Abu Dhabi is often overshadowed by Dubai. However, what many do not know is that Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and the largest Emirate of the country as well. While Dubai is more glitzy and glamorous, Abu Dhabi believes in subtlety and elegance. Unlike popular belief, Abu Dhabi has several attractions that make paying a visit to this Emirate worth it. This Emirate city brings together culture and history along with fun and entertainment in the best possible way.
Best Time to Visit Abu Dhabi
The best time to visit Abu Dhabi would totally depend on your requirements. If you are looking for a budget-friendly holiday, the summer months between June and September would be best. However, the temperature during this time of the year is extremely high, making it impossible to explore the outdoor attractions during the daytime. On the other hand, if budget is not a concern, the winter months i.e. between November and March are the best. Spring Season (April and May) and autumn season (September and October) is also a great time to visit Abu Dhabi as it is not too hot and the prices are on the lower side too.
What to Do in Abu Dhabi
If you are visiting the capital of UAE for the first time, here are the top 7 things to do in Abu Dhabi that you should not miss.
1. Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a must-visit attraction in Abu Dhabi, as it is one of the few mosques in the UAE that offers entry to non-Muslims. Made completely in white marble, the sight of this gorgeous mosque (which can hold 40,000 worshippers) is truly mesmerizing. The architecture of the mosque mimics Ottoman, Mameluke and Fatimid traditions. Apart from being the largest mosque in the UAE, the Grand Mosque is also home to the largest handmade carpet as well as the biggest chandelier in the world. The beautiful and intricate design of the interiors includes glasswork, intricate carvings, and mosaic tiling. The best time to visit the place is just before sunset, as you can watch the mosque glow in the golden light of the sun.
Timing: 9 AM to 10 PM (Saturday to Thursday) and 4:30 PM to 10 PM (Friday)
Location: Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed St, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Duration: 1-2 hours
Tickets: Free entry
2. Travel into the Past at Abu Dhabi Heritage Village
Abu Dhabi is one of the most modern cities in the world with skyscrapers and unique buildings dotting its skyline. However, not long before, the city was a modest fishing village. If you find it difficult to believe, you can visit the Abu Dhabi Heritage Village, where you can get a glimpse into the life of the people of Abu Dhabi before the oil boom. The Heritage Village is located across the Corniche and gives you a peek into the desert lifestyle. Stroll around Bedouin-style wooden huts and tents and check out the campfires, camels, pots, horses, goats and the falaj irrigation system. You would also get to see artisans displaying metalwork demonstrations and weaving skills. If you are interested, some of the artisans may also give you the chance to try the same. A visit to Abu Dhabi Heritage Village is a must if you want to know and understand the roots of this fabulous city.
Timing: 9 AM to 4 PM (Saturday to Thursday) and 3:30 PM to 9 PM (Friday)
Location: Near Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi Corniche Breakwater, UAE
Duration: 1-2 hours
Tickets: Free entry
3. Enjoy a Thrilling Time at Ferrari World
While Abu Dhabi is deeply cultural, it does offer a fun element to visitors. One of the places that must be visited by adventure lovers and thrill-seekers is the Ferrari World. Considered to be one of the best theme parks in the world, Ferrari World is based on the theme of Formula 1 racing. Spread around an area of 86,000 square meters, this theme park offers some of the most amazing and thrilling rides that you have ever seen. The star attraction of the theme park is the Formula Rossa, which runs at the speed of 240 km/hour and is the fastest rollercoaster in the world. Aside from this, there is a Junior GT track, Flying Aces rollercoaster, etc. to look forward to. True F1 fans would also have fun participating in the Ferrari knowledge game show.
Timing: 11 AM to 8 PM
Location: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Duration: 10 hours
Tickets: AED 295
4. Witness the Magnificence of Abu Dhabi City at Observation Deck at 300
Although Abu Dhabi does not have a Burj Khalifa, it does have an observation deck that gives you splendid panoramic views of the city. The Observation Deck at 300 is located on the 74th floor of Tower 2 of the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. As the name suggests, the observation deck is located 300 meters above the ground. The observation deck would give you a 360o view of the entire city including the Corniche, the Arabian Gulf and the skyline. The place also has binoculars through which you can have a closer look at the attractions that interest you. People who are not guests at the hotel have to buy an entry ticket, which also includes a voucher that you can redeem for snacks and beverages at the café. If you want to enjoy a culinary experience while checking out the view, you can opt for the afternoon tea at the café.
