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Best things to do in Dubai

Built in the middle of the desert, Dubai has a lot to offer to its visitors: culture, beach, desert, shopping, luxury, gastronomy and adventure. Want a taste of what awaits you on your trip? Read on!

Best things to do in Dubai

Dubai Skyline | ©Nathan John

Dubai offers a glimpse of the future from the top of its skyscrapers, but you can also travel back in time through its markets and squares and explore the desert. So you don't miss a thing, here's a list of the must-sees on your trip to Dubai:

1. Climb to the top of the Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa disappearing into the blue sky | ©Travel Sourced
The Burj Khalifa disappearing into the blue sky | ©Travel Sourced

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest skyscraper in the world and climbing its observation deck is an experience that will allow you to see the luxury of Dubai from above, plus a water and light show at the foot of the building and wonderful views of the desert stretching beyond the city.

For climbing the Burj Khalifa, my recommendation is to buy your tickets online with anticipation and choose the option you like best, as it has two viewing platforms and several options depending on whether you want to take a general tour or a luxury experience.

2. Discover Dubai and its contrasts on a guided tour

Tradition and modernity in Dubai | ©Fredrik Öhlander
Tradition and modernity in Dubai | ©Fredrik Öhlander

Dubai is one of those cities that is best discovered in the company of a local guide who will reveal all the secrets of its streets, mosques, and souks. Being a city with so many contrasts, it is easy to get lost among so many attractions for the eye, so I recommend you read about Dubai Tours and choose a tour that will undoubtedly change the way you experience Dubai.

3. Take a tour to the majestic Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Mosque | ©Mohammed Bukar
Sheikh Zayed Mosque | ©Mohammed Bukar

It is hard to explain how impressive the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is, which can be visited on a day trip from Dubai. It is one of the largest mosques in the world and is imposing both inside and out, incorporating designs and decorations from different Islamic cultures.

To visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, it is best to hire an organized day trip from Dubai as, in addition to not having to worry about how to get there and how to enter, you will enjoy narration by an expert guide who will give you the historical context of the place and help you understand the rules that you will have to respect throughout your visit.

4. Have a great time at Ferrari World

Aerial view of Ferrari World | ©Aziz J.Hayat
Aerial view of Ferrari World | ©Aziz J.Hayat

And making the most of your trip to Abu Dhabi, you can visit the only amusement park dedicated to the Ferrari team. At Ferrari World, you will find roller coasters, car races, shuttles, and virtual reality experiences to have a great time, inspired by iconic Ferrari cars. You can visit the park from Dubai with this excursion to Abu Dhabi and Ferrari World.

5. Get lost in the ancient streets of the Deira district

Deria Golden Souk | ©neekoh.fi
Deria Golden Souk | ©neekoh.fi

In the Deira neighborhood you will find the old area of the city, and you can walk through the Gold Souk and the Spice Souk, immersing yourself in the authentic essence of Dubai. You can also go to Al Mamzar beach and relax in its green areas.

6. Get to know the old Dubai by touring Al Fahidi

Al Fahidi | ©Francisco Anzola
Al Fahidi | ©Francisco Anzola

Today's Al Fahidi neighborhood is a reconstruction of a traditional area of Dubai where you can see what life was like in the 19th century in the city. Walking through its streets, you will see wind towers and public buildings, which in many cases retain their traditional infrastructure.

In addition to the Sheikh Mohammed Cultural Center, where you can learn the historical context that will enrich your visit, you can visit the Mint Museum, the House of Calligraphy, and the City Hall, places where you can delve into the history and Arab culture and the past of Dubai.

7. Visit the Jumeirah Mosque

Jumeirah Mosque | ©PhareannaH[berhabuk]
Jumeirah Mosque | ©PhareannaH[berhabuk]

The Jumeirah Mosque is one of the few mosques in Dubai that accepts non-Muslim visitors and is, therefore, one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. Its beautiful white facade (which you'll recognize if you've seen a 500 dirham bill) is just as impressive as its interior, and its architecture is a tribute to the medieval Fatimid period.

Once inside you can marvel at the elegant blue and yellow decoration and be inspired by its places of prayer and recollection.

