The 10 best things to do in Dubai

Advice

Prepare to be overwhelmed with superlatives while in Dubai – an emirate defined by its ability to evolve and astound. Even regular visitors will be tempted by something new every time they arrive – a record-breaking museum perhaps, or maybe an entire hipster neighbourhood that seemingly sprang up overnight. So, tick the must-dos off your list – attempting to squeeze all 2,722 feet (828 metres) of the Burj Khalifa into one photograph and sailing a traditional abra (wooden boat) across Dubai Creek, for example – but don’t ever think you’ve done Dubai, because Dubai is always on a mission to outdo itself. Here are the best things to do in Dubai.

For further Dubai inspiration, see our guides to the city’s best hotelsrestaurantsshoppingnightlife and family-friendly things to do


Find things to do by area


Al Fahidi Historical District

Follow your tastebuds in the souks

Dubai’s souks are best explored on a guided walking tour and the most locally renowned of them are hosted by Frying Pan Adventures. Founder Arva Saleem Ahmed and her growing team curate culinary walks peppered with Arabian, Indian and Iranian food tastings, while covering the ‘Old Dubai’ essentials of being ferried across Dubai Creek on a cheap-as-chips abra, shopping at the spice and textile souks and exploring the historic Al Fahidi neighbourhood. The ‘Dubai Souks and Creekside Food Walk’ lasts around four hours and is the most comprehensive tour offered. 

Insider’s tip: Tours require a minimum of four guests. Bring your own earphones for the audio guide and wear comfortable walking shoes.

Contact: fryingpanadventures.com
Nearest metro: Sharaf DG
Price: £££

Jumeirah and Umm Sequim

Enjoy water sports in the Arabian Sea

The Arabian Sea is a stunning azure playground serviced by several equipment rental companies. Hire stand-up paddle boards or kayaks on beautiful Kite Beach at Kite N Surf, where you can also learn the art of kitesurfing, or pick up a jet ski at JetSki Dubai at Umm Sequim. The company offers guided tours along the shoreline, as well as flyboarding and parasailing sessions.

Insider’s tip: If you want to feel like a celebrity at sea and have fellow tourists stop to take your photo, hire JetSki Dubai’s jet car, which works like a jet ski but looks like an Aston Martin. “Shagadelic, Baby!” 

Contact: kitensurf.ae/jetskiingdubai.com
Price: ££

Zabeel Park

Get the picture at Dubai Frame

At ground level in Zabeel Park, circumnavigate Dubai Frame to see the contrasting faces of this emirate – ‘Old Dubai’ is framed from one direction and ‘New Dubai’ from the other. Inside, it’s essentially a footbridge with a glass floor, 500 feet (150 metres) up in the sky, giving guests a vertiginous thrill as they look down and a 360-degree view of Dubai as they look out.

Insider’s tip: Once you’ve seen the old and the new through the Frame, visit the Future Dubai Gallery on the mezzanine floor to find out what tomorrow looks like for this fast-paced metropolis.

Contact: dubaiframe.ae
Nearest metro: Max
Price: £
Book tickets



Dubai Frame, UAE


Get a head for heights at Dubai Frame: a 150-metre-high viewing platform, with glass floor

Light-up nocturnal outings at Dubai Garden Glow

As romantic as it is family-friendly, Dubai Garden Glow is the world’s largest glow-in-the-dark theme park featuring 10 million energy-saving bulbs in fanciful illuminated formations of giant coral reefs filled with delightful Disney-esque jelly fish, exotic birds perched in gilded aviaries, Seventies-worthy disco tunnels and glistening models of local landmarks. There are also 100 animatronic dinosaurs for budding paleontologists to walk among.

Insider’s tip: Cool down at the on-site Ice Park where 5,000 tonnes of ice have been fashioned into a small airplane, a winged horse and carriage and a miniature Burj Khalifa, among other things.

Contact: dubaigardenglow.com
Nearest metro: Max
Price: £
Book tickets



Dubai Garden Glow, Dubai


With 10 million energy-saving bulbs, Dubai Garden Glow is the world’s largest glow-in-the-dark theme park

Downtown Dubai

Tick off the major Downtown highlights

The world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, neighbours the sprawling, designer label-filled Dubai Mall and the dancing Dubai Fountain, and between them they share a patch of Downtown Dubai famed for prestige, evident right down to the parking lots lined with Maseratis and Lamborghinis. Sheikh Mohammed, Ruler of Dubai, owns a penthouse in the tower, which also houses the At the Top observation deck and Armani Hotel Dubai.

Insider’s tip: The Dubai Fountain is best viewed by night when laser and light shows accompany the music. Also note that the Dubai Mall is equivalent in size to 50 football pitches, so you should wear comfortable shoes.

