There's no need to leave the city for a beach-break, Abu Dhabi offers a swath of sand for everyone. Saadiyat Island has one of the nicest slices of public beach (with a minimal fee) while Al Bateen, the Corniche and the brand-spanking-new beach on Hudayriat Island offer up completely free swags of sandy fun. On the water, Abu Dhabi's Mangrove National Park showcases a completely different face to a city more known for glinting glass-and-steel skyscrapers than nature. Keep your eyes peeled for flamingos, heron and scuttling crabs as you explore the waterways of this vast forest by kayak.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ABU DHABI
The best time to visit Abu Dhabi is between April and May or from September to October. The spring and fall shoulder seasons yield pleasant weather, manageable crowds and reasonable hotel rates. For the best weather — not too hot and not to humid — you'll want to visit in the wintertime (December through March). However, this is Abu Dhabi's peak season, with business travelers snagging all the city's cabs and tourists flocking to the beach. If you're looking for the best prices, summer is your season: The city is practically free of tourists, but triple-digit temperatures and smothering humidity will make any time spent outdoors feel gruesome.
April-May - Springtime in Abu Dhabi is pleasant. Daily highs range from the low 80s to the high 90s — and sometimes into the 100s — depending on the month, while hotel rates are starting to sink after the annual high tourist season. Meanwhile, the springtime events calendar boasts several cultural festivals and sporting events.
June-August - Spending the summer in Abu Dhabi is like choosing to vacation in a sauna: Temperatures rest in the triple digits, and humidity levels are high despite small amounts of rainfall. But if you can bear the heat, you're bound to find some great deals on lodging during these months. Hotels routinely slash rates in half.
September-October - Autumn begins to cool down Abu Dhabi with daily highs dropping from the 100s in September to the high 80s in November. If you're willing to bear the heat, you'll likely snag a reasonable room rate; you can expect hotels to start upping their prices as the winter high season approaches.
November-March - In terms of weather, winter is the best time to visit Abu Dhabi. Daytime temps rest comfortably in the mid-70s and low 80s — ideal conditions for exploring the emirate's top attractions or lounging on the beach . But you won't be the only one trying to take advantage of Abu Dhabi's prime conditions: Wintertime sees a large influx of tourists and conventioneers, so be prepared to fork over a hefty sum for a hotel room.
GETTING TO ABU DHABI
- Abu Dhabi International Airport
Abu Dhabi International Airport(AUH). The UAE's second busiest airport (after Dubai) and the home base of Abu Dhabi's flag carrier Etihad Airways. Etihad Airways has been expanding rapidly and now flies from many locations from Australia to Europe and the United States.
- Dubai International Airport
A viable alternative is to fly to Dubai International Airport (DXB) in the neighbouring emirate of Dubai and continue onward by bus or by taxi. The distance between Dubai & Abu Dhabi is approximately 160kms, but it really depends where you are taking your measurement from! Both cities sprawl without a definitive city centre or end. From the outer areas of both cities, the journey is about 1 hour or using public transport your journey could take up to 3 hours.
To Abu Dhabi/from Dubai airport: There is no direct commercial flight connection between the two cities, and no train line at present. The only option currently is by road tru bus and taxi or rented cars.
- A metered Dubai airport taxi direct to the Abu Dhabi city centre will cost about 300 dirham.
- To get a bus, you will have to go to one of several bus stations in Dubai to catch the Emirates Express to Abu Dhabi.
GETTING AROUND ABU DHABI
The best way to get around Abu Dhabi is by car, especially if you plan on spending a lot of time outside of Abu Dhabi city. The emirate's major highways are easy to navigate, although maintenance efforts can cause construction-related traffic. However, if you intend to spend the majority of your vacation in and around Abu Dhabi city, you'll fare just fine with taxis and the public bus system. Cabs are a relatively affordable means of transit, and you can easily flag them from the street. Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport operates a fairly extensive bus network within Abu Dhabi city and to and around other parts of the emirate, including Al Ain and parts of Al Gharbia.
On Foot - It is possible to explore Abu Dhabi city and other parts of the emirate on foot, but you will need to rely frequently on other forms of transportation. If you do decide to take a stroll along the Corniche or take a walking tour of central Al Ain, be sure to protect yourself from the heat: Lather on plenty of sunscreen and stay hydrated.
Car - You'll find almost every major car rental agency represented in Abu Dhabi. You can pick up your own set of wheels at Abu Dhabi International Airport or from one of the Abu Dhabi city outposts; many hotels also feature car rental kiosks. In order to rent a car in Abu Dhabi, you will need to obtain a valid international drivers license prior to arriving in the UAE. As far as parking goes, there's no such thing as a free space in Abu Dhabi city (except on Fridays and public holidays).
Taxi - You'll have no trouble finding a cab in Abu Dhabi city — just look for either a silver car with a yellow roof sign or a white and gold car with a green roof sign. You can hail a cab from the street or call for one in advance through the TransAD cab association hotline. Fares start at 3.50 to 4 AED (approximately $1 USD) with every kilometer costing an additional 1.60 to 1.69 AED (around $0.45 USD); prices are higher between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Outside Abu Dhabi city, however, spotting a cab will be much more of a challenge, though cabs are usually willing to take you to places like Al Ain. If you're planning on exploring other areas of the emirate, you're better off renting a car.
