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Top 10 Things to do in Abu Dhabi

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Updated: August 5, 2023
 By Pri

1. Sheikh Zayad Grand Mosque: The signature tourist attraction of the capital city of Abu Dhabi is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is free to enter, open every day, and photography is encouraged.  Tourists of all faiths are welcome to visit, and many come to see the symmetrical architecture and to learn about one of the world’s great religions. There is so much to see here: Onion-top domes, courtyards, gardens, reflective pools, gold lettering, the world’s largest chandelier, and the world’s largest handmade carpet.  The idea for the mosque came from Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who wanted this mosque to showcase the Islamic world’s historical values of art and architecture.  The mosque was finished in 2007 and has become a major destination for the region.

2. Qasr Al Hosn: For over two hundred years whoever was able to control the walls of this fort, won the right to rule here. Built around the 1790’s, these towers overlooked the coastal trade routes and protected the surrounding village.  In 2019 the fort opened after extensive renovations to house a modern museum and gallery space.  Admission to the House of Artisans, the Cultural Foundation, and landscape exhibit is free.  To enter into the hear to the fort and to gain access to the daily events, book tickets online here.

3. Qasr Al Watan: A visit to this Presidential palace will give visitors rare insight into the Emirati governance style and how decisions are made.  Opened to the public for the first time in 2019, Qasr Al Watan has quickly become a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.  Great halls, libraries, and exhibits, showcase diplomatic history and provide context to the UAE’s rich cultural heritage.  A unique gift shop and Emirati restaurant make this a good place to linger and enjoy the ambiance.

4. Louvre Abu Dhabi: Opened in 2017, this museum is dedicated to world art and civilization with a focus on bridging the gap between Eastern and Western art. Indeed, the halls are filled with grand pieces that span centuries and continents.  The building itself is also a work of art with a web-patterned dome which gives the effect of rays of sunlight passing through date palm trees in the desert.  Seasonal exhibits mean that there will always be something new to explore here, and the dining facilities are first rate.

5. Emirates Palace: This is a luxury hotel and resort that has become an iconic landmark for the city. With more than 100 domes and grand outdoor staircases, the hotel looks like a fairytale castle.  The many cafes and restaurants make the resort accessible to non-guests.  Book an afternoon high tea or enjoy a gold flaked cappuccino in the grand lobby café.  Stroll through the hotel to admire the crystal chandeliers and the handmade carpets and get a sense for how wealthy sheikhs decorate their own homes.

6. Heritage Village: Located along the waterfront, this attraction is like going back in time to visit an original fishing and pearling village of the coast.  Wooden huts, Bedouin tents, and craft workshops will transport you to simpler time.  For hundreds of years, villages like these prospered through the global natural pearl trade.  Men made wooden boats by hand and for three months out of the year went into the sea to earn their fortune.  It was a hard life, and there were few luxuries.  But the fish is served fresh and the coffee was strong.  Save this spot for your souvenir shopping, and bargain for the best price!

7. Yas Marina Circuit & Ferrari World: These tracks host Grand Prix and Formula 1 drivers during the racing season.  The rest of the time, amateurs like you and me can hug the curves in go-carts or in high performance race cars (including Aston Martin).  Behind the scenes tours will delight racing fans, but the kids will want to go to Ferrari World.  The only Ferrari theme park in the world, the rides hear focus on speed and thrill (hello fastest rollercoaster in the world).  Best part, its mostly indoor, which is clutch if you find yourself here anywhere near the summertime.

8. Falcon Hospital: There is nothing more Emirati than falcon hunting.  Generations of Bedouins trained these majestic birds to hunt the Hobura bird and to scavenge for food.  Without the speed and skill of the falcon, Bedouin tribes would not have thrived in the harsh desert environment.  So, a trip to this hospital is really an introduction to the desert way of life and to experience the speed and power of these hunters up close.  This tour has emerged as a fan favorite since 2007.

9. Emirates National Auto Museum: 30 minutes from the city center, there is a large pyramid that sits next to a globe and an abandoned jet airplane. It is a weird place, and chances are you will be the only visitor there. Once inside though, you will see a most impressive classic car collection.  The cars come from all over the world and displayed in chronological order, all the way up to present times.  Who knew that 1980’s minivans already belong in a museum?  You actually have to see this place to believe it exists.

10. Big Bus City Tour: This tour is a great use of time to hit all the major sites in Abu Dhabi.  The two routes that they have (red and green) will get you to most of the places on our top ten list and back to your hotel.  The architecture of this city is often futuristic, so here you will learn about the landmarks as you cruise by taking photos.  Pre-recorded audio content will give you the background for everything you need.  This bus tour in Abu Dhabi is an efficient and cost-effective way to get around the city.

About The Author


Pri is a true believer in the Rule of Three - she lives between Dubai, Bombay and Washington DC, speaks three languages and has 3 kids under 3. She graduated from Connecticut College and has a Masters Degree from New York University. Pri is a licensed Dubai tour guide, travel blogger, art aficionado, foodie and curious to check out all things new in her city. Pri has been part of the Free Tours By Foot team since 2015 and loves to make customized itineraries for her guests.
Updated: August 5th, 2023

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