What to see in Dubai? Since I came back from the UAE super euphoric of what I saw I often hear this question repeated. But I understand very well the meaning of the question because even before going there I wondered the same thing: but what is there to see in Dubai? I was very skeptical on the spot, I imagined a fake and cold place (obviously not in a climatic sense), a sort of Las Vegas of Arabia where everything had been created for the use and consumption of tourists. Instead I had to change my mind, and I thank Valentina for pushing me on a journey that has given me very pleasant surprises.
This is also the beauty of the journey, starting with an idea, completely overturning it once on the spot and returning home with a wealth of unexpected emotions. Dubai is very clean, safe, beautiful and interesting.
In this article I will advise you what to see in Dubai, but do not expect ancient monuments, baroque squares and medieval buildings, we are still talking about a city born and developed thanks to the discovery of oil, and that until the late sixties was a village of fishermen and traders in the desert sands.
I start to tell you what to see in Dubai starting from the highest skyscraper in the world, the Burj Khalifa, 829.80 meters high and dedicated to the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who – during the economic crisis Dubai in 2008 – intervened economically to complete the construction.
You can climb in its panoramic terraces located at 124° and 125° and reachable thanks to a fast elevator that takes just one minute to get to your destination, and enjoy a breathtaking view over the city. Beautiful experience, by day, by night, at sunset or dawn!
The climb to the Burj Khalifa terraces is not free and the standard ticket costs 134 dirhams (about $32).
From above you can take some beautiful souvenir photos, and why not, share them on social media too.
Right in front of the Burj Khalifa entrance, in Burj Khalifa Lake, every day there is the show of Dubai’s dancing fountains, the biggest in the world that moves to the rhythm of music leaving the audience gaping.
The shows are there every day at 13:30 and at 14 and from 18 to 23 every thirty minutes.
In the same district of the Burj Khalifa and the dancing fountains is the largest shopping center in the world by number of shops: 1,200. Inside you can find everything, even a giant aquarium, an ice rink and a wide selection of ethnic restaurants. Crossing the Burj Khalifa Lake you arrive at the Souk Al Bahar.
Mall of the Emirates and Ski Dubai
In the list of what to see in Dubai there is also another record-breaking shopping center, the Mall of the Emirates. Inside there are 550 shops, both economic and luxury, and 90 bars and restaurants. But what makes the Mall of the Emirates extraordinary is the Ski Dubai, a large structure in which a winter village has been recreated (yes, there is snow in the desert, even if it is artificial) where it is possible to ski in one of the 5 slopes with skis and snowboards, tobogganing, taking ski lessons or having fun with other winter attractions perfectly recreated inside.
Burj Al Arab
The maximum of the stars that hotels can have is 5, the Burj Al Arab (whose name means Torre d’Arabia) has as many as 7, and this already makes us understand how much pomp there is inside.
Also known as La Vela for its shape, it is absolutely one of the things to see in Dubai although it is for us common mortal prohibition to stay in one of its suites. When I was there, I saw so many of those Ferrari and Maserati coming out of its entrance that I could not even imagine.
You can sip a tea or enjoy a cocktail in the luxurious Skyview on the 27th floor, admiring the city from above and listening to live music. The cost of admission + the cocktail is around $60, but must be booked well in advance.
If you want to take a picture with the iconic hotel in the background, I recommend going to the Jumeirah Public Beach which is 1.5 km away and can be reached on foot in 15 minutes, or at Sunset Beach.
Still on the subject of luxury hotels you cannot miss a visit to the sparkling Atlantis, built on the artificial island The Palm Jumeirah (from the top you can see the shape of the palm tree). If you are not content to see it from the outside, maybe walking along the seafront, you could spend a day in its aquatic park “Aquaventure Waterpark” (the largest in the city) with slides, pools and adrenal attractions (admission costs about $70), Meet the dolphins in Dolhpin Bay (around $200), swim with the stingrays or explore the ancient ruins of Atlantis.
In Dubai there is also the largest frame in the world. Yes, they are a bit ‘the delusions of grandeur but they really knew how to do with tourism. In a few decades they managed to turn a piece of desert into one of the most popular destinations by travelers from all over the world. You will say “OK, but they have oil and they are all good at doing great things when there is money”, but this is not the case, there are countries with much more oil that are stopped centuries ago, while Dubai is looking to the future, thanks to the foresight of the emirs.
