Abu Dhabi is a wonderful city which is located on the Persian Gulf coast that has several world renowned attractions. On this page we have all the information that you need to plan your visit and make the most of your limited time. We are not aware of any free walking tours in Abu Dhabi, but there are plenty of free and paid things to do and see.
Free Things to do
The UAE is generally a destination for high-end luxury tourism. But, as we all know, the best things in life are free. Many foreigners live and work here, drawn by the tax free salary, oil industry, and services sector jobs. We spoke to many of them to get the inside scoop on free activities in or near the city. Here are just a few to get you started.
1. Walk the Corniche: Definition of corniche: a road built along a coast. Locals love to stroll on the 5-mile seaside promenade which is lined with restaurants and shops. Rent a bike or just walk at your own pace. This is a family friendly affair and the connected beaches are open to the public. From this road you can see the oil tankers in the distance (especially at night) and the dhow harbor which hosts the local boats.
2. Stargazing in the Empty Quarter: Within an hour drive of Abu Dhabi you can place yourself in the middle of the dark and quite of the desert sands. The further away from the city the greater the reduction in light pollution. On any clear night you will be dazzled by the night sky as the Milky Way Galaxy comes into view. Drive out on your own or with a local club. The new Al Sadeem Observatory often hosts events so check their calendar.
3. Etihad Modern Art Gallery: This gallery host events, shows, and exhibitions from mostly local artists. Its bright, its colorful, and it is sure to challenge your conception of what Middle East art should be. This lively space also has regular events featuring poetry, music, and design.
4. Mina Markets at Mina Zayed Port: Forget the fancy malls, come to these souks to see unique products sold in a traditional way. At this location you will find a carpet souk, fruit and vegetable souk, plant souk, and a fresh fish souk. The carpets come from Iran and Afghanistan and you can find some beautiful pieces for bargain prices. The fruits are imported from all over the region and pay special attention to the dates section. In the plant souk the vendors will introduce you to the native species (ask about the national tree: the ghaf tree). At the fish souk be ready to be amazed. All kinds of variety of aquatic life is for sale of all different shapes, colors, and sizes.
5. Al Bateen Shipyard: Before the arrival of the British in 1819, the Trucial States was known far and wide as the ‘Pirate Coast’. Indeed, the handmade wooden dhows that ply these waters were quick and nimble allowing for surprise attacks on unsuspecting ships. These dhows were also essential for the pearling trade and general seafaring. Using techniques handed down for generations, craftsmen at the Al Bateen shipyard are keeping the art alive.
6. Al Wathba: 50 kilometers outside of the city, on the road to Al Ain, you will find an outdoor area that has a wetland reserve and a dedicated desert cycle track. This illuminated track has 30 kilometers of track divided into four routes. The nearby wetland reserve hosts wild pink flamingos and dozens of species of native birds. Rarely crowded, this area is a wonderful place for birding. Once a coastal salt flat, the area has now been purpose built to host the wonderful desert wildlife and fauna. A truly special place in the hearts and minds of all Emiratis, this is a unique project that will compliment your visit to the UAE.