Muscat is compact enough that you can see many of its highlights in a short space of time – and many of the top sights are located right beside each other.
Start off at the Mutrah Corniche, heading for the old souks and Fish Market before heading to the nearby fort that offers stunning views and centuries of history among its walls.
Then broaden your horizons and explore the rest of the city, where you'll find everything from Royal palaces to monuments and more.
These are the top 11 things to do in Muscat...
Al Alam Palace
An official residence of the Sultan, and therefore closed to the public, it is one of the more colourful royal residences anywhere in the world. Literally. Beyond the gates, the blue and gold pillars or a palatial home stand behind beautiful flowerbeds. Other homes have become more popular as full-time residences in recent years, but nothing takes away from the grandeur here. Although it can’t be entered, there is a grand pedestrian walkway leading up to the palace entrance. There is lots of polished marble and imposing government buildings nearby.
Al Alam Palace, off Saidiya Street, Muscat.
Al Mirani Fort
A landmark enjoyed for looking at, rather than exploring, due to the fact that you can see it, but not enter. But glancing up at its hilltop location from all around Muscat gives fine views of the historic Portuguese fort that has stood here for more than 400 years. It holds a special place in Omani history as it is the site of a famous military victory, which eventually led to the Portuguese soldiers being ousted from Muscat. The equally impressive walls of the Al Jalali Fort sit across the bay.
Mirani Fort, Qasr Al Alam Street.
Al Riyam Park
You might be forgiven for thinking you have spotted an alien spaceship when you first set eyes on this family park’s enormous monument. Although it looks like something ET may have landed in, the oddly shaped white structure is actually an oversized decorative incense burner. Obviously. First built to celebrate a National Day it has views out over the park, sea and surroundings. Beyond this iconic structure, which is a quirky highlight, the park has children’s play areas, a mini funfair and areas of lush greenery to enjoy.
Open Sat-Wed 4pm-11pm; Thu-Fri 9am-midnight. Riyam Park, Al Bahri Road.
Big Bus Tours
As capital cities go, Muscat is compact enough that you can see many of its highlights in a short space of time. The internationally renowned Big Bus tour company offers hop-on, hop-off expeditions around the major sights. On the open-top bus tourists and curious residents are taken to major landmarks and have audio-commentary pre-recorded to point out the points of interest. See the Parliament building, Mutrah souks and fort, Royal Opera House, the bustling neighbourhood of Ruwi. The buses are well-maintained and the attractions visited well curated.
Check online for timings. Various locations, www.bigbustours.com (+968 2452 3112).
One of the great Muscat experiences. Visit very early in the day and you will see a real working fish market, where traders and fishermen clean, gut, sell and barter over the fresh catch of the day. Keep an eye out for the city’s finest chefs as they source seafood for their daily menus, as well as bargain-hunters on the look-out for a bewildering variety of edible creatures. The whole area was given a complete tourist-friendly makeover in 2017 and is modernised, clean and inviting for non-commercial visitors.
Daily 8am-6pm. Mutrah Fish Market, Mutrah Bay (+968 2471 6000).
A glorious walk can be enjoyed on the paved area that curves along the. On the water's edge there are pavilions where you can just stop and watch the world go by. On the one side is the sea and on the other are a collection of white-walled mansions built in an Omani style. Street food stals and international restaurants look out on to the port where cruise ships and luxury yachts dock and despite the glamour it feels like a village rather than a capital.
Seafront road stretches for 3km from the Fish Souq to Old Muscat.
A simple wall and watchtower rather than the impenetrable defence it used to be, the iconic location (it features on the ten Rial note, incidentally) reopened to the public in 2018. It is stunning to look at from afar, but when given the chance to enter you are able to enjoy stunning views down to the corniche and see an ancient canon. There are centuries of history to consider in the gorgeous building atop the craggy cliffs and it is as impressive at night as it is day.
Sat-Thu 9am-6.30pm, Fri 9am-11am, 2pm-6.30pm. Mutrah Fort, Al Bahri Road.
The maze-like shopping streets buzz with atmosphere and a sense of Oman’s trading roots. Here you can haggle for anything from jewellery, furniture, souvenirs, rugs, clothing, accessories and much more in a tourist-friendly environment. More vibrant than air-conditioned and overly sanitised shopping malls, the souq is also home to some great street food, too. Although the idea of market sellers hawking their goods has stood here for generations, it has been modernised somewhat. And tastefully so. A visit and a perfumed purchase is essential for any Muscat visit.
Sat-Thu 8am-1pm, 4pm-10pm; Fri 8am-noon, 4pm-10pm. Mutrah Souq, Mutrah Street.
Qurum Natural Park
Oman’s largest park spreads across 400 acres of landscaped greenery and is a favourite spot of families and lovers of the great outdoors alike. There is a large pond with fountains and boating facilities, children’s playgrounds, picnic facilities and vast lawns, as well as flower gardens to enjoy. Walk around the well-maintained footpaths and walkways or just enjoy a book under the shade of a tree. The park has refreshments and toilet facilities meaning it is one of the finer places to pass an afternoon or evening throughout the year.
Daily 8am-11pm. Qurum Natural Park, Qurum Street.
More than five years since the Parliament building opened up in Muscat it is still one of the country’s most impressive constructions. For obvious reasons you can't just stroll up and go inside – it is a working place of government after all – but it should be on your photo tour of the capital. Omani architecture stands out with the amazing sight of the mountains behind is good by day, but see it at night and it is nothing short of incredible thanks to LED lighting technology.
Sun-Thu 7.30am-2.30pm. Majlis Ash Shura, Al Bustan Street, www.shura.com (+968 2485 5444).
The forts and palaces rightly take the plaudits and have the wider appeal, but this clifftop tower in Mutrah has its own charm. Veer off from the cornice and climb around 100 steps up the rugged cliff face and the restored Portuguese look-out post has suberb views of Mytrah and back to the Riyam Monument. It is all too easy to imagine why in centuries gone by this was such a crucial location outside of the forts as the vantage point really can see it all. There are even a few canons up there.
Watchtower, halfway along Mutrah Corniche.