Dubai is located in the Arabian Desert on the Persian Gulf. It’s the capital of the Emirate of Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates. Partly thanks to the year-round sunny weather and being an international travel hub, it ranks as one of the top 10 most-visited cities in the world.
Dubai is known for its luxury shopping, overt-the-top glamorous hotels, and modern architecture such as the Burj Khalifa. The city, also known as the City of Gold is also synonymous with its artificially constructed palm islands, luxury cars, and a number of record-breaking attractions.
The world’s tallest building: the Burj Khalifa
The Burj Khalifa, the city’s iconic landmark, is known as the tallest building in the world. It’s 828-meters (2,717 ft) high with 160 floors. That’s twice the size of the Empire State Building and three times the Eiffel tower!
You can purchase a ticket to ascend to the 124th and 125th floors of the skyscraper. But you can go even higher to the second observation deck on the 148th floor. From here, you can get an incredible bird’s-eye view of the Arabian Gulf.
When most people think of Dubai they think of the Burj Khalifa and the artificial islands known as The Palm Islands. These islands are built on reclaimed land so that it forms a series of artificial archipelagos (group of islands). The most well-known is the Palm Jumeirah that’s shaped like a palm-tree.
It’s on these islands that you’ll find some of the city’s top luxury resorts such as Atlantis. If these accommodations are a bit out of your budget, you can still visit the islands to eat in one of the numerous restaurants or enjoy any of the other attractions.
The Dubai Fountain
Dubai is known for preferring things to be bigger and more extravagant. So it’s no surprise that it’s also home to the tallest water fountain. You can see this fountain within the 12-hectare artificial, Burj Lake, which shoots water up to 152 metres (500 ft) to create a beautifully choreographed fountain show. Visit at night when colorful lights light up the fountain to make it even more spectacular.
The Dubai Mall
The largest mall in Dubai is almost as iconic as the Burj Khalifa. Different areas within the mall give you a completely different experience. For example, if you are looking for traditional Arabic fashion, head over to The Souk. The Fashion Avenue, in turn, has the world’s most well-known brands.
The mall isn’t just known for its clothes. Instead, it’s an entire world of entertainment. Inside, you can find an ice-skating rink, a cinema, and a game zone. However, the main attraction is the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo right inside this massive building.
Burj Al Arab
When you think of the Dubai skyline, this hotel’s unique structure most likely comes to mind. The architects built it to resemble the sail of a ship so it’s one of the city’s most recognizable buildings. This is one of the tallest hotels in the world, although 39% of the building’s height consists of non-occupiable space. The building stands on an artificial island connected to the mainland by a private bridge.
The Burj Al Arab is an icon of the type of luxurious accommodation visitors to Dubai can enjoy. However, non-guests can now also visit the property on a 90-minute guided tour for the first time ever.
IMG Worlds of Adventure
This is the world’s largest indoor theme park. It covers an area of 140,000 m2 (1,500,000 square ft). The entire area is temperature-controlled, so many people visit to escape the heat or entertain their children. However, even adults will enjoy the rides on offer and coming face to face with their favorite childhood cartoon characters.
While the city is known for being modern and glamorous, it doesn’t mean you can’t see anything of the old fishing village it once was. You can visit the Dubai Museum housed in the Al Fahidi Fort to learn more about the traditional Arab way of life. It’s the city’s main museum but also the oldest building in Dubai, dating back to 1787.
Dubai Miracle Garden
Dubai’s Miracle Garden is home to the world’s largest natural flower garden. Here you can see more than 150 million flowers of different varieties. They shaped flowers into all kinds of weird and wonderful displays, and it feels almost surreal to see this in the middle of a desert. This 72,000-sq-m (775001 square ft) wonderland is a must-see.
Dubai Butterfly Garden
Next door to the Miracle Garden, you can visit the world’s largest covered butterfly garden. The garden consists of ten custom-made domes of around 6,673 sq.m (71827,57 square ft). Thousands of butterflies fill each of these domes that visitors can walkthrough. In total, the garden has 15,000 butterflies of more than 50 varieties. The park also has a museum, fountains, and a lush garden with various exotic plants.
The Global Village is an annual cultural event in the city. It features around 78 cultures that come together to present handicrafts and food from their backgrounds. The festival sets out to bring people from different parts of the world together in just a few hours.
The pavilions inside the village are designed to showcase iconic architectural elements from around the world. You can take a selfie in front of Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Taj Mahal. Or eat snacks from Brazil or Bosnia.
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
The centre helps visitors gain a better understanding and appreciation for Dubai’s culture and customs and it’s absolutely worth a stop if you want to get to know the city beyond the massive skyscrapers and shopping malls.
The center invites guests to take part in activities such as learning basic Arabic, going on heritage tours, and visiting a mosque. After the visit guests can also tuck into delicious traditional food to round off their trip.
This is the only mosque in the city open to non-Muslim visitors. The mosque seeks to provide tourists with an opportunity to learn more about Islam. It’s the flagship program of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding.
There are guides available that teach guests more about Arab culture and how prayers are conducted. The beautiful architecture of the building is an attraction in itself.
The Largest Frame in The World: The Dubai Frame
Known as the largest frame in the world, you can take an elevator up 48 floors for magnificent views over the city. The building is 150m ( 492,126 ft) tall with a 93m (305 ft) with a wide bridge connecting two towers so it looks like a massive photo frame. As the sky deck is made out of concrete and solid glass it feels like you are walking on air.
