24 hours in Bahrain

Like its other Gulf cousins (Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi…), the Bahraini capital of Manama is often a pit-stop on a traveller’s journey between East and West. Yet relatively few people venture out of the airport to explore what this tiny island has to offer.

With its unique character, fascinating culture, edgy art scene and amazing food, Bahrain is well worth a stopover – and the fact that you can drive from north to south in just over an hour means you can cram a lot into one day! Here’s an idea of where to start…

  1. Begin with a big Bahraini breakfast

The only way to start the day! Fill up on foul (baked beans with onion and spices), balabeet (cardamom flavoured vermicelli noodles topped with a light omelette), eggs with tomato, nikhee (fried chick peas) and Bahraini flat bread – which will be your cutlery. And, of course, chai halib (milky cardamom tea).

Weetas.jpgA traditional Bahraini breakfast (image: Weetas)

Places to try:

Haji’s Café by Bab al-Bahrain

Naseef Restaurant, inside the Bab al-Bahrain souq

Emmawash Traditional Restaurant on Budaiya Highway


  1. Walk off your breakfast in old Manama Souq

Bab al-Bahrain opens out into a maze of tiny, narrow streets that make up Manama souq. In this historic part of town you’ll find everything from clothes and electronics to sweets, spices, perfumes and gold. Wandering through these streets is chaotic, but a fascinating way to while away the morning (though evening time is better during the hot summer months).

The Cultured Traveller.jpgA spice stall in Manama Souq (image: The Cultured Traveller)


  1. Check out the local art scene at Al Riwaq gallery

Bahrain is home to a number of young, up and coming artists, designers and musicians and is known throughout the Gulf for its edgy artistic vibe.

There’s nowhere better to experience this than Al Riwaq Art Space in Manama, just 15 minutes’ drive from Bab al-Bahrain. Al Riwaq shows the work of local, regional and international artists, regularly hosting visual arts exhibitions and live music events.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 12.41.47.png


  1. Visit the Gulf’s first oil well and the Oil Museum

Built in 1992 to mark the 60th anniversary of the discovery of oil in the Arabian Gulf, Bahrain’s Oil Museum provides a fascinating insight into the oil industry in Bahrain. It is located next to the Gulf’s very first oil well, about 40 minutes’ drive from Manama.

It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in history and politics, serving as a reminder of how the discovery of “black gold” transformed not only the Arabian Peninsula and the lives of the people of the Gulf, but international politics and the global economy.

zawya.jpgThe Arabian Gulf’s first oil well, which began pumping oil in 1932 (image: Zaywa)


  1. Watch the sun set at Bahrain Fort

Qal’at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort) is a 3,000-year-old archaeological site and UNESCO world heritage site. Late afternoon is the perfect time to wander the ruins, followed by watching the sun set over the fort with the city skyline behind you and the shadows of locals riding their horses on the sand in front.

Flickr.jpgQal’at al-Bahrain is a favourite spot in Manama to watch the sunset (image: Flickr)


  1. Explore Bahrain’s trendy restaurant and bar scene

For something a little less traditional, end the day with dinner and drinks at one of Bahrain’s buzzing bars. Bahrain is slightly livelier and less conservative than elsewhere in the Gulf (the island has become known as the Saudi playground, as Saudis often drive over for the weekends to do the things they can’t do so easily at home…).

There are loads of great international restaurants (fish and seafood are especially fresh and delicious!) and a number of bars to choose from. Some are swanky and upmarket, located in luxury hotels, while others are slightly edgier more down to Earth.

The Eat Blog sato.jpgSato sushi restaurant in Manama (image: The EAT Blog)
Time Out typhoon in the gulf hotel.jpgTyphoon bar in the Gulf Hotel (image: Time Out)
Trip Advisor trader vics.jpgTrader Vic’s bar and restaurant (image: Trip Advisor)

So if you’ve got a layover in Manama coming up, we hope we’ve given you a few ideas of how to spend it! And if not, why not schedule one into your next trip East…


If you enjoyed this, you might also like:

The Daymaniyats: Arabian Island Paradise

Villa Paradiso – Lebanon’s best kept secret 

Gulf Getaways: Rajasthan


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