A visitor’s guide to Abu Dhabi

It’s that time of year – no, not the one where the temperature drops and all the events happen at once. Your visitors are coming…

Last year, the capital attracted a whopping 3.1 million tourists.

As the weather cools, you’ll no doubt be expecting visitors of your own. We take a look at the best sites and attractions to show off Abu Dhabi when you’ve got extra numbers in tow whether it’s couples, families or the older generation.


The capital is a great place for families with plenty of child-friendly activities, attractions and events.


Young or old who doesn’t enjoy a visit to a water park? Yas Island is home to Abu Dhabi’s only water park, Yas Waterworld. There are rides and attractions for everyone, whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, prefer a leisurely float, or have little ones in tow. There’s also a flowboarding wave and the region’s biggest children’s play area. 02 414 2000, yaswaterworld.com


Next door is the world’s largest indoor theme park, Ferrari World, home to the world’s fastest roller-coaster, live shows, driving experiences and more. If you buy the Yas Island pass you can access both parks for double the fun. Contact: 02 496 8000, ferrariworldabudhabi.com


For a more cultural experience, a visit to the camel races will be memorable. While there’s no set schedule, races usually take place during October and March in the early morning at Al Wathba. Contact: 02 583 9200, visitabudhabi.ae


Various off-roading companies offer desert adventures. Abu Dhabi Desert Safari’s options are packed with plenty of off-road driving, sand boarding, camel riding, belly dancing and food. Contact: 055 484 2001, abudhabidesertsafari.net


Mushrif Central Park provides hours of entertainment whether you’re running around the garden area, watching a film in the amphitheatre, riding a pony at the petting zoo or visiting RIPE market on Saturdays.
Contact: mushrifcentralpark.ae

If that hasn’t worn the kids out, take them for a round of golf in Abu Dhabi’s first 18-hole glow-in-the-dark course, Tee & Putt. Dalma Mall, Musaffah.
Contact: 02 555 5307, teeandputt.com

Older visitors

Whether your parents are in town, or your great aunt Mildred, there’s plenty to keep
the older generation entertained.

If elderly guests can’t handle a day of walking the sites, they can opt for the Big Bus Tour. The hop on, hop off option means they can pick and choose which landmarks to explore and do so at their own pace. Contact: 800 244 287, bigbustours.com/Abu-Dhabi‎


Got any golfers in tow? Abu Dhabi is home to some great courses that double as sightseeing tours including Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and Yas Links. Contact: sbgolfclub.ae, yaslinks.com


A tour around the Falcon Hospital will provide greater insight into these powerful birds of prey that are also a symbol of Emirati heritage. Sweihan Road. Contact: falconhospital.com

At Heritage Village, visitors can get a glimpse the old Bedouin way of life through the replicas of a souk, barasti house and a falaj irrigation system. The village includes stalls showcasing local artisans’ pottery and traditional textiles – a great way to practise bargaining skills and pick up a few souvenirs. Breakwater, near Marina Mall.
Contact: 02 681 4455


Need to refuel? Then do it in a civilised way with afternoon tea. Most five-star hotels here offer a unique option but top spots include Emirates Palace, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi and Stratos at Le Royal Méridien.

To keep up the cultural exploration, stop off at the Culture Foundation, which sits adjacent to Qasr Al Hosn. The emirate’s first permanent structure built in the 1760s, this fort started life as a watchtower and later became home to the emirate’s ruling Al Nahyan family. The permanent exhibition tells the story of Abu Dhabi and its people. Contact: 02 697 6472, qasralhosn@tcaabudhabi.ae

Fancy a dose of shopping? There’s no shortage of options, but the World Trade Center Souk provides a modern take on a traditional shopping centre, selling trinkets like Arabic lanterns and handmade rugs. Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street. Contact: 02 696 4444.

For a more the real thing, visit Mina Zayed, ‘Zayed port’, which is home to various souks including the fish, fruit and vegetable, carpet, plant and Iranian souks. Mina Zayed, Corniche West. Daily, times vary.


