Manama, Bahrain’s largest city, lives up to its name, meaning “a place of dreams.” Awarded the title of “Arab Capital of Culture” in 2012 by UNESCO, Manama offers a blend of modern luxuries and rich cultural heritage. From ancient mosques and traditional markets to skyscrapers and high-end hotels, the city caters to diverse interests, making it a true cultural hub.
In this article you will discover best things to do in Manama.
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1. Enjoy authentic Islamic architecture
The Al-Fateh Grand Mosque is a must-visit landmark if you’re interested in Islamic architecture and culture. Located in Juffair, part of the capital city Manama, this mosque is one of the largest in the world and can hold over 7,000 people for prayers. The mosque is known for its stunning Kufic calligraphy on the walls and boasts the world’s largest fiberglass dome. If you want to take a tour, they’re available from 9am to 4pm. Just make sure to dress appropriately to show respect for the local culture.
Al-Fateh Grand Mosque: 6H9X+H6F، Awal Avenue Corner Al Fatih Highway, Manama, Bahrain
2. Shop at traditional markets
Bab Al Bahrain, or the “Gate of Bahrain,” is the main entrance to Manama Souq, a bustling marketplace that’s a melting pot of cultures. Here, you can find Arabic sweet shops next to Nepalese cafes and South Indian vegetarian eateries. If you’re looking for souvenirs, this is the place to get a unique Arabic rug, traditional lamp, or other small trinkets. For foodies, there are shops that offer a variety of Arabic spices like black lemon salt, sumac, and thyme. You can also find fabrics from around the world, including those from the Indian subcontinent and the Far East. It’s a must-visit spot for anyone looking to experience the diverse culture of Bahrain.
Location: ROAD 475, 304 Bab Al Bahrain Ave, Manama, Bahrain
3. Invest in the purest gold in the world
Bahrain is famous for its high-quality gold, and you can find some of the best at Manama Souq, particularly in the area known as the “Temple Corridor.” Here, shops offer pure 22 and 24-carat gold items. If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop experience, head to “Gold City,” a building that houses multiple gold stores under one roof. The selection is vast, ranging from modern designs to traditional pieces adorned with diamonds and pearls. You can either buy ready-made jewelry or opt for a custom-made gold necklace featuring your name in Arabic—a perfect souvenir to take back home.
4. Learn about Islamic culture
Islam has a long history in Bahrain, dating back to the seventh century.
In 2006, the Al-Fateh Grand Mosque expanded its role as a religious and cultural landmark by becoming the site of the National Library – Ahmed Al-Fateh Islamic Centre. This library houses around 7,000 books, including ancient texts on the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and Al-Azhar magazines that are over a century old, along with various other periodicals and magazines.
Ahmed Al-Fateh Islamic Centre: 6H9X+H64، Al Fateh Highway, Manama, Bahrain
5. Visit the 150-year-old La Fontaine Centre
The La Fontaine Center for Contemporary Art is a remarkable fusion of European and Gulf Islamic architectural styles, situated in the heart of Manama near the old market. Owned by the Ali Reza family and restored by French artist Jean-Marc Sinan, the center is a multi-faceted space that offers more than just art galleries.
It features an open-air theatre, a high-end restaurant, a luxurious spa, and a dance studio. Whether you’re interested in enjoying a romantic dinner by the fountain or exploring the center’s enclosed courtyards and narrow lanes, La Fontaine offers a unique cultural experience that’s not to be missed.
92 Hoora Avenue, Manama 306, 26243 Bahrain | https://www.lafontaineartcentre.net/
6. Discover the city’s artistic flair
Manama is a hub for art enthusiasts, featuring a variety of galleries that showcase the talents of both local Bahraini artists and expatriates.
Arabesque Gallery, located in the serene Umm Al Hassam neighborhood, welcomes visitors with its traditional door and beautiful bogan villa branches draping the entrance. This villa-turned-gallery is a must-visit for art lovers.
Albareh Gallery in Adliya is another notable space, offering a carefully curated selection of works from island-based painters, sculptors, and photographers. For those interested in more contemporary spaces, Ella Art Gallery in Adliya and ARTDIVANO in Gudaibiya are worth checking out.
If you’re interested in wearable art, Ila Prakash, an Indian artist who grew up in Bahrain, offers a unique collection of scarves and accessories featuring her artwork. These can be found at Jashanmal stores in Al Aali Shopping Mall.
7. Discover the secrets of the Dilmun civilization
Bahrain is a treasure trove of ancient history, considered the birthplace of the Dilmun civilization, one of the Middle East’s oldest. With a history spanning over 6,000 years, Bahrain is also thought to be the destination of Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality, as described in The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s earliest literary works.
The Bahrain National Museum, located near King Faisal Highway in Manama, pays homage to this rich history. Among its exhibits is a painting that illustrates a scene from The Epic of Gilgamesh.
In addition to this, the museum showcases a variety of historical artifacts such as trade seals, ancient coins, and burial mounds that date back to the Dilmun era. A visit to the museum offers a deep dive into Bahrain’s ancient past, making it a must-see for anyone interested in history and culture.
Bahrain National Museum, 6HRX+86G, Shaikh Hamad Causeway, Manama, Bahrain
8. Taste the burger at American Alley
Al-Shabab Street in Juffair, a neighborhood in Manama, is often referred to as “American Alley” due to its proximity to the U.S. Navy base. This bustling corridor is a hub of activity, offering a wide array of dining and entertainment options.
From restaurants and cafes to fast-food joints, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick burger or prefer to unwind at a café with a good book, you’re sure to find a spot that suits your taste.
The area is particularly lively on weekends, thanks to the numerous clubs and bars that are all within walking distance of each other. While weekdays are busy too, the weekend vibe is especially vibrant, making it a popular destination for those looking to enjoy a night out. So if you’re in the mood for some fun, food, and maybe a little dancing, Al-Shabab Street in Juffair is the place to be.
9. Enjoy a five-star brunch
Bahrain is home to a variety of luxury hotels, ranging from renowned international brands like Four Seasons and Sheraton to local gems like The Domain in Manama. These hotels offer more than just a comfortable stay; they provide a complete experience that caters to all your senses.
One of the highlights of these luxury hotels is their brunch offerings, which are considered some of the best in the city. Featuring a diverse array of Arabic and international cuisines, the brunch menus are designed to satisfy even the most demandin palate.
But the experience doesn’t stop at food. Many of these hotels offer beautiful pool areas where you can unwind and soak up the sun. If you’re in the mood for something more active, you can enjoy a barbecue by the poolside or even take a refreshing dip if the weather gets too warm.
Families with children need not worry, as most of these luxury hotels offer a range of activities for the little ones. Many have professionally run children’s clubs, ensuring that kids are entertained and engaged while the adults can relax and enjoy their time.
So whether you’re a foodie, a relaxation seeker, or a family looking for a fun and luxurious getaway, Bahrain’s luxury hotels have something to offer for everyone.