Dubai’s picturesque shorelines, high-rise cityscape, and upscale shopping have all contributed to the city’s growing reputation among tourists from all over the world. The city continues to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and it’s easy to understand why after being ranked first in this year’s TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards 2022. Dubai is home to a growing number of opulent hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants, water parks, and other attractions in addition to its iconic tourist attractions like the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Fountain, and the shimmering Burj Al Arab. Whether you’re a long-time resident, a recent immigrant, or just passing through on vacation, Dubai is full of things to do and see that aren’t only tied to luxury shopping. Here are some of the city’s classic and recent must-dos, from swimming in the world’s highest infinity pool to riding across the historic creek on a traditional abra.
It’s easy to overlook the abundance of natural treasures right outside our door in a city as advanced as Dubai, particularly the flamingos of the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. Tens of thousands of the striking pink birds live in a reserve on wetlands halfway between the Dubai Design District and Downtown Dubai. Although Dubai Municipality has gated off and protected the area, three bird hides allow nature enthusiasts and ornithologists—whether novices or seasoned professionals—to observe the flamboyance from a safe distance. To get the most out of the bird watching, it is advised that you bring a pair of binoculars. Also, keep in mind that the area is quiet, so turn your phone to silent.
Akon, Lewis Hamilton, and Gigi Hadid are just a handful of the famous people who have jumped with Skydive Dubai. Skydivers with more experience can jump alone, while beginners can try a tandem leap. You can choose between the Palm Dropzone, which offers a dive over breathtaking views of the Palm Jumeirah, and the Desert Dropzone, which is located approximately 35 kilometres outside of Dubai and gives magnificent views of rolling dunes. In addition to outdoor skydiving, Skydive Dubai also provides indoor skydiving. From January through April, tandem jump starts cost Dh1,799, and from October through December, they cost Dh1,899 each.
Consider yourself somewhat of an adventurer? Then descend to the Address Sky View hotel, where you may ascend to the top of one of the tallest buildings in the area. Visitors to Sky Views Dubai, which is situated on level 52 of the opulent hotel, can take in breathtaking views of the city and the Burj Khalifa, the highest structure in the world, which is practically touching the ground. Visitors can stroll between the Address Sky View’s two buildings thanks to a 25-meter glass bridge. Prepare to have fun on a glass sky slide afterward. It transports passengers from the 53rd to the 52nd floor completely transparently and offers breathtaking vistas. If you have extra courage, try the Edge Walk, an exciting air-walk experience. Put on your safety gear and…
One of the city’s most recognisable structures is the sail-shaped hotel in Dubai. Throughout its 21-year existence, it has only ever been open to hotel or restaurant patrons, so most tourists had to be content with pictures of the seven-star hotel shot from neighbouring Kite Beach. But all that changed in October 2021 when Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts introduced Inside Burj Al Arab, a 90-minute interactive tour of the hotel. Up to 12 guests may participate in the butler-guided activities, which give access to some of the hotel’s most opulent areas, including the opulent Royal Suite on the 25th level. You can participate in interactive digital experiences that trace the history of the hotel all the way back to the original architectural plans by visiting the recently curated Experience Suite.
Even though Dubai is located in the desert, you may still explore the rainforest there. The Green Planet, the city’s own tropical rainforest, offers a taste of the wild. Visitors can get up close and personal with toucans, sloths, lemurs, anacondas, and more in this fenced refuge at CityWalk, which is home to more than 3,000 species of plants, animals, and birds. Tickets costing as little as Dh125 provide you with access to educational exhibits where you can find out more about the importance of rainforests to the planet’s future. Even the experience of being in a tropical downpour is available. The extremely brave can choose to go piranha snorkelling or visit the dome at night.
Spend the day by travelling to Hatta, a Dubai outpost that is roughly an hour and a half’s drive from the Hajar mountains. There are a variety of activities available at Hatta Wadi Hub, where you can go zorbing, try your hand at archery, cart down a mountain, brave a suspended net bridge, hop on a zip line, rock climb, and more. Opening seasonally each year on September 15, this is the start date for the upcoming season. There are also many free riding and hiking trails with varying degrees of difficulty. Bring your own tent and camp in the designated area if you wish to make a night of it, or spend more money and stay at the park’s caravan site.
Seven kilometres of the beach are directly adjacent to the Jumeirah Beach walking and running track. The track starts at the Jumeirah Public Beach (close to the Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Hotel) and runs to the Dubai Canal, with a brief off-beach break near the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club. It is accessible by foot, bicycle, or running. The Bu Qtair Restaurant, which is close to the Fishing Harbour, the lively cafés and food trucks of Kite Beach, where Salt is a highlight, and the crowded Jumeirah Fish Market, where Mena 50 Best Restaurant winner 3Fils is located, are just a few of the attractions along the route. If walking the entire 14km round trip doesn’t appeal to you, there are various watersports schools and centres along the route, as well as free libraries where you can exchange your books for new ones.
