Old Dubai Tour Guide – Best Places to Visit & Things to Do in Old Dubai

The shiny and sparkling city of Dubai with stylish skyscrapers, massive shopping malls, luxury hotels, fine dining restaurants, and state-of-the-art theme parks is what comes to mind when one thinks of the Emirate city. However, the roots of the city lie in Old Dubai, which is considered the heart and soul of Dubai. Divided into Bur Dubai and Deira by the Dubai Creek, Old Dubai is where the Bani Yas tribe settled first when they moved from their desert dwellings. While the city has moved far ahead during the last few decades and is known to be one of the most modern and richest cities in the world, this part of the city has preserved the old world charm beautifully. Interestingly, there are many

things to do in Old Dubai.


How to Get to Old Dubai

Traveling to Old Dubai is quite hassle-free, as public transportation connects the city well. One of the most comfortable ways of traveling to Old Dubai would be by taxi. Cabs in Dubai are easily available and at the same time cheaper. However, depending on the place you are traveling from and the time of the day of your travel, you may get caught in traffic and waste some time. Hence, the best way to travel to Old Dubai is by metro. To get to Old Dubai by the metro, you must take the red line. There are several metro stations in Bur Dubai and Deira, and you must choose one as per the place you want to visit.


Places to Visit in Old Dubai

Before we look into the important places to visit in Old Dubai, it is important to note that the best way of exploring this part of the city is on foot. You can go either on a self or DIY walking tour or on a guided walking tour conducted by SMCCU (Sheikh Mohammed Centre of Cultural Understanding).

  • Dubai Museum
dubai museum

Dubai Museum is one of the most visited tourist locations in Old Dubai. It is located inside the Al Fahidi Fort, which was built in 1787 and is now believed to be the oldest building in the city. What was once the residence of the ruling monarch is today a museum that tells the visitors about the history of the city. Through different interesting exhibits, you would get to learn about the locals and how they lived decades ago. An audio-visual presentation at the end of the tour would show you the journey of Dubai from the humble village to the sprawling metropolis of today.

Timings: 8:30 AM to 8:30 PM (Saturday to Thursday) and 2:30 PM to 8:30 PM (Friday)

Duration: 1 hour

Location: Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai, UAE

Entry Fee: AED 3 for adults and AED 1 for children

  • Bastakiya Quarter
bastakiya quarter

The Bastakiya Quarter is the oldest residential neighborhood in Dubai. It was built by Persian Merchants who came to Dubai for trading. While the rich merchants no longer live here, the beautiful buildings have been well preserved. You can walk along the narrow alleyways and check out the unique structures with its beautiful doors and wind towers. Most of the houses have been turned into museums, cafes, art galleries, and boutique hotels, giving you the chance to enter the buildings and check out the interiors.

Timings: 9 AM to 6 PM

Duration: 2 hours (minimum)

Location: Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai, UAE

Entry Fee: Free

  • Coffee Museum

One of the most interesting places to visit in the Bastakiya Quarter is the Coffee Museum. You get to learn about the history of coffee, right from its origins. The exhibits include coffee pots and other equipment used during the yesteryears. Moreover, you would also get to learn about different brewing and roasting techniques here. One of the highlights of the Coffee Museum is that you get to taste some aromatic coffee at the end of the tour. The cafe here serves delicious Arabic, Japanese and Ethiopian coffee.

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Timings: 9 AM to 5 PM (Friday closed)

Duration: 1-2 hours

Location: Villa 44, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, Bastakiya, Bur Dubai, UAE

Entry Fee: Free

  • XVA Art Gallery

If you are an art lover, the XVA Art Gallery is a place you must visit. Located inside one of the coral buildings of the Bastakiya Quarter, the XVA Art Gallery is home to artworks of local as well as international artists. Apart from the permanent exhibits, the museum also hosts temporary exhibits from time-to-time. A unique thing about this art gallery is that it has a cafe as well as a boutique hotel with 13 unique rooms, each designed by a different artist. If your needs are minimal and you want to stay in a unique place, the XVA Hotel is the right one for you.

