If you don't know yet what to do in Dubai, then this article isjust what you need 😊 What I love about visiting Dubai is that there is always something new to see or do. It is impossible to visit Dubai completely in just a few days. So if you are tempted by this destination, discover without further delay all the activities you can do there!
1. CLIMB THE HIGHEST TOWER IN THE WORLD
The Burj Khalifa 🌆
This is THE must-do activity when you come to visit Dubai! At 2,716 feet high (828 m), the Burj Khalifa is the highest tower in the world, but more importantly the symbol of Dubai and its excessiveness. You really shouldn't miss it!
The Burj Khalifa is located in the new Dubai, "Downtown Dubai" (a district considered as the city center).
The tower includes an Armani hotel, many offices but also apartments. It also AND more importantly has two observation decks from which you will have a breathtaking view of Dubai and its surroundings (the city, the Persian Gulf and the desert).
If you can only do one fee-based activity on site, I definitely recommend you discover the Burj Khalifa! However, it is better to buy your tickets in advance because the visits work with a reservation system. If you buy your ticket the day of your visit, the price will be higher; moreover, if you go to the tower booth to book your ticket for a few days later, you won't necessarily have the "right" slots available.
The price will vary depending on which platform you want to go to.
For the first platform, which is 1,496 feet high, or 456 m (124th and 125th floors), you will have to pay about $41 or 37 € ($31 or 28 € for a child). For the second platform, which is 1,820 feet high, or 555 m (148th floor), you will have at least $106 (94 €) per person. But with this option, you will also be entitled to a VIP welcome.
Prices will be even higher if you opt for priority access or a specific time.
A tip? Take a ticket that will have you arrive on the D-day an hour before sunset. This will allow you to enjoy the sight of the city during both daytime and nighttime.
These are two completely different panoramas!If you don't know what to do in Dubai, this is the number one activity that you should not miss.
2. ADMIRE THE DUBAI FOUNTAIN SHOW
At the foot of the Burj Khalifa, it’s impossible to miss the Dubai Fountain! It is located in the middle of a 29-acre artificial lake (12 hectares) and very close to the Dubai Mall.
This fountain (again, one of the largest in the world!) was created by the same company that designed the "Bellagio Fountains" in Las Vegas. So expect to see the same type of water show... If not better!
As you now know, they don't do things by halves in Dubai!
The fountain's jets are projected 492 feet high (150 meters) and accompanied by traditional and pop music from around the world. The beautifully choreographed shows take place every day, every 30 minutes from 1:00 / 1:30 pm (except on Fridays, day of prayer, during which they take place from 1:30 or 2 pm) and from 6:00 to 11:00 pm in the evening. The night show with all the lights is of course the one you absolutely cannot miss!
PS: This show is free! It is a free activity you really have to do during your stay. I have a preference for the evening show, because lights are added to the choreography of the water jets 😊
However, if you want to have a better view and be closer to the fountain, you can choose to embark on a small boat that will sail on the Burj Lake during the shows. You will then enjoy a breathtaking view of the fountain! More information by clicking here.
3. THE BURJ-AL-ARAB, THE EXCESSIVENESS OF DUBAI
The Burj al Arab is quite simply the highest hotel in the world! It is impossible not to spot it from afar! It measures 1,053 feet (321 meters) and has a very curious silhouette. It rises like the giant sail of a boat on its island (which was built just to accommodate it).
The Burj al Arab is above all the most luxurious hotel in the world: it has been described as a 7 star hotel by a British journalist! It only offers suites, and all of them have a bling-bling decor and a superb view over the sea.
Unfortunately it is impossible to visit the Burj al Arab unless you book a room there (which will cost you between $1,131 and $13,578 per night – €1,000 - €12,000). However, you can also discover its grandiose interior by going there for a drink, a lunch or for dinner.
The hotel has several restaurants and bars in which you can enjoy the unique dishes of great chefs, and sip cocktails while enjoying the view. But beware, for this you will have to pay no less than $170 for a simple lunch (€150)! Therefore, it is most certainly not cheap – but at least you'll have the opportunity of eating in an extraordinary hotel with an exceptional view of the Gulf and Dubai! There is no other hotel as luxurious in the world.
