If you’re planning a trip to Dubai, you’ll want to know the Best of Dubai – where to go, stay, dine & spa. There are many reasons to visit Dubai, so here’s an introduction.
In a blink of the eye, the biggest, largest, tallest have risen out of Dubai’s golden sands. Overnight, this Gulf oasis now glimmers with vertical cities, palaces in the sky, gold walls, 24-carat gold shoes, and ATM’s that dispenses gold bars. Bedouin tales from the ancestor Bani Yas tribe, couldn’t have predicted this kind of magic that has sprung out of this Arabian desert.
It all awaits you as you come to visit, check out our Top Things to Do in Dubai with our recommendations.
Located on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula, in the southwest corner of the Arabian Gulf, you can see some of Dubai’s landmarks from outer space, with a skyline of soaring skyscrapers that bedazzle visitors from around the world.
Within a day’s reach, you can visit sandy beaches, red sand dunes, majestic mountains, lush tropical gardens. From dune bashing to designer shopping, there’s a kaleidoscope of activities in this vibrant coastal city. Everything here is “over-the-top” and you can be guaranteed your days will be sunny with year round sunshine!
Things to Do in Dubai?
After visiting Dubai over the past decade, here’s our “shortlist” of recommendations – what to do, where to stay, dine, spa.
Expo 2020 is NOW open! Through March 31, 2022, be sure to visit this phenomenal first ever World Expo in Dubai where the main focus is about ‘Connecting Minds and Creating the Future’ through sustainability, mobility and opportunity. Originally scheduled to open in 2020, and postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Expo 2020 has kept its name and is a MUST attend event. There’s lots to see and do at this expo, so reserve plenty of time to visit some of the 192 country pavilions, entertainment, arts, dining experiences and more.
Some of the top pavilions to explore include Pakistan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Germany, UAE, Singapore, Egypt, Russia, UK, Switzerland where you can learn more about each of these countries.
We especially enjoyed Pakistan’s path through their pavilion where we learned about their country’s history and blend of cultures. A highlight was at Germany’s pavilion where you can participate in interactive displays to understand our impact on the environment. Don’t Miss! The Women’s Pavilion & evening performances and light shows at Al Wasl Plaza.
- Burj Khalifa -The best way to start your Dubai sightseeing is to go to the observation deck on the 124th floor for a 360 degree orientation of Dubai. Get ready to enter the record books! You’ll be riding 1,654 ft. on the world’s tallest service elevator. At 2,716.5 feet and 160 stories, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper holds many world records including the world’s tallest man-made, freestanding structure and building. For tickets to the top, click here.
- Dubai Mall – At the base of Burj Khalifa, you will definitely drop after you shop the world’s largest mall with 1,200 boutiques! After walking through 440,000 sq. ft. with the largest collection of fashion brands in the world, and if you have the energy, take a spin at the indoor ice skating rink or view marine life in the indoor aquarium. If you prefer skiing, head to the Mall of Emirates which has an indoor ski resort – largest in the Middle East.
- Dubai Fountains – The Dubai Fountains surge up to 500 ft in the air and dance to Arab, World, and Classical music at the largest fountain show in the world. Click here to watch these fountains dance!
- Burj Al Arab – The world’s only “7 Star luxury hotel” unfurled its sail-shaped exterior when it opened just before January 2000. Dubai’s iconic landmark stands on its own man-made island at 1,000 ft. We were entranced on a tour that took us through a lobby with a ~500 foot atrium and two story aquarium. Click here to view the several images we captured at this Arabian wonder! Resembling a traditional Arab boat, the dhow, it looks like it’s sailing off the coast of Dubai. Architect Tom Wright is the mastermind behind the world’s 4th tallest hotel with 28 floors and 202 deluxe suites. The Royal Suite price tag is ~$20,000 per night. Many marriage proposals take place in its restaurants – Al Mahara (“Oyster”), with a submarine-like entrance to dining area surrounded by a floor-to-ceiling seawater aquarium, and the Al Muntaha (“Highest” or “Ultimate”), on the upper floors of the hotel offers panoramic views of the Gulf, The Palm and The World Islands.
