You want to visit Abu Dhabi from Dubai, but you don't know yet how to organize your day and especially what to do in Abu Dhabi? Here is my review of what to do in Abu Dhabi!
Historic buildings, prestigious hotels, museums, unforgettable tourist attractions... one thing is for sure, there is no lack of activities in Abu Dhabi! In the capital of the United Arab Emirates, which is still somewhat in the shadow of Dubai, there are many places of interest awaiting you. If you're planning to visit Abu Dhabi from Dubai, here are some of the places you should definitely check out, and the activities you should definitely try during your stay!
SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is truly the most iconic place in Abu Dhabi. It is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates, and an absolutely unique piece of architecture. It blends different Muslim inspirations by bringing together elements of the Mamluk, Ottoman and Fatimid styles. In total, this mosque is composed of more than 1,000 columns and 82 domes covered with white marble and decorated with golden mosaics.
The visit of the mosque is free and the building is accessible, including for non-Muslims, from 9 am to 10 pm from Saturday to Thursday, and from 4:30 pm to 10 pm on Fridays. In order to enter the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, you will be required to follow a strict dress code and have your shoulders and knees covered. Women must wear a veil or headscarf for the visit, and traditional dresses can be lent to you free of charge at the entrance of the building.
DISCOVER ABU DHABI MOSQUE ON A GUIDED CITY TOUR
If you are staying in Dubai, you can opt for a day tour that includes round-trip transportation to downtown Abu Dhabi, to see one or more places in a day.
You will be picked up directly from your hotel and, accompanied by a English-speaking guide, you will have the opportunity to explore the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, as well as other iconic sites in Abu Dhabi - such as the Corniche, Emirates Palace, Etihad Towers, Marina Mall, and the Qasr Al Watan Presidential Palace.
Pretty handy if you don't have a vehicle and want to dedicate just one day to exploring the capital of the UAE 🙂
the Louvre Abu Dhabi
The Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum is the very first museum on Saadiyat Island. It has been open to the public since November 2017, and is a testament to the emirate of Abu Dhabi's desire to truly become the art and culture capital of the entire Middle East. This cultural venue has quickly become one of the city's must-see tourist sites.
The museum was established in partnership with 13 cultural institutions that are part of the Agence France Museum, including the Louvre Museum in Paris. Unlike many other museums in the region, here are exhibited collections of artworks from many countries. However, this place is not a replica of the Parisian museum. Here, the collections are not grouped by art school or type, but rather according to major influences and universal themes. The exhibitions bring together works by artists from all over the world and from cultures that may at first glance seem quite different.
DISCOVER THE LOUVRE ABU DHABI ON A COMBINED TOUR
Just 30 minutes from Abu Dhabi, Yas Island is an ideal destination for a day out. There you can enjoy a wide range of activities or simply relax on one of the idyllic beaches of this artificial island.
On Yas Island, you can find the Yas Waterworld water park, which includes 25 attractions – 5 of which are unique in the world. In the Ferrari World amusement park, the largest indoor park in the world, you can also enjoy many activities related to the famous prancing horse brand. The roller coaster will give you a taste of what it feels like to be a champion behind the wheel of a speeding race car. The island is also home to the annual Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.
DISCOVER ABU DHABI AND FERRARI WORLD FROM DUBAI
During your stay in Dubai, you can dedicate a day to exploring Abu Dhabi, Yas Island and Ferrari World. Picked up from your hotel, you will head to Abu Dhabi and explore the city's major landmarks, such as the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and the impressive Emirates Palace, before passing through the Heritage Village, where you will get an in-depth look at the city's history and the Bedouin way of life. The first part of this tour will conclude with the discovery of the Corniche, from which you can enjoy a very beautiful view of the city and the sea.
Then you will go to Yas Island, for a sensational experience with the discovery of Ferrari World. Roller coaster, karting, simulators, acrobatic shows... all the ingredients will be gathered to make your day unforgettable.
If you are just looking for a ticket to the Ferrari World park without the transfer from Dubai, you can find it at the best price on this page.
DISCOVER YAS MARINA CIRCUIT AND DRIVE A YAS 3000 FORMULA
If you love motorsports, don't miss the unique opportunity to get an in-depth look at one of the world's most beautiful Formula 1 circuits during your visit to Abu Dhabi. The Yas Marina Circuit is one of the most modern circuits in the world, and during this tour, a guide will take you behind the scenes of the F1 Grand Prix organization – you can even have your picture taken on the podium.
