I knew very little about Muscat before I went there. I had seen photos and it looked awesome and that was enough for it to join my bucket list!
However, once I actually booked flights and started researching what I was going to do and how, I became more nervous. There wasn’t much about Oman online… hopefully this Muscat travel guide helps!
I shouldn’t have worried. Muscat is a stunning city and it’s filled with some of the friendliest people in the world. This makes it very easy. Once you get over the fact that Omani taxis are expensive and you will need to use them, it becomes easier and there is no problem getting around either.
The views around Muscat seem never ending. There is a strict building code which keeps buildings short (the tallest building is the air traffic control tower at the airport) and they must be a white or creamy colour.
The contrast with the tall brown mountains that surround Muscat help to make just looking around seem like a tourist attraction in itself. I loved the views I kept seeing everywhere – you are not going to see drab suburbia here.
There aren’t many must see Muscat attractions, but there are enough Muscat things to do to fill a couple of great days. Muscat is also well located to get out and explore the desert, forts and other ruins around the region on day trips. Just being in this city is an amazing experience though.
Below you will find my guide to what to do in Muscat, where to stay in Muscat, how to get around and other information you need for a fabulous visit.
Top 20+ things to do in Muscat Oman
Please note that many of the attractions and areas in Muscat seem to have different spellings when translated into English. If you are finding something is spelled slightly different here than somewhere else where you are seeing it, don’t worry. It’s most probably exactly the same place.
Exploring Old Muscat
Old Muscat feels like a long way away from the rest of Muscat. It is surrounded by water and dusty mountain. It is home to some of the biggest tourist attractions in Muscat Oman.
The area is worth a walk around especially to visit the National Museum and to take a photo of Al Alam Palace (more about these Muscat tourist attractions below). It seemed filled with government buildings to me and it is easy enough to walk around and down to the water front.
The next 3 places in Muscat to visit are all in Old Muscat and you can walk between them.
Al Alam/Sultan’s Palace
This Palace makes for quite a sight as it’s at the end of a wide avenue lined with palm trees that goes to the National Museum. It was nice standing to the side (in the shade!) and just watching the palace as the occasional groups of locals went past. I felt a long way from home! The Palace itself is not open to the public.
The National Museum is housed in a big impressive building opposite Al Alam Palace. It’s only opened recently and it is filled with many items and stories about Oman, its history and its culture.
There is a short film and many displays with information. I liked the models of different forts and building styles and old boats, but I actually learned more from the Bait-Al-Baranda museum in Mutrah and I did find it a bit boring as nothing is interactive (I may be too used to kiddy museums!). Still, if you are looking for what to see in Muscat, I would definitely have this on the list.
Entry is OMR5.
Muscat Gate Museum
The Muscat Gate Museum is located above the gate to Old Muscat pictured above. It has a good view and talks about the history of Oman and particularly Muscat, detailing the various stages in the development of Muscat.
It has the original gates which were used to keep the bad guys out up until 1970s.
This option of things to see in Muscat is free.
One of the easiest things to see when sightseeing in Muscat is forts – this is because you just look up – and you might see one on a hill! Especially if you are in Old Muscat and Mutrah.
These forts are unfortunately not open. However, they definitely do add to why I enjoyed Muscat sightseeing so much. It’s very cool to keep looking up and seeing ancient looking forts on the hills.
Mutrah is my favourite part of Muscat. It is home to the must see places in Muscat and is a nice place to hang out. It’s the main port in Muscat but is more like a small village.
The Corniche is the best part. It is a walk way by the water which sweeps all along the bay where Mutrah is located. You can also walk all the way along the corniche from Mutrah to Old Muscat. I wish I had done this, but I hadn’t realised it would be suitable for prams. There are also bicycles to hire in the early evening for free near Al-Riyam Park.
The main souq in Muscat, this is no doubt one of the most popular places to see in Muscat – not that you would guess. I only saw one other tourist!
The souq is one of the cleanest and neatest I have been in. It still has the great souq atmosphere and the smell of incense to add to the experience.
It’s open in the morning and evening. Because I was visiting with a baby, I went in the morning. Don’t do this! There weren’t many people and a lot of stalls were shut so I didn’t feel like I got the full experience.
In the early mornings, you can go to the Fish Market and feel like you are back in the fishing village.
This small museum is quite interesting and I found it one of the best places to visit in Muscat Oman to learn more about the city. It’s about the history of Muscat from 750 million years ago to today.
I started by learning about tectonic plates and how the Omani Mountains around Muscat were formed. These mountains are such a big part of the city that I enjoyed reading about them.
There’s a history of Oman with a lot of it being told through maps which I also liked. I love looking at old maps! There are also lots of questions (where you guess the answers and are given explanations). There are enough interactive parts of this museum that I think even little kids would like it. However, it did say on the brochure I was given that kids under 4 are not welcome! I think they may have meant free as it did seem like it had been built for kids too and no one minded baby J.
