While Dubai is always the most popular destination when we think of UAE, Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE does not lag in tourist attractions. It is an amalgamation of outstanding architecture, rich culture, and world-class shopping experience. There are many things to do in Abu Dhabi for first-time visitors.
Best Time to visit Abu Dhabi: Like most places in UAE, Abu Dhabi is hot almost throughout the year. The best time to visit Abu Dhabi is from November to March when the weather is cool. If not in this season, you can plan a trip between April and May or from September to October when the weather is pleasant.
Things to do in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi has many tourist attractions and we have put together a list of what to do in Abu Dhabi for first-time travelers.
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Hands down, the most popular tourist attraction in Abu Dhabi, this magnificent structure is considered to be a landmark in Abu Dhabi. Built with Macedonian marble, this mosque is constructed is a fusion of Ottoman, Fatimid, and Mameluke design of architecture. It is the biggest mosque in the country and can hold more than 40000 worshippers at a time. It is one of the two mosques in UAE that is open to non-Muslims. It has a stunning pure white marble and gold façade with mosaic tiling and intricate carvings. It houses the world’s largest handloom carpet and the world’s biggest chandelier handmade with gold and Swarovski crystals.
Timings: 9 am to 10 pm (Saturday to Thursday) and 4:30 pm to 10 pm (Friday)
Location: Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed St, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Duration: 1-2 hours
- The Corniche
Stretching to around 8 km, this splendid waterfront estate is filled with restaurants, shops, bars, and cafes. Head here after a tiring day to relax and watch the beautiful sunset. Stroll along the pathways or cycle around and explore the place. It has got everything from a public beach, parks, kids play area, fountains, walking, jogging, and cycling tracks. It offers breathtaking views of the white sandy beach and is one of the best places to visit in Abu Dhabi.
Timings: 8 am to 8 pm
Location: Stretching from Hotel Hilton to Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street
Duration: 1-2 hours
- Observation Deck @ 300
Located on the 74th floor of the elegant Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Observation Deck @ 300 is the highest point to get a birds-eye view of the entire city, especially landmarks such as Corniche and the Arabian Gulf. There is an entry fee that can be redeemed against refreshments from the restaurant which serves snacks and drinks. The cafe is extremely popular for its ‘High Tea’ and offers some unique blends of tea and freshly ground coffee.
Timings: 10 am to 7 pm
Location: Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Corniche Road W
Duration: 1-2 hours
Ticket: 95 AED (A credit voucher of AED 55 comes with the entry fee that can be redeemed during the) The ticket price per person for the high tea is AED 250.
- Qasr Al Watan
A recent addition to the list of Abu Dhabi tourist attractions, is the unique and incredible landmark, Qasr Al Watan or the Presidential Palace. It is an interactive and enriching journey about Arabian history, heritage, and culture. The library has an extensive collection of books and historical resources. The East Wing has a vast collection of manuscripts, artifacts and other objects of importance. If you are a lover of history, you will be excited to learn about the rulers and other governing institutions that have been prominent in shaping the great nation. The opulent architecture and magnificent interiors are a feast for the eyes.
Timings: 10 am to 8 pm
Location: Al Ras Al Akhdar, Abu Dhabi
Duration: 30 minutes
Ticket: AED 60
- Desert Safari in Abu Dhabi
No trip to the land of the desert can be complete without a desert safari. Travel to the Bedouin-camp to enjoy great Arabian hospitality. Enjoy a bumpy camel ride, or some exciting activities such as 4×4 dune bashing, quad biking, and sandboarding. Witnessing the fantastic sunset from the golden dunes is an unforgettable sight. Watch entertainment shows such as Belly Dancing or try smoking some Sheesha pipes or get a henna tattoo done on your hands. Relish some lip-smacking Arabian BBQ dinner under the stars. This is one memorable day you will cherish for a lifetime.
Timings: 3 pm to 9 pm
Location: Al Khatim Desert, Abu Dhabi
Duration: 6 hours
Ticket: Approximately 290 AED for adults and 225 AED for children
- Louvre Abu Dhabi
Opened in 2017, this is one of the biggest cultural centers in the region. Designed by the famous Jean-Nouvel, the Louvre Museum Abu Dhabi is an exquisite structure located on Saadiyat Island. It houses some beautiful pieces of artwork from the Neo-Classical Age to contemporary time. Free talks and fine art related screenings are also held from time to time. However, advance registrations are required to attend them. The incredible dome structure of the museum is a highlight in itself.
Timings: 10 am to 8 pm (Saturday to Wednesday) and 10 am to 10 pm (Thursday and Friday) – Monday closed
Location: Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
Duration: 2 hours
Ticket: AED 60
- Ferrari World
Touted to be one of the largest indoor theme parks, the Ferrari World brings the exciting Formula One racing to Abu Dhabi. It is home to some of the most thrilling rides such as Formula Rossa – the world’s fastest roller-coaster at 150 mph, Flying Aces – the world’s tallest non-inverting loop, and of course an exhilarating Ferrari driving experience. They also have an excellent collection of Ferrari cars, some of which dating back to the 1940s, a Ferrari knowledge game show, and a Ferrari factory tour. It is a perfect way to spend time with your family and friends.
Timings: Monday to Wednesday (11 am to 8 pm) and Thursday to Sunday (10 am to 10 pm)
Location: Yas Island Abu Dhabi
Duration: 3-4 hours
Ticket: Starts at AED 295
- Abu Dhabi Heritage Village
The Heritage Village gives you a glimpse into the fascinating Emirati life before the oil boom in UAE. Located in a beautiful beach area of the city, this place is recreated to resemble an authentic Bedouin village. There are numerous cottages and huts that exhibit traditional skills of pottery, weaving, metalwork, spinning, and glass blowing. One of the highlights is the ancient irrigation system called ‘Falaj’ that is used to water the crops even today. You can also buy souvenirs, soaps, herbs, and spices to take back home.
Timings: 9 am to 4 pm (Saturday to Thursday) and 3:30 pm to 9 pm (Friday)
Location: Near Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi Corniche Breakwater
Duration: 1 hour
Tips for Travelers
It is always important to know about a place you are visiting for the first time. Here are some tips that will make your holiday problem-free.
- Abu Dhabi is well connected with Dubai or any other Emirate. You can commute by cab or bus.
- The best way to commute within the city is by cab
- Though international debit cards and credit cards are accepted in most places, it is better to carry some local currency with you while exploring the city as many local shops only accept cash
- Dress modestly when you are in public places
- Abstain from any kind of public display of affection as it is not only illegal in UAE but also looked down upon
- Drinking and driving is a punishable offense
- Always ask permission before clicking pictures of women and children
- Never speak ill about the ruler of Abu Dhabi or the royal family as they are deeply respected
- Book tickets online of attractions you want to visit to save time and money.
Conclusion: Abu Dhabi is home to many interesting places such as the zoo, islands, shopping malls, theme parks, and some of the best restaurants which the country has to offer. It is an ideal destination for a family vacation. If you have more time, you can visit the Yas islands, Warner Brothers World, Emirates Palace, Marina Mall, and the Falcons Hospital. The above attractions are some that you should not miss. But you can always plan a longer trip and visit all the other beautiful places this wonderful city has to offer.