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For one of the best places to visit in Jeddah, you must visit the Al Balad neighbourhood in historic Jeddah, also known as Old Jeddah.
In this Jeddah travel blog, I’m going to tell you the best things to do in Al Balad Jeddah, Al Balad opening times, Al Balad directions, places to visit in Al Balad, the best photo locations in Al Balad, when to visit Al Balad and good cafes in Al Balad to visit so you will be set to see one of the top things to do in Jeddah! Yalla!
Al Balad Jeddah
Al Balad History.
‘Balad’ means ‘The Town’ and Al Balad in Jeddah used to be the centre of Jeddah thanks to its close proximity to Jeddah Port. This historic part of Jeddah was founded in the 7th century. It used to be an area that Saudi’s lived in but as the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia got wealthier, thanks to the oil boom in the 1970s & 1980’s, Saudi’s moved out of the area and immigrants moved in making it a poorer neighbourhood.
So what makes Al Balad a popular tourist attraction in Jeddah?
It’s Architecture! Al Balad neighbourhood is made up of buildings that are 500 years old and their designs are certainly unique and old.
In 2014 Al Balad became a UNESCO heritage site and it’s said that the Crown Prince has pledged $13.33 million to restore many of the buildings to help increase the artistic culture in Saudi Arabia, and no doubt attract more foreign tourists now Saudi has opened for tourism!
Related Post: Are you visiting Madinah after Jeddah? If so, read my post on how to get from Jeddah to Madinah via bus, train & flight!
The Best Time To Visit Al Balad.
The Al Balad opening hours are something you need to know before visiting, technically the neighbourhood is open all day and all night, but as a visitor, there are good times and bad times to visit.
In the morning a few of the shops are open, however, they close during the middle of the day and the area becomes very quiet.
At sunset and after the first evening prayer, the shops start to open and many more people appear, therefore this is the best time to visit Al Balad in Jeddah and this makes for one of the best things to do in Jeddah at night if you want to shop in the Al Balad market, visit the museums in Al Balad and walk around seeing life here.
With that said, if you are visiting Al Balad for photography and looking for the best places to take photos in Al Balad Jeddah, I suggest you visit during the hours the neighbourhood is closed (early morning and during the day before 5 pm) as you will have fewer people in the back of your photos and the photos look better with the shop facades closed rather than open, in my opinion.
You can see the difference in the photos here from when I went at 4:00 pm on a Saturday to 6:00 pm on Sunday.
Note that during the 2 evening prayers the shops and cafes will shut again.
The Best Way To See Al Balad.
Unfortunately, as it stands, there are no walking tours in Al Balad or any options of an Old Jeddah tour. Inshallah in the future there will be and I will keep this post updated!
There are many entrances to the neighbourhood and if you’re taking an Uber, be sure not to enter ‘Al Balad’ into the location as it is a fairly big area, so here are my recommended Al Balad Jeddah directions.
Personally, I would recommend starting your visit to Al Balad at ‘Bab Jadid’ which used to be one of the gates into the neighbourhood, this Bab is just off the main road, it’s a location on Google Mapa and Uber, and by starting here you are close to this historic centre of Jeddah!
From here you can walk around as you please and you can follow the locations I provide below on what to see in Al Balad Jeddah and use the Al Balad cafes I recommend at the end of the post to walk towards to give you Al Balad directions rather than walking aimlessly.
If you are visiting Al Balad as a solo female I suggest you visit at a busier time as I did feel more comfortable there later on even though it was getting dark because more people were walking around, rather than in the afternoon when it was very quiet and just the locals were around.
Related Post: What To Wear in Saudi Arabia As a Foreign Woman!
The Best Places To Visit in Al Balad.
If you’re like me then you will want to go to the houses in Al Balad that are ‘Instagram friendly’ and you’ll want to know where to take the best photos in Al Balad.
I won’t lie, it is hard to tell you where these are because Al Balad maps have very limited information on them including street names. I usually use maps.me but it’s not very helpful in Saudi Arabia so I would recommend using Google Maps.
Here are the best houses I found in Al Balad and my best description of how to get to them:
This is in the square outside Nassif House Museum:
This is taken around the corner from the back of Al Shafi Mosque in Al Balad:
This is taken on Baleelah Lane:
Things To Do in Al Balad.
In addition to taking photos of the houses in Al Balad, for more things to do in Al Balad you can visit the Al Balad Museums.
Museums in Al Balad
- Nassif House Museum
- Bait Al Balad
- Matbouli House Museum
- The Salloum Residence
However, be aware that they seem to open when they please. 2 of the museums I tried to visit were not open when I was there, even though Google said they were.
These photos are from The Salloum Residence which costs just 10SAR to walk around and see what a house in this area used to look like:
Shopping in Al Balad
Shopping is another popular thing to do in Al Balad and Al Balad Souk Jeddah is where you can get souvenirs. You can get jewellery from the Al Balad Gold Market as well as shopping in Al Balad Mall too.
Jeddah Season Al Balad
Also, be sure to check out Jeddah Season, it does not run all year round but if you are visiting Jeddah in the winter which is the best time of year to visit Jeddah, Jeddah Season should be on and in the past, they have held an event in Al Balad.
Cafes in Al Balad.
I think the best way to enjoy Al Balad is to cafe hop as you will get to see all of the streets and houses in Al Balad this way and have a purpose to your visit to Al Balad.
This cafe can be found easily on Google Maps, it has outside seating and inside with old but nice decor. They serve a range of drinks, cakes and pastries.
اهل البلد كافيه
This cafe has an Arabic name only but it is just around the corner from Cafe Magad with seating inside and a few seats outside.
Layalena / ليالي تاريخية مقهى تراثي
This is a really nice cafe with an open rooftop and lots of old pieces of furniture. It’s true Middle Eastern Dreams! And opposite it is The Salloum Residence which I mention above.
Visiting Al Balad as a Female.
If you are visiting Al Balad as a solo female, or even as a group of women, I suggest you visit at a busier time like later in the day or in the early morning when the shops are open and its more likely to see other tourists about as I did feel more comfortable there later on even though it was getting dark because more people were walking around, rather than in the afternoon when it was very quiet and just the locals were around.
I visited Al Balad twice, once with a male friend and once on my own and I definitely felt more uncomfortable there on my own and I heard from a fellow female traveller that she went with a female friend and together they felt quite uncomfortable too.
I wore my Abaya to Al Balad and I’m very glad I did as it completely covered me and made me feel a bit more comfortable and less ‘on show’.
Related Post: What To Wear in Saudi Arabia As a Foreign Woman!
There you have it, my complete guide to Al Balad Jeddah. Most of all, enjoy the area by walking around as much as you can and seeing what hidden gems you can find for yourself.
- For more of my blog posts on Saudi Arabia see:
- How to Get from Jeddah to Madinah via Bus, Train & Flight.
- Visiting Medina as a Non-Muslim.
- My Riyadh Travel & City Guide!
- How To Get a Sim Card in Riyadh Airport!
- ALL MY SAUDI ARABIA BLOG POSTS