Bus - The Abu Dhabi Department of Transportation operates more than 95 bus routes throughout the emirate with extensive services in Abu Dhabi city and Al Ain. You can use the public buses to get between the two cities, as well as to different points of interest around Al Gharbia. Buses run at all hours of the day and night, though service may be more limited on Fridays and Saturdays; times vary depending on the line. Rides within specific transport zones — Abu Dhabi city, Al Ain and Al Gharbia — cost 2 AED (about $0.50 USD) each way. Simply drop exact change into the collection box next to the driver. If you're using the regional bus routes to more extensive areas around Al Ain and Al Gharbia, expect to pay 4 AED (around $1 USD) per ride. As for intercity routes, fares are calculated based on distance: For example, the ride from Abu Dhabi city to Al Ain will cost 25 AED (just less than $7 USD). To eliminate the need to remember this complex fair structure, you can opt to use an Ojra bus pass; these weeklong passes are good for unlimited transport on all routes, and cost 30 AED (around $8 USD). Orja passes can be purchased from kiosks found at bus stations in the Al Mina district, near the Marina Mall and from other select areas.
Ferry - Travelers who are interested in visiting Dalma Island can get there by ferry from Jabal al Dhanna, a small port town located just 150 miles west of Abu Dhabi city along the coast of the Persian Gulf. Ferries run three times a day (in both directions) between Saturday and Thursday and twice on Fridays. One-way tickets are 20 AED (around $5.50 USD) for adults and free for children younger than 12. If you are traveling with a car, you will need to pay an additional 100 AED (roughly $27 USD) to bring it on board. (Complimentary sea transport between Jabal al Dhanna and Sir Bani Yas Island is provided by the three Anantara resorts to all guests.)
Plane - If you are not staying at one of the Anantara resorts, the only way to get to Sir Bani Yas Island from the mainland is by plane. Rotana Jet offers daily flights out of Al Bateen Executive Airport to Sir Bani Yas Airport (SBY). The flight takes around 30 minutes, and one-way tickets start at 200 AED (around $54 USD) for adults and 100 AED (approximately $27 USD) for children younger than 11. (Rotana Jet also offers flights to Sir Bani Yas from Abu Dhabi International Airport and Al Ain International Airport, though they are not as frequent as flights from Al Bateen Executive Airport.)
WHERE TO STAY IN ABU DHABI
Here are the list of top 10 Best Luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi.
- Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Residences Emirates Pearl
Located in the iconic West Corniche district of Abu Dhabi, Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Residences Emirates Pearl offers luxurious accommodations with free WiFi. The property is conveniently accessible to the city’s business hub, high-end shopping districts, and is a 35-minute drive from Abu Dhabi International Airport. Decorated with it's statement chandeliers, wall of richly colored dunes and textured accent nickel wall, the rooms offer floor-to-ceiling windows and a balcony with views of the Gulf or of the palaces. The bathrooms are fitted with a freestanding tub and a walk-in closet. The hotel is a dining destination in its own right with Verso, an Italian Trattoria styled restaurant, Pearl Lounge, a chic lobby lounge, cafe, creperie and bar, as well as Lexx, a wine bar offering cigars, classic cocktails and fine cheese. All restaurants, lounges and bars include large terraces and panoramic views. The hotel's fitness centre is open 24 hours and is equipped with a Technogym kit and has the only outdoor gym terrace in the capital. The hotel is an urban resort in its true sense with an infinity pool , separate hot tub and a beach. Marina Mall is 3.3 km from Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Residences Emirates Pearl, while Boutik Mall is 10 km from the property.
- Pearl Rotana Capital Centre
Located at the heart of Abu Dhabi’s business district, Pearl Rotana Capital Centre is a modern deluxe hotel. Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) is just steps from the 4-star property, while the city’s Downtown is a short drive away. Pearl Rotana’s 315 rooms and suites have been designed to suit the needs of business, leisure travellers and families alike. Featuring one- and two-bedroom options, Club Rotana rooms offer added benefits including complimentary access to executive lounge. Try all 5 Pearl Rotana’s unique dining options. Taste Italian home at Dino’s Bistro Italiano, have breakfast at Saffron, sip tea and chat at Chai Lobby Lounge, tuck into small plates at The Warehouse wine & tapas bar or enjoy a refreshment at Aquarius Pool Bar. In-room dining is available. Our 7 venues for meetings and events with the latest technology cater to your executive and social needs. Keep fit, go for a dip or just take time out and relax at Bodylines Fitness & Wellness Club featuring a well equipped gymnasium, rooftop pool, sauna, steam and massage rooms.
- Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island
Embracing expansive views of the city skyline and the sparkling waves of the Arabian Gulf, lies the Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island. It offers a swimming pool with panoramic skyline and water views. Located just outside the Spa, it’s a laid-back, relaxing destination from day to night. It’s also the setting for Eclipse, Terrace Lounge. Guests can enjoy free WiFi throughout the property. Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi offers 200 rooms and suites that are bright and airy – all with water views. Sophisticated residential-style interiors feature the legendary Four Seasons Bed, a plush sofa for relaxing, an oval desk that doubles as a dining table and a spa-like bathroom. Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi includes six creative restaurants and lounges such as steakhouse Butcher & Still, Café Milano, and cocktail bar Zsa Zsa– all with expansive outdoor waterfront terraces and most with private dining rooms. Dahlia Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi offers eight spacious spa treatment suites – including one exclusive couples’ suite Four Seasons Abu Dhabi is only 800 m from Abu Dhabi Mall. Al Wahda Mall is 3.8 km from Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island, while Qasr al-Hosn is 4 km from the property. The nearest airport is Abu Dhabi International Airport, 27 km from the property. Free private parking is available on site and valet parking is complimentary.
Located at the vibrant heart of Abu Dhabi's Corniche. The St. Regis Abu Dhabi infuses authentic Arabian hospitality with more than a hundred years of bespoke St. Regis tradition. Positioned a 5-minute drive from Marina Mall, 7-minute drive from the sophisticated World Trade Centre Mall and 15-minute drive from the iconic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Each of the hotel’s 283 rooms and signature suites revels in a magnificent view of the alluring Abu Dhabi Corniche. The Abu Dhabi Suite, high on the skybridge between the two Nation Towers immerses guests with an astonishing 360◦ view. A signature St. Regis Butler Service is complimentary for every guest in the hotel. Savour the finest flavours from the region and experience a fresh perspective on international cuisine at The Terrace on the Corniche. Villa Toscana serves traditionally rustic and authentic Italian cuisine from Tuscany. The St. Regis Bar offer a lively ambience perfect for after a busy day. Azura Panoramic Lounge is the only alfresco hotspot overlooks the glistening Arabic Gulf and Abu Dhabi Corniche. Cabana Beach Bar & Grill offers a delectable menu of crisp salads, hearty burgers and fresh paninis throughout the day with refreshing cocktails. The Nation Riviera Beach Club is accessible via a private, air-conditioned, marble underpass that runs below the Corniche. Nation Riviera features a 200 m private beach, secluded cabanas, a spacious infinity pool complete with gardens and a swim-up pool bar as well as exclusive fitness facilities. Treasure Island Children’s Club, is designed as a playful pirate’s ship and provides a safe and enjoyable area for children, with fully supervised indoor and outdoor activities including a pool and water slide. Remède Spa creates a sanctuary for guests and an experience which borders on mystical. Abu Dhabi Mall is a 10-minutes drive from The St. Regis Abu Dhabi. The hotel offers free WiFi in all areas along with free valet parking.
Located on Al Maryah Island at the core of Abu Dhabi’s new International Financial Center, directly connected to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and The Galleria luxury shopping destination, Rosewood Abu Dhabi offers 148 guest rooms and 41 suites with views of the Arabian Gulf and Abu Dhabi skyline. All rooms are non-smocking and feature amenities including an iPad® room navigation system, media centre with 55” flat-screen TV, oversized Villeroy & Boch tub and Pratesi Egyptian cotton linen. For relaxation, you can take a dip in the outdoor swimming pool after an energizing workout at the gym. The hotel’s Health and Fitness club contains state-of-the-art equipment dedicated to a range of cardiovascular and strength training workouts. Sense® Spa provides an extensive range of indulgent therapies, treatments and services. Rosewood Abu Dhabi’s 8 restaurants and lounges offer distinctive dining experiences for guests. Enjoy authentic dining of worldwide cuisines, relish in a cigar or a glass of wine at La Cava, or savour a refreshing drink at Glo or Hidden Bar. Rosewood Abu Dhabi is situated next to The Galleria, Abu Dhabi’s premium shopping destination and the prestigious Sowwah Square commercial development, where you will find premium luxury brands. Saadiyat Island is 15 minutes away by car and Abu Dhabi International Airport is a 25-minute drive away.
- Andaz Capital Gate Abu Dhabi - a concept by Hyatt
The Andaz Capital Gate Abu Dhabi is situated in the famous Capital Gate building and only walking distance from the Exhibition centre. It offers luxury rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city. It features 2 restaurants and a spa with panoramic views. The air-conditioned rooms and suites at the Andaz feature a flat-screen TV and an MP3 docking station. They all offer panoramic views of the city and some of them include a deep soaking tub. Guests have 2 restaurants to choose from. 18° celebrates the Mediterranean coastal regions of Italy, France and Spain, in a sharing style environment that best describes the Mediterranean lifestyle, serving the highest food quality in an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere, three show kitchens with interactive counters add to the theatrical “mise en scene” of the restaurant. Lounge, Located on the 18th floor stands as an icon of refinement and renewed style. With its combination of comfortable, lounge-style seating and a more intimate library area, the Lounge offers an eclectic spread of premium tea, coffee, fresh pastries, and snacks. All the guests having an opportunity to enjoy complimentary wines (5 PM-7PM) and tea/coffee throughout the day in the Andaz Lounge. The Rayana Spa is located on the 19th floor and is the only one in Abu Dhabi overlooking the city. It features a suspended outdoor swimming pool, a fitness centre and a whirlpool. The hotel is located in the embassy and government district and is 20 km from Abu Dhabi International Airport. The Yas Marina Circuit and the Ferrari World are a 30-minute drive from the hotel. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is just 5 km away.
