Dive into a world of luxury, extravagance, dizzying panoramas and ancient traditions – discover the best things to do in Dubai.
Anything is possible in Dubai. Known as the City of Gold, this state–of–the–art, constantly evolving capital offers an endless list of attractions to visit and activities to thrill. Everything is bigger, faster, taller and more glamorous in Dubai – from the jaw dropping sight of the Burj Khalifa to ski slopes in the desert, from traditional souks to gigantic shopping malls – awe is assured in this pulse-quickening destination.
If you’re planning a trip but don’t know where to start, read on to discover 33 of the best things to do in Dubai.
1. Take in the view from the Burj Khalifa
Top of the to-do list in Dubai is, without a doubt, the tallest skyscraper in the world – the Burj Khalifa. From the ground it’s still mighty impressive, but for the real wow factor, you should head for the lifts. Topping out at a height of over 800 metres, the Burj Khalifa’s 160 floors can be reached aboard one of the fastest lifts in the world. This record-breaking feat of engineering is the symbol of the city’s unstoppable race towards the future. Visit the observation decks At the Top, on the 124th floor, and At the Top Sky, on the 148th floor to admire an extraordinary panorama of the city, the desert and the Persian Gulf. Can you think of a more glamorous way to spend an evening than sipping a cocktail in a lounge 575 metres above ground level?
2. Discover the underwater world of the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
The Dubai Mall is home to – among many other attractions – the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, a real submarine world that contains 10 million litres of water. A perfect place to visit with children, this huge, futuristic aquarium is home to over 140 animal species and more than 400 sharks and rays. In addition to a traditional visit, Dubai Aquarium also offers a range of engaging and adventurous activities such as snorkelling with sharks, or scuba diving experiences.
3. Watch the dancing water of Dubai fountains
An unmissable show takes place right outside Dubai Mall, where the water jets of The Dubai Fountain dance to the music – from Andrea Bocelli to Lady Gaga – each day from 18:00 to 23:00, every 30 minutes. To enjoy the show up close, you can watch it aboard a boat or from the boardwalk.
4. Go on a desert safari
Just over half an hour by car from downtown brings you to the expansive golden sands of the Dubai desert. While the city changes at a frenetic pace, constantly updating its architectural and cultural landscape, the silence of the desert has remained a constant through the centuries and represents the cradle and heritage of the country. Don’t miss the chance to get out into the desert when visiting Dubai – we recommend a 4×4 sunset safari with dinner in a traditional Arab camp. When the daylight gives way to the starry sky, the desert is even more magical.
5. Go… skiing
You might be thinking of camels, dunes and heat rather than snowy pistes when you think of Dubai, but skiing is an option. Sitting on top of the Mall of the Emirates, Ski Dubai boasts five snow-covered runs, one of which is the world’s first indoor black diamond run. And if you haven’t packed any warm clothes, don’t worry because the ticket price includes ski gear designed to withstand the constant -1 ° C temperature on the piste.
6. Relax on the beach
With a prime seafront location on the Persian Gulf, it should come as no surprise that Dubai’s coastline is dotted with tempting beaches, which include JBR, La Mer and Kite Beach, among many others. If you’re travelling to Dubai between October and May, enjoy some time out to lounge and sunbathe on the golden sands, take a refreshing dip or enjoy the many water sports on offer. During the summer months the high temperatures make the beaches less appealing.
Dubai sprung up around the point where the saltwater stream known as Dubai Creek meets the sea. Historically the waterway played a fundamental role in bringing trade and wealth to the emirate, and today the area around the creek is still one of the most vital and interesting in all of Dubai. Taking a ride along the saltwater creek aboard a traditional abra boat is a great way to get a new perspective on the city.
Dubai Marina is a luxury residential district bristling with gleaming skyscrapers that stretches from Madinat Jumeirah to the Jebel Ali port. Make time to visit during the day and definitely at night, perhaps during a dinner cruise, to see the harbour at its best. The Marina is home to some of Dubai’s lesser-known attractions such as the twisted, 75-storey Cayan Tower, the Jumeirah Beach Residence area with its famous promenade and the brand-new Ain Dubai with its 250-metre-high panoramic wheel. Dubai Marina is also known for its many chic clubs and restaurants, offering fabulous food and entertainment options. Find out more about this stunning district and its impressive architecture by joining a locally guided walking tour around glitzy Dubai Marina.
9. Get lost in a souk
For some retail therapy with a side order of Arabian culture, lose yourself in a souk. Dubai is one of the best destinations for shopping on the planet, and though the malls are famous for a reason, shopping in the souks is one of the most absorbing things to do in Dubai. Dip into the fragrant spice souk, the opulent gold souk or the colourful textile souk to get a feel for Dubai’s heritage. For modern, air-conditioned souk shopping, seek out Madinat Jumeirah and Al Bahar.
