Best Places to Visit in Dubai from Travel Experts — 26 of Them!
Table of Contents, to open --> Sharing is caring!The list of best places to visit in Dubai could run into the hundreds, because country has almost unlimited resources to turn it into a tourist destination, but some of my travel blogger friends have chosen some of their favorites for you to try. Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates, which also includes Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Quwain. Those seven emirates of the UAE maintain a large degree of government independence. The UAE is governed by a Supreme Council of Rulers made up of those seven emirs, who appoint the prime minister and the cabinet. I’ve been a few times and it is such a fascinating and interesting place. Come learn why. Al Fahidi Souk A heritage themed souk located beside the Dubai Creek was built in the mid-1800s and was major hub of trade for traders and merchants during those times since it is in perhaps the best location in Dubai. Located on creek provides the easy transportation of goods from and to other countries and also it is located near Dubai fort and watchtowers which was protecting it. Now, this souk has been restored to its original condition with authentic narrow walking alleys with shops around you, selling all Emirati and Arabic handicrafts, spices, textiles, and much interesting stuff. Visiting this area is most recommended to know how Dubai evolved and how it was well versed in the trading business since early days. After visiting Dubai museum and fort, you can walk down the narrow alleys of this area to pick up the best handmade perfumes (without any chemicals, Best saffron, Arabic style of traditional jewelry and dress, Emirati dress for men & women, Islamic style of décor items, Arabic hand embroidered stuff, precious stone jewelry and purse. Also you can admire the clay washed or mud painted architecture of the souk by seeing the traditional arches, galleries, shops arranged in an old-style. This area is located in oldest part of Dubai in Al Bastakia or Al Fahidi town. Some tips for Al Fahidi Souk – Al Fahidi souk is connected conveniently through metro, Abra boat rides, buses, and taxis. To reach this souk, through abra – a unique old – Arabic style of wooden boat would be a memorable experience. Lots of walking is involved, so better to wear comfortable footwear and visit this place during the cooler time of the day. Little bargaining can be done but the souk is extremely safe and no fear of pick-pocketing and all. Tip by Yukti Agrawal of Travel with Me 24/7. Find her on Facebook here. Al Fahidi Souk Dubai Frame The Dubai Frame is one of the newest of the many tourist attractions on offer in the city when you are exploring Dubai. Reaching a height of 150 metres, it adds yet another world record to Dubai, as it is the tallest frame ever built. Located in Zabeel Park, it’s carefully placed between the old and the new parts of the city. The idea behind its location is that on one side, you see Old Dubai, while on the other, the modern skyline and Burj Khalifa dominates the view. In that way the structure “frames” the past, the present and the future. This is easy to see if you ride the elevator all 48 floors to the very top. Here a so-called “sky bridge” connects the two sides of the frame, with panoramic views on both sides and a transparent glass floor. Such a trip will set you back around 14 USD and can be purchased in advance on the official website at https://www.dubaiframe.ae/en It’s recommended you do this so you can skip potential queues. The price point of Dubai Frame is relatively low compared with other attractions in Dubai. In an otherwise expensive city, it is a relatively cheap way to get access to skyline views and see some truly impressive architecture, which is why it is among the best places to visit in Dubai. When you are there, you’ll also be able to visit a small museum that highlights the future of the city as envisioned by the government of Dubai. Without revealing too much, let’s just say they have some ambitious plans. Tip from Nick from The Danish Nomads. You can find them on Instagram here. Dubai Frame Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary in Dubai is a natural wetland featuring a variety of salt flats, intertidal mudflats, mangroves, and lagoons that migratory birds use for their nests. The sanctuary was designated a protected area in 1985. A network of new channels was later created and much of the area has been planted with mangroves, reed beds and shrubs. It is also home to numerous species of small mammals, insects, and fish. The main reason that Ras Al Khor is among the best places to visit in Dubai is bird watching. With over 67 species of birds, including migratory birds, in the nature reserve visitors can spot snowy plovers, black-headed gulls, as well as curlews and redshanks. Highlights include hundreds of greater flamingos on their annual migration. Although more numerous in winter,
The list of best places to visit in Dubai could run into the hundreds, because country has almost unlimited resources to turn it into a tourist destination, but some of my travel blogger friends have chosen some of their favorites for you to try.
Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates, which also includes Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Quwain. Those seven emirates of the UAE maintain a large degree of government independence. The UAE is governed by a Supreme Council of Rulers made up of those seven emirs, who appoint the prime minister and the cabinet.
I’ve been a few times and it is such a fascinating and interesting place. Come learn why.
Al Fahidi Souk
A heritage themed souk located beside the Dubai Creek was built in the mid-1800s and was major hub of trade for traders and merchants during those times since it is in perhaps the best location in Dubai. Located on creek provides the easy transportation of goods from and to other countries and also it is located near Dubai fort and watchtowers which was protecting it.
