Top 5 Baghdad Tourist Attractions

One of the most important cities in human history, Baghdad has a long and illustrious past. As a center for prestigious learning and culture, it has flourished over the centuries. Since 2003 however, it quickly become one of the most dangerous cities on earth. Despite this, the city remains a vibrant hub of Arab & islamic culture where the locals refuse to give in to violence. These days the city is bustling with life, optimism & mass reconstruction projects. Baghdad is slowly rising from the ashes to become a middle eastern tourist centre once again. So, what is there is there to see and do? Here’s the top Baghdad tourist attractions. 

5. Al-Shaheed Monument

Group photo at the Al-Shaheed monument or Martyr monument in Baghdad

Perhaps one of the most iconic Baghdad tourist attractions. Also called the Martyr’s Monument, the Al-Shaheed was opened in 1983 and was originally dedicated to the Iraqi soldiers who lost their lives in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Iraqis now consider it as a monument to all Iraqi martyrs, not just from the Iran-Iraq War.

It consists of a circular platform built in the middle of an artificial lake. In the center sits a 40 meter tall split turquoise dome. The two halves off-set with an eternal flame and national flag in the middle. A museum, lecture hall, library and exhibition hall lie underneath the dome. There has been talk of the government tearing it down in favor of building a modern shopping complex, but let’s hope that never happens.

4. The Iraq Museum

Iraq’s national museum contains countless valuable relics from the Mesopotamian, Babylonian and Persian civilizations. The museum was infamously looted in the aftermath of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

It has taken many years to recover and only some artifacts have been returned. It’s a must see on any Baghdad tour.

Due to the countries’ position as the birthplace of civilisations, the Iraq museum houses some of the most important collections in the world. It’s up there with the British & Egyptian Museums as well as the Pergamon in Berlin (which incidentally houses many of Iraq’s stolen treasures to this day) 

3. Mustansiriya Madrasa

Mustansiriya Madrasa seen on a Baghdad tour

The Madrasa is a medieval school on the banks of the river Tigris. It was once the most important centre for learning in Baghdad. Once upon a time, it specialized in Islamic teachings and is one of the only examples of classic Islamic art left in the city today.

As one of the oldest schools in the world, the madrasa experienced numerous periods of prominence throughout the ages and was even used as a trading caravanserai in later years. Today the complex is nearing full restoration and it part of the modern Mustansiriya University. 

2. Copper Market

Baghdad copper market. One of the city's top tourist attractions

As the world’s second largest Arab city (after Cairo), Baghdad has no shortage of markets and souks.

Probably the most colorful is the copper market.

Situated just across the street from the Mustansiriya Madrasa in old Baghdad, the market is hive of activity on any given day. Copper is beaten in a traditional way into pots, jugs & pitchers of all shapes and sizes. It’s a wonderful place for both photography and souvenir shopping.

Not far from here is Mutanabbi Street, the book-selling and literary center of the city. The street is filled with book stores and outdoor stalls. It was named after the 10th century classical Iraqi poet Al-Mutanabbi. Take a stroll down the street and grab a tea in one of the many outdoor cafes.

1. Mausoleum of Abdul-Qadir Gilani

Mausoleum of Abdul-Qadir Gilani, visit it on an Iraq Tour

This religious shrine is named after the founder of the Qadiriyya Soufi order – Abdul Qadir Gilani. The complex consists of  a central square, mosque and libraries. It’s towering dome dates from the year 1535.

The shrine is a peaceful place of solitude in a city bustling with noise and chaos. It’s an amazing place to escape it all for a couple of hours. Wander through its corridors, people watch & and marvel at the ornate walls & murals. Soufi Muslims are incredibly welcoming so you’ll feel right at home. The perfect place to end your stay and thus worthy of the top Baghdad tourist attraction!

Where to stay?

Palastine hotel in Baghdad
The Palestine Hotel, Baghdad.

The two most popular hotels for foreign guests are the Baghdad Hotel & the Palestine Hotel. Both hotels became popular with journalists and media professionals after the 2003 American invasion. They are located in a similar area outside the green zone overlooking the Tigris river.

Both are highly fortified, safe and comfortable with bars, a swimming pool & gym.

The Baghdad Hotel, Iraq

Food & Drink

Alcohol can be obtained in a few places around Iraq though mainly in Kurdistan. There are some off licences near the Baghdad hotels on the banks of the river. Iraq produces it’s own beer called Farida – look out for it, it’s a pretty good drop!

There’s also a very strong cafe and tea culture. Tea houses and shisha lounges litter the street corners and make for great mingling. 

Iraqi food is delicious with refined and rich flavours. Recipes mostly consist of vegetable, meat, spice and citrus plus plenty of flat bread, hummus and Baba ghanoush. Portions are huge so you’ll never go hungry. The national dish is called fish Masgouf – see the photo below for how it’s slow cooked in a large fire pit!

Cooking fish Masgouf in Iraq
Shabandar Cafe, Baghdad

How do I get there?

Baghdad Airport terminal, Iraq

These days Baghdad airport is well connected to middle eastern hubs like Dubai & Istanbul. Click here for full details on how to get to Iraq.

Not only is Baghdad worth visiting alone itself, it’s an ideal base to begin your Iraq tour. A day trip north takes you to Samarra and its iconic spiral minaret. Further south you’ll find the holy cities of Najaf, Karbala and ancient Babylon. You’ll likely be the only tourists in town so take advantage while you can. Our Iraq tours take in all of these attractions and more.

Now is the time to plan your trip to Baghdad! Contact us for more info on travelling to Iraq.

Old Baghdad street

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Rocky road travel founder Shane Horan at the DMZ

Shane Horan


When Shane is not endlessly writing award winning content for Rocky Road, he's usually kayaking to and from the beer garden along Berlin's River Spree.