10. Take a trip to the Palm Islands
The Palm Islands are doubtless Dubai’s best-known landmark. Two artificial islands, Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali spread their fronds into the sea along the gulf coast, both created to imitate the characteristic shape of a date palm. While Palm Jebel Ali is still under construction, Palm Jumeirah is home to several attractions, including the renowned luxury resort Atlantis The Palm, which sits right on the tip of the island and boasts 23 restaurants, a spa, two swimming pools, an underwater aquarium and a private beach. For great views over the island and the coast beyond, don’t miss The View, a vertiginous skyscraper with a panoramic terrace 240 meters above the beach.
11. Watch a show at the Dubai Opera house
Built to resemble a dhow – a traditional Arabian sailing boat – the home of opera in Dubai is central to the performing arts in the Emirates and takes pride of place right in the heart of the downtown district. Catch a show at this state-of-the-art venue and you can definitely tick off one of the best things to do in Dubai.
12. Take afternoon tea in the iconic Burj al Arab
The Burj al Arab is another unmistakable symbol of Dubai. Calling to mind a billowing white sail, this remarkable landmark is surrounded by the sea. Inside, 56 storeys of sheer luxury await, three of which are underwater. Make no mistake, the Burj al Arab is one of the world’s most luxurious hotels, among a handful to have 7 stars, but even those without a room reservation can visit. Book for lunch, dinner, an aperitif or afternoon tea and get ready for a truly indulgent experience. If you prefer to learn the story of the building and find out about its most curious features, join a guided tour of the Burj al Arab, discovering the atrium, the Royal Suite and several interactive exhibits.
13. Taste global flavours
Dubai is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities, with only 12% of the population of local Emirati heritage and the rest from all over the planet. Couple this with the innovative high-end dining scene and it’s no surprise that Dubai can offer a vast range of cuisines. Try a myriad of local flavours on a gastronomic tour around the historic centre, where Arabic, Indian and Persian street food are king, or join a tour of the souks to discover traditional Emirati specialities. If you are in a romantic mood, consider dining aboard a dhow while the reflected lights of the city shimmer on the water.
14. Have fun in a theme park
For an awesome family day out with the kids – or maybe you just want to feel like a kid again – look no further than Dubai Parks and Resort, a fun-filled paradise with a waterpark and three different theme parks packed with attractions like rollercoasters, water slides and shows. Visit the Hollywood-themed Motiongate, Bollywood Parks, dedicated to the famous Indian film industry, Legoland Dubai and Legoland Water Park – each an unforgettable day.
15. Live an extravagant evening with the show La Perle, by Dragone
Book a ticket for La Perle and you’ll have an unforgettable evening of extravagant, unconventional and downright impressive stunts, with acrobats, aqua theatre and much more. The show was written as a homage to the historic industry of diving for pearls that was so important in Dubai, and the theatre was built specially to host this incredible multi-sensory show. Pure magic.
16. Marvel at the Miracle Garden and Garden Glow
With over 150 million flowers, the Miracle Garden is home to delightful landscapes that look like they came out of a fairytale. Don’t miss the Butterfly Garden, where 15,000 butterflies from some 26 species fill the air. Stay into the evening to enjoy Garden Glow, a glittering, glow-in-the-dark show of light installations and live performances held in a dreamy setting.
17. Dinner at altitude
For one of the most unusual experiences in the city book the Flying Cup for a thrilling perspective on Dubai. Strap into your armchair and admire the view from 40 meters above ground level while you rotate through 360 degrees, enjoying your drinks and snacks. You’ll get plenty of great photos from up here, once you get used to drinking a cuppa with your feet dangling in the air. The view of Ain Dubai completes the experience. The Ferris wheel is another Dubai attraction not to be missed, achieving the status of the largest such wheel in the world when it opened in 2021.
18. Live a multicultural experience at the Global Village
Take your tastebuds on a whistlestop world tour and discover enticing treats from other countries, all in one place. Global Village is a spacious outdoor park with a carnival atmosphere where 26 pavilions dedicated to more than 80 different cultures of the world show off the best of their nations. A trip to Global Village means fun fair rides, shopping, exotic food and live entertainment to transport you on a global adventure.
19. Discover old Dubai
Brimming with restless modernity and overflowing with luxury, Dubai does not scream history or tradition at first glance. But underneath the futuristic veneer, there is history to explore. The old city houses the souks and gives a flavour of what life was like in this region before the oil wealth arrived. The neighbourhood is home to two interesting museums: Al Shandagha, which tells the story of Dubai, and Etihad, which showcases the UAE’s rich heritage. A walking tour with a local guide is the best way to discover the most authentic Dubai.
At the tip of the Palm Jumeirah, you’ll find the unmistakeable Atlantis Resort, which is home to pristine beaches, a lagoon, a clutch of high-end restaurants and luxury boutiques, as well as several big-hitting attractions such as Aquaventure Waterpark and the Lost Chambers Aquarium. Even if you don’t stay at the resort, a visit is one of the most exciting things to do in Dubai, absolutely not to be missed. Book a table at one of the restaurants or tickets for the waterpark and the aquarium and you’ll be welcome to visit.
