As the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi has no shortage of attractions and activities to keep you busy during your holiday. From family-friendly theme parks to cultural must-sees, your days will be jammed packed with unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re looking to plan a fun family holiday or enjoy a romantic getaway with your significant other, the UAE’s culture capital has something for everyone. Here are our favourite things to do in Abu Dhabi.
Things to do in Abu Dhabi
Indulge in some retail therapy
A mix of high-end brands and traditional markets, Abu Dhabi offers the best of both worlds when it comes to shopping. Peruse designer brands at the many malls, pick up a Persian rug as a souvenir at the local markets or browse the high street shops; whatever your preference, there’s certainly no shortage of choice. Here are just some of the best shopping locations where you can shop till you drop.
Yas Marina Mall
With over 370 shops and 60 restaurants, Yas Marina Mall offers the ultimate shopping experience. It features many exclusive retail stores, including the only Apple store in Abu Dhabi and luxury designer merchants TRYANO.
You’ll also find the largest Nike, Zara and Adidas stores in the region, as well as a wealth of other famous brands that are guaranteed to tempt even the most stringent spender.
Once you’ve finished hitting the stores you can watch a flick at the 20 screen cinema, or bring the kids to Fun Works, a family-friendly entertainment area within the mall.
By far the most popular market in Abu Dhabi, Central Market offers a modern twist on a traditional souk. While it breaks with traditional standing at three storeys tall (most souks are single-level) elements of classical Arabian design can be seen throughout from intricate wooden lattice work to geometric patterns of stars.
There are a number of professional sellers peddling their wares without being pushy, including jewellery and handmade items that make the perfect souvenirs.
Abu Dhabi Mall
In the heart of the city, overlooking the waterfront, Abu Dhabi Mall boasts over 200 shops and dining outlets all under one roof. Whatever your budget, you’ll find a store to tempt you to open your wallet, whether it’s H&M, Calvin Klein, Sephora or Pandora.
But that’s not all! Entertainment options include a kid’s zone, VOX Cinema, trampoline park and more.
Incredible cultural wonders
Historic sites, architectural wonders and immersive attractions, Abu Dhabi has a cultural side that’s well worth exploring. Whether you’re travelling in winter, summer, spring or autumn, read on for our top picks of Abu Dhabi’s cultural attractions.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Clad in white marble, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – one of the world’s largest mosques – is a stunning example of modern Islamic architecture and design. Open to visitors of all beliefs, you can amble inside and out at your own pace or take a complimentary 45-minute guided tour for complete cultural immersion.
Jaw-droppingly impressive, reflective pools are framed by Arabic arches, an intricate floral design is etched into the outer courtyard, the 1,000 columns are inlaid with amethyst and jasper, and the 82 domes are encircled with calligraphy. And did we mention that the mosque is also home to the world’ largest hand-woven carpet that took two years to complete!
Louvre Abu Dhabi
The first museum of its kind in the Arab world, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a premier cultural institution showcasing permanent collections alongside four major exhibitions every year. Located on Saadiyat Island, one of the standout architectural features – designed by prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel – is the iconic silver dome made up of nearly 8,000 unique metal stars set in a complex geometric pattern that creates a “moving rain of light” when the sun shines through it.
Al Ain Oasis
Visit the Al Ain Oasis, the UAE’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spread across 3,000 acres, the nearly 150,000 date palms of around 100 different varieties – as well as mango, banana and orange trees – are fed by a 3,000-year-old falaj (irrigation) system.
Stop by the educational eco-centre and walk along the tranquil paths that meander throughout the oasis – bike hire and buggy tours are both available.
A vision of what the future could be like, Masdar City aims to become the world’s most sustainable eco-city. Using a combination of wind and solar energy, the largest solar panel farm in the Middle East sits on the edge of the city, while a wind tower provides natural ventilation to counter the blistering heat. And if you want to get around, aside from using your own two feet, there is the personal rapid transit (PRT) system, a small fleet of driverless cars operating underground.
