With its spectacular coastline dotted with sandy beaches, and proximity to two of the holiest sites in Islam – Mecca and Medina – Jeddah has always been a city of contrasts. Its distinct cosmopolitan vibe can be traced back to the ancient city’s heritage as the first port of call for pilgrims and traders who visited from faraway lands, leaving their indelible mark on Jeddah’s rich history. Al Balad, the UNESCO-listed historical centre, dates back to the 7th century, and is best explored on foot through narrow alleyways that give way to beautiful coral-stone houses, quirky cafes and art galleries.
In the modern part of town, the city buzzes with locals and visitors drawn to the glittering waterfront hotels and smart seafood restaurants on the Cornice. Watching the sunset over the Red Sea with the iconic King Fahd’s Fountain as a backdrop is not to be missed. Shoppers are similarly spoiled for choice with prestigious brands congregating on Tahaliyah Street, while those looking for a more authentic experience should head to the city’s bustling souqs, such as Bado, Qabel, Khaskiah and Bab Shareef.