When you first touch down at Dubai International Airport, you’ll immediately be greeted by dazzling murals claiming that “anything is possible in Dubai.” Spend some time exploring this glamorous and innovative city, and you’ll see why Dubai is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Beyond the futuristic skyline, you’ll find one-of-a-kind experiences, a rich local culture, and magnificent pockets of paradise. If you’re planning a trip to this luxurious emirate and you’re not sure where to start, take a look at the following list of the best things to do in Dubai.
Take a Traditional Boat Ride Along Dubai Creek
Originally settled by fishermen and pearl divers, Dubai has a rich history of development along the natural saltwater inlet known as Dubai Creek. The creek has a long history of positioning Dubai as a major trading port in the Middle East and was traditionally crossed using small wooden boats known as abras. Today, locals still use these boats to beat traffic, and tourists are welcome to take an abra ride along the famed creek that now separates the old and new city. Costing just $0.50 USD, this is one of the best things to do in Dubai if you’re traveling on a budget.
Go Night Swimming at Umm Suqeim
Night swimming is a popular activity among locals that is too-often overlooked on lists of things to do when in Dubai. The neighborhood of Umm Suqeim offers a free public beach specifically designed for night swimming. Convenient spotlights and a full staff of overnight lifeguards mean that this activity is completely safe and permitted. Feel free to float around in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf as you enjoy up-close views of the multicolored lights on the Burj Al Arab, the stunning architecture of distant mosques, and a crystal-clear picture of the large desert moon framed by lush palm trees. If you’re visiting the city during the scorching summer months, you’ll find that the lack of sun and the light breeze makes this an extremely attractive activity and one of the best free things to do in Dubai. The beach is also equipped with clean public restrooms, free showers, and well-stocked snack stands.
Take the Monorail to Atlantis
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Dubai is the ultra-luxurious Atlantis Hotel, which boasts jaw-dropping regal architecture that makes a stunning addition to the city’s fabulous coastline. The hotel is situated on the palm tree-shaped, man-made island known as the Palm. The best way to reach the island is to take the Palm Jumeirah Monorail from the mainland to Atlantis. It costs just about $5 USD and offers a scenic journey with 360° views of the coastline and the world-famous island. Once you arrive, there are plenty of fun activities to partake in, even if you’re not staying in the hotel. Visitors can play with dolphins, visit the Atlantis Aquaventure & Lost Chambers Aquarium, walk along the waterfront pier, grab an ice cream at one of the many stands, or check out the free aquarium within the hotel.
Explore the Rich History of Old Dubai
Bur Dubai, also known as Old Dubai, offers visitors a glimpse of the ancient Arabic culture that dominated the city before its recent explosion into a modern metropolis. Home to the famous Gold Souk, Old Dubai is known for its mesmerizing displays of jewelry and well-priced gold. The area is also the site of the historic Al Fahidi neighborhood, where the maze-like configuration of original architecture and famed attractions like the Dubai Museum will give you a sense of traditional residential life in the old village. Formerly populated by merchants, when the area was predominantly used as a trading hub, Old Dubai is now home to a diverse community of expats and offers a mouth-watering array of international cuisines. While you’re visiting this unique side of the city, be sure to also check out the traditional Arabic teahouses and the fragrant Spice Souk.
Visit the Theatre of Digital Art (ToDA)
A new addition to the ever-expanding list of Dubai’s attractions is the innovative ToDA, a fully immersive digital gallery in Souk Madinat Jumeirah. State-of-the-art theaters bring some of the world’s most famous artwork to life with multisensory, multimedia exhibitions. Breathtaking artwork from Monet, Kandinsky, Van Gogh, and others is showcased alongside acting and orchestras, creating a truly unique experience that art lovers won’t want to miss. Souk Madinat Jumeirah is also filled with unique shops and incredible restaurants, most of which allow you to redeem the price of your ticket against a meal, in case you feel like grabbing a bite after the show. Most of the shows cost around $14 USD, making this a very affordable attraction for travelers on a budget.
