Dubai. The mere mention of the name is enough to tell us what to expect: an oasis of high-end hotels, world-class restaurants and frankly bizarre attractions, all in the middle of the desert. Dubai is not a city to rest on its laurels, the Emirati powerhouse constantly going forward (and skyward), there is always something new to see.
Also Dubai is a city that offers a lot of outdoor activities, sports activities and, as surprising as it may seem, in connection with nature. A crossroads between East and West, it embodies the Arab dream and enjoys an ever-increasing reputation on the world tourist scene. So what to do in Dubai, where to start in this insatiable city?
Here is our guide to the best things to do and visit in Dubai, just to shed some light on your first visit to this surprising city.
1. Burj Khalifa
We do not present her anymore. As a symbol of observation platforms, Burj Khalifa hosts “At The Top” on its 124th floor: a spectacular viewpoint, very popular with visitors (think of the skip-the- line ticket to avoid long queues). A true feat of engineering, this tower which gives the impression of piercing the sky has been voted the tallest building in the world (for the moment) with 828 meters in height (more than 2.5 times the Eiffel Tower). Completed in just six years, it now illustrates Dubai’s desire to reach new heights!
2. Deira, the old town
What if we started with an authentic and typical imprint, often lurking in the shadows? Direction Deïra , the old town of Dubai.
Here, forget the skyscrapers and other traces of modernity: Deïra offers you a face with a thousand and one scents and flavors! From the spice stands to local specialties, taste the country’s gastronomy while taking advantage of the bargains in the souk and its joyful hubbub. The Dubai Museum will offer you a cultural parenthesis on the history of this small fishing village which has become the first city in the United Arab Emirates.
3. Gold Market
Visiting Dubai without going through its riches itself is, so to speak, unthinkable. Beyond the oversized hotels, shops and attractions, the city is home to the biggest gold market… in the world!
Still in Deïra, take advantage of your walk to discover this unique and above all authentic place where enthusiasts, curious people, locals and tourists haggle over opulence with merchandise ranging between 18 and 22 carats. This same merchandise which is moreover scrupulously approved by the State before it is put on sale, so as to authenticate the purchases.
If gold has the upper hand, precious stones, silver but also diamonds have made their way onto the market stands, dressing it up in a little more abundance.
4. A desert safari
Adventurers at heart, look no further than what to do in Dubai during your stay! As a gateway to the desert, the city has a few sports activities to experience over the dunes.
By car or camel, enjoy a safari to discover the desert landscapes, dine in the middle of nowhere, sleep under the stars or meet the Bedouins. You can also enjoy a barbecue in the sand or try your hand at sandboarding, desert surfing.
Take advantage of this moment to appreciate the absolute silence of the desert, facing the sunset. Change of scenery guaranteed!
5. A ski session
Yes, you read that right: it is possible to ski in Dubai in the middle of the desert. For that, you have to go to Ski Dubai, an indoor ski resort in a 4000m² dome located inside the vast Mall of the Emirates shopping center.
Hosting 5 slopes with different inclinations, Ski Dubai has its own ski school, ski lifts and equipment rental companies! So why not take a first ski lesson if you are a beginner (admit that it would be unusual)? Tobogganing or snowboarding enthusiasts, you can in particular treat yourself as if you were there (because in the end, you are there, aren’t you?). At the end of your session, enjoy a hot chocolate in the resort’s bar-café.
6. Dubai Mall
If its ski resort is enough to impress, Dubai Mall has much more in store for its visitors. The city’s flagship symbol, the shopping center is none other than the largest center in the world.
And for good reason, it hosts no less than ten shopping centers in its 1 million m², or 1200 shops! Among the essentials and in addition to its luxurious stores, there is the largest aquarium in the world, a 22-screen cinema, The Address Dubai Mall hotel , as well as an Olympic ice rink.
There is no doubt therefore, if you go through the doors of this place, to say the least, unique in the world, you will not have time to get bored. The question is, where do you start?