For an even more memorable experience, you can experience the thrill of a professional driver by sitting in a Yas 3000 for a 20-minute session on the Yas Marina circuit. After receiving expert advice from an instructor, you will take a few laps in a Renault car to discover the circuit. You will then receive all the necessary equipment, and will be able to go to the pits to listen to the last instructions before taking the wheel of this 3000cc V6 car for an extraordinary driving experience.
Find all the information about the Yas 3000 Formula driving session by clicking here.
If you prefer to leave the steering wheel to a professional, you can also discover the Abu Dhabi circuit by sitting next to a racing driver in a Yas Radical SST. This is a unique opportunity to experience at full speed the circuit where the greatest F1 drivers compete every year. More information on this page.
WARNER BROS. WORLD in ABU DHABI
This huge indoor theme park, which is also located on Yas Island, opened in 2018. It has quickly become one of Abu Dhabi's most popular tourist attractions. At Warner Bros. World Dubai, there are 6 different zones in which about 30 attractions are spread waiting for you. You will be able to find all the emblematic characters from the Warner movies, including DC Comics superheroes and Looney Toons characters. You will also discover the sets of mythical films and licenses such as Metropolis and Gotham City.
Roller coasters, scenic rides, sound and light shows, bumper cars... many attractions for the whole family are gathered in this park, and they all have for theme a movie, a series or a hero of the Warner Brothers studios, such as Superman, Batman, Scooby-Doo, Bugs Bunny, the Teen Titans or even the Flintstones.
If you want to buy tickets for this theme park, two solutions:
- If you are going from Dubai, you will find tickets that also include the round trip transfer on this page
- To get classic tickets, click here
As I mentioned above, the Corniche is one of the must-see places in Abu Dhabi and is well worth a visit. If you're looking for a leisurely afternoon stroll by the sea, then you must take a walk along the Corniche. On this 4.3 miles (7km) long trail, you can walk or cycle along the Arabian Gulf and enjoy a variety of views. On your way, you can take several breaks to enjoy small quiet beaches and admire the landscape.
On the northeast side of the corniche, you will arrive at Port Zayed. You will be able to stroll through the alleys of the carpet souk and the fruit and vegetable souk, and discover the Mina Fish Market. To the southeast, you will come directly to the Marina, where you can stop at the Marina Mall, before reaching the Heritage Village.
The Heritage Village in Abu Dhabi is a testament to what life was like in this region before oil development. This recreation of a Bedouin camp is a reminder that before Abu Dhabi became a vast and prosperous metropolis, the city was a small fishing village. Here, you can discover replicas of craftsmen's workshops with pottery and fabrics, stores, as well as stalls selling typical products.
Some sites also house exhibitions and re-enactments with models to give you a deeper insight into the life of the people of Abu Dhabi in the last century. Moreover, you can also enjoy a magnificent view of the Corniche and the Abu Dhabi skyline from the beach.
the palaces of ABU DHABI
You simply cannot visit Abu Dhabi without taking the time to discover one of the city's magnificent palaces. The one that best represents the excessiveness of the United Arab Emirates is undoubtedly the Emirates Palace. You can take advantage of a tea tasting to visit this gigantic self-proclaimed 7-star luxury hotel. Please note that proper attire is required! This visit will be an opportunity to discover a building with grandiose architecture and extravagant decorations made of marble and gold. The hotel also regularly hosts temporary exhibitions.
Al-Hosn Palace, lso known as the White Fort or Old Fort, is the oldest palace in the city. The watchtower of this palace was the very first permanent structure in the city, and served to protect Abu Dhabi during its development. Over the centuries, the palace has been a seat of government and a home for ruling families. Today, after a complete renovation, it hosts the Center for Documentation and Research, which houses a very large collection of historical documents. This national monument also houses a museum of traditional artifacts and old photographs that offers exhibitions on the history of desert wildlife and of Abu Dhabi's past, for example.
Qasr Al Watan Palace, whose name literally means Palace of the Nation, is arguably among the most incredible palaces in the world. This presidential palace is one of the places that best expresses the beauty and richness of the architecture and decorations of the great palaces of the United Arab Emirates.
