If you feel stumped when looking for the best places to visit in Kuwait, this article is for you.
Kuwait is a destination that may not make it onto most traveler’s bucketlists. It’s one of the least visited countries in the Persian Gulf, and vastly unknown in comparison to its ultra famous and over the top sister, the UAE.
But if you are like me and are curious about the lesser known, you’ll give it a chance and be thankful you did.
You’ll discover a place that not many people can even place on a map, and one with great shopping, cuisine and entertainment options as well.
Here is the ideal Kuwait itinerary for first timers, and a full guide on all the best places to visit in Kuwait!
Kuwait is an oil producing country, and due to the wealth generated from that it is currently home to the world’s highest valued currency (one Kuwaiti dinar is $3.27 USD).
Historically, it was a major trading port, which led to it becoming a multicultural hub with inhabitants from all over the world. Today, it remains a multicultural city with up to 70% of Kuwait’s population being expats.
It was invaded and briefly occupied by Iraq in the early 90s, but since then has largely been a peaceful country in an otherwise turbulent region.
Is Kuwait Worth Visiting?
This is a hard question to answer as it is definitely subjective to the traveler.
As far as countries in the Persian Gulf go, Kuwait is more on the more low-key side. You’ll find some skyscrapers and mega-malls here, but it’s nowhere near the same scale as in the UAE.
If you will be visiting the Persian Gulf for the first time, you’d probably want to head straight to the UAE before anything else. That is undoubtedly the most impressive country in the Persian Gulf.
However, if this is not your first time visiting the region and you are the type to enjoy venturing where others do not, Kuwait is a fantastic choice.
You’ll be rewarded by finding a place unspoiled by tourism and less affected by mass-commercialization as the likes of let’s say, Dubai.
But if you are in search of history and nature, there are definitely other middle east countries that are better for that as well.
That’s because Kuwaiti society greatly modernized following the Iraqi war, so a lot of the historic parts simply don’t exist anymore.
How Many Days in Kuwait?
Kuwait is a small country that you could drive through, from north to south in less than 3 hours.
For some, one day in Kuwait may be enough to blast through the major highlights and feel like they’ve seen enough. For others, a week will hardly be enough to scratch the surface of all the museums, shopping centers and restaurants worth visiting.
For most people, if you just want to visit the most famous attractions, 2 days may be enough. If you’d like more time to indulge in shopping and dining, and go for some desert excursions, I think 4 – 5 days if perfect for Kuwait.
Where to Stay in Kuwait
I’d recommend staying in Kuwait City Center to remain central to most of the attractions. Anywhere close to the Old City is ideal.
If you are an unwed couple, or even a male and female traveling together, some hotels may not permit you to stay in the same room. We had this problem at the Kuwait Continental Hotel, which I do not recommend for other reasons as well.
We switched to the Kuwait Grand Majestic Hotel, which was not only ok with it, but an absolute pleasure to stay with. They had a FABULOUS breakfast with the best views overlooking the Kuwait Towers and very spacious, beautiful rooms. I can’t recommend them enough.
Aside from these two, you’ll have to do your own research to know which hotels do or not have this policy.
Things to Know Before you Go
Most visitors will need a via to enter Kuwait.
Luckily, these days many nationals can enjoy the hassle-free e-visa system. This allows visitors to easily apply for a visa only prior to departure, ensuring a seamless arrival procedure.
To check if your passport qualifies for an e-visa or to apply for one, click here.
Word of Caution to Un-married Couples
We had a rather unpleasant experience halfway through our stay in Kuwait when the manager of our hotel suddenly declared that my boyfriend and I needed to pay for and stay in separate rooms.
This was after a few nights of us already staying in the hotel, and way after they’d checked our passports already and were very much aware that we weren’t married. And if I am being honest, I definitely saw a man checking in the same time as us with a prostitute, so this rule just did not check out.
Our local friend was equally confused as he has booked the hotel for us. He assured us that Kuwait was not known to be very strict when enforcing this rule, which usually only applies to locals and Muslims.