Now, this souk has been restored to its original condition with authentic narrow walking alleys with shops around you, selling all Emirati and Arabic handicrafts, spices, textiles, and much interesting stuff. Visiting this area is most recommended to know how Dubai evolved and how it was well versed in the trading business since early days.
After visiting Dubai museum and fort, you can walk down the narrow alleys of this area to pick up the best handmade perfumes (without any chemicals, Best saffron, Arabic style of traditional jewelry and dress, Emirati dress for men & women, Islamic style of décor items, Arabic hand embroidered stuff, precious stone jewelry and purse. Also you can admire the clay washed or mud painted architecture of the souk by seeing the traditional arches, galleries, shops arranged in an old-style. This area is located in oldest part of Dubai in Al Bastakia or Al Fahidi town.
Some tips for Al Fahidi Souk –
- Al Fahidi souk is connected conveniently through metro, Abra boat rides, buses, and taxis. To reach this souk, through abra – a unique old – Arabic style of wooden boat would be a memorable experience.
- Lots of walking is involved, so better to wear comfortable footwear and visit this place during the cooler time of the day.
- Little bargaining can be done but the souk is extremely safe and no fear of pick-pocketing and all.
Tip by Yukti Agrawal of Travel with Me 24/7. Find her on Facebook here.
The Dubai Frame is one of the newest of the many tourist attractions on offer in the city when you are exploring Dubai. Reaching a height of 150 metres, it adds yet another world record to Dubai, as it is the tallest frame ever built. Located in Zabeel Park, it’s carefully placed between the old and the new parts of the city.
The idea behind its location is that on one side, you see Old Dubai, while on the other, the modern skyline and Burj Khalifa dominates the view. In that way the structure “frames” the past, the present and the future. This is easy to see if you ride the elevator all 48 floors to the very top. Here a so-called “sky bridge” connects the two sides of the frame, with panoramic views on both sides and a transparent glass floor. Such a trip will set you back around 14 USD and can be purchased in advance on the official website at https://www.dubaiframe.ae/en
It’s recommended you do this so you can skip potential queues. The price point of Dubai Frame is relatively low compared with other attractions in Dubai. In an otherwise expensive city, it is a relatively cheap way to get access to skyline views and see some truly impressive architecture, which is why it is among the best places to visit in Dubai.
When you are there, you’ll also be able to visit a small museum that highlights the future of the city as envisioned by the government of Dubai. Without revealing too much, let’s just say they have some ambitious plans.
Tip from Nick from The Danish Nomads. You can find them on Instagram here.
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary in Dubai is a natural wetland featuring a variety of salt flats, intertidal mudflats, mangroves, and lagoons that migratory birds use for their nests. The sanctuary was designated a protected area in 1985. A network of new channels was later created and much of the area has been planted with mangroves, reed beds and shrubs. It is also home to numerous species of small mammals, insects, and fish.
The main reason that Ras Al Khor is among the best places to visit in Dubai is bird watching. With over 67 species of birds, including migratory birds, in the nature reserve visitors can spot snowy plovers, black-headed gulls, as well as curlews and redshanks. Highlights include hundreds of greater flamingos on their annual migration. Although more numerous in winter, they are present in Ras Al Khor all year round. Chances are, you’ll notice that some of the flamingos aren’t quite as bright as others. Their color primarily depends on their diet. Younger flamingos are usually paler, while flamingos with bright pink plumage have been eating a diet rich in beta-carotene.
If you want to get really close to birds without disturbing them, there are three hides scattered across the sanctuary. Each of them is hidden at the end of a shielded paths and equipped with powerful binoculars so that you can get the best possible view of the birds while you are exploring Dubai.
Situated about ten miles from Dubai’s Deira district, Ras Al Khor lies at the mouth of the famous Dubai Creek, the waterway around which the city was originally founded. The sight of countless flamingos lazing by the water stand in stark contrast to the images of city’s skyline with many tall skyscrapers and buildings.
Admission is completely free for everyone, which makes Ras al Khor a wonderful place to visit with your family. If you want to avoid the suffocating heat, visit as early as possible. However, the birds are fed twice a day: morning feeding time is at 9-9.30 am and afternoon feeding time is at about 3 pm. Visiting in winter gives you the chance of seeing lots of birds compared to summertime.
Tip from Ivan from mindthetravel.com. Find him on Facebook here.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
A bucket list-worthy thing to add to your Dubai itinerary is going on a hot air balloon flight, especially during sunrise. Even if you are not usually one to get up before day and dawn, for something so cool you should make an exception.
For a sunrise hot air balloon ride, you will be picked up from your hotel around 4.30 am by jeep or minivan. It’s about half an hour to 45-minute drive to the desert where the adventure will start.
The hot air balloon crew will be in full swing by the time you arrive, rolling out the balloon and prepping the basket and counterweight. It’s very interesting to watch all the preparations, it’s especially impressive when they start filling the balloon with (a mixture of) cold and hot air and it slowly lifts from the ground.
