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Dubai tourist attractions

Top Dubai sights

Dubai offers a glittering skyline of soaring buildings in the distance. But Dubai isn’t just all modern additions. It's home to vibrant souqs and fascinating museums.

  1. Explore the Gold Souq
  2. See the mighty Burj al Arab
  3. Discover Madinat Jumeirah
  4. Visit the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
  5. Visit the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
  6. Look up at the Burj Khalifa
  7. See the Palm Jumeirah
  8. Enter the Dubai Museum

Dubai is home to a wealth of attractions to suit every traveller. Fantastic neighbourhoods, spectacular architecture and unique shopping experiences.

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Explore the Gold Souq

Deira’s famous Gold Souq is usually the first stop for visitors. It attracts a cosmopolitan range of customers, from western tourists to African traders buying up pieces for resale at home. There are over three hundred shops here, most of them lined up along the souq’s wooden-roofed main arcade, their windows packed with a staggering quantity of jewellery. It’s been estimated that there are usually around ten tonnes of gold in the souq at any one time. After all, all that glitters is gold!

Best for: Jewellery

While you’re there: The Gold Souq is just one part of the city’s much larger overall gold trade.

2. See the mighty Burj al Arab

This is by far one of the best Dubai attractions. The jewel of the Dubai coast is the Burj al Arab hotel , the city’s best-known landmark which has gained an iconic status. The 321-m high structure is shaped like a sail to complement the ‘wave’ design of the nearby Jumeirah Beach Hotel. It dominates the surrounding residential neighbourhood and can be seen from virtually any point on the Dubai coast. A seven-star hotel, built on its own man-made island and comprising 202 two-storey suites, Burj al Arab restricts access to hotel guests or those who have booked a table at one of its restaurants.

Best for: Dubai’s most well-known landmark

While you’re there: Way up high you might even be able to spot the helipad on the building’s roof!

3. Discover Madinat Jumeirah

The Madinat Jumeirah resort on the Jumeirah coast is a reimagining of what Dubai could have looked like in previous centuries. Of course, if builders of those times had access to modern construction materials and techniques - not to mention larger budgets! It mixes the wind-tower houses of the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood with the modest former palace in Shindagha and the souqs of old Dubai. Looking for Dubai holidays? If you’re traveling here in January and February, make sure to book ahead. The Dubai Shopping Festival is held there, so it gets busy.

Best for: A unique Dubai landmark

While you’re there: You’re not far from the Wild Wadi Waterpark here!

4. Visit the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood

As recently as the mid-1990s, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (Bastakiya) was a run-down place with up to 100 people often crammed into a single house. Now, thanks to a restoration programme undertaken by Dubai Municipality’s Historical Buildings Section, it has become a case study for urban conservation in the Arab world. It’s enjoying a new lease of life as the city’s arts quarter.

Best for: An interesting neighbourhood in Dubai

While you’re there: The area is particularly vibrant during the annual SIKKA Art Fair in March.

5. Visit the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

Dubai Mall, a shopping extravaganza, is also home to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo . The aquarium’s most notable feature is the spectacular ‘viewing panel’, towering over the shops by the main entrance to the mall. It’s a huge, floor-to-ceiling transparent acrylic panel filled with an extraordinary array of marine life, ranging from sand-tiger sharks and stingrays to colourful shoals of tiny tropical fish. All this can be seen for free from the mall. Inside, the Underwater Zoo is more likely to appeal to children than adults. This is one of the best Dubai tourist attractions, if you’re travelling with little ones for sure.

Best for: Sea life

While you’re there: Don’t forget to shop in the Dubai Mall, too. There are over 1200 shops here.

6. Look up at the Burj Khalifa

Rising imperiously skywards, the needle-thin Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building. The Burj opened in early 2010 after five years’ intensive construction, finally topping out at a staggering 828m. It comprehensively smashed all existing records for the world’s tallest man-made structures, past and present. This is Dubai sightseeing at its very best.

Best for: Incredible architecture

While you’re there: A breakfast buffet is on offer here. Start your day in the clouds!

7. See the Palm Jumeirah

Nowhere is the scale of Dubai’s explosive growth as staggeringly obvious as in the far south of the city. It's home to the vast Palm Jumeirah artificial island, and Dubai Marina development - evidence of the emirate’s magical ability to turn sand into skyscrapers and raise entire new city suburbs up out of the waves. Fifteen years ago the district was the largest building site - at one point it was estimated that Dubai was home to a quarter of the world’s total number of construction cranes. Now the building crews have gone, leaving a new city and the world’s largest man-made island.

Best for: A man-made island

While you’re there: There are plenty of hotels and resorts on the island, so you won’t be stuck for choice here.

8. Enter the Dubai Museum

The excellent Dubai Museum makes a logical stop on a tour of the city. It’s the perfect place to get up to speed with the history and culture of the emirate. The museum occupies the old Al Fahidi Fort, a rough-and-ready little structure whose engagingly lopsided corner turrets make it look a bit like a giant sandcastle.

Best for: Museums

While you’re there: Dating from around 1800, the fort is the oldest building in Dubai.

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