If you have to think about one city in the world that has undergone rapid growth like no other, it would surely be the Emirate city of Dubai. It is a surprise to many that Dubai was only a modest fishing village a few decades ago. The sprawling metropolis of today, with its high rises, unique architectural wonders and beautiful constructions, is one of the most glamorous cities in the world, attractions millions of people every single year. With its numerous architectural marvels, enormous shopping malls, larger-than-life shopping festival (the Dubai Shopping Festival), state-of-the-art theme parks and a deep-rooted culture and heritage, Dubai continues to be one of the favourite holiday destinations for people around the world. While there are countless interesting things to do in Dubai, here are 15 of the best that you shouldn’t miss.
1. Explore Old Dubai
You would be excited to check out the modern buildings and constructions of Dubai. However, before you do it, you must take time to explore the Old Dubai, which has been preserved beautifully. On the Deira side of the Dubai Creek is the Al Fahidi neighbourhood, which is the oldest neighbourhood in the city. Amongst everything else, you would find the Bastakiya Quarter to be the best here. Complete with old houses with wooden doors and wind towers and narrow alleys, this place stands out against the skyscrapers in the background. There are also several interesting museums in the area, the best being the Dubai Museum, which gives you a glimpse of the Bedouin culture. If apart from checking out the place, you also want to learn more about the religion and culture of the Arabs, you must head to Sheikh Mohammed Centre of Cultural Understanding (SMCCU). The centre conducts several heritage and culture tours throughout the week.
2. Shop at the Dubai Souks
Close to the old side of Dubai are the various traditional Arab markets, also known as souks. Chief amongst the Dubai souks is the gold souk. Consisting of more than 300 stores selling gold jewellery, the gold souk is a great place to buy gold and other precious jewellery. Right from the biggest ring in the world to the most delicate jewellery, there is something for everyone here. Also, the best advantage of buying gold in Dubai or anywhere in UAE is that the price of gold is the cheapest here. Moreover, you can haggle to get a good bargain on the making charges. Even if you do not want to buy any jewellery here, you must visit the gold souk just for its ambience. Next to the gold souk is the perfume souk followed by the spice souk. These are great places to buy traditional souvenirs and gifts to take home. You must also take an abra ride to visit the textile souk that is located on the Bur Dubai side of the Dubai Creek.
3. Take an Abra Ride on Dubai Creek
The Dubai Creek is a part of the history of Dubai as it is here that the Emiratis settled when they moved from the desert to the city. Although the city has changed quite a lot in these decades, there is one thing that still remains the same, i.e. the humble abra. It was used as a means for travelling from one side of the Creek to the other. While you have roads that connect both sides of the city today, it is a unique experience to ride in the traditional abra and you must definitely try. Moreover, with the ticket price for an abra ride being AED1, it is the cheapest thing to do in the city. While sitting in the abra along with 19 other passengers, you would be able to enjoy the beautiful views of the city.
4. Go Mall Hopping
Apart from the unique souks, Dubai is also home to some of the best malls in the world. While they are great for shopping, most of the malls in Dubai offers several things that would keep you entertained. One of the most popular malls in the city is the Dubai Mall, which is also known to be the largest mall in the world. This mall has over 1200 retail stores selling everything from both international and local brands. Moreover, the mall has an indoor aquarium, a multiplex theatre with 21 screens, an ice rink and an enormous food court. Another mall that you should visit in Dubai is the Mall of Emirates. One of the highlights of this mall is that it houses Ski Dubai, the largest indoor ski park in the world. Some other interesting malls of Dubai are City Centre Deira, Ibn Battuta Mall, Festival City Mall, Dragon Mart, Wafi Mall, etc. The best part about the malls in Dubai is that they offer much more than just shopping. You can spend the whole day in the malls of Dubai without getting bored.
5. Set-off on a Desert Safari Tour
Although the city of Dubai is a modern metropolis, most people know that it is a desert city. Years before the Arabs moved to the city, they lived in the desert and there are still some Bedouin villages in the desert. As the desert is an integral part of the history and culture of Dubai, it is important to check out the place during your holiday. The best way to see the desert is to go on a desert safari. According to your interests and likes, you can choose amongst the several desert safari tours available. While the evening desert safari Dubai is the most common, you also have the overnight desert safari and the morning desert safari. There are also several variations to these desert safaris. During the desert safari, you would be able to enjoy adventures like dune bashing and camel riding, entertaining activities like belly dance and Tanoura dance performances and a scrumptious BBQ dinner. You can also go for a luxurious or private desert safari if you so wish to.