Another possibility: you can embark on a speedboat to admire the hotel (and the other monuments next to it) from the sea 🙂 More information here.
4. TAKE A TRIP TO THE DESERT
During your stay, you should also discover the desert of Dubai: it is an integral part of the city! And there is no shortage of excursions! From a simple ride in the dunes in a 4x4, quad or camel; to a camp with a barbecue under the starry sky – have fun!
For my part, I recommend the 4x4 safari in the dunes. It's great fun and really typical of Dubai.You will enjoy a ride in the dunes with your driver then spend some good times around a barbecue at sunset. I still remember this activity fondly!
If you have a bigger budget, you can even choose to fly over the desert of Dubai in a hot air balloon! The price is quite high (between $282 and $396 – 250€ and 350€) but the experience is unique! It is only last year that I could finally try this experience. The price of the activity is a bit much but the experience is just INSANE!
5. VISIT DUBAI BY HELICOPTER
There's nothing like a helicopter ride over the city to get a feel for the immensity of Dubai! You will have an unparalleled view of the skyscrapers, with the Burj Khalifa dominating the city.
Here again, you can choose between several options:
- the 12-minute flight, which will allow you to see the essence of Dubai (for small budgets – about $180 or €160). You will see the Burj Khalifa, the islands of "The World", the Jumeirah coast and the Old Dubai...,
- The 17-minute flight, which takes place over a larger area (for about $226-243 or €200-215). In 17 minutes, you will see the sites of the first formula + the Burj Al-Arab, the Mall of the Emirates, Union Square and Palm Jumeirah,
- or the 22 minutes flight, which is the most complete flight ($340-373 or €300-330). You will see the same sites as the other two tickets + the Dubai Creek, the Emirates Golf Course, the Nad Al Sheba racecourse, the camel racing circuit...
Don't hesitate to compare prices on specialized platforms! For my part, I opted for the 17 minutes formula, which is already very good to take nice pictures and discover the city from the air.
Honestly, if you don't know what to do in Dubai, this is a great activity that I highly recommend. You'll be amazed 😉
And of course, if you can afford it, the "Atlantis Hotel" offers 40-minute flights that cost up to $3,400 (€3,000)...
6. HAVE FUN AT A WATER PARK
If you're visiting Dubai for just a few days, take a day to enjoy Dubai's water parks. They are GORGEOUS and the perfect place to soak and slide.
For example, you can cool off in water parks (with wave pools, giant slides, waterfalls...) like the Wild Wadi Water Park, which is located near the entrance of the Burj al-Arab hotel (residents of this hotel and of the Jumeirah hotel group in general have free access to this park. Otherwise, the adult daily rate starts at $54, or €48).
Another really nice water park is the Aquaventure Dubai, the water park of the "Atlantis Hotel" in Palm Jumeirah. The scenery there is incredible and there is an almost vertical slide. The descent is impressive!
The adult day rate starts at $73 (€65). If it's your first visit to Dubai, I recommend this park: it's the nicest one, and the prices are acceptable if you spend your whole day enjoying the different activities it offers.
Besides the water parks, there are other very nice – and unique in the world – parks around Dubai.
For example, you can have a great time at the following parks:
- IMG Worlds of Adventure
It is one of the largest indoor parks in the world and is divided into 4 themed areas: Cartoon Network, Marvel, IMG Boulevard and Lost Valley. There are various thrill rides, stores, restaurants and cinemas.
- Dubai Parks and Resorts
The complex "Dubai Parks and Resorts" includes 4 theme parks: "Legoland Dubai" and its aquatic side "Legoland Water Park", "Motiongate Dubai" with its 4 thematic zones linked to the cinema world (Kung Fu Panda, Shrek, The Smurfs...) and "Bollywood Parks Dubai" (with 5 thematic zones, as a tribute to the Bollywood cinema).
7. Dubai Frame
The Dubai Frame is just the largest photo frame in the world! This must-see attraction is located in Zabeel Park.