- Jumeirah at Etihad Towers Hotel
Overlooking the Arabian Gulf and Corniche, this modern hotel is part of the iconic 5-tower complex in Abu Dhabi. Apart from its landscaped pools and gardens, it also features a private beach and a spa. Guests can enjoy free access to one of Abu Dhabi's tourist attractions, The Observation Deck at 300. Free WiFi is available throughout the entire property. With stylish furnishings and cutting-edge technology, all rooms offer views of the city skyline or the coast. Each includes a flat-screen TV and a iPod docking station. Some rooms include access to the executive lounge. Fine dining can be enjoyed at Jumeirah’s 2 restaurants serving sophisticated world cuisine. For casual dining, guests can choose from 5 different venues, while drinks are offered at the hotel’s 2 bars. The Jumeirah has a full-service spa with 13 treatment rooms, and a large fitness centre with modern equipment. Located on level 74, the Observation Deck is the highest vantage point of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi International Airport is a 30-minute drive from the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers Hotel. Marina Mall is a 5-minute drive away.
Abu Dhabi EDITION is situated at the Al Bateen Marina in dowtown Abu Dhabi. The 5-star hotel boasts two pools, restaurants, conference facilities and a three-story nightclub. The air-conditioned rooms and apartments feature a a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with luxury amenities. Some of the units have a balcony and views over the marina. The hotel has 2 signature restaurants, a gourmet market, and guests can enjoy drinks at the pool or lobby bar. Guests can also take advantage of the state-of-the-art fitness centre or relax at the spa which offers 7 treatment rooms. Corniche beach and the Marina Mall are less than 10 minutes' drive from the hotel and Al Bateen Executive Airport 15 km away while Abu Dhabi International Airport can be reached in 35 minutes by car.
Grand Mercure Residence is located in the centre of the city, close by all prime business and shopping destinations. The hotel features 3 Food and Beverage outlets, 5 Conference and meeting rooms, Club lounge, Business center, temperature controlled swimming pool, hot tub sauna, steam bath and a gym. All suites and studios are elegantly designed and include free WiFi in all areas. All rooms come with a satellite TV, a kitchenette and a bathroom with bath and a shower. Abu Dhabi Mall and Abu Dhabi Corniche are within short walking distance. Abu Dhabi International airport is 30 minutes away by car. Free private parking is possible on site.
- The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi
Offering direct access to its private beach on Saadiyat Island, this 5-star resort offers free WiFi and rooms with a private balcony. It features a spa centre and an indoor pool. Free parking is also available. Featuring a Mediterranean-style décor, the spacious rooms at The St. Regis Saadiyat include beds with luxury duvets and pillows, a TV, and an iPod docking station. The private bathroom comes with a double sink, a free-standing tub, a rain shower, and Remède toiletries. The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi has 5 pools, including a 25 m indoor lap pool. Its Iridium spa has 12 treatment rooms. Guests can play a game of tennis or browse the boutiques of the shopping area. The Sandcastle Club offers indoor and outdoor activities for children. There are 6 restaurants and bars offering a variety of cuisines including Modern Greek, South East Asian and Mediterranean dishes. An 18-hole golf course is next to The St. Regis. Abu Dhabi's Corniche is a 14 km drive away. It is a 25 km drive to Yas Marina and Ferrari Theme Park, and a 110 km drive to Dubai Expo 2020. The airport is just a 34 km drive away.
PLACES TO GO & THINGS TO DO IN ABU DHABI
Abu Dhabi is full of immersive, educational and historical experiences. Whether you’re planning a stopover or a lengthier stay, there’s plenty to keep you occupied in the second most populous city in the emirates. Discover Abu Dhabi’s significant buildings, walk on the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet, spend the night in the desert or ride the world’s fastest rollercoaster – it’s all in the UAE’s cultural capital.
- Visit the largest mosque in the UAE
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the UAE’s most beautiful mosque, and it’s here that you can stroll barefoot on the world’s longest hand-knotted carpet, beneath one of the largest crystal chandeliers on the planet. This elaborate religious site can hold up to 40,000 worshippers and was inspired by Persian, Mughal and Moorish architecture, taking its name from the country’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The mosque was Sheikh Zayed’s idea and he rests within it. Apart from allowing visitors the opportunity to learn more about Islam (there are free tours hosted by local guides), the mosque boasts a unique lighting setup guided by the evolution of the moon during the lunar cycle.
- Spend a few hours at the Louvre
As you stroll around the dome-shaped Louvre Abu Dhabi museum that sits proudly within the Saadiyat Island cultural precinct, you’ll see why the ruling Al Nahyan family was of the belief that this billion-dollar establishment would help the capital transition into a globally renowned cultural hub. French architect Jean Nouvel designed this, the first foreign outpost of the iconic Paris museum, and art enthusiasts will appreciate the huge gallery space that features works ranging from prehistoric artefacts to contemporary art. Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso and Ai Weiwei are just some of the artists represented here. Given that the government spent £589 million on art loans and special exhibitions from notable French museums including Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou, you can rest assured there’ll be plenty to enjoy as you wander the waterfront building at your leisure.
