When visiting the Emirates the top two destinations are Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And, that’s no surprise because there are so many great things to see in Dubai and Abu Dhabi!
Dubai is a city that needs no introduction. It’s famous for record breaking buildings, glitzy resorts, show-stopping events and a vibrant dining and nightlife scene. The city has firmly cemented itself as the most popular destination in the Middle East, and is a place where anything is possible.
Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Emirates, is home to the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi. These two attractions alone are a must-see on any visit to the UAE, and if you do have more time there is so much more to explore.
Whether you’re looking to delve into local history and culture or simply go shopping in the biggest mall in the world you’ll be able to satisfy your travel hit list. We’ve pulled together our top things to see in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Some of the things you’ll be able to cover in a day (if you’re fast) or even an afternoon.
If you are really short on time, or looking for a unique way to see all of the city, we’ve got a special tip at the end of the blog...
Top things to see in Dubai
1. Burj Khalifa
In the heart of Downtown Dubai the Burj Khalifa stands proud at an impressive 830 meters high. It’s a must do for any Dubai visit, and an incredible sight to see in real life. This architectural and engineering feat boasts observation decks on the 148 and 125 floors – it pays to book ahead for the experience. If you’d like to add a delicious taste of luxury to your visit you could also head up to At.mosphere for an incredible high tea experience, or try their new breakfast offering. This is number one for things to see in Dubai.
2. The Dubai Mall
There’s something to be said about The Dubai Mall –being the world’s biggest mall there’s plenty for everyone and it’s certainly impressive. Visitors can explore high fashion concept stores, cinemas, restaurants and more. If you really want to beat the heat put some skates on and do a few laps on the indoor ice rink. The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is popular with families, and tech-heads will love the flagship Apple Store. Bustling with tourists and locals alike, the mall makes for great people watching too.
3. Dubai Fountains
We recommend seeing the Dubai Fountains at night – performances start from 6pm and run every half hour until 11pm daily. You’ll see 275m of arching water jets dance in unison to music and lights. Each performance lasts for around five minutes. There are daytime shows at 1pm and 1:30pm every day apart from Friday when they are on at 1:30pm and 2pm. For a more elegant experience head to the iconic Dubai Opera and take a drink at the Pearl Bar of their rooftop restaurant, Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera, where you can take in the views without having to hustle with other tourists.
Note the Burj Khalifa, The Dubai Mall and Dubai Fountains are all located in Downtown Dubai and within easy reach of each other by walking.
4. Historic Dubai Creek
Dubai Creek is a must-see on our ultimate Dubai tourist places list. It’s the location where the first settlers of Dubai set up home, and where you can discover the history of Dubai. Explore the exotic gold and spice souks, visit the Dubai Museum and ride across the creek on a traditional Abra for only 1 AED. Wander the streets of the Al Fahidi and Al Bastakiya neighbourhoods and see traditional architecture and indulge in the delicious smells and sights. We recommend taking a private guided tour to really get an insight into local customs, tradition and history.
5. Kite Beach
Dubai’s shoreline playground Kite Beach is a relaxing destination, with cafes, restaurants, skatepark and a coastal walkway stretching 18 kilometres. The beach is a haven for sun worshippers who flock to the loungers, and if it’s windy you’ll see kite surfers blasting along the coast. There are several spots to cool off along the way where you can have a bite to eat. If you’re feeling more energetic, you could sign up for a paddle board lesson.
6. Burj Al Arab
The Burj Al Arab is often referred to as the ‘only seven star hotel in the world’, and it would take several days to fully explore every aspect of this impressive resort, however you will need a booking to get in . There are nine signature bars and restaurants, two infinity pools on the outdoor terrace (not including three in the spa) and butler serviced cabana spaces to unwind in. While this ‘tour’ is largely self-guided you will be spoiled for assistance. The hotel has a guest to staff ratio of eight to one suite, so take comfort in the knowledge that you will be absolutely looked after.
7. Dubai Desert
Being a desert city no ultimate Dubai tourist places list would be complete without a desert experience. The Dubai Desert Conservation reserve is less than one hour from Downtown Dubai, and has much to offer for outdoor enthusiasts. Take a wildlife safari, drive the dunes or opt for a luxurious overnight stay. Al Maha resort is located within the desert itself and they offer several experiences for guests, including guided walks, archery and safaris.
