Swanky hotels, big-name restaurants, and an array of festivals worth travelling for…

As we prepare to welcome another year in Saudi Arabia, we’re looking ahead to all the brilliant things still to come across the Kingdom. Whether it’s a stunning new hotel, a hotly anticipated restaurant, or a concert you’ve been waiting for, here are 23 things to look forward to in Saudi Arabia in 2023.

Concerts and Performances

Amazing shows to kickstart the year in Riyadh

Blackpink & Imagine Dragons

Already lined up with back-to-back gigs, January will undoubtedly be a great time for music lovers in Riyadh. For a start, there is no introduction needed for this female K-Pop group. Blackpink is ready to slay on January 20 at Mrsool Park. And on January 22, Imagine Dragons will also take to the stage at Mrsool Park.

Blackpink, Jan 20, Livenation.me & Imagine Dragons, Jan 22, Ticketmasterksa.com, Mrsool Park.

Experience music, art and culture during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset

Azimuth festival returns after a hugely successful event in 2022 featuring many local and international artists, DJs, and art activations. The music event will once again take place during the Saudi National Holiday, from Friday September 22 to Monday September 25.

Gear up for Riyadh’s loudest music festival

SoundStorm 2023 will continue to bring three incredible days of music, entertainment, and dancing. So, look forward to another weekend of lights, beats and the biggest stars – all in Riyadh.

MDLBeast SoundStorm 2023, Dec 7 to 9, MDLBeast.com

Sporting Events

Saudi Dakar Rally

Dakar Rally 2022

Motorsports fans, this one’s for you. The 2023 Dakar Rally is set to be one of the most gruelling in recent history, with organisers revealing a new treacherous route that awaits. The race will kick off with a short prologue from the shores of the Red Sea on December 31, 2022, with the results determining the starting order for the first full stage on New Year’s Day. The Rally will then travel eastwards, with three stages, including the marathon, taking place in the infamous Empty Quarter. Covering a vast area equivalent to the size of France, the Empty Quarter – or better known as the Rub al-Khali desert – offers some of the most challenging dunes in Saudi Arabia. The action will conclude on January 15, 2023, in Dammam.

2023 Dakar Rally, December 31, 2022, to January 15, 2023.

Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo

The game of Kings is back with the Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo 2023 taking place on Friday, January 27 and Saturday, January 28. Across the weekend, visitors can witness the legendary La Dolfina Polo team playing alongside local and international guests and competing in the fashion stakes, showcasing their favourite winter looks while they cheer on the riders.

AlUla Trail Race

AlUla Trail Race, on Thursday, February 23 and Friday, February 24, will be an open-to-everyone fun event for both experienced and amateur runners/walkers. The race will allow participants to explore the stunning landscapes and nature of AlUla while rewarding their bodies and mind.

Saudi Cup

The Saudi Cup is a two-day international horse racing fixture held at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh. It is known for featuring the richest horse race ever held, the Saudi Cup, with a $20 million purse. Held for the first time in February 2020, the Saudi Cup represents the jewel in the crown of the Kingdom’s horse racing calendar. For context, the purse of $20 million is more than three times that of Europe’s richest race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France. The Saudi Cup stretches over 9 furlongs (or 1,800 metres) on a dirt track. The winning horse takes home $10 million, with horses down to tenth place, sharing another $10 million between them, with a maximum field of 14 runners.

Saudi Cup, Feb 24 & 25, King Abdulaziz Racetrack, Riyadh

AlUla Endurance Cup

Returning for its fourth edition on Saturday, March 4, the AlUla Endurance Cup will welcome over 200 riders to compete on the desert track with the finest horses from around the world. Equestrian enthusiasts and interested spectators will have an opportunity to experience an exciting day out, with entertainment and food and beverage on offer while connecting AlUla’s ancient Arabian horse heritage culture.