From the observation deck at the top of the frame, you can enjoy impressive views of the city. The deck is a walkway installed at a height of 492 feet (150 meters). It is 305 feet long (93 meters) and is entirely glazed. If you are afraid of heights, don't go up!
From the top, you will have two views of the city: on one side, the old Dubai with its historical heritage (Bur Dubai, Deira) and on the other side the new Dubai (Downtown Dubai) with its skyscrapers and its modern and futuristic developments.
On the first floor of this attraction, you can access two exhibitions: one on the Dubai of old, and the other on the Dubai of the future (its future development).
To visit the structure, book your tickets preferably on the official website of the Dubai Frame. Expect having to pay between $14 for an adult rate (€13) and $6 for a child rate, 3-12 years old (€5.50).
You can also book this activity in dollars or euros directly on this website.
8. VISIT DUBAI WHILE SHOPPING
THE SOUKS OF DUBAI
Want to find beautiful fabrics and fragrant spices? Head to the old Dubai! That is where you will find the traditional souks.
The Gold Souk (one of the largest in the world) is located in Deira, the historic heart of Dubai. In that souk, you will find about a hundred jewelry stores.
Nearby is also the Naîf Souk with its spice souk, its perfume and beauty products souk and its traditional Arab clothing souk.
If you are looking for souvenirs (fabrics, leather goods...) to bring back with you, go to the Old Souk of Bur Dubai, on the seafront. Take your time to wander around and discover the wares, but don’t forget to look up to admire the beautiful wooden arches.
As for the Souk Al Bahar, which is located between the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa, as well as the Souk Madinat Jumeirah (at the entrance of the 5* Madinat Jumeirah hotel) facing the Burj al-Arab, they are much more modern and more expensive than the souks of the Old Dubai.
THE SHOPPING MALLS
It is impossible to go to Dubai without visiting at least once one of its huge shopping malls. The two main ones are the "Dubai Mall" and the "Mall of the Emirates". But they are much more than mere shopping malls: they also offer incredible experiences!
- The Dubai Mall and its "Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo”
Located near the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall is the largest shopping mall in the world. With a surface area of more than ten million square feet, it has more than 1,000 stores (most of them luxury shops) and a hundred restaurants and cafes.
Inside you can not only shop but also visit the largest suspended aquarium in the world, the "Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo". This aquarium is home to over 33,000 species of aquatic animals and offers a wide range of activities: feeding the fish, cage diving to get closer to the sharks, taking a ride on a glass-bottom boat... Admission costs about $34 (€30) and activities cost between $68 (€60) and $226 (€200).
There is also a combined ticket with the Burj Khalifa: this combo ticket will give you access to the aquarium and the Burj Khalifa at a lower price (compared to the price you would have to pay if you bought each entrance separately).
This will allow you to discover both places, which is very practical, especially knowing that they are located right next to each other 😉
The Dubai Mall also offers the possibility to see a 155-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton, to exercise at the ice rink or to have fun in the various game parks (Sega Republic, KidZania, VR Park, Hysteria). You can even fly an Emirates airbus if you feel like it (in a flight simulator). In short, it's an entire world that’s awaiting you at the Dubai Mall...
- Mall of the Emirates and its « Ski Dubai »
The Mall of the Emirates is much smaller than the Dubai Mall: "only" 2.4 million square feet (223,000 square meters)! However, you will find inside more than 800 stores of the biggest international brands, as well as a Carrefour hypermarket.
To get to the Mall of the Emirates and enjoy the activities it offers, take the subway and get off at the "Mall of the Emirates" station.
But the Mall of the Emirates is most famous for hosting an artificial ski resort, Ski Dubai under a dome maintained at 28,4 °F (-2°C)! You can ski, sled, snowboard, bobsleigh or even go down a zipline – all while being in the middle of the desert! It costs about $56 (€50) for 2 hours of skiing for an adult ($87 or €77 for a full day) and $47.5 (€42) for a child ($80 or €71 for a full day).
You will even have the possibility of swimming with penguins ($367/15 minutes) – a very exciting experience!
