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what to see in Dubai

Top 20 things to do and see in Dubai

Welcome to Dubai, the city that is home to the tallest building, ferris wheel and flower garden in the world, among many other records. In this article I am going to introduce you to the top 20 things to do in Dubai. From the famous Burj Khalifa to the historic Al Fahidi neighborhood, get ready for a complete tour of Dubai's past and present.

Despite not being the capital of the United Arab Emirates (that being Abu Dhabi), Dubai is the most popular city in the country and a destination that attracts more and more travelers every day. In my opinion, Dubai is a city that you have to visit at least once in your lifetime. Whether you like luxury and everything associated with it or not, it is quite interesting to observe the lifestyle of the people of Dubai.

In addition, there is a wide variety of places to visit in Dubai. Are you looking forward to relaxing? You will find beach clubs where you can spend a good afternoon in the sun, pool and beach. Looking for adrenaline? You can feel it in one of the many amusement parks in the city. Do you prefer art and history? Dubai has several very interesting museums and art galleries. Regardless of the type of traveler you are, I am sure that you will enjoy all the wonderful activities in Dubai.

If you are interested in getting to know the city but haven’t chosen when to visit, I recommend visiting Dubai during the winter months, from november to april. It is high season during those months therefore, activities and hotels may be slightly more expensive; however, the temperature will be much more pleasant.

Table of contents

Top 20 things to do in Dubai

Are you ready to find out what are the 20 things to do in Dubai you cannot miss? Let’s begin!

1. Burj Khalifa, a must-see place in Dubai

burj khalifa
Burj Khalifa

A few years ago, I had a several-hour layover in Dubai. I decided to spend some time in the center of Dubai and visited its most iconic monument, the Burj Khalifa, one of the best places to visit in Dubai. If you are going to spend a limited amount of time in Dubai as I did during my first visit, paying the tallest building in the world a visit is a must.

The Burj Khalifa measures a whopping 828 meters high. Incredible, right? It open its doors to the public on January 4th, 2010, the same day when the Taipei 101 tower became the second tallest building in the world. Building the Burj Khalifa was not cheap, the construction had a total cost of 1.5 billion USD! Expensive, right?

Admiring the Burj Khalifa from the streets of Dubai is an incredible experience; however, do not miss the opportunity to visit its observatory, which is one of the highest in the world. It is for sure one of the top 20 places to visit in Dubai.

Entrance tickets to the Burj Khalifa

There are several tickets available for purchase to visit the Burj Khalifa. The main ticket is called At the Top, Burj Khalifa. If you purchase this ticket you can visit floors 124 and 125. There is another ticket available for purchase, At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY. If you decide to purchase this ticket, you can also visit the aforementioned floors as well as floor 148. I purchased the main ticket (floors 124 and 125) during my visit and I would say that it is enough to have a wonderful experience visiting the Burj Khalifa.

On the other hand, I recommend visiting the observatory at sunset. There is usually a long queue, therefore, I recommend being at the entrance about 90 minutes before sunset. This ticket is more expensive. On Fridays and Saturdays it is also possible to visit the observatory at sunrise (special entrance between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.). The tickets for sunrise are even cheaper than the general ticket.

It is also possible to have lunch or dinner at the Burj Khalifa restaurant or visit to the lounge (floors 152, 153 and 154).

2. Dubai Mall, one of the most incredible malls in the world

dubai mall
Dubai Mall

In order to visit the Burj Khalifa, you first have to go through the Dubai Mall. The mall is also one of the places every visitor would not want to miss during their trip to Dubai. Visiting the mall can be a very good option if you travel with children or if you need a break from the intense heat.

Apart from numerous designer-brand stores and restaurants of various cuisines, you will find many other fun attractions. Among them, an ice rink, a cinema with 26 rooms, a trampoline park for children, ahaunted house, a virtual reality room and adigital art exhibition. You will be very entertained!

You can see much more information on The Dubai Mall’s website. There is also an aquarium. However, I don’t recommended it because it goes against my ethics. I firmly believe that animals should be free.

3. Watch the Fountain show at The Dubai Mall

top 20 things to do in dubai
Dubai Fountain

One of the best things to do in Dubai for free is watching the Dubai Fountain show. This fountain is located outside of the Dubai Mall, next to the Burj Khalifa. From 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., every half hour, there is a fountain show that combines music, lights and huge water jets. It’s incredible!

Seriously, don’t you dare to miss it on your trip to Dubai. Apart from enjoying an incredible exhibition, it is possible to go on a boat ride around the fountain lake in a traditional abra.

