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7 top-rated places to visit in old Jeddah

The must-visit attractions of Jeddah’s Al Balad, the city’s oldest neighbourhood

It’s simple. The more you travel, the more corners of the world you want to see. But what you add to your travel itinerary can make or break your holiday.

With intrepid travel gurus falling over each other to complete the ultimate travel guide to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, it’s easy to get confused about which are the best places to visit in old Jeddah.

After all, Jeddah’s historic town (or, Al Balad, as the locals call it) is a UNESCO Heritage Site brimming with ancient monuments around every corner of its narrow, winding alleys.

It’s a cultural hub that’s untouched by the ultra-modern buildings of Jeddah, offering a glimpse into the past that will appeal to everyone. There are: 

  • Historical attractions for history buffs
  • Cultural immersions for wanderlust travellers 
  • Traditional food delights for food lovers

Now, let’s take a closer look at what historic Jeddah is all about.

A snapshot of old Jeddah

Founded in the 7th century, Jeddah is the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia. The old town emerged as an important trading port and acted as the primary gateway to the holy city of Makkah. 

traditional arquitecture in Al balada jeddah old town
Traditional architecture in Old Jeddah by Richard Mortel

Exploring Al Balad: top places to visit in old Jeddah

With so much happening on these cobbled streets and behind the intricate latticework windows, it’s easy to miss important tourist attractions. 

Unless you know where you’re going.

So below are some of the best places to visit in old Jeddah.

Typical street view in Al Balad

1 Stop by Bab Jadid gate

Built in 1881 with over 106 rooms, Nassif House went from being a governor’s house, to a temporary royal residence, and then a library with over 16,000 books. 

Today, Nassif House is a cultural hub for lectures and art exhibitions.

Bab Jadid Gate in Jeddah old Town
Bab Jadid gate by Richard Morte

2 Visit Nassif House Museum

Built in 1881 with over 106 rooms, Nassif House went from being a governor’s house, to a temporary royal residence, and then a library with over 16,000 books. 

Today, Nassif House is a cultural hub for lectures and art exhibitions.

Nassif  House Museum
Photo by Sammy Six, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

3 Wander down Baleelah Lane

With all the maze-like alleys going in and out of old Jeddah, every street has its unique charm and vibe. 

But Baleelah Lane stands out for its street art and quirky character. 

Al Balad Old Jeddah
Photo by Robin Chrystie

4 Step back in time in The Salloum Residence

Built in 1880, The Salloum Residence is a time capsule of bygone days with centuries-old furniture and home appliances, including a vintage gramophone, an antique wall clock and even a kerosene-powered fridge.

Al Balad Jeddah Museum
Photo by Ellie Quinn www.thewanderingquinn.com/

5 Shop at Al-Balad Souk

Even if you’re not on the lookout for souvenirs, Al-Balad Souk’s open-air market is a delightful place to visit in old Jeddah for clothes, exotic fruits, trinkets and whatnot.

Good to know: the market doesn’t open until late afternoon, at 4 pm.

One of the many shops in in the souk in Old Jeddah
Photo by Nouf Kinani

6 Soak in the heritage vibes at Cafe Magad

This beautiful old-fashioned café holds a treasure trove of old photographs and rare documents of the old city of Jeddah.

Visitors can also pore over the small library with Arabic, English and French books while sipping hot and cold drinks and indulging in sweets and pastries. 

7 Enjoy rooftop views at Cafe Layalena

Tucked into one of Jeddah’s old streets, Cafe Layalena offers rooftop views over historic Jeddah’s mystic skyline. 

One of the best things to do in Jeddah’s Al Balad is to sit with a cup of tea or coffee in hand and imagine what life used to be like in this area.

roof top cafe: Layalena Cafe Al Balad Jeddah
Photo by Ellie Quinn www.thewanderingquinn.com/

Best time to visit

With a desert climate, the best time to visit Jeddah is between October and early March, when the temperatures stay under 30°C (86°F). 

Important: Jeddah in the summer (July-August) is unbearably hot and humid with temperatures exceeding 41°C (106°F).

There’s something magical about old Jeddah that is rarely found anywhere else. 

You just have to stroll down the old streets, and who knows what hidden gems you’ll stumble upon.

CONTINUE EXPLORING

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