Al Ain Camel Market
The last of its kind in the UAE, the Al Ain Camel Market – dusty, loud and a little chaotic – offers an immersive experience into traditional Arabic culture. Head here in the morning when trading – and haggling – for these valuable one-and-two-humped animals takes places, from tiny babies just learning to walk to prized racing studs.
Jebel Hafeet Tombs
Did you know that civilization in the UAE dates back to the Bronze Age? In the foothills of the Jebel Hafeet Mountain lie hundreds of beehive-shaped tombs, believed to have been built over 5,000 years ago to house the remains of the area’s early inhabitants.
Falling under the World Heritage Site of Al Ain, you are free to explore the tombs and the artefacts found there from beads and pottery to spearheads and daggers.
Seek thrills at the theme parks
You may not know it, but Abu Dhabi with its many theme parks provides plenty of thrills for adrenaline-seekers. Experience the twists and upside-down turns of a roller coaster or zoom down a water flume, all of which is sure to get your blood pumping. And if you’re less of the daredevil type, don’t fret, there are plenty of family-friendly options with more gentle-paced rides and attractions.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Inspired by the famous car manufacturer of the same name and the very first theme park of its kind, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi should be top of the list for thrill-seekers and car enthusiasts.
Largely indoors – great for escaping the summer heat – you’ll find a number of different rides that are sure to get your heart racing including the world’s fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa, which has top speeds of 240 km/h. . Or take things a little bit slower with the Viaggio in Italia flight simulator or go-karting at the Karting Academy.
Start your day with a splash on a day trip to the Emirati-themed water park, Yas Waterworld. This iconic park is spread over an impressive 37 acres and is home to a seemingly endless number of twisting water slides and exhilarating rides for all ages.
You can surf the world’s largest sheet wave at Bubbles Barrel, float along Al Raha River and experience the very first freefall drop waterslide in the region, Liwa Loop.
IMG Worlds of Adventure
With four different themed zones and a state of the art cinema, IMG Worlds of Adventure truly has something for everyone. With rides inspired by popular cartoons and film characters, this is far from your standard indoor amusement park; in fact, it’s the largest in the world!
Zap objects on the interactive Amazing Ride of Gumball, get up close and personal with life-sized dinosaurs on Forbidden Territory or go head over heels on Thor Thunder Spin. Whatever your preferences, you’ll find a fun ride for all of the family at IMG Worlds of Adventure.
Relax on one of the beaches
Do you enjoy indulging in a little R&R on holiday? We do, too! And we think there’s no better place to spend the day soaking up the sun than on one of Abu Dhabi’s stunning beaches. Here are our top picks for public sunbathing spots in the UAE’s capital.
Stretching eight-kilometre along the seafront, The Corniche is one of the most popular spots in Abu Dhabi. As well as a two-kilometre beach separated into three sections including a sheltered family zone, all with changing rooms, cabanas and sun loungers, there’s a seaside boardwalk lined with palm trees and lively cafés.
Spend sunny days strolling or cycling the pathways, perhaps stopping for ice cream as you take in the views of the Arabian Gulf.
Al Bateen Beach
Overlooking Hudariyat Island and Hudariyat Bridge, with uninterrupted sea views, tranquil waters and a stretch of Blue Flag certified white sands, it’s no wonder Al Bateen Beach is popular with Abu Dhabi locals.
Active types of all ages can rent kayaks from the watersports centre, while families can enjoy a dedicated section as well as a children’s play area – plus there are lifeguards on duty during the day.
Al Maya Island & Resort
A short 10-minute ferry ride from the mainland, Al Maya Island & Resort makes for a fantastic beach-focused day-trip thanks to its stunning white sand and plenty of watersports including wakeboarding, parasailing and banana boat rides.
But what Al Maya is really known for is it’s legendary Maya Friday Parties, exclusively for over 21s. Alongside a happy hour, there are regularly top DJs playing so you can dance the night away.
Discover your perfect Abu Dhabi getaway – flying direct in just 7 hours from the UK with our preferred airline partner, Etihad Airways.