My Abu Dhabi Travel Guide
Abu Dhabi is often described as the ‘glittering gem of the United Arab Emirates’ and after spending a week here, I can totally see why! It’s only a one hour drive from Dubai, and has a real cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Based on my personal experience, I’ve highlighted below some unmissable things to do in Abu Dhabi, which you should definitely put on your itinerary.
Top Activities in Abu Dhabi:
#1 Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
A visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was at the top of our list of things to do in Abu Dhabi. With 82 domes and four minarets, the Grand Mosque is a stunning architectural masterpiece that boasts intricate designs, calligraphy, and detailed carvings. Seeing it sparkle in person is something you’ll never forget!
Etiquette: Like any religious building, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is sacred and a place of prayer. This means that you’ll need to be mindful and observe respectful levels of etiquette during your visit.
At the entrance you have to pass security control and your outfit will be checked before you can enter. Women need to cover their hair with a headscarf as well as covering their knees and shoulders. Also men should make sure to cover shoulders and knees with appropriate clothes.
If you don’t have suitable clothing (I didn’t), you can easily buy an abaya before entering. I purchased mine for about $10 in Souq Al Jami Mall, which is conveniently located just before the entrance to the Grand Mosque.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: Top Tips
- There’s clearly marked designated photo areas around the Mosque so you know where you can stop to take pictures.
- The Mosque is free to visit and open to tourists everyday except Friday mornings.
- Normal visiting hours are Saturday to Thursday from 9am – 10pm (last admission is at 9.30pm).
- Do note that the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world, and can accommodate up to 41,000 worshipers, meaning it get’s extremely crowded. So if you want crowd free pictures, you’ll need to arrive there extra early!
Day Tours: Without question, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi. To get the most out of your experience, I highly recommend visiting it with a tour company so you can get detailed information about its history, architecture, and significance.
#2 Happiness Island (Saadiyat)
On day 2 of our Abu Dhabi tour, we headed to Saadiyat Island, which is located off the coast of Abu Dhabi. It’s a multi-billion dollar development designed to be a world-class cultural and entertainment hub.
Top tip: Apparently, if you go to Saadiyat Beach in the morning, it’s very common to spot dolphins close to shore. If you’re lucky, you might even see baby hawksbill turtles, as they hatch from the numerous nesting sites along the beach.
In terms of the Abu Dhabi beaches dress code, it’s not as conservative as you might think. On the beach, women can wear a bikini without issue. However, a thong or toplessness is not allowed. Men can wear a swimming shorts, so long as they are not too short or tight – so no Mankinis!
One of the top things to do on Saadiyat Island is the renowned Saadiyat Beach Club, which has lots of great facilities, including one of the best spas in Abu Dhabi, beautiful pools, a gym, a restaurant, and a bar serving amazing tropical mocktails.
The Club is also perfect for families, as it has a kids pool, playground, and kids club.
This incredible beach club is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Abu Dhabi, offering the perfect combination of relaxation, luxury, and fun.
Whether you want a quiet day by the pool, a day in the water, or a family-friendly outing, you’re sure to find something to suit your needs here.
#3 Louvre Abu Dhabi
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is situated on the Saadiyat Island Cultural District – a stunning location surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf.
The museum is home to a diverse collection of works from around the world, and includes masterpieces from renowned artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, and Monet.
What amazed us the most about the Louvre is its architecture, which makes it one of the most incredible sights to see in Abu Dhabi. The architecture is a work of art itself and features a striking dome, made up of 7,850 unique stars, which create a rain of light effect. The design of the dome was inspired by the concept of mashrabiya, a traditional element of Arabic architecture that provides shade and privacy.
Visiting the Louvre, Abu Dhabi is not just about seeing beautiful works of art, it’s also about experiencing different cultures from around the world. The museum’s collection is organised thematically, which is done to highlight the connections between different cultures and civilisations.
Without question, this is one of the real highlights of the UAE and is a must-visit destination for art lovers, culture enthusiasts, and anyone looking for a unique and visually stunning experience. You can buy your tickets for this incredible museum here.
Note: The Louvre is open from 10am to midnight. Galleries and exhibitions close at 6.30pm weekdays and 8.30pm on weekends.
#4 Explore the Emirates Palace
Other top things to do in Abu Dhabi includes visiting the luxurious Emirates Palace, which is one of the most opulent hotels in the world.
We took a quick trip to the Palace to try their famous gold cappuccino, which is served at Le Café and sprinkled with 24-karat gold flakes. Admittedly, we nearly choked when we realised it costs around $20! Since we were already there, we decided to try the coffee anyway (when in Rome), but it was actually rather plain and disappointing – I’ve had better Starbucks to be honest!