During the prep, you will be given a safety instruction and once the balloon is fully blown up and everybody is in the basket, you will practice landing position once or twice.
And then… you slowly move upwards, higher and higher until you reach the altitude where the pilot wants to be. This differs for each flight as it depends on the direction of the wind and the thermal layers of the atmosphere. It is one of the best ways of exploring Dubai, from above!
It won’t be long until the sun will begin to rise in the east and you can admire this stunning sight in silence (broken by the blasts of hot air into the balloon). You will see camel farms, the Hatta Mountains and miles and miles of desert. And of course, Dubai, with the cloud-piercing Burj Khalifa, which also has NINE Dubai hotels inside as well!
Time will fly up in the sky and before you know it you will be descending, back to the real world. Just before landing your pilot will ask you to assume the landing position. You will have to crouch down in a seated position with your knees bent, holding the ropes inside the basket while facing in the direction of travel.
After a smooth landing, the pilot deserves a round of applause, it’s not easy to land something without a break! And that’s it, your once in a lifetime hot air balloon experience.
Tip by Lotte Eschbach of Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog.
High Tea at the Burj
High tea at the Burj Khalifa is one of those experiences you have to do once in your life. I mean Dubai is a city of excess where they sell gold bars from a vending machine so why not have high tea atop the tallest building in the world, which in on everyone’s list of best things to do in Dubai for a number of reasons.
I decided to go to high tea at the Burj because I wanted to go to the top anyway since this is most certainly not a cheap hotel in Dubai experience. The cost of the high tea was $150 USD which is expensive but the cost to go to the top of the Burj is $50 USD.
The high tea comes in three courses – finger sandwiches, savouries, and then desserts. Plus they have a delicious menu of mocktails you can try and a full coffee menu along with the teas. I spent three hours atop the Burj sipping on Champagne (yes there is alcohol there), and eating tasty morsels.
The views from the top are amazing and I think the best view is actually from the toilets! I enjoyed spending a few hours there to just take in the views and enjoy a bit of pampering.
Tip by Nicole of Travel Gal Nicole.
Waterfront Fish Market
Dubai is famous for its atmospheric, fragrant souks. One that blows the rest out of the water when it comes to fragrance-overload is the energetic Waterfront Fish Market. Fish trading has existed here since the earliest days of the Emirate, but in 2017 the fish trading industry received a modern new site.
Located near the historic centre of Dubai, the Waterfront Fish Market bustles across 100,000 square metres of a modernised warehouse. Technology has been implemented to allow fishermen to offload more efficiently, but it hasn’t spoilt any of the atmosphere. It’s a vibrant, fast paced environment where traders and shoppers are more than keen to haggle for the best prices.
Known for the best fish in the city, the top restaurateurs in Dubai come here to snare the tastiest fish. You’ll find them first thing in the morning, haggling with fish traders for the choices catches and that experience of sensory overload makes it one of the best places to visit in Dubai
The Waterfront Fish Market is located on Al Khaleej Road, near the Dubai hospital – a quick and easy taxi from the centre of the city. Once you’ve taken in the energy of the busy market, head to one of the restaurant stalls to sample some of the produce. Yahya Seafood is an excellent choice. Not only is the fish deliciously fresh, their spicy Arabic-style dishes are an ideal match for the vibrancy of the market.
Tip by Paul Healy of Anywhere We Roam.
Deep-Sea Fishing in the Arabian Gulf
If you want to have a once in a lifetime experience, then deep-sea fishing with one of the tour companies in the Arabian Gulf is the way to go!
The tour company is based in Dubai, and they are part of the prestigious Dubai Marina Yacht Club. Go Fishing Tours packages have five tour options ranging from regular fishing and BBQs on board a yacht to Big Game fishing expeditions. You can expect to pay from 850 AED (235 USD) for the basic fishing trip to 7,500 AED (2040 USD) for the fishing and BBQ, which can fix a maximum of 16 people.
My hubby and I decided to do a fishing tour in Dubai a couple of years ago and have always had that on our bucket list. We chose a big game fishing package and sailed with Captain Rhayan and Jhun. The day was action-packed, and we were able to catch King Fish, Groupers, and Barracudas.
A good reason to choose this company is that they are socially responsible. They use ethical methods to catch the fish, and if you decide not to keep the fish, they donate it to local food banks. We also liked that they provided everything we needed for the tours. From the baits to fishing gear and safety equipment, so you would not have to add any fishing equipment to your packing list. They also cater to first-timers since almost 90% of their guests are new to fishing, even if you are mainly just looking at how to see Dubai from the water.
Sailing out of Dubai with the skyline behind you is incredible, and the Arabian Gulf offers a truly unique fishing experience and is one of the best places to visit in Dubai. The next time you are planning for a trip, add deep-sea fishing on your list of things to do and see in Dubai. You will be glad you did!
Contributed by Lydia from Africa Wanderlust, a destination resource for travelers to explore the untapped beauty of Africa.