Rev your engines for the F1

2021 F1 Saudi Arabian GP

One of the biggest sporting events of the year, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix marks the second race in the F1 Calendar. As always, it will take place in Jeddah, home of the world’s fastest street circuit. Fans will once more be able to sit in the Grandstands along the Red Sea Coast and watch their favourite drivers take on the thrilling Corniche Circuit. Expect a full three-day programme of activity both on and off track that will appeal to sport and entertainment seekers alike. Think pop-up restaurants, epic concerts and plenty of parties.

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2023, Mar 17 to 19, 2023, Jeddah Corniche Circuit. Saudiarabiangp.com

Extreme Adventure AlUla

This one is for adrenaline junkies, nature enthusiasts, and fitness gurus. From abseiling, hiking, cycling, dune buggies, rock climbing and many more, get involved with this extreme adventure challenge from Wednesday June 7 to Saturday June 10.

Hotels

The Jeddah Edition

Jeddah Edition

Located at the Jeddah Yacht Club, the first Edition hotel in Saudi Arabia will open in the summer of 2023, with 63 guestrooms. This landmark property will tap Jeddah’s vibrant culture and the social milieu of its location. It will boast incredible amenities such as a spa, a fitness centre, a penthouse terrace, as well as indoor and outdoor pools that will blend seamlessly into the beautiful landscape. The Jeddah Edition will also have interesting culinary experiences, from its signature restaurant to a lounge bar, while the rooftop bar will plate up sweeping views of the Red Sea. We can’t wait to head here for the chic décor and the views.

The Jeddah Edition, opens in the summer of 2023. Editionhotels.com

Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea

This resort, a landmark for the brand in Saudi Arabia, is nestled within desert mountains and narrow wadis. In true Six Senses style, it’s been designed to honour the local landscape, with a focus on wellness and eco-tourism. The 76-room resort is split between 36 guest rooms in the main building and 40 villas ranging in size from one to four bedrooms are dotted strategically across the peaks to offer panoramic views of the breathtaking natural landscape. Everything will centre around the Oasis, where the hotel reception, lobby, community lounges, and meeting spaces are located. It will also house the hotel’s signature Earth Lab, an ecology area showcasing its sustainability efforts to reduce consumption, produce locally, and support communities and ecosystems. For gourmands, the all-day dining restaurant is complemented by a chef’s table and cooking school, along with a juice bar, brew bar, and water bar.

Sixsenses.com

The St Regis Red Sea Resort

St Regis The Red Sea Project

Situated on a private island within the Ummahat Islands archipelago, this St Regis property promises a collection of 90 villas – some overwater – a duo of signature restaurants, plus an outdoor pool, spa and kids’ club.

Nujuma, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

Nujuma will form part of the Red Sea’s Blue Hole cluster of islands. Guests checking in next year will have a choice of 63 one- to four-bedroom overwater and beach villas, with five-star amenities ranging from a lavish spa and swimming pools to an array of restaurants. Edu-tainment will be high on the agenda, and as such, a Conservation Centre will offer insight into the protection of the local landscape. The resort villas will be complemented by 18 branded residences, offering owners a unique living experience at their home away from home.

Festivals

Islamic Arts Biennale

Millions of Muslim pilgrims will be familiar with the Hajj Terminal, but it’s now being transformed into an artistic hub, thanks to the Islamic Arts Biennale, taking place from January 23 to April 23, 2023. So, if you’ve been curious about Islam or are looking to brush up on your knowledge, this should be on your cultural radar. The inaugural exhibition aims to celebrate and enrich the cultural and artistic exchange between Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, and communities around the world. The themes during the biennale will range from sacred direction (qiblah) to migration (hijrah), and it will explore how Muslims view the Kaaba as their spiritual home.

Islamic Arts Biennale, January 23 to April 23, 2023, Hajj Terminal, Jeddah.

AlUla Arts Festival

AlUla Arts Festival is set to be a must-visit event on the global arts calendar. From Monday February 13 to Tuesday February 28, the festival will offer a diverse, curated selection of art workshops, immersive experiences, and international art exhibitions. The flagship event for 2023 is the Andy Warhol exhibition, which will take place from February 17 to May 16, at the record-breaking Maraya arts centre.