8. Experience sunset in the desert

Sunset in the Dubai desert | ©Kent Tupas
Sunset in the Dubai desert | ©Kent Tupas

Undoubtedly, one of the experiences you have to live in your trip to Dubai is to make a desert day trip. You can do all kinds of activities, such as camel trekking, sandboarding (like snowboarding, but on sand), dune bashing, which is basically riding an SUV and sliding down the dunes, watching falconry shows, and tasting traditional food at an open-air dinner under the stars.

9. Cruise the Dubai Marina

The Dubai Marina | ©Enrico Strocchi
The Dubai Marina | ©Enrico Strocchi

Seeing the Dubai skyline at night while crossing the main channel of the city is quite a spectacle, so this is one of the activities I recommend especially if you are traveling to Dubai as a couple. The boat rides through the Marina usually last around two hours, and it is a perfect way to get to know this area of the city in an alternative way.

10. Enjoy the view from the comfortable sightseeing bus

Dubai sightseeing bus | ©Alan & Flora Botting
Dubai sightseeing bus | ©Alan & Flora Botting

Dubai is one of the cities where it is definitely worth buying a ticket for a tour bus with stops, as during most of the year it can be exhausting to walk around due to the heat. So, I recommend getting on a tourist bus and seeing the whole city from the comfort of your seat (and the coolness of the air conditioning).

11. Go shopping at the Dubai Mall

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

It wouldn't be a trip to Dubai without a morning or afternoon dedicated to shopping. In Dubai, luxury and opulence are two constants, and this is reflected in its shopping malls where you will find almost any brand you can imagine.

Taking advantage of the fact that you will almost certainly pass through Dubai Mall, one of the most famous malls in the city, you can go in to buy souvenirs or treat yourself in one of its many stores. You can also find a good number of restaurants of all kinds of gastronomic offerings.

12. Discover the underwater world of Atlantis Aquaventure

Atlantis Aquaventure Dubai | ©Jeremy Thompson
Atlantis Aquaventure Dubai | ©Jeremy Thompson

The Atlantis hotel in Dubai is one of the most famous hotels in the city for its leisure offerings, which include a water park, a dolphin and other marine animal zoo, and a reconstruction of the seabed in which to experience a diving experience.

Atlantis Aquaventure is one of the places where you can spend the day with children and not run out of fun, so I especially recommend a visit if you are traveling to Dubai with your family.

13. Build your own adventure at Legoland Dubai

Legoland Dubai | ©Jeremy Thompson
Legoland Dubai | ©Jeremy Thompson

Whether as a family or to relive the beautiful moments of childhood, at Legoland Dubai the iconic block-shaped toys come to life as the entire park is built with Lego pieces (nearly 60 million Legos) to create six worlds in which to get lost and let your imagination run wild.

14. Get cultured at the Louvre Abu Dhabi

Louvre Abu Dhabi | ©Matthias Ripp
Louvre Abu Dhabi | ©Matthias Ripp

On a trip to Abu Dhabi, you should not miss visiting the Louvre Museum, an extension of the Louvre Museum in Paris dedicated to Middle Eastern art but whose collection also houses some key works of painting from the rest of the world, with paintings by Vermeer, Leonardo Da Vinci, or Van Gogh. In my opinion, part of what makes this visit very interesting is the architecture of the Museum itself, housed inside a Jean Nouvel building in a symbiosis between the Western and Eastern world.

15. Stand up to a challenge in Skydive Dubai

Skydive Dubai | ©Alan Wilson
Skydive Dubai | ©Alan Wilson

If you've always wanted to free-fall at 120 miles per hour, Dubai is the best place to do it: the views you'll have during the fall will be spectacular (if the adrenaline allows you to enjoy them, of course). For this unique experience, Skydive Dubai is the most famous company among tourists and locals. Of course, this is not an experience for all budgets, but it will certainly be something you will remember forever.

16. Enjoy brunch at Jumeirah Al Qasr

Detail of the Spanish cheese tasting at brunch at the Jumeirah Al Qasr Hotel | ©Krista
Detail of the Spanish cheese tasting at brunch at the Jumeirah Al Qasr Hotel | ©Krista

Dubai is a very modern city adapted to Western tastes, and its bars and cafes have made brunch an institution. The best, according to all the critics, is served at the Jumeirah Al Qasr hotel, both for the quality of the tasting and for the opulent and luxurious surroundings in which you will enjoy an immense brunch: more than 300 dishes to choose from up to thirty-five different cuisines.

Things to do in Dubai