Dubai in 1 day: the must-see sights

Do you have a day in Dubai? Perfect, you can take a whole experience of this city of contrasts. In this post I tell you the keys to see the most important things.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

11 min read

Dubai in 1 day: the must-see sights

Dubai Beach | © Christoph Schulz

The city of Dubai, capital of the Emirate, has a lot to discover. Whether you prefer a historical walk, a day of shopping or a stroll along the seaport, this is the destination for you. In this post I tell you a tour of the most special places in Dubai that you can enjoy in one day. You will love them: you can discover the city's past, enjoy a view from the heights or visit a water zoo.

Start the day early with a stroll along Dubai Creek

Walk along Dubai Creek| ©Stefan Wisselink
Walk along Dubai Creek| ©Stefan Wisselink

When you think of Dubai what comes to mind? Surely not a humble traditional city. However, that's what it was until not so long ago, before big buildings started to be built and the city became a symbol of luxury and modernity.

I advise you to make the most of your day in Dubai by starting with a walk through the oldest part of the city. On the banks of the river began to settle the first inhabitants, who were dedicated to trade in pearls and fish. If you are really interested in learning about the history of Dubai, I recommend booking a tour of old and modern Dubai.

Today you can still feel this old city style with a walk along the water. I especially recommend the Deira Creek or Heritage Village areas to enjoy on foot.

Book a tour of old and modern Dubai

Cruise along Dubai Creek

Dubai Creek| ©Stefano Brivio
Dubai Creek| ©Stefano Brivio

If walking along the banks of Dubai Creek makes you want to cross the water, you can do so in a traditional boat. Abra, traditional Dubai boats, cost about 28 euros per hour, regardless of the number of people on board.

You can also take a ferry from which to enjoy the views to the north and south. On each side is one of the historic districts of the city. To the south you can see Bur Dubai, the most modern area, and to the north the more traditional Deira. There are two interesting routes that you can enjoy by ferry if you take a cruise on the Dubai Marina. Both last about an hour and cost about 12 € (about 50 AED):

  • A tour of the oldest and most traditional area of Dubai. It departs from the Al Gubaiba pier, on the shore of Bur Dubai. There are two departures a day, at 17:00 and 19:00.
  • From Dubai Marina, the second ferry route takes you to the Jumeirah Palm. It departs daily at 9:00 and 11:00 am.

Another fabulous option is to book a yacht tour of the Dubai Marina to see the main sights of Dubai, view its breathtaking skyline and enjoy a fantastic lunch or dinner, depending on the time you choose. Not to be missed!

Book a yacht tour of the Dubai Marina

Visit a beautiful historic district: Al Fahidi

Through the streets of Al Fahidi| ©Ankur Panchbudhe
Through the streets of Al Fahidi| ©Ankur Panchbudhe

You are very close: Al Fahidi is also located in Bur Dubai, the traditional part of the city. It is a historic neighborhood full of very striking buildings.

Although today we understand Dubai as a center of modernity, the old quarter with its Arab architecture buildings is a marvel. In fact, it has been named a World Heritage Site and is prepared for tourism with a lot of charm.

But it is not only buildings that offer you a walk through the neighborhood. In addition to the wind towers, you can lose yourself in beautiful narrow streets, visit museums and art galleries or sample the local cuisine. With its unique flavor, the Al Fahidi area will stick in your memory. It is not to be missed!

Book a tour of Dubai

Take a stroll through the textile souk

Visiting the Dubai Souk| ©Jaime Ortola Crespo
Visiting the Dubai Souk| ©Jaime Ortola Crespo

You can't leave Dubai without visiting one of the typical old Arabian markets, a souk, and practicing your haggling skills. Or at least try to, because mastering this technique takes time.

There are three main souks in Dubai:

Today the souks have been converted by tourism and you will see that more souvenirs than textiles are sold, but book a tour of the souks of Dubai is an irresistible plan if you like shopping. In addition, many of the typical tailors have converted their workshops into stores, although you can still find offers to have a good tailor-made suit made.

Book a tour of the souks of Dubai

Taste the traditional flavors of Dubai

Entrance to the Sheikh Mohammed Cultural Center| ©Lyleham
Entrance to the Sheikh Mohammed Cultural Center| ©Lyleham

The Al Fahidi neighborhood is perfect for sampling the local cuisine. There are many places to choose from. When it's time to refuel on your tour of the city, I advise you to book a Dubai street food tour... or visit one of these two places I recommend.

