The United Arab Emirates has fascinated me for a great many years, and when I finally visited Dubai, it didn’t disappoint. Similarly, there is no end of things to do in Abu Dhabi. With its beautiful mosques and palaces, thrilling theme parks and outstanding innovations in technology, art and design, not to mention exquisite culinary traditions, it is even more enticing. If you are wondering what to see in Abu Dhabi, where to go and what to do, here are my top 10 places to visit in Abu Dhabi.
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Top 10 things to do and places to visit in Abu Dhabi
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
This vast and stunningly beautiful mosque is big enough to hold 40,000 worshippers. Semi-precious stones adorn the marble panels on the columns, and it boasts the world’s most enormous chandelier. I’d dearly love to see it for myself one. It’s top of my list of places to visit in Abu Dhabi.
It’s essential that you dress respectfully wherever you go in Abu Dhabi, but please pay particular attention when visiting religious buildings. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque dress code is very strict, especially for women, who should have their hair, arms and legs fully covered.
2. Adrenaline inducing Yas Island
As well as Abu Dhabi’s Formula 1 track (which you can run or cycle around every Tuesday for free) and a Ferrari theme park, Yas Island is home to Waterworld, the biggest water park in the world with a vast choice of raft rides, ravines, slides and wave machines.
3. Take a stroll along the Corniche
This epic 4-mile long promenade is the perfect place for a walk, jog or even a bike ride dotted with picnic spots, exciting sights, including the Capital Gate (purposely built to have a 18º tilt) and numerous places to eat that will take you around the world and back again.
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4. Al Ain, the Garden City
About an hour and a half or so’s drive from the centre of Abu Dhabi lies the city of Al Ain rich in forts, museums and Unesco World Heritage Sites plus the not to be missed central date-palm oasis fed by natural springs.
5. Emariti Cuisine
Much like Dubai, in Abu Dhabi you’ll find an almost bewildering variety of cuisines from around the world. What I most long to try again is the Emirati cuisine infused with spices and ingredients from throughout Asia and Arabia. Think nuts and limes, cinnamon and saffron, slow-cooked meat dishes and the freshest of fish.
6. Emirates Palace
This luxurious hotel is well worth a visit to admire the stunning architecture and beautiful gardens alone, but I’d also love to try their cappuccino made with 24-carat gold as is their camel burger. The latter I tried (without the gold) in Dubai, and it was surprisingly good. Extravagant, yes. Tasty, you bet.
7. Dune Bashing
Sliding sideways down massive sand dunes in the breathtaking beauty of the UAE desserts is a thrill not to miss as you can see in my video from my last visit to the Emirates.
8. Saadiyat Beach
I love swimming, especially in the sea, and here you’ll find the crystal clear warm waters of the Arabian Gulf gently lapping a 4 mile stretch of the soft white sands of Saadiyat Beac. It’s reputedly the best beach in Abu Dhabi and a wonderful way to combine a city break with a beach escape.
9. Louvre Abu Dhabi
With the Louvre Abu Dhabi opening its doors, there’s yet another reason to visit this dynamic city. The museum presents significant objects from the fields of archaeology, fine arts and decorative arts, representing all regions and periods, including contemporary art. Described as an unprecedented alliance of an intergovernmental agreement between the emirate of Abu Dhabi and France, it is a place of discovery, exchange and education. It’s already proved to be a must-see place to visit in Abu Dhabi.
10. Masdar City, a city of the future
Masdar City, next to Abu Dhabi’s airport, is a pioneering zero-carbon development powered entirely by the sun and the winds. No cars allowed. Instead, you can move around the city in one of their four-seater driver-less pods which run on guided rails. In years to come, who knows what technological developments made here will be seen in towns and cities around the world. This place fascinates me, and I’m determined to visit it one day. It’s high on my list of things to do in Abu Dhabi.
When to visit Abu Dhabi?
For the best weather, when it’s not too hot or humid visit Abu Dhabi in winter from December through March. However, if you also want to avoid the crowds, springtime (April and May) or autumn (September and October) offer pleasant weather, reasonable hotel rates and fewer fellow tourists than the popular winter months.
Where to stay in Abu Dhabi?
For the ultimate in luxury check out the Emirates Palace or Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi, with its revolving rooftop restaurant offering 360-degree views of the city. Both are in a prime location near the Corniche. For great value, especially in the shoulder season InterContinental Abu Dhabi is a great choice. And for a comfortable, budget hotel try Al Diar Dana Hotel in the city centre.
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