There’s also a boat, folk arts and outfits and general information about the area. It’s a great introduction to Muscat and Oman.
This was my favourite museum in Muscat. However, I do have one complaint which I am mainly writing in the hope that someone sees this that acan do something about it! The museum was quite dark – so dark in places that it was not possible to read the information on the exhibits. Please add more lights!
It cost OMR1 when I visited.
At the Old Muscat end of Mutrah is Al-Riyam Park. There is a playground near the corniche and a famous, giant incense burner that you can walk up to.
I must confess, I was too lazy to do the walk but there is meant to be a great view looking back over Mutrah.
Muscat has its share of beaches and it definitely has the weather for them. Shatti Al Qurum Beach is in a convenient location if you want to take a dip and it looks lovely. I also saw Qurum Beach just to the East but think that Shatti Al Qurum looks much nicer.
Even if you don’t care to go to the beach itself, there is a nice strip here with cafes and restaurants down 2817 Way.
Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House, which finished construction in 2011, is where to go in Muscat if you are looking for one of the most beautiful places in Muscat. It is in Shatti Al Qurum not far from the beach.
It is worth taking a look at even if (like me) you are not lucky enough to attend a show inside. The understated interior is meant to be a great contrast to the exquisite interior with inlaid wood and arabesque designs.
The Grand Mosque is quite simply stunning. I was only lucky enough to see the outside (baby J is not allowed inside as kids under 10 are not permitted), but it makes for quite a sight. It is much grander and larger than it looks in photos -it can hold 20,000 worshippers.
The main prayer hall is to meant to be stunning and is home to the second largest Persian carpet in the wall. How’s this for a stat – it took 600 women four years to weave!
If you are flying into Muscat then it will also probably be one of the first and last things that you see as it’s by the road to the airport. This is a great introduction to Muscat. It also looks quite different at day versus the night and it was good to see it at both times.
Big Bus Tour
The easiest way to see all of the Muscat tourist spots is to hop on one of the hop on, hop off Big Bus Muscat bus tours. This is what I did as it removed the annoyance of working out (overpriced) fares with taxi drivers and meant I also found out a ton of information about Muscat while I was on the bus. It stops at just about everything mentioned above with the only main thing missing being the Grand Mosque.
It’s especially a great option if you only have one day in Muscat. I promise that you will finish with a great overview!
The bus is nice and air conditioned and also has plenty of included cold water which is a real bonus. Despite reading in my guide book that I would fall over all the food stalls, I didn’t really see any and there weren’t many places to buy water either.
My only caution is to not trust the timetable on their site! I was super frustrated when I went to catch the 9:30 service to find out that at that time of year, they only run every two hours and the next bus was at 11, so the frequency varies, but I’m told the 9am bus always runs.
Things to do in Muscat with kids
I visited Muscat with a baby – my little 4 month old baby J who is my third child. I think it would be a great destination with kids in general. There is enough for them to do and getting out to forts and other attractions in Oman would work well as well. There are also beaches, special family attractions and the kind locals.
The friendly locals do make things so easy. For example, if any step was approaching, someone would help me with my pram. There was always positive attention for J.
There are also nice wide footpaths everywhere so I had no problem using my travel stroller.
There are also many dedicated family friendly attractions in Muscat which make for perfect fun things to do in Muscat with kids.
Here’s a list of best things to do in Muscat that I saw or was told about:
- Children’s Museum – an interactive science museum in three sections.
- Qurum Park – this park looks fabulous and has a simple amusement park called Marah Land
- Playground and rides – there is a playground just outside the Radisson Blu with small, amusement park style rides nearby too
- Magic Planet -Muscat activities including play areas and games. More here.
- Kids zones – major shopping centres usually have a kids’ play area
- Restaurants – I was told many have face painting and kids’ activities especially at Friday brunch. I do not know which ones though sorry!
Day trips from Muscat
There are many great choices of Oman tours from Muscat with many places making for good day trips.
For one, I had been going to visit Nizwa but ended up having to cancel at the last moment. Nizwa is home to a souq and a Fort that is great to explore. This is easy to do in a day trip and, in fact, you could combine it with other places to visit near Muscat like Bahla Fort which looks amazing.
There are also other options. Another of the places to visit around Muscat that I considered is Nakhal Fort.
There are many more. I spoke to an Australian lady on my flight out who had spent a week based in Muscat day tripping around the region and had been able to see quite a lot – it all sounded amazing.
The only downside of day tripping is the extreme cost if you don’t want to do it by public transport. There is, unfortunately, a lack of information about public transport online and it seems it often doesn’t take you exactly where you want to go. It all seemed too hard with a baby. Unfortunately hiring a driver is crazy expensive – I tried to get one for half a day before I went and was quoted prices like US$400.
It seemed better value to arrange once you arrive, but be prepared for high prices.
This is all a shame as my one regret of my time in Oman is that I did not get to venture further afield to see more of this country. I would have love to have climbed around some forts and seen more of the desert. Try not to make the same mistake!
