Fall in love with Dubai: 22 best places to visit
Fall in love with Dubai! Not just the popular attractions like the Burj Khalifa, but the off-the-beaten-path places too. I’m sharing tips from our trip and useful links.
Today I will tell you what you can love about Dubai. It is not only skyscrapers of glass and concrete, competing in luxury and height. It is also the cozy little world of the Old City with its low buildings, abr boats and shady streets, modern Arabian art, floral wonders and a sea of entertainment. All these unique sights are worth seeing at least once in a lifetime!
Exchange rate: 1 UAE dirham (AED) ≈ 21 RUB
Dubai Map is our guide to the best sights, including descriptions, photos and a few goodies. The map costs ₽300 and will save you lots of time. It is installed on any smartphone and works without internet.
Beware: interesting tours! To get to know Dubai better, book an author’s tour on Tripster. Read the descriptions and reviews to choose the coolest program. Dubai has a great selection of fascinating excursions.
This is the top of the top sights in Dubai – something to see first. We liked the tower with the height of 163 floors very much, even an inveterate skeptic it will impress at least. It seems that its spire is carried away to the stratosphere!
In order to get to the 124th floor of this beauty you need to pay 149 dirhams which is the cheapest ticket. But believe me, it’s worth the climb.
We bought an online combo ticket with a visit to the tower and the aquarium. Took the ticket for 9am, before the haze. The views are unforgettable! You can visit the tower on your own. Read all the details in a separate article about the Burj Khalifa – there are all the tips, prices and tips.
If you want to flash your pics on Instagram, get there early before the light reflects off the glass panes of the observation deck and there aren’t as many people there.
This is me admiring the view of the city that conquered the desert. The most mesmerizing part is watching the tiny cars run along the freeways.
The Singing Fountains of Dubai Fountain.
Well the fountains, well they are singing. The crowd of tourists in the evening is just crazy, and everyone takes the best seats in advance.
No doubt it was nice to look at the tight jets of water, beautifully illuminated by lights, which are elastic, like snakes, wriggle in time with the Arab music on the background of the Burj Khalifa. But when they played Russian music (something like Pugacheva), it was too much! We saw something similar in Nha Trang’s Winkel Park – they even played “Kalinka” to the delight of our compatriots.
We watched it several times: in the daytime at 13:00 and 13:30 (faded and uninteresting), in the evening from 18:00 to 23:00, about every half hour. Best seen from the Apple balcony on the 2nd floor of Dubai Mall, if you can make your way there. It’s all free.
By the way we liked similar fountains in a Mexican town Campeche much more: we were sitting right in the center of amphitheater, so it created IMAX effect, there were few tourists, pleasant music played. What a pure delight.
The Singing Fountains, Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa are included in almost all Dubai sightseeing tours. Picked for you the best individual sightseeing tours by car:
The Singing Fountains in front of Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa Tower. Not that impressive, but you can see them once.
Well, you have already realized that in Dubai, everything is being built with an incredible scale. Meet and marvel – the world’s largest shopping mall, Dubai Mall, covering 1.2 million square meters! This is not TSUM and not even Chinese endless malls. We walked about one kilometer from the subway up to the entrance of the mall and then about 10 more kilometers along the mall itself. What could not be found there! If you are a shopaholic, be careful. We are not very keen on shopping so we ate at the food court and left without buying anything. By the way, the mall is an escape from the heat!
Dubai Mall outside.
I have a soft spot for God’s creatures, so I definitely went to the aquarium and underwater zoo. It’s not just an aquarium, it’s an aquarium! Just imagine – 10 million tons of water. If this thing bursts.
It was not without awe that I entered the 48-meter tunnel that runs under the aquarium. What graceful stingrays and funny fish are there! A little higher up is the underwater zoo, which is also very interesting.
You can see the aquarium itself from the side for free, but we bought a combo ticket along with the Burj Khalifa. At that time it was very profitable – 390 dirhams for two. Combo tickets change all the time, see the actual prices on the official website. AED 70 for individual tickets. The Aquarium can also be visited as part of the tour.
How do I get to the Aquarium, Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa and the fountains? They are all in one place! Get to the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall metro station. From there follow the signs to the Mall. Most people go to the mall, so you won’t get lost. The fountains are right at the exit of the mall, the aquarium is in the mall, and you will definitely not miss the tower.
You can see the famous aquarium for free, but only from the outside. To get into the tunnel and the underwater zoo, you must buy a ticket. The underwater zoo has some cool jellyfish!
Bastakia (Al Fahidi).