With a depth of 60.02 metres and a capacity to store 14 million litres of water, or the equivalent of six Olympic-sized swimming pools, Deep Dive Dubai is home to the world’s deepest indoor pool. A sunken metropolis is also included for divers and swimmers to explore. The amazing underwater metropolis has drawn several A-list visitors, including Hollywood star Will Smith, who visited within the first week, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, who officially opened the attraction. International diving specialists offer lessons and freediving and scuba diving experiences to people of all skill levels. Experience and training to enter the blue begins at Dh800.
The cooler months are the ideal time to visit Dubai’s favourite seasonal theme park because of its lively atmosphere. As soon as Global Village opens its doors each evening at 4 o’clock, people of all ages pour in. Expect a wide variety of food vendors, shops aplenty, fairground rides and games, live entertainment, and more. As part of its 27th season, Global Village will make a triumphant return in October with 27 pavilions and a brand-new idea called Road of Asia, a boulevard that will feature food stalls from 13 Asian nations.
Visit Ravi’s Restaurant for inexpensive meals that are sure to be authentic. An icon in Dubai, the distinctly casual dining establishment offers a variety of freshly grilled meats, hearty curries, fluffy rotis, and roghni naans with crisp edges. The original Satwa location of this Pakistani restaurant, which has gained a bit of a following thanks to its authentic fare and unbelievably inexpensive rates in the midst of one of Dubai’s older neighbourhoods, draws tourists, residents, and expats alike. There are many of options for vegetarians, even though the restaurant is arguably better renowned for its meat main dishes. Don’t forget to order the paneer masala, which is the vegetarian version of Ravi’s delectable butter chicken and only costs Dh21.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Library, which houses ten main library collections, including the General Library, Young Adult Library, Children’s Library, Information Center, Map and Atlas Library, Media and Arts Library, Business Library, Emirates Library, Periodicals Library, and a Special Collections Library, will leave book lovers spoiled for choice.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Library’s General Library, in particular, has one of the greatest physical collections, including more than 100,000 books.Access to a selection of e-books, audiobooks, and Braille books for the blind is also included in this. Spend some time getting lost in The Treasures of the Library Exhibition, a brand-new cultural venue. From first edition volumes to the entire canon of William Shakespeare…
Contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers, artisanal spaces, and a variety of culinary hotspots are all located in the thriving creative community. The UAE’s various and up-and-coming artists, cultural practitioners, and several homegrown and innovative entrepreneur projects are all on display at Alserkal Avenue. Globally speaking, the Avenue’s art galleries have been crucial in showcasing the creations of well-known and culturally significant artists from all over the Mena region, as well as in presenting contemporary and historically significant artists and exhibitions to the UAE. Alserkal Avenue is a must-see for art house cinemas, eco-friendly clothing companies, modern art galleries, specialty coffee shops, gourmet chocolate, and a varied cultural programme.
More than just a beautiful background for a day of Instagram stories, Aura Skypool has plenty to offer. The 200-meter-high pool, which circles the 50th level of The Palm Tower in Palm Jumeirah, is the highest 360-degree infinity pool in the world. On a daybed or lounger, savour food and beverages while taking in views of Dubai Marina, JBR, Bluewaters Island, Jumeirah Beach, and the recognisable fronds of the Palm Jumeirah. In-room packages start at Dh150 per person, and poolside packages start at Dh250 per person. This is not the type of Dubai location where you can just walk in without a reservation, thus making a reservation is very necessary. Unless you’re an A-list celebrity like Cristiano Ronaldo, who visited the venue in January. Prices vary based on the season.
In the UAE, there are still plenty of possibilities to satisfy all creative and culinary preferences, so the desire for dinner and a play hasn’t lessened. Visit Papillon at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina if you’re looking for a classy evening. Every show, which runs from Wednesday through Saturday on four nights, has a variety of songs and dance routines that capture the Parisian glitz and creativity of the genre. A sophisticated multi-course French and Mediterranean cuisine is served in conjunction with the on-stage activity.
The Theatre at Fairmont Dubai is the place to be if you like music. Both of these two nightly productions, which take place here every week from Wednesday to Saturday, feature polished choreography, acrobatics, and varied band performances of contemporary pop and Levantine folk songs.
The Museum of the Future has gained popularity since it opened in February as a stop on the UAE’s extensive cultural route. The eye-catching 78-meter-tall building in Downtown Dubai features seven floors that discuss subjects including living in space, climatic change, the environment, health, wellness, and spirituality. Information is presented in a variety of cutting-edge ways, including robots, dazzling, cutting-edge displays, and interactive installations. Visit the Heal Institute, where you can also view an accurate rendering of what Dubai is expected to look like in 50 years. A cityscape featuring skyscrapers, buildings, and greenery is expertly woven together on the digital display. While people promenade the broad, white piazzas, hundreds of drones fly overhead.
The Dubai Opera, which is now in its sixth year, continues to be the most prominent performing arts facility in the city and has played host to many legendary performances. Some of the most renowned artists in the world have given performances at Dubai Opera, including Sir Bryn Terfel’s thunderous baritone, the choral choruses from Les Miserables, the soaring heights of Verdi, and the elegant pirouettes from Giselle. This month, culture-hungry tourists can enjoy performances of Romeo & Juliet by the State Ballet of Georgia and the music of French-Canadian singer-songwriter Ghostly Kisses.
