Dubai is an amazing city full of contrasts. Despite not being its capital, it is one of the most spectacular places to see in the United Arab Emirates . It’s funny to think about the change that has gone through. The city of today has nothing to do with that fishing port in the 1960s, when the first oil field was found. From then on, if you have to put only one adjective, that would be extravagant . You won’t be short of things to do in Dubai , where everything is bigger and more luxurious than necessary. Also, only 10% of its population is Dubai , so it is also a multicultural city . Surely you will not be bored with these 25 things to see in Dubai . Don’t forget your travel insurance with a 20% discount to visit the United Arab Emirates. Medical care abroad is very expensive!
Things to see and do in Dubai
Burj Khalifa , an impressive building to see in Dubai
This impressive building needs no introduction as it is the tallest in the world at 828 meters high . In fact, they say that it can be seen from 100 kilometers away . We corroborate that at least from the plane it can be seen perfectly. If seeing it from below is impressive, going up to the 148th floor in an ultra-fast elevator is a unique experience. There is the highest observatory in the world, located at 555 meters . It is open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. The views are especially shocking because the Burj Khalifa is the only building that tall in a city surrounded by desert, unlike the Empire State Building, which is surrounded by buildings almost as tall. It also has a lower viewpoint on the 124th floor, which is cheaper to access. Before going up to the Burj Khalifa you must decide which viewpoint you want to visit , although we recommend buying tickets online to save queuing at the ticket office.
- Book your entrance to the observation deck on the 124th and 125th floors of the Burj Khalifa – €40
- Get your ticket to the highest viewpoint in the world at 555 meters high (floor 124 and 125 included) – €94
In addition to the observatory, the Burj Khalifa houses the Armani hotel on the first 39 floors, luxury apartments up to the 123rd floor, and offices to its top on the 163rd floor. In addition to all this, the tallest building in the world breaks other records such as having the tallest swimming pool and the tallest mosque in the world . If it’s within your budget, you can also dine on the heights at the Atmosphere restaurant .
Dubai Fountains, an impressive sight to see in Dubai
To continue with the records, these dancing fountains located at the foot of the Burj Khalifa are the largest in the world . Designed by the same company that created the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, they put on a daily show with water, lights, and music from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The water jets reach 275 meters high following the rhythm of contemporary Arab music. It is an essential show to see in Dubai, it will leave you with your mouth open. Advice A lot of people gather around the fountains, so if you want to get a good spot to see the show, come a little before 6pm.
Also Read: How to get from Dubai to Abu Dhabi
The Dubai Mall , the largest shopping center to see in Dubai
A mall may not seem like the best place to spend your vacation, but believe us, the Dubai Mall is so spectacular that it deserves a visit. It has 1,200 shops and restaurants , souk-style galleries, a children’s theme park, a spectacular indoor waterfall, an ice-skating rink, an aquarium, and even a medical center . It has “only” 3 floors but so big that you can’t finish them even in a weekend. To give you an idea of its magnitude, in 2014 it had 80 million visitors, more than the entire city of New York, which received 56 million tourists! If you want to eat something with the best views of the Burj Khalifa, look for the terrace of Dean & Deluca and if you are a lover of sweets you have to enter Candylicious, the largest candy store in the world with 930 m².
Take an excursion to the desert, an essential thing to do in Dubai
The desert is a must see in Dubai . It’s just outside of town, but the contrast is mind-boggling. Don’t miss out on a 4×4 or quad ride through the dunes at full speed, an experience of pure adrenaline.
Mall of the Emirates , another sea of shops to see in Dubai
If you haven’t had enough of The Dubai Mall, this other mall is no slouch either. With a more traditional and elegant style it is still the same: shops, shops and more shops. But its star venue is Ski Dubai , a ski slope in the middle of the desert! Even if it is just out of curiosity, it is something to see in Dubai because it leaves your mouth open. It has capacity for 1,500 skiers who can do 5 routes of different difficulties, go sledding or slide down an ice slide . As if all this were not enough, they have penguins in the enclosure that they use to put on children’s shows.
Also Read: 10 Best Tours and Excursions in Dubai
Burj al Arab , the most luxurious hotel to see in Dubai (and in the whole world)
The Burj Al-Arab is the tallest hotel in the world, at 321 meters high . Its design is reminiscent of the sail of the dhow , the typical Arab ship. Furthermore, it has a 7-star rating and is therefore also the most luxurious . It is located on its own artificial island, which can only be accessed if you are a hotel client paying around €1,500 per night . But don’t worry, if you’re dying to go in you can do it for a lot less by reserving a meal at their restaurant . You can also have tea at the 200 meter high Skyview Bar . If you don’t have a credit card limit, you can dine watching marine life as if you were in an aquarium at the Al-Mahara restaurant .