Would you say what a newfangled mess this restored neighborhood of Bastakia is? At first glance, I thought so too. But it’s so nice to hide from the sun and the noise of the big city there. And when the chill goes down and the moon rises, the magic begins! Moonlight casts sharp shadows on the sandy walls, and at once all the characters of oriental fairy tales come to life: here Schaherezade in a burka sneaked past, here’s sneering Khoja Nasreddin led his mule, and here’s a robber marks the chalk door of Ali Baba.
We lived in an Oriental hotel right on this block and every evening we enjoyed the mysterious silence and fantasized about what Dubai was like before oil production. There’s plenty to see in Bastakia: the old fort, the mosque, all sorts of museums and art galleries. Have tea or coffee at Basta Art Cafe – the interior alone is worth it!
If you are interested in old Dubai and its pre-Flood history, we recommend taking a tour “Dubai Through the Ages” – in reviews tourists write that the guide is informative about it.
While everyone is shopping, hanging out on the beaches and having fun in the water parks, check out the deserted Bastakia area and see what Dubai looked like before oil production.
Deira is a historic neighborhood, a jumbled mix of Egypt, Morocco, and modern Dubai. There are oriental markets, narrow alleys between traditional houses, and skyscrapers. The aromas in the spice market are overwhelming: it smells of cumin, vanilla, saffron, zira and thousands of other colorful spices. In my opinion, this area in Dubai is a must-see for everyone!
The neighborhood gave us contradictory feelings: clingy callers, signs in Russian, the glitter of diamonds, gold and Rolexes irritated us. On the other hand, where else in Dubai do you see such a strange mixture of old and new? But all this is only in the area where the markets are concentrated – Al Ras. Farther away are more modern buildings.
Don’t miss the Golden Market – you definitely haven’t seen so much gold in one place!
To get to Deira, take the traditional Abra boat for AED 1 dirham one way or this tour and you’ll see lots more: Bur Dubai, Shindaga, Al Sif and Bastakia.
This is the view of Deira from a traditional abra boat, which you can take across Dubai Creek for only 1 dirham.
A trendy and vibrant place to walk around, try different cuisines, take beautiful photos for Instagram and shop. Colorful container buildings, installations, and street art. Come in the evening when it gets busy! It’s a different Dubai.
Boxpark in Dubai. Photo: tganclerz / Depositphotos.com.
La Mer and the City Walk.
The cozy corners of Europe in Dubai are La Mer and City Walk neighborhoods. If you are in the area, check it out. The neighborhood has a lot of art, graffiti, and other interesting sights, as well as a café. By the way, City Walk has great views of the Burj Khalifa.
They say it’s a very beautiful mosque and it is necessary to see it, but we did not go – we had not much time, and in Dubai there is so much more interesting than the mosque! If we went to see it, we would choose twilight, because then the lights come on.
They allow non-believers here for 35 dirhams per person. The price includes a long lecture in English, tea-coffee and national dress. There are tours at 10:00 and 14:00, it’s better to come half an hour before. You can see the mosque on your own, photos and video are allowed. It is important to observe the dress code.
Alternate transportation is available – first take the Metro to Palm Deira Station and then bus number 8 to the Grand Masjid Jumeirah stop.
Jumeirah Mosque (Photo: GASSL / flickr.com)
Dubai Marina and JLT
The impressive Dubai Marina area is an artificial marina with glittering skyscrapers. A kind of Dubai Manhattan – it’s expensive and upscale. We liked the neighborhood, it’s beautiful and photogenic. They say it’s even cooler in the evening with lights, but we were only in the daytime.
Next door is Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT), which is no less impressive. They are similar to each other and merge a bit in my memory.
Take the subway here, on the red line to Damac Properties or Jumeirah Lakes Towers. Or take one of these tours:
Dubai Marina Promenade.
Sheikh Zayed Highway.
You can see Dubai’s skyscrapers inexpensively without melting down from the panoramic window of the first or last subway car. We peeked out of the regular cars, but we also managed to look at a lot of things! But the best way is to take a breeze through Dubai in a luxury convertible. All the tourists are delighted with such an excursion! Plus you get a good guide in the person of a driver who will not be boring to tell you about the iconic sights, tell you about the experience of life in Dubai and advise where best to shop, entertain and eat.
Sitting in the comfortable air-conditioned subway cars, it’s great to admire the skyscrapers of Dubai!
The real exotics in Dubai are the flamingos in front of the skyscrapers! And it’s free. It all sounds beautiful and we almost didn’t even go there until we read the reviews. In fact there are a lot of complications: you have to take a cab (expensive), the birds come very close and you can see them only with binoculars, and the beautiful pictures can be taken only with a TV set. Nevertheless, there are a lot of people in the reviews who enjoyed the birdwatching.
In Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, there are only three places where you can observe birds. The sanctuary is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday through Thursday. To catch a cab back downtown, you need to get off the freeway.
If you are interested in animals and want to be guaranteed to see them, I suggest taking this tour to Dubai Safari Park and The Green Planet.
Flamingos in Dubai. Photo: Ubm007 / commons.wikimedia.org.
The Burj al Arab Hotel and Sail.
You can see Dubai’s most famous hotel on your own, although it is mostly seen as part of a sightseeing tour. Come to Open Beach, or Jumeirah Public Beach, to take that very photo in front of the famous hotel-sail. That’s exactly where we were on the beach. To avoid confusion, here are the coordinates: 25.145434,55.1927514.
Another photogenic place, not so easily accessible, is the beach of the hotel Madinat. To get there you have to walk through the hotel.
We took the metro (Mall of the Emirates) and then walked to the beach, looking at the beautiful villas. It took us about 20-25 minutes. I think there is a bus, but we didn’t look for it.
The famous hotel-paradise in Dubai is one of the most expensive and luxurious in the world. Photo: jovannig / depositphotos.com.
Al Serkal Avenue
Dubai’s non-tourist attraction is clearly not for everyone. It’s a complex of galleries with contemporary art exhibitions and cool cafes – all in an industrial design. The exhibitions are constantly changing, so see what’s waiting for you before you go.
Flower Miracle – Miracle Garden.
50 million flowers! Can you imagine? We can’t. And it’s all in the form of whimsical shapes. Do not let your phone memory fill up with so many pictures. Admission costs 55 dirhams, better come while it’s still light. The park is open from October to April.
You can get here first by metro Mall of the Emirates, then take bus 105 directly to the entrance of the park. Or take this tour:
Rub Al Khali Desert.
A desert safari is impossible to ignore – but we did, because we were on a similar one in Egypt. Overall, the reviews of the desert excursions are excellent. Some people like it better in the morning, and some prefer to meet the sunset in the sandy ocean and admire the starry sky. Check out what safaris are offered in Dubai:
Rub Al Khali Desert (Photo: @valeriaandersson / unsplash.com)
The strange giant letter P that we saw regularly from the subway train window and which reminded us painfully of a familiar Perm art object turned out to be a new observation deck and museum. At the top is an extreme passage with a glass floor from which you can look out over Downtown Dubai. Admission costs 52.5 dirhams. You can buy tickets on the official website.
To get to Dubai Frame, take the metro to Al Jafiliya station and then go to entrance #4. You can also go up to the observation deck on this sightseeing tour. I recommend taking it because the guide has a lot of great reviews.
Dubai Frame (Photo: @toni_stark18 / unsplash.com)
Glow Park Neon Garden and Dinosaurs
There is a park next to the Dubai Frame. During the day it is calm and quiet, in general, ordinary. But in the evening, Glow Park is an outrage of color! Everything glows and sparkles, dinosaurs move and make sounds. Children love it, and adults do not remain indifferent. Buy your ticket online, it is cheaper.
You can get here on foot from Al Jafiliya Metro. Come to the entrance number 6.
One of the installations at Glow Park (Photo: leguico / flickr.com)
Entertainment at Dubai Parks and Resorts
Dubai residents love and know how to have fun! So grab your kids and head to the Dubai Parks and Resorts theme park complex: the colourful Legoland, Indian Bollywood, Motiongate and Riverland, dedicated to movies and cartoons. Tourists are advised to take tickets for only 2 parks, otherwise you won’t have time for anything. Find out how to rest in the UAE with children.
Atlantis Hotel Complex
If you want to spend a whole day with kids in Dubai, Atlantis Hotel offers you the Lost Chambers Aquarium, Aquaventure Waterpark with extreme slides, and Dolphin Bay, an aquarium resembling a sunken ancient city. There’s also a beach with a panoramic view of Dubai!
Atlantis Property (Photo: Dylan’s World / flickr.com)
Wild Wadi Waterpark
Some say it’s the best water park in Dubai, while others declare their love only for Aquaventure. There is a unique slide at Wild Wadi where you can reach speeds of up to 80 km/h! We have not tried it, but would you like to?
To get here, get off at Mall of the Emirates subway station and then take bus number 8 to the park entrance. Or just buy your tickets at once with the shuttle:
Not exactly a sightseeing attraction, but pulls on the observation deck. Come to the Pure Sky Lounge on the 35th floor and make your way to the terrace. Grab a drink and enjoy the sunset and the chill after a hot day.