Feeling young and sprightly and ready for the next adventure? There are plenty of options for younger couples.

Belevari Marine offers catamaran cruises with snorkelling options, private charters, and even eco donut boat rides around the mangroves. Contact: 02 643 1494, belevari.com

Pilots - Lifestyle

Hop on board The Yellow Boats for a water sightseeing tour around the Corniche and LuLu Island, or opt for the company’s more exciting high-speed trip known as The Ultimate Thrill Ride. From AED 200 per adult. Tours depart from Emirates Palace Marina. Contact: 055 995 0153, book@theyellowboats.com

To live like a local, circa 1960s, Abu Dhabi Dhow Cruise offers excursions aboard traditional wooden fishing boats. Refreshments or meals are included, depending on which package you choose. Contact: 052 214 4369, abudhabidhowcruise.com

Kayaking through the mangroves is a perfect way to start the day. Check out the various mangrove tours with Noukhada Adventure Company. Contact: noukhada.ae

Looking for something more adventurous? Al Ain is home to Wadi Adventure where you can try your hand at white water rafting, surfing, zip lining and more. Contact: 03 781 8422, wadiadventure.ae

Al Forsan International Sports Resort also caters to adrenaline junkies with activities like karting, shooting, horse riding and wakeboarding. 02 556 8555, alforsan.com

Al Ain Raceway and Yas Marina Circuit are both great options for petrol heads. Get behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car or whiz around in a go kart. Contact: Al Ain Raceway alainsportplex.ae. Yas Marina Circuit yasmarinacircuit.com


The capital’s beaches are a great way to catch some rays, play a game of volleyball or go snorkelling. Our picks include Yas Beach, Saadiyat Beach and the Corniche. Or why not check into a beach club for the day? Check out Nation Riviera Beach Club at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Hiltonia at Hilton or Bayshore at InterContinental.

The seaplane tours with Seawings are a great way to view the city from above. Departing from either Yas Marina or Emirates Palace, the aerial tours route over the palace, Ferrari World, Yas Marina Circuit, Saadiyat Island and the Corniche. Contact: 04 807 0708, seawings.ae

Looking for something romantic? Your guests can book a mini holiday within a holiday at Sir Bani Yas Island. The desert island is home to a wildlife park, three beautiful resorts and various activities from horse riding and scuba diving to safari drives and cultural tours. Contact: desertislands.anantara.com


Some attractions just can’t be missed – by anyone!


Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque should be at the top of everyone’s list – it’s not Abu Dhabi’s number one attraction on Trip Advisor for nothing.

Pearl diving is a crucial part of the local heritage and Abu Dhabi Pearl Journey provides a unique glimpse into the old way of life. On board a traditional dhow you’ll learn more about the pearl industry and shuck oysters while sipping Arabic coffee along the mangroves. AED 500 for adults, AED 400 for children under 12. Contact:02 656 1052, abudhabipearljourney.com

As the birthplace of HH Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the recently refurbished Qasr Al Muwaiji museum celebrates the legacy and leadership of the president. The fort exhibits the symbolic moments in the president’s childhood, his national achievements and the history of the fort itself. Contact: qasralmuwaiji.ae/en

Neighbouring Al Ain is home to the emirate’s highest peak, Jebel Hafeet. Nestled on the border of Oman, the summit offers a great lookout over the garden city from 1,240 metres above. The drive to the top of the mountain is full of twists and turns – and don’t be surprised if you see cyclists using the steep road for training.

Posted in Active, Culture, Entertainment, Family, Features, Great Reads, Living | 2 Comments

2 thoughts on “A visitor’s guide to Abu Dhabi

  1. Victoria A. Tamayo

    I came here in UAE for the Christmas Holidays as my daughter told me that it is cold, and colder in Abu Dhabi. I have a very limited days for a vacation, can you please help me find a place here in Abu Dhabi where I will feel the Snow like Wonderland.
    By the way, looking at the sky, I felt like we are near the heaven. A blessed country, indeed..


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