7. The beach and the Burj Al Arab
Go hang out at the beach next to the Burj Al Arab, one of the world’s most luxurious hotels that was built to look like a rising sail.
Here you can take the famous photo of yourself standing on the sand with the skyscraper in the background. From its height of 321 meters, it has become one of the emblematic symbols of Dubai.
8. A boat trip
And since we are at the water’s edge, let’s stay there. In one of the leading cities of excess, going for a ride on the water seems logical. So take the opportunity to sail on the Persian Gulf!
But how to do it ? Generation Voyage recommends two options:
An abra cruise
Here’s one of Dubai’s less ‘superfluous’ tours: an abra (water taxi) ride on Dubai Creek. Your traditional boat will take you to the old town divided into two districts (Bur Dubai and Deïra) where you will discover a totally different atmosphere from modern Dubai, notably through various emblematic sites and monuments such as the Women’s Museum.
The visit will continue to the palace of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum via the Dubai World Trade Centre , the Jumeirah Mosque or the Museum of Islamic Arts.
An experience rich in discoveries that will allow you, among other things, to discover the history of the city through time.
Rent a boat
The other possibility is more independent. Indeed, by renting a boat in Dubai between individuals, you will be masters of your program. No schedules, no constraints!
In addition, the opportunity would be perfect to discover Abu Dhabi , the other megalopolis of the United Arab Emirates.
9. Jumeirah Mosque
Non-Muslims are rarely allowed to see inside a mosque, but at Jumeirah Mosque, the “Open Doors. Open Minds” (open doors, open minds) allows you to visit it.
Joining a guided tour is ideal because not only will you be able to see the vast interior of this Fatimid-style architectural marvel, but you can also ask the guide anything you want, whether it’s about the local culture or of Islam itself.
10. The Dubai Fountain
The Dubai Fountain is actually a set of fountains that are found in the lake of the Burj Khalifa. They are the largest dancing fountains on the planet, measuring 275 meters in length and projecting water 275 meters in height (150 meters previously).
There are shows every day in the early afternoon and every 30 minutes from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. but also boat trips on the lake from which you can admire the show of the famous fountains!
11. City parks
In Dubai, there are many green parks where one can walk and relax. If you want to jog or walk, parks like Dubai Creek Park, Zabeel Park, Safa Park, or Al Mamzar Beach Park are good choices. Excellent for picnicking and meeting people of all nationalities, these places are lively because they are very popular with visitors and locals.
It is also pleasant to stroll along the Jumeirah Beach Residence (area in which you can also book your accommodation ) and the Dubai Marina, with many cafes and restaurants to sit down.
12. Dubai Marina
Want to visit Dubai at its best? Appreciated by locals and visitors alike, the Dubai Marina reveals the city’s more modern side. Considered as the “New Dubai”, the district has erected many buildings within it in which there are many hotels, shopping centers and supermarkets.
Known to be dynamic and lively, Dubai Marina is an unmissable meeting place in Dubai: people like to walk there, eat there, party there or simply observe its play of light after dark. Thrill seekers can book a jet ski session there while others will live idleness aboard a yacht for a luxury cruise.
And if you like urban panoramas, go up to the 52nd floor of the Dubai Marriott Harbor Hotel: in addition to housing suites ideal for an unforgettable stay , the latter houses the bar-restaurant “The Observatory” which promises you a view to breathtaking Dubai Marina!
13. Sheikh Mohammed Center
This center aims to broaden awareness and understanding between the different cultures that exist in Dubai. Created under the same project as the Jumeirah Mosque “open doors, open minds”, this intercultural center tries to break down barriers between people of different nationalities by raising awareness of the culture, customs and religion of the Arab Emirates. United.
In general, we go there for a cultural lunch to discover the local traditional cuisine: a privileged moment in which the exchange leads to meetings and intercultural communication.
14. Amusement parks
To delight young and old, Dubai obviously has a lot of amusement parks and other activities full of thrills:
– “ Wild Wadi Water Park ” or “ Aquaventure ”: a huge water park in which rivers, waves and rapids call for adrenaline and fun. Dolphin lovers will even be able to treat themselves to an exceptional moment by swimming with the mammals.