The Dubai Frame is one of the last attractions built in the city, and from its 150 meters offers a panoramic view of the emirate. It has a glass bridge that crosses the structure and connects the two towers, which gives the feeling of walking in a vacuum.
Seeing from below it is instead a real frame that frames two beautiful living paintings: modern Dubai with its futuristic skyscrapers and the ancient Dubai with the souk and the creek.
The Dubai Marina is the largest artificial marina in the world (I told you that Dubai is the city of records) and was built only a few years ago in a desert place. Today it houses skyscrapers, a beautiful 7 km long pedestrian promenade, many shops, a shopping center, restaurants and bars.
It is beautiful to believe me, when I was there I was impressed by his orderly beauty and calm. I would have stayed whole hours to enjoy it in total relaxation. One more reason to come back!
Al Bastakia (Old Dubai)
I never thought I would find an old part in Dubai, I only imagined glass and cement and instead … surprises are always around the corner.
At Al Bastakia you will find the old merchant houses with internal courtyards, but what will surprise you will surely be the wind towers, a brilliant air channeling system that brought fresh air into the houses during the hot summer days, a sort of air conditioning of the past.
Walking through its quiet alleys you will also find souvenir shops, cafes and art galleries. There is also the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding, a cultural center whose goal is to introduce tourists to the Arab world.
This was another place that I did not give a penny of trust and that instead made me change my mind, and after seeing it I can tell you that it is absolutely worth visiting.
It is set up inside the oldest building in Dubai, the Al Fahidi Fort built in 1787, and reconstructs ancient splits of traditional life before the discovery of oil. Small but very interesting to understand the past of this territory.
All, or almost, cities have developed in ancient times near a river. Dubai was not far behind and was formed on the banks of the Creek. The river has played an important role in the commercial traffic to Africa and the rest of Asia, and right on its shore are two important souks (markets) of which I will speak later.
I advise you to cross it on board the Abra, the traditional wooden boat that will make you jump in the past, and believe me, this experience will be quite special and exciting
The Souks of Gold and Spices
In Dubai everything is exaggerated and a tour of the gold souk does nothing but confirm it. In the shop windows of the jewelers stand out dresses completely made of precious metal and large and precious jewels that cost more than my home. Beyond these excesses it is also possible to make excellent deals by buying bracelets, rings and necklaces at reasonable prices.
Al Jumeirah Mosque
It is the only mosque that can be visited by tourists in the city of Dubai, a splendid example of Islamic architecture that can accommodate up to 1,200 worshipers.
It can be visited every day except Friday, even with guided tours lasting 75 minutes, but you must adopt clothing appropriate to the place then arms and legs covered, and head covered for women.
If in your life you have never visited any mosque I suggest you do it, but if you go to Abu Dhabi then you can also avoid it, so you will go crazy with joy in the presence of the Sheikh Zayed mosque.
If you’re tired of wandering around the city it’s time to relax on the beach. The sea is very beautiful and the beaches are numerous such as the Sunset Beach, The Beach in Dubai Marina, Kite Beach for kite surfing enthusiasts, La Mer, Black Palace Beach, Jumeirah Beach and Al Mamzar Beach Park. A bit of sun (eye to the climate of Dubai, in the summer temperatures reach even 50°C), a dip in the sea and a cocktail in one of the lovely cafes will make you spend unforgettable moments in this very special corner of the world.
Dubai Miracle Garden
But flowers do not come into the desert. In Dubai, yes!
The Dubai Miracle Garden is a 72,000 square meter garden where flowers cover buildings, create paths and form figures. Obviously here is the world’s largest flower arrangement, a very petite Airbus A380 Emirates.
There is also the Butterfly Garden which is home to 35,000 species of butterflies, and many activities and performances take place throughout the day.
The entrance fee costs around $12 and the park is closed during the summer months.
What to see in Dubai if not the desert from which it all started? Just move for about thirty kilometers to find yourself in the middle of the nula. There are many organized tours that bring tourists to experience indescribable emotions in contact with reddish sand, camels and traditional foods. You can choose the jeep tour (eye that drives like crazy and it seems to be on the roller coaster), the quad tour, the desert dinner and many other excursions created specifically to let live the desert of Dubai.
Now that you know what to see in Dubai you just have to leave and enjoy every moment in the futuristic Arab city.