Stroll waterfront promenades at sunset, explore 16th century forts and visit entrancing marketplaces bursting with Arabian history. Oman’s capital Muscat is a city of incredible beauty, an oasis of history and culture surrounded by the vast desert. Thinking about what to do in Muscat as a treat for the senses? Then check out our list below of the most beautiful places to visit.

1) The Old Quarter

Discover ancient Arabian charm in the city’s oldest neighbourhood. Located at its eastern end, the Old Quarter is home to not one, but two, 16th century forts – Al Mirani and Al Jilali. From their towering position on the cliff tops over the Old Quarter, they have looked out over the Gulf of Oman for centuries, protecting the city. Stroll the 500-year-old city walls and visit the fascinating Bait Al Zubair Museum to learn more about local history and culture.

2) The Mangrove Lagoon

Looking to discover Muscat’s natural side? Then you’ll find it at the Mangrove Lagoon. One of the most beautiful spots on the coastline, this evergreen oasis is buzzing with bird and marine life. Spot birds in the canopy, crabs and fish sheltering in the salty waters. Now a dedicated nature reserve, it’s a breeding ground for fish species including mullet, sea bream and snappers.

3) Mutrah Corniche

Stretching for 3 kilometres (1.8 miles) along the waterfront of Muscat’s fishing port, this elegant promenade is a great place for a stroll. Pass the fountains and pristine gardens along the way, sample local delicacies and international cuisine in the restaurants, and pick up some fresh fruit in the market at the northern end. The Corniche is all overlooked by the magnificent 16th century fort that seems to grow from the rocky cliffs above.

4) Al Shatti

Need to cool off from the Arabian sun? Head straight to Al Shatti beach. A long stretch of golden sand lies next to the refreshing waters of the Gulf. Lounge under the shade of a palm tree, hang out with Muscat’s hippest residents, or sit in the café and enjoy a relaxing drink. The city’s most popular and lively beach, this beautiful spot is on any list of things to do in Muscat.

5) Mutrah Suq

Discover another kind of beauty in the Mutrah Suq – one of the oldest markets in the Arabian world. Get lost in the labyrinth of alleys and passageways and imagine how trade has happened in this market for generations – virtually unchanged. Stumble across ancient treasures, breathe in the aroma of exotic spices and examine precious gems. If you’re in the mood to buy, be prepared to haggle. It’s all part of the fun.

6) Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Perhaps Muscat’s most magnificent building, this is the only mosque in the city that’s open to tourists. Despite its ancient style and design, it was only completed in 2001, but is the largest in the Gulf. Up to 20,000 worshippers at once can fit inside its 40,000 square metre (9.8 acre) grounds. Wander the walled compound and marvel at the five minarets that tower above you. Whoever said it had to be old to be beautiful?

7) Qurum Beach and Natural Park

Popular with walkers, joggers and folks just looking to relax, this long stretch of sand is lined with cafes and flat pathways. Dine in restaurants facing the water or explore more of the nature reserve that’s right next to the beach. You can also enjoy water sports like kite surfing, as well as beach games like volleyball, all surrounded by natural beauty.

8) Royal Opera House

Another of Muscat’s newer structures, this world-class opera house has been graced by some of the world’s finest musicians. With dramatic colonnades, gold and marble interiors, and hand-carved ornaments, this is without doubt one of the city’s most beautiful buildings.