Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, just like Dubai, got out of obscurity and wants to keep its place on the world’s stage. Just like Dubai, the city is filled with glass and steel skyscrapers and has its fair share of beaches. But unlike its neighbour, Abu Dhabi wants to establish itself as a high-end entertainment and (especially) a cultural hub.
Most people visit Abu Dhabi on a day or an overnight trip from Dubai or even taking advantage of a stopover with national airline Etihad. But if you want to explore the city and its surrounding areas properly, you can easily spend a week there without getting bored. So, to help and inspire you on your trip, I’ll share with you the top things to do in Abu Dhabi during a stopover or a week’s holiday.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN ABU DHABI
1- Go For a Stroll on the Corniche
This seaside road with cycling paths, parks and fountains is located on reclaimed area from the sea. It’s one of the most popular places for locals to go for a stroll and even go to the (artificial) beach. There are several fast food restaurants and other eateries dotted along the path and, on many hot summer days, you’ll find children playing in the fountains.
2- Visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
If you were to visit only one place in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque would be it. One of the most opulent mosques in the world, it’s an impressive building, with Swarovski crystal chandeliers and columns covered in semi-precious stones. Oh, did I mention the world’s largest Persian carpet?
3- Visit Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Even if like me, you’re not into cars, you’ll have a great time at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. It’s the car giant’s theme park, located 40km from the airport and next to the Formula 1 Circuit.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is a place for the whole family, with car exhibitions, toy-car rides, cinema, karting academy and the world’s fastest rollercoaster, running at a whopping 240km/hr. Adult tickets cost from 275AED.
4- Be a Sheikh For a Day At The Emirates Palace
Emirates Palace is one of the most sumptuous hotels in the whole of the Middle East. And if you think twice, that’s already a massive achievement, given the many fine hotels you’ll find in Dubai alone. Emirates Palace promises its guests a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, with outstanding service and facilities.
But if you don’t want to spend 500USD per night to live like a Sheikh, you can visit the hotel for a dinner at one of the 9 restaurants.
5- Shop ‘Till You Drop At Marina Mall
Even if you’re not a shopaholic, it’s worth visiting Marina Mall. It’s in a very privileged location, right along the breakwater on Corniche Rd, not far from Emirates Palace Hotel. Marina Mall is far from being the biggest shopping centre in the United Arab Emirates – that title still belongs to Dubai Mall – but it’s a very pleasant place to escape the scorching heat, go shopping, choose from many international restaurants and even practise ice-skating.
6- Spend Some Time on Yas Island
This man-made island just off the coast of Abu Dhabi cost the developers 40 billion dollars. You can easily spend days here, both because of the number of attractions, as well as hotels.
In addition to the Formula 1 Circuit and Ferrari World, this entertainment island has a shopping mall (Yas Mall) and a water park rightly named Yas Waterworld, where you can go on different rights, swim in different pools and even surf on artificial waves. All-day adult tickets cost from 250AED.
7- Desert Safari Experience
That’s something you definitely have to do at least once in a lifetime! I have to admit, I’ve done it a few times – perhaps too many times. But what’s wrong in getting on a 4×4 and going dune-bashing?
I recommend you hire a 4×4 with an experienced driver, so you can enjoy this adventure safely. The desert outside Abu Dhabi and Dubai tend to be a bit crowded, but as long as your adrenaline is high, who really cares?
8- Visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi
I know this doesn’t sound quite right. Louvre Abu Dhabi? In its aim to turn the Emirate into the region’s cultural hub, the government is bringing the Louvre brand to the desert. The Parisian museum will be opening an Emirati branch later in 2016. The collection will include works from major European artists, as well as objects of historical importance to the Islamic culture, the same way the Islamic Arts Museum in Doha and Istanbul.
Have you ever been to the Middle East? What do you think of Abu Dhabi? Let me know! 🙂
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Photos of Emirates Palace and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi provided by their respective PR.