9. The Palm Jumeirah
As I mentioned earlier, if you opt for a helicopter tour, you will be able to see "The Palm Jumeirah", another emblem of the city.
Located in the Persian Gulf on the coastal area of Jumeirah, it is in fact a huge archipelago that has been artificially created.
It is even visible from space!
On this archipelago, shaped like a palm tree with 16 palm leaves, you will find many resorts, including the luxurious "Atlantis Hotel" and its huge water park, "Aquaventure Waterpark". You can also dine in upscale restaurants such as the Nobu, an excellent Japanese restaurant in Dubai, and swim in paradise-like beaches.
To get there, you can take the Palm Monorail train (an aerial subway) to the Atlantis Hotel, take a cab or rent a boat. You can also see The Palm Jumeirah from the air: by helicopter or, if you are of a brave disposition, by signing up for a parachute jump! 😉
THE WORLD ISLANDS
Located off the coast of the emirate of Dubai (2.4 miles, or 4 km from the coast), the World Islands are an archipelago of 300 artificial islands representing the world map, hence the name of this absolutely pharaonic project, "The World" (World Dubai).
These islands are supposed to host hotels, villas or housing developments. You will be able to see them when you arrive at the airport by plane, or from a helicopter flight.
Unfortunately, although only one of the islands has been completed (Lebanon), the construction work remains at a standstill for the moment due to lack of funding. It would even seem that some islands are collapsing...
10. TAKE A TOUR in the OLD DUBAI
Old Dubai (also known as Dubai Creek and Khor Dubai), which includes the districts of Deira and Bur Dubai, is where you can see the city's historical and cultural sites.
First, go to Al Bastakiya (located north of Bur Dubai). This is the oldest and most picturesque historical district in Dubai, dating back to the 19th century. In the labyrinth of its streets, you will discover a traditional architecture: first the old fortifications of the city, then the old houses made of gypsum and stone, with their inner courtyards. You will see that most of these houses have been transformed into stores, hotels, cafes and art galleries by their owners (merchants).
During your visit to Bastakiya, you will see the wind towers (barjeel), which are ancient ventilation systems. The "House of Sheikh Saaed al-Maktoum" (1896) owns a few of them. It was the home of the grandfather of Sheikh Mohammed ibn Rashid Al Maktoum, Emir of Dubai and former Emir of Dubai himself (from 1912 to 1958).
It was the residence of the royal family until the 50's, and the entrance is almost free of charge (3 AED, or $0.82 / €0,75). It is open from 8:00 am to 8:30 pm except on Fridays: from 3:00 pm to 9:30 pm.
It is also in one of these houses of the old Dubai that you can go to the "Sheikh Mohammad Cultural Center". You will learn a lot about the district, the city in general and the Emirati culture (and about the gastronomy too!). Don't hesitate to sign up now for one of their guided tours. This will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the neighborhood and you will also be able to visit the "Jumeirah Mosque'', an emblematic building of the city with its large dome surrounded by two huge minarets (it is also the only mosque in Dubai open to non-Muslims!).
Dress decently. The guided tour offered by the center costs 20 AED, or about $5.45 / €5.
Note that you will not be able to enter the "Great Mosque of Dubai", the largest in the city (in the district of Bur Dubai). But don't let that stop you from taking a picture of it from the outside!
That done, you can go to the oldest building in the city (which is also in Bastakiya): the "Al Fahidi Fort" (1787). This fort was first a prison, then a palace and now houses the Dubai Museum of History. The entrance costs about $3.40 / €3.
The visit of the district will also be the occasion for you to enjoy a good meal in one of the many restaurants as well as walk through the various souks.
11. A CRUISE ON DUBAI CREEK
Take the time to cross the Dubai Creek (Khor Dubai), the inlet that separates Deira and Bur Dubai, the two districts of the old Dubai. To do this, take an abra, a wooden cab boat (traditional boat). It will cost you only 1 AED ($0.27).
If you want to visit Dubai in an original way, this is perfect for you!
If you wish to extend this maritime adventure to go further up the river, opt for a dinner/cruise that will allow you to enjoy a beautiful sunset. This is definitely a must-do in Dubai!