Take a Tour of Jumeirah Mosque
The only mosque open to non-Muslim tourists in Dubai, Jumeirah Mosque is breathtakingly gorgeous and definitely worth a visit. Its medieval Fatimid-style architecture, intricate artistic details, and white stone facade can’t be missed, and its interior design is just as impressive. There are plenty of tour guides within the mosque who offer interesting insight into the history of the structure and of Islam. Visitors are required to adhere to a modest dress code, and women are required to cover their heads. If you end up making an impromptu visit and you don’t have appropriate clothing, staff will conveniently provide you with everything you need.
Explore Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
If you’re looking to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city center, the expansive desertscape offers some of the best sightseeing in Dubai. In the desert, opportunities for adventure are pretty much endless. From hot air balloon rides and sandboarding, to camel-sighting and falconry classes, Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is filled with exciting activities. If you’re interested in spending the entire day in the desert, this seven-hour desert safari from GetYourGuide includes a wildlife safari, camel riding, a falconry demonstration, and a private dinner under the stars. GetYourGuide also offers a premium hot air balloon experience that comes with camel riding and ATV riding.
Spend the Day at Kite Beach
For a day of sunbathing, swimming, and kitesurfing, be sure to check out the soft white sand and turquoise waters of Kite Beach. Backed by the stunning skyline of downtown Dubai, this family-friendly beach offers sun loungers, umbrella rentals, free public Wi-Fi, and clean public restrooms and showers. Visitors can also grab a bite to eat at the plethora of food trucks, snack stands, local Arabic eateries, and popular chain restaurants. There is no entrance fee for the beach, and parking costs about $3 USD per hour.
Freefall Over the City at Skydive Dubai
For thrill-seekers wondering what to do in Dubai, skydiving is the perfect activity to get your adrenaline pumping. Skydive Dubai is the top-rated skydiving provider in the area and offers jumps over the desert and over the gorgeous man-made island known as the Palm. The experience will run you about $600 USD for the Palm location and $500 USD for the desert location. In addition to offering tandem skydiving, the company offers a few other fun things to do in Dubai, including gyrocopter tours and indoor skydiving.
Experience Paradise at the Miracle Gardens
Of all of the beautiful places in Dubai, the Miracle Gardens offer a truly magical experience. As the world’s largest natural flower garden, this must-see Dubai attraction occupies over 72,000 square meters and boasts over 50 million flowers and 250 million plants. The fact that it sits in the middle of the desert makes it all the more impressive, but unfortunately this also means that the garden is only open when the climate is suitable, between October and April. For just $15 USD, visitors can explore the gardens and marvel at the unique flower sculptures, the romantic heart passageways, and even the biggest flower structure in the world.
Wander Around the Largest Mall in the World
Dubai has developed a reputation for offering the biggest and best of pretty much everything, and its malls are no exception. As the largest mall in the world, Dubai Mall is home to over 1,200 different shops and over 200 restaurants, but shopping and dining are just a few of the endless activities you can enjoy here. The mall also offers an impressive indoor ski resort, an ice rink, and a massive aquarium with a shark-filled underwater tunnel. Visitors can also step onto the outdoor viewing space to see the world’s tallest fountain put on several mesmerizing water shows every day. One of the best features of Dubai Mall is that it makes the perfect viewing point for admiring another world-renowned attraction, the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.
Speed to the Top of the Burj Khalifa
Visiting the Burj Khalifa is one of the most popular excursions in Dubai by far. As the tallest building in the world, the record-breaking structure stands at an incredible 830 meters (2,700 feet), just over half a mile. The Burj is an iconic part of Dubai’s skyline and can be seen from almost every vantage point in the city. High-speed elevators will take you flying up to the top floors, where you can purchase a day pass for the rooftop pool or make a reservation to enjoy coffee and cocktails in the high-end lounge. There are also plenty of organized tours for exploring the Burj Khalifa, such as this multi-level experience from GetYourGuide that comes with an introductory tour and entrance to observation decks on the 124th, 125th, and 148th floors. For an exciting sightseeing experience that includes a trip to the one-of-a-kind skyscraper, check out this half-day bus tour, which will also take you to the Dubai Museum, Dubai Creek, and the Dubai Mall.
