A look into the top things to do in Bahrain, a hidden jewel just waiting to be discovered…
An archipelago of 33 islands, Bahrain is a mystical and magical destination just waiting to be discovered. As a destination, Bahrain oozes with culture and beauty. The landscape of Bahrain is a mix of sand-coloured terrain decorated with jaw-dropping architecture in jewel-toned glass and gleaming silver. The foodie scene is one of the best we’ve ever experienced, while activities include diving for pearls and visiting the world-famous Formula One track. Bahrain is somewhere unlike anywhere you’ll have been before and somewhere you’ll ever go again, holding a wealth of experiences and memories to be made. See what happened on our visit here…
Where to Stay
When it comes to deciding where to stay in Bahrain, you are spoilt for choice. Being a luxury destination, you can expect a whole plethora of five-star, state of the art hotels, with a host of facilities such as award winning dining, rooftop swimming pools, glamorous rooms and exquisite customer service. During our stay we got to spend two nights in the Downtown Rotana before finishing our trip at the ART Rotana.
The Downtown Rotana is a luxury getaway which caters for couples and business stays alike. A fairly new establishment having opened in 2016, Downtown Rotana is situated in the heart of Manama, offering 243 rooms all of which are the highest of standard. The facilities on offer are vast, with a roof top pool, spa, fitness studio, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi all combining to clearly state the 5-star nature of this hotel.
During our stay we were fortunate to stay in one of their classic rooms between the 18th-21st floors. The rooms are far from basic with ultra modern bathrooms complete with a walk in shower and a nice size mirror to use when getting ready. The room itself is reasonably sized with everything you could need during your stay including a 48’’ flat screen television with multi-satellite channels, in-room safe, bathrobes, iron and one of the most comfortable king size beds you will ever sleep on.
The ART Rotana is part of the same group as the Downtown Rotana, however this hotel is more suited for a family break as well as couples. Only a short drive away from the airport, ART Rotana is located in the Northeast region in Bahrain and offers all the luxuries you need for a holiday and so much more. For families it’s ideal, with a beachclub for kids which features a water-park, private beach area and 75 square meters of play area. For the adults, there are 8 international dining areas, various water sport and fitness activities, a spa and multiple pools. There are 311 luxurious rooms with a number of different categories meaning you can tailor you break to just how you like it.
We only stayed one night at the ART Rotana and had the pleasure of being in one of their classic rooms. The room itself felt very similar to the Downtown hotel, very modern with a sophisticated finish, encapsulating the contemporary theme which flowed throughout the hotel. A king size bed laid as a centre piece, but still kept the spacious feel of the room. The bathroom like above, was ultra modern with marble throughout, this time featuring a bath instead of a walk in shower.
Bahrain is a destination steeped in culture. From the many museums, to the Fort, Grand Mosque and Merchant Houses, you are spoilt for choice in ways to immerse yourself in the destination. Here are some of the must-see places when in Bahrain…
Bahrain National Museum
Our first introduction to Bahrain was their national museum, a popular attraction full of all the history that you need to know about Bahrain. The exhibit covers everything from ancient artefacts and archaeology to the ancient history of Dilmun. You can really get a feel and understanding for the country – each section is in-depth bringing its history to life. If like us you planned to visit other historical sites, it gives you some knowledge to take away and impress on your tours.
Located on Bahrain’s west coast, Bahrain fort (known as Dilmun in ancient times) is soaked in history. The ruins are well maintained with a walkthrough which is clean and easy to manoeuvre around. The views are breathtaking so make sure you bring a camera! On our walk around we had a guide, however, there are audio guides available in multiple languages which are free to use. Our evening ended with a light show – an interactive and moving audio, visual experience which guided us through the history of the fort. Whilst this show was challenging to follow at times, it was in depth and explained a lot of the history.
Al Fetah Grand Mosque
You cannot visit Bahrain without journeying to the Al Fetah Grand Mosque! Built in the 1980’s, it’s the largest in the country and what a magnificent stature it holds. The atmosphere was relaxed but respectful at the same time and the tour guide took us around sharing his knowledge at each stop and was very informative. Upon entering, bear in mind that you will need to be covered up; if you do not have the correct clothing they will provide it for you.
Old merchant houses
No visit to Bahrain would be complete without a trip to the Old Merchant Houses for the chance to really get a glimpse into the history of the country. Famous for the quality of its pearls, Bahrain has attracted the attention of many, including Jacques Cartier who travelled to Bahrain in the search for the most perfect pearl in the world. Take on the UNESCO world heritage pearling trail in Bahrain where you will visit the old Merchant’s Houses and Warehouses, following in his footsteps.
