Discover Abu Dhabi’s gorgeous attractions, great food, and popular places to visit. Here’s everything you need to know about The Crown Jewel of UAE.
Searching for the next great escapade? We know you don’t need to be asked twice to visit an exotic holiday destination. The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, truly has it all. It’s become increasingly synonymous with the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the newly-opened Louvre Abu Dhabi, but Abu Dhabi is so much more.
Psst! Read on and redeem a free 2 nights lavish hotel stay in Abu Dhabi at InterContinental, Le Meridien, Radisson Blu and more!
The capital of the UAE has a unique blend of adrenaline-pumping adventures and cultural activities, making it an attractive destination for those who dare to be different. Whether it’s taking your ‘gram game to the next level or challenging your inner adrenaline-junkie, we’ve captured the best of Abu Dhabi in this list.
1. Buckle up on Sir Bani Yas Island
Whether you’re a seasoned adrenaline junkie or just want to have a good time, Sir Bani Yas Island is the place to be. For those looking to have a leisurely adventure, choose to kayak the mangroves or explore the surrounding sea on a paddle board.
For those who want to crank that adrenaline up a few notches, race your friends at land sailing or jump on a mountain bike and climb through hilltops that promises striking views. For the nature lovers, the Arabian Wildlife Park offers a tailored 4×4 adventure experience of the park that’s home to 13,000 free-roaming animals – what a treat!
2. Awaken the force at Rub’ Al Khali
Also known as Liwa Desert or Empty Quarter, Rub’ Al Khali is the largest sand desert in the world. More importantly, it’s Jakku, the home planet of Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In addition to being the perfect backdrop for the ‘gram, you can have an unforgettable experience dune-bashing or taking a camel trek.
Want to get an authentic Arabian Nights experience? Why not camp overnight and experience the Bedouin lifestyle that’s oh so alluring. If camping isn’t your thing, check yourself in at the luxurious Qasr Al Sarab desert resort, which was also where the Star Wars production crew chose to stay. Need more reason to visit? The Qasr Al Sarab was recently named the world’s most instagrammable hotel by Luxury Travel Advisor!
3. Exhilarate your senses on Yas Island
Even though we think that Yas Island deserves a list on its own, we thought we might share some of what the island has to offer that’ll make you go “yaaaaaaasss”.
Home to the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit also gives you the opportunity to drive on the very same tracks as your favourite superstar racers and finally proclaim yourself as the better driver. If that’s not exhilarating enough, hop on the Formula Rossa at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and hold on tight. This beast goes to a top speed of 250 km/h in 5 seconds, making it the fastest roller coaster in the world!
If movies are more your jam, step into the world’s first ever Warner Bros World to be transported to the lands of your favourite characters for a one-of-a-kind immersive experience. If you prefer a different kind of thrill and excitement, Yas Mall is also a one-stop destination with over 400 shops (retail therapy!) and a 20-screen cinema. For those looking to try the local cuisine, Al-Fanar located in Yas Mall comes highly recommended for serving up authentic traditional Emirati dishes.
4. Hunt for bargains at Souk Al Zafarana
Shopping is considered an extreme sport to some and the local souks (markets) in Abu Dhabi are every bargain hunter’s dream. Souk Al Zafarana, situated in the emirate’s second city of Al Ain, is where modernity meets tradition. It’s the perfect place to buy everything from modern clothing to traditional Emirati handicrafts.
A special feature of Souk Al Zafarana is the Mubdia Village, a section exclusive to women and female shopkeepers. If bargain hunting as a team with your girl gang is your thing, there’s no better way to do it while supporting local Emirati businesswomen at the same time.
5. Glam and ‘gram at the Venetian Village
This stunning waterfront leisure destination is nestled within the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Grand Canal. Heaven for the Instagram models out there, the Venetian Village has Renaissance-inspired architecture, winding cobblestone streets and a view overlooking Khor Al Maqta.
We recommend heading there when approaching dusk to catch the last light before treating yourself to a delicious meal. From authentic Japanese grill at Kaizen to celebrity chef Todd English’s Mediterranean fare, the Venetian Village provides an array of international culinary choices.
6. Indulge like royalty at Emirates Palace
An iconic building in Abu Dhabi, this is a hotel fit for a king. Despite its grand design and name, Emirates Palace is only 13 years old. The Palace’s exterior is a sight to behold with its interiors covered in gold, mother of pearl and crystals. Inside, the hotel is home to more than 1,000 chandeliers!
