Dubai is a city that must be seen to be believed. Record-breaking architecture stands alongside traditional quarters, while manmade islands jut out of the striking coastline. Here are the top 10 places to tick off your sightseeing list when you’re in town.
1. Burj Khalifa
Standing 828 meters high, the Burj Khalifa is hard to miss. The world’s tallest tower naturally dominates the Dubai skyline, but the true majesty of the building is best appreciated up close or, even better, from inside. On a clear day, the view from the observation deck on level 124 is absolutely stunning, topped only by the view from the luxurious At The Top Sky Lounge on the 148th floor. And for those who would like to linger a while, enjoy a meal at At.mosphere on level 122 or head to The Lounge, Burj Khalifa that covers levels 152, 153 and 154, making it the tallest lounge on the planet.
2. The Dubai Mall
Right next to the Burj Khalifa is The Dubai Mall. To call the sprawling development merely a shopping mall is doing it a disservice. Even an entire day spent here isn’t enough to see it all. Along with its 1,200-plus shops and 150 restaurants, the venue is home to an indoor theme park, an ice rink, a huge indoor waterfall, a choreographed outdoor fountain, and the giant Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo.
3. The Dubai Fountain
The Dubai Fountain, located at the base of the iconic Burj Khalifa and just outside the doors of the famous The Dubai Mall, features the world’s largest choreographed fountain system. This popular dancing water show jets water streams as high as 150 meters in the air. Each colorful, illuminated jet sways in time to various musical numbers from around the world, producing what has become one of the most popular shows in Dubai. Two showings occur in the afternoon (1 pm and 1:30 pm), except on Fridays (1:30 pm to 2 pm) and evening displays begin at sundown and take place every 30 minutes until the final song plays at 11 pm.
4. Palm Jumeirah
A manmade island in the shape of a palm tree – there’s a reason why locals say ‘only in Dubai.’ Palm Jumeirah is one of the largest artificial islands in the world and a triumph of human ingenuity. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the Palm’s vast array of high-end hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria, Fairmont, One&Only, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray and, perhaps most notably, the iconic Atlantis, The Palm. And with a monorail running down the ‘trunk’ that connects to the mainland’s tram system, getting there couldn’t be easier.
5. Dubai Creek
Dubai may be famous for the glitz and glamour of its sky-high towers, but the real heart of the city is, and always will be, the Creek. The saltwater estuary is the original site where the Bani Yas tribe settled, and its waters were vital for what used to be Dubai’s main forms of economy: pearl diving and fishing. Today, the area is awash with the history of the emirate, as it’s home to the Dubai Museum as well as the labyrinthine alleyways of the gold, spice and textile souks. While at the Creek, a ride across the water on a traditional abra is a must, and at an unbelievable AED1 per ticket, it’s easily the best value tourist attraction in the city.
6. The Walk and Beach at JBR
For those who like to shop, dine, see a movie and go to the beach all in one place, consider a trip to The Beach at Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR). With guest DJs pumping out the tunes on weekends, a regular open-air cinema and a popular water park to entertain the little ones for an hour or two, JBR is always buzzing with activity. The Beach is also connected to the new Bluewaters Island district by a pedestrian bridge. This hip new destination is home to the Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai, the world’s second Caesars Palace and the sunshine-soaked Cove Beach, as well as an array of restaurants and lounges.
7. Dubai Marina
Look into the future at the world’s largest manmade marina, Dubai Marina. Marvel at iconic buildings as you stroll along Marina Walk or see the sights from the water on a traditional dhow cruise. This New Dubai hotspot is on every visitor’s holiday itinerary for a reason, and with an array of waterside restaurants to choose from, as well as irresistible retail therapy at Dubai Marina Mall, it’s easy to while away an afternoon here. Feeling brave? Take on the XLine, the world’s longest urban zipline.
Take a look at Marina Beach:
8. Kite Beach
The aptly-named Kite Beach is the perfect spot to test out your watersports skills, but there’s plenty to do out of the water at this popular spot, too! Grab a smoothie from one of the many open-air cafes and restaurants just steps from the beach, watch bikers and skaters fly by at the skate park or get into a game of volleyball with your friends. With plenty of beach activities, plus an awesome view of the Burj Al Arab, it’s easy to spend the whole day here.
9. Dubai Canal
Dubai Water Canal is a 3.2km long waterway extending from the Creek in Old Dubai through Business Bay before finding its way to the Arabian Gulf. Since opening in 2016, it’s created 80,000sqm for public space and facilities and a 12km cycling path. The Canal has become a popular visitor attraction with five pedestrian bridges that snake its way across the iconic waterway. Nearby is the Habtoor City development that’s home to the exciting La Perle by Dragone show, five-star hotels, and an array of restaurants.
10. Madinat Jumeirah
For an experience that marries tradition and luxury, come to Madinat Jumeirah. Literally translated as ‘City of Jumeirah’ this complex is inspired by an ancient citadel. It encloses luxury hotels, private enclaves built in the traditional style, the world-class Talise Spa, the Madinat Souk, Madinat Theatre, and more than 40 restaurants and lounges. You can also explore the serene area on traditional wooden abras to appreciate the waterways and architecture.