AlUla Skies Festival

AlUla Skies Festival

200 colourful balloons will fly high over the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra from Thursday, April 20 (coinciding with Eid Al Fitr) to Thursday, May 4. The beloved once-in-a-lifetime experience is one to book early. Alongside the balloons, there will be several events to celebrate the vast open space of the desert and night sky lit up by the milky-way.

AlUla Wellness Festival

AlUla Wellness Festival is returning for its third edition and will take place from Tuesday September 26 to Monday October 16. Marking the beginning of the autumn harvest, the wellness festival aims to inspire positive change with the change of the new season and promote mental and physical health with back-to-nature experiences for friends and families to take part in. Expect hundreds of experiences such as yoga, meditation, talks and fitness, including the return of some of its popular concepts, such as the Five Senses Sanctuary.

Restaurants

Gymkhana

Gymkhana

The Michelin-starred restaurant is set to travel outside London for the first time as Gymkhana opens its doors in Riyadh in 2023. Guests to Gymkhana Saudi can expect the same level of flavour and experience as those in Mayfair. The carefully curated menu brings to life flavours from across India, offering a modern interpretation of renowned classics. All the restaurant’s signature dishes will make the trip to Riyadh, like Chettinad Duck Dosa with Coconut Chutney, Kid Goat Methi Keema with Salli and Pao, Wild Muntjac Biryani and Duck Egg Langoustine Bhurji with Malabar Paratha. In addition, several new dishes, developed by the London team with the Saudi audience in mind, will also be available for diners to sample. Expect Multani Baby Raan, Keralan Toddy Shaapu Wild Tiger Prawns, Game Bird Baida Roti served with Girolle Achaar and Bombay Gymkhana Club Vegetable Cutlet with Masala Ketchup. For drinks, guests can enjoy a specially crafted beverage menu, with mocktails featuring a wide selection of ingredients and garnishes from various Indian regions.

Gymkhana, Via Riyadh

Jones the Grocer

Jones the Grocer

The popular Australian cafe is known for its fresh produce, hearty breakfasts, and healthy, freshly pressed juices. We’re hoping its first outlet in the Kingdom at KAFD will also feature a retail section showcasing dried and ambient products such as jams, chutneys, mustards, sauces, cereals, and chilled items like smoked salmon and charcuterie.

Jones the Grocer, KAFD, Riyadh

RÜYA

 

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A favourite amongst our What’s On team in Dubai, swanky restaurant RÜYA is making its way to Riyadh. Enjoy authentic, contemporary Anatolian cuisine – that’s Turkish to you and me – with a contemporary twist in a lively, relaxed setting. So, get ready to embark on a culinary journey through the food regions of Turkey with mezes from Marmara, Pides from the Black Sea region, olives from the Aegean Sea and kebabs from Southeastern Anatolia.

RÜYA, Midtown, Riyadh

Attractions

teamLab Borderless Jeddah

teamLab borderless

Saudi Arabia has linked up with the international art collective teamLab to establish a new digital art museum in the Kingdom. teamLab Borderless museums offer immersive experiences where the viewer becomes part of the work, as the presence of guests causes changes in the art. Slated to open in 2023, teamLab Borderless Jeddah will be located in Al Arbaeen Lagoon, overlooking the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jeddah Old Town. The Jeddah centre will also house a section dedicated to children, allowing kids to explore how the joint realms of science and art learning can help inspire the next generation of Saudi creatives.

AlUla Catwalk

AlUla Catwalk

Running from Thursday, February 9 to Sunday, February 12, the first-ever marquee fashion event in Saudi Arabia will be presented in AlUla Catwalk. With a weekend of fashion, music and art event inspired by the plight of the critically endangered Arabian Leopard, AlUla Catwalk is designed to raise awareness of important measures being taken to restore the animal to the wild. In addition, the Arabian Leopard trail will be launched, there will be a photographic exhibition in nature and an auction and bazaar will celebrate the artistry of fashion in the majestic surroundings and landscapes of AlUla.

Images: Provided / Social