A Bedouin meal at the Center for Cultural Understanding

You can pause your walk to visit the Center for Cultural Understanding's restaurant, in a restored wind tower, where they prepare authentic Emirati cuisine while offering a program of talks on local culture.

Under their motto "Open doors, open minds" they offer a free experience: from cultural meals, where they answer questions from visitors, to guided tours of one of the best mosques in Dubai.

They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to share sitting on the floor, in the Bedouin tradition. Quite an experience! Remember to make a reservation to ensure a seat, because it fills up. You can also stop by for coffee in the typical finjaan cups, served directly from a dallah coffee pot. The Center is located on Al Musalla Rd.

Taste the updated tradition: Aseelah Restaurant

And for a fusion of traditional and contemporary cuisine, don't miss Aseelah Restaurant in the heart of the old city. It is decorated with Arabic elements and in the center of the restaurant there is an impressive jute tree.

Traditional dishes such as samak or Arabian lobster...finger-licking good! Prices vary depending on what you order, of course. There are options from about 40€, but the bill per person can go up a lot depending on the dish. You can find it on Baniyas Rd.

Book a street food tour of Dubai

Enjoy the impressive Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall| ©mostafa meraji
Dubai Mall| ©mostafa meraji

Now that you know the old and traditional Dubai, I propose a radical change of scenery: visit the Dubai Mall.

How to get there

You can take the green metro line to Burjuman station and there connect with the red line to Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall.

By public transport it will take you about an hour. You can buy an unlimited travel card for one day for about 5€. You can also get there by cab or Uber. The trip takes about 20 minutes and costs about 8€. If you see a pink cab, it is a vehicle driven by women and only offers its services to other women.

What you will find

The truth is that Dubai's shopping malls are amazing and I find the Dubai Mall the most impressive in the city. In fact, it is the largest mall in the world.

They are not just a place for shopping: inside this huge complex you can find all these attractions and experiences:

  • There's a skating rink, the ** Dubai Ice Rink**, where if you're lucky you can witness a snowfall.
  • There is also an impressive indoor waterfall. You wouldn't expect it, inside a shopping mall.
  • Its aquarium has 300 species of animals, including rays or sharks, open from Sunday to Wednesday between 10:00 and 22:00, the price is around 38 € and I recommend buying tickets for the Dubai Aquarium in advance.
  • A flight simulator, with which you can sit in the pilot's seat of the A380. You have to get tickets in advance. The price is around 85 € for half an hour.
  • If you go with children, do not miss the haunted house or the children's theme park (KidZania). Of course, reservations are required. The entrance to KidZania costs around 50€ per person.
  • Of course, there are also stores: more than 1,200 and from all over the world, such as Bloomigsdale or Galeries Lafayette Haussmann.
  • You can also visit a diplodocus fossil, 7 meters high, 24 meters long. Yes, just like the ones in the movies.
  • And if you get hungry suddenly, don't worry: there are restaurants for all tastes and ages.

Book tickets for the Dubai Aquarium

Visit the Miracle Garden

Visiting the Miracle Garden| ©Oiva Eskola
Visiting the Miracle Garden| ©Oiva Eskola

The Miracle Garden is a Garden in Dubailand that opened on Valentine's Day 2013 and soon became a tourist attraction.

How to get there

From the Mall of Emirates or Mall of Dubai you can get directly by public transport to the Miracle Garden. It takes about 20 minutes by bus 105, as well as by cab or Uber.

What you will find

This visit is even more impressive if you remember that Dubai is built in a desert area. This is the largestplanted flower gardenin the world (it is 72,000 square meters and 45,000 planted flowers). The flowers are arranged in shapes such as hearts or stars.

Details of interest

  • Price: The entrance to the garden costs about 11 euros approximately.
  • Hours: The garden is open from 09:00 to 21:00, but only six months a year, the winter months. The climate in Dubai is so hot from June to October that the plants in summer can't stand it.

Stroll around Downtown Dubai and Business Bay

Downtown Dubai| ©Francisco Anzola
Downtown Dubai| ©Francisco Anzola

Be sure to take a stroll through Dubai's downtown district. Downtown Dubai is a touristy and modern area, with surprising corners and a fast pace of life.