The hotel is not exclusive to guests, so visitors can wander through the halls and corridors, living out a fantasy of riches and luxury. Other than being a great spot for photos, the Palace also offers an indulgent afternoon tea and award- winning Emirates Palace spa that features a traditional Moroccan Hammam.
Make sure you don’t leave without trying the famous 24 karat chocolate cake, 23 karat Emirates Palace cappuccino, or the aptly named Ice Gold, a 23 karat dipped soft serve ice cream cone. Every day is ‘treat yourself’ day at the Emirates Palace!
7. Enjoy brunch at Shay Madhboot
A hidden gem in Abu Dhabi, Shay Madhboot also means ‘perfect tea’ in Arabic. You guessed it, this little café made it onto the list because of their Karak Chai (milk tea). We know your obsession with milk teas – Thai milk tea, Taiwanese bubble tea, Japanese Morning tea, Tiger brown sugar milk tea – perhaps you too might fall in love with Karak Chai.
At Shay Madhboot, they don’t tell you what goes into their ‘perfect tea’, but some claim they’ve perfected the recipe. Other than the legendary Karak Chai, they also serve brunch that’s both a feast for your eyes and tastebuds!
8. Be inspired on Saadiyat Island
Located just 500m off the coast of Abu Dhabi is Saadiyat Island (easily accessible by car or bus), it’s the place where culture-lovers come out to play. You might already know that this is the home of Louvre Abu Dhabi, sister of the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
A museum-city in the sea, Louvre Abu Dhabi was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel, and has 23 galleries telling a story about humanity in 12 inspiring chapters. The Louvre also offers 60-minute kayak tours around the stunning Louvre for those looking for a novel way to learn about the famed architecture.
If you’re feeling inspired and creative, head down to Manarat Al Saadiyat to take part in a class/workshop held by the Art Studio. For those who prefer to chill out, Saadiyat public beach is the perfect place to enjoy the white sand and turquoise waters. If you’re lucky to visit during nesting season, you might even catch sight of a Hawksbill sea turtle, the island’s first inhabitants!
9. Discover falconry at Falcon Hospital
If you think owl cafes are cute, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is going to blow your mind. Dubbed as the world’s largest and most advanced falcon hospital, it serves as a museum and a facility with free-flying falcons.
Take a guided tour around the hospital as they introduce their daily work at the facility, and you can even watch a falcon receive its ‘maintenance’. You’ll also learn about the history of falconry as a sport or even get up close and personal with these well-trained birds of prey.
10. Admire the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Saving the best for last, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is undoubtedly one of the biggest attraction in Abu Dhabi. The entirety of the mosque is so grand that words and pictures don’t do it justice. The mosque is home to the world’s largest hand knotted carpet, and one of the world’s largest chandeliers (they weigh 12,000kg and measure 10m x 15m).
Visit right before sunset, when the sun reflects off the white Macedonian marble, to capture a stunning picture. A sight to behold, this landmark is definitely the one you don’t want to miss.
However, do note that this is still a place of worship, and visitors are advised to follow the dress code. Abayas are available for the ladies, which come in various sizes and colours as well.
🎉 GIVEAWAY: FREE 2 Nights Hotel Stay
If you’re flying with Etihad Airways with a stopover in Abu Dhabi, you’ll be rewarded with a FREE 2 nights lavish hotel stay. Simply present or book your Etihad flight that has a stopover in Abu Dhabi to redeem this splendid free stay!
Sale Period: Now to 1 December 2019
Travel Period: Now to 31 December 2019
Eligibility: Anyone with a Etihad flight connecting in Abu Dhabi
There are 15 luxurious hotels to choose from, including InterContinental, Le Meridien, Radisson Blu, and many more. You’ll be spoiled for choice!
🎉 GIVEAWAY: FREE Business Class Lounge Passes
Etihad Airways is giving away one pair of Business Class Lounge Passes to two lucky winners each! Simply follow these steps to stand a chance to win:
- Like Etihad Airways Facebook page
- Comment one France Road Trip AND one Italy Road Trip location in this giveaway Facebook post
Contest ends 18 June 2019. Passes can only be redeemed with a valid Etihad Airways flight ticket to or connecting in Abu Dhabi International Airport. Full terms & conditions here.
💯 Extra Perk: Extraordinary Abu Dhabi Pass
What’s more, you can also enjoy discounts in Abu Dhabi with your Etihad boarding pass, which conveniently doubles up as an Extraordinary Abu Dhabi Pass. Expect great discounts for shopping, attractions, dining, spas, and more.
This guide was specially curated in collaboration with Etihad Airways.
Enjoy a worldwide fees-less travel experience!