Things to do in Abu Dhabi

Must-see Abu Dhabi sights

The emirate’s change from obscure fishing village into modern city-state is perhaps the most dramatic of all the stories that dot the region. Recent years have seen mega-projects slowly taking shape across the city. Abu Dhabi is certainly an exciting place to be with plenty on offer.

  1. Be amazed at one of the world’s largest mosques
  2. Visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi
  3. Enjoy a glimpse of luxury at the Emirates Hotel
  4. Discover souk nightlife
  5. Float by on a dhow cruise
  6. Cycle along the Cornice
  7. Wander around an exciting island
  8. Explore Heritage Village
  9. Head out to the desert

Unique souk experiences, impressive museums and glorious architecture, Abu Dhabi is full of exciting experiences.

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1. Be amazed at one of the world’s largest mosques

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world. It’s rapidly established itself as one of the region’s leading tourist attractions. From a distance the domes and minarets look like something from Arabian Nights, but close up it is the combination of huge scale and minute detail that really impresses. It’s been inspired by some of the greatest Islamic buildings ever created. It is a harmonious blend of Moorish, Mughal and Persian architecture, built by master craftsmen from around the world. If you do one thing in Abu Dhabi, make sure it’s this.

Best for: Incredible architecture

While you’re there: The mosque is home to the biggest chandelier and carpet on the planet. Incredibly, they’re both handmade.

2. Visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi

No, you’re not in Paris! This is the Louvre Abu Dhab . This spectacular museum - which officially opened in 2017 - came to life thanks to a partnership between France and the United Arab Emirates. The brief was to create a one-of-a-kind cultural institution in and for the Arabic world. And that, it most certainly is. The Louvre Abu Dhabi was designed by Jean Nouvel, who linked the dozens of buildings through waterfront promenades and the massive 180-metre-wide dome. It showcases the contemporary Arab world while celebrating its multicultural heritage. The museum represents all cultural achievements from prehistory to the present - with 23 permanent galleries progressing in chronological order.

Best for: A unique attraction

While you’re there: The building is also home to the special Children’s Museum where kids learn all about art.

3. Enjoy a glimpse of luxury at the Emirates Hotel

The Emirates Palace Hotel is built to the highest specifications on an epic Hollywood scale. It is without doubt one of the planet’s most grandiose and opulent places to stay. Remarkably, it is also open to any visitor who wants to come in and look around. It may seem strange to visit a hotel as a tourist attraction, but the Emirates Palace is no ordinary hotel. The statistics are staggering and worth a look - marble imported from 13 countries; over 1,000 chandeliers; 8,000 trees planted and beach sand from Algeria. Abu Dhabi holidays holidays? The Emirates Hotel is incredible, but of course, comes with a hefty price tag! For somewhere (a lot!) cheaper, why not try Centro Al Manhal Hotel for a central location?

Best for: A look at luxury

While you’re there: The Emirates Palace Hotel is near the Observation Deck at 300, which offers fantastic city views.

4. Discover souk nightlife

In Abu Dhabi souks aren’t just for the day. One of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi is wander around the Souk at Qaryat al-Beri . The souk and its adjacent hotels now form a lively leisure and vibrant nightlife hub. Find great beaches, bars and restaurants all around here. Shops are laid out in ‘Arabian souk’ style, with establishments linked by a meandering canal and abra water taxis.

Best for: An alternative souk experience

While you’re there: Look out to magnificent views across to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque while you’re there.

5. Float by on a dhow cruise

What to do in Abu Dhabi to enjoy the water? Hop aboard a dhow cruise. A cruise aboard a traditional dhow sails along the Corniche. It provides a memorable view of the city’s magnificent waterfront - sunset cruises are particularly popular. Reliable operators include Al Dhafra, Net Tours and the long-running Shuja Yacht, operated by Le Royal Méridien Hotel.

Best for: Picture-perfect views

While you’re there: Dinner cruises are also available so you can dine in style.

6. Cycle along the Cornice

Cycler? Yes? Then this is the activity for you. You can hire a bicycle from various places along the Corniche. Running along the northwest seafront, the broad Corniche road is flanked by a long swathe of parkland. There’s also a spacious blue-flag beach, well away from the streaming traffic. The waters just off the Corniche are sheltered by the enormous manmade Lulu Island.

Best for: A cycle with a view

While you’re there: Cycle over in the late afternoon to see jet skiers whizz across the water.

7. Wander around an exciting island

One of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi is visit Sir Bani Yas Island. It’s a perfect mix of laidback luxury and adventure. Around half the island is protected as the Arabian Wildlife Park, a nature reserve for indigenous flora and fauna originally established by Sheikh Zayed in 1971. The foundation of the project was the planting of 2.5 million trees. This has turned a dusty salt island into a lush savannah-like environment capable of sustaining large numbers of animals.

Best for: An island hop

While you’re there: The island is also home to the largest shopping mall in the emirate. If you’re looking to buy, this is the one for you.

8. Explore Heritage Village

The area consists of a line of picturesque barasti huts, including several workshops where local artisans - carpenters, potters and brass makers - can sometimes be seen at work. The star attraction is the spectacular view over the water to the skyscrapers lining the Corniche.

Best for: Finding local artwork

While you’re there: There’s a small spice shop in the village. Find dried herbs and handmade soaps here - perfect for souvenir shopping.

9. Head out to the desert

One of the most rewarding things to do in Abu Dhabi is head to nearby Liwa Oasis. It’s such a dominant feature that it is easy to see why it has had such an influence on the lives of the inhabitants of Abu Dhabi. The thin crescent-shaped strip of greenery curves gracefully for over 100km. Follow your eye between the thousands of square kilometres of giant sand dunes which carry on into the horizon. The whole experience is an incredible and unique look at traditional Emiriti life - you’ll be greeted by the warm welcome of Bedouins. Enjoy the tranquil peace of the desert, silence only broken by a grumble of a camel.

Best for: A desert stay

While you’re there: There are plenty of accommodation options here. Liwa Hotel is situated in the centre of the sea dunes.

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