A longtime escape for weekenders from neighboring Saudi Arabia, the tiny island nation of Bahrain is a hub of cultural curiosities. Ancient UNESCO World Heritage Sites rub up against still-bustling bazaars and carpet shops while skyscrapers housing high-end hotels dot the mosque-studded skyline.

With a recent push to vie for a place on the world’s luxury travel stage, this ancient port city in the Arabian Gulf now plays host to international events — such as Formula 1’s Bahrain Grand Prix — unique experiences and modern museums that make it worth putting atop your travel itinerary.