Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is a city where luxury meets tradition, set against the backdrop of the Arabian Gulf. For those considering things to do in Abu Dhabi, visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, an architectural marvel and one of the world’s largest mosques, and exploring the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a museum showcasing a vast array of art and artifacts from around the globe, are top activities.
The city’s Corniche, a picturesque waterfront promenade, offers a relaxing escape with its pristine beaches, landscaped gardens, and scenic views. Nearby, the Emirates Palace, a luxurious hotel, provides a glimpse into Abu Dhabi’s opulence, with its grand architecture and lavish interiors.
Beyond its urban attractions, Abu Dhabi is also known for its adventure activities, from dune bashing in the desert to water sports in the Arabian Gulf. For those seeking the best places to visit in the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi’s blend of cultural richness, modern amenities, and thrilling experiences makes it a standout destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
This architectural work of art is one the world’s largest mosques, with a capacity for an astonishing 40,000 worshippers. It features 82 domes, over a thousand columns, 24-carat gold gilded chandeliers and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. The reflecting pools that surround the mosque enhance its beauty, making it a photographer’s paradise.
Travel Tip: Visitors should dress modestly, covering arms, legs, and head, but the mosque also provides traditional attire if needed.
2. Louvre Abu Dhabi
Designed by the renowned architect Jean Nouvel, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is an art and civilization museum, the largest in the Arabian peninsula. Its web-patterned dome allows the sun to filter through, creating an inspiring effect known as the “rain of light.” The museum displays art from all over the world, highlighting the shared stories of humanity.
Travel Tip: Buy tickets online to skip the queues, and visit on a weekday to avoid the crowds.
3. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Ferrari World is an adrenaline-packed theme park on Yas Island, featuring Ferrari-inspired rides and attractions, the biggest Ferrari store, and a range of Italian eateries. It’s home to Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster, which reaches speeds of up to 240 km/h.
Travel Tip: Purchase the tickets online for a discount and to avoid waiting in line, and consider a fast pass if you’re short on time.
4. Emirates Palace
Emirates Palace is a luxury hotel with stunning traditional Arabian elements. Even if you’re not staying there, the hotel’s opulent public areas are worth a visit. You can stroll around and admire the decor, enjoy a high tea, or even sample a 24-carat gold-flavored cappuccino.
Travel Tip: Respect the dress code when visiting; it is a high-end establishment, so smart casual is recommended.
5. Qasr Al Watan
More than just a palace, Qasr Al Watan is a cultural monument that invites the world to share in the UAE’s culture, knowledge, and inspiring journey. It gives visitors a unique insight into the Arab heritage and the governing principles that shaped the history of the UAE.
Travel Tip: There’s an impressive light and sound show in the evening; try to time your visit to conclude with this display.
6. Yas Waterworld
Yas Waterworld offers an exciting range of water-based rides for all ages, including high-speed thrill rides and more leisurely attractions. With a distinct Emirati theme, it’s one of the leading waterparks in the region.
Travel Tip: Weekdays are less crowded than weekends, and remember to bring sunscreen, as the sun can be quite strong, even through the occasional misting stations.
7. The Corniche
The Corniche Road offers an eight-kilometer stretch of manicured waterfront that includes children’s play areas, bicycle and pedestrian pathways, cafes and restaurants, and the Corniche Beach.
Travel Tip: The public beach has a small entry fee, but it’s worth it for the well-maintained facilities and clean sands. Sunset walks along the Corniche are particularly stunning.
8. Etihad Towers Observation Deck
For the best panoramic views of Abu Dhabi’s skyline, visit the observation deck at Etihad Towers. This vantage point gives visitors a bird’s eye view of the city and the Arabian Gulf.
Travel Tip: Consider visiting just before sunset to enjoy both day and nighttime views; there’s also a high tea option for those who fancy it.
9. Saadiyat Island
This natural island is a cultural haven that is set to house the Zayed National Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, and a performing arts center. It’s already home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi and offers pristine beaches, luxury resorts, and high-end dining options.
Travel Tip: Check out the schedule for art exhibitions and workshops that are frequently held here.
10. Al Ain Oasis
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest oasis in the city of Al Ain, which is part of the Abu Dhabi Emirate. With thousands of date palms and ancient falaj irrigation systems, it provides a unique glimpse into the region’s inhabitants’ traditional way of life.