Dubai Parks & Resorts
Dubai Parks & Resorts is one of the city’s largest outdoor attractions, combining three theme parks, a water park, two hotels and a huge dining and entertainment zone.
The flagship theme park is Legoland Dubai. Combined with neighbouring Legoland Water Park this is the perfect theme park day out for your under 12-year-old crowd. Next up is Motiongate, a custom designed movie-based theme park with a big focus on Dreamworks animated characters, as well as a Smurf Village, Hunger Games, Ghostbusters and Columbia Pictures section.
Finishing off the theme park line up is Bollywood Parks – bringing a taste of Mumbai’s best entertainment to Dubai in a series of colourful and entertaining shows and rides and that area, in my opinion, is one of the best places to visit in Dubai.
Connecting the theme parks is the beautiful Riverland precinct. Centred around a man-made lake, there are several themed villages, from the 1950’s American-dinner style Boardwalk through to the French Village housing a huge variety of restaurants and cafes. The cooler months see the streets or Riverland packed with roving entertainers, street markets and outdoor movie nights – even a giant portable maze has joined the line up!
It does sit quite far out of the city of Dubai, almost on the border with Abu Dhabi emirate, so packaging up your theme park tickets with either a luxury Polynesian resort overnight stay at Lapita, or a funky but budget stopover at Rove at the Park is a great idea to get the most out of Dubai Parks & Resorts. Otherwise, a 2-park-pass will set you back about $80USD per adult.
Tip by Keri of Dubai Travel Planner. Find her Facebook group here.
DIY Walking Tour along Dubai Creek
Dubai is not just about modern high rise buildings, posh hotels and man made islands. There is also an historical and traditional side to the United Arab Emirates which is easy to explore on your own.
One of the best ways to see Dubai is to take a walk along the Creek. The best way to reach Dubai Creek is to take the Metro to Al Ras station on the Green Line. Exit the station and head down to the waterside. Follow the river bank until you come to the Deira Old Souk Abra Station.
This is where you will ride a traditional wooden boat called an Abra (1AED) across to Bur Dubai. But first cross the road and explore the Gold and Spice Souks. You will find plenty of colourful and aromatic spices, herbs and the scent of Frankincense and Myrrh.
The Gold Souk houses many jewellery shops. Here you can feast your eyes on a dazzling array of gold and diamond jewellery and maybe even invest in a piece or two.
Also on display in a shop window in the Gold Souk is the world’s largest ring, the Najmat Taiba or Star of Taiba, which is valued at more than US$3 million. Seeing that along makes it one of the best places to visit in Dubai — just to dream!
After you have indulged yourself enough, head back to the waterfront and take an Abra across the river. Bur Dubai is the old trading centre where many rich merchants used to live.
The Textile Souk is situated here. Silk, Pashmina Scarves, cotton garments are just some of the items on sale here, which for me is one of the best places to visit in Dubai for the history and photographic opportunities.
Other places of interest in Old Dubai are the Heritage Village, Dubai Museum and Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House, and the Basakia Quarter.
If you feel hungry there are many traditional restaurants to try local delicacies, such as camel burger, kebabs or even budget friendly indian food. Look for places frequented by locals for the best experience. Don’t forget to enjoy a glass or two of the traditional tea too.
Allow yourself 4 to 6 hours for your DIY Tour. Don’t rush. Immerse yourself in a part of the vanishing Middle East.
Tip by Silverbackpacker. You can find him on Facebook here.
A Dhow dinner cruise is a great way to relax after a day of sightseeing in Dubai. It’s a chance to enjoy the twinkling lights of Dubai by night from the perspective of a traditional Dhow boat. You can take Dhow dinner cruises in Dubai Creek or Dubai Marina but I would highly recommend choosing a Dubai Marina Dhow cruise because when the sun sets there’s definitely more views to take in of the modern Dubai. It is one of the Dubai attractions that I highly recommend.
The Dhow ship was originally designed to be used for trade and you can still see them in use near the spice souks. Nowadays the Dhow ships are popular vessels for evening cruises as they enable visitors to Dubai to step back in time to experience this time-honoured mode of transport.
The dinner onboard is served in a buffet style with authentic Arabian dishes for you to enjoy. This is perfect if you like to try a few different dishes without overloading your plate – you can always go back for seconds! Soft drinks, coffee and dates are also served with your meal.
The Dhow cruise will take you out into the Persian Gulf for views of JBR Beach and the new Ain Dubai, the world’s largest observation wheel (think London Eye but bigger), which qualifies for one of the best places to visit in Dubai in my opinion. The Dhow will also take you around the Marina so you can gaze up at the glittering lights of the huge skyscrapers surrounding you.
A Dhow dinner cruise will typically cost around 160 AED per adult (£34 / $44) for two hours, including dinner and entertainment. It can be a romantic setting for couples but equally I think that this is a great excursion to enjoy as a group. On our cruise, there were a couple of groups who had booked to celebrate a special occasion.
Tip by Laura Pedlar of Cruise Lifestyle. Find her on Instagram here.
