At the end of January my boyfriend and I were already getting tired of winter and were dreaming about warmer days. We decided to take a one week trip to the United Arab Emirates and visit Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Luckily we had a local travel guide who showed us all the secret little spots to visit. So if you have any plans to visit the United Arab Emirates sooner or later in the future this in-depth travel guide will provide you with all the information needed where to eat, stay and what to see.
Where to stay
Abu Dhabi and Dubai are clearly known for their incredible hotels and are home to some of the most breathtaking ones. However, we decided to look at the UAE from a more local viewpoint and stayed with a friend. This really made us see all the different aspects the UAE had to offer. There are various different hotels to choose from so it is easy to do some research and find a nice hotel for your budget. As Abu Dhabi and Dubai are both big cities one would think that getting from one place to another would require a whole lot of time and money. In contrary, taxi prices are quite reasonable and if you want to visit either Dubai or Abu Dhabi for a day there is also a bus line available.
At the end of our stay we had the pleasure to stay at Zara Nurai Island, which is basically the Maldives of the United Arab Emirates. (If you are interested in a more detailed review read my blogpost here.) If you want to take a look around the famous hotels such as the Emirates Palace or the Shangri-La there is always an option to have a tea or book a day pass.
WHAT TO SEE
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is definitely one of the biggest attractions in Abu Dhabi. It is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and was constructed from 1996 till 2007. It is a magical building with the sun reflecting in the ornamented white marble and you could wander around hours through the columns and domes. Tip: Visit early in the morning or even better around sunset. The colours are just magical.
(Click here for more pictures)
Louvre Abu Dhabi
The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened just recently last year in November 2017 and is a true masterpiece! It was build by Parisian architect Jean Nouvel. The architecture is just astonishing with the sun breaking through the building creating a light spectacle. It can get quite crowded so be there early in the morning. (Click here for more details and pictures)
Another must see is the desert. Rent a car or do a safari tour through the desert with camel trekking and a traditional buffet. There are so many options depending on how adventurous you are. We took the car early in the morning and when I woke up from a little nap we were surrounded by the beauty of the dunes. It was magical!
Take a walk through the old city of Al – Ain and visit the Oasis, which is one of the first UNESCO World Heritage in the UAE. It contains more than 100.000 date palms and is a beautiful getaway. Tip: Try some Knefe, it’s amazing sweet dish, which goes very well with an afternoon tea.
WHAT TO DO
Abu Dhabi is a great place to relax and leave all the stress from the last couple of months behind. The special thing about the United Arab Emirates is however that they have everything you wish for available. Incredible cuisine, activities and shopping experiences. If you love yourself some incredible Krispy Kreme Doughnuts or some Nandoos, its available. If you are looking for some incredible sushi or an authentic Italian Restaurant, you will surely find it. And if you are a seafood fan and explorer, the seafood market will blow you away.
Another option (more a must) is to take a trip to Dubai for a day. You can even take the bus to get there and then use the train in Dubai to get around. Sounds complicated? It was actually pretty easy and everything was connected perfectly. But as mentioned before taxis are fairly inexpensive, so you can of course get around with one in town.
If you are done with all the sightseeing and just want to have a sundowner and relax on the beach, there are many amazing beach club options like for example Saadiyat Beach Club or other Spas.
Zaya Nurai Island
As mentioned before, this is the Maldives of the
UAE and purely heaven. You can ask for a day pass
to spend some time on the island.
Saadiyat Beach Club
Nice spot to hang out, they have a gym and a spa
and you can also play some tennis. We had a great
time here and always recommend it to friends.
Observation Deck at 300
Located on the 74th floor of the Ethihad Towers you
get an amazing view of the Abu Dhabi Skyline.
Mina Fish Market
This is an insider tip for seafood lovers. Buy
your own shrimps and get them grilled with the
best sauce you will ever taste.
You can take the Emirate Express busses from Abu Dhabi, which are leaving from the Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station. There are several busses a day – the first bus leaves around 6am in the morning and the last bus from Dubai around 11pm at night. The driving time is approximately 1,5h.
The highest building in the world with 828m is an example of the incredible architecture of Dubai and a must-see. Buy a ticket to visit the 148th floor, which is of course the highest platform in the world, and enjoy the stunning view over the city. There are also tickets for the 124th and 125th floor, where the views are also breathtaking, however often much more crowded.
Burj Al Arab
Located on the Jumeirah Beach, this is THE 7 star hotel everyone is talking about. Gorgeous to take in, especially at sunset. Looking to take an iconic Instagram picture in front of it? There is a restaurant called Shimmers situated right on the beach of the Burj Al Arab. Since it is not that easy to get access to the beach of the hotel, the view is definitely worth a dinner or a sundowner.
If you are crazy about flowers and botanical gardens, do not look further – This is the place for you! And even for not flower enthusiasts, this place is just gorgeous and gives you some time off of the buzzing city centre of Dubai. Tip: Come here early to avoid the crowds.
Last but not least, take a stroll through the Dubai Mall, which has all the shops you can wish for but also the famous aquarium, where you can even take a a swim with sharks.
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I hope you enjoyed this travel guide. Have you already been to the UAE or are you planning to visit Abu Dhabi or Dubai in the future? Do you have any other tips? I would love to read your experiences.