If a trip to the United Arab Emirates is on the agenda, make sure Abu Dhabi is part of the itinerary. The city on an island and the Persian UAE capital has something for everyone from world-famous museums to award-winning theme parks, jaw-dropping architecture and natural wonders that will blow your mind.
To help you plan your stay use this guide of the best places to visit in Abu Dhabi. Along with handy travel tips it will equip you with the best information for a great trip.
Disclosure: This trip was hosted by Visit Abu Dhabi, however, all views and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links whereby I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps with the costs of running my website so I can keep my content free for you. Thanks as always for your support! See my disclosure policy here.
THings To Know ABout Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi Travel Tips
- Clothing – Abu Dhabi is more conservative than Dubai. Women need to keep their shoulders and knees covered and avoid showing any flesh.
- Drugs – Drugs are not tolerated. If travelling with prescription drugs, make sure you carry papers releavant to your condition along with the presciption.
- Public displays of affection – It’s best to refrain and if travelling with a partner be mindful when interacting in public.
- Photos – Do not take photos of people without their consent, in Abu Dhabi it’s an offence punishable by law.
- Public Transport – There are no trains and metros and public transport is not that well developed. The best way to travel is by taxi. Uber is available and if you use local taxi’s make sure you have cash.
- Covid App – You will need to download the Al Hosn App before arrival to show your green status in order to access hotels, restaurants and activities in Abu Dhabi. Green status is attained if you’re fully vaccinated and have a negative PCR test on entry into the country.
Best Time To Visit Abu Dhabi
With its hot desert climate and balmy temperatures, the best time to visit Abu Dhabi is in the cooler months. However, on a previous trip, we did enjoy a stopover in August during the school summer holidays en route to the Maldives. Summer temperatures can soar to 42 degrees during the day and lower to a more comfortable 28 degrees at night. If you don’t mind the heat, there are plenty of reasons Why Abu Dhabi in Summer is a Great Idea.
Spring is pleasant, with temperatures reaching around 33 degrees and in winter the average is around 18 degrees with possible highs of 24 degrees.
BesT Places to Visit in Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a must for every Abu Dhabi itinerary. It’s UAE’s largest and most beautiful mosque and can hold up to 40,000 worshippers. The impressive architectural masterpiece breaks many records, from the biggest crystal chandelier in the world to the longest handwoven Persian carpet in the world.
Carved entirely out of Macedonian marble, the religious site was inspired by Persian, Mughal and Moorish architecture. The 82 white domes and 1, 096 crystal embedded white columns surrounded by reflective pools is simply breathtaking.
Read more about Visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi
Travel Tip: Female visitors need to ensure they’re fully covered including their hair as strict rules are observed. Abayas (full cloaks) are usually available free of charge. However, with Covid restrictions in place they need to be purchased en route to the Mosque if your attire is not suitable.
The mosque is free to enter with a timeslot ticket. To remove the hassle of booking tickets on a previous trip, I booked an Abu Dhabi City Tour which also includes some other nearby attractions.
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Culture vultures out there can’t miss the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Surrounded by the Arabian Gulf on Saadiyat Island, it’s the Arab world’s first global museum. Underneath the huge gleaming silver dome lies 12 permanent galleries arranged in chronological order from Neolithic to the present day, alongside several temporary exhibitions of borrowed art.
The building itself is a work of art and home to some of the world’s finest artists such as Pablo Picasso, Leonardo Da Vinci and Ai Weiwei. In addition, families will enjoy the Children’s Museum and there is a restaurant, cafe and shop. The outside spaces are stunning too with plenty of al fresco exhibits to see. For an alternative view, book a kayak trip around the museum. Tours leave at sunset and need and remember to book in advance.
Qasr Al Watan
A new addition to the cultural line-up is the working Presidental Palace, known as Qasr Al Watan. Located at the end of the Corniche near the Emirates Palace, it offers an insight into UAE’s cultural heritage, values and history of the nation.
