The Merchant House review: trendy Bahrain boutique hotel full of art and afternoon tea

The Merchant House hotel in Bahrain

The Middle East is full of luxury hideaways, but none are quite like The Merchant House. Bursting with colour from hundreds of one-of-a-kind art pieces adorning the walls, this five-star boutique property – in a former 1940s-era administrative building – is more gallery than hotel.

It’s located in the old heart of Bahrain, the smallest country in the Gulf, where a car journey from the top of the island to the bottom takes just over an hour — and the airport is only a 15-minute taxi ride away from the city centre.

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The country’s capital Manama is one of contrasts. Trendy rooftop bars serving up cocktails and lively party vibes sit alongside buzzing traditional markets and street food spots that have been dishing out local favourites like machboos (spiced chicken with rice) and harees (a wheat grain porridge) for decades.

The Merchant House is a relative oasis amidst that hustle and bustle. Step through the front doors and the world outside melts away. The market sellers, plying their wares at the nearby Bab Al Bahrain souk, and the constant hum of traffic outside on Government Avenue, are nowhere to be heard — it’s just you, your thoughts and all that stunning art.

Middle East Traveller checked in to a Signature Suite at The Merchant House for a stay in Bahrain’s trendiest art hotel.

The Hotel

Since its grand debut in 2020, The Merchant House has quickly become a trend-setting hotspot for travellers seeking a chic overnight stay and locals looking for laid-back vibes. The stunning rooftop garden lounge, cocooned by lush greenery and full of floral print fabric furniture, has become a buzzing social hub, pulling in crowds from all corners of the island.

The major draw here is the design. The vast display of art on the walls is the result of a partnership with an anonymous Bahraini collector, and sees works by legends like Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst displayed alongside those by local artists such as Dawiya Al Alawiyat, who paints pieces fusing traditional and contemporary elements.

The hotel’s location a block and a half away from the Bab al Bahrain souk means lively local life is just a few steps away. But if you’re in the mood for some indoor indulgence, retreat to the lobby or your suite and soak up those gorgeous interiors.

The Arrival

The Merchant House stands discreetly on Government Avenue, a busy thoroughfare home to banks, official buildings and packed-in shops that runs through the centre of the capital. The hotel’s muted, sandy exterior is in sharp contrast to the bold, bright interiors within — seven blue awnings hanging over the pavement are the only clue you’re about to pull up outside the lobby.

Staff are quick off the mark to collect luggage and hold open the front door, where the hotel’s punchy personality unfolds in all its splendour. The circular, airy space is punctuated by hints of industrial concrete and a dramatic graffitied feature pillar at the centre, connecting the concentric marble flooring to a double-height ceiling.

There’s artwork everywhere you look, from the full-width blue-and-white patterned wall behind the reception desk to large modernist canvases hanging above oversized white linen sofas and hypnotic spiral tables.

The Room

With a subtle palette of rich reds, vibrant oranges and deep blues set against soothing neutral tones, rooms are designed to allow the colourful statement art pieces dotted on the walls to take centre stage. It’s the perfect backdrop for a luxurious, laid-back stay.

Our Signature Suite is flooded with natural light from windows around the room, including a shaded circular portal that looks out over the nearby rooftops. All rooms come with generous sitting and dining areas, served from a kitchenette that’s equipped with its own bean-to-cup coffee machine, tea-making facilities, minibar, freezer and ice dispenser.

When it’s time to turn out the lights, forget fumbling around for switches and air conditioning dials. Everything you need to control the room is contained in a single unit next to the super-king bed.

The Service

Service is swift and professional throughout the hotel. Guests are encouraged to engage with staff through the absence of information tags beneath the art — if you want to know something about a particular piece, just ask. It’s a novel way of providing much richer stories that directly connect visitors with the cultural and historical context of each work.

At one point, we sneak in a delivery app order. As we wait for the elevator to meet the rider at the entrance, a hotel employee intercepts us, bag already in hand. It’s a welcome surprise in an era where most properties force guests to traipse long distances to collect outside food.

The Restaurants and Bars

The flower-filled indoor dining room at Indigo Terrace, which spills onto an eclectic outdoor planted garden shaded by sail-shaped canopies, is consistently excellent. Turning out classic Mediterranean plates infused with Asian flavours for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant focuses on bringing fresh, seasonal local produce into its recipes. The sea bass crusted with crunchy sesame seeds, for example, is fished from Bahraini waters, while the saffron sauce drizzled over homemade ricotta and spinach ravioli is another nod to local palates.

Breakfast is a more traditional affair. Alongside the usual selection of egg dishes (Benedict with Turkey ham, Florentine with spinach, Royale with smoked salmon), there are well-priced regional favourites like shakshouka and tahina ful medames, plus cheesecake slices and stacks of sweet pancakes drizzled with date syrup.

The Activities

The emerald-coloured rooftop pool, open from sunrise to sunset, is the perfect size for a dip, especially after a workout at the adjoining indoor gym, while a scattering of loungers offer the ideal spot for a few hours of relaxation in the sunshine. Although the pool may appear small at first glance, there’s easily enough space for paddling, and it’s also completely free of chlorine — meaning a swimming experience that’s easy on the skin.

On the first floor, a cosy balcony library tucked above the lobby holds more than 1,000 books curated by The Ultimate Library of Oxford, with plenty of deep, plush velvet armchairs and hidden nooks for reading. With a view down to the front doors, it’s also an exceptional spot for people-watching.

Afternoon tea inspired by Bahrain’s position as a historical trading hub is served in the library from 2pm-5.30pm each day, with blends including a sweet and fragrant lychee-jasmine infusion evoking the flavours of the Far East. For an extra touch of indulgence, opt for the ChocoLAB menu which adds a chocolate fondue – available in 64% dark, 32% white or 42% milk – with a bowl of banana slices, strawberry and marshmallows.

The hotel also has a small in-house spa offering treatments that “relax the mind, soul and body” with products from Bahrain’s Green Bar and the Spanish luxury skincare brand Natura Bissé.

Why Stay?

The Merchant House is a living gallery that’s full of creative colour — an art lover’s paradise with plenty of cosy, tucked-away corners, gorgeous suites and a stunning rooftop garden lounge. You won’t find anything like it anywhere else in Bahrain, if not the wider Middle East.

The Essentials

  • Rates: Rooms start at BHD75 per night (excluding taxes) for an Urban Suite
  • Phone number: +62 361 773 377
  • Website:
  • Address: 150 Government Avenue, Manama, 304, Bahrain