- Learn about the falcon, the UAE’s national bird
Falconry has deep roots in Arabian history, dating back more than 2,000 years. The Peregrine Falcon is a symbol of the UAE’s Bedouin culture and owning one today is a great source of pride. These hunting birds are so respected that they are able to get their own passports and can cost anywhere between Dh2,000 (£430) and Dh50,000 (£10,700) to purchase. While first and foremost a veterinary facility, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital has developed into something of an educational institution since opening in 1999, providing interested visitors with tours that instil greater awareness and education about these valuable birds. You can tour the site with a guide, see the vets in action and even handle a bird yourself.
- Take a spin in an Eco-Donut Boat
Eastern Mangroves Promenade is one of the city’s less well-known attractions. Located just off the main highway to Dubai on the north side of the capital, you’ll find a cluster of Eco-Donut Boats you can drive yourself. The small solar-powered circular boats can be hired for an hour or more with up to six people on board. Navigate your way around the wildlife-filled mangroves and enjoy a BYO lunch or dinner – it’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon or evening surrounded by nature.
- Go for gold at Emirates Palace
Emirates Palace is the official guest palace of the city’s government, and as such no expense has been spared, inside or out. This 394-room establishment is dripping with gold, and that means visitors or in-house guests can enjoy a 24-carat gold-flaked cappuccino, a gold-encrusted ice cream or a gold facial. The palace boasts beautiful Islamic architecture and elaborate decor and is also home to a marina and a private beach. Gold is such an important part of this property that it even boasts its own gold-leaf specialist, whose job it is to keep the precious metal sparkling.
- Spend a family day out at Yas Island
Once nothing but a sandy plateau, Yas Island has been developed into the capital’s family hub. Home to three theme parks, a world-class Formula One race track, a beach club and the biggest mall in the emirate, there’s plenty to keep you amused here. Ride the world’s fastest rollercoaster at Ferrari World, explore the six immersive worlds at Warner Bros World, cool off at Yas Waterworld and Yas Beach or get a taste of Grand Prix action at Yas Marina Circuit – all of this is just 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the centre of the city.
- Breakfast with giraffes at Emirates Park Zoo
Emirates Park Zoo and Resort was the first private zoo of its kind in the UAE, and since opening in 2008 it has become a firm favourite for fun, family and adventure. Not only can animal lovers of all ages spend quality time among its 1,700 or so animals – it’s also possible to sit down to breakfast with the giraffes. Start your Arabian wildlife adventure by sharing a table with the resident reticulated and African giraffes, before joining a guide on a journey through the park.
- Go on a desert staycation
In a country surrounded by desert, you can’t visit Abu Dhabi without spending a night amid the dunes at a desert resort. Qasr Al Sarab by Antantara is “the world’s most instagrammed hotel” and by all accounts it is worth every minute of the two-hour drive it takes to get there. It’s positioned within the Rub Al Khali desert, the world’s largest contiguous sand mass. For those looking for a spot closer to the city, Jumeirah Al Wathba is just 40 minutes from the Central Business District.
- Take a tour of the Royal Palace
Qasr Al Watan, also known as the Palace of the Nation, is a tribute to the city’s heritage and culture, and the place where the UAE cabinet and Federal Supreme Council – the highest constitutional authority – meet. Time spent here allows a greater understanding of the governing traditions and values of the city. Visitors can learn about the formation of the UAE and its governance in the west wing, and the library has a vast selection of books and historical resources, while the east wing is home to a collection of artefacts and manuscripts that shine a light on the many contributions made by the Arab world. Aside from the historical significance, it is an eye-opening architectural feat: it is designed to echo traditional Arabian architecture, with high, white ceilings and intricate wall carvings.
- Shop at the Mina Fish Market
Fishing is a tradition deeply embedded in the UAE’s culture. With more than 500 different marine species in UAE waters, the demand for seafood has risen in the past 40 years owing to an increased population, and you can get a first-hand look by visiting the Mina Fish Market at the port end of the city’s Corniche. You’ll be wowed by the rows of colourful fish and the number of stallholders bargaining to get the best prices. The market is at its busiest early in the morning when wholesalers are snapping up their orders for the day.
OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES TO DO IN ABU DHABI WITH KIDS
- Become a legend at Yas Waterworld
Yas Waterworld, uniquely based on the Emirati “The Legend of the Lost Pearl,” theme, is divided into four thrill levels, each catering to different ages, and how much of an adrenaline seeker you are. There are plenty of dining options, with seven of them featuring different cuisines from around the world.
- Bounce around Aquafun A’l Bahar
If a giant inflatable water park anchored a few metres off the Corniche coastline doesn’t scream family fun to you, we don’t know what will. Aquafun is the shining star of the recently opened A’L Bahar beachfront development – which is home to sport tournaments, more than 20 different restaurants and cafés and a load of brilliant kid-friendly activities. Anyone from the age of five upwards can go on the inflatable, which opens from 9am to 6.30pm every day and can accommodate up to 250 people at a time. The safety conscious needn’t worry, either, as there are up to seven lifeguards on duty at any one time.
