Dubai is the United Arab Emirates’ holiday hot spot. This city of high-rises and shopping malls has transformed itself from a desert outpost to a destination du-jour, where tourists flock for sales bargains, sunshine, and family fun. Dubai is famous for sightseeing attractions such as the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) and shopping malls that come complete with mammoth aquariums and indoor ski slopes. But this city has many cultural highlights and things to do as well as all the glamorous modern add-ons.
Best Time to Visit
If you are planning a Travel to UAE then the best time to visit Dubai is from November to March. Weather-wise, Dubai really only experiences two seasons: hot and hotter. During the winter months, the city sees blue skies and primo beach weather. However, this is also peak tourist season, so expect plenty of company on Jumeirah Beach.
Top Places to Visit in Dubai
1. Burj Khalifa
Dubai’s landmark building is the Burj Khalifa, which at 829.8 meters is the tallest building in the world and the most famous of the city’s points of interest. For most visitors, a trip to the observation deck on the 124th floor here is a must-do while in the city. The views across the city skyline from this bird’s-eye perspective are simply staggering. Nighttime visits are particularly popular with photographers due to Dubai’s famous city-lights panoramas. Buy your Burj Khalifa “At the Top” Entrance Ticket in advance to avoid long line-ups, especially if you are planning to visit on a weekend. Back on the ground, wrapping around the Burj Khalifa, are the building’s beautifully designed gardens, with winding walkways. There are plenty of water features including the Dubai Fountain, the world’s tallest performing fountain, modeled on the famous Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.
2. Dubai Mall
Dubai Mall is the city’s premier mall and provides entry to the Burj Khalifa as well as the Dubai Aquarium. There is also an ice-skating rink, gaming zone and cinema complex if you’re looking for more entertainment options. The shopping and eating is endless and there are nearly always special events such as live music and fashion shows within the mall. The most famous of these are the annual Dubai Shopping Festival in January and February and the Dubai Summer Surprises Festival in July and August.
3. Dubai Museum
Dubai’s excellent museum is housed in the Al-Fahidi Fort, built in 1787 to defend Dubai Creek. The fort’s walls are built out of traditional coral-blocks and held together with lime. The upper floor is supported by wooden poles, and the ceiling is constructed from palm fronds, mud, and plaster. The courtyard is home to several traditional boats and a palm-leaf house with an Emirati wind-tower. The right-hand hall features weaponry, and the left-hand hall showcases Emirati musical instruments. Below the ground floor are display halls with exhibits and dioramas covering various aspects of traditional Emirati life (including pearl fishing and Bedouin desert life) as well as artifacts from the 3,000- to 4,000-year-old graves at Al Qusais archaeological site.
4. Jumeirah Mosque
Jumeirah Mosque is considered by many to be the most beautiful of Dubai’s mosques. An exact copy of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque that is eight times its size, the Jumeirah Mosque is a fine example of Islamic architecture. This stone structure is built in the medieval Fatimid tradition, with two minarets that display the subtle details in the stonework. It is particularly attractive in the evening when lit with floodlights.
5. Dubai Aquarium
One of the city’s top tourist attractions, the Dubai Aquarium houses 140 species of sea life in the huge suspended tank on the ground floor of the Dubai Mall. As well as free viewing from the mall, if you enter the Underwater Zoo, you can walk through the aquarium tunnels. Different activities help you get a closer look at the sea life. Glass bottom boat tours (on top of the tank) are particularly popular. Cage snorkeling and shark diving activities are also on offer.
6. Burj al-Arab
The Burj Al-Arab is the world’s tallest hotel, standing 321 meters high on its own artificial island on the Dubai coastline. Designed to resemble a billowing dhow sail, the exterior of the building is lit up by a choreographed colored lighting show at night. Decadent in every way possible, the Burj Al-Arab is one of the most expensive hotels in the world, with the most luxurious suites. For those without unlimited credit, the way to experience the over-the-top opulence is to go for dinner at the underwater Al-Mahara restaurant, where floor-to-ceiling glass panels in the dining room walls allow you to view sea life while you eat, or you can enjoy lunch at California-style fusion restaurant Scape. For the ultimate panoramic views over the city, book afternoon tea at the Skyview Bar (a minimum spend is required) on the 27th floor.
7. Jumeirah Beach
This strip of sandy white bliss is the number one beach destination for Dubai visitors. Hotels are strung out all along its length, with this being one of the most popular places to stay for tourists. The beach has excellent facilities, with plenty of sun loungers, restaurants, and water-sport operators offering jet skiing. While in the area, brush off the sand for an hour and visit the Majlis Ghorfat Um Al-Sheef, just a short hop from the beach. Built in 1955, this was the summer residence of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al-Maktoum. The residence, made out of gypsum and coral-block, has been restored and maintains much of the original beautiful decor, giving you a better understanding of the opulent lifestyle of Dubai’s rulers.
8. Kite Beach
This long stretch of white-sand beach, south of Jumeirah beach, isn’t just a top destination for sunbathers looking to lap up a lazy day of swimming and soaking up the rays on the sand. Kite Beach is renowned as Dubai’s premier destination for kite surfers and is home to an array of water sports operators. This is where you come to get out on the water kite surfing or try your hand at stand up paddleboarding, with equipment hire and lessons all easily arranged on the beach.
9. Aquaventure Waterpark
This waterpark, based at Atlantis, The Palm on the Palm Jumeirah – Dubai’s famous man-made island development – is a great place to cool off after a few days of hectic shopping and sightseeing. The water slide action here is excellent and world-class, with the Aquaconda, the world’s longest water slide; a nine-story-tall slide, aptly named the Leap of Faith; and water coaster rides. There’s also underwater safaris using seatrek helmets; a dedicated water play area for smaller children with slides; and for when all your energy has been used up, a 700-meter sweep of white-sand beach to chill out on.
Deira lies on the northern bank of Dubai Creek, and the winding streets here unveil the melting pot of different nationalities that have come to call Dubai home. For travelers, Deira is most famous for its traditional souks (markets), which bustle with shoppers at all times of the day. Deira Gold Souk is world-renowned as the largest gold bazaar in the world. The Deira Spice Souk sells every imaginable spice, with stalls overflowing with bags of frankincense, cumin, paprika, saffron, sumac, and thyme, as well as the fragrant oud wood, rose water, and incense. While in the district, culture lovers shouldn’t miss two of Deira’s finely restored architectural gems.