Al Fahidi Historic District, a very interesting visit to do in Dubai
Dubai is not only modern, the most traditional part of the city is beautiful and, if you have not been to any other country in the Persian Gulf, you will be very surprised. This neighborhood was built at the end of the 19th century and Persian merchants who traded in pearls and fabrics lived there. They had money and moved to Dubai because there were no taxes and they had access to Dubai Creek, the hub of commerce in the area. The Arabic-style plaster and coral buildings are perfectly preserved and it is a pleasure to walk through its narrow streets. You can enter most of the houses, which today are home to ceramic and furniture galleries . There are also some small museums dedicated to the country’s coins, for example, and the XVA Gallery for contemporary art.
Also Read: Where to stay in Abu Dhabi
Dubai Creek, a historical place to see in Dubai
This river was key in the growth of the city, since the first settlers settled in the area because they did business with pearls and fish . The Dubai Creek separates the city into two parts: Deira to the north and Bur Dubai to the south, but it is very easy to cross it aboard an “abra” , traditional wooden boats, for only 1 dirham. There are also the typical Arab boats called dhows . You can book a sightseeing tour in a dhow , a typical thing to do in Dubai . Even today it is a small commercial enclave of the Persian Gulf, you can see loading and unloading dhows that travel to Kuwait, Iran, Oman or even India. It is fascinating to walk along the shore of this bustling and authentic place and think that half an hour’s walk away there is a different world full of modern skyscrapers.
Dubai Museum , an interesting place to see in Dubai to learn about the city
The Dubai Museum is in the Al-Fahidi Fort, built in 1787 to defend the Dubai Creek . The construction is made with typical materials such as plaster, mud, coral and wood and, although it was restored in 1971, it retains its essence. At the entrance of the museum there is a spectacular display of maps to see the evolution of Dubai and the Emirates after oil was discovered in the region . In the central courtyard there are several typical Dubai boats and in the rest of the rooms you can see weapons, musical instruments and even tombs from 4000 years ago found in the archaeological excavations of Al Qusais. Hours :
- From Saturday to Thursday: 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
- Friday: 2:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
- Adults: 3AED (€0.75 approx.)
- Children: 1AED (€0.25 approx.)
Also Read: The Burj Khalifa
Gold and spice souks, a fascinating place to see in Dubai
Although Dubai’s economy has now switched from gold to black gold, there is still a space to buy both traditional and modern jewellery. In the Deira neighborhood there is also the spice souk , where cumin, saffron, paprika and incense are mixed to create a very special smell. And if you want to pretend to be a local, go to the fabric stores to buy a traditional costume from the country for around €20. Then, go shopping at the fish market , where there are hardly any tourists. In all these places the smells of life are still preserved, weighing scales and calculators that smoke while buyers haggle , don’t be afraid to lower the price!
Go on a trip to Abu Dhabi
It would be a shame to be so close to Abu Dhabi and not visit the city. Its main attraction is the great Sheikh Zayed Mosque , one of the most spectacular buildings we have ever seen. In case you want to go on your own, we tell you all the transport options to go from Dubai to Abu Dhabi .
Bastakiya Mosque, a beautiful building to see in Dubai
Although it is not the largest or most spectacular mosque in the United Arab Emirates, it has a special charm . It is in the traditional neighborhood of Al Fahidi, where its beautiful white facade blends perfectly with the rest of the buildings . Its decorative engravings and latticework with geometric shapes create some of the most photogenic shadows.
Also Read: 20 places to see in the United Arab Emirates
Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House
Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum was the Emir of Dubai until 1958 and the grandfather of the current Emir . His original home was on the banks of the Dubai Creek so he could watch the business from the balcony. The building has been rebuilt as a museum to showcase Moorish architecture : carved floral doors and wooden latticework are the stars. The house has 30 rooms around a central courtyard and inside each of them there are exhibitions of photographs and historical documents from the Dubai Museum . A good way to discover Dubai in the middle of the last century with photos of fishermen, boat builders and pearl divers, as well as letters, stamps and coins that were key to the development of the emirate.
- Adults: 3AED (€0.75 approx.)
- Children: 1AED (€0.25 approx.)
- From Saturday to Thursday: 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
- Friday: 3:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Dubai Marina, an essential place to see in Dubai
Luxury accompanies most corners of Dubai, and this could not be less. It is the largest marina in the world after Marina del Rey in California and is surrounded by more than 200 skyscrapers . The Dubai Marina Walk is something to see in Dubai if you spend several days in the city and you want to surround yourself with luxurious yachts and apartments . To see the skyscrapers in all their glory you can book a Dubai Marina sunset cruise . It is also possible to have dinner on board the boat while you contemplate the illuminated city .
Also Read: 20 curiosities of Dubai
Miracle Garden , a beautiful place to see in Dubai
It is surprising to come across this large colorful garden in the middle of the desert . Although there is not a huge variety of flowers because not too many types would withstand the Dubai heat well without wilting, the combination of colors and shapes makes the Miracle Gardens an essential place to see in Dubai. You will find everything imaginable covered in flowers : castles, floats and even a mini Burj Khalifa! Hours :
- Sunday-Thursday: 9am-9pm
- Friday and Saturday: 9am-11pm
Price : 30AED (€7 approx.)
