Dubai is the second largest Emirate by population and size. Dubai borders the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Dubai has been an economically dynamic city since long before the establishment of the UAE in 1971. In the years since, it has demonstrated a track record of remarkable economic growth and political stability. Over this period, Dubai has moved from being a small, local trading city into a global hub of commerce.
Dubai is a city that must be seen to be believed. Record-breaking architecture stands alongside traditional quarters, while man-made islands jut out of the coastline. Here are the top places to tick off your sightseeing list when you’re in town.
Standing 828 metres high, the Burj Khalifa is hard to miss. The world’s tallest tower naturally dominates the Dubai skyline, but the true majesty of the building is best appreciated up close or, even better, from inside. On a clear day, the view from the observation deck on level 124 is absolutely stunning, topped only by that of the view from the luxurious At The Top Sky Lounge on the 148th floor. And for those who would like to linger for a meal in the clouds, At.mosphere on level 122 is the place to be.
The Dubai Mall
Right next to the Burj Khalifa is The Dubai Mall. To call the sprawling development merely a shopping mall is doing it a disservice. Even an entire day spent here isn’t enough to see it all. Along with its 1,200-plus shops and 150 restaurants, the venue is home to an indoor theme park, an ice rink, a huge indoor waterfall, a choreographed fountain and a giant aquarium and underwater zoo.
A man-made island in the shape of a palm tree – there’s a reason why locals say ‘only in Dubai.’ Palm Jumeirah is one of the largest artificial islands in the world and a triumph of human ingenuity. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the Palm’s vast array of high-end hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria, Fairmont, One&Only, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray and, perhaps most notably, the iconic Atlantis, The Palm. And with a monorail running down the ‘trunk’ that connects to the mainland’s tram system, getting there couldn’t be easier.
Dubai may be famous for the glitz and glamour of its sky-high towers, but the real heart of the city is, and always will be, the Creek. The saltwater estuary is the original site where the Bani Yas tribe settled, and its waters were vital for what used to be Dubai’s main forms of economy: pearl diving and fishing. Today, the area is awash with the history of the emirate, as it’s home to the Dubai Museum as well as the labyrinthine alleyways of the gold, spice and textile souks. While at the Creek, a ride across the water on a traditional abra is a must, and at an unbelievable AED1 per ticket, it’s easily the best value tourist attraction in the city.
The Walk and The Beach at JBR
For those who like to shop, dine, see a movie and go to the beach all in one place, consider a trip to The Beach opposite JBR. With guest DJs pumping out the tunes on weekends, a regular open air cinema and a popular water park to entertain the little ones for an hour or two, JBR is always buzzing with activity.
The Kite Beach
The aptly-named Kite Beach is the perfect spot to test out your watersporting skills, but there’s plenty to do out of the water at this popular spot, too! Grab a smoothie from one of the many open-air cafes and restaurants just steps from the beach, watch bikers and skaters fly by at the newly finished skate park or get into a game of volleyball. With plenty of beach activities, plus an awesome view of the Burj Al Arab, it’s easy to spend the whole day here.
Look into the future at the world’s largest man-made marina, Dubai Marina. Marvel at some of the world’s tallest apartment buildings as you stroll along Dubai Marina Walk or see it from the water as you set sail from the Dubai Marina Yacht Club.
Less than 20 minutes driving from the modernist streets of Downtown Dubai, you can experience the marvels of the Arabian Desert, the original tourist attraction of Dubai. Take a desert safari Dubai-style with dune bashing, quad biking and sandboarding followed by traditional barbeques, henna and camel rides. Or just drive out and experience the wonder of the desert on a drive of your own. Those looking for luxury, should indulge in a Heritage Dinner Safari. Can’t get enough in a day? Treat yourself to an unforgettable night amid the dunes at the Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa or Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa.
The Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
The Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood in Bur Dubai is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. Best seen walking, this area offers a nostalgic view of a bygone era with traditional wind towers and a maze of winding alleyways. You can visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) where guests can take part in Arabic classes, heritage tours and guided mosque visits to better appreciate the local culture. After exploring, take an atmospheric abra ride to the souks on the other side of the Creek.
For an experience that marries tradition and luxury, come to Madinat Jumeirah. Literally translated as ‘City of Jumeirah’ this complex is inspired by an ancient citadel. It encloses luxury hotels, private enclaves built in the traditional style, the world-class Talise Spa, the Madinat Souk, Madinat Theatre, and 44 restaurants and lounges. You can also explore on traditional wooden abras to appreciate the waterways and architecture.
The Dubai Opera situated in the new “Opera District” in the heart of Dubai offers an enticing schedule which can be likened to that of London’s West End or Manhattan’s Broadway. With views of the Dubai Fountain and next to the Burj Khalifa, the building was inspired by the shape of Arabian Dhow ships and is sure to catch your eye. While the rear of the building arches upwards like a hull and is used as a foyer, taxi rank and car park, the stage area is designed in such a way that it can easily be converted into three different event platforms: theatre, hall or concert hall.
IMG Worlds of Adventure
Fun, excitement, speed – and even 5D, you can expect all this in the enormous theme park, which is the size of 28 football pitches. With the most up-to-date and exciting rides, IMG World will bring your favourite characters to life. There are themed rides for younger visitors with Ben 10, Gumball, the Powerpuff Girls and LazyTown, while older visitors can delve into the world of Marvel heroes: Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and The Avengers. You will also come across life-size animated dinosaurs in the Lost Valley. The range of entertainment promises round the clock fun for the whole family, and there are also plenty of restaurants and shops.
Stretching over 13,000 square metres, City Walk is reminiscent of European pedestrian precincts offering a pleasant vehicle-free stroll. Take a walk along tree-lined avenues with shops and restaurants. Look upwards and discover skyscrapers like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai’s city centre. There are also fountains, children’s playgrounds and plenty of open-air seating.
Dubai Parks and Resorts
Dubai is in the process of becoming a real entertainment paradise − thanks to the forthcoming opening of the Dubai Parks and Resorts. Children will not be able to contain their excitement in the labyrinth of enormous theme parks such as Motiongate™, Bollywood Parks™ and LEGOLAND®, while the adults can relax on Riverland™ Boulevard which is home to restaurants and exciting entertainment programmes. The luxury Polynesian-style hotel, The Lapita™, is situated in the theme park offering guests easy access to the facilities on offer.
The Outlet Village
The Outlet Village has unique Italian city flair reminiscent of the Middle Ages and spans a massive 25,000 square metres. The shops offer high-end brands at reduced prices all year round. Its architecture was inspired by the small town of San Gimignano in Tuscany, which has a historic centre that was named as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1990. Amongst this stunning architecture, in the mall you will find towers, arches, bridges and even a stone wishing well, which appear to date back to the Middle Ages, and create a very special atmosphere. In addition to luxury high-end brands, you can also find sports attire and sports equipment as well as furniture and household appliances.