A Visit to Old Dubai
For all its luxury, extravagance and ambition, Dubai has, in fact, come from rather humble beginnings. To get a glimpse into the city’s rich history, culture and traditions, a visit to Old Dubai is a must as a wonderful Dubai attraction.
Start off from Al Fahidi metro station and wander down to Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, which is one of the best places to visit in Dubai. Here, explore a maze of narrow lanes that connect well-preserved traditional buildings which today play host to museums, art galleries and cafes. Look out for the unique wind towers that are still used today to provide natural air-conditioning.
Continue on to Al Fahidi Fort which houses the Dubai Museum. Explore the city’s history through a comprehensive display of artefacts and wander through a model souk depicting what life was like before Dubai’s transformation.
Afterwards, make your way to Dubai Creek through the souks of Bur Dubai and catch the traditional abra boat across the water to Deira. Once there, explore the endless lanes and alleyways of the souks that beckon visitors with their treasures. Take in the smells and the colours of the Spice Souq, where tables are heaving with aromatic herbs, colourful spices and fragrant incense. Then head to the Gold Souq and Perfume Souq to pick out some accessories and fragrances to take home.
All that shopping is hungry work so stop to get a delicious shawarma and wash it down with an ice-cold juice from a street stall.
A visit to Dubai’s Old Town quarter is a great way to get closer to the city’s soul and to understand its fascinating journey.
Tip by Alexei Gaynanov of Travel Lexx.
Visit Al Ain (near Dubai, on a day trip)
Dubai isn’t the only Emirate, and if you get the chance you can visit the other 6 on day trips. I loved visiting the Abu Dhabi Emirate, particularly the city of Al Ain which has one of only two UNESCO sites in the UAE.
This particular UNESCO listing includes four separate places within the city. The first is the Oasis which is a mirage come to life. This miraculous piece of greenery in the middle of the desert has around 150,000 date palm trees which receives water from the subterranean irrigation system and is centuries old.
The second area is the Hili site where you can witness tombs that date back to 2,500 BC and artefacts housed in the Al Ain Museum. Jebel Hafeet, the third site, is the highest peak in the UAE with stunning views, and is surrounded by 500 ancient tombs.
For more history and culture, the fourth site is the Bidaa Bint Saud, an archaeological site that is notable for its Hafit Period tombs, Iron Age irrigation systems and rare building remains. You can also visit the historical home of the Al Nahyan family who rule Abu Dhabi and is called Qasr Al Muwaiji.
While you could get here by hiring a car or even taking an Uber, going on a tour is probably your best option as it is the most convenient and you will learn so much more. The tours can start at anything from around US$80 with Dubai hotel pick up and drop off.
Tip by Mar Pages of Once in a Lifetime Journey. You can find her on Facebook here.
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
Located in one of Dubai’s oldest communities–the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood–the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding presents a variety of programs aimed at opening the door to understanding between cultures and is one of the best places to visit in Dubai. Programs are designed for individuals who want to delve deeper into the Arab culture, as well as for corporations acclimating their employees to proper etiquette.
A tour of the Jumeirah Mosque, one of only two in Dubai that are open to non-Muslims, includes an authentic light breakfast with Arabic coffee and tea, making it one of the Dubai attractions you should really make time for.
Beside a fountain outside the mosque, the guide demonstrates and explain the “wudu” cleansing process engaged in before prayers. After, during a tour of the mosque, the guide instructs about the Emirati religion and culture and answers questions. Visitors are expected to dress modestly, but traditional dress can be also be borrowed at the mosque. This tour operates Saturday through Thursday at 10am and 2pm.
Another popular program permits participants to enjoy traditional Emirati cuisine while interacting and conversing with presenters inside traditional houses. Sharing in the experience with others, guests taste new foods while learning about Emirati culture and traditions. Many meal options are available, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea.
Fees vary, but as an example the fee for the mosque tour is AED 25 per person. Advance booking is not generally required, but do check at the website for more details.
My own experience with this program is that visitors are always welcome, and that there is no such thing as a bad question.
Tip by Carole Terwilliger Meyers of Travels with Carole. Find her on Instagram here.
IMG World of Adventures
Dubai has ample of theme parks which are preferred places for the visitors unless they are traveling to the UAE in the winter season.
One of the newest parks is the IMG World of Adventures which is the largest indoor theme park in the world and one of the best places to visit in Dubai. It has theme of cartoon network which features many famous cartoons themed rides which any adrenaline junkie would love. It also hosts a dedicated section of souvenirs and rides for Avengers fan and is perhaps the most loved section of the park. There are some outdoor rides also and an entire area dedicated to the Lost Valley which is dinosaur adventure zone.
IMG World of Adventures also hosts a haunted theme hotel which is loved by the visitors who enjoy spooky stuff. The sounds and animations in this hotel gives a real spooky vibe. The park also has a large boulevard area where they feature live entertainment shows to keep the visitors occupied who aren’t interested in the rides.
