With its year-round sunshine, superior safety records, world-class facilities from restaurants to shopping malls, pristine beaches and dreamy desert-scapes, Dubai continues to attract tourists from across the globe.
There’s much to see and do from fine dining and people watching in the city’s financial district, DIFC, to immersion in art in Dubai’s cultural quarter, Alserkal Avenue, and thrill-seeking in mega-theme park metropolis, Dubai Parks and Resorts. Dubai is one of the seven Emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates. Rapid advancements in infrastructure have improved connectivity between regions in the UAE with major highways like Mohammed Bin Zayed Road making it possible to visit other Emirates such as Abu Dhabi during your stay.
For those new to the UAE the prospect of planning an itinerary can be overwhelming with so many options available. To help you to maximise your visit we’ve handpicked the top 10 things for tourists to do in Dubai. From chic yacht cruises to desert adventures, beach clubs and afternoons spent treading the streets of Dubai’s historic cultural quarters, our selection below includes experiences to suit every budget and taste.
1. Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai
A must-see for any tourist visiting Dubai. The Burj Khalifa is a UAE icon that made Dubai’s skyline world famous. The Burj Khalifa has set multiple world records including ‘tallest building in the world’ and ‘tallest free-standing structure in the world’. The scale and structure of this elegant tower, which takes its form from the Hymenocallis flower, are undoubtedly impressive but nestled within its walls are some equally exquisite experiences. First, make your way to the 124th-floor observation deck, At The Top, and marvel at the views, then, for the ultimate fine dining experience select from At.mosphere’s carefully curated menu. Delicacies are enjoyed beside floor-to-ceiling windows that reveal spectacular views of the Gulf. For a rare moment of tranquillity amid the buzz of the city head to Armani/SPA.
You can combine your visit to Burj Khalifa with several other major sights. Situated next door, get lost in The Dubai Mall. The world’s largest shopping destination offers a jaw-dropping array of retail options, restaurants and activities from a cinema to games zones and an ice rink. Complete your day in downtown Dubai by stepping outside and taking in the drama of the Dubai Fountains.
Tip: Get up early to catch this in-demand attraction before the crowds arrive. Sunset and sunrise viewings at the top of the Burj Khalifa provide Instagram-worthy photo opportunities.
2. Ain Dubai, Bluewaters Island
Located on Bluewaters Island close to Dubai Marina and JBR, Ain Dubai (Dubai Eye) is the latest addition to Dubai’s ever-growing offering of record-setting attractions. At 250m high Ain Dubai takes the title of the world’s tallest (and largest) observation wheel. Make your way to the top in style and enjoy panoramic views that encompass sea, skyscrapers and marina.
Combine your Ain Dubai visit with an on-foot exploration of Bluewaters Island. The lifestyle destination offers shore-side dining with quirky concepts like Tree House restaurant as well as unexpected entertainment options such as adult gaming centre Brass Monkey, and Madame Tussauds Dubai.
Tip: Ain Dubai is open from 12 pm to 10 pm. Opt for the sunset slot and see the city twinkle from day to night.
3. Burj Al Arab, Umm Suqeim
For decades the Burj Al Arab has remained one of the world’s most exclusive and talked-about hotels. It’s known for its industry-setting 7-star standards, interior design abundant in contemporary arabesque luxury (and gold), iconic structure, exceptional fine dining options and futuristic sky bar. Now for the first time the Inside Burj Al Arab tour offers tourists the chance to step into a surreal world of superior luxury. The specially curated 90-min journey sees groups of up to 12 navigate their way around the sail-shaped hotel, led by one of the hotel’s butlers who offers up the hotel’s ‘untold stories’.
The Burj Al Arab also boasts Sal, one of the UAE’s most beautiful beach clubs. Complete your Burj Al Arab immersion with an afternoon of sun-worshipping. Sal’s contemporary setting includes delicious Mediterranean dining, Instagram-worthy views of the Burj, chic private cabanas and a striking, 100-metre turquoise infinity pool.
Tip: Go all out and add on signature experiences – from a 24-carat Ultimate Gold Cappuccino to a signature afternoon tea – to your Inside Burj Al Arab tour.
4. Palm Jumeirah
Often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world, the man-made Palm Jumeirah is more than just a feat of human engineering. Shaped like a palm, a trunk, 16 fronds and a surrounding crescent comprise the island that was constructed from sand dredged from the bottom of the surrounding Gulf. The island hosts a thriving community with villas and residencies, malls, chic hotels, as well as restaurants and entertainment venues, while those who want to work out with exceptional views can jog or cycle along the 11km crescent.
Paying homage to the underwater kingdom, the hotel hosts a plethora of water-themed attractions and activities from the Aquaventure water park to the Lost Chambers aquarium and the unforgettable dolphin bay habitat. Make a day of exceptional aquatic experiences even better with an evening of world-class dining. Asian favourites Nobu and Hakkasan can be found at Atlantis.
Step out of the hotel and a whole world of action awaits. The newly completed Nakheel Mall is an all-encompassing shopping destination while Palm West Beach is where you go to eat, play and relax. The new beachside location opens up to uninterrupted Marina and JBR views and encloses internationally inspired restaurants, coffee shops as well as indoor and outdoor workout venues.
Tip: Take it all in from Palm Tower. Perch at the otherworldly Aura Sky infinity pool on level 50, a record-breaking setting that offers unbeatable full panoramas or continue upwards to The View at level 52. The breathtaking lounge and open-air terrace reveal 360-degree views of Palm Jumeirah.