6. Visit the Burj Khalifa
Dubai is home to some of the most record-breaking architectural marvels and the Burj Khalifa definitely tops the list as it is the tallest building in the world. Located next to the Dubai Mall, the Burj Khalifa with its 163 floors is a structure that stands apart from all the other tall structures of the city. While you would be able to admire this building from anywhere in the city, you can also enter the building if you have the entry tickets. With these tickets, you can visit the museum on the ground floor that gives you the story of the development of the building. But the highlight of the tour is your visit to the observation deck either on the 124th floor or the 148th floor (highest observation deck on the world). Here, you can get a 360o aerial view of the entire city. The best time to visit the building would be just before sunset, although the price for the entry ticket is highest during this time of the day. However, you can book your tickets online, in advance to get good discounts.
7. Watch the Dubai Fountain Show
If you go to Dubai, you would realize that almost every attraction charges you an entry fee, and with so many things to see and do, your tour can turn out to be an expensive one. But there is one marvellous thing that you can watch (multiple times) for free and that is the Dubai Fountain Show. This happens right outside the Dubai Mall. The dance of the fountains with the Burj Khalifa in the background is a marvellous one, and you would surely remember it fondly. The choreographed moves of the fountain along with the soulful music would not fail to bring forth some emotions in every spectator. The dancing fountains along with the arresting lights are a sight to behold. The fountain show happens every half an hour from 6 in the evening to 11 at night. Moreover, you get a different version every time. As it is free, you must stay to watch the show at least a couple of times.
8. Enjoy Afternoon Tea at Burj Al Arab
The sail-shaped Burj Al Arab is a familiar building of Dubai. Moreover, this hotel is considered to be the only seven-star hotel in the world. Endowed with the ultimate luxury, glamour and comforts, it is a dream hotel for many tourists. On the other hand, if booking a room in this hotel is not a possibility for you, the afternoon tea at the Skyview Bar is something you must definitely experience. If you love food, this is something you would enjoy as the afternoon tea offers a seven-course meal complete with delicious tea, coffee, champagne, scones, pastries, jams, etc. It is definitely a culinary delight and at the same time, you would get to see the beautiful interiors of the hotel and the gorgeous view of the Jumeirah from the hotel.
9. Stroll through the Dubai Miracle Garden
The Dubai Miracle Garden is named aptly as it is truly a miracle to see a natural flower garden in the desert city. Home to more than 109 million flowers, the Dubai Miracle Garden is truly a paradise. But the main attraction of the place is its beautiful exhibits. The flowers have been arranged in such beautiful and creative ways that strolling in this garden is definitely a pleasure. Some of the exhibits that you can see here include the Emirates Airbus A380, heart passages, floral auditorium, houses and bungalows, the models of Burj Khalifa and the Eiffel Tower, all made of multi-coloured flowers. The place also has a butterfly garden where you would find butterflies of different shapes, colours and sizes. The Dubai Miracle Garden is only open during the winter months i.e. from November to May. The best part is that you would be able to see a change in the exhibits every season.
10. Discover Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
Although we have mentioned Dubai Mall, the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo requires a special mention. The Dubai Aquarium is an indoor aquarium located in Dubai Mall. This aquarium has the largest acrylic tank that has 48-meter long walk-in tunnel which houses more than 140 marine species including sharks and stingrays. Apart from walking through the mesmerizing glass tunnel, you would also be able to see interesting marine animals like otter, penguins, water rats, etc. in the underwater zoo. Moreover, the aquarium offers some interesting tours if you want to enjoy something more than just walking through the tunnel. You can check out the marine species a little more closely with special tours like shark diving, cage snorkelling, etc. While this is a place that kids would enjoy, it is great for adults too.
