The largest cities in Saudi Arabia are also the most populous. They are home to a legacy of rich history, culture, and heritage. Saudi Arabia is the second-largest country in the Arabian peninsula. It is constantly evolving in technology, transportation, and infrastructure. Over a couple of decades, the country built modern cities with astonishing skyscrapers and attractions, making it one of the top tourist destinations in the world. In this blog we look at the 10 largest Saudi cities, how to reach there, and the key attractions that make them popular among local and international tourists.
10 largest cities in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is known for its oil reserves and contribution to the global energy market. Apart from its energy reserves, the country has a profound tourism industry. Saudi Arabia hosts the twin holy cities of the world, Makkah and Madinah. Due to their religious significance, these cities attract huge volumes of tourists each year from across the world. Riyadh, the capital city of the KSA, serves as a political and economic hub; whereas Jeddah and Dammam promote international trade and cultural activities. There are numerous other cities such as Abha, Tabuk, Taif, Hail, Najran providing high traditional and cultural values.
1. Riyadh – The Capital of KSA
Displaying a breathtaking landscape, Riyadh derives its name from the Arabic word ‘rawdah,’ which refers to green meadows or gardens. It is the capital of Saudi Arabia, and therefore, is the administrative and political center of the kingdom. It is famous for contemporary architectural landmarks, the Jenadriyah celebration, Noor Riyadh, and Riyadh International Book Fair. Ranking on the top of the list of biggest cities in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh also bagged the title of being the cultural capital of Arab in 2000 by UNESCO.
How to reach Riyadh: Among the popular cities in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is well-connected via airways, railways, and roadways networks. King Khalid International Airport is the also located in the city.
Population of Riyadh: 7.68 Millions (2018)
Area of Riyadh: 1,973 km²
Top hotels in Riyadh: Hyatt Place Riyadh Al Sulaimania, Rosh Rayhaan by Rotana, and Ibis Riyadh Olaya Street
Top attractions in Riyadh: Kingdom Centre Tower, Masmak Citadel, National Museum, Ad-Diriyah, Riyadh Zoo
2. Jeddah – A modern port city
Jeddah has the second-busiest and second-largest seaport in the Middle-east, ranking it among major Saudi Arabia cities. It is the largest city in the province of Makkah and is the principal gateway for pilgrims to start their sacred journey. Jeddah is famous for seafood and features more than 13,000 mosques. It is also home to some of the most important historical places and popular tourist attractions in Saudi Arabia. Adventure enthusiasts can explore the coral reefs or enjoy water sports.
How to reach Jeddah: King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah Airport links to major cities around the world. Besides, Jeddah has connectivity via airways, railways, roadways, and waterways.
Population of Jeddah: 3.98 Millions (2014)
Area of Jeddah: 1,600 km²
Top hotels in Jeddah: Radisson Blu Hotel, Jeddah Al Salam, Holiday Inn Jeddah – al Hamra, an IHG Hotel, and Ramada by Wyndham Continental Jeddah
Tourist places Jeddah: Jeddah Corniche, Al-Shallal Theme Park, Jeddah Municipality Museum, Bab Shareef, King Road Tower
Must Read: 24 Top Tourist Places To Visit In Jeddah
3. Makkah – The holiest city in Islam
Makkah is the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It houses the Great Mosque of Makkah, also called the Masjid Al-Haram. The landscape of the city improved dramatically in the 20th and 21st centuries. Its economy heavily depends on the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. Listed among the top 5 cities in Saudi Arabia, Makkah is famous for its cultural heritage. It has a local fast-food chain that is quite famous among pilgrims.
How to reach Makkah: The nearest airport to the city is King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, and it is connected to the rest of the kingdom via fantastic rail and road networks.
Population of Makkah: 1.58 Millions (2015)
Area of Makkah: 1,200 km²
Top hotels in Makkah: Hotel Swissôtel Al Maqam – Tower F, Elaf Kinda Hotel, and Jabal Omar Hyatt Regency Makkah
Religious places to visit in Makkah: Masjid Al-Haram, Jabal al-Nour, Jannat-al-Mu’alla, Masjid-e-Ayesha, Mount Arafat
4. Madinah – The second holiest city in Islam
Madinah is one of the main cities in Saudi Arabia and has connectivity with the rest of the country via roadways, airways, and railways. It is home to some of the most important religious sites for Muslims and is a part of most pilgrimage tours. The local food and culture is a delight to explore for those who are fascinated by Arabian culture. It lies 625m above sea level and comprises an astounding landscape.
How to reach Madinah: Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport is the regional airport in Medina, Saudi Arabia.
