Top 10 Sites in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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Guest post by Neha Singh

Dubai may be a desert city but it’s actually an oasis of possibilities where you can easily turn all your imaginations to reality.

Yes, it can easily cater to any kind of holiday. Sightseers are in for a treat with its shimmering engineering marvels. Families and little ones have the finest in leisure, entertainment, and accommodation at their disposal. Retail enthusiasts can make the most of the city’s massive malls and traditional souks. There are also the most amazing choices available for adventurists, golfers, history/culture fanatics, and of course all types of pleasure-seekers.

Nestled along the Persian Gulf, Dubai is the second-largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, it is the most popular one. It’s just two hours’ drive away from the capital city of Abu Dhabi, which lies to its south. Moreover, it has the UAE’s cultural capital, Sharjah, to its northeast. As the UAE shares borders with the Sultanate of Oman, Dubai also offers easy access to Oman’s Khasab and Musandam regions. Almost two hours’ drive away.

So whether you want to immerse yourself in the city’s sparkle or wish to venture far afield to soak in the region’s untouched desert landscape and real natural beauty, you’re sure to discover your desired indulgence once in this Arabian metropolis. But, with loads of things to see and experience at its every corner, you may find it all overwhelming to create a perfect checklist of tourist attractions in this city. So here are the best things to do in Dubai:

Visit Burj Khalifa

Downtown Dubai is hands down the most stylish as well as the frantic part of the city. Dominating this 500-acre neighborhood is the Burj Khalifa which is visible from almost all parts of the city. Rightly so, this cloud-piercing structure is the world’s tallest building. Whether you’re revisiting or it’s your debut trip, this is unmissable on any trip here.

Don’t miss an ascent to its observatory deck on 124th or 148th levels, especially if you’re a first-timer here. You can expect to catch up with the whole of Dubai’s skyline, desert, and ocean views as you stand here. This is thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows, outdoor terrace, and high-tech telescopes. You’ll get to watch an enlightening presentation on Dubai’s past and even enjoy the swiftest ever elevator ride as part of your visit here.

Burj Khalifa - the world's tallest building. things to see in dubai. dubai activities. The skyscrapers of Dubai can be seen from sheikh zayed road
Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building

Discover Dubai Mall

There are over 70 malls across the city. But, the Dubai Mall is the grandest and distinct of all. This colossal mall centrally sits amidst all buzz of Downtown Dubai and is right adjacent to Burj Khalifa.

From over 1200 retail outlets and 200 plus dining options to the most amazing leisure zones, it has it all. See over 33,000 marine creatures at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo; Strike a pose with the 155-million-year-old Dubai Dino; Be in awe at the Human Waterfalls; And gear up for some fun and exciting moments at VR Park, Hysteria Dubai Mall, Dubai Ice Rink, etc. So all we can say is come prepared to spend a whole day here.

Dubai Mall. One of the top 10 things to do in Dubai
Dubai Mall

Marvel at the Dubai Fountain Show

No trip to Downtown Dubai or (precisely) Dubai itself is complete without watching this extravaganza of water, music, and light. Displayed on Burj Lake near Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall, this choreographed show, set in sync with the classic Arabic and western tracks, is undoubtedly one of the city’s top free attractions. It’s also the highest of its kind with its water shooting up to 500 feet during the show. It takes place every day after 6 pm.

Dubai Fountain Show. dubai sightseeing. sightseeing in dubai
Dubai Fountain Show

Take a drive / ride around Palm Jumeirah

This man-made island on the shores of the Arabian Sea is one of Dubai’s signature landmarks. Its unrivaled design resembles a giant palm tree crowned by a crescent. You can admire this architectural masterpiece in its true splendor in two extreme ways: on a helicopter ride or via an epic aerial adventure with a sky diving session.

If you don’t want to go airborne, exploring it by land is also an option. A perfect alternative is to take a guided drive around the island’s main attractions such as Atlantis, The Palm, Aquaventure, and the magnificent waterfront Boardwalk. Another cost-effective alternative to discover the island is to board the monorail which covers almost the entire of Palm Jumeirah.

Palm Jumeirah. "Palm Jumeirah" by zimujova is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
jumeirah beach. tourist attractions in dubai
Palm Jumeirah

Strike a pose against Burj Al Arab

There is no dearth of posh or high-end hotels in Dubai. But none of them is as celebrated as Burj Al Arab. After all, it’s touted as the world’s only hotel offering unequaled seven-star comforts. Apart from this, its classic sail-shaped structure and its location on its own private island make it one of the region’s most impressive photo ops.

If you don’t mind some splurge, stay here or at least book a table at one of its stunning dining venues. This not only offers a glance into its regal interiors but also lets you relish the most sumptuous gastronomic delights in a luxurious setting.