5. Desert Safari
There’s a range of options and packages to place you right in the heart of Dubai’s awe-inspiring desert. Sporting activities for those who crave the rush of adventure span quad biking, dune buggies, sandboarding, archery, falconry and camel rides while unique resorts such as Al Maha and Bab Al Shams offer chic stays and bespoke itineraries. Thrill-seekers can enjoy the rush of off-road exploration during a sunset dune buggy safari before settling down for the evening at a traditional Bedouin Caravan where they can absorb the flavours of the Emirates. For an all-encompassing immersion, desert safaris remain one of the best options.
Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
The captivating desert surrounding Dubai is an 87-square-mile conservation reserve. The protected nature reserve, situated approximately one hour’s drive inland from Dubai, is home to enchanting and endangered wildlife. There are herds of Arabian gazelles and oryx, ubiquitous to the region, more than 100 different species of bird, nocturnal sand cats, and even Ethiopian hedgehogs.
Tip: While there are hundreds of desert tour operators to choose from we only work with the best.
Dubai boasts some of the world’s most photogenic public and private beaches, here we share the best public and private options for any agenda.
There’s a beach for every kind of tourist. JBR and La Mer are a favourite among families thanks to an endless array of activities. Water parks and inflatable obstacle courses keep kids entertained by day while cinemas and shisha lounges on the sand are a go-to for locals in the know at night.
Sports fans favour the expansive stretch of public beach that spans Jumeirah, Sunset and Kite Beach. Paddle board, kayak or kite surf your way across this open stretch of water or set down your mat for a sunrise yoga session. Treat yourself to a local favourite after all of your hard work, Salt on Kite beach dishes up some of the region’s most delicious burgers.
Tip: Kite Beach is a favourite among families thanks to its newly established collection of beachside food trucks and open-air activities for children from trampolines to the skatepark.
It’s undeniable that Dubai is celebrated for its glamour and there are a plethora of chic beach clubs that support this reputation. Nammos at the Four Seasons in Jumeirah transports guests to the heart of Mykonos with a sumptuous seafood menu and sunset views to match while Drift Beach Club proposes panoramic views, airy light cabanas and easy-breezy beachside dining. Cove at Ceasers Palace attracts party-goers with pulsing beats while Twiggy by La Cantine is a chic escape for those in the know.
Tip: For our female followers, keep your eyes peeled for Ladies Day offers. Our Instagram page regularly ranks the top beach clubs and selects the best deals.
7. Helicopter Tour, Palm Jumeirah
Experience Dubai from a unique vantage point, it’s a thrilling ride you won’t forget. Departing from Palm Jumeirah, helicopter tours are the ultimate way to absorb the city from above. Chartering open seas and skyscrapers, experience Dubai’s most captivating sites. Start from the striking pink Atlantis hotel to the Burj Al Arab and make your way over white sandy beaches, along Sheikh Zayed Road and towards the ever-growing downtown Dubai and the soaring Burj Khalifa.
8. Yacht Cruises, Fishing and Jet Skis, Dubai Marina and Dubai Harbour
There’s nothing more exhilarating than a day spent off-shore. Enjoy Dubai by sea and charter a boat for the day. Yacht cruises leave daily from Dubai Marina and Dubai Harbour and cater to a range of requirements. Couples and friends looking for an intimate experience can charter a private yacht, swim and catch the sunset. Groups looking for fun can book a yacht with options for DJs and catering to suit various budgets. For those keen to get closer to the water Jet Ski tours circle the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel and the trunk of the Palm while avid anglers can embark upon deep-sea fishing tours in search of barracuda and grouper.
Tip. At Top Spots Dubai, we offer a superior selection of yachts to suit every budget.
9. Tour Dubai
Hop on/off bus tours are the best way to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. With 24 and 48 hour options available, tour the city in an open-top bus and take in many of the major attractions that we’ve covered in this article from the Dubai Mall to Atlantis as well as Dubai’s historic quarter fondly referred to by locals as “Old Dubai”.
Old Dubai offers a taste of the thriving community from which this metropolis has evolved. A Dhow Cruise is a must. Take an abra across Dubai Creek, journey through the gold and spice souks to stock up on unexpected souvenirs and then step into the Dubai Museum, situated in the city’s oldest building, the Al Fahidi Fort to discover the region’s rich heritage.
Tip: Experience authentic Emirati hospitality in the courtyard of the charming Arabian Tea house located in Bastakiya in Old Dubai (also known as Bur Dubai).
10. Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim
Venice meets Arabian nights in the heart of Dubai. The picture-perfect Madinat Jumeirah comprises a cluster of sandy stone buildings connected by tranquil waterways. Get around by foot or take an abra, there’s much to take in. The Madinat is an ideal spot to pick up gifts and souvenirs with a local accent. Retailers and artisans champion the best of the region’s craftsmanship; navigate your way through the winding corridors that speak of an ancient Arabian souk before celebrating your new purchases with an alfresco lunch – Al Qasr hotel has some excellent options. The adjoining Mina Al Salam hotel is surrounded by palm-lined pools of water populated with rehabilitated sea turtles while the latest addition to the Madinat, Jumeirah Al Naseem, is a go-to dining destination with stand out options including Il Boro and Flamingo Room by Tashas.
For an injection of boundary-pushing art pass by ToDA (Theatre of Digital Art). Discover historic masterpieces and contemporary art offerings as you’ve never seen them. At ToDA technology and art fuse.
Tip: For striking Burj Al Arab views from your sun lounger, make a reservation at Summersalt beach club at Jumeirah Al Naseem hotel or sit down for shisha at Shimmers in Mina A’ Salam.
Top Spots Dubai has curated a tried and tested selection based on first-hand experience. Contact us to make your booking. Please visit our website www.topspotsdubai.com or download our app for further details.