Hike Around Al Qudra Lakes
This man-made desert oasis is less than an hour drive away from the city and offers some great opportunities for wildlife spotting and easy hiking and walking around the lakes. Renting a car is probably the easiest way to get there, although you can also book a taxi for about $40 USD each way. Camping around the lakes is a popular activity among Dubai locals, and if you go in the winter months, the mild weather and tranquil atmosphere make this a great spot for beginners to pitch a tent. If you’re planning to stay the night or have a picnic, be sure to bring food and supplies as there are no shops or restrooms around the lakes.
Learn About the UAE at the Etihad Museum
If you’re interested in learning more about the seven emirates and how the UAE as a nation came to be, pay a visit to the Etihad Museum. Formerly known as the Union House, the glistening modern museum was built in the spot where the Constitution of the United Arab Emirates was signed in 1971. A ticket to enter costs about $7 USD, and visitors can explore interactive exhibits, photos, and documents.
Catch a Show at the Dubai Opera House
If you’re in the mood for a show, a trip to the Opera House is one of the best things to do when in Dubai. With various operas and non-opera productions like musicals, ballet, plays, and comedy sets, the Dubai Opera has something on the schedule for everyone. Guests can also head up to the rooftop bar and enjoy gorgeous views of the neighboring Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain.
Have Dinner in the Sky
For a one-of-a-kind dining experience, book your next reservation with this open-air restaurant suspended 50 meters (164 feet) in the sky. You can choose from a variety of different packages offered by the floating table, from happy hour and brunch to a three-course dinner of your choosing.
Although this might not be the best Dubai attraction for anyone with a fear of heights, adventurous travelers should definitely add Dinner in the Sky to their itinerary.
Tour the World at Global Village
Often likened to Disney’s EPCOT Center, Dubai’s Global Village offers a series of 90 exciting pavilions, each representing a different country. At each pavilion, you’ll find impressive replicas of famous monuments, and vendors offering local cuisine and souvenirs. There are also a ton of family-friendly rides and attractions, and guests can enjoy two magnificent fountain shows every evening. With entry costing just $4 USD, the Village is one of the most affordable excursions in Dubai. Visitors can also prepurchase special packages that include various meals and attractions.
Get a Unique Perspective at the Dubai Frame
Another of the newest tourist attractions in Dubai, the Dubai Frame is perfectly positioned to offer visitors stunning views of the new city on one side and the old city on the other. The gold and glass structure was crafted to resemble a picture frame and features panoramic glass elevators that speed you up to the glass walkway at the top. Tickets cost about $14 USD, and children under three years old can enter for free.
Zip Line Over Dubai Marina
Offering the longest urban zip line in the world, Xline Dubai is one of the best places in the city to catch a thrill. The ride kicks off from the top of a 170-meter (557-foot) tall tower in Jumeirah Beach Residence and sends you flying at speeds of up to 70km/hour toward Dubai Marina. If you manage to keep your eyes open for this adrenaline-pumping activity, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the city and the water.
Take a Sightseeing Boat Tour
What better way to tour this coastal city than by cruising along the glimmering turquoise waters? Luckily, there are plenty of surprisingly affordable cruises that set sail from the famous Dubai Marina. Check out this exhilarating speedboat tour from GetYourGuide for a 90-minute excursion offering up-close views of popular attractions such as the Dubai Eye Wheel, Jumeirah Beach, the Palm, Atlantis, and the Burj Al Arab. For a longer and more luxurious experience, check out this high-end yacht tour. Guests can choose between two- and three-hour time slots offering either breakfast or a BBQ dinner. The cruise will sail you from Dubai Marina to Blue Water Island, giving you the opportunity to view all of the major attractions along the way.
Dine at a Seven-Star Hotel
Another breathtaking addition to the city’s glistening skyline, the Burj Al Arab has been dubbed the world’s only seven-star hotel. Every corner of this show stopping Dubai attraction exudes over-the-top luxury, and although their nightly rates might be a bit out of reach, anyone is welcome to make a reservation at one of the hotel’s nine different restaurants. Whether you go for an exorbitant five-course dinner or a more affordable afternoon tea, this is a great way to admire the magnificence of the hotel without shelling out thousands of dollars.
Take a Walk Through Dubai Garden Glow
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Dubai in the evening, the Dubai Garden Glow will light up your night with glowing light sculptures and awe-inspiring light shows. Entrance costs about $18 USD, and within the park you’ll find a dinosaur-themed section, and for additional entrance fees, an optical illusion park and an ice sculpture park.
