So here we go my top ten things to do in Dubai. This post is far overdue and with one of my friends planning to visit soon from The States I decided now was the best time to share what I consider the basic ten must dos while in Dubai.
Rest assured I stand by all of these as I have experienced them all for myself and also share them with any visitors I have.
That being said I hope they serve you well too !
1. Dubai Mall
Wear your walkin’ shoes. This place is huge and I promise it is unlike any mall you have ever been to.
I remember first moving to Dubai and it taking me FOREVER to learn my way around the Mall. You see the Dubai Mall is designed so you never really reach an end, everything circles back around so you can always keep moving (and shopping). The main attractions of the Dubai Mall I would have to say are the aquarium, the fountains/view of the Burj Khalifa.
The aquarium is viewable from the main corridor of the mall, but there are also special exhibitions that can be viewed with an aquarium ticket. Seeing all the fish swim from the outside is pretty wow on it’s own. If you really want to get up close and personal with the tanks inhabitants you can book a scuba diving session. Yes, you really can.
The fountains go off every 30 minutes each day and perform to a number of different songs all with the backdrop of the stunning Burj Khalifa. You can see all timings here. Just make sure if you aren’t taking a seat at one of the restaurants overlooking the fountains that you get there at least five minutes before the show starts, it fills up quick!
2. Al Qasr / Madinat Jumeirah
I love Al Qasr. The entrance, the main lobby, the grounds, the overall grandness. Al Qasr, which is part of the “Madinat Jumeirah” area, is an excellent example of the ultimate luxury that Dubai has to offer. Besides being a hotel it is filled with different restaurants open to all visitors, the Madinat also hosts a Souk with shops, lounges and local treasures. Small abra boats can be taken to reach the different restaurants as you look off over the Burj Al Arab.
Being located in Jumeirah it’s right on the beach with a large public beach open right on the Burj Al Arab’s doorstep. It’s a very relaxed area in Dubai where no one seems to have a care in the world. The ultimate vacation spot in my book.
Head over that way for a nice lunch, drink or tea in Al Qasr before heading over to the beach for a relaxed stroll.
Brunch is something of a ‘tradition’ amongst the expat community in Dubai and it happens every Friday.
There are many brunches in Dubai, in fact every hotel seems to offer a Friday brunch that they claim is bigger and better than the next (the above photo is an actual dessert plate for Mr. Z). It’s an all day occasion, especially if you decided you want some bubbles as well; which will greatly effect how much you pay for the experience.
My top rated Friday brunches are as follows (warning: some are rather pricy but I do believe they are worth the experience and you can eat your moneys worth- I have tried and tested them all.)
4. Lebanese / Arabic food and Shisha
Food is an important part of any travel experience.
The most entertaining place I could think to suggest is Reem Al Bawadi . The menu is large, the food is good and the shisha is great. The restaurant is normally completely full and typically it’s a good mix of expats, locals and other nationalities from the region. There are wood framed TVs in almost every corner playing the latest football (soccer) game and some locations even have live musicians depending on the night. You can find locations all over Dubai but I would have to say my favorite one is on the Marina Walk, right on the water.
Another new favorite Lebanese/ middle eastern restaurant of mine is The Grand Cafe, attached to the outside of Dubai Mall sitting on the entrance to the boulevard. You’ll find a similar menu and also good shisha. You can either sit inside with large floor to ceiling windows, or out on the roof top terrace to watch the supercars pass by in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa.
5. Desert Safari
You can’t miss this – it’s a tourist must – and every expat has gone once or twice as well.
There are plenty of different companies offering roughly the same experience of dune bashing in a 4×4 with a big cook out dinner in a bedouin inspired camp amongst the sand dunes. You’ll have options for small camel rides and henna painting when you first reach the camp (and plenty of photo ops as the sun sets over the desert) before the buffet starts and you watch dancing performances while you eat.
I’ve done my share of these experiences and it seems that Arabian Adventures are the best group to book with. All trips leave in the afternoon around 3pm (they pick you up) and you should expect to be brought back to your hotel or home by 9pm.
6. Old town/gold souk / creek dinner on a dhow
Ok this is kinda three in one but it’s all in the same part of Dubai and trust me with the traffic that normally takes place in old town it’s best to get as much done there in one go as you can ! I’d suggest hopping in a taxi and asking to go to ‘old town/ gold souk’ to get yourself started. Or the Dubai metro can get you there as well – just try to avoid going by personal car as parking can be a nightmare.
‘Old Dubai’ will really give you a taste of the more ‘rural’ middle east lifestyle. Old dhow boats bringing in fresh imports, street merchants calling out to visitors to view their goods, it’s a bargain hunter’s dream. You must bargain if you plan to buy. Never take the first price they offer.
Once you get hungry there are plenty of little restaurants with traditional foods and you can always find a great cheap n’ dirty shawarma to eat on the go. The Shawarma in itself is definitely ‘food must’ while in Dubai (think of a sandwich wrap with fresh hot meat, pickled veg and chips(french fries) and a tangy white or spicy sauce on top). I make all guests try one when they visit and don’t worry if you don’t go to old town you can find them at almost anywhere in Dubai, though old towns are the most authentic.
Moving on to the creek dinner. After a long day of exploring old Dubai you will be in need of some relaxation. Along ‘the creek’ that runs through old Dubai you can find many dinner dows, traditional boats that have been fitted out to host a number of guests for dinner and sometimes entertainment as you cruise through Old Dubai taking it all in by water. One of my very first blog posts was on my experience of one of the fancier dinner cruise boats here they host one of the nicer cruises on the creek, check them out for yourself here.
7. The Marina / Beach Walk
Again not one of the easiest places to drive to but once you’re in it’s great. The Marina is filled with giant skyscrapers, restaurants, outdoor mall areas and generally hosts Dubai’s younger crowd.
Beach Walk is located in the JBR (lower end) of the Marina and is a great place to be during the day. A large outdoor shop and restaurant area has recently be added right on the beach, almost like a boardwalk. There is a lot to do on this side of town. Shorts and flip flops are most welcome.
8. The Palm/ Atlantis Hotel
Pick any of the luxury hotels located on The Palm – grab a day pass and relax by the pool or on the beach with white sand between your toes !
The Atlantis is the main attraction hosting its own aquarium. The grounds also host a dolphin park where you can swim and take photos with them. You don’t have to be a guest to book any of the experiences. Fun Fact – you can also go scuba diving in the Atlantis aquarium (I’ve done it – check out my post here).
9. Afternoon Tea
Plan this for later in your trip to relax and reflect on all of your Dubai adventures thus far.
If you read my blog you will know by now I am a big fan of afternoon teas. Great to do with friends or family it’s a relaxing way to pass the afternoon – just make sure you don’t have any big dinner plans !
Check out all of the best high tea posts here in detail (tried and tested by yours truly).
Burj Al Arab – Sky View/Al Muntaha
10. Burj Khalifa, Atmosphere
It’s the tallest building in the world. You can’t visit Dubai and say you’ve never visited the Burj Khalifa. Even just seeing it from the fountains at the Dubai Mall is a spectacle in itself but if you want to go up and take in the view I suggest booking yourself in for a drink (or dinner if you really want to fancy) up at the Atmosphere Restaurant. You can also do the ‘at the top’ experience from Dubai Mall, but you actually don’t end up coming as high as the restaurant and you pay more than if you had bought yourself a nice drink and taken your time in a window seat.
Check out the restaurant here.
And there you have it my friends, my top 10 must do’s when in Dubai. Try one or try them all I am sure you will enjoy!
Join Me !