East meets West in the city of Abu Dhabi. Located in the middle of a stunning desert landscape, the city is the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Abu Dhabi is not only steeped in history, but it is also vibrant, inclusive, and welcoming. Travelers to the emirate will experience majestic dunes, hundreds of miles of stunning coastlines, towering mountains, breathtaking architecture, world-class shopping, dining and entertainment, and so much more. There is something for every type of traveler in Abu Dhabi.
Here is our list of the 10 best things to see and do in Abu Dhabi.
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Founded through a collaboration between Abu Dhabi and France, the Abu Dhabi Louvre opened its doors in 2017. The museum displays art, manuscripts, and historical objects. Spanning millennia, the items on display highlight the shared human experience that transcends geography, nationality, and history.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
One of the largest and most beautiful religious buildings in the world, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture and artistry. The mosque can accommodate more than 40,000 worshippers who kneel to pray on the world’s largest handmade carpet. With its white marble façade, the structure is simply stunning. The mosque sits just across from the equally spectacular Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal. Guided tours are offered daily.
A real iconic Abu Dhabi landmark, this luxurious hotel blends Arabian splendor with the latest technology to create a magical and memorable experience. During the daytime, the hotel’s golden-sandy color contrasts with its fresh green gardens, silvery water fountains, and blue sky. At night, the hotel’s lighting changes subtly, featuring a majestic rainbow-changing effect over the main dome. The main Palace building stretches over half a mile from wing to wing. Its gardens and surroundings spread across 250 acres. Gold, mother of pearl, and crystals dominate the interior.
Yas Island is one of the top tourist spots in Abu Dhabi. Yas Island is where you’ll find the Yas Marina Circuit, which hosts the popular Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Yas Island is also home to the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, a motorsport-themed entertainment complex offering fast and furious fun for all ages. The expansive indoor theme park has more than 20 exhilarating rides and attractions, including the world’s fastest roller-coaster. Another attraction on the island is Yas Waterwold, a water park with 45 rides and slides. Park-goers can surf the world’s largest sheet wave, drop through a 65-foot-high funnel in a six-person raft, or soak up Arabia’s longest suspended roller coaster, the Bandit Bomber.
The Al Ain region is the heritage heartland of the UAE. This is where you’ll find the Al Ain Oasis, UAE’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitor experiences include an introduction to the delicate oasis ecosystem and its 3,000-year-old irrigation system. Visitors will learn about the importance of the oasis in the development of the emirate. This region is also where you’ll find the Al Ain Palace Museum where you can tour the private rooms of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The museum is located on the western edge of the Al Ain Oasis. It was built in 1937 and is typical of historical buildings in the UAE.
The Al Dhafra region is where the desert meets the sea. Al Dhafra has incredible geographic diversity – natural desert, oasis, and island landscapes can all be found here. Desert activities include camping, dune bashing, the art of falconry, safaris, off-road-driving, and sandboarding. This area is home to some of the most luxurious desert resorts nestled between some of the world’s highest dunes in the vast Rub Al Khali desert.
Abu Dhabi Pearl Journey
Before the 1930s, pearling was Abu Dhabi’s most important industry and its primary source of income. Learn about Abu Dhabi’s pearl journey on a 90-minute cruise aboard a traditional wooden dhow through the city’s natural mangroves. The cruise provides the perfect mix of history, culture, and relaxation. Not only will you learn about the history of diving for pearls in Abu Dhabi, but you’ll also get a chance to shuck your own oysters and find your own pearl.
Stunning White Beaches
Abu Dhabi is a destination with not only year-round blue skies but also stunning white-sand beaches. The Corniche beachfront has been awarded coveted Blue Flag status – the internationally renowned eco-label for beaches and marinas that guarantees clean and safe bathing water. Saadiyat Island’s six miles of pristine beachfront was recently named the ‘Middle East’s Leading Beach Destination’ at the World Travel Awards. The Saadiyat Public Beach provides all-day access to the crystal-clear Arabian Gulf waters. Luxury beach resorts like Zaya Nurai Island also offer day passes to visitors.
Sporting Events and Festivals
Abu Dhabi hosts an impressive line-up of world-class events including the annual Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Abu Dhabi Classics, the culinary delights of the Abu Dhabi Food Festival, Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi Art, and the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. Be sure to attend one of these events when visiting Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi is home to a plethora of luxury brands including some regional ‘firsts.’ Explore Nations Galleria’s exclusive collection of shops and restaurants. The Galleria on Al Maryah Island boasts 130 of the world’s most renowned brand outlets. Or head over to the Avenue at Etihad Towers for exclusive VIP treatment in one of the world’s most exclusive boutique collections. The Abu Dhabi Mall has over 200 stores, cinemas, and amusements. Opened in 2001, it offers a wide selection of local specialties such as perfumes, nuts, and Arabic sweets, and is an extravaganza of restaurants, high-end shops, and designer boutiques. The Yas Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi is home to more than 400 international fashion, leisure and entertainment stores. If shopping is your thing, you won’t be disappointed with your vacation in Abu Dhabi and the UAE.