21. Cool off in a water park
One of the benefits of Dubai’s hot climate is that waterparks are always in season, even in winter. From Aquaventure to the Atlantis Resort in Legoland Waterpark, from Wild Wadi to Laguna Waterpark in Le Mer – they are all ready to welcome you for a cooling day of fun throughout the year.
22. Visit Dubai’s centre of art, culture and design
Al Quoz and Al Serkal Avenue, AKA the new design district, are a must for anyone looking for original souvenirs to take home. In addition, art lovers can indulge their passion in the district’s trendy art galleries.
23. Do a parachute jump – if you dare
The more adventurous won’t want to miss the chance to skydive over Palm Jumeirah and the gulf coast, or how about a parachute jump over the Dubai desert? Book your experience now.
24. Celebrate New Year’s Eve
Are you planning a New Year break in Dubai? Why not crown the festive season by spending New Year’s Eve on a modern Arabian dhow for a magical dinner cruise? The evening begins in traditional Arabic style, with coffee and dates, followed by a distinguished One Thousand and One Nights dinner with tasty canapés, grilled meats, fresh salads and, of course, sweet treats for dessert. While you savour each dish, soak up some culture watching a traditional dance recital. Your special New Year celebration will culminate with a superlative firework display lighting up the city skyline.
25. Go to Expo City Dubai
Expo Dubai 2020 took place a year later than planned, but it nevertheless made its mark on the city. The legacy of Expo 2020 is a futuristic area now known as Expo City, transforming into an innovative business district with a sustainable theme. For visitors, some of the most impressive Expo pavilions remain along with flagship attractions such as Garden in the Sky and Al Wasl Plaza – not to mention the new Expo 2020 museum which showcases the story of Expo.
26. Catch some street life on City Walk
City Walk is a constantly evolving outdoor boulevard stretching towards Jumeirah, offering a safe, pedestrianised area with a European vibe. Enjoy street art by some of the best street artists in the world, sip a cocktail al fresco, take the kids to the various play areas, dine in style or browse the shops. It’s a great destination for a promenade at any time of day.
27. Indulge in a legendary brunch
Saturday brunch kicks off the weekend in sumptuous style. Many hotels offer a buffet brunch, often in conjunction with an afternoon using their facilities for a swim or sunbathe. Themed brunches are also available, so if you are hankering for a particular cuisine or you like to munch your brunch with a jazz soundtrack, there will be a brunch to suit.
28. Explore the man-made island of Bluewaters
Fancy a trip out of town? Then take the subway, bus or tram to Bluewaters Island. This man–made island is located next to Dubai Marina and makes a relaxing destination for a day trip with plenty of restaurants, shops and the five–star Caesars Palace resort. The Island is also home to Madame Tussauds Dubai and the Ain Dubai big wheel, the largest Ferris wheel in the world.
29. Take a selfie at the Dubai Frame
Yet another superlative experience awaits at Dubai Frame, ‘the largest frame on the planet’, which styles itself as a point of reference and observation framing both the old and the new faces of Dubai. Popular with photographers, the Sky Deck walkway will wow you with its pressure sensitive surface which turns transparent when you walk on it. Taking a selfie from the Sky Deck is one of the most sought-after things to do in Dubai.
30. Experience an adventure at IMG Worlds of Adventure
Dubai is a mecca for theme park enthusiasts, and one of our favourites is IMG Worlds of Adventure, the largest indoor theme park in Dubai. Feel the excitement rise as you explore all five adventure zones, including Marvel and The Lost Valley – Dinosaur Adventure. A day of pure fun awaits you.
31. Explore the Al Seef neighbourhood
The historic neighbourhood of Al Seef sprung up centuries ago along the shore of Dubai Creek, and today a visit to its sikkas – or alleyways – is a fascinating experience full of historical sites. The latest addition, the Museum of Illusions, is definitely worth a visit for an interactive and educational adventure that’s fun for the whole family.
32. Take an excursion to Abu Dhabi
Why limit yourself to Dubai when the capital of the United Arab Emirates is the ideal destination for a day trip and only an hour and a half’s drive away? Abu Dhabi boasts gleaming futuristic architecture, the serene and beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the wondrous Louvre, which seems to float over the water. Here, from 12 October, 2022, to 5 February, 2023, the exhibition Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity is a must-see, as it’s the largest impressionist exhibition ever outside of France.
33. Travel to fascinating Qatar
Delve further into the intriguing Middle East when you take the opportunity to visit Qatar. You’ll find a nation brimming with extravagance and luxury, but equally you will uncover a country ready to surprise you with its extensive cultural and artistic heritage. And the first stop of your visit is of course Doha.
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