- Dubai Water Parks – There are several water parks in Dubai, like Wild Wadi and Atlantis. We went to Aquaventure at Atlantis, The Palm to slide down the “Leap of Faith”. Click here to watch as we slide down 9 stories in 1 second, then speed through tank surrounded by sharks and rays. The newest thrill is at the Tower of Poseidon where you can test your courage sliding down 120 foot slide – a World Breaking Ride.
- Skydive Dubai – If you want the best panoramic aerial view of The Palm, and The World Islands, head to Skydive Dubai and sign up for a tandem skydive directly over The Palm, and on a clear day see The World Islands in the distance. The Palm is one of Dubai’s daring architectural feats and is one of the three largest artificial islands in the world. Click here to see what happens as we jump out over The Palm!
- Seawings Flight over Dubai – Another option is to fly on Seawings seaplane and see Dubai from every angle – above the water, along the Arabian coast and through the heart of this city. Everyone has the “best seat” on the flight with a window that peers out to the world famous landmarks and dramatic Dubai skyline. We saw incredible views of the Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, the Palm and the islands of the World on this 45 mins. flight. Highly recommend booking a flight to see this fascinating city!
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No list of “Things to do in Dubai” would be complete without visiting the grand Old Dubai!
- Jumeirah Mosque – Be sure to visit the Jumeirah Mosque, the UAE’s most important religious site, with extraordinary architecture. Wear a veil and cover up to show respect.
- Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Cultural for Understanding – His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, shares “Dubai is a uniquely modern and cosmopolitan city and the United Arab Emirates is home for families from all over the world, each with their own distinctive culture. Expatriates and UAE nationals are neighbours; however they can also be strangers.” In an effort to better understand each other, he founded this center to introduce the traditions and customs of the UAE.
- Dubai Women’s Museum –a cultural initiative designed to celebrate and explore the lives of women in the UAE. Unique to the Gulf and The UAE, this museum highlights women’s achievements and aims to discover the lives of UAE society through UAE women past and present.
- Bastakiya – Visit the historical area next to Dubai Creek in Old Dubai, where you can tour ancient houses and the last wind tower (early form of AC) quarter left on the Arab side of the Gulf. In 1833, this harbor was a trading center for center for the fishing, pearling and sea trade and developed into an important port by the 20th century. Watch the dhows, old Arab wooden boats, sail down the waterway. Spend at least an hour at the Dubai Museum, where you can learn about Dubai’s pre-oil boom and get insights into Emiratis cultural heritage and how they lived just decades ago. If you’re hungry, you can stop for a Camel Burger at a local café.
- Gold Souk – We went window shopping to one of the largest gold markets in the world with 300 jewelry shops and admired the intricately designs. Venture into the hidden alleyways where there are smaller shops with pointed toe shoes, sequined robes, Aladdin lamps, and find a treasured souvenir. On the Deira side of the creek, the souk (market in Arabic), was the largest on the coast.
- Spice Souk – The lanes get narrower as you go into the bustling spice souk and start to smell the fragrance of incense, and sacks of Middle East spices like cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Here we bought some dried fruit and nuts to snack on as we continued our Dubai discoveries.
- Desert Safari and Sundowner Dune Dinner – You can’t leave Dubai, without experiencing a Desert Safari with Arabian Adventures. Within 45 minutes from Dubai, you’re in the desert following a convoy of 4X4’s on a roller coaster of red sand dunes as you dune bash to a village site. After this thrilling ride, a magical evening awaited us as we rode camels, and learned some of the traditional ways of the Emirati people – preparing tea, dressing like a Bedouin, getting henna design on your feet or hands, feasting on traditional dishes – hummus, tabouli, bbq, and testing out the hubbllee bubbblee – the shisha (the famous Arabic water pipe) with some Arabic coffee (gahwa) along with fresh sweet dates. Before returning to Dubai, guests are entertained with a belly dance performance under a canopy of stars.
It’s hard to believe that in 1991, Dubai had one sky rise. Today over 900. Striking oil in 1966 made it possible for Dubai’s ruler, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, to build a city like no other in the world. One of seven Emirates in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), Dubai has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world and continues to develop more buildings, hotels and attractions throughout the city.