I suspect that the hotel wanted to milk more money out of us under the threat of “calling the authorities” if we didn’t pay. Of course we decided to just leave and stay elsewhere.
You can avoid this situation by reading reviews beforehand to make sure you are staying in a trustworthy hotel. Again, for that I can recommend the Grand Majestic Hotel where I stayed without a single issue.
We were lucky to have our local friend to assure us we were not breaking any laws. Otherwise we may have been foolish enough to pay. Regardless, you may want to have one or two back-up hotel options in case something similar happens to you.
Kuwait is known as one of the hottest countries in the world.
It’s located in the northwestern section of the Persian Gulf, an area largely characterized by an arid, harsh desert climate that can be quite unforgiving year round.
The hottest time of year is summer, when temperatures regularly exceed 40 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). It stays pretty hot most of the year, except for a very short winter where it can get as cold as 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit).
Don’t worry, you’ll find that Kuwaitis are well prepared for these extreme temperatures. There are now endless amounts of air-conditioned, indoor entertainment establishments for you to hide in during the hottest times of day so don’t be afraid to visit any time of year.
Kuwait Dress Code
If unsure, I always feel it’s best to err on the side of caution and to dress more conservative.
I know this may seem difficult given the hot temperatures, but that means long, loose pants or skirts for women, and covered chest and shoulders for everyone.
Women also need a scarf to enter mosques, but these are usually provided if needed.
For men, the rules seem pretty lax. The only thing I’d say I did not see was very many men wearing were shorts.
Best Places to Visit in Kuwait
1. Kuwait Old City
The Kuwait Old Town should be your first stop when visiting Kuwait.
This is where you’ll have a glimpse into how Kuwait looked in the past before its modernization era. It has the feel of being like a giant, traditional souk, but in a much cleaner and less hectic environment.
I’d definitely recommend trying some local food while here, as there are some great outdoor eateries where you can eat with locals. The food is reasonably priced and as authentic as it gets.
If you want to shop, you can check out some of the beauty and spice shops selling local products. The smells are exotic and enticing. You may just find some great gifts for yourself or family back home.
But truly, my favorite thing to do here is to relax at a shisha bar with some tea and just people watch.
2. The Grand Mosque of Kuwait
This mosque was definitely a major highlight in our time in Kuwait. It’s possibly one of the grandest and most modern that I’ve seen yet, and that’s after spending a ton of time in the Middle East.
You can only visit the mosque during certain hours of the day as part of a tour, so some prior research and planning is needed. It’s by far worth the extra effort though.
It’s really beautiful inside, and during the tour you’ll get a little backstory regarding the mosque’s history and how it was built.
3. The Kuwait Towers
The one architectural site that really stood out to me during our time in Kuwait were the Kuwait Towers. It just looks so bizarre and out of place, like something from Tomorrowland in Disneyland!
The Kuwait Towers were built in 1979. It was designed by a Danish architect and meant to imitate the appearance of an Arabian perfume bottle.
The tallest of the towers is over 600 feet tall (180 meters). Interestingly, it actually serves a main purpose as a functional water tower, and contains roughly 4500 cubic meters of water.
What makes the towers unique is the fact that it has an observation deck that rotates a full 360 degrees every 30 minutes. Visitors can go up the towers for a fee and enjoy the amazing views of the entire city from above.
The towers also house some restaurants, so you can dine in style while taking in the views.
4. Al Shaheed Park
The Al Shaheed park is the largest park in the city of Kuwait. It’s not so much a park as it is a cultural and social epicenter within the city.
Many locals come here to hang out, and you’ll often see joggers, families, and couples enjoying the space together.
People visit the park at all times of day, but the late afternoon is an exceptionally beautiful time of day to visit. This is when the heat of the day starts to die down and locals are finished with work.
Come around sunset time, and the park is absolutely buzzing with life and activity.
While here you can go for a walk to enjoy the many fountains and architectural designs and sculptures. You also have amazing views of the skyline from within the park itself.
If you stay just after dusk you’ll get to watch the city light up for the evening. This is around the time the light shows begin in the many water fountains! A definitely must-see.