View from the lounge. Photo: neiezhmakov / depositphotos.com.
If this is not your first time in Dubai and you’ve seen everything you can see, we suggest you get an exclusive experience: fly over the skyscrapers in a helicopter, learn to ride an Arabian horse or take a ride around the city in a convertible. It doesn’t come cheap, but the experience will be the most vivid!
The historical Al Bastakia area is the oldest part of Dubai that has preserved the buildings of the late XIX century. At that time it was inhabited by Persian merchants, who traded with pearls. During the construction boom, the old earthen houses with the characteristic wind towers almost demolished, but in time came to think of something, restored them and opened there museums and art galleries. The narrow streets of al-Bastakiya are particularly pleasant to walk through in the evening, when the buildings are illuminated by spectacular lighting. Check out the local history museum in the medieval fortress Al Fahidi, the Arabian Coffee Museum with a store on the first floor, and the Arabian Tea House with its traditional dishes.
The new Al Shindagha Museum of Emirati Heritage in Dubai Creek is housed in the recreated residence of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, the grandfather of the current Emir. The exhibit details and interactively traces the history of the Emirate, from the thatched shacks on the desert beach to the planet’s tallest skyscrapers. Next door, the Heritage Community Space is a complex of historic buildings where potters, weavers, and jewelers work before the eyes of the venerable public. The Perfume House talks about the role of fragrances in Dubai’s history and displays artifacts such as the precious bottles created for Sheikh Saeed ibn Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The ornate facade of the Iranian Shiite mosque is decorated with bright tiles – blue, azure and orange tiles stacked in intricate patterns. Unlike most mosques in Dubai, the one tucked away deep in the Satwa district is not only open to Muslims: several times a week, the Sheikh Mohammed Cultural Cooperation Center (SMCCU) organizes study tours. The Jumeirah Mosque, the one on the Dh500 bill, is also open to visitors. Tours are at 10 a.m. daily except Fridays.
Oli Oli Experimental Children’s Museum brings together eight playgrounds where artists, teachers and psychologists have created an interactive learning environment. in the Water Gallery you can learn all about density and buoyancy – experiment with waves, water vortexes and cannons, then dance in the rain. In the Air Gallery, children control a hurricane and make an air curtain, and in the Fortress Gallery, they create castles and magical houses out of the tools available. Toshi’s Net Gallery features macramé sculpture by Japanese artist Toshiko Horiyuchi Makadam . And while adults are ready to see some symbolism in the installation, for children it is just a large multi-colored mesh, where they can have fun jumping.
The kinks of Alserkal Avenue concentrate contemporary art . Contrary to its name, it’s not one avenue, but several alleyways between former warehouses and factories in the al-Quz industrial quarter. The industrial hangars have been reformatted into galleries, art centers, exhibition halls, restaurants, and cafes, resulting in an informal art-hub that constantly hosts interesting exhibitions and performances, concerts and film festivals, lectures and master classes.
Ras al-Khor Reserve is located in Dubai Creek, right in the city limits. It is several kilometers of salt marshes, marshy lagoons, lakes and mangroves, where wild birds are nesting and are not embarrassed by the neighborhood of highways and the Dubai Creek Harbour Mall. To make sure the peace and tranquility of the birds are not disturbed, the area is enclosed by a special noise-proof fence with bird watchers’ cabins along its perimeter. Visiting is free, it’s better to come in the morning or closer to the evening – during feeding time. You will surely see herons, cormorants, sandpipers and hawks in the reserve, but the main pride and joy of Ras al-Khor is huge flocks of pink flamingos, walking imposingly against the background of skyscrapers.
Exotic of Dubai
The man-made Al Qudra Lake, half an hour drive from Dubai, is remarkable not only for its very romantic form – the shores of the reservoir are home to many rare animals and birds. People come here with tents, and the campsites offer food stores and bicycles for hire to ride on the sand – there’s an 84-kilometre long track through Al Marmum Nature Reserve.
The largest reserve in the UAE, Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve, protects not only the wildlife, rare animals and birds, but also the ancient historical traditions: for this purpose, in the depths of the reserve recreated a traditional Bedouin village with tents covered with goat hair felt. Visitors arriving on camels are shown hunting with falcons and saluki hounds, taught to brew coffee on a fire and cook dishes according to old recipes, and in the evening they are explained how in the recent past, nomads found their way according to the stars. The list of activities includes a visit to a small farm, a market with authentic handicrafts and a large majlis tent where Arabian legends are told and nomadic customs are taught.