The largest city of UAE (United Arab Emirates) is also large on its offerings. Yes, we are talking about Abu Dhabi, which is also the country’s capital city. It, however is a bit underrated city, mainly due to its more glamorous and popular neighbor, Dubai. With its fair share of legendary landmarks, cool shopping options, intriguing museums, and exciting leisure attractions, a visit to Abu Dhabi is absolutely worth a spot in your UAE program. But, if you don’t know where to head in the city, this list of top things to do in Abu Dhabi will guide you.
List of Things to do in Abu Dhabi
1. Hit the Versatile Attractions at Yas Island
If you are a fan of heart-racing actions and amusing entertainment, there is no better place to kick off your Abu Dhabi exploration than at Yas Island. This man-made island is packed with theme parks, shopping options and other attractions that are ideal for all age groups. Most popular among them is undoubtedly the first of its kind Ferrari World Abu Dhabi with the most exhilarating rides including Formula Rossa – the world’s fastest roller coaster ride.
Next door is the region’s ultimate and largest water park, Yas Waterworld. The island is also home to Warner Bros Abu Dhabi and CLYMB Abu Dhabi, boasting the world’s largest skydiving flight chamber and the tallest climbing wall. If you are a racing enthusiast, don’t miss Yas Marina Circuit.
2. Visit the Timeless Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
This stunning mosque, named after the UAE’s late president – Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is one of the capital city’s most beloved landmarks for its breathtaking architectural majesty (that is a mix of diverse styles) and unequaled tranquility. Not to mention, it is open to all including non-Muslims. And the best part is that entry is free here. Don’t miss out to visit to here; you can expect to see a variety of wondrous elements, from the largest of its kind carpet to the colossal chandeliers finished in 24K gold and glossed with millions of Swarovski crystals.
3. Go on a Mangrove Walk
Abu Dhabi’s conservation efforts are commendable, especially for preserving its magnificent nature and wildlife. Know it for yourself by making your way to the Mangrove Walk, which is a free attraction. Nestled on Jubail Island, it is a hidden gem, being a relatively new attraction. As the name signals, the highlight is its walkways which let you for a pleasant amble along the untouched mangroves that surround the region. You will find here three boardwalks where the longest stretches for two kilometers and the shortest not more than one kilometer. Moreover, a part of the walking platform is netted in order to give you a glimpse of the region’s underwater creatures. If this isn’t enough, you can sign for a spectrum of activities like kayaking, night glow kayak, and SUP session.
4. Desert Safari
No Abu Dhabi (or precisely UAE) trip is complete without going on a guided desert safari. It is your ticket to discover the region’s natural desert environment, learn about the ancient Bedouin culture, and of course, have loads of adventure and amusement in the middle of the desert sands. The pulse-pounding 4X4 dune bash, camel ride and cultural activities like henna tattooing, Shisha smoking, falconry etc, are some of the standard inclusions of most desert safaris. For added fun, you can choose evening desert safari with BBQ dining and traditional entertainment (Tanura and Belly Dance) or overnight desert safari which is a sum up of morning and evening safaris complemented by camping in the desert.
5. Enter the Newest The National Aquarium
Abu Dhabi recently grabbed the headlines with the opening of the National Aquarium Abu Dhabi! A part of the massive Al Qana Complex and spanning over 9000 square meters, it is the largest aquarium in the Middle East. It is a safe sanctuary for about 50,000 marine creatures that represent over 300 unique species. They are arranged in its ten themed zones such as the UAE’s Natural Treasures, Atlantic Cave, Frozen Ocean, Bu Tinah Island, Ocean Magic, Ring of Fire, Red Sea Wreck, and the Flooded Forest.
6. Take to Flamingo Observation Tower
Locals, tourists and expats alike look forward to the opening of this upcoming Abu Dhabi attraction. It is located at the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve and occupies an overall of five square kilometers area, with its wetlands, dunes, salt flats and fossilized sands. Needless to say, the reserve is a protected place that harbors an array of plant, marine and bird species. And, as you imagined, the Flamingo Observation Tower will serve as a premium vantage point to view the striking landscape as well as the thousands of elegant flamingos that flock here during the winter months.
First prize. Image © Bryan Fan / Shelley Xu
7. Make a Definite Stop at Louvre Abu Dhabi
This museum is so stunning (in terms of its both architecture and exhibits) that it is one of the must-visits during your visit to Abu Dhabi. Located on Saadiyat Island, it is the Arabian Peninsula’s largest museum and further the outcome of the partnership between the UAE and France governments. You can look forward to admire here the masterworks of some of the most brilliant and celebrated artists like Picasso, Pollock, Leonardo da Vinci, Édouard Manet and Modigliani to name a few.
Barring its timeless displays, the museum is worth a visit for its architectural beauty alone, thanks to the designs by the award-winning architect, Jean Nouvel. The structure appears like a floating masterpiece with a massive dome which allows the natural light sieve in through its perforations.
8. Get a Slice of Emirati Culture and Heritage
Abu Dhabi is a well-planned city filled with skyscrapers, high-tech leisure choices and mega malls. But, in the past, it was just a modest settlement; a visit to Heritage will give you a glimpse of the region’s age-old culture and traditions. True to its name, it recreates the allure of a traditional oasis village, with a souk, restaurant and a mosque. You also get to be part of public workshops wherein the local craftsmen display their inimitable skills in weaving, pottery and metal works.
9. Admire Royal Architecture and Artistry at Qasr Al Watan
A stop at Qasr Al Watan is one of the ultimate ways to glimpse into the regal Arabian artistry and heritage. A part of the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi, its literal meaning is Palace of the Nation. Each of its sections is extraordinarily majestic and is sure to take your breath away. See a colossal dome as you step into stunning Great Hall. Gain a glimpse into the legendary Emirati hospitality by making your way to the Presidential Banquet. More experiences and attractions await you in its other rooms or sections such as Governance and Spirit of Collaboration, House of Knowledge and Qasr Al Watan. It is also worth a stroll through its sprawling hallways and beautifully maintained gardens.
10. Cool Off at Abu Dhabi Corniche
This stunning waterfront attraction in Abu Dhabi stretches for eight kilometers and is complete with everything to delight all members in your group. There are kids’ play areas and dedicated spaces for activities for cycling and playing volleyball, basketball etc. Now if you wish to dive into the water, Corniche Beach is lifeguarded and comes with Blue Flag status (which indicates water is both unpolluted and safe.)
Whether you are looking to spend one or two days in Abu Dhabi or just have a few hours to discover the place, be sure to make a trip to Abu Dhabi. The place is so charmingly diverse that it is definite that you will return with the most cherished experiences of your visit here.