The entry ticket for the park is 250 AED which includes all the activities inside. As the park is located in the outskirts of Dubai, the best way to reach it is to drive or to hire a cab.
Tip by Nabiha Khan of Verses by a Voyager.
While it’s easy to be seduced by downtown Dubai’s towering buildings, by JBR’s trendy beach clubs, or by Dubai Marina and its luxury yachts – take the time to visit the more traditional part of Dubai with a visit to its souks.
Located on the northern bank of the Dubai Creek, these souks offer an insight into Dubai as it once was; before the 5* hotels and maze-like shopping malls. For centuries, the Dubai Creek was a waterway into the emirate with goods from Asia, Africa and elsewhere being shipped in for trading.
Today, the souks are far more touristy, but still a wonderful antidote to an otherwise very modern city. Start at the Gold Souk and meander through the narrow walkways where the precious metal glimmers from all sides. From here, make your way to the spice souk – with the heady aromas wafting through the streets, it won’t be hard to find. Here you can stock up not only on saffron, chilli, cardamon and more, but also on teas, dates and nuts.
Other areas of the Dubai souk well worth a visit are the perfume and textiles souks, as much for the atmospheres and the goods being sold.
While wandering the main souk streets, take the time to head off into the back roads; where you’ll truly get a glimpse of local life with a high chance of stumbling across locals brewing chai or enjoying a board game.
Getting to the Dubai souks is easy. Take the Green Line on the Dubai Metro to Al Ghubaiba station, then walk to Bur Dubai Abra Station and jump on an abra (traditional boat) for a sail across the creek. The abra costs just 1 AED (likely the least you’ll send on anything while in Dubai), and they set sail every few minutes.
Tip by Katie of Contemporary Class. Find her on Facebook here.
Exploring the Beaches of Dubai
Dubai is not all about its high-rise majestic buildings or super expensive supercars, beyond these Dubai is one of the few places to enjoy a beach vacation within a thriving city. From adrenaline-pumping paragliding and water skiing to luxurious beach resorts, Dubai has a lot to offer for beach lovers.
Dubai has a good number of beaches and most of them are owned by hotel owners as private beaches. You have to buy a membership card or pay a fee(not cheap) to get onto these beaches. However, there are public beaches also which are free to access and some have a little charge.
Jumeirah Beach has one of the most beautiful coastlines in Dubai and it has no entry fee, which made it one of the crowded beaches also, but it is still one of the best places to visit in Dubai. Travelers can enjoy a charming sunbath here while viewing the majestic Burj Al Arab, which is perhaps the most iconic of the Dubai attractions. There are several options for water sports like jet ski, surfing, basketball court and many more in Jumeirah Beach.
Al Mamzar Beach Park, this oval-shaped beach is surrounded by 5 beach sections with acres of lush grass, coconut trees and palm trees that offer a unique beach experience in Dubai. Visitors enjoy here a relaxing time with an enchanting view of the beach. Al Mamzar Beach also offers various adventure activities like Parasailing, jet-skiing, Scuba diving etc. Entry fee: 5 AED
Kite Beach beach is one of the most popular destinations of Dubai’s coast. It is a paradise for water sports lovers and especially popular among kite surfers all around the world. You can play volleyball by the shore of the sea enjoying the vivid blue water and the serenity of the beach. Entry fee: Free
Tip by Trijit from Budget Travel Buff. Find him on Facebook here.
The Dubai Metro
Sometimes, all you have are a few hours between flights. The layover is not long enough to stay the night in Dubai, but too long to while it all away in an airport (and not much is cheap there). Perhaps you want a quick and comfortable way to get around the city’s major sites without frittering away all your money on taxi rides. Well, the Dubai Metro is the solution.
There are two interlinked lines, a red one and a green one, and every station is air-conditioned for comfort. They connect the airport to Old Dubai, the Gold Souk, Burj Khalifa, (soon) the Museum of the Future and many cheap Dubai hotels and malls, in order words, your cheapest and easiest way to see the best places to visit in Dubai.
Fares depend on the number of zones you ride through. Most of the major sites are within two zones, so you won’t need more than 12 AED for a return trip from the airport. You can buy the tickets, which take the form of red NOL cards, at the stations using cash or a credit card.
Tip by Nicholas of Rambling Feet. Find him on Instagram here.
Desert Safari and Camel Rides
Dubai, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, has signs of its wealth everywhere. From the tallest skyscraper in the world to an entirely artificially-man island, there is pretty much nothing you can’t find here. That is except for nature, and not the man-made kind as well.
Located in the Arabian deserts, Dubai is surrounded by beautiful sand dunes and those are one of the most scenic and best places to visit in Dubai. One of my favorite activities in Dubai is to escape all the craziness and go for a desert safari. It is a fully organized tour so you would have to book it in advance or try to find one of the tour companies in Dubai. The tour companies usually offer a morning tour and an afternoon sunset tour. Sunset tours are much better for experiencing the magic of the red dune in the Arabian desert.