4. Eat at Time Out Market Dubai

time out market
Time Out Market Dubai

The Time Out Market is one of the best places to visit in dubai at night. After enjoying the Dubai Fountain show, I recommend walking a little further until you reach this impressive market. In the market you will find numerous food stalls serving the best dishes in the city.

You can try different dishes from different parts of the world and enjoy a good beer or cocktail while enjoying the views of the tallest building in the world with some live music in the background. If you like food, this is one of the best places you can visit in Dubai.

5. Go on a ride on Ain Dubai, the largest Ferris wheel in the world

Ain Dubai
Ain Dubai

As expected, Dubai is home to the largest ferris wheel in the world. The ferris wheel, Ain Dubai, measures 250 meters high. It was opened to the public on October 21st, 2021 on the manmade island of Bluewaters. The Ferris wheel is made up of 48 spacious wagons where you can move around and enjoy a 360º view of the city. You will be able to observe much of the city from above, especially the Dubai Marina. The tour is approximately 38 minutes long.

It is advisable to purchase the entrance to Ain Dubai in advance, this way you will avoid missing out on the opportunity to live this experience. You can do that on Ain Dubai’s website. Admission to Ain Dubai is around $30 per person. If you want to go up during sunset, the price is $60. Based on my experience, it is well worth it.

6. Fly over Dubai on a helicopter, one of the top 20 things to do in Dubai

helicopter ride in Dubai
Helicopter ride in Dubai

We have arrived at one of the experiences that I enjoyed the most during my trip to Dubai: going on a helicopter ride! If Dubai is already incredible from the ground, imagine how incredible it must be to fly above it on a helicopter. It was my first time flying on a helicopter and the experience did not disappoint at all. I highly recommend it.

You can book your helicopter ride in advance here. You can choose between a 12-minute flight (priced around $170 per person), a 15-minute flight ($224), a 17-minute flight ($238) or a 25-minute flight (priced around $352 per person). We opted for the 12-minute flight and it was enough time to see the city from above. Usually, four people travel in each helicopter, excluding the pilot.

7. Visit the Dubai Miracle Garden

dubai miracle garden
What to see in Dubai

The Dubai Miracle Garden is much more than just a botanical garden. The garden’s more than 150 million flowers create a scenery straight out of a fairy tale. While you stroll through the 72,000 m² that occupy the park, you will have the opportunity to visit places such as the Emirates A380, a full-scale floral version of the popular plane used by Emirates. It is made up of 500,000 flowers and plants.

The Heart Tunnel is one of the most popular attractions in Dubai Miracle Garden. It is a corridor made up of several hearts covered with flowers of different colors. It is a a perfect place to snap a souvenir photo. Inside the garden, I also recommend visiting the teddy bear, the clock, the castle and the sunflowers field. You will also have numerous food stalls available.

It is usually only open in the winter months; from November to March. I recommend visiting this places if you are spending at least 3 days in Dubai. You can purchase your ticket to visit the Dubai Miracle Garden here.

8. Take a photo in the popular Dubai Frame

things to do in dubai
Dubai Frame

The idea behind the Dubai Frame is to connect the old and modern part of Dubai. In other words, it connects the past and the present. Both areas are framed within this 50-meter high and 95-meter wide frame.

Apart from taking very cool photos from the outside, it is also possible to go up to an observation deck located at the top. You can enjoy incredible panoramic views of the city. Inside the Dubai Frame there are also several exhibitions explaining the history of the city.

You can purchase your Dubai Frame ticket here in advance. I recommend going up at sunset.

9. Going to the water park, a fun thing to do in Dubai

Is there a better way to escape the extreme heat in Dubai than going to one of its many water parks? As you can imagine, the city is full of them.

During our trip to Dubai, we visited the Atlantis Water Park (Aquaventure Water Park), which is supposed to be the largest water park in the world. It has a beach and a wide variety of attractions for all ages. The only drawback to visiting this park were the long queues to get on the rides, they were endless! That being said, maybe it’s a better idea to go to a less popular one. You can purchase your ticket to the water park here. The price does not include towels or lockers. You have to pay for them separately.

You can also take a look at other water parks in Dubai: Legoland Water Park, Wild Wadi Waterpark.

10. The View at The Palm, The Palm Jumeirah Viewpoint

The View at The Palm Jumeirah
The View at The Palm

One of the best viewpoints in Dubai is The View at The Palm. This viewpoint offers an incredible 360º view of The Palm Jumeirah, one of the three artificial palm-shaped islands known as the Palm Islands. On this island there are numerous villas, luxury hotels, marinas and restaurants.

If you are interested in going up to The View at The Palm, located 240 meters high, you first have to go up to the 52nd floor of The Palm Tower, connected to Nakheel Mall. We went up at sunset and it was amazing. On Fridays and Saturdays it is also open at sunrise. Admission cost $24 approximately. You can buy your ticket in advance here.