Where to Stay, Dine & Spa in Dubai?
Waldorf Astoria DFIC: From the moment you arrive, you know that luxury awaits you at the Waldorf Astoria DIFC Hotel in this new cosmopolitan destination. Friendly and abundant staff welcome you at the elevated lobby on the 18th floor. The large size accommodations are filled with floor to ceiling glass with luxurious bedding and elevated amenities that our lux travelers have come to know and love. Impeccable service from the staff combined with a design aesthetic that is both calming and well-appointed, it is easy to see why it is so hard to leave.
Dining – Bull & Bear is the Waldorf Astoria’s award-winning signature restaurant which offers a twist on the original eatery in New York City. Amazing cuts of beef from Australia, USA and New Zealand are expertly presented with mouthwatering sauces and a supporting list of starters to wet any palate. Also available are delights from the sea or impeccable feasts for the vegetarian.
Spa at Waldorf Astoria DFIC: After a day at Expo 2020, check into the spa and get pampered in a Grooming Suite with beauty treatments, and the Vichy Suite with water therapies and a heated hammam table.
Experience weightlessness in the Floatation Suite and visit the couples suite for heated sand and water tables. The Spa features Neom wellness treatments, Amra body rituals, and Aenea facials.
More Dining Options…
One&Only Royal Mirage – Tagine Restaurant – Enjoy a gastronomic tour of Morocco where you will dine on exquisite and tradition cuisine. Embrace the uplifting spirit amid colorful tapestries, ornate Arabic lanterns, and the stirring strum of traditional oud players.
No Moroccan feast is complete without the traditional slow-cooked tagines succulent spiced braises complemented by Moorish fluffy couscous creations.
Hoi An: Located in the Shangri-La Dubai Hotel, Hoi An presents a medley of Vietnamese dishes. Traditional Vietnamese cuisine is marked by delicate spicing and fresh flavors. Savor Hoi An’s creations, exquisitely updated to provide stylish yet authentic meals to remember. Don’t Miss! The crab spring rolls marked by delicate spicing and fresh flavors.
Il Ristorante Niko Romito at Bvlgari Hotel Dubai: Delectable handmade pasta and Mediterranean specialties enhance guests stay at Bvlgari Hotel in Dubai.
Situated in the harbor near Bvlgari’s Yacht Club and you feel transported to the Mediterranean. This property offers an urban oasis in the city. Living up to its brand name and exquisite level of service, this is a resort for those individuals looking for privacy and for those that have truly arrived. With 5 restaurants including Il Restaurante – Niko Romito this fine-dining restaurant specializes in elevated Italian cuisine and serves lunch and dinner.
How to Get to Dubai?
Emirates Airlines – our airlines of choice for this trip is Emirates Airlines. From the moment we booked our flight to our arrival in Dubai, we received excellent service and had a fabulous in-flight experience. If you want the “WOW” factor flying to Dubai, reserve a ticket with Emirates Airlines.
How to Get Around Dubai?
Airport Transfers and day transfers, contact UAE Chauffeur: Upon arriving in the thriving city of Dubai, you can depend on UAE Chauffeurs to take care of all your transportation needs.
From pick up and drop off at the airport to a private day long drive across the UAE, they have you covered. Friendly, safe and clean travel can be counted upon when you book with them.
We also recommend booking tours and a private driver with EET, a leader in tour operations and travel management in the UAE. Our friendly driver Rashid was professional, punctual and got us where we needed to go. EET lives up to their motto “Always good Service, Always customer comes first.”
By: Julie Bishop, Travel Expert & Patricia Stone, Founder www.GlobalAdventuress.com
Travel Acknowledgements: We would like to thank those mentioned in this piece for hosting us during our stay.
Also, we appreciate the support of our sponsors – GoPro, providing us with a Go Pro Hero3 to capture the video clips on YouTube, and DK Eyewitness Travel for providing us with a helpful Top 10 Dubai & Abu Dhabi Travel Guide. Opinions in this article are our own.