Be dazzled by the grand facade of Qasr Al Watan made from white granite and limestone and decorated with intricate designs. The interior architecture mirrors Arabian designs with high white ceilings and ornate wall carvings. Wander the opulent hallways where a host of exhibitions, artefacts and attractions are on display. Not to miss and hard to miss is the enormous Great Hall. Measuring a whopping 100 metres by 100 metres and is topped with the largest dome in the world and a chandelier made with 350,000 crystals.
Jubail Mangrove Park
On the edge of the city is an ecological haven for avian and marine species native to Abu Dhabi. Jubail Mangrove Park is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy nature. Stroll along the waterways via winding boardwalks with various trails of different lengths through the mangroves. Stop at floating platforms for a closer look at the marine life in the water.
Adventurers can get even closer to the wildlife by hopping onto a kayak for an hour tour through the open waters surrounding the mangroves. With an option of a single or double seat kayak, anyone can enjoy this activity as the waters are calm and a guide is on hand throughout your water adventure. Or how about a stand-up paddle tour through the mangroves? You can learn the basics with an instructor and book your tickets below.
The official guest palace of the city’s government is opulence defined. It’s one of the very few 7* hotels in the world where no expense has been spared. It shines and sparkles at every turn, crystals, mother of pearl. marble and a lot of gold! And it’s not just in the decor, visitors or staying guests can enjoy a 24-karat gold flaked cappuccino, gold-encrusted ice cream or gold facial.
One of the best things is even if you can’t afford to spend a night at the palatial hotel you can visit for free. There are several cafes and restaurants open to the public, wander the magnificent lobby and explore the gardens. The usual Abu Dhabi dress code applies, nothing that exposes too much skin, no flips flops, no shorts.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the Founder’s Memorial, an impressive art installation tribute to the first president Sheikh Zayed.
The Founder’s Memorial on the Corniche is a permanent national tribute to the UAE’s founding father the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan.
Walk through the welcome centre with a multimedia and sensory experience showcasing the history of the UAE and the life and legacy of Sheikh Zayed. This leads them to beautifully landscaped grounds which includes a Sanctuary Garden and traditional falaj (an ancient irrigation system). A Heritage Garden boasts a range of medicinal desert plants whilst the elevated walkway offers incredible views of the Arabian Gulf, city landscape and monumental public artwork.
Designed by Ralph Helmick, The Constellation is the world’s largest art installation of its kind in the world. The Constellation has 1,327 platonic solid objects suspended on 1,110 thin vertical wire cables carefully arranged in a 30-metre high pavilion to create a portrait of Sheikh Zayed. The captivating piece can be viewed from multiple vantage points around the memorial.
The new beachfront location on Saadiyat Island Soul Beach is between Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Cultural District. A one-kilometre manicured white sandy beach with 400 parasol sun loungers overlooks the glistening Arabian Gulf with a safe 400-metre swimming zone in the ocean.
Visitors can order refreshments and food delivered directly to their sun loungers via a golf buggy by using the QR code menus. And if you fancy a walk there are plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants to enjoy on the promenade.
Weekday access costs 50 AED and weekends 75 AED per person, entry fee includes the sun lounger and parasol and guests should bring their own towels.
Manarat Al Saadiyat
Manarat Al Saadiyat, meaning a place of enlightenment is an art, cultural activity community events centre. The space offers three galleries showcasing temporary local and international exhibits, a photography and art studio as well as a 250- seat auditorium.
During the month of November, it also hosts the annual Abu Dhabi Art Fair. And even if you’re not an art lover the impressive architecture is worth a visit alone.
Al Ain is the capital’s garden city, one of the oldest permanently inhabited settlements and a UNESCO World Heritage site. A 90-minute drive from Abu Dhabi brings you to a green region full of historical forts, lush oases, archaeological parks, vibrant souks and more. It is well worth adding an overnight to your Abu Dhabi itinerary and stay at the desert resort mentioned below. Although, a day trip from Abu Dhabi is also feasible if time contraints are an issue.