VISIT THE GREATEST PALACES IN ABU DHABI
By visiting the Abu Dhabi Presidential Palace, you will be able to discover incredible rooms such as the library, the Supreme Federal Council Hall or the grand salon, located right under the great dome. As of 2019, access to Qasr Al Watan Palace is available for tourists. As mentioned above, many tours include this place in their program. Therefore, it is best to take a tour that includes various places (rather than a classic entrance) in order to get a comprehensive overview of the city and optimize your day of discovery 🙂
If you want to experience one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, you can enjoy a cup of tea in a setting of unprecedented beauty and refinement: you'll both discover the architecture and interior design of the Emirates Palace, and enjoy some fine food. If you're lucky, you might even bump into one of the many celebrities who stay at this luxury hotel.
If you're ready to get away from the city for a little adventure and discover a little piece of greenery in the middle of the desert, you can head to Liwa Oasis. About 93 miles (150 km) from Abu Dhabi, this oasis is located right on the edge of the Rub Al-Khali, the world's largest stretch of sand. In this unique place, which benefits from an underground water source, you can enjoy a strikingly contrasting landscape where red sand dunes surround lush palm groves.
You won't be making the trip for nothing, and you will be able to discover the Liwa forts and Tel Morreb, one of the highest sand dunes in the world, which is almost 984ft high (300 m). Several activities are also available: you will have the opportunity to go on a camel ride, to go buggy riding, or to try surfing on the sand dunes, for example.
GO ON A DESERT SAFARI IN ABU DHABI
During a stay in Abu Dhabi, exploring the Arabian desert is undoubtedly one of the must-do activities. There is no shortage of ways to go on an adventure. You can travel through the desert in a 4x4 or quadbike, surf on the sand, or travel through these spellbindingly beautiful landscapes in a more traditional way: on camelback.
If you have the opportunity, I recommend leaving for an excursion which will last until the evening and during which you will be able to enjoy a sunset over the dunes of the desert
4X4, QUAD BIKING, CAMELS AND TRADITIONAL BEDOUIN CAMP
If you want to experience a true cross-section of what is possible in the deserts surrounding Abu Dhabi, this tour is for you. You'll head out into the desert in a 4x4 vehicle to reach a camel farm. Along the way, your driver will give you a thrilling ride. Once arrived, you will discover the desert first on foot, then on camelback, and even through some dune-crossing on quad bikes. If you are interested, you can try sandboarding– surfing on the dunes of the desert.
This done, you will then reach an authentic Bedouin camp where you will be warmly welcomed. There, you can enjoy the sunset and a belly dance show, and discover some traditional activities and practices such as falconry and henna tattooing.
TAKE A BOAT TRIP IN THE PERSIAN GULF
To experience Abu Dhabi in a different way, you can take a short tour on a sightseeing boat. Many of the city's most beautiful buildings are located by the sea, and from the waters of the Persian Gulf, you can enjoy a breathtaking vantage point to take beautiful pictures.
You will rediscover the Corniche and the Dubai Skyline, Saadiyat Beach, Lulu Island and the Emirates Palace, and the guide who will accompany you will be able to give you a lot of information about the history of the city and its palaces.
For more information on these short cruises in Abu Dhabi, follow this link.
PRACTICAL TIPS FOR VISITING ABU DHABI
When it comes to getting around, you should know that unlike in Dubai, there is no subway in Abu Dhabi yet. To get around the city's various points of interest, you'll have to take a bus, cab, or opt for a rental car at Dubai Airport. The city is not as large as Dubai, but places can still be very far apart and traffic is still fluid.
Therefore, a car is probably the most pleasant way tovisit Abu Dhabi in complete freedom.
You can check availability and compare car rental rates by clicking on the button below.
If you are mainly interested in seeing the city's landmarks, a good day trip may be all you need. If you’re staying in Dubai, you can even make the round trip within the day, and make the most of your time here to see many of the sights.
However, if you want to try out the many activities available in Abu Dhabi, such as going to Ferrari World or taking a trip to the desert, you will probably need to spend more time in the city. If you really want to discover Abu Dhabi during your trip to the UAE, it's probably best to spend 2 to 3 days there. There are hotels to suit all budgets, and you can find places to spend a comfortable night in a double room for as little as $56 (50 €).
As the city is very large, you will have to choose the location of your hotel carefully to avoid long journeys!