Bahrain may be a small country, but there is no shortage of cultural experiences here. It is an Islamic country with a rich history of pearling, trade, and vast natural resources. From UNESCO World Heritage sites to unique buildings and modern-day events, these activities can’t be missed. Even though it will cost you absolutely nothing, these activities will be some of the most memorable things you do during your time here. I’ve rounded up 11 of the best free activities in Bahrain that are guaranteed to give you a deeper understanding of the culture, history, and day-to-day life in Bahrain.
1. Take a tour of the Al Fateh Grand Mosque.
A great place to start your day of fun, free activities in Bahrain is by visiting the Al Fateh Grand Mosque in Juffair. This mosque is the first place I visited when I moved to Bahrain. The Al Fateh Grand Mosque, built between 1983-1988 is the largest building in Bahrain and can hold 7,000 people. You’ll see its picture printed on a twenty dinar note. The interior is just as pretty as the exterior. I love the giant chandelier inside the main building and the open-air courtyard. Women will don the abaya and men the thobe for the duration of your tour. Al Fateh Grand Mosque is located in Juffair, where most expats live. The mosque is open to visitors from Saturday-Thursday from 9 AM to 4 PM.
2. Walk along the Pearling Trail.
You can take a self-guided walking tour which follows a trail of important historical locations. These places you see along the way illustrate the importance of pearling in Bahrain. Take a camera and some comfortable walking shoes and get lost in the labyrinth of alleys. The Pearling Trail is located in Muharraq. Parking can be a bit tricky and the roads are a bit narrow, so just be prepared for that. You can also take a taxi and the driver will drop you off right at the beginning of the trail.
3. Explore Qal’at Al Bahrain, also known as the Bahrain Fort.
The 3,000-year-old Bahrain Fort is stunning. Especially when you see the contrast between this ancient site and the Bahrain skyline behind it. This fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Sites and it showcases layers of human civilization. This is a dream location for photographers who will love the many archways and other picturesque features. Walking through the fort feels very peaceful and serene. You can wander for hours around the expansive grounds, and then stop by the small museum to learn more about its history. My personal favorite time to visit is at sunset for stunning pictures. It’s less hot in the evening, too.
4. See the Bahraini Farmer’s Market.
This is open during the cooler months of the year which are usually early December through the end of April. The Bahraini Farmer’s Market in Budayia is a beautiful market with fresh produce and colorful veggies. I’m talking about purple and yellow cauliflower and pink, purple, and orange cherry tomatoes. They also sell flowers, plants, local artisanal goods, and some prepared food from local restaurants. Parking is limited so arrive early. This is one of my favorite free activities in Bahrain, but it’s hard to resist buying something. Produce is very affordable, though. You can get a small container of pretty cherry tomatoes for 500 fils (about $1.33USD).
5. Visit Al Khamis Mosque, the oldest mosque in Bahrain.
The Al Khamis Mosque is not only the oldest mosque in Bahrain but also one of the oldest mosques in the Arab world. To my knowledge, tourists can climb the minarets. Be prepared to squeeze through a small doorway. You have to stoop down as you carefully climb up and down the stairs inside the minaret. It is a pretty tight squeeze and probably not a good idea if you’re claustrophobic. The best way to get here is to have your own private transportation. You can easily get a taxi from Juffair to the mosque, but you might be waiting for a while to get a taxi back. You’ll most likely have it all to yourself since most people go to the Al Fateh Grand Mosque first. This means you’ll have an uninterrupted photo session.
6. Get lost in Bab Al Bahrain.
You will love the hustle and bustle of people shopping, vendors offering their very special prices, and all the goods for sale. I am obsessed with the colorful jalabiya shops at the souq. If you’d like to buy one, they will do on-the-spot alterations for you, too. And a trip to the souq just doesn’t feel the same if you don’t stop to admire the colorful, intricate, glass lamps.
7. Go to the Muharaq Souq.
This souq is usually more for the locals so it feels more authentic. If you go to either market during Ashoora or Ramadan, do make sure that you are respectful and cover your knees and shoulders (both men and women). I highly recommend stopping by one of the local shops for Bahraini sweets.
8. Walk around Bahrain Bay.
Bahrain Bay is right across from the Four Seasons and the Bahrain World Trade Center building. You can see the skyline and walk along the waterfront Promenade which encircles that part of the island. Bahrain definitely has its fair share of unique and beautiful buildings. If you’re in Bahrain during the annual Bahrain Bay Food Festival and it is held at Bahrain Bay, do go check it out. A festival dedicated to local food? Yes, please!
9. Go for a stroll around Amwaj Lagoon.
Strolling around this man-made lagoon on Amwaj Island is a great way to spend an afternoon. I didn’t do this one often, just when I had a visitor. This is a great spot to go for a peaceful walk. You may end up being tempted to stop by one of the restaurants around the lagoon. If you do, I would recommend any of the restaurants on the upper level for a nice view of the water.
10. See the Tree of Life, or Shajarat-al-Hayat as it’s called in Arabic.
This tree is fascinating for many reasons. Some even believe that it is the original location of THE Tree of Eden. Over 400 years old, the Tree of Life has managed to flourish and stay green despite being out in the middle of the desert. It is thriving against all odds because there are no visible water sources nearby. It’s a bit ironic that this is on my list and I’ve never actually gone. This means I’ll be back in Bahrain someday, inshallah.
11. Pet the camels at the Royal Camel Farm.
I didn’t actually do this particular activity. because I thought the camels would be underfed or mistreated. However, I’ve heard that caretakers living on the property make sure the camels are loved and well-fed. I’m adding this and the Tree of Life to my inshallah list for my next trip to Bahrain.
These are just some of the things I loved during the time lived in Bahrain. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the Royal Camel Farm and the Tree of Life. Let me know how many of these you’ve done, or if there are any that you would add to your list of free things to do in Bahrain.