From the Business Bay, the business district, you can take a selfie with the city skyline, including the towers of the luxurious JW Marriott Marquis Dubai hotels. And wandering the streets of the neighborhood you'll find everything from the Dubai Opera to international fashion boutiques.

What you'll find

A neighborhood full of life, with the buildings and experiences of modern Dubai.

Climb the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest skyscraper

View of the Dubai Mall from the Burj Khalifa| ©elisasophia
View of the Dubai Mall from the Burj Khalifa| ©elisasophia

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest skyscraper in the world and one of Dubai's landmarks. It is located in an area known as Downtown Dubai and is 828 meters high. But don't worry, you'll get there fast: the elevators are high-speed.

How to get there

From Jumeirah Beach you can get there on foot, it's about a 15-minute walk. If you are coming from another part of the city, getting to the Burj Khalifa is easy.

Enjoy the city from the top

You can climb to the 124th and 125th floors and enjoy a 360º view from the top of the Burj Khalifa that includes the city, the sea and the desert. Be careful if you are afraid of heights! In the viewpoints on these floors, the floor is made of glass.

It is very popular to go up at sunrise or sunset: at these hours, the impression is even more intense. There is another even higher observation deck, on the 148th floor, and if the heights make you hungry, you can have a drink at the world's highest coffee shop: The Lounge Burj Khalifa.

The tour also includes a multimedia presentation on the history of Dubai and how this skyscraper was built. I recommend getting your ticket for the Burj Khalifa online. The price is around 40 € per person and must be booked.

Book your tickets for the Burj Khalifa

Contemplate the spectacle of the fountains

Dancing fountain at Burj Khalifa| ©Vasilis blioumis
Dancing fountain at Burj Khalifa| ©Vasilis blioumis

What time is it? 18:00? Come on down! 300 meters from the Burj Khalifa, there is a water show that does not disappoint. At the Burj Lake, there is a daily show in a 275-meter-long fountain. Its water jets reach 150 meters high.

But if you want the plan to be even more spectacular, in pure Dubai style, I recommend that you buy tickets for the fountain show that includes a night ride on a traditional boat and pick up and transfer back to the hotel. In luxury!

Interesting facts

  • Where: In front of the Burj Dubai, on the terrace of Dubai Mall.
  • Hours: Every day from 18:00 to 23:00, every 30 minutes.

Book tickets for the fountain show

Dinner in Dubai Downtown

Visiting The Royal Orchid Restaurant| ©Royal Orchid Restaurant
Visiting The Royal Orchid Restaurant| ©Royal Orchid Restaurant

It's time to stop for a break and a drink, isn't it? The Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa neighborhood is called Dubai Downtown and is the center of the modern city. Here you can find restaurants for all tastes and budgets: from fast food to fine dining.

My favorites? Here they go:

  • The Royal Orchid: On Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard is this restaurant specializing in Far Eastern dishes, from Japan to Thailand. The dishes are presented with care and the flavors are very well cared for. The price is about 50 € per person (depending on what you order, of course) and, yes, reservations are required.
  • Neos: Located on the 63rd floor of a skyscraper, you can enjoy a drink or a snack while watching the spectacle of the fountains from a unique place. You can find it on Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, the price is around 69 € and the place has a dress code: you can not go up in shorts or flip-flops. Quite an experience.

Before we start

Dubai by night| ©Tom Chen
Dubai by night| ©Tom Chen

You're already looking forward to the trip, aren't you? Wait a minute! I have to tell you something else: You have two options: go on your own or book an organized tour.

Do you prefer to book an organized tour or travel on your own?

First of all, you can choose to hire an organized tour. Some of them take the whole day (they last about 9 hours) and offer you a guided tour of the most emblematic places in Dubai.

  • They cost around 90€ per person per day. I advise you to review the proposals in this post and choose an excursion that includes the points that interest you most.

  • If you are interested in this option in a very comfortable version, check the offer of tourist buses in Dubai that travel around the city.

You can also visit these places on your own. As this is a day visit, in this case I recommend you to use cab or Uber. Public transportation is safe and inexpensive, but much slower, so don't waste your time in the city! If you choose this option, you can also find guided tours to specific points along the route. For example, there are several tours that go through the Al Fahidi neighborhood with a guide who will answer all your questions. This tour lasts about an hour and a half and costs around 28€.

This is the end of our tour. What a day! I hope you enjoyed the itinerary.

Book your seat on the Dubai sightseeing bus