Places to stay in Muscat
Finding the best hotels in Muscat is surprisingly tricky – mainly because working out where to stay in Muscat is tricky.
I always try to stay where the main attractions are located. This means in Muscat, I looked at Mutrah and Old Muscat. Unfortunately, there aren’t hotels in these places! So I had to look elsewhere for the best area to stay in Muscat and it turns out most hotels seem to be located around Qurum or further west. At least once I realised I wasn’t going to be staying in the central spots for tourists, it was easier to find something!
If you feel the same as me, when I was there, I saw a perfectly located, cheap hotel in Muscat right opposite the Mutrah Corniche a short walk from the souq. I wrote down its name and I managed to find it on TripAdvisor but nowhere else. If you are interested, here it is, the Naseem Hotel in TripAdvisor. You will have to ring to make a booking and I can’t vouch that it’s any good, but it is an option.
Radisson Blu Muscat
I stayed at the Radisson Blu Muscat which was a comfortable and easy choice. It is located near lots of small shops and eating options and a short walk to a supermarket.
The reception can order taxis and there’s a list of prices posted. There was a great man working there when I was visited who would tell me how much to pay on the way back (less than the hotel’s prices but their prices weren’t totally crazy).
I must admit, I was slightly disappointed by the room. There was nothing wrong with it (although the air conditioning only did just enough), it was just on the simple side and I had expected something a little bit fancier. It doesn’t help that I was coming straight from some fabulous resorts in Phuket.
There are some great facilities at the hotel including a pool and an Irish pub (handy as alcohol is not readily obtainable). I especially loved the room service which was delicious and made things so easy. There’s a public playground very close to the entrance.
Other places to stay in Muscat
- Dar Al Deyafa Hotel Apartment – Centrally located, this hotel is a great base for exploring the Muscat’s main attractions and surroundings. Their services are also great, offering 24 hour room service and currency exchange – they even have a hair salon. Click here to see the latest prices.
- Intercontinental Hotel Muscat – If luxury is what you’re after then stay at the Intercontinental Hotel Muscat. The amenities offered are fantastic – there is a tennis court, indoor pool, sauna and more. The surrounding area is easy to explore and rooms offer views of the mountains and sea. Click here to see the latest prices.
- Tulip Inn Muscat – This affordable hotel offers some great amenities. They provide a babysitting service, 24 hour room service and a sauna. Rooms are comfortable and 2 bedroom suites are available. Click here to see the latest prices.
- Crowne Plaza Muscat – Offering amenities to make your trip to Muscat complete, this hotel has a pool, spa and fitness center. Rooms offer both garden and sea views and international cuisine is available from their restaurant. Click here to see the latest prices.
- Mutrah Hotel – Located close to the Grand Mosque, this budget hotel is a simple but comfortable option. The rooms are fairly well equipped and the hotel offers both 24 hour room service and an onsite restaurant. Click here to see the latest prices.
Map of best places to visit in Muscat
Getting around Muscat
Taxis and the Big Bus Hop on Hop off Tour are really the only practical way to get around Muscat. Taxis from the airport have a meter (they are not a set fee like I had read beforehand), but otherwise you have to bargain the price. In places like Mutrah, they congregate together which makes bargaining hard. It is not hard to find one.
Either way, they are expensive. I was unable to pay less than OMR5 for a ride and they were not long rides. Of course, I was also in a worse bargaining position with a stroller and a baby.
I had read the traffic was crazy with a lot of accidents. I did not find this to be true. In fact, when I walked around, traffic would stop if they saw me waiting to cross!
I flew Etihad Airways to Oman. You can read my full review here.
I LOVED my time in Muscat and my introduction to Oman. It’s so scenic with the white and cream buildings and brown hills. It’s modern with great footpaths for walking but still feels like somewhere completely different with the scenery and traditional dress. I liked that I often heard Arab music as it all set a very exotic scene. Better yet, there are barely any tourists. Basically, it felt adventurous without being adventurous at all.
One of the highlights is definitely the people; they are just so helpful and welcoming! Someone was always there to help which is obviously ideal when travelling with a baby alone. There were many smiles and never any hassle (except for getting a taxi).
I had been worried how I might be treated as a woman (nearly) alone as I have had some negative experiences in this part of the world (but not in Oman). I was never treated with anything but respect. I did feel a bit uncomfortable at times as there are not many women around, but no one did anything to make me feel that way.
I visited at the start of October and although it was hot, I found it very manageable – and I walked around with a baby strapped to me! It was also humid which surprised me but is normal. I do love hot weather though. Many of the Muscat places to see shut in the middle of the day.
I have already been planning my next trip in my head – this time I am definitely bringing the rest of the family!
You can also read our guide to Abu Dhabi.
Have you been to Muscat? What are your tips for places to go in Muscat?
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Tags: Oman Travel Blog