Top 32 Things to Do in Dubai

A Comprehensive Guide to the Top Dubai Attractions and Activities

Dubai at a Glance

Being home to both the world's tallest building and the world's tallest hotel, Dubai is a city quite literally on the up and up. Stack on top of that a rich history spanning back to 3000 BC, religious roots set in Islam and cultural diversity and we’ve got an Emirate that’s more than worth a visit.

Located on the South East Coast of the Persian Gulf, Dubai once sat as a quiet fishing village in the 18th century. Thanks to revenues created through the oil trade it began to develop in the late 20th century and is today considered the business hub of the Middle East. The city is set to host Expo 2020, a chance to cement its developments into the history books further. It’s not all about business however as the city caters for everybody thanks to its array of beaches, monuments and activities. Whether you’re visiting with friends, as a family or enjoying a solo trip this rising gem will entertain all.

How Much Time Do You Need to See Dubai?

Dubai is a big city with a lot to offer, so we advise staying at least 4-6 days to scratch the surface. This time frame allows you to experience the best of the cities old town, public gardens, shops and the surrounding desert. Below we’ve outlined the best things to see and do in and around Dubai so, whether you’re on a flying visit due to a layover or an extended short break, you can make the most of your trip.

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Free Things to Do in Dubai

Though money does help, it’s not all about splashing the cash when in Dubai as there’s a wide array of things to see and do that are absolutely free.

Palm Jumeirah
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This artificial archipelago and the world's largest man-made island is located just 20-minutes south of central Dubai. Home to grand hotels, an array of restaurants, beach clubs and an extravagant water park, there’s a lot on offer for everyone and when you’re strapped for cash, just walking around the island is enough to appreciate it.

Dubai Creek
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This historical salt water creek was once used to divide the city and now extends out to the Persian Gulf. The creek is a great spot for families, head down in the morning to walk the banks and witness the locals going about their day on dhows.

Kite Beach
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Home to kite surfers and water sports lovers in abundance Kite Beach offers fun for all the family thanks to its inviting white sands and turquoise waters. Money doesn’t need to be spent here to have fun, just back your swimwear, sun cream and a beach towel. Park up on the sands and watch the kite surfers in action.

Dubai Marina
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Come evening Dubai Marina is the place to be, enjoy a romantic stroll along the Marina walk and observe the wealth of moored yachts and the city skyline acting as a backdrop.

Dubai Fountains
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This choreographed music, and water display is one of Dubai’s greatest attractions. This captivating fountain spectacle is set on Burj Khalifa Lake and provides great entertainment for families and couples alike as jets of water light up the skyline and crowds gather.

Gold and Spice Souks
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Dubai’s gold and spice markets, located in the Deira area, are a spectacle in of themselves even when you’re on a low budget. Wander through the stalls breathing in the fresh aroma of spices and observing the displays of gold jewellery that run throughout the souk.

Ripe Markets

Running across a number of locations in Dubai these farmers market offer fresh fare to sample all day long. If you’re in the city on a Friday, they’re well worth a visit, head down just before the 9 am opening time to witness local stall holders setting up and immerse yourself in the market atmosphere.

Burj al Arab
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Dubai is home to world records, so it’s no surprise that the worlds tallest hotel is located here. Though a night at the hotel isn’t exactly free, in fact, the luxury suite would set you back $15,000, observing from the outside doesn’t cost a thing. Head down to the waterfront at sunset for the best view of the hotel against the orange sky.

Al Bastakiya
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This 19th-century merchant town is the perfect stop off for culture vultures and history buffs alike. The historic neighbourhood dates back to the 1890s and offers an insight into a Dubai of times gone by. Wander the narrow winding lanes and observe the old heritage buildings and keep your eyes out for the odd camel.

Al Barsha Pond Park
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Tucked slightly out of the way, in the residential area of Al Barsha, is one of Dubai’s hidden green areas. This little park offers free outdoor workout equipment, a jogging track that runs along the perimeter and the perfect picnic spot for those after a little greenery.

Map of Free Things to Do in Dubai
Map of free things to do in Dubai

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1-Day Itinerary in Dubai

If you’re pressed for time in Dubai and find yourself with only a day in the city then don’t fear, there’s plenty of things to see and do without feeling like you’ve missed out. Below we’ve suggested a handful of attractions and activities suitable for a one-day itinerary.

Burj Khalifa
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Any trip to Dubai must start with a visit to the Burj Khalifa. Sitting tall at the height of 829.8 metres this world record skyscraper is hard to miss. For some, just looking at this gigantic structure is enough, but visitors not afraid of heights can head to Level 124; a panoramic observation deck situated at the top.

Dubai Mall
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Dubai Mall is a luxury indoor complex and a shopaholics paradise thanks to its diverse array of shops, boutiques and eateries. The mall is particularly suitable for families as it features an aquarium, a thrilling ice rink, an immersive cinema and KidZania; an interactive village that educates children through play.

Dubai Miracle Gardens
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The world’s largest natural flower garden is located just south of the city and provides a tranquil escape from the hubbub of central Dubai. With 70 different flower varieties, a 3D butterfly garden and miraculous floral structures the gardens are a must-see spectacle that’ll entertain the children and impress the adults.

Jumeirah Beach Residence Walk
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Along the Jumeirah Beach Residence Walk is a lively boulevard packed with fine eateries, quaint cafes and boutiques galore. After meandering down the street why not end the evening at the open-air cinema and enjoy a movie under the night sky. Come Thursday and Friday night the boulevard is abuzz with families and couples out on a stroll.

Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
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This non-profit organization, located in the old town, offers an insight into Emirate culture. Learn about the local history on a heritage tour, experience the local religion on a guided mosque visit or understand the local customs and language by taking an Arabic class. These activities are best suited for adults or families with children over the age of 10.

Dubai Museum & Al Fahad Fort
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The museum sits inside the Al Fahidi Fort in the cities old town district. This educational activity is suitable for families and couples alike and time can be spent wandering the fort, observing the galleries and reading up on the history of Dubai before the discovery of oil.

Dinner Cruise
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Dubai is considered a gastronomy capital in the United Arab Emirates and serves an array of multicultural cuisine from local camel stews to spiced seafood. Combine these delicate dishes with a Persian Gulf cruise, and you’ve got yourself an evening of romantic sightseeing and fine food. The cruise is suitable for couples.

Map Things to Do in Dubai With 1 Day
Map of things to do for a one-day itinerary in Dubai

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2-Day Itinerary in Dubai

If you find yourself with two days in the city, then there’s plenty of time to dig a little deeper and explore a little further. Below we’ve outlined activities and attractions that fit perfectly into a two-day itinerary.

Desert Safari
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Leave the bright lights and skyscrapers of the city behind as you head out deep into the surrounding desert on an exhilarating safari. Guest can choose between morning or evening safaris where you’ll enjoy dune bashing across the hot sands before returning to camp for quad biking, camel rides and sand skiing. This activity is a great way to spend family time or to tick off your couples bucket list.

Ski Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates
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Finding the heat a little hard to handle? Then it’s time to head indoors to the Mall of the Emirates ski slopes. This indoor resort offers skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing for all ages. After an exhilarating few hours on the slopes, you’ll be ready to head back into the cities afternoon heat.

Traditional Dubai
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A wander around traditional old town Dubai can’t go a miss for those in search of a good history lesson and a dollop of culture. The Bastakia Quarter is home to bustling souks, a vibrant neighborhood with impressive architecture and a growing art scene.

Dubai RIB Boat Cruise

Feel the wind in your hair as you hurtle down Dubai’s famous coastline and around the archipelagos of Palm Island on a RIB boat cruise. Not for the faint hearted, this adrenaline pumped excursion gives you an alternative view of the city while brushing off the cobwebs.

Jumierah Mosque
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Whatever your religion, Jumierah Mosque is undeniably an architectural masterpiece. Open to the public the mosque welcomes visitors to learn more about Emirate religion and the practices of Islam. Visitors are advised to dress modestly, but traditional attire can be borrowed upon arrival.

Eauzone

This stylish beachside restaurant is the perfect eatery for a romantic couple’s night out. The restaurant is part of the Royal Mirage hotel and is made up of floating decks surrounded by palm trees. Don your best holiday outfit and enjoy Asian fare with a twist late into the evening.

Zero Gravity Beach Club

When it comes to a cocktails pit stop there’s plenty of bars to choose from, but one, in particular, is turning heads; Zero Gravity Beach Club. Once an evening hotspot this cool venue now opens its doors to lunchtime revelers and is perfect for couples and friends in search of a tipple or two. The beach club also runs sunrise yoga classes if you consider yourself an early bird yogi.

Map Things to Do in Dubai With 2 Day
Map of things to do for a two-day itinerary in Dubai

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3+ Day Itinerary in Dubai

If you have a longer period of time in Dubai, then it’s possible to head much further afield and explore the surrounding desert as well as enjoying the cities main attractions, hidden gems and time-consuming activities. Below we’ve suggested the perfect three-day itinerary.

Skydiving
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Calling all adrenaline junkies, we’ve got an activity high on your bucket list; skydiving over Palm Island. Take to the skies with an experienced instructor before freefalling at 120 miles per hour over the Persian Gulf while a videographer captures it on film in true music video style.

Wade Wadi Water Park
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Fun for all the family Wadi Wadi is a themed water park based around Arabian Folklore. With 30 thrilling rides, there’s no end of fun to be had. Whether you’re a lazy river pro or an adrenaline junkie seeking fast rides with knee-jerking drops, there’s something for everyone.

Falconry Desert Safari
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The desert isn’t all about tearing up sand in a 4x4; there’s also a lot of wildlife to be spotted. Take a wildlife drive through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve on the lookout for rare Arabian oryx, gazelle and Falcons. This adventure is perfect for birders, families and nature lovers alike.

IMG Worlds of Adventure

This indoor theme park is an ideal hideaway for families with children looking for an adventure. Spend the morning jumping from ride to ride and exploring the park before retiring to one of the restaurants for a well-earned lunch.

Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
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Whether you’re an adult who loves animals or a toddler fascinated by the deep blue, Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is fun for the entire family. Located in Dubai Mall, it also provides an escape for those who’ve unwillingly been dragged shopping.

Dubai Opera
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In downtown Dubai sits an attraction that’s largely unvisited by tourists and, as such, we consider it a hidden gem. The Dubai Opera hosts the finest performing arts from Dubai and worldwide and is the perfect way for couples to spend a romantic evening.

Etihad Museum

The Etihad Museum tells the story behind the founding of the United Arab Emirates and photos, films and documents take visitors on a journey back in time. Ideal for history buffs and culture vultures alike.

Dubai Canal

By day the canal provides a walkway down to Jumeirah Beach and come evening is an ideal spot for a romantic stroll. Stop off to see the cascading waterfall flowing from the Dubai Canal bridge as it lights up the night sky.

Map Things to Do in Dubai With 3+ Day
Map of things to do for a 3+ day itinerary in Dubai

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Parting Words

In conclusion, this state of the art city has a lot to give and is an all round destination for families, friends and couples alike. With ground-breaking modern architecture, old town markets, soft sand beaches and a penchant for world records there really is no other city like it.

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