Contact: burjkhalifa.ae; thedubaimall.com
Nearest metro: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall
Price: £-£££
Book tickets: Burj Khalifa; Dubai Mall



Downtown Dubai, UAE


The dancing Dubai Fountain is the heart of the exclusive Downtown area


Credit: Marek Kijevský/Marek Kijevský

Enjoy an alternative night at the opera

Dhow-shaped in a nod to traditional Arabian ships, the 2,000-seat Dubai Opera opened with a promise to bring cultural diversity to entertainment in the region, and delivers shows that range from music by Morcheeba and comedy by Al Murray (The Pub Landlord) to ballets of the Swan Lake variety and the BBC Proms. Plus, Antipodean super-chef Sean Connolly has a seafood and steak brasserie on the top floor.

Insider’s tip: Head to the nearby Armani/Ristorante for refined Italian pre-theatre menus, served from 5.30pm at AED 250 for two courses and AED 300 (£64) for three.

Contact: dubaiopera.com
Nearest metro: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall
Price: ££



Dubai Opera, UAE


The 2000-seat Dubai Opera is dhow-shaped in a nod to traditional Arabian ships

Al Barsha South

See 100 million flowers in one day at Dubai Miracle Garden

Imagine a universe made of flowers and you’re picturing Dubai Miracle Garden, winner of a Guinness World Record for the largest floral arrangement ever created, which takes the form of a 70-metre-long A380 airplane resplendent in a rainbow of petals. Stroll beneath heart-shaped trellises swollen with petunias along the Avenue of Love, the most photographed display at the attraction, and see houses, windmills and even a Mercedes, all repurposed as planters for marigolds, roses, calendulas and tulips.

Insider’s tip: The Butterfly Garden, enclosed and aflutter with myriad species, is popular with children; visit during school hours if you want the winged beauties all to yourself.

Contact: visitdubai.com
Price: £
Book tickets



Dubai Miracle Garden, Dubai


The Dubai Miracle Garden holds the Guinness World Record for the largest floral arrangement ever created

Dubai Marina and Bluewaters Island

Spend an afternoon at The Beach JBR

At The Beach JBR, prove to the kids you’ve still got what it takes to make it around an inflatable floating assault course at sea (Aqua Park, AED 150/£30 for adults; AED 120/£25 for children), then refuel at one of the many restaurants on the strip. As night falls, potter among the market stalls, where you can learn how to create bottled sand art and pick up customised flip-flops.

Insider’s tip: Try the succulent peppered clams at Aprons & Hammers, but note that restaurants at The Beach don’t serve alcohol unless they’re part of a hotel complex.

Contact: thebeach.ae
Nearest metro: DMCC
Price: £-£££



The Beach JBR, Dubai


Rent a cabana at The Beach JBR and relax before attempting the floating assault course

Jump out of a plane

You’ll never forget Dubai after you’ve seen it hurtling towards you as you fall from the sky. This is the feeling you’ll experience on a tandem jump with SkyDive Dubai. Planes take off from the runway located on the shores of Dubai Marina, ascending above Palm Jumeirah before instructors strap on their passengers and coax them out the door. If you’re brave enough to try it, you’ll be replaying the GoPro video for years. 

Insider’s tip: If the thought of jumping out of a plane makes your stomach do somersaults, take SkyDive Dubai’s less queasy two-seat gyrocopter aircraft ride with a qualified pilot instead. No jumping required. 

Contact: skydivedubai.ae
Price: £££

Jebel Ali

Set your heart racing at supersized Dubai Parks and Resorts

Mix international movie park Motiongate with the world’s first football theme park, throw in a Polynesian-themed hotel and a Legoland hotel and theme park, and what have you got? Dubai Parks and Resorts. This multiplex of amusement offers high-speed rides, a village of Smurfs, theatre productions and parades, and a primary-coloured world made of kids’ building blocks.

Insider’s tip: If your clan is mad about parks, check into the on-site Lapita Hotel and receive unlimited multi-park access and complimentary Q-fast to Motiongate for the duration of your stay.

Contact: dubaiparksandresorts.com
Nearest metro: UAE Exchange (from here a taxi will cost around AED 40/£8)
Price: ££-£££
Book tickets



Dubai Parks and Resorts. UAE


Explore Bollywood, which is just one of the four theme parks in the supersize Dubai Parks and Resorts


How we choose

Every attraction and activity in this curated list has been tried and tested by our destination expert, to provide you with their insider perspective. We cover a range of budgets and styles, from world-class museums to family-friendly theme parks – to best suit every type of traveller. We update this list regularly to keep up with the latest openings and provide up to date recommendations.

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