Population of Madinah: 1.54 Million (2022)
Area of Madinah: 587.9 km²
Top hotels in Madinah: Taiba Front Hotel, Dar Al Taqwa Hotel Madinah, and Grand Plaza Al Madina
Religious & historical places in Madinah: Al-Masjid An-Nabawi, Masjid al-Qiblatayn, Quba Mosque, Mount Uhud, Wadi e Jinn, Jannat-al-Baqi, the Desert of Saleh, Al Noor Mall
5. Dammam – A popular tourist destination
Ranking as the sixth most populous city in Saudi Arabia, Dammam is the capital of the Eastern Province. The Al Dawasir tribe founded Dammam in 1923. The community migrated from Bahrain, settled near Khobar, and formed the city. It has oil fields that form a significant chunk of the city’s economy.
How to reach Dammam: Listed among the major cities in Saudi Arabia, Dammam is connected to the rest of the kingdom by Saudi Arabia biggest airport, King Fahd International Airport. It also features a seaport and has well-maintained road and railway networks.
Population of Dammam: 4.14 Million
Area of Dammam: 800 km²
Top hotels in Dammam: Sheraton Dammam Hotel & Convention Centre, Morjan-Resort, and Howard Johnson by Wyndham Dammam
Places to visit in Dammam: Dolphin Village, Adventure World, Heritage Village, Al Othaim Mall, Paintball Battle, Marjan Island, Water Island, King Fahad Park
6. Taif – An ideal summer getaway
Situated in the Makkah Province, Taif lies at an elevation of 1,879 m on the Hejaz Mountains. The city also finds its indirect reference in the Holy Quran. It is believed that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) visited the city in the 7th century. It is the unofficial summer capital of the Kingdom because of its moderate climate in the summer season. Taif is famous for perfumes and agricultural products. The city is also popular for its historical landmarks and museums.
How to reach Taif: Taif Regional Airport hosts both domestic and international flights. The city is also well connected via road. Cabs from various Saudi cities are a popular mode of transport here.
Population of Taif: 702k (2022)
Area of Taif: 321 km²
Top hotels in Taif: InterContinental Taif, an IHG Hotel, Awaliv International Hotel, and Swiss Spirit Hotel & Suites Taif
Tourist places in Taif: Jabal Dakka, Taif Zoo, Tera Mall, Rose Factory, Al Shareef Museum, Al Rudaf Park, Dolphin and Sea Lion Show, Souq Okaz, Bird Park, Strawberry Farm
7. Al-Kharj – A beautiful historical city
Among the popular cities in Saudi Arabia, Kharj is one of the Saudi governorates to the southeast of Riyadh. It has many valleys flowing into it and provides a stunning surrounding. Al-Kharj is renowned for the presence of Ayun AlSeih, which means eyes. It has holes inside the earth that take the shape of an eye. Al-Kharj is one of the best regions in Saudi Arabia for carrying out agricultural activities. It features some of the kingdom’s largest farms, poultry, and dairy companies.
How to reach Al Kharj: Al-Kharj connects to Riyadh via a broad highway. It also has a road that links it to Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
Population of Al Kharj: 425k (2022)
Area of Al Kharj: 17,457 km²
Top hotels in Al Kharj: Retaj Hotel housing units, Marahel Kharj Aparthotel 3, and Low Light Suites
Places to visit in Al Kharj: Jaw Mall, Al Kharj Park Zoo, Al-kharj Water Tower, King Salman Walkaway, Al-Baijan, Amusement Park
Must Read: Top Places To Visit In Al Kharj
8. Khobar – An important commercial center
Located on the coast of the Persian Gulf, Khobar is the newest city in the Dammam Metropolitan area. It features a 16 km long Corniche Road, and it is famous as a resort town among the locals. It hosts many beaches and resorts, allowing tourists to enjoy panoramic views and relish local cuisine. Khobar has several shopping malls and lifestyle centers where travelers can shop for essentials. It even has local chains of restaurants that serve delicious meals.
Population of Khobar: 457k (2010)
Area of Khobar: 750 km²
Top hotels in Khobar: Le Méridien Al Khobar, voco al Khobar, an IHG Hotel, and Ascott Corniche Al Khobar
Tourist attractions in Khobar: Loopagoon, Al Rashid Mall, Half Moon Beach, Escape the Room, Dhahran Hills Park, Gravity Trampoline Park, SciTech Technology Centre
9. Tabuk – The most beautiful of largest cities in Saudi Arabia
In the northwestern region of Saudi Arabia lies Tabuk, a city with rich culture and pristine beaches. It has a population of about 667,000 and is popular for archaeological sites. It has an airport that makes it easy for tourists to reach the city. Tabuk features forts and palaces with old inscriptions that allow historians a sneak peek into the past. Over time, it has helped experts understand the lifestyle of people who inhabited the place.