Travel Tip: Visit the Eco-Centre to learn about the oasis’s ecosystem before exploring the shaded walkways through the palm groves.
11. Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi
Immerse yourself in the whimsical world of Warner Bros. with this indoor theme park that brings to life beloved characters from Bugs Bunny to Batman. Packed with thrilling rides, interactive family-friendly attractions, and live entertainment, it’s a must-visit for film and cartoon fans of all ages.
Travel Tip: Go on a weekday to avoid the crowds and consider purchasing a Flash Pass to skip the lines on the busiest rides.
12. Mangrove National Park
An ecological wonder right in the heart of Abu Dhabi, Mangrove National Park offers a peaceful escape from the city with its rich biodiversity. Kayaking tours are a popular way to explore the mangroves and spot wildlife like herons and flamingos.
Travel Tip: Book a guided kayaking tour to learn more about the mangroves and the best times to visit for birdwatching.
13. Al-Hosn Fort (Qasr al-Hosn)
Known as the White Fort or Old Fort, this is the oldest stone building in the city of Abu Dhabi. It has been beautifully restored to its former glory and now houses a museum that traces the history and culture of Abu Dhabi.
Travel Tip: Visit during one of the cultural events or exhibitions that are often held here to see the fort come alive with the arts.
14. Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
This unique hospital is dedicated to the care and treatment of falcons, a bird deeply embedded in the Emirati culture. Visitors can tour the facilities, learn about the importance of falconry in the region, and even witness falcons swooping through a free-flight aviary.
Travel Tip: Make sure to book your tour in advance as the hospital operates on a strict schedule and spaces are limited.
15. Yas Marina Circuit
For motorsport enthusiasts, a visit to the Yas Marina Circuit is a thrilling experience. This is the venue for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and offers a range of driving experiences where visitors can get behind the wheel or ride shotgun in a high-performance vehicle.
Travel Tip: Check the schedule for public track days when you can drive your own car or bike on the circuit.
16. Heritage Village
Heritage Village is an authentic replica of a typical Bedouin village that gives an insight into the pre-oil era in the UAE. There are demonstrations of traditional crafts like metalwork, pottery, weaving, and spinning.
Travel Tip: Plan to visit during the cooler months when live demonstrations are more frequent, and you can comfortably explore the outdoor areas.
17. Al Maryah Island
This premier lifestyle destination is known for its upscale shopping, dining, and entertainment options, set against a backdrop of sleek skyscrapers and waterfront promenades.
Travel Tip: Time your visit to coincide with one of the island’s many events, such as the seasonal festivities or fashion shows, for an extra touch of glamour.
18. Al Lulu Island
Accessible via boat, Al Lulu Island offers beaches, swimming, and picnicking in a more relaxed setting. The island is still undeveloped in many areas, giving it a castaway feel.
Travel Tip: The island’s facilities are basic, so bring your own food and water, and remember to take your trash back with you to keep the environment clean.
19. Abu Dhabi Art Hub
The Art Hub is an artist community that provides platforms for local and international artists to collaborate and showcase their work. Regular exhibitions, workshops, and cultural events make it a vibrant space for the artistic community.
Travel Tip: Visit on an opening night of an exhibition for a chance to meet the artists and perhaps even catch a live painting session.
20. Al Ain Zoo
Al Ain Zoo is a sizeable zoological park in the city of Al Ain and has been a center for endangered species conservation, particularly focusing on the native fauna of the Arabian Peninsula. Visitors can enjoy animal encounters, a safari experience, and learn about wildlife conservation efforts.
Travel Tip: Visit during the cooler parts of the day when the animals are most active, and consider attending the bird show or feeding experiences for an interactive element.
21. Jebel Hafeet
This towering rocky height is the second highest peak in the United Arab Emirates and offers some of the most stunning views of the desert. A smooth road winds up to the top, leading to a well-appointed viewing area.
Travel Tip: The drive to the summit is spectacular at sunrise or sunset, but the road can be busy on weekends, so consider a weekday trip.
22. Masdar City
A model city located near Abu Dhabi International Airport, Masdar is a hub for clean technology and sustainable urban development. The city is not only a business zone but also offers a glimpse into the future with its innovative eco-friendly architecture and renewable energy systems.