Instead of using dune buggies, ride a horse through Dubai’s desert. You’ll experience the UAE’s spectacular landscapes in a more genuine way while drawing on its long-standing equestrian legacy. Ali Al Marzooqi founded the family-run Al Jiyad Stables on Al Qudra Road, which is home to 120 Arabian horses. All levels of riders can take rides to the nearby Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve and Al Qudra Lakes, which can be explored. Long-distance competitions are also an option for more seasoned riders.
Head down to the Creek to escape modern Dubai and experience what the city was like before it was developed into a world-class metropolis. This river, which separates Bur Dubai and Deira, has long been a lifeline for Dubai and is where the city’s first immigrants first established themselves. It served as both the original port and the hub of the city’s pearl diving business. Traditional dhows still sail through the waters of the Persian Gulf today, and wooden abras zip from one side to the other.
One of the least expensive experiences in Dubai can be had on these wooden boats. Abras, which are used to cross the creek, leave from one of four stations near the spice souk, textile market, Baniyas Square, and old souk every few minutes. The word abra means “to cross.” About 20 passengers may fit on each of the 150 boats that operate along this route, and the voyage only takes five minutes. Get on board for Dh1 to experience a little of the legend of Dubai.
Visit this lively bazaar in Old Dubai to experience the sights, sounds, and aromas of the Indian subcontinent in Dubai. Meena Bazaar is chaotic, colourful, and incredibly charming all year long. It is most well-known for its gold and jewellery shops, which do a roaring business during Dhanteras, Eid, and Diwali. For true Indian foods, inexpensive tailors who can handle anything from hem alterations to knockoff outfits, well-known Indo-Pakistani apparel brands and perfume, and an abundance of mobile and electrical stores, head here. Without dining at some of Dubai’s oldest and most renowned desi restaurants, including street food at Sind Punjab, wraps and rolls at Mini Punjab, and Indian-Chinese at Kathmandu Palace Restaurant, a visit to Meena Bazaar would not be complete.
Dubai, a fusion of several ethnic cuisines and restaurants run by celebrity chefs, cemented its position on the world culinary map by welcoming the Michelin Guide for the first time in June. There are now nine one-starred restaurants, two two-starred establishments, 14 “value for money” Bib Gourmand restaurants, and a total of 11 venues in the city have received the coveted Michelin stars. A dinner at one of these restaurants is a must-have whether you’re a local or a visitor because quality food is the primary criterion for a restaurant to be included. Top picks from The National include the veal fillet mignon at Al Muntaha, the wagyu burgers at 11 Woodfire, the blue lobster salad at Il Ristorante, and the tiramisu at Torno subito.
One of the largest choreographed fountain shows in the world, at the base of the Burj Khalifa, has tremendous jet streams that shoot up to 150 metres in the air and move to the beat of music. Visit in the evening when shows start at dusk and continue every 30 minutes until the last song is played at 11 p.m. A variety of eateries at The Dubai Mall or Souk Al Bahar, both with great locations close to the fountain arena, allow patrons to dine while taking in the performance.
Since its debut in 2018, Dubai Frame has established itself as a cultural icon that unites the city’s past and present while also demonstrating impressive engineering. This attraction, which is situated within Zabeel Park in Dubai, gives visitors sweeping panoramic views of the city from a height of 150 metres, allowing them to see the transition between Old and New Dubai. One of its most outstanding characteristics is the modern clear glass bridge walkway that joins parallel vertical towers, giving the building the exact appearance of a large picture frame from the outside.
The appropriately named Kite Beach is the ideal location to hone your watersports abilities, though there are plenty of activities available ashore as well. Enjoy a smoothie at one of the many outdoor cafes and eateries, observe bikers and skateboarders zooming by at the skate park, or engage in a friendly game of volleyball on the beach with pals. You may easily spend the entire day here thanks to the abundance of beach activities and the breathtaking view of Burj Al Arab in the distance.
The 3.2-kilometer-long Dubai Water Canal travels from the Creek in Old Dubai through Business Bay and eventually reaches the Arabian Gulf. With 80,000 square meters of public space, amenities, and a 12-kilometer bicycle path, the canal has gained popularity as a tourist destination. It’s the ideal place to wander and enjoy the most traditional views of the city because there are five pedestrian bridges that wind their way across the famous river. The Al Habtoor City complex is close by and is home to the exciting La Perle by Dragone show, five-star hotels, and a variety of hip eateries.
The largest natural flower garden in the world, Dubai Miracle Garden, welcomes you to a world of flora enchantment. Several well-known buildings and structures have been totally turned into vibrant floral displays in the 72,000 square metre park. Through the various exhibits, you may surround yourself with more than 50 million beautiful flowers. A visit to the nearby Dubai Butterfly Garden is also recommended. Children can learn more about over 15,000 species of butterflies in this entertaining yet informative environment.