Timing: 10 AM to 7 PM
Location: West Corniche, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Duration: 2-3 hours
AED 95 per person (AED 55 food and beverage vouchers)
Free entry for children under the age of 4 years
AED 250 per person for high tea (reservations to be made one day in advance)
5. Amuse the Child in You at Warner Bros. World
Your holiday in Abu Dhabi need not be only about sightseeing. On the other hand, you can have a fun time at the Warner Bros. World, the first of its kind not just in the UAE but also in the Middle East. Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi has six theme zones based on movies, shows and characters of Warner Bros. Among the six zones, Gotham City and Metropolis offer thrilling rides for adults, while Dynamite Gulch, Cartoon Junction and Bedrock are meant for kids. There is also the Warner Bros. Plaza, which is styled like the Hollywood of the yesteryears. Apart from the 29 rides, Warner Bros. World also offers entertaining shows as well as numerous dining and shopping options.
6. Meet the National Bird of UAE at the Falcon Hospital
The falcon is the national bird of the UAE. Falconry was the favorite sport of the Emiratis and the falcons were used for scavenging and hunting in the past. Although falcons are no longer used for these purposes, they are still revered by the locals. One of the best ways to get to know more about falcons is visiting the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. Established in 1999, this veterinarian hospital treats around 8500 falcons every year. You can go on a tour of the hospital, where you would get to visit the museum as well as watch vets treating (even watch a minor surgery) or grooming falcons. It also includes a visit to the aviary where you can see the falcons fly at leisure.
Timing: 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM (Sunday to Thursday), 9 AM to 1 PM (Saturday) and Friday closed
Location: Near Abu Dhabi International Airport, Sweihan Rd St, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Duration: 2 hours
Tickets: 170 AED (10 years and above) and 60 AED (5-9 years)
7. Explore Qasr Al Watan
One of the new
attractions in Abu Dhabi
is the Qasr Al Watan or the Presidential Palace. Although it was inaugurated in 2015, the Qasr Al Watan was opened to the public only recently. Home to the offices of the President, Vice President and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the Qasr Al Watan is a true window to the culture and heritage of the UAE. The architecture of this grand palace is similar to that of the Mughal era. It boasts of gorgeous courtyards, verdant manicured gardens, and beautiful onion-shaped domes. Inside the Qasr Al Watan, you can walk through the majestic hallways and learn about the rich heritage of the Arabs as well about the rulers and governing institutions of UAE through various interactive exhibitions. There is also a huge library, where you would get to see books and resources that talk about the contribution of the Arabs towards different fields.
Timing: 10 AM to 8 PM
Location: Al Ras Al Akhdar, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Duration: 30 minutes
Tickets: AED 60
Tips for Travelers
Do not wear clothes that are too revealing. Women visiting the Grand Mosque have to wear an abaya (available at the mosque entrance). Men should also make sure that their clothes cover their knees and arms. If you are wearing shorts, you can rent a kandoura at the entrance.
While alcohol is available at hotels and restaurants, drinking in public is a strict no-no.
Abu Dhabi does not have good public transportation. Hence, it is best to rely on taxis. The good thing is that taxis are cheap and easily available as well.
Check the calendar for religious holidays before planning your visit, as most attractions are closed during such days.
It is best to avoid outdoor sightseeing between 11 AM and 4 PM, as the temperature is the highest during this time.
Tipping is not mandatory in Abu Dhabi. Usually, restaurants include a 10-15% tip in the total bill itself.
Abu Dhabi is an interesting city that has a lot of natural, cultural and modern attractions. If you are visiting UAE for a holiday, ensure to make Abu Dhabi a part of your itinerary.