12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Sharjah
Sharjah is the arts capital of the United Arab Emirates, and efforts to preserve area history garnered the title of Cultural Capital of the Arab World by UNESCO in 1998. For museum and art lovers, Sharjah is crammed full of excellent sightseeing opportunities. The Art Museum is world-renowned, while the Heritage Area is full of interesting buildings dedicated to Emirati history.
This is also a wonderfully family-friendly destination, with lots to keep the kids amused including the Natural History Museum and Desert Park, where petting animals are the biggest attraction for most children, and the fun-packed exhibits at the Science Museum.
See also: Where to Stay in Sharjah For Sightseeing
1 Sharjah Arts Museum
The largest Arts Museum in the United Arab Emirates, this state-of-the-art facility opened in 1997 and features a permanent collection as well as a program of temporary exhibits. The permanent collection includes valuable artwork from the collections of HH Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, the Ruler of Sharjah. There are 72 galleries spread over three floors, with a focus on works by artists who painted the Arab world.
Many artworks are by 18th century by painters who visited the Middle East and became fascinated by the natural environment, architecture and culture. The Ali Darwish gallery contains his watercolours of Sharjah. The contemporary section consists of over 300 works by local, Arab and foreign artists. If you're an art-lover on a weekend stopover in Dubai, don't miss a trip here.
Hours: Sat-Thu 8am-8pm, Fri 4pm-8pm
Admission: Entry Free
2 Central Market
Sharjah's Central Market is the city's most famous landmark. The intricate blue tile work on the exterior has given it the nickname the Blue Souk. There are over 600 shops inside, where shoppers will find sections devoted to gold and jewellery, perfume, clothing, food, electronics and gift-type items. The upper floor has the atmosphere of an authentic Arabian bazaar with vendors selling antiques, carpets, Omani and Yemeni jewellery and all sorts of other exotic souvenirs.
Hours: Open Sat-Thu 9am-1pm and 4pm-11pm, Fri 9am-noon and 4pm-11pm
Location: Khaled Lagoon
3 Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation
Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation is a good place to dive into the deep roots of Arab and Islamic culture. A number of scientific and religious manuscripts as well as a collection of Islamic arts and craftwork are on display. Features of particular note include the exhibit of clay, pottery and glass as well as metallic handicrafts inlaid with silver, gold and brass. The collection holds items dating back to the Abbasid and Omayyad eras, including a coin collection of silver dinars and dirhams.
Hours: Sat-Thu 8am-8pm, Fri 4pm-8pm
Admission: Adult 5AED, Families 10AED
4 Sharjah Natural History Museum and Desert Park
Sharjah's Natural History Museum and Desert Park is a great place for children to learn about the flora and fauna of the Arabian Desert. In the Children's Farm, kids can get up close and personal with the farm animals, while the various desert habitats of the United Arab Emirates are depicted in the Diorama Hall. The Geology Hall tells the story of life on earth with an audio visual presentation explaining earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tectonic plate drift. In the Botany Section outside, a desert habitat has been recreated.
Sharjah's Souk Area is an excellent way to experience the bustle of traditional Arabian shopping. The Fish Souk is a stinky and busy mix of noise and colour, while the Fruit and Vegetable Souk is always crowded with vendors shouting out their prices and customers bargaining for good deals. It's a great chance to capture some vibrant photos of Sharjah life.
6 Sharjah Maritime Museum
As a settlement Sharjah has always been linked closely to the water, and the Maritime Museum highlights the importance of the sea in the city's development. There are interesting exhibits on traditional wooden dhows, pearl collecting and fishing - all once important to the economy here. Next-door is Sharjah Aquarium where a wide variety of sea life can be seen.
Hours: Open Sat-Thu 8am-8pm, Fri 4pm-8pm
Admission: Adults 8AED, Child (4-17) 4AED
7 Sharjah Archaeology Museum
Sharjah Archaeology Museum has exhibits tracing the wide arcing history of humanity in the area. Displays in the Stone Age section include numerous flint pieces reflecting the technology of that period, and old seashells which were a source of food. There are also ornamental gems and pottery shards from the Obaid period that were found in Al Hamriyah and confirm the trade exchange of this age with Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq).
The Bronze Age Hall features archaeological finds of pottery, metals, stone and jewellery. The museum has done a good job of making its exhibits user-friendly and children will be kept entertained by a variety of hands-on games.
Hours: Sat and Mon-Thu 8am-8pm, Fri 4pm-8pm
Admission: Adults 5AED, Families 10AED
8 Sharjah Heritage Area
The Sharjah Heritage Area is a combination of several museums that include the Sharjah Heritage Museum, Souk Al Arsah, Al Midfaa House, Al Hisn Sharjah and Hisn Fort. Souk Al Arsah is a large open courtyard souk, restored in its traditional style that now includes a number of different shops featuring silver and wooden handicrafts, jewellery, traditional garments and beauty products.