Population of Tabuk: 657k (2020)
Area of Tabuk: 146,072 km²
Top hotels in Tabuk: Hilton Garden Inn Tabuk, Holiday Inn Tabuk, an IHG Hotel, and Grand Millennium Tabuk
Famous places in Tabuk: Wadi Al Disah, Prince Fahd Bin Sultan’s Park, Al-Zareeb Castle, Tabuk Castle, Souq Twaheen
10. Dhahran – A fun family escape
With a population of 240,742, Dhahran is among the main and the largest cities in Saudi Arabia. It is the primary center of the oil industry in the kingdom. It has been the headquarters of Saudi Aramco for more than 80 years. Dhahran is well-connected to the rest of the kingdom via railways, airways, and roadways, making it easier for tourists to commute.
Population of Dhahran: 138k (2012)
Area of Dhahran: 100 km²
Top hotels in Dhahran: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dhahran, Aloft Dhahran, and Radisson Blu Residence Dhahran
Places to visit in Dhahran: Prince Saud Bin Naif Park, Gravity Trampoline Park, King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture, Mall of Dhahran
Facts about Saudi Arabia and its cities
- Saudi Arabia is the largest city without rivers in the world.
- Makkah and Madinah, the two holy cities in Islam are located in Saudi Arabia
- Masjid Al Haram and the holy Kaaba is located in Makkah, Saudi Arabia
- Saudi Arabia houses one of the largest oil reserves in the world
- Adhering to the Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is developing a modern city known as NEOM, that will boost the tourism industry and overall GDP of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has many beautiful cities with stunning landscapes and many tourist attractions. It caters to pilgrims and travelers and offers everyone an experience of a lifetime.
Largest Cities In Saudi Arabia FAQs
Which is the largest city in Saudi Arabia?
Al-Kharj is the largest city in Saudi Arabia in terms of area.
Which city has the largest population in Saudi Arabia?
Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia and has the largest population in the kingdom.
Which is the holiest city in Saudi Arabia?
Makkah has Al-Masjid Al-Haram for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage, making it the holiest city in Saudi Arabia.
What are the best outdoor activities to perform in Saudi Arabia?
Tourists can undertake hiking in Riyadh, camel riding and dune bashing in Riyadh, discover Taif, explore Green Sarawat Mountains, perform horse riding in Khobar, etc.
What are the five major cities of Saudi Arabia?
The top five cities of Saudi Arabia are Makkah, Madinah, Riyadh, Dhahran, and Jeddah.
Which city is the economic hub of Saudi Arabia?
Riyadh is the economic hub of Saudi Arabia housing numerous international and domestic businesses headquarters, government institutions, and financial organizations.
Which are the holy cities of Saudi Arabia, and why are they significant?
Makkah and Madinah are the two holy cities of Saudi Arabia. Makkah is the birthplace of beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and has the holy site of Kaaba in Masjid Al Haram. Whereas Madinah has significant sites such as the Prophet Mosque. Each year millions of Muslim Embark on the spiritual journey known as Hajj to Makkah.
What are some famous landmarks in Riyadh?
Some of the famous landmarks in Riyadh are Kingdom Centre Tower, Al Masmak Fortress, National Museum, Diriyah, Riyadh Gallery Mall, Murabba Palace, and Salam Park.
What is the climate like in Saudi Arabia major cities?
Saudi Arabia major cities experience diverse climates owing to the country extensive geographic range. In Riyadh, the capital, a hot desert climate prevails, characterized by extremely hot summers with temperatures often exceeding 40°C (104°F) and milder winters averaging around 20°C (68°F). Jeddah, situated along the Red Sea coast, shares a hot desert climate but with higher humidity. Dammam in the Eastern Province experiences similar desert conditions but with occasional rainfall. Madinah and Makkah, the holy cities, witness hot desert climates, with blistering summers and milder winters.
What is the best time to visit Saudi Arabia major cities?
As Saudi Arabia is primarily a desert country, it is best to explore the various cities in the kingdom during cooler months. The best time to visit Saudi Arabia is from November to February.
Are there any cultural norms or dress code requirements for tourists in Saudi Arabia?
Tourists visiting Saudi Arabia should adhere to cultural norms and dress codes. Women are expected to wear abayas, loose black cloaks, and may choose to cover their hair with a headscarf. Men should dress modestly and avoid shorts in public. Conservative attire is necessary when visiting religious sites. Public displays of affection are discouraged. During Ramadan, all tourists should abstain from eating, drinking, and smoking in public during daylight hours. Alcohol and pork consumption is strictly prohibited.