Travel Tip: The best way to explore Masdar City is by joining a guided tour that will educate you on the sustainable technologies and innovative designs employed throughout the development.
23. The Galleria Al Maryah Island
For those seeking a luxury retail experience, The Galleria on Al Maryah Island boasts a selection of high-end shops and boutiques. It’s not just a shopping destination but also offers fine dining and entertainment options.
Travel Tip: The mall often hosts events and activities, especially for families during the weekends, so check the calendar for any special happenings.
24. Khalifa Park
Khalifa Park is one of Abu Dhabi’s largest and most beautiful parks, featuring a maritime museum, a time tunnel ride, and beautifully landscaped gardens. It’s an ideal spot for family picnics, a leisurely stroll, or just to escape the bustle of the city.
Travel Tip: The park has a small entry fee, but it’s worth it for the well-maintained and serene environment. Also, check out the park’s train tour for a relaxed overview of the entire area.
25. Abu Dhabi’s Eastern Mangroves
Another spot to admire the beauty of Abu Dhabi’s mangroves is along the Eastern Mangroves Promenade. With a mix of luxury accommodation, retail, and dining options set against the natural backdrop of the mangroves, it’s a unique spot to relax and enjoy the outdoors.
Travel Tip: Consider renting a kayak to explore the mangroves up close and take advantage of the calm waters early in the morning.
26. Hudayriat Island
This recreational island offers a wide range of sporting activities, from cycling and running tracks to wakeboarding and kite surfing. It’s a great place for outdoor enthusiasts and families looking for an active day out.
Travel Tip: Hudayriat Island is perfect for picnics, so pack some food and enjoy a meal with scenic views of the Abu Dhabi skyline.
27. Zayed National Museum
Although still under construction during my last update, this museum is set to be the centerpiece of the cultural district on Saadiyat Island. Once open, it will tell the story of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, his role in the formation of the UAE, and the history of the region.
Travel Tip: Keep an eye on the progress of the museum and plan your visit to coincide with its opening events which are bound to be significant cultural highlights.
28. Al Ain Camel Market
For a truly traditional Emirati experience, the camel market in Al Ain offers a glimpse into the trade and significance of camels in Arab culture. It’s one of the last of its kind in the UAE and provides a fascinating insight for visitors.
Travel Tip: Visit early in the morning when the market is most active, and don’t hesitate to engage with sellers to learn more about the camels – but always be respectful and ask before taking photos.
FAQ About Things to Do in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
What are must-visit places in Abu Dhabi for first-time visitors?
First-time visitors should not miss the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque for its stunning architecture, the Louvre Abu Dhabi for a dose of culture, the Ferrari World for thrilling rides, and the Emirates Palace for a glimpse into opulent luxury.
Is there a place to experience the desert in Abu Dhabi?
Yes, you can immerse yourself in the desert by visiting the Rub’ al Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter. Many companies offer desert safaris which include dune bashing, camel rides, and a traditional Bedouin camp experience.
Can visitors explore the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital?
Indeed, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital offers a unique experience where visitors can learn about the care of these majestic birds and the importance of falconry in Emirati culture through guided tours.
Are there any water activities in Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi boasts a beautiful coastline and offers a variety of water activities like jet skiing, kayaking in the Eastern Mangroves, and even scuba diving to explore the underwater life in the Arabian Gulf.
What family-friendly activities are available in Abu Dhabi?
Families can enjoy a day at Yas Waterworld, visit the Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi theme park, explore the interactive exhibitions at the Children’s Museum in the Louvre Abu Dhabi, or relax at one of the city’s many public beaches.
Can I visit the Presidential Palace, Qasr Al Watan?
Yes, Qasr Al Watan is open to the public and provides a closer look at the political and cultural legacy of the UAE. Visitors can explore the grand architecture, beautifully landscaped gardens, and various exhibitions within the palace.
What are the best shopping experiences in Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi offers a mix of traditional and modern shopping experiences. You can visit the high-end shops at The Galleria on Al Maryah Island, explore the traditional markets like the Carpet Souk, or find local crafts at the World Trade Center Souk.
Are there any cultural experiences specific to Abu Dhabi?
Certainly, visitors can take a guided tour of the cultural district on Saadiyat Island, attend a performance at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, or participate in a traditional Emirati meal and conversation with a local family through the Cultural Foundation’s programs.