- Fill up your day at the Empty Quarter
The largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world, Rub Al Khali (known as the Empty Quarter) will take your breath away. Book a short stay at the Qasr Al Sarab hotel so you can embark on desert adventures including desert yoga and fat biking. The kids can tag along, or go for a visit to the camel farm to see donkeys, rabbits and more, cooling off at the Kids’ Club after. If dad is missing his trusty Volvo, here is one way to get him back in the driving seat. Yas Marina Circuit, home to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, offers up a host of driving experiences. Your kids can explore the playground, make new friends at CrossFit for Kids or cool off with a splash in the musical water fountain.
From a large trampoline park and zip-line to three-storey adventure ropes and ninja courses, kids can decide on the level of thrill they want to seek from the range of activities on offer. Based within Deerfields mall, the outdoor zone is perfect to test and improve focus, balance and strength, while breathing in some fresh air. For the slightly tinier kiddies, they are 36 interconnected trampolines to keep them bouncing around, including a basketball arena and a parkour style course that will certainly attract acrobatic kids.
- Hunt for treasure at Nation Riviera beach club
Located on the Abu Dhabi Corniche, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi’s Nation Riviera features a 200-metre private beach, secluded cabanas and a spacious infinity pool with gardens as well as exclusive fitness facilities. The hotel’s Treasure Island Children’s Club, designed as a mock pirates’ ship for kids aged four to 12, provides a safe and enjoyable area to keep them entertained, with fully-supervised indoor and outdoor activities including a pool and water slide. Nanny services are also available upon request with notice.
- Live luxuriously at Emirates Palace
When life give you lemons, the only thing to do is grab a rubber ring and proceed to a 180° in a lazy river. At Emirates Palace you can enjoy one of the UAE’s most prestigious beach clubs. And once all that relaxation becomes too much, you can work up a sweat in one of two fitness suites with daily group fitness classes such as yoga, pilates and Zumba. Leave the little ones at the brilliant kids’ club, or bring them along on bike rides, challenge them to tennis or enjoy a jog on the 6km track. Off the coast of Abu Dhabi, this island is a natural reserve and haven for protected animals. Half of Sir Bani Yas is covered by the Arabian Wildlife Park, where 13,000 animals live across 1,400 hectares of land. It’s an important research and conservation zone, with nature drives, walks, horse trekking and biking. Giraffes, oryx, cheetahs, jackals and many more animals are present and it’s the closest you can get to a real safari without leaving the country (you will have to travel a few hours to get there, though). An unmissable experience, especially as you’re bedding down at one of the villa suites by Anantara – the herds are most active at sunrise and early evening.
- Meet the animals at Emirates Park Zoo
There’s a certain feeling of wonder when you encounter wildlife of any kind, whether it be realising just how big a giraffe is or how fast a hippo can sprint (stunning to watch, might we add). Emirates Park Zoo and Resort captures that wonder, with its many close encounter experiences, especially when you get the chance to eat a wholesome breakfast with giraffes or lunch with leopards. You can even feed crocodiles if you’re brave enough. . Animal lovers can explore the whole zoo, which includes everything from magnificent eagles to cute little lambs, and you get to feed most of them.
If dad loves the game, though, then challenge him to 18 holes at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, home to the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, where the likes of Rory Mcllroy and current World Number One Dustin Johnson are regular participants. n the hunt for more excitement? Wadi Adventure is the UAE’s first man-made whitewater rafting, kayaking, wakeboarding and surfing attraction and has been making waves in Al Ain for years. It plays host to the world’s largest surf pool, and the Airpark boasts a two-storey aerial obstacle course, a zip line, climbing wall and giant swing. The family pool and kids’ splash area are available throughout the day for your enjoyment.
- Spend the day at Umm Al Emarat Park
One of the largest and oldest parks in the capital, Umm Al Emarat features features an animal barn (where you can see a baby goat), amphitheatre, botanic, children and evening gardens, and more. You can also check out the Shade House to cool off, which houses several species of plants and upper-deck levels with incredible views of the park and surrounding landscape. Plus, the Ripe Market is now here to – so you can shop, eat, play and spend a quality day outdoors.
- Stroll along The Corniche
It’s been a busy couple of months already hasn’t it? Let’s just take things down a notch and unwind a little bit. The Corniche is one of the most beautiful stretches in the UAE, made up of an eye-catching 8km of manicured waterfront lined with cute cafés, play areas and an award-winning beachfront. It’s best to step out while it’s a bit cooler in the morning so you can make the most of the lovely sights, and why not go for a bike ride?
- Train at Yas Marina Circuit
Tuesday evenings are best spent on Yas Marina Circuit’s Formula 1 track. Serious runners, cyclists and even families looking to take a stroll can get fit and join the fast, and the not so fast, for an activity-filled outing that’s great fun for all. That’s one more way to get the kids moving and in shape and best of all, it’s completely free. Just register online, turn up and grab your bike (if you’re cycling).