Al Fahidi Historical District
By visiting this district, you can get a peek into what life used to be like in mid-19th century Old Dubai. The Al Fahidi District is an important heritage site, and much of the original infrastructure is still intact and beautifully preserved.
When wandering through the streets you can discover a range of cultural activities, art galleries, museums and traditional food.
La Mer Dubai’s Hip Beachfront
La Mer is Dubai’s most hippest beachfront. You can find all kinds of dining, shopping and entertainment options along this beautiful 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) stretch of white sandy beach and palm-lined walkways. This urban beach is the perfect spot for the entire family to spend a lazy day.
The gold souk is a traditional market where you can find around 380 stores selling jewelry in intricate Arab and Indian designs. Although mostly gold is sold, you’ll also find silver and precious stone jewelry here.
The souk is located in Deira, one of the areas that make up the Old Town. It’s worth making a detour for this market as it’s not uncommon to find spice souks for example in the Middle East, but the gold market is one of a kind.
This is an Arabian mini-city within Dubai. You can find five-star hotels, beachfront hotspots, and even souks here. Madinat Jumeirah even has its own 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) long river system, complete with its own fleet of traditional abra boats (water taxis) that you can take a tour with.
With over 50 restaurants and lounges across the city’s 40 hectares, there’s bound to be something you’ll like.
Eyecandy for Architechts: The Cayan Tower
If you are an architecture lover, the Cayan Tower is a must-see. This 75-story building is the tallest in the world, with a 90-degree spiral. In practice, this means that the architect designed the building so that each floor rotates 1.2 degrees compared to the previous floor. The result is a unique twist in the building that feels like an optical illusion when you see it.
The building isn’t open for visitors as it houses 495 luxury apartments, but you can stop to admire it on a walking tour or boat ride around Dubai Marina.
The Opus: An Engineering Masterpiece
One of the world’s most famous architects, the late Zaha Hadid, designed this architectural wonder of a building. It’s next to impossible to explain what this civil engineering feat looks like, so if you are close to the Burj Khalifa ask to be pointed in its direction. However, if you are in this area you’ll immediately notice the building with the cube shape on the inside.
You can stay in the building in its well-known hotel or visit one of the restaurants, cafes, and bars located there.
Museum of the Future
The museum explores how society could evolve in the coming decades using science and technology. It’s called a living museum as it incorporates elements of traditional exhibitions, themed attractions, and immersive theatre all in one. The building itself is breathtaking, and National Geographic describes it as one of the 14 most beautiful museums in the world.
Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark
While most waterparks won’t make it to a city’s list of top things to do, the Atlantis Waterpark is the exception. This waterpark has 105 rides and waterslides across three towers, a private beach, marine and watersports activities in addition to designated children’s play areas.
It’s also home to record-breaking rides such as Medusa’s Lair and Blackout. The waterpark is conveniently located next to The Palm so it’s easy to combine a visit to some of the city’s top attractions.
Also known as Khor Dubai, the Dubai Creek spans 14km (8.7 miles) and it’s the perfect spot to spend a lazy afternoon. It’s lovely to walk along this natural creek, but it’s also the site of numerous local restaurants and activities that visitors and locals enjoy.
Dine on the famous JA Bateaux Dubai for a romantic night out and see the city lights from the water. Play with your kids in the park or visit the Museum of Illusions. If you don’t know what to do with your day, just head over to Dubai creek.
While not technically in the city itself, Dubai is known as the starting point for a luxury desert safari. Visitors can opt for different kinds of all-inclusive packages such as enjoying dinner in the desert or even staying overnight. You can usually add on more activities if it’s not already included in the package. For example dune buggies, quad bikes, camel and horse riding, or sandboarding if you are feeling adventurous.
While most adventures include dune bashing there is also the option to just enjoy a dinner and a belly or tanura dancing show as well.
Deep Dive Dubai
One of Dubai’s newest attractions is its 60.02m (197ft) deep pool for diving. The Guinness World Record has certified the swimming pool as the world’s deepest. The pool is filled with 14 million liters (3698408 gallons) of freshwater. That’s the equivalent of six Olympic-sized swimming pools.
It’s not just the impressive depth of the pool that attracts visitors, however. The designers of the pool built it as a “sunken city” so divers can explore its abandoned urban streetscape. An absolute must-do activity for divers.
Dates, as in the fruit, has a special place in the heart of every Emirati. It’s more than just a snack here as it’s synonymous with the practices and cultural heritage of the city. The United Arab Emirates is among the world’s top producers of this fruit. If you want to try some or take it home as a souvenir, opt for ones with a gourmet filling or chocolate-dipped ones for a bit of extra luxury.
Luxury Cars in The City of Gold
Dubai ranks as one of the top places in the world for having the most luxury cars. Not a very surprising fact given that the city is known for its extravagance. Even the city’s police force has a Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari, and several Bentleys, Porsche, and McLarens in their fleet.
So if you are a bit of a motor geek, keep your eyes peeled for the collection of especially Bugattis, Rolls Royce, and Koenigsegg cars that roam the city’s streets.
The World’s Biggest Wheel: The Ain Dubai
The world’s biggest and tallest Ferris wheel is a staggering 250 metres (820 ft) with a capacity for 1,750 passengers at any one time. That is twice the size of the London Eye! All cabins are air-conditioned and you can even book a cabin for a private dining or private bar experience.