Ride in the World’s Largest Ferris Wheel
The Ain Dubai, Arabic for the Dubai Eye, is the tallest and largest Ferris wheel in the world and offers some of the most magnificent views in the city. A 38-minute ride in a shared cabin will run you about $35 USD, and for additional fees, you can rent a private VIP pod and enjoy dinner or even a birthday celebration in the sky. The cabins are fully air-conditioned, so visitors can comfortably enjoy the views no matter the season.
Go Kayaking at Hatta
Nestled at the foot of the Hajar Mountains, Hatta is an exclave of Dubai known for its mesmerizing turquoise waters and endless array of outdoor activities. Visitors can rent a kayak and float along the calm waters of the Hatta Dam, which are set against the scenic backdrop of the largest mountain range on the Arabian Peninsula. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Dubai in the spring or summer, the temperature-controlled pools are the perfect place to take a refreshing dip and a much-needed break from the heat. There are also plenty of walking and biking trails, and Hatta Wadi Hub opens up in the winter and offers archery, ax throwing, rope courses, and more. It takes only about 90 minutes to drive or bus from downtown Dubai to Hatta, and a taxi ride will run you about $50 USD each way.
Related: 10 Best Day Trips from Dubai, UAE
Embrace the Local Sporting Culture at the Camel Racetrack
The tradition of camel racing was established several centuries ago and still plays a large part in sporting culture in the Middle East. Al Marmoom Camel Race Track is a popular place to visit in Dubai, frequented by locals and tourists alike. If you’ve ever spotted a camel slowly grazing in the desert alongside the Dubai highway, imagine watching 60 of them fly out of the gates and down the track!
Explore the Decks of Queen Elizabeth 2, Dubai’s Floating Hotel
Formerly one of the world’s most luxurious ocean liners, the Queen Elizabeth 2 was recently restored and converted into a beautiful floating hotel and a fun tourist attraction in Dubai. Docked in the new marina at Port Rashid, the 13-deck ship boasts 215 hotel rooms and six dining and nightlife venues. If you’re not interested in booking a room, there is an official QE2 Heritage Tour that will take you through an interactive history exhibit, showcasing its gorgeous design and original artwork. The tour costs about $23 USD on its own, and visitors will have the option to stay and enjoy a drink or a meal at one of the restaurants for an additional fee.
Visit IMG Worlds of Adventure
As one of the largest indoor amusement parks in the world, IMG Worlds of Adventure is the perfect destination for families wondering what to do in Dubai. The various attractions within the park boast popular kid-friendly themes, including dinosaurs, MARVEL, and Cartoon Network. At $90 USD per ticket, entrance for an entire family can be a bit pricey, but with countless thrilling rides, haunted houses, and state-of-the-art cinemas, the park is a great place to spend the entire day.
Unleash Your Inner Child at Legoland Dubai
Another fantastic family-friendly attraction, Legoland Dubai was created from over 60 million Legos and is best known for bringing childhood dreams to life. Race through the air with Lego-themed rides or go sliding around the waterpark. However you choose to spend the day, you’re in for a ton of fun. Combo tickets for entrance to both the main park and the waterpark cost about $100 USD, and both parks are open all year long.
Admire Tropical Rainforests Inside the Green Planet
A beautiful place in Dubai perfect for nature enthusiasts, the indoor vertical rainforest known as the Green Planet is filled with over 3,000 plants and animals. Step into the home of sloths, sugar gliders, snakes, birds, and more as you learn all about their incredible habitat. It costs $24 USD to enter, and visitors can also sign up to brunch in the park, swim with piranhas, and experience a simulated rainforest thunderstorm.
Embark on an Exhilarating Jet Ski Tour
Another exciting way to see the city is to hop on a jet ski and cruise along the coast! This Dubai jet ski adventure from GetYourGuide offers guided tours ranging from 30 minutes to two hours long, during which time you can explore popular Dubai attractions such as the Burj Al Arab, the Burj Khalifa, and Atlantis.
Combining cutting edge development and timeless cultural heritage, Dubai is one vacation destination that truly has it all. Hopefully this list helps you get a head start on your trip and gives you an idea of the incredible places to visit in Dubai.