11. Go for a walk in the Marina, one of the most relaxing activities in Dubai

Dubai Marina
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The Dubai Marina is one of the best places to visit in Dubai. The many tourist attractions in this area of ​​Dubai attract thousands of people every day. Among those tourist attractions is Marina Beach, one of the best beaches in Dubai.

You can sunbathe on the sand, take a swim with incredible views or enjoy some water sports, such as a jet ski ride or getting on a speedboat. You can also take a sunset cruise through the Dubai Marina.

The pier is also one of the many tourist attractions in the Dubai Marina. It is the largest artificial tourist port in the world. You can explore the port by going for a walk on the 7 km boardwalk. You can also stroll along The Walk promenade. The area is also home to a large number of restaurants, boutiques, luxury hotels and tall skyscrapers of all shapes and sizes.

12. Jumeirah Mosque, one of the top 20 places to visit in Dubai

Jumeirah Mosque
Jumeirah Mosque

If you are interested in visiting a mosque during your trip to Dubai, I recommend visiting the Jumeirah Mosque. It is located in Jumeriah, hence the name. Construction began in 1976 and it opened its doors in 1979. The use of white stones stands out, something very common in fatimid-style architecture, from North Africa.

The mosque follows the “open door, open minds” principle, which means that all people are welcome, regardless of one’s religious belief. Everyone can appreciate the beauty of the place and get closer to Islam and local culture.

Every day of the week, except Fridays, guided tours of the Jumeirah Mosque are held at 10am and 2pm. During the tour, you can any questions or concern you may have about Islam. There is no need to book in advance. Please dress appropriately according to Islamic culture. In the mosque, they will lend you clothing if you need them. Women must wear a veil to cover their heads.

13. Take a stroll through Al Fahidi, a historic neighborhood in Dubai

top 20 places to visit in Dubai
Al Fahidi

A trip to Dubai isn’t complete without visiting the neighborhood of Al Fahidi, the historic neighborhood in Dubai. Strolling through the oldest streets in Dubai is one of the top 20 things to do in Dubai. You’ll be able to see what the city was like before the Emirates were formed.

The houses are completely different from what we are used to seeing in Dubai. Unlike the great skyscrapers located in the city center, in Al Fahidi, the houses are made of stone, plaster, teak and palm wood. They were built at the end of the 19th century by Persian merchants.

You’ll run into many handicraft shops while strolling through Al Fahidi. You can also visit museums (Coffee Museum, Dubai Museum) and restaurants. I recommend eating at the Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Cafe. It’s a very touristic restaurant; however, there is a large variety of dishes and the food is really delicious. The establishment is beautiful as well.

14. Visiting the Gold Souk and the Spice Souk, among the 20 best things to do in Dubai

Spice Market
Spice Souk

After visiting Al Fahidi, make your way to Bur Dubai Abra Station. Here you will be able to take an abra, a small traditional wooden boat, to cross the canal and get to the other side, where you will find the Spice Souk and the Gold Souk.

I recommend visiting both of them but if you don’t have enough time, you should prioritize visiting the Spice Souk. You will find many corridors full of stalls where the same products are sold: a lot of different types of spices, incense, traditional clothings, etc.

If you decide to visit the Gold Souk, you will have the chance to visit plenty of stores where many gold items are sold. In one of the showcases you will find the biggest gold ring in the world. It weighs 58.68 kg!

15. Enjoy a luxurious and relaxing experience at Drift Beach Dubai

drift beach dubai
Drift Beach Dubai

If you are in the mood for some luxury and relaxation, I have a very nice plan for you. How would you like to spend part of the day in one of the most luxurious beach clubs in the city? If that sounds good to you, head over to Drift Beach Dubai. At the beach club you will find a swimming pool with a view of the beach and the Dubai skyline. Choose a hammock, there are different types to choose from, and get ready to spend a few hours of pure delight. It has a food and drink menu.

Take a look at the Drift Beach Dubai website if you would like to pay them a visit. On the website you can find information about the schedule, rates, how to book, etc.

16. Watch the sunset from Dubai Creek Harbour

top 20 things to do in dubai
Dubai Creek Harbour

Sunsets in Dubai are dreamy as you may already know. A less crowded but equally impressive place to watch the sunset is at Dubai Creek Harbour. It is a developing commercial center which will end up being twice as large as Downtown Dubai. The Dubai Creek Tower, which was on pace to becoming the tallest building in the world, was being built in this area. The project is currently on hold.

Once you get to the area, go to Dubai Creek Harbor View Point. You will have impressive views of the entire Dubai skyline. If you go at sunset, the view will blow your mind!