After experiencing the culture of Bahrain, there is still so much to do activity wise. They have a whole range of activities for you to partake in, perfect for families, couples and travellers alike…
Departing at Ras Rayyah, we were taken out on a small boat to dive in the shallow waters for oysters. (Keeping our fingers crossed that they contained a pearl!) The visibility on our pearl dive wasn’t as good as it could be resulting in our haul of oysters not being as successful as we would have liked, but that didn’t stop us from collecting a decent amount. Each group is allowed to collect up to 60 oysters each and whilst we didn’t quite manage that, we gave it our best try and had a great deal of fun along the way! Back on the boat, we used a dull knife to cut into the oyster with the hope of discovering a pearl worth thousands. Unfortunately, we didn’t find a pearl but the experience as a whole was exciting. And the best bit is that if you do find a pearl you get to keep it!
Bahrain International Circuit
If you are into your Formula One, you won’t want to miss a trip to the International track. We explored some of the key areas of the circuit, having access to the behind the scenes facilities and learning all about the processes that go into running the establishment. The 360-degree view of the iconic Sakhir tower was impressive and seeing the control room where all the cameras operate was something else – the cameras are so high tech that they can zoom into a seat number showing it in full HD!
Just next door to the formula one track is Bahrain’s go-karting course. Whilst we did not get a chance to do this, from what we heard it’s well worth a visit if you get a chance. It’s been designed to a standard where the world go-karting championships can take place.
So for me, this was my first time riding a horse which initially was terrifying, but after few minutes in I soon realised what all the excitement is about. The group rode ahead whilst I trailed at the back riding at a comfortable slow level (I think the horse was controlling me more than I was controlling the horse – I am glad they are well trained!) We started the trip from the Equestrian center, rode past Bahrani Fort and journeyed along the sand at the Karbabad Beach before returning back to the Equestrian center. It was a great afternoon out in the sun with some fantastic views as we went on our journey.
When it comes to the food scene in Bahrain, we have never seen anything like it. If there is one thing they do extremely well, it’s feed you – we never left a restaurant hungry! Bahrain is home to copious amounts of restaurants, all offering various cuisines that are utterly delicious – in fact on one day a fellow traveller declared that his meal could have been the best he ever had! With 48-hours to explore we managed to visit 4 different restaurants, all different and unique but the same when it comes to the quality.
Re Asian Cuisine by Wolfgang Puck at the Four Seasons
Fine dining, stunning views, exceptional cuisine and delicious cocktails come to mind when we reflect on our meal at the Wolfgang Puck. Based on the 50th floor of the Four Seasons, Executive Chef Brian Becher offers his own unique take on traditional Asian cuisine. As a group, we partook on his tasting menu, trying an array of dishes from dumplings, tiger prawns and shrimp, to Hong Kong style noodles and market vegetable fried rice. Plenty came out and at one point it dawned on us that our eyes may be bigger than our stomach! If you get the chance, make sure you get a pre/post drink at the Blue Moon Lounge – It’s definitely worth it!
Teatro at Downtown Rotana
If you or your friends are fussy with food, this could just be the place for you. The Teatro Downtown serves Japanese, Chinese, South East Asian, Indian and Italian all in one restaurant. – There is no excuse for not liking anything. With so many cuisines on offer, the menu is vast so be prepared to contemplate on your choices (maybe over a cocktail, again delicious – we recommend their whisky Old-Fashioned). We tried a selection of courses between us and could not find any faults, a particular favourite was their Asian noodles & rice.
Not a restaurant as such but it’s the place to be if you are looking for a dining destination. Situated in the heart of Adliya, it’s a pedestrian quarter full of eateries covering all cuisines from around the world – in other word’s a foodies heaven! No matter your requirements, they will have it, that be Chinese, Thai, European, a Kebab shop or Japanese. If you arrive early or fancy a wander after lunch, there is also a lot more on offer than just their foodie scene. There are a number of boutique shops for you to explore as well as an art gallery where you can view their latest exhibitions.
When it comes to traditional Bahrain food, Haj’s street-side cafe is as local as you can get. This is in no way your fancy, 5-star hotel meal, this is a Bahraini experience that is all about home cooked food. Just a short walk from Downtown Rotana, we visited for breakfast to get a real feel for local, traditional food and what an experience it was. The portion sizes we large, flavoursome and the staff very welcoming. No menu was needed, as soon as you are seated they brought out a selection of courses for us to try and taste the different foods of their culture.
WU at ART Rotana
Another fine dining restaurant, the WU makes the perfect destination for a romantic evening meal. Full of ambience with floor to ceiling windows that over look the beach, you can expect culinary journey through delicious Asian cuisine. From starters to mains to desserts, we could not fault any of the courses. The staff were excellent and attentive without being too in your face, whilst the cocktail were spot on. If you love your sushi then this is a place you must visit.
We were hosted on this trip by the Bahrain Tourism & Exhibitions Authority (BTEA) – For more information on the Kingdom of Bahrain, events and attractions please visit: www.btea.bh. All thoughts and views expressed are our own.
Fly direct from London to Bahrain with Gulf Air – The national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, is a major international carrier serving 42 cities in 25 countries spanning three continents. Gulf Air flies twice a day direct from London to Bahrain. Return flights from London to Bahrain start from £370 including taxes.