With so many places in Dubai (and in nearby Abu Dhabi) that are world famous, it is very hard to recommend only eight. People return time and again, always finding new and incredible places to see, and things to do. Because of this, we’re creating 2 separate articles for our top things to see, and our top things to do. We’re starting with our top eight sights you cannot miss, which is a great place to start, especially if you’re a first timer. Even repeat visitors will find a couple of cool new suggestions. Then once you stand before these incredible sites, it will surely whet your appetite to start planning the next trip.
For a bird’s eye view of Dubai, head up the Burj Khalifa, which at 829.8m is the tallest building in the world. Tickets can be bought for the observation deck on the 124th floor, but an insider secret is the bar and restaurant At.Mosphere, located on the 122nd floor. It’s necessary to pre-book for drinks, but a cocktail is still cheaper than the price of observation deck tickets, with the same spectacular views. If you’re after a table, a varying minimum spend applies, however the wagyu beef burger served there is delicious and if you are staying to watch the sun go down, then it is certainly money well spent. If you don’t drink alcohol, no problem, there’s a wide selection of speciality teas served in cast-iron tea pots, providing a delightful way of enjoying a hot beverage. For reservations, call +971 4 888 3828.
Enjoy the view of the Burj Al Arab hotel, with its colourful lights changing and sparkling under a perfectly clear night sky. Take an evening stroll through the winding pathways around Madinat – it almost resembles a small and modern Venice – with its waterways and small dhow boats available for hire. With a wide range of shops and restaurants, this area is always buzzing – especially at weekends, because it is such a favourite of the locals.
3. DUBAI FOUNTAINS
Don’t miss the musical water fountains, playing in the evenings outside Dubai Mall and underneath the towering Burj Khalifa. The songs and the fountain show play every 30 minutes and changes every time, varying from classical instrumentals to opera to Arabic songs. These dancing fountains are far more impressive (and bigger) than those in Las Vegas so they attract huge crowds. To appreciate a few of these amazing performances, consider booking a table at one of the surrounding restaurants.
4. DUBAI CREEK
The hustle and bustle of the old Gold and Spice souks are a whole other side to Dubai. Situated along the banks of the Creek, these only open in the late afternoon (4pm) and stay open until late into the night. Bartering for goods such as carpets, traditional ceramics or pottery items, spices and jewellery is an experience not to be missed. This is a great place to buy gold and jewellery; the current market price of gold is displayed around the market and labour costs can be quite low so it’s possible to get yourself a really good deal. It is also the ideal place to pick up souvenirs and small gifts for friends and family. There are a maze of small side streets and alleyways with men trying to lure you to their hidden makeshift shops. Although it is perfectly safe to go with them, they are almost certainly trying to sell you their collection of counterfeit watches, handbags and sunglasses.
5. GRAND MOSQUE
Visit the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. The second largest mosque in the world – after the one in Mecca – this mosque commands respect and inspires awe. The semi-precious stones inlaid in the tiles form flowing displays of flowers, while the carvings and gold-leaf covering speak to the glamour of this rich country. The carpet in the male prayer hall was hand woven in Iran and is the largest of its kind in the world. There is a strict conservative dress code; men should wear trousers and shirts with sleeves, while women will need to be covered. Abayas (the traditional black dress for women) and headscarves are available for free and must be worn at all times while in and around the mosque. Opening hours for visitors are limited because it is a functioning mosque with prayer times that vary slightly from day to day due to the movement of the sun. More information is available here.
6. MIRACLE GARDEN
The Miracle Garden in Dubai is a one of a kind sight in the UAE. Open during the winter months only, this slice of heaven is indeed a miracle. Gorgeous flower arrangements and gardens create a peaceful atmosphere where adults and children alike can get lost in the beauty. Colours explode like paint over a canvas, and it is so hard to believe that something so incredible is created every year in the middle of the desert. Although it’s a bit out of the city, it is convenient and cheap to get to by taxi, and this is also a stop on the shuttle provided as part of the City Sightseeing bus tour, leaving from Mall of the Emirates.
7. EMIRATES PARK ZOO
The Emirates Park Zoo is situated between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and is a fantastic day out for families. Although quite small in size, it boasts a collection of amazing animals and encourages feeding and touching of zebras, monkeys and giraffes. It is the only zoo in the UAE to house elephants and there is also a sea-lion show which is always popular. Much of it is indoors, so it is a suitable activity for any time of the year. Cafes and restaurants are plentiful and are perfect for a little rest stop while you catch your breath or sit back while the children go exploring. For more information, visit their website.
8. NATIONAL PARK
The Eastern Mangrove Lagoon National Park is a tranquil place which feels like it is a million miles out of the city. In reality however, it is situated just on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, near the Anantara Hotel. Whether you prefer to explore this beautiful spot through a tour company like Noukhada Adventure Company, or whether you choose to rent kayaks yourself and paddle around, this is a truly special place. Keep your eyes peeled, there is a large variety of wildlife which call these mangroves home.
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