11. Chill at the Beaches of Dubai
If you are staying at a hotel with its private beach, you can visit the beach at anytime. However, if this is not the case, you can visit the private beaches by paying an entry fee or just checkout the public beaches of Dubai. Jumeirah Beach, Kite Beach, Sunset Beach, Black Palace Beach, etc. are some of the most popular beaches in the city. The Jumeirah Open Beach is not only free but also offer an array of exciting water sports activities like water skiing, jet skiing, surfing, paragliding, etc. It also offers one of the best views of Hotel Al Arab. The Kite Beach is also a great spot for sport lovers as you would get to indulge in kite surfing, beach volleyball, paddle boarding and kayaking. It is also loved by families with little children as it has a statepark, toddler play area and a trampoline for the kids to jump around. The beaches of Dubai are equipped with cafes, restaurants and canteens. It is easy to spend an entire day at one of the beaches, relaxing, playing, swimming and lounging on the beach. It is also perfect for a picnic with your friends and family.
12. Try Your Hand at Skydiving
One of the most adventurous ways of getting an aerial view of the Palm Jumeirah or perhaps the vast desert dunes is by skydiving. Yes, it means jumping off from the helicopter some 4000 meters above land. It is exiting, scary and exhilarating at the same time. But Dubai is one of the best places to go skydiving. If you have never tired skydiving before, you would be diving along with an instructor who would guide you at every step and all you have to do is enjoy the experience. On the other hand, if you do not want to try the real thing but still want to have the experience, you can head to iFly Dubai at Mirdif City Centre. This place offers you the chance to go skydiving indoors, in a 10-meter acrylic glass tunnel. Apart from being safe, it is also fun and can be tried anyone above 3 years of age.
13. Indulge in Adventure Sports
Dubai is known for several adventure sports apart from skydiving. So, if you are looking for some power-packed adventures during your holiday, Dubai will not disappoint. At the desert safari, you would be able to enjoy dune bashing, quad biking and sandboarding. Apart from this, you would also be able to enjoy flyboarding, bungee jumping, scuba diving, reef and wreck diving, deep sea fishing, snorkelling racing, micro lighting, etc. in this city. The best part is that Dubai gives lot of importance to safety. So, right from providing the best quality safety equipment to the guidance of thorough professionals, you would be able to indulge in these activities with 100% safety.
14. Spend Time at Adventure and Water Parks
If the skydiving and adventure sports are too hardcore for you, you may want to do something lighter but at the same time exciting. Dubai has some of the best theme and water parks complete with thrilling rides, slides, pools and other amazing attractions. With so many adventure parks available, you may be confused about the best one for you and your family. When it comes to theme parks, head to Dubai Parks & Resorts which is home to four parks including Motiongate Dubai, Bollywood Parks, Legoland Dubai and Legoland Water Park. There is also IMG Worlds of Adventure, which is the largest indoor theme park in the world. When it comes to water parks, the Wild Wadi and Aquaventure at Atlantis are surely the best.
15. Cruise on the Dubai Marina
The Dubai Marina is one of the most upmarket locations in Dubai. Complete with a Venetian-style Marina, luxurious high rises, five-starhotels, gourmet hotels and happening night clubs, the general vibe of the place is amazing. While you can stroll along the Marina any time during the day, the best way to enjoy the sights of the place is going on a cruise. You can choose to go on a traditional dhow-turned -restaurant or a luxurious yacht. Whichever you choose, you would be treated with an evening filled with good food, great entertainment and amazing sights of the Dubai skyline. An international buffet awaits you onboard along with a splendid performance by a Tanoura dancer. The Dubai Marina cruise is the perfect way to spend a quiet and relaxing evening with your family and friends.
With the knowledge of the best things to do in Dubai, you can surely start planning your holiday to the city. Make sure you have a valid passport and apply for your Dubai visa on time, so that you have a smooth-sailing holiday. You may also want to read tips on visiting the UAE when planning your trip.
Contributed by Pranitaa Purohit.
We recommend the below options to book your hotels, activities, flights and other transport:
- Hotels - booking.com
- Activities and Tours - getyourguide.com (Multi-day) - TourRadar
- Flights - CheapOair
- Airport Transfers - welcomepickups.com
Please note that we get a small commission if you purchase via our referral links. We use this to invest in new content and improving this website.