8. The Palm Jumeirah
To properly experience the Palm we recommend taking a daycation at one of the luxury resorts or spending a day (and night) at an action-packed beach club. The Palm is also home to Aquaventure, one of the best waterparks in the Emirates with a wide range of exhilarating rides and kid-friendly attractions. You can take a stroll along the recently opened boardwalk, but you don’t really get to see that much. What’s even better is seeing the Palm from the sky on a seaplane tour it’s one of the best things to see in Dubai from the sky as you can properly appreciate the scale of the island!
9. Souk Madinat Jumeirah
Bordered by an intricate network of waterways this modern souk offers all the delights of a traditional market as well as the comfort of world-class restaurants and eateries. Located just back from Jumeirah Beach, Souk Madinat makes for a relaxed day of shopping for souvenirs and restaurant hopping. See if you can spot the Burj Al Arab and try a traditional boat ride through the waterways – it’s one of the best things to see in Dubai.
Top things to see in Abu Dhabi
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
This impressive mosque is the largest in the UAE, taking more than 11 years to complete, and in 2017 was ranked the world’s second favourite landmark by TripAdvisor. There are so many outstanding features to explore such as the world’s largest hand-loomed carpet, one of the largest chandeliers in the world weighing over 12 tonnes, and the beautifully decorated marble courtyard floor. At capacity it can hold a whopping 40,000 worshippers. The dramatic water mirrors, columns and unique Arabic architectural features make this one of the most famous landmarks in Abu Dhabi.
2. Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
The falcon is the national bird of the United Arab Emirates, and is seen as a symbol of strength. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is first public institution in the UAE that specialises in falcon care, and since opening has treated more than 11,000 falcons per year. Take their afternoon tour and learn more about this majestic bird, the history of the falcon in the UAE and experience falcons free-flying in their specially designed aviary. You will need to contact the hospital directly to book tours in advance.
3. The Observation Deck at 300
The Observation Deck at 300 is Abu Dhabi’s answer to the Burj Khalifa. High on the 74th floor of Etihad Tower, the Observation Deck offers a full 360 degree view of the city. Don’t forget your camera as you’ll want to capture the gorgeous views.
4. Ferrari World
Ferrari World is the ultimate destination for petrol heads visiting Abu Dhabi. With more than 25 rides and attractions from roller coasters to simulators this theme park is a must do for adrenaline junkies. The park is home to Toro Rosso, the fastest roller coaster in the world and Flying Aces, which features the highest roller coaster loop on the planet!
5. Emirates Palace Hotel
If you’re looking for a royal experience, a visit to this hotel is a must-do. The hotel - built to the tune of three billion dollars – has been decadently decked out in marble and gold, featuring has six ‘ruler suites’ which are for the exclusive use of visiting royalty. It’s free to wander the grounds and marvel at the architecture, but we recommend stopping in for a break at the café. This is one of the only places in the world where you can get a decadent cappuccino sprinkled with 24 carat gold flakes. Live like a king if it’s even just for a coffee!
6. Yas Marina Circuit
Thousands of F1 fans descend on the circuit for the finale of the Formula 1 Grand Prix each November, however there’s plenty of fun to be had on the circuit year-round. You can race around the track on evening bike rides, or really put your foot on the pedal with hot laps in exotic sports cars such as Ferrari, Jaguar or the Formula Yas 3000 race car. There are often other motorsport events at the track that you can watch too.
7. Louvre Abu Dhabi
Designed by award-winning architect Jean Nouvel, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is perfectly perched on the water’s edge on Saadiyat Island. The gorgeous main dome has a design inspired by the fronds of the desert palm, and the intricate design creates a striking ‘rain of light’ effect across 23 galleries. Lose yourself in more than 600 works from the collection. Stand out works include a 3rd millennium BC standing Bactrian Princess, a 3000-year-old Middle Eastern gold bracelet with lion's head, Osman Hamdi Bey's A Young Emir Studying and Paul Gauguin's masterpiece Children Wrestling.
8. Yas Waterworld
If it’s aquatic thrills and spills you’re looking for then Yas Waterworld is the place to go. This water park is bursting with slides, pools and splash zones making this a great day out for families. The wave attraction is popular with budding surfers.
As you can see there are a lot of things to see in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but we have a sightseeing trick up our sleeves.
You can see all the amazing attractions and world famous sights in under an hour by taking a unique scenic seaplane flight! There's no better way than to explore these destinations from the sky and get a birds-eye view. The pictures you can take from the air are simply stunning, and the thrill of taking off from the water is simply magical - it's a wonderful experience to share with your friends and family.
We offer a range of award-winning tours in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that give you incredible views while also ticking off all the major sights. Get in touch with our team to explore our tours.