The first indoor entertainment venue of its kind in the world, Warner Bros World is one of the newest attractions. The Yas Island park boasts six immersive lands: Bedrock, Dynamite Gulch, Cartoon Junction, Gotham City, Metropolis and Warner Bros Plaza. Among the plethora of activities available, it gives visitors the opportunity to meet and get photographs with well-known characters such as Batman, Superman, Bugs Bunny, Scooby-Doo and Tom & Jerry. This is one of the area’s most popular attractions, so get your tickets in advance.
- Eastern Mangroves Promenade
Hidden behind the main road that links Abu Dhabi and Dubai, you’ll find a treasure trove of walking paths, cafés, restaurants and water-based activities. Catch some of the best sunsets as you wander the promenade, or hire a solar-powered eco-donut boat and take a spin around the mangroves. Rent a kayak, join a stand-up paddleboard tour, or book yourself a seat on the Abu Dhabi Pearl Tour. If this seems like too much activity for one day however, just pull up a seat at one of the nearby cafés and restaurants and soak up the serenity.
For a unique look at the city get out on the water. Yellow Boats offer a choice of two tours in the capital – the Grand Mosque tour and Corniche tour. Not only will you get to share the Gulf waters with the resident dolphins, you’ll also get a front-row seat to spectacular views of the city skyline and some of its most notable landmarks including Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Sheikh Zayed Bridge, and the Corniche promenade. Join either a 60-minute or 90-minute set tour, or work with the organisers to put together a customised visit.
Get a glimpse into the past at this reconstructed traditional oasis village on the Corniche Breakwaters. Study historical artefacts and line up for a first-hand look at how pottery is made, glass is blown and fabric is woven on a loom. Run by the Emirates Heritage Club, you may even get the chance to try your hand at these traditional skills that have long been a part of Arab culture. Afterwards, head to the little spice shop and check out the range of dried herbs, handmade soaps or purchase a souvenir. You’ll find Heritage Village just a short walk from Marina Mall.
Satisfy your need for speed at the city’s motor-themed fun park. Simulate a drive in a Formula 1 racing car, test-drive the world’s fastest Formula Rossi roller coaster, or try your hand at the park’s Tyre Change Challenge or Khalil’s Car Wash. Situated within the Yas Island entertainment precinct, Ferrari World is about 25 minutes by car from Abu Dhabi.
This mountain peak takes the title of the emirate’s highest, at 1,240m (4,068ft) tall. The craggy limestone elevation, which borders Oman and Al Ain, has stood tall for millions of years and has preserved fossils and burial tombs. As the UAE’s second highest mountain, the drive up is not for the faint-hearted, but well worth the trip to experience one of the world’s greatest driving roads.
WHERE TO EAT IN ABU DHABI
Modern and cosmopolitan, Abu Dhabi is bound to offer memorable encounters with local and international cuisine in breath-taking settings. From desert venues serving traditional food to award-winning restaurants specializing in Chinese, French, Lebanese or Morrocan dishes, Abu Dhabi’s Michelin-starred chefs transform the city into a top culinary destination in these ten great restaurants.
As it name suggests, Marakesh is a Moroccan restaurant located in the center of Abu Dhabi and one of the few of its kind in the city. With opulent interiors, live music and dance performances every night, Marakesh sets up an authentic cultural space for guests to explore the aromatic gastronomy of Morocco. The menu includes a diverse choice of traditional dishes, from couscous to salads, tagines, fish, seafood and meat grills, and gives guests a good introduction into the culinary traditions of Morocco.
Li Beirut is a mandatory stop for all those who enjoy Lebanese food. Highly rated and considered one of the top restaurants of Abu Dhabi, Li Beirut is an award winning restaurant. Delighting its guests with a spectacular view of the surrounding sea, Li Beirut serves traditional and contemporary Lebanese dishes cooked up with a fusion of European influences. The menu itself is a culinary masterpiece, featuring signature courses such as the zaatar crusted rack of lamb accompanied by sweet potato and truffle, the foie gras kebbeh and the decadent honey fudge dessert
Bord Eau is the place to go for French gastronomy enthusiasts. A top establishment serving contemporary French cuisine, Bord Eau combines fine food and artistic vision, offering signature dishes such as Dover sole a la Grenobloise, Loch Fyne wild salmon and scallop or the tempting chocolate extravaganza. Only fresh ingredients, imported straight from France, are used to create these delicious works of art. Recognized by numerous and prestigious awards, Bord Eau is an unmissable culinary attraction in the heart of thriving Abu Dhabi.
Located in the Abu Dhabi desert, Al Maqam completes and refines the romantic Arabian experience. Part of a luxury complex – Arabian Nights Villages – Al Maqam provides a high-class voyage into the realm of the desert and legends. Its Arabian-style, floor-level seating, hand-made decorations, palm-thatched terrace and live artistic performances create a cultural oasis in the middle of the desert where travelers can enjoy exquisite dishes. From the traditional local Emirati and Arabic recipes to classics of international cuisine, Al Maqam offers a full culinary tour, including cooking lessons and bread making sessions.
- Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill
Run by Brittish celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, one of the youngest of his time to be awarded with 3 Michelin stars, this restaurant is the perfect place for carnivores craving the most succulent of steaks.The Steakhouse and Grill stands out as one of the upmarket culinary spots in Abu Dhabi. Although it mainly focuses on a variety of steak specialties, the menu is extensive and also offers gastronomic treats such as Kelly oysters, Scottish salmon and the mouth-watering Devon and Alaskan crab soup.
