole in the Bahrain cultural life. It is considered to be the third largest theatre in the Arab world and it stretches over a total area of 11.869 square meters. The complex houses, apart from the main theatre hall, a smaller auditorium that can seat 100 people, two balconies and a sea view café.
The theatre is located between the sea and the Bahrain National Theatre lake, and its whole design was inspired by the country’s sailing traditions. The main auditorium can seat 1001 people (an homage to the tales of 1001 Arabian Nights) and it is the place where a variety of international cultural events take place, like dance shows, or opera and theatre performances.
8. A’Ali Burial Mounds
The burial mounds that can be found in a large number in the North of Bahrain, are believed to have origins that go as far back in time as the 3rd millennium BC. The village of A’Ali is the place where the best preserved burial mounds can be found. A lot of pottery workshops that are worth visiting have been opened around the mounds. Here, the potters are still using traditional methods to fire their pieces, and some even use the burial chambers as ovens.
9. Muharraq Houses
Muharraq is the former capital of Bahrain and the place where a lot of restored and beautifully preserved traditional Bahraini houses can be found. The Muharraq houses are great examples of Gulf Islamic architecture, and feature beautifully carved wooden doors, perforated gypsum panels, and other examples of traditional architectural history. The two most prolific such houses are the Sheikh Isa bin Ali House and the Sheikh Ibrahim bin Mohamed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research. The Muharraq houses showcase different aspects of Bahrain’s heritage, like the tradition of embroidery and the pearling history.
10. Bahrain International Circuit
The Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix became part of the Formula One racing circuit in 2004, when Bahrain became the first Middle Eastern country to host a Formula One event. The place where the exciting race takes place once a year is the Bahrain International Circuit.
Apart from the annual F1 event, the circuit hosts other races and test drives throughout the year. The complex also has a karting track opened all year long, and an extreme 4×4 course.
11. Block 338
Located in the heart of Adliya, Block 338 is the place to go if you are looking to have a relaxed drink or a good meal. Block 338 is a pedestrian quarter packed with charming cafés, restaurants, galleries and small shops. There is something for everyone in Block 338, including outdoor and indoor seating, art exhibitions, cuisine from all over the world, live performances and even restaurants and lounges that serve alcoholic drinks.
12. Al Dar Island
For a relaxing day spent at the beach, Al Dar Island might be the perfect spot. Al Dar is an island close to the Bahrain mainland, that offers a variety of facilities like palm leaf huts, tents, chalets, a restaurant, and water activities. Al Dar Island can be reached by speed boats that depart on a regular basis throughout the day from the mainland Al Dar tickets office in Sitra Fisherman Port. The journey is only 10 minutes long, and you might also have the opportunity to see dolphins on the way.
So there you have them! These should keep you busy for 3-4 days… And there are always other things to do while you are in Bahrain. I did not include on this list the many shopping malls that have been built on the island, I did not say anything about the nightlife in Bahrain and I left out many other worthy places to visit, like Arad Fort or the Royal Camel Farm. It might be a small island, but there are certainly a lot of things to do in Bahrain.
Further Reading on the Middle East
If you are travelling in the Middle East, you might also be interested in reading about…
- Visiting Saudi Arabia
- Tel Aviv Street Art at Carmel Market
- Istanbul to Cappadocia
- Things to do in Downtown Dubai
- Petra Tours