Timings: 10 AM to 6 PM

Duration: 1-2 hours

Location: Al Fahidi Neighbourhood, 312th Road, Al Fahidi Street, Dubai, UAE

Entry Fee: Free

  • Dubai Heritage Village
dubai heritage village

While the Dubai Museum tells you about the history of the city, the Dubai Heritage Village gives you a glimpse of the culture and traditions of the Emiratis. Right from the traditional Bedouin villages (with houses) to the occupations followed by the Emiratis (fishing, pearl diving, blacksmithing, cotton trading, etc.), the Dubai Heritage Village gives a deep insight into the culture of the place. The best time to visit this place is during the Dubai Shopping Festival, when you would get to enjoy some unusual activities like traditional cooking training, rifle throwing competitions, shipbuilding seminars, etc.

Timings: 8:30 AM to 10:30 PM

Duration: 2 hours

Location: Al Shindagha Historical Neighbourhood, Dubai, UAE

Entry Fee: Free

  • Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House
sheikh saeed al maktoum house

The Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House was the residence of the former ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum (the grandfather of the current ruler) from 1912 to 1958. The structure is simple and elegant, yet spacious. Today, it is no longer the residence of the royal family and is a museum where you would get to know about the ruler family as well as the life and times in 20th century Dubai. The museum exhibits would give you a glimpse of the history of the Al Maktoum family, historic documents and maps, stamps, coins, views of Dubai, the social life of Dubai and marine life.

Timings: 8 AM to 8:30 PM (Saturday to Thursday) and 3 PM to 8:30 PM (Friday)

Duration: 2 hours

Location: Al Shindagha Historical Neighbourhood, Dubai, UAE

Entry Fee: AED 2 (for adults) and AED 1 (for children)


Things to Do in Old Dubai

Apart from the things to see in Old Dubai, there are some interesting things to do in this area of Dubai as well.

  • Shopping
old souk

Shopping in Dubai need not be restricted to the modern malls of the city. On the other hand, the traditional souks in Old Dubai give you a different perspective towards shopping in the city. One of the most popular is the Gold Souk, which is home to more than 300 stores that sell different types of gold jewelry. Spice souk, near the gold souk, sells all kinds of spices and herbs, while the Perfume Souk is the perfect place to buy oud, attar and modern perfumes as well. You can also get a customized perfume made mixing your favorite fragrances at the Perfume Souk. Then there is the Textile Souk, where you can buy clothes and materials of all kinds. There are also several tailoring shops, where you can get your clothes custom-stitched.

  • Dining
 
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basta art cafe

Your holiday in any new city would not be complete without tasting the local cuisine, and there is no better place than Old Dubai to try the same in Dubai. One of the best places to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner with Arabic specialties is the Basta Art Cafe (or Arabian Tea House), located at Bastakiya Quarter. Some of the dishes you should try here include Taste Al Harees (a dish made with wheat and meat), Al Machboos (a dish made with rice, onion, dried lemon, and meat), camel burger and Arabian tea. Also, make sure to taste the shawarma, which is easily available everywhere in the city.

  • Abra Ride
abra ride

One of the must-do things in Old Dubai goes on an abra ride across Dubai Creek. The abra is the oldest form of boat that was used by the Emiratis to travel from Bur Dubai and Deira and back. This water taxi can seat around 20 passengers and is the fastest as well as the cheapest way of traveling from one side of the creek to the other. Plus, you get a good view of both sides of the creek during the journey. This is one of the most unique experiences to enjoy in Dubai.

  • Dhow Cruise Dinner
dhow cruise dinner

Another way of admiring the sights of Dubai Creek is going on a dhow cruise dinner. Dhows are traditional boats used for transportation and trading in the past. Today, they have been replaced by modern ships. However, the Dhows have been converted into stylish restaurants that sail along the Dubai Creek. The Dhow Cruise Dinner lasts for two hours and includes delicious buffet dinner, entertainment programs (Tanoura dance) and music as well. It is a great way to check out the sights of Dubai and Bur Dubai.


Old Dubai v/s New Dubai

Like every developed city in the world, Dubai has two faces: the old one and the new one. While New Dubai is quite alluring and attractive, one cannot completely ignore the charm of the new city.

  • New Dubai reflects the development and growth of Dubai, while Old Dubai is a window to the roots of the city.
  • When it comes to food, New Dubai celebrates world cuisine, as you would find restaurants of all kinds of cuisines here. On the other hand, the old celebrates preserves the local Emirati food and flavors.
  • New Dubai would give you access to buy products from almost every popular international brand, while the old part of the city is the perfect place to buy local products and artifacts.

Conclusion

In comparison between Old Dubai and New Dubai, there is no winner. Rather, both are important and essential part of what Dubai embodies. Hence, a visit to Dubai can only be complete if you visit both parts of this amazing Emirate city.

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