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10 best things to do in Dubai and places to visit

Whether you’re looking for the top attractions in Dubai for families, or planning to explore attractions by night, there’s lots of things to do in Dubai and places to visit waiting to be discovered.

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Things to do in Dubai

The United Arab Emirates has become one of the most popular destinations in the world, with Dubai tourist places among the reasons why visitor numbers are soaring. Whether you live in the UAE and are interested in what to do in Dubai or you are flying in to visit the top Dubai attractions, you’ll find some truly spectacular places to visit.

1. Burj Khalifa: Dubai Attractions

Burj Khalifa

Dubai excels at producing the biggest and best attractions on earth and can lay claim to the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa. Check out the exhibit on the building’s history, then take the fastest lift in the world to the top of the imposing building.

Take your camera to capture the endless panoramas towards the beach and over the city. Go at sunset if you can, as you get to see both day and night from the top.

2. Dubai Creek

Dubai Creek 

A simple abra ride on Dubai Creek is one of the most unique experiences you could have during your trip. Take one of these beautiful old roofed boats from Bur Dubai Abra Station on the southern side, and ride across the creek for just one dirham at sunset, as the evening call to prayer is singing out across the mosque minarets.

Tip: At the other side you’ll be met with the aromas of Dubai’s spice souk, one of the top places to visit in Dubai.  Buy an incense burner and a handful of frankincense or other traditional trinkets. Make time for a stroll around the old area of Deira while you’re here, with its atmospheric alleyways.

3. Dubai Gold Souk

Shoppers browse for gold at Dubai Gold Souk

Dubai is nicknamed the City of Gold, and a walk through Deira’s gold souk at Dubai Creek demonstrates why. Almost a third of the world’s entire gold stock is traded out of the city, and much of it is done in this slightly dated but very popular market.

It’s definitely one of the most interesting places to visit in Dubai and the best location if you want to buy gold in Dubai. The daily gold price is displayed on electronic signs at each entrance to the souk so you know exactly what you should be paying; the only differences will be the cost of labor.

A lot of the jewelers moved to Dubai from India and have been trading for decades and don’t always occupy the biggest shops, so it’s worth wandering down some of the smaller alleyways to find a good deal. And remember: always haggle.

Location: Al Khor Street, Deira, Old Dubai

4. Wild Wadi Waterpark

Opened in 1999, Wild Wadi has been updated a number of times to include bigger and better water rides such as the Jumeirah Sceirah, Burj Surj and Tantrum Alley. 

Location: Wild Wadi Waterpark, Jumeirah Beach Road
Entry is Free for hotel guests, other tickets start at around Dh250

5. Dubai Fountain and Dubai Mall

The Dubai Fountain is great to see at night

The Dubai Fountain has become one of the city’s most-loved attractions by locals and tourists alike. Situated just outside Dubai Mall in the Burj Khalifa Lake, it is the world’s largest choreographed fountain and the perfect way to spend an evening in Dubai.

The best bit is it’s free to watch so you can enjoy as many shows as you like without blowing your budget. While you’re there you must visit Dubai Mall, one of the largest in the world. It has everything from regular high-street shops to the world’s top designer shopping.

Location: Burj Khalifa Lake, Dubai Mall, Financial Centre Road, Downtown Dubai

6. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding

Brightly colored lanterns hang from the ceiling

Founded by an Emirati man who married a European woman and hosted by the charismatic general manager Nasif, the centre is a great place for a cross-cultural experience, as the name suggests. Don’t be surprised if you leave with a whole new understanding and appreciation of the Muslim world.

Traditional Emirati cuisine also makes it a treat for breakfast or lunch, or just to pick up a bar of Camel chocolate on the way out. If you’re feeling bold, when everyone has left, ask kindly if they would mind you climbing on to the roof to admire the views over the old Persian district, the Bastakia Quarter. Time it right and you can be up there when the call to prayer is sung at sunset.

7. Burj Al Arab

The Burj Al Arab should be on everyone's bucket list

Burj Al Arab remains an impressive landmark hotel. It’s often called the world’s only seven-star hotel, complete with a helicopter pad and its own aquarium, and is worth a visit if you’re living in or visiting the city.

If you don’t fancy an overnight stay, you could opt for an afternoon tea at Sahn Eddar or a dinner at Al Mahara restaurant where you can book a table next to the aquarium.

Location: Burj Al Arab hotel, Jumeirah Beach Road

8. Desert safaris

A 4x4 off-roading in the Dubai desert

If you want an adventure in Dubai, check out one of the many desert safaris and 4×4 off-roading tours. While the city can seem overwhelming, a 30-minute drive headed away from the sea can take you into quiet, pristine desert. (Quiet, that is, if you don’t plan on tearing around in a 4×4!) There are dozens of companies offering everything from camel safaris and dune bashing so find one that suits your taste.

9. Ski Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates

Want to visit the desert and hit the ski slopes in the same weekend away? Don’t miss Ski Dubai, a huge ski slope situated in Mall of the Emirates at the Marina end of the city.

It’s a bit of a surprise to go from the desert heat to freezing temperatures but you can hire all equipment, clothing and ski lessons you need. There’s even a café-bar halfway up the ski slope in true mountain style, so you can stop for a bumper hot chocolate and watch the fun unfold.

10. Jumeirah Beach Residence Walk and Dubai Marina

Atlantis Hotel, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai
Fly to Dubai 

Dubai Marina is surrounded by spectacular twisting skyscrapers, while just next door is the effortless glamour of Jumeirah Beach Residence walk (or ‘JBR walk’ if you want to sound like a local).

Like a city within a city, this area owns some prime people-watching cafés, sociable bars and some of the best restaurants in Dubai. Look out for Frankie Dettori’s Frankie’s Italian Bar & Grill and try Gary Rhodes’ Twenty10 for a meal to remember. 

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*Published October 2018. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.