Our recommendations for the best things to do in Dubai
Dubai is one of 21st century’s iconic destinations, combining Arabian history and culture with hyper-modern amenities and record-breaking luxury.
Sometimes unfairly characterised as a destination for shopping, shopping and more shopping, there’s actually a huge variety of activities on offer. Here's our list of the top 10 things to do in Dubai.
Enjoy the beach
There aren’t many huge cities that can boast beaches as beautiful as Dubai’s. Much of the sand is privately owned by the big, luxury hotels, but there are plenty of stunning spots that are open to the public and only charge a very small fee. Al Mamzar Beach Park is one of the finest examples, with fine white sand.
Visit a mosque
Islam is entrenched in the culture of Dubai and it wouldn’t make sense to visit without taking the opportunity to learn a little more about the religion. The best way to do this is by visiting a mosque, and undoubtedly your best bet is Jumeirah Mosque. This is one of very few mosques across the UAE that allows non-Muslim visitors and organised tours.
See the museums
If the unrelenting commercial atmosphere begins to get too much, it’s worth quenching your cultural thirst with the large number of museums nestled throughout the city. The Dubai Museum is the pick of the bunch, located in the Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest building in Dubai. It has a huge range of exhibits, but the most fascinating is the dioramas showing Dubai’s supersonic development from a tiny pearling town to the thriving metropolis you see today.
Play a round of golf
As a city frequented by the rich and the richer, it’s not really a big surprise that Dubai has a passionate love affair with golf. There are a huge number of golf courses here and they have been designed by some of the biggest names in the sport – Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and Ernie Els.
The Gold Souk is akin to a shopping center comprising only jewellery shops. Found in the old city center at Deira, the fine earrings, bracelets and necklaces glister temptingly at you, but what really lights up is a jeweller’s eyes when he realises he’s found a customer who doesn’t haggle. This is still the Middle East, remember, and haggling is expected. Hone your haggling craft and you can get gold, platinum and silver at bargain prices.
Shop at The Dubai Mall
The Dubai Mall is so much more than just a shopping experience. Its astonishing list of attractions makes it look more like a miniature, hyper-capitalist country than a mall. It has six floors, a glitzy ice rink, an indoor theme park, a 22-screen cinema and an aquarium with more than 33,000 marine creatures. Oh, and more than 1,200 shops. Yes, the actual shopping side of shopping in The Dubai Mall sometimes feels like something of an afterthought. It’s a pretty amazing experience whether you’re splashing the cash or just marvelling at the scenery.
Further reading: Dubai is the most shimmering shrine to consumerism in the Middle East. We check out the city’s most lavish super-malls, guaranteed to lure you and your credit card.
Marvel at Burj Khalifa
Dubai has never been a city famed for subtlety, and its increasing desire for world records led to the building of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. It is nothing short of a modern engineering and architectural masterpiece at 164 floors high. The view from the top is something truly breath-taking and the observation deck features floor-to-ceiling glass walls providing incredible views of the city below.
Eat like a king no matter your budget
The beauty of food in Dubai is that you can experience some of the most incredible flavors and cuisine in the world regardless of how much money you want to spend. There everything from the rustic budget restaurants offering immaculately spiced Indian cuisine to the swanky New York-style steakhouses, where the prices might make you expect to be served up diamond-encrusted fillet mignon.
Go on a desert safari
vacations in Dubai generally don’t make it far beyond second gear. If you’re not lounging on a beach, you’re dawdling around a shopping center or taking in a leisurely round of golf. So if you’re the type who needs an adrenaline rush once in a while, it isn’t always obvious where to look. Fortunately, the desert will provide in the form of a safari tour. A decent desert safari will take you racing across the dunes in a 4x4 and then on a quad bike.