The scenic Burj Al-Arab. relaxing things to do in dubai. tourist places in dubai. what to see dubai
The scenic Burj Al-Arab

Go on a Desert Safari

Lying outside of Dubai’s city center is a breathtakingly isolated desert landscape that is supremely tranquil and untouched. If you need a breather from all noise and crowd of the city, just take a quick drive of around 40 minutes to its mesmeric desert settings.

While you can choose to explore the desert sands on your own, it’s recommended to take a guided desert safari. It mostly includes hotel transfers plus all adventurous and cultural activities such as 4X4 dune bash, camel ride, Shisha smoking, henna tattooing, falconry, etc. Depending on the amount of time you would like to spend, you have several options to choose from. Opt for morning safari, overnight safari, or evening safari inclusive of BBQ dining, belly dance, and Tanura show.

Desert Safari is a great to explore the desert outside of Dubai. fun things to do in dubai tourist attractions. dubai things to do
Desert Safari is a great to explore the desert outside of the city

Set sail on a Dhow Cruise

Take in the Dubai’s skyline at its most magical with this traditional dhow cruise on the historical Dubai Creek or the stylish Dubai Marina. More than the views of strikingly illumed night cityscape from water, its rustic ambiance gives you a slice of age-old Dubai. These vessels were once deployed for fishing and pearl farming before the discovery of oil in the region.

Subject to your chosen cruise, you’ll further get to dine on a lavish buffet dinner and even enjoy traditional shows like Tanura on your approximately two-hour cruise.

Dhow Cruise is one of dubai attractions
Dhow Cruise

Shop at traditional souks

Souks or antiquated Arabic bazaars across Bur Dubai and Deira regions are more than a place to make a quick rummage for unique souvenirs or bargain merchandise. Be it textile souk, perfume souk, or spice souk, each of its souks is gracefully interlaced into the fabric of Emirati life. This gives you an authentic insight into Dubai’s trade scenario that has prevailed here since ancient times.

If don’t have time to visit all, be sure to at least check out the Gold Souk. Its alleys are packed with hundreds of shops selling jewelry made of gold and other precious metals. There is no doubt that this shimmering spot would take your breath away.

The beautiful colors in the city's middle east souks. what to see in dubai? top things to do in dubai. what to do in dubai. souk madinat jumeirah
The beautiful colors in Dubai’s souks

Enjoy a full day at Dubai Parks and Resorts

Do you want to become a kid again or just want to bring your favorite Hollywood and Bollywood characters to life? It is possible at Dubai Parks and Resorts.

It’s the region’s first integrated resort with two accommodation choices, an exclusive dining, retail section, and three theme parks plus a water park. Step into its Motiongate Dubai for theme park rides and attractions inspired by Hollywood movies. At Bollywood Dubai, you’ll get to be part of many shows, rides, and dining choices all themed around your most adored Hindi movies. Then there is LEGOLAND Dubai and LEGOLAND Water Park exclusively created for families of kids from two to 12 years.

Legoland Dubai. things to do in dubai with kids. place to visit in dubai.
Other attractions are ski dubai, wild wadi waterpark and dubai miracle garden
LEGOLAND Dubai

Revisit ancient Dubai at Al Bastakiya Quarter

Spilling over with modest structures from a bygone era, this remarkably preserved quarter is one of the city’s hidden gems. Also known as Al Fahidi Historical District, it’s in the Bur Dubai area and is a few blocks away from the bustling Dubai Creek. No matter you’re here for a slice of Dubai’s humble past or just for a refreshing wisp of fresh air, you can’t help but be fascinated by the region’s unpretentious majesty and quietude.

Stroll down its labyrinth of old-world marvels and step into the many museums, art galleries. Other cultural highlights here are the city’s oldest fort, Dubai Museum, and Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding.

Al Bastakiya Quarter - old dubai. Best places to visit in dubai.
Al Bastakiya Quarter

General Tips

Dubai is a city ideal for both mini getaways and long visits. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for a stopover visit or plan to stay here for two-three days or even an entire week.

The Winter season from November to April is the peak season. However, summer months (May to September) are equally good for budget travelers. Whether you choose to visit in winter or summer months, make it a point to book in advance your accommodation, airline tickets, and sightseeing tours (at least three months before) to bag the best deals on your holiday.

Dubai is a famously welcoming destination, but make sure that you respect its customs and traditions. Failing to do so may cause you to pay fine and even bring you in jail. For example: Don’t eat in public during Ramadan. Things like PDAs, alcohol intake, and smoking in public can also run you into problems.

Use a single NOL card to access all of the major transport systems, mainly Dubai Metro.

Final Thoughts

So visit Dubai; It has something for every preference, ability, and budget. You’ll never be disappointed by taking a trip to this marvelous city. It promises you the quintessential Arabian experiences mixed in with the most contemporary sights and refreshing activities and experiences.

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About the Author:

A Highland lover and avid trekker, Neha likes being surrounded by nature’s beauty. She finds travel, music, and writing therapeutic and loves to discover new places and make new friends.

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Photo credit: Burj Al Arab – ClarissaDann, Palm Jumeirah – zimujova.

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