Unless you would rather go to the Heritage Village, where a recreation of a Bedouin village awaits you; or to the Diving Village, where you will learn a lot about what was Dubai's main activity at the beginning of the century.
12. MEET THE ANIMALS
In Dubai, you can also discover aquatic species in the "City of Atlantis", The Lost Chambers Aquarium – the largest aquarium in Africa and the Middle East, located in Palm Jumeirah.
Access to this aquarium is also possible with a combo ticket. With the combo ticket, you can have fun at the Aquaventure Water Park before going to the aquarium on the same day. The combo ticket price is cheaper than if you take each entrance separately. You might as well take advantage of that and enjoy discovering both places 😉
During your stay you will also have the opportunity to visit theme parks, such as the Dubai Safari Park. This wildlife park will make you feel as if you were doing a safari in Africa and Asia. Comfortably installed onboard small buses, you will cross the various villages and natural environments of the site (African Village, Asian Village, Arabian Village) and meet many animals like lions, hippos, gibbons, dragons of Komodo or oryx. Don't worry about their environment: they are reparted in areas that are close to their natural habitat. There's even a farm where kids can learn all about farm animals.
Another site to add to your list of things to see is the Dubai Miracle Garden. This huge plant-themed park, the largest flower garden in the world (and this, in the middle of the desert, mind you) is located in the Al Barsha district. You will spend an amazing time admiring the beautiful floral creations.
By the way, don’t forget to take a trip next door to the Dubai Butterfly Garden, which houses over 10,000 species of butterflies under its domes.
The Dubai Dolphinarium in Creek Park is also a must-see! You can watch the dolphin shows and even swim with them.
13. GO TO THE BEACH AND TAKE A TOUR OF THE MARINA
Dubai is also a city that has miles of fine sand bordering beautiful beaches where you can swim. Dubai's most popular beaches are Jumeirah Beach, with its almost 30-acres park (12 hectares), and Umm Suqeim Beach, with its stunning view over the Burj al-Arab.
Dubai also has the largest marina in the world. Located 18 miles (30 km) southwest of the city center, this exceptional marina will give you the opportunity to discover one of the most animated areas of the city (with huge buildings as always). Take a tour on foot or by boat, or admire the place from the air by ziplining over it all! If you like thrills, I HIGHLY recommend this activity!
This activity is possible from one of the towers of the marina (the "XLine Dubai Marina" at the "Marina Mall").
Again, this activity is in high demand, so remember to book your ticket in advance to avoid any bad surprises.
Alternatively, board a boat and cruise on Dubai Creek, either on the traditional Dubai boats or on more modern boats. Not only will you be able to enjoy the view, but you'll also dine onboard and see some great shows. Take a look at the Get your Guide or Tiqets platforms – you can find rides starting at $56.50 or €50.
Additionally, the Marina is an area you can elect to stay in: hotels are cheaper than in Downtown Dubai and the area is easily accessible by subway.
14. VISIT DUBAI'S MUSEUMS
The Dubai Museum, with its antique exhibits, is located in the Al Fahidi Fort (Old Dubai), and is certainly a must-see during your stay – however, other museums are also worth a visit.
The Al Shindagha Museum on the banks of the famous Dubai Creek, the Etihad Museum (Jumeirah), the Women's Museum (Deira) or the Private Pearl Museum (Deira) will help you learn more about Dubai's culture and traditions.
You can also check out the Antique Museum Dubai (Al Quoz), the Coin Museum (Bur Dubai), the Coffee Museum (Al Bastakiya) and the Camel Museum (Bur Dubai).
Take the time to browse through the art galleries in Dubai. The most famous are "Ave Gallery", "XVA Gallery" and "Majlis Gallery", which is also the oldest art gallery in the city (it dates back to 1970). You will admire mostly contemporary works by Middle Eastern artists.
And if you have time, you can also schedule a visit to the ultra modern Dubai Opera House (Downtown Dubai). Or at least go see its impressive architecture – in the shape of a dhow (traditional boat)!