The tour usually starts off with dune bashing, which is a lot more terrifying than it sounds. Next, depending on the package you have selected, you might go on a camel ride, a falcon show, shisha, belly dancing, sandboarding, or a fire show. All of this will end with a traditional dinner and a performance at one of the authentic bedouin-styled camps in the desert. It is one of the best ways to learn about Arabic culture and the lifestyle they people once used to have.
Tip by Sean Lau of LivingOutLau.
Al Bastakiya is completely free to visit the area but if you plan to eat in any of the cafes or purchase anything from the galleries you would have to pay accordingly. Al Bastakiya can be found on Al Fahidi Street in Old Dubai and is easily reachable with public transport. The closest metro station is Al Fahidi.
A lesser known fact is that you can actually find a piece of the old Dubai Wall on display which speaks to the history of the place. I’d recommend wandering around the place before settling into a cafe. I’d recommend anything with a rooftop for a stunning view of the sunset but if that’s not your scene then you’re definitely going to want to head to Arabian Tea House. You can get some great tea, fruits and Middle Eastern Dessert here and the interior is very photo friendly.
Tip by Liliane Fawzy of My Toronto, My World. Find her on Facebook here.
Fountain Shows at the Dubai Mall
One of the best things to experience when visiting Dubai are the fountain shows at the Dubai Mall. The Dubai Fountain Show is one of the most well-known fountain shows in the world and totally puts Las Vegas’ fountain show to shame.
The fountains are located right outside the famous Dubai Mall – you can’t miss them. They go off every 30 minutes starting at 6pm until 11pm and are synchronized and choreographed to a different local song every single time. You could stay, sitting and people watching for two hours and see four different shows!
It is even more beautiful when done at sunset so try to get to the early ones- but they are all amazing! Within the Dubai Mall (which is massive and one of the best places to visit in Dubai in and of itself), just follow the signs for the fountains and you will find the outside spot smack in the middle of bustling Dubai.
Of course viewing the fountain show is totally free, which makes it an even better and more relaxed attraction because you really can experience it at your own pace and when you want. It’s amazing how many people come to watch the show each time and the group it brings.
Tip by Rachel Shulman of From East to West. Follow her on Instagram here.
Skydiving over Dubai
The city of Dubai is a favorite among adrenaline junkies and no visit is complete without doing something that is guaranteed to get the heart racing. Skydiving is quite the adventure, but here, the experience is amplified. It has grown in popularity over the years, is quickly becoming one of the leading skydiving destinations in the world.
The views of the city skyline, the man-made islands along the coastline, and the desert is a spectacular sight from 13,000 feet up in the air, where the essence of the city is intensified.
The dive is done in under 45 minutes, free falling through the skies at over 120 miles per hour. No matter the level of experience, this activity is suitable for all. For beginners, qualified instructors guide the entire process while being securely attached. For the experienced, advanced options, the likes of solo skydiving and a flight school are on offer.
The constant sunshine means that this activity is possible year-round, although the best time is during winter from October to March. The price for a tandem skydive is AED1999 and is money well spent for a once in a lifetime experience.
Tip by Rai of A Rai of Light. Find him on Instagram here.
Brunch at Saffron Restaurant in Atlantis Resort
If you are looking for the ultimate day party in Dubai, you should head to the Atlantis Resort on Palm Jumeirah. Atlantis Dubai AKA Atlantis, The Palm is massive. It includes two world-class resorts with celebrity restaurants, signature restaurants and casual fare.
We took the Palm Jumeirah Monorail from the main downtown area of Dubai to Atlantis Resort. On arrival to the resort, it took a while through the crowds, shops and displays to get to Saffron restaurant. Therefore, give yourself extra time.
In Dubai, the weekend days are Friday and Saturday. Brunch on Fridays is very popular. Saffron Restaurant is known for its day party brunch and award-winning Asian buffet. They have a fabulous all you can eat and drink brunch with a DJ. At times it felt more like a club than a restaurant.
There were multiple sections of Asian food, seafood, meats, mixed drinks and desserts. There are over 220 dishes and 20 live cooking stations. It is actually the largest buffet in Dubai. I have never seen another brunch like it.
Your reservation allows four hours to eat and drink. We only spent two hours there and we were stuffed. I highly recommend the brunch at Saffron for groups but make reservations well in advance. The cost is AED 535 per person which includes selected alcoholic beverages. Brunch on Fridays is from 12.30pm to 4.00pm.
Tip by Nadden White of The Sophisticated Life. Find her on Instagram here.
Dubai Miracle Garden
We made a special trip from Oman to Dubai with kids to see the Dubai Miracle Garden, and while I am not a fan of flowers, admittedly, I was astounded by this flowery fairy tale made of over 45 million blooming flowers. In 2013, Dubai Miracle Garden was named the largest vertical garden in the world and its flower wall is on the Guinness World record books for its length.
