Dubai is a city known for its booming businesses, colorful nightlife and breathtaking buildings. This luxurious city sits smack in the middle of the Arabian Desert, surrounded on one side by dry sand and scorching sun, and on the other, the beautiful Persian Gulf with its miles of vast water.
The city is full of life, proving itself an oasis in the centre of the dunes, gravel and waves. You can stay directly in Dubai, including at the newly opened Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City, and experience many of the city’s spectacular landmarks, both modern and historical. We’ve culled down the choices to the Top 15 things to do in and near Dubai, so you can focus on your unforgettable getaway.
1. Burj Khalifa
This building is the tallest in the world, towering over all of the other tall buildings in the world as it stands at more than 828 meters. Being the tallest building, the Burj Khalifa also has an elevator with the longest travel distance in the entire world. Step inside and let this high-speed elevator take you up to level 124 to the observation deck. At the Top (the observation deck) has glass walls from the floor to the ceiling, giving you breathtaking 360-degree views of Dubai and the surrounding desert and ocean.
2. The Dubai Fountain
Dubai is also home to the world’s largest choreographed dancing water fountain. The Dubai Fountain shoots water high in the sky in sync with various types of music. It performs daily with afternoon and evening shows, which happen every 30 minutes. With five different sized circles, the fountain is 900 feet long and sprays water as high as 500 feet. It’s a must-see at night.
3. Ski Dubai
Who goes to Dubai to ski? Plenty of travelers! Ski Dubai is built entirely indoors and visitors can ski, snowboard and even go tobogganing. No need to take your skis or boards, the park has all equipment available for rent, including instructors for any snow bunnies in your group.
4. Dubai Creek
After spending time in the dry dessert, tourists often feel the urge to return to water. They can’t do better than heading to the saltwater Dubai Creek. Here, visitors can take a relaxing ride on a traditional wooden water taxi called an abra (Watch the video). Stroll along the shore or grab a seat and watch the sun set over the water like the locals. Using the abra is a great way to take in some of the older parts of the city.
5. Al Bastakiya
One of the oldest residential neighborhoods in Dubai is Al Bastakiya, which has become a museum in itself. Established at the end of the 19th century, it is the historic district of Dubai, and tourists can view old architecture that winds through classic, narrow streets.
6. Palm Jumeirah
The world’s largest man-made island, the sometimes controversial Palm Jumeirah has been called the Eighth Wonder of the World. Along with villas and apartments, it features beaches, marinas, restaurants, and a variety of retail outlets surely to fill your Instagram feeds with photos.
7. Dubai Mall
Those who feel like shopping can head to Dubai Mall, the world’s biggest shopping mall. With over 1,200 different shops (and the Dubai Fountain), there truly is something there for everyone. Because of that, the mall receives more than 100 million visitors each year. It’s roughly the size of two football fields put together and even includes an ice rink and an aquarium.
One of the most popular sports in Dubai, Flyboarding was created by French jet-ski designer Franky Zapata. You too can feel like the Green Goblin in Spider-Man. It’s a pretty cool sport … if you dare. Watch it in action.
9. Safa Park
The city’s most popular outdoor space, Safa Park is one of the largest and oldest spots for greenery in Dubai. It features a lake with small boats floating along it, bikes for hire and even a small waterfall. Some of the greenery has given way to one of Dubai’s newest projects, The Dubai Canal.
10. Persian Cuisine
Dubai also offers some of the most delicious Persian food in the world. From kebabs to plates, your options are endless. (Map locations in links below)
- Abshar is a top destination for any lover of Persian food. It’s set among a bunch of shops, but the food is far from food court fare. There are many authentic dishes, but the kebabs are particularly popular. For those who can’t quite decide what to order, there’s even a buffet.
- Anar features elegant decor that is worth seeing for itself. The food is a delicious blend of westernised Persian. While it’s a little on the pricey side, its quality ensures that it’s often crowded, so tourists may be best off visiting the restaurant during off-hours.
- Baku Caspian gives the illusion of a small, intimate, at-home meal. The food is traditional Azerbaijani, which is not always easy to find.
Looking for the thrill of a lifetime? Skydiving in Dubai is the answer. Whether you’re a first time daredevil (which is done tandem) or an experienced jumper, this is the total experience to write home about. Skydive Dubai has two locations, one in the heart of the Dubai and another in the desert. There are strict regulations on weight as well as clothing requirements, so check before you decide to… dive in. Not jumping but wanna watch? SkyDive Dubai Café offers a respite in both locations where you can relax, sip on a drink and watch the descent.
12. Grand Mosque
With its stunning architecture and massive size, Dubai’s Grand Mosque offers free guided walk-in tours for individuals and groups led by dedicated tourist guides. The Mosque is known as one of the most important examples of contemporary Islamic architecture in the world. More FAQs, including appropriate clothing, hours of operation and more.
As with all Dubai mosques except Jumeirah Mosque, it’s off limits to non-Muslims.
13. Bungee Jumping
14. Dubai Museum
The Dubai Museum is located in the Al Fahidi Fort, which was built in 1787 and is the oldest existing building in Dubai. The museum helps illustrate Dubai’s rise from a small fishing village to a global economic city full of wealth and glamour. One of the unique exhibits showcases Dubai’s once profitable profession of pearl diving and includes a life-size diorama of pearl divers.
15. Gold Souk
You have to visit the Gold Souk when in Dubai. Glittering gold lines the traditional market, all selling the precious metal in all shapes and forms. Don’t worry about fakes. The government keeps a tight rein over the quality, so what you buy will be legitimate. Don’t forget to barter! It’s a way of life in the Gold Souk.
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
Another factor that makes Dubai so unique is how modern it is compared to many of its surrounding cities. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre strives to use this modern ethos to help bring awareness and understanding of the native culture and religion of the United Arab Emirates. Through programs and talks, visitors can gain insight and knowledge into the traditions and philosophies behind Islam.
Dubai International Film Festival
The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF)is the city’s most high-profile and glamorous event of the year. Since its beginnings in 2004, Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise and Samuel L. Jackson have graced the red carpet at DIFF alongside Arab celebrities, making it count as one of the top film festivals in the world.
While its liquid-nitrogen infused flavors (saffron pistachio) and worldwide favorites (Oreo cookies) satisfy, Scoopi Cafe is known for The Black Diamond, the most expensive ice cream in Dubai. You will get 23-carat gold flakes and powder, Iranian saffron and Italian black truffles mixed with Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream. The price tag? Roughly $815.
Al Sahra Desert Resort Equestrian Centre
Roam the desert lands of Dubai on horseback or camelback at Al Sahra Desert Resort Equestrian Centre. Any experience level of rider is welcomed to go by horse or camel. Those choosing a horse are out for 1.5 hours riding the desert hills with beautiful scenery and sunsets, while those choosing a camel will spend your 1.5 hours learning about its history, riding your camel for 40 minutes and tasting camel’s milk.
As the most well-established art fair in the Middle East, Art Dubai makes for a compelling reason to visit the country in March. Described as an international art fair with roots in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, the fair has broken new ground for artists in the region and offered unprecedented exposure.