However, the food at Emirates Palace was well worth the price. We were starving so decided to try the sandwiches and cakes at Le Café, which were absolutely delicious. So if you do plan on exploring Emirates Palace, I’d suggest skipping their golden coffee and feasting on their food instead. You can even book a foodie experience here.
#5 Experience a Desert Safari
An Abu Dhabi desert safari is an adventure like no other and an experience you simply can’t miss. This exhilarating journey will take you deep into the heart of the Abu Dhabi desert, where you’ll discover the beauty and majesty of the Arabian sands. I’ve linked the most popular Abu Dhabi desert safari here.
If you’re looking to spend a few days in the desert, I highly recommend reading my article on Al Ain Telal Resort, which is arguably the best desert resort in the UAE!
#6 Discover Yas Island
This entertainment destination has it all, from a world-class waterpark to a shopping mall, to the Yas Marina Circuit (which hosts the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix). There’s no shortage of incredible things to do here.
If you’re looking for a trip with a more leisurely pace though, not to worry, Yas Island is made for you too. It’s gorgeous beaches are perfect for soaking up the sun and relaxing in the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf. There’s also loads of water sports you can do here, like jet skiing, parasailing, and wakeboarding.
The sheer abundance of activities here makes Yas Island one of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi for adults and kids alike.
🍬 🥝 🍒🥂 🍡 🍋 🍓 🍿 ATTENTION ALL FOODIES 🍭 🫒 🌮🍍 🍇 🍣 🍹 🍉
You will love the awesome mix of dining options on Yas Island, which truly has something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re craving international cuisine or traditional Emirati dishes, you’ll find plenty of delicious options to satisfy your appetite here.
One of the best restaurants we went to for dinner was Cipriani, which comes from the stylish end of the Italian restaurant spectrum. The pumpkin risotto we had here was out of this world!
#7 Visit Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
If you’re looking for a unique and exciting experience in Abu Dhabi, look no further than the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital.
This world-renowned hospital is dedicated to the care and rehabilitation of these magnificent birds of prey, making it one of the most wholesome things to do in Abu Dhabi with kids (or any animal lover 💚).
During your visit, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the history and cultural significance of falconry in the UAE, as well as observe these majestic birds up close – you can even hold a falcon on your arm, which was one of the real highlights for me!
But the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital offers more than just a chance to see falcons up close. The hospital is also home to a museum that showcases the history of falconry, traditional Arab hunting equipment, and interactive displays that provide a deeper understanding of these amazing birds.
Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi
Royal M Hotel & Resort Abu Dhabi
We were fortunate enough to spend 7 nights at Royal M Hotel & Resort and it far exceeded our expectations! The hotel provides a sophisticated waterfront retreat right in the heart of Abu Dhabi.
The location of the hotel is amazing as it’s only a 2-minute walk to amazing coffee shops (such as Arabica %) and gorgeous cafés like Brunch & Cake (both are some of the best places to go for coffee and cake in the UAE.)
Royal M even has its own private island called Crown Island. This island can be reached by a 30-minute boat ride, arranged at the front desk of the hotel. I would recommend spending a morning here relaxing on the beach, which has prime views of the city skyline. Note: The island is quite remote and food options are limited, so bring some snacks with you.
What really sets the Royal M Hotel & Resort apart is its commitment to sustainability. The resort is designed to be eco-friendly, with features such as solar panels, energy-efficient lighting, and a system to recycle water. So you can rest easy knowing that your stay is having a minimal impact on the environment.
Verdict: Royal M is by far one of the best luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi – we are planning our return already!
Other Hotel Options in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi has accommodation to suit everyone’s budget and taste. Other great hotel options include:
Mid-range: Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche: Great location (only 30-minutes from the airport) and provides a shuttle bus to points of interests, such as Marina Mall and Yas Island. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a lovely hotel but don’t want to spend a fortune. The hotel also has modern facilities such as a pool, gym, and spa.
Budget friendly: Ibis Abu Dhabi Gate: Ideally located – only 15 minutes from downtown and close to all major business hubs and leisure attractions. Wi-Fi, swimming pools, and a spa are also available.
How to Get the Best Accommodation Deals
Booking accommodation online in advance is an essential part of your trip planning. It’s super important to book a place to stay before you arrive at a new destination.
Travel hack: To get the best deals, use Hotellook to find and compare prices!
Abu Dhabi is a remarkable city that offers an incredible blend of modernity and tradition, making it a unique destination to visit in the UAE. Whether you’re seeking a luxurious getaway, an adventure-filled vacation, or a cultural immersion, this magnificent city has it all!
I hope my blog about the best things to do in Abu Dhabi inspires you to visit this incredible part of the United Arab Emirates. If you have any questions about Abu Dhabi or the UAE, feel free to ask me in the comments below!
Abu Dhabi Travel Map
Find my Abu Dhabi Travel Map below with all of my recommendations conveniently pinned for you!
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