5. The Scientific Center
If you like museums, then you will love Kuwait. There are plenty of options to choose from during your time in Kuwait, as you could easily spend a couple days just knocking out museums from your bucket list.
One of the best museums in the city is definitely the scientific center. This museum is simply beautiful even from the outside, as its located right along the waterfront.
The museum itself is most well known for the aquarium within, but you can also check out other exhibitions. I particularly liked exploring the Fateh-el-Khair, the oldest surviving ship from pre-oil era Kuwait located here.
After you finish up at the scientific center, go for a walk along the seaside promenade that surrounds the Salmiya neighborhood.
This particular beachside walkway is beautiful, day or night. It’ll take you along the edge of the sea passing some of the most beautiful establishments in the city.
If you are looking for the best restaurant, head to Babel, a stunning architectural masterpiece of a restaurant located right along the sea. It’s known for middle eastern cuisine and despite the grandeur appearance, the prices are really affordable.
Aside from the seaside where most buildings are modern, the majority of Salmiya is known as the oldest shopping area in Kuwait. If you head inland, you’ll find mazes upon mazes of shopping streets and shops.
The offering here is really everything under the sun. You’ll find elaborate fabric shops to shops selling small trinkets to shops selling second hand electronics.
Its definitely a more local area, and you won’t find many tourist attractions here. But for those interested in having a glimpse at a more local area, this is a fascinating part of the city.
7. The Avenues Shopping Mall
When it comes to shopping in Kuwait, there is no place that comes even close to competing with the Avenues Shopping Mall.
While Kuwait surely has no shortage of gigantic shopping malls, the Avenues is more of an indoor city than a mall.
The interiors are extravagant, and the shop fronts are decorated in a way that makes you feel like you are outside.
There are multiple sections to this mall, and I honestly had no chance of navigating it properly, so you’ll probably have to get lost just like I did.
There is a luxury section with all the high-end brands that are beloved by the rich Kuwaiti locals. Then there is also a fabulous food court, but instead of Subway, you’ll find really fantastic regional and international food here.
But my favorite part of The Avenues is definitely the section that looks like an old souk. This area sells local brands and goods, and has the feel of shopping in an outdoor bazaar with the luxury of full-blast air conditioning. I was able to buy a very high quality leather belt here for a great price.
8. Kuwait Desert
Almost the entirety of Kuwait is characterized by desert.
A quick drive outside the city will already have you transported from cityscape into vast desert landscapes.
To get out into the desert, you can book a desert tour. These can either be for an afternoon to catch the sunset and ride a camel, or for an overnight experience including camping in the desert under a starry sky.
Out in the desert, there are little villages your tour may allow you to visit as well. These villages are inhabited mostly by the Bedouins who are indigenous to this part of the world.
These are an ancient, nomadic group who’s people can be found even as far away as the Sahara in Morocco.
The one standout to me from my days in Kuwait was the food. Due to its history and the diversity in ethnic groups living there, the food culture is equally diverse and packed full of exotic flavors.
While here we ate lots of typical middle eastern dishes, like shawarma, arrayos, and skewered meat kebabs.
Around the city, you’ll also find authentic hole in the wall Indian and Sri Lankan restaurants, ran by people from those countries. You can also dine at posh, upscale restaurants serving western dishes. Theres a bit of everything here!
Good places to find dining options are the malls and in the Old City.
Is Kuwait good for tourists?
Yes! Kuwait is one of the safest countries in the Middle East. There is a huge expat community, meaning most people speak English. Most attractions are also located in and around Kuwait City, convenient for tourists
What kind of places can tourists visit in Kuwait?
Tourists in Kuwait can enjoy world-class shopping, dining and entertainment. Kuwait is home to a handful of tourist attractions such as the Kuwait Towers and The Grand Mosque which should not be missed!
What is Kuwait most famous for?
Within the Persian Gulf, Kuwait is probably most famous for having its own Arabic theatre culture. Aside from that, most visitors come to explore the desert and enjoy a modern city-life.
And that wraps up your itinerary for visiting Kuwait, taking you through all the highlights of this small country.
Have you been to Kuwait? What did you think? Let me know below.