The United Arab Emirates are a popular destination to flee from the European winter and to get some well deserved sunshine to recharge. We usually travel to Dubai and Abu Dhabi at least once per year and always find something new to see.
The best things to do in Dubai & Abu Dhabi:
- Burj Khalifa
- Private Dining at the Shangri-La Dubai
- old town of Dubai
- Al Jaddaf Walk
- Dubai Creek Harbour
- Jumeirah Beach
- Desert Tour
- Sheikh Zayed Mosque
The best things to do in Dubai
With a height of 828 m the Burj Khalifa is the highest building in the world. Visiting the terrace to enjoy the view over the city is definitely a Must Do for every visitor! The first platform is located 452 m above sea level. From this height all the other skyscrapers look like small LEGO buildings. The entrance is 30,- EUR during the day and 50,- EUR after 3pm to see the sunset. I can highly recommend to book the tickets online a few days before your trip since the spots before 3 pm are sold out quickly.
The entrance to the Burj Khalifa is located in the huge Dubai Mall. This giant center offers not only countless shopping and dining options but even has a huge Aquarium and an ice rink in it.
A fountain is located right in front of the Burj Khalifa. It is so huge that you can even drive with a gondola on it. The popular water show is starting at 6pm. Be sure you don’t miss this incredible water, music and a light show in front of the highest building in the world! It’s happening every 30 minutes but the first one at 6pm is the longest and most impressive one.
The best spots to shoot the Burj Khalifa:
Due to the extreme height it’s not easy to frame the whole Burj Khalifa in one picture but there are a few spots which offer a great perspective for it:
- the walkway in front of the Dubai Opera / the Burj Park by Emaar
- the pool area of the Address Sky View Hotel – If you’re not staying at the hotel you can still enjoy the view when visiting the CÉ LA VI restaurant of the hotel or booking a pool cabana for the day.
- the entrance area of the Palace Hotel (shown in the first photo) – If you wanna shoot at the Palace Hotel please note that you’re not allowed to bring „professional gear“ like DSLR cameras with huge lens or tripods. „Private Shootings“ with your phone or smaller cameras are allowed but for any other shootings a permission is needed.
- the terrace at the 42nd floor of the Shangri-La Hotel (shown in the second photo)
Private Dining at the Shangri-La Dubai
If you’re planning your trip to Dubai for a special occasion like an anniversary or engagement I can highly recommend you to book a private dinner or breakfast at the terrace on the 42nd floor of the Shangri-La Dubai for an unforgettable experience. It offers the most iconic view over the International Finance Center and of course the Burj Khalifa. If this option is out of your budget you can still enjoy the view from another terrace around the corner if you’re staying at the hotel or dining in one of their restaurants 🙂 Click here to read my full review of the Shangri-La Dubai!
the old town of Dubai
Dubai is famous for its sky scrapers and never stopping development, but there is a part of the city which offers a great contrast to it. The district Deira gives you a good feeling of the early time of the metropolis. You can easily reach it by Taxi or the Metro. On the „Old Souk“ you will find different kind of souvenirs, spices and so much more. After walking over the souk you will end up at the Dubai Creek where you can take a traditional boat called „Abra“ to reach the other side.
On the other side you will find the Dubai Museum – the oldest building of Dubai. Inside is a small but really informative and beautifully made exhibition about the history of the city for an entry fee of less than 1 EUR.
Not far from the Museum is a really beautiful Iranian mosque located. The entrance area is covered with blue tiles and colorful patterns. It really makes a beautiful setting for pictures. If you wanna visit the mosque it’s called the Imam Hussein Mosque close to the well known Jumeirah Mosque. Make sure you don’t come during the Friday prayer since the area in front of the mosque will be full of cars then.
The Souk Medinat is a modern reconstruction of a traditional market. It’s a great place for shopping and dining or simply to stroll around to enjoy the atmosphere. It also offers a nice view to the Burj Al Arab. The most famous photo spot is only accessible during a boat ride through the Medinat. It’s a beautiful but pricey 15 minutes ride: We paid around 20 EUR per Person.
Al Jaddaf Walk
Dubai sunsets are always dreamy – due to the dusty sky it brings up the most magical pastel colors. A great spot to watch the sunset in contrast to the dramatic skyline of Dubai is the Al Jaddaf Walk. It’s only accessible by car or taxi but definitely worth the ride if you want to shoot some epic shots. P.S. Definitely bring a tele lens for this shoot is you have one – it’s a nice way to play around with the perspective and make the Burj Khalifa look even bigger than it already is!
Dubai Creek Harbour
Dubai is always evolving and brings up new hip neighborhoods. One of them is Creek Harbour – it’s the ideal place to spend the late afternoon and evening since it has a lovely promenade to stroll around, amazing cafés and restaurant but most of all: impressive views of the skyline during sunset. P.S. Search at Google Maps for the ”Dubai City View Point” to find the best perspective to take your photos.
Several companies offer a safari tour to the desert of Dubai. If you want to make sure you don’t fall for a tourist trap ask your hotel concierge for some trustworthy companies or check it on Tripadvisor. A Jeep picked us up in the early afternoon and we drove for one hour until we reached the endless desert. From here we left the street to start the safari through the dunes. Our driver definitely had a lot of fun to give us some adrenaline kicks while speeding through the sand. We made a few photo stops at really beautiful dunes to enjoy the endless views.
Later we reached a camp in the middle of the desert to drive with Quads (for an additional charge), ride camels or simply relax while enjoying a traditional Shisha and some tea.
Sunsets in the desert are definitely one of a kind – the dusty air transform the sky into a colorful orange tone while the sun is setting.
After a delicious BBQ and a dancing show we made our way back to the hotel in the complete darkness. We booked our tour directly with the hotel and paid around 70 Euro per person for the 6 hours tour including dinner and drinks.
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN ABU DHABI
Abu Dhabi is a one hour drive from Dubai and definitely worth a visit. With a taxi you will pay around 50 EUR for the ride. Simply ask a taxi driver for a package price and negotiate it before leaving. I would recommend you to spend two or three nights in Abu Dhabi to see some incredible Must See places:
Yes, Abu Dhabi has a Louvre too! The legendary museum just opened up in November 2017 and the architecture is completely different from the original Louvre in Paris. It’s designed very modern and the whole building is a piece of art itself. Inside you will see artifacts, paintings & statues from different eras of humanity just like in France.
The entry fee is 15 EUR for adults while visitors between the age 13 -22 enter the museum for 7,50 EUR.
THE SHEIKH ZAYED MOSQUE
Due to its impressive size the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is also just called the Grand Mosque. The huge white building already sparkles from far away and is my favorite sight in the UAE. At the entrance you have to pass a security control and your outfit will be checked before you are allowed to enter. Women can rent a Abaya for free to wear it over their regular clothes. It covers the whole body and the hair. Also Men should make sure to cover shoulders and knees with appropriate clothes.
I would recommend you to visit the mosque in the late afternoon to see it during daylight and after sunset with the lights. The entrance is free for all visitors but make sure to check when the mosque is closed for praying. The opening hours are 9 am – 10 pm Saturday-Thursday and 4.30 pm – 10 pm Fridays. During Ramadan the opening times change to 9 am – 2 pm Saturday-Thursday and the mosque will be completely closed on Fridays.
The Hotel with the best view in Dubai: My Hotel Review of the Shangri-La Dubai
Do you wanna relax during your trip? Read my review about our stay at the Rixos The Palm Dubai