Here are some of the places not to miss on a trip to Al Ain:
Al Ain Oasis
A wander through Al Ain Oasis under a canopy of swaying palm trees and along the meandering pathways is a must. It’s hard to believe that you’re actually in the desert.
For the last 4,000 farmers have cultivated this part of the Rub al Khali desert with a traditional irrigation system, the falaj which is still in use today. There are a total of 147,000 date palm trees alongside other fruit trees such as mango, banana and fig. It’s a beautiful oasis to explore by foot, bike, buggy or horseback.
The historic fort and birthplace of the current president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nayhan have played a major role in the history of the United Arab Emirates for over 100 years.
Qasr Al Muwaiji
Today, a glass-walled exhibition resides inside the thick mud-brick walls showcasing the life story of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family. And within the northwest tower, there is an opportunity to explore Sheikh Khalifa’s childhood home.
Al Jahili Fort
Al Jahili is one of the largest forts in the United Arab Emirates. Built in the 1890’s it served as a summer residence for Sheikh Zayed I, the ruler at the time.
Beautifully restored the fort now houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to Sheikh Zayed and British explorer, travel writer and photographer Sir Wilfred Thesiger who crossed the Empty Quarter desert twice in the 1940s.
Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi
Over the past 40 years, Abu Dhabi has undergone an unbelievable transformation. Once a fishing village in the desert with one hotel it now has more than 170. There are some incredible offerings to choose from. Here are the places I’ve stayed and would highly recommend:
Andaz Capital Gate
Andaz Capital Gate is the proud owner of a Guinness World Record. The iconic building is known as the Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi, with the farthest leaning manmade tower.
The ground floor houses a permanent art space showcasing works of local artists. All the rooms come with floor-to-ceiling windows offering spectacular views of the Arabian Peninsula, a very comfy king bed and a spacious desk and sitting area.
We enjoyed a stay in one of the suites, well worth the upgrade with the huge jacuzzi bath looking out to the city. Guests can relax at the laidback suspended pool and enjoy alfresco dining at the Andaz Lounge.
Capital Gate is a great location too, walking distance from the Exhibition Centre, 15 minutes from Abu Dhabi airport and the main attractions are only a short drive away.
Read reviews on Tripadvisor
Close to the Garden City of Al Ain in the Remah desert is the five-star Telal Resort. The 24-room resort offers uniquely designed accommodation from standard rooms to luxurious villas with private pools that I’d definitely recommend.
This hotel has plenty to offer amidst the caramel dunes. There is sandboarding, archery, dune bashing, horse riding and a range of other activities on offer. For relaxation, the holistic spa and heated outdoor infinity pool onsite really hit the mark. One of the best things on our stay was to watch the wildlife roam past the shifting sands from gazelles, swans and Arabian Oryx.
Read reviews on Tripadvisor
Ritz Calton Abu Dhabi
On a previous visit, I stayed at one of Abu Dhabi’s most opulent hotels, the Venetia inspired Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi. Set against the back of the Grand Mosque and amidst beautifully landscaped gardens. Alongside the private beach, guests can expect a range of restaurants and bars, a state of the art spa, a kids club and a large swimming pool to name a few.
Read More: Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi – A Review
Ready to Visit Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi is a great city, safe with lots to offer as a holiday destination. There is enough to keep you busy from the beautiful beaches, architecture and culture.
With almost year-round sunshine and world-class theme parks Abu Dhabi is a great family destination too. The kids will enjoy Ferrari World and Warner Bros. Studios all the amazing cultural highs in Abu Dhabi.
I found it a captivating part of the Arabian peninsula and loved the cities authenticity with its seamless blending of modern and traditional.
PIN AND SAVE FOR LATER