There are flowers in every color under the sun, and some are created in the shapes of Dubai monuments like the Burj Khalifa tower and even the Emirates Plane. With everything here shaped into arches, hearts, and enveloping houses, it is not hard to see why it is called a “miracle” garden and why it is one of the best places to visit in Dubai.
One can easily downplay the cultivating skills that went into creating this garden until it dawns on you that Dubai is actually set in a desert. The rows in which the flowers are arranged, alongside how the whole system flows, create a sea of colors that gratifies the eyes of even those who don’t like flowers like me.
The Miracle Garden, just like many of Dubai’s attractions, was designed to be self-sustaining, and therefore it is a great addition to the environmental tourist.
Dubai Miracle Garden is just a few of those attractions that will satisfy all your senses and is certainly one of the best places to visit in Dubai.
How to find it: Dubai Miracle Garden is not located close to the most touristy area of the city, but the best way to reach it is from Mall of Emirates. Here, a taxi will take you straight to the garden.
Entrance Fee: 40 AED for adults and 30 AED for children between 3 and 12 years.
Dubai Miracle Garden closes during the summer months (from late May through to September).
Tip by Ania from The Travelling Twins. Find the on Instagram here.
Hummer Dune Bashing
This is a bit of an upgrade on the typical desert safari experiences, the VIP option, and it’s a bit like wrapping many must-do experiences into one. But this goes more so for the car enthusiast as they not only get to experience an affordable ride in a hummer, but they also get to utilize the all-terrain military vehicle in at its best by tackling all sorts of hills and jumps in the sand dunes through the Persian Gulf.
This tour will start out with a rather special hotel pickup in the back of a Humvee which then navigates through the main streets of central Dubai towards the seemingly endless sands of the Arabian Desert that surround it. There may be a stop or two along the way, depending on the package, before the Humvee reaches the start of the Dune Bashing tour where it deflates its tires to go off-road, making it one of the best places to visit in Dubai.
This is where the fun begins. So there are different scenarios, occasionally there will be a convoy of cars ready to leave, and between them, they will weave and dodge one another in a bit of a rollercoaster ride, which is not for the faint-hearted. Otherwise it may just be a leisurely, but still a bit terrifying, drive up and around the sand dunes.
The tours normally take around 20-30 minutes before finishing at a Bedouin-style camp with barbecues, traditional food and entertainment, camel rides, and lots of other local experiences to make the most of a night out in the desert.
Prices start from around 200AED with loads of booking options found online.
Tip by Allan Wilson of It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor. Find him on Instagram here.
Ibn Battuta Mall
Situated on Sheikh Zayed Road, Ibn Battuta Mall is huge shopping complex named after a great explorer, Ibn Battuta. The mall is divided into six country-themed courts, Persian Court being the most popular one which is enveloped by a hand-painted dome.
There are over 270 shops, 50 restaurants and places to eat, a 21-screen cinema, a trampoline park and a bowling alley. The interior tiling and artwork are spectacular as well.
Another unmissable site in Dubai is the Dubai Aquarium, home to over 150 colorful species of fish and other sea life. The main tank holds 10 million litres of water, and amongst hundreds of sharks and rays is the largest collection of sand tiger sharks in the world.
It is located on the ground floor of Dubai Mall and it is possible to view the main massive tank (large enough for glass-bottomed boat tours on its surface) from the mall itself, though nothing quite matches the thrill of heading “into” the tank yourself by entering the 148-meter-long walk-through tunnel. For the adrenaline junkie, cage snorkeling and shark diving are both possible here as well, making it one of the best places to visit in Dubai.
When you visit Dubai make sure to plan in a few hours for La Mer, a newish place that is sure to make everyone’s list of best places to visit in Dubai soon enough.
It represents a different side of Dubai and there is a reason why it has become of the newest hotspots in the city.
La Mer is the perfect place for those who enjoy some beach time in a laid-back atmosphere while still having the positive aspects of a small town with all the restaurants and shops.
Dubai has some beautiful and clean beaches and La Mer area is home to one of them. You can do some water sports, chill or just go for a swim. Fun and cute beach houses (even the toilets/showers are adorable) allow you to take showers and thus make this place perfect spending a full day.
While it is all quite new, the style is shabby and retro-chic with many stylish restaurants, shops. There are also a lot of fun (and not so political) murals to check out.
But of course, there is something else unique with this area: you have beautiful views of Burj Khalifa – the highest building in the world.
Tip: Bring your towels and of course, your bathing suits (no nudist beaches in Dubai). While the beaches are public and free (and so are showers etc) you have to pay an entry fee to visit the water park, Laguna Water Park.
Tip by Arzo Nayel, Owner of Arzo Travels. Follow him on Instagram here.
There you have it, the best places to visit in Dubai
In summary, this is a really unique and unusual place to visit. From basically nothing forty years ago, Dubai has already established itself as a premier tourist destination.
I hope this (lengthy) post gives you inspiration to head there at some point soon.