Dubai lacks nothing, not even the beach. Jumeirah Beach is the most central and crowded, although the vast majority of bathers are tourists. With 7 kilometers of sand, crystal clear waters and a unique environment , it is a perfect place to relax. In addition, it has all the necessary facilities : toilets, rental of sun loungers and umbrellas, restaurants, bike paths and even water sports operators that offer their services. Note that… Wednesdays and Sundays are exclusive days for women and children. Even all the workers are women.
Also Read: 25 things to see in Abu Dhabi
This mosque next to the most popular beach in the city is for most the most beautiful to see in Dubai . It is an exact copy of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo , although the original is eight times larger. This delight of Arabian architecture is especially beautiful when illuminated at dusk. If you are interested in seeing it inside as well, the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Cultural Understanding organizes guided tours every day at 10am , except Fridays. All you have to do is be there at 9:45 a.m., dress appropriately to visit this religious building and bring 10AED (just over €2).
Heritage and Diving Village
The cultural heritage of Dubai related to the sea is exhibited in this area. There are several photographic exhibitions on pearl collecting and the construction of the boats called dhows . The Bedouin lifestyle is also recreated, with traditional Persian houses, a small traditional cafe and a souk where potters and weavers put their skills to work. For an even more authentic atmosphere, visit from October to April . Then there is live traditional music and dance and you can consult traditional medicine professionals.
Also Read: Visit Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi
Artificial islands, an impressive thing to see in Dubai
As if its buildings weren’t enough, the city even has artificial islands. There are two sets: the Palm Island and The World . The first is a couple of date palms made up of small islands with hotels, luxury residences and entertainment complexes . The World is even more extravagant, it is a world map made up of islands that are sold for the modest price of 7 to 45 million dollars depending on their size. Some of the privileged ones who own an island are David Beckham or Rod Stewart . To build all these islands, millions of cubic meters of sand and stones from the bottom of the sea and the city’s port have been used.
Sheikh Zayed Road, a majestic road to see in Dubai
It is the eight lane road that crosses the modern business district of Dubai . If you rent a car , you will surely pass through here and part of the skyscrapers, you will be surprised by the glass and steel plates that delimit the road. Around it there are several points of interest, such as the Courtyard Gallery , with contemporary art by Arab artists, the viewpoint of the Dubai World Trade Center Tower or the Gold and Diamond Museum , where the history of jewelry in Dubai is reviewed and some parts can be purchased.
Also Read: Dubai in one day
Aquaventure water park , a child’s dream to see in Dubai
If you want to have a good time and enjoy the ostentation of Dubai, visiting the Aquaventure Water Park is a great idea. It is located in one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, the Atlantis The Palm . However, its entrance is independent from the stay at the hotel , so if you are not staying there you can visit it. Although its one-day ticket is not cheap, it costs around €60 , visiting this park is well worth it. A great way to cool off from the oppressive heat in the city.
Gurunanak Darbar Sikh Temple
Although it falls a bit far and does not appear on the lists of things to see in Dubai, it is well worth it. It is a perfect option to get closer to the Hindu culture in Dubai. Our recommendation is that you go on Fridays, the day of prayers. It is very important to respect their culture and go covered and without shoes at all times. If you respect it, you will see that it is like a party and you will have a great time. A beauty outside and inside.
Al Qudra Cycle Path, a unique place to see in Dubai
To finish this list of experiences and things to see in Dubai, if you want to enjoy an unforgettable bike ride through the desert, you already know where to go. As you can see, in Dubai everything is possible. The road is in perfect condition because the locals use it a lot. Above all, it is important to note that you do not go at noon, since temperatures are usually extreme and can be detrimental to health. It is best to go very early or when night falls. An essential thing to see and do in Dubai for lovers of bicycles and sports.
And if to end your visit in Dubai you want to have unforgettable views, one of the best options is to take the Dubai Ferry in the Dubai Marina . We advise you to pay attention to which one you take, since there are other private companies that try to sell the same thing for an excessive price, what we advise you is another public transport service, like the metro . The best option is to do the walk at night, but you can also enjoy it during the day. The fresh breeze that is breathed in the sea along with those views makes for a memorable experience . It reminded us a bit (apart from the distances) of the Staten Island ferry in New York. There are several kinds of seats, Gold (a little more expensive) and Silver, from €12, which allow you to sit inside the boat and permission to go out to the back to observe the views. Without a doubt, something that you cannot miss in Dubai.
Apart from the aforementioned Jumeirah Beach, we did not want to leave this beach to see in Dubai. In this city there is everything: skyscrapers, shopping centers, and of course, a good beach cannot be missing . You will have no problem wearing a swimsuit (in some you will not be able to because the United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country). A perfect option to cool off during your hot stay in Dubai. Enjoy the white sand and the great views! It’s not a beach like the ones in the Caribbean or the Maldives, but it’s quite the hit, honestly.