17. Take a day trip to the Dubai desert, one of the top 20 things to do in Dubai

Trip to the dubai desert
Dubai Desert

One of the best things to do in Dubai that I really enjoy was taking a trip to the Dubai desert. After being picked up from our hotel and a short car ride, we arrived in the desert. When we arrived, we were given traditional turbans to put on our heads before getting on the 4×4. We took a tour of the desert in a beautiful vintage Land Rover. It was an incredible experience!

We were then taken to a Bedouin camp where we were served a traditional four-course dinner. We were also able to watch several shows while enjoying our shisha (hookah). It was a very nice evening. We did the tour with Platinum Heritage Dubai. The tour costs around $150 per person.

If this tour is out of your budget, you can check this other tour of the Dubai desert. It costs around $50 and has great reviews. It also includes hotel transfer, sandboarding, dinner and traditional shows.

If you have enough time to do several excursions, in this article you’ll find the best day trips from Dubai.

18. Fly in a hot air balloon in Dubai, an amazing attraction in Dubai

What to do in Dubai
What to do in Dubai

If touring the desert in a 4×4 vehicle and having dinner in a traditional camp leaves you wanting more, you should strongly consider flying in a hot air balloon over the Dubai desert. Although I did not have the opportunity to fly during my time in Dubai, I flew in a hot air balloon a few years ago in Bagan (Myanmar) and it is a unique experience. Flying over the desert has to be an incredible experience as well.

If you want to experience an unforgettable moment, book your sunrise balloon flight now. You will be able to see how the dunes are dyed in beautiful shades of orange as a new day begins in Dubai. The balloon flight costs around $260 per person. The price also includes hotel transfer and a welcome drink.

19. Alserkal Avenue, a unique place to visit in Dubai

If you are an art lover, there is a corner in Dubai that you cannot miss and that is Alserkal Avenue. This area was an old industrial district and it has now become one of the main areas of creativity in Dubai. It is made up of different spaces where art, gastronomy and music all merge together. Works by emerging local and international artists are displayed here.

Ayyam Gallery is one of the most popular spaces in the area. It features the works of Syrian artists who talk about war and identity. You’ll also find places like The FlipSide, where vinyl records are sold, or The Jewel Teller, a handmade jewelry store. If you want to eat something during your visit, don’t worry, there are a wide variety of cafes and restaurants.

20. Burj Al Arab

top 20 things to do in Dubai
Burj Al Arab

The Burj Al Arab is one of the most luxurious hotels in Dubai. In fact, it is the only hotel rated a 7-star hotel. At 321 meters, it is also the tallest hotel in the world. It is located on a private artificial island and it is shaped like a ship’s sail. The hotel has swimming pools overlooking the Arabian Gulf, a spa, a heliport and some of the best restaurants in Dubai, an underwater restaurant among them. All rooms are suites.

Apart from being the most luxurious and tallest hotel in the world, it is also one of the most expensive. For this reason, only a few will ever be able to sleep in the Burj Al Arab. It is possible to visit the Burj Al Arab by going to one of the restaurants or the tea room. Eating at Burj Al Arab isn’t cheap, you’ve been warned.

Where to stay in Dubai

If you haven’t booked your hotel yet, I suggest you to read my guide about where to stay in Dubai and my selection of affordable hotels in Dubai.

One of the most important steps when planning a trip is booking a hotel. Despite being a very luxurious city, it is possible to find affordable hotels in Dubai, although you should bear in mind that the price varies a lot between high and low season. The Urban Al Khoory Hotel can be a very good option.

We stayed at Rove La Mer Beach, a 3-star hotel located next to the beach, in a quiet area of ​​the city. It is a hotel is preferred by families, therefore, if you travel with children, it is a very good option. Your children are guaranteed to be entertained. It is also a very good option for other types of travelers, such as couples or groups of friends. The breakfast and dinner buffets had plenty of options. I recommend it! I recommend it!

If you prefer something more luxurious, I recommend the Grand Plaza Mövenpick. It is a 5-star hotel that offers a lot for what you pay. It has an outdoor pool ideal for lounging and a fitness center.

Map of the top 20 places to visit in Dubai

In the following map you can see the exact location of all the places mentioned in this article and the hotels I have recommended. This map will hopefully help you plan your visit to Dubai.

Check my guide to travel to the United Arab Emirates to keep planning your trip!

I hope that this post about the top 20 things to do in Dubai has been informative and very useful for you in planning your next trip. If you have any questions, I encourage you to leave a comment or reach out to me through email or social media. See you next time!

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↠ If you still need to buy flights for your trip, there is no better search engine than Skyscanner (although I always recommend booking the flight on the company’s website).

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