With a great panoramic view of Abu Dhabi and the Arabian Gulf offered by its privileged location on the 63rd floor of the Etihad Towers, Quest is one of the most acclaimed restaurants of the city. With inspiration drawn from the world of Asian cuisine, Quest provides guests with an creative interpretation of modern fine dining, ‘blending and recreating flavors from Japan, MAlaysian, Singapore and China. Quest serves up unique specialties that flirt with traditional Asian dishes while reinterpreting them with ingredients of the highest quality.
Hakkasan provides a high-class experience of Chinese cuisine in an eclectic venue. Enjoying a huge dining hall area, the Abu Dhabi version of the well-known Hakkasan is a singular combination of the modern spirit of the United Arab Emirates and assertive Chinese influence. Talented and visionary, Hakkasan’s chef Lee Kok Hua amazes his guests with signature dishes such as the tantalizing Peking duck with caviar, the succulent grilled Wagyu beef with king soy and a range of other recipes – all imaginatively demonstrating a thorough understanding of the art of culinary creativity.
Villa Toscana is Abu Dhabi’s best place to savor a memorable rendezvous with the richly flavored landscape of Italian cuisine. Enjoying a great location in one of the city’s luxury hotels, Villa Toscana recreates the sophisticated and classy atmosphere of a Tuscany villa with high ceilings and large chandeliers. Offering cooking classes to amateurs and its classic Friday lunches at communal tables, Villa Toscana is a reference point for all those craving an authentic taste of the Italian regions of Tuscany, Umbria and Emilia-Romagna. A prime Abu Dhabi restaurant, Villa Toscana serves up a range of Italian delicacies from crunchy, quick pizzas to highly refined dishes that take two days to cook, such as the highly alluring tagliatelle with lamb ragout and chocolate powder.
Catalan quickly became one of the best restaurants in Abu Dhabi and a treat for all those with a passion for Catalonia’s world-renowned gastronomy. This high-end restaurant takes its guests back in time to the old-style decor and charm of a luxurious European salon in early 20th century Barcelona. With a Michelin-starred chef heading the kitchen, Catalan is a blend of traditional and contemporary, creating a unique dining experience. Guests can choose from an impeccable menu, starring roasted steak of foie gras, paellas or extra virgin olive oil ice cream, or the chef’s special seven-course tasting menu.
A true UAE heaven for music lovers, Jazz Bar & Dining is an excellent choice for those looking to enjoy dinner in a special atmosphere. With a local band playing every night from Sunday to Friday, this Abu Dhabi restaurant is popular with tourists and the expat community alike. The menu offers premium choices from international cuisines, with excellent selections of sea bass, scallops, tiger prawns and fresh salmon, various types of French cheese and exotic desserts such as the lychee light jelly with lime cream and meringue, served with rice paper, a mini fruit strudel and raspberry sorbet.
WHERE TO SHOP IN ABU DHABI
Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, is gaining a reputation around the region and among tourists for its tradition, culture, and safe environment, and it is becoming a growing hot spot for travel. From local sweets to traditional outfits, here are the best places to go shopping for souvenirs in the city of Abu Dhabi.
This area will have the more traditional-style souvenirs of Abu Dhabi, with items such as hand-woven clothes and ceramics. The Heritage Village is also a large open-air museum that showcases traditional Abu Dhabi, which means you can learn while you shop as well!
Easily the most popular mall and hangout area for locals, Marina Mall is the place to go for the largest selection of gifts and souvenirs. From small shisha holders to traditional frankincense burners, this locale is a perfect place to search for keepsakes.
An open-air market selling fresh Abu Dhabi dates, Mina Dates Market is an excellent attraction for tourists as well as a place to buy the perfect souvenir from the city. With an enormous selection of different dates, both fresh and dried, you’ll have a hard time choosing which delicious variety to take home!
- Gold Centre at Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre
The people of Abu Dhabi love their gold, which makes an ever-popular gift or memento from the UAE. The best place to buy gold as a souvenir in Abu Dhabi is at the Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre. Be sure to remember to bargain when going!
This strikingly beautiful and rich hotel will take anyone’s breath away from the sheer luxury of it! From its enormous vaulted ceilings to gold-infused coffees at the extravagant café inside, the Emirates Palace Hotel is an ideal place to go to bring a little of Abu Dhabi’s riches back as a souvenir.
One of the most well-known areas in the city, due to its large tourist and expat community, the Tourist Club Area is a great place to go for more traditional UAE gifts and souvenirs. With large areas of souks, you can buy anything from authentic Arabic rugs to UAE trinkets while also exploring one of Abu Dhabi’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods.
Located on Yas Island, a hip and young destination in Abu Dhabi that is also one of the hottest places to be in the entire country, this mall is perfect for people-watching while you shop for souvenirs from the UAE. Here you can find anything from tasty dates, Abu Dhabi trinkets and keychains, traditional Emirati dresses, and luxurious Arabic perfumes. Shop away!