– “ Children’s City ”: theme park par excellence, Chidren’s City is ideal for children from 2 to 15 years old. Educational and fun, the park houses learning spaces such as a planetarium, a nature center and a space reserved for the discovery of the human body.
– “ Motiongate Dubai ”: what to do in Dubai as a cinema enthusiast? Go on a cinematic adventure at Montiongate Dubai located 25 minutes from Dubai Marina. Home to three film studios (Columbia Pictures, DreamWorks Animation and Lionsgate), the amusement park takes you behind the scenes of the big screen through 27 rides and 15 multimedia experiences! To prolong the experience, you can enjoy the show in the Hollywood theatre.
– “ Legoland ”: passionate about emblematic bricks, how about diving into the world of your dreams? Direction Legoland, the amusement park with 15,000 constructions made of more than 60 million LEGO bricks. On the program, a lot of attractions, 6 different universes and a visit to the LEGO factory. A little anecdote: you can pass your LEGOLAND license in the park’s official driving school!
– “ Green Planet ”: a world tour of tropical flora and fauna, would you like it? For that, go to Green Planet. With its own ecosystem, the so-called educational facility houses an enchanting world where 3000 species and animals live in harmony. From birds to bats to snakes and monkeys, Green Planet invites young and old to come and discover the wonders of the Earth by instilling the need to preserve them.
15. Dubai Flyovers
Dubai seen from the sky, it is the essential trend to visit the city. The possibilities are endless and the spectacle guaranteed.
– By helicopter : among the most famous overflights, the helicopter is one of the pioneers. Seen from the sky and in complete privacy, enjoy a privileged moment that will surely leave your head in the clouds.
– In a hot air balloon : in Dubai, everything is possible, everything is achievable. So if you’ve always dreamed of boarding a hot air balloon, why not enjoy an extraordinary safari? From the air, enjoy an incredible panorama of the Dubai desert! Upon landing, a gourmet breakfast will await you before taking the road aboard a Land Rover towards the Dubai Nature Reserve.
– By seaplane : another trend and not the least, flying by seaplane. From the waters of Dubai, enjoy an individual window installation aboard a seaplane that will take you soaring over the most beautiful sights of the city. A unique panorama for an experience that is just as unique.
16. Al Quoz
Rather discreet, often in the shadow of extravagance, Dubai’s artistic heritage is nevertheless worth a detour. To discover it, go to Al Quoz, the cultural and artistic district par excellence that appeals to design lovers and contemporary enthusiasts alike.
As a real scene, the district highlights art galleries where young shoots and undisputed talents express their work there. In addition to exhibitions, Al Quoz also hosts cultural events, concept stores, bars and other organic and vegan restaurants. Or how to visit Dubai from another angle!
17. Abu Dhabi
If you are wondering what to do in Dubai to get out of its classics, head to Abu Dhabi. No less known but just as interesting, the capital of the United Arab Emirates also reserves its share of riches and unmissable sights . During an excursion departing from Dubai, discover this queen city of oil which fascinates every traveler who passes through its doors.
Beyond its economic reputation, Abu Dhabi is home to The Great Mosque (or Sheikh Zayed Mosque) with 1,000 columns and 80 domes. The result of titanic work, since 2007 the Grand Mosque has been integrating the essentials of Abu Dhabi, giving a new look to its tourism. And for good reason, we often compare its size with Mecca! Departing from Dubai, there are excursions to Abu Dhabi to visit the Grand Mosque: in any case, remember to bring covered clothing adapted to the site.
If Abu Dhabi hosts the Hotel Emirates Palace, the most expensive hotel in the world that it is possible to visit, the competitor of Dubai offers in particular beautiful walks along its famous Corniche. You can also treat yourself to a cultural break at the Heritage Village, an open-air museum that tells the story of the locals before the discovery of oil, or dive into the world of the famous red car at Ferrari World .