Bait Al Naboodah is a traditional family house once home to the Al-Shamsi family. Comprised of 16 rooms, it has been converted into the Sharjah Heritage Museum. Each room has a different aspect of Emirati culture, such as traditional clothing. Al Midfaa House is the restored family home of Al Midfaa - a prominent figure in Sharjah and the United Arab Emirates. The exhibits here cover literature and culture of the region. Al Hisn Fort was the traditional residence of the ruling family of Sharjah. The fort was built 200 years ago and served as a defensive facility for the town. Exhibits feature the history of Sharjah through themed displays in each room.
Hours: Sat-Thu 8am-8pm, Fri 4pm-8pm
Admission: Adults 5AED, Families 10AED
9 Sharjah Science Museum
The Sharjah Science Museum is the only interactive hands-on museum in the United Arab Emirates. The Exhibition Hall includes state-of-the-art elements, which have been designed to get children interested in science. Visitors can test their flexibility, grip strength and balance, make a cartoon, use a music synthesizer, build a puzzle of the human body or visit Playspace (which caters to younger children). The on-site Planetarium takes visitors on a tour of the universe, from the Sharjah sky to deep space.
Hours: Open Sun-Thu 8am-6pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-8pm
Admission: Adults 10AED, Child 5AED
The most southerly village in the United Arab Emirates, Kalba is a quaint fishing village with a lively fresh produce and fish market on the seashore. It's a charming place for a stroll that's worth the trip for the Al-Hisn Museum (built as a fort 200 years ago) and the fully restored House of Sheikh Saeed bin Hamad Al-Qassimi with its displays of musical instruments and traditional furniture.
Just south of the village is the Khor Kalba Conservation Reserve, containing the most northerly mangrove forest in the world. This is a bird-watcher's paradise, especially during spring and autumn migrations. Visitors can spot the rare white-collared kingfishers that breed here as well as reef herons and booted warblers. Trips to the reserve are by hired boat or canoe.
11 Al Qasba
The suburb of Al Qasba in Sharjah is home to plenty of entertainment options, but its most famous feature is the big wheel known as the Eye of the Emirates. A ride gives you a soaring perspective over the city.
12 Khor Fakkan
Khor Fakkan is the second largest town on the east coast. Although the main feature of town is the thriving and less-than-picturesque container port, the surrounding area is a top spot for divers and has some interesting attractions nearby. Shark Island is a famous diving spot with many sites in the coral outcroppings. A popular sightseeing spot is the Rifaisa Dam, tucked away in the inland mountains. The dam was built over a village and the tops of the houses are visible when there is a lack of rain.
Where to Stay in Sharjah For Sightseeing
For first-time visitors to Sharjah, the best place to stay is in the beachfront area, near the city center. Shopping malls and restaurants lie a short hop from here, as well as attractions such as the Heritage Area, with its impressive museums; Central Market; Al Qasba entertainment zone; and the corniche. Here are some highly-rated hotels in this central location:
- Luxury Hotels: An eight-minute drive from the Heritage Area, and within walking distance of the Al Qasba entertainment zone, the Hilton Sharjah overlooks Khalid Lagoon and offers a complimentary shuttle to a nearby private beach. A popular upscale option for longer stays in the city center is the Ramada Sharjah, opposite a shopping mall and near the lagoon and corniche. Its one- and two-bedroom apartments come with full kitchens and laundry facilities. Also close to city shopping and entertainment, Radisson Blu Resort is an eight-minute drive from the Heritage Area and features a private beach and poolside cabanas.
- Mid-Range Hotels: A little further out from the city center, but fantastic for families, the Coral Beach Resort Sharjah rims a clean sweep of beach and offers plenty of pools and restaurants, while the TIME Ruby Hotel Apartments, walking distance to the beach and the corniche, is great for longer stays. A more affordable mid-range option is Lou Lou'a Beach Resort, right on the oceanfront, and only a nine-minute drive to the Heritage Area.
- Budget Hotels: With a pool as its focal point, Sharjah Beach Hotel offers great value, considering its prime location on the beach less than ten-minute's drive from the Heritage Area. In the heart of Sharjah, Spark Residence is convenient for longer stays with its one- and two-bedroom suites, while the Summer Land Motel Sharjah lies less than four kilometers away from the museums of the city center and the Al-Qasba entertainment zone.
Other Notable Attractions
Sharjah Calligraphy Museum
The Calligraphy Museum focuses solely on the beautiful work of Islamic calligraphy. Displays include works on paper, wood, ceramics and canvas.
Al-Mahatta (Airport) Museum
Sharjah's airport opened in 1932 and was the first airport in the Gulf. Aviation fans will enjoy the various exhibits on aviation history including four fully restored original propeller planes on display in the hanger.
Al-Eslah School Museum
Al-Eslah was the first formal school in Sharjah, and the building now serves as a museum that allows you to experience the classroom as it was when the school was established in 1935. The school focused on Islamic education and Arabic language studies.
Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Originally built in the early 1980s to house 12,000 spectators, the stadium can now accommodate 27,000 people. It is a popular destination with both locals and tourists during well-attended cricket matches.