Things to do in Abu Dhabi: Attractions and places to visit

Sheikh Zayed Moschee Abu Dhabi Panorama (Michael Eichler / stock.adobe.com)  lizenziertes Stockfoto 
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Experience the magic of a thousand and one nights in Abu Dhabi, combined with ultra-modern architecture. A glittering skyline, white sandy beaches and spectacular theme parks promise holiday fun for the whole family. Away from the city gorges, Abu Dhabi attracts visitors with its wild and romantic landscape, green oases and historic monuments.

Below we present you the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights in Abu Dhabi.

Desert Safari in Abu Dhabi, UAE! (Trip & Travel Blog)  [flickr.com]  CC BY 
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Kempinski Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi (Oleg Zhukov / stock.adobe.com)  lizenziertes Stockfoto 
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1. Ferrari World (Yas Island)

On Yas Island north of the airport is Ferrari World, the largest covered amusement park in the world. But also in the outdoor area there are many sightseeings. On an area of 8 hectares everything revolves around the world of racing. 20 rides await visitors, including Formula Rossa.

The fastest roller coaster in the world accelerates to 240 km/h and simulates visitors how it feels in a Formula 1 car. Extreme G-forces can also be experienced in the G-Force, which carries its passengers 62 metres vertically. If you like it more relaxed, visit the Ferrari models on display. For guests who want to get behind the wheel themselves, the park offers race courses for beginners.

2. Sheikh Zayid Mosque

Visitors to the Sheikh Zayid Mosque marvel at Abu Dhabi’s symbiosis of ultra-modern architecture and traditional Arab architecture. It was opened in 2007 and is one of the largest Islamic churches in the world. 40,000 believers can be accommodated in the superlative sacred building, which cost 545 million US dollars. The bright white domes of the mosque are reflected in the surrounding water basins, and no costs were spared inside either.

High-quality materials such as marble, Swarovski crystals and gold leaf decorate the interior, which houses the largest hand-woven carpet in the world. Even non-Muslim visitors can admire the Sheikh Zayed Mosque from the inside if they pay attention to appropriate clothing. An evening visit with atmospheric lighting is particularly worthwhile.

3. Trip to Al Ain

Visitors discover the Emirate’s rich cultural heritage in the southeast on the border with Oman. The “Garden City of the Arabian Gulf” used to be an important oasis that traders passed on their way to Oman. In 2011, Al Ain’s historic buildings were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as testimonies to the early settlement of Abu Dhabi.

An ingenious irrigation system ensures that Al Ain presents itself in rich green. One of the most popular sights is Al-Jahili, a lavishly restored fortress with gardens inside. In the souks of Al Ain, which traditionally take place outdoors, spices and clothes are offered for sale, and at the camel market visitors can watch the traders haggling for the best price.

4. Mangrove National Park

Located in the heart of Abu Dhabi, the Mangrove National Park is a vast nature reserve that houses 75% of the mangroves in the United Arab Emirates. The tropical saltwater plants are of great importance for the cleanliness of the sea and protection against flooding. They also provide shelter for a variety of animals, including crabs, turtles and manatees, as well as water birds such as flamingos and herons

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Guests can rent a number of boats and explore the park’s picturesque lagoon on their own. Between the high tap-roots of the mangroves, numerous small fish cavort. In the silence, which is only interrupted by the chirping of the birds, visitors almost forget that they are only a few kilometres from a big city.

5. Jebel Hafeet – the highest mountain in Abu Dhabi

One of the most beautiful sights for nature lovers and all who want to get a taste of the mountain air is the mountain Jebel Hafeet (often also: Dschabal Hafit). Millions of years of erosion formed its limestone into interesting rock formations. Jebel Hafeet is 1350 meters high and is the highest point of the emirate. With numerous plant and animal species, the mountain has the most diverse flora and fauna in the Emirates. Shy animals like bats, snakes and lizards are at home here.

Many visitors come here to relax in the hot thermal springs, visit 5,000 year old tombs and explore the vast cave systems. From the top of the mountain you can enjoy a magnificent view of the nearby Al Ain. The atmosphere is particularly beautiful at sunrise, when the surrounding desert slowly wakes up.

6. Emirates Palace Hotel

In 2005, Abu Dhabi opened one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Known from the film “Fast and Furious”, the hotel stands like hardly any other building for the wealth and splendour of the desert state. The construction of the Emirates Palace, which combines traditional Arab architecture with state-of-the-art technology, cost 3 billion dollars. A total of 115 domes adorn the mega complex, which has a private beach and even its own marina and two helicopter sites.

A 40 metre high arch and silver fountains mark the entrance. Also worth seeing is the lobby of the Emirate Palace, which is decorated by a 2.5 ton chandelier. Also at night, a visit is worthwhile, as then, the domes of the hotel shine in bright colours. Non-hotel guests may visit certain areas of the complex. A traditional tea time in a luxury hotel is very popular!

7. Louvre and dream beach on Saadiyat Island

Due to a lack of space, artificial islands are repeatedly created off the coast of the Emirate or, as in the case of Saadiyat, existing spits of land are expanded by filling them up. On Saadiyat, the government had the goal of creating a cultural district of superlatives. Here is the new Louvre Abu Dhabi Art Museum, where works from antiquity to the 21st century are presented. Thanks to a cooperation with the French original, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is already one of the most beautiful art museums of our time.

The Performing Arts Center with theatres, concert halls and an opera house as well as the Zayed National Museum are also located on Saadiyat Island. There visitors learn more about the settlement of the emirate in the last 200,000 years. The Manarat Al Saadiyat Gallery serves as the island’s visitor centre, exhibiting contemporary artists. For those who prefer a more relaxed approach, not far from the cultural highlights, there is also a kilometre-long dream beach and the chilly Saadiyat Beach Club.

8. Abu Dhabi Heritage Village

Visitors who want to understand what life in Abu Dhabi was like in the past should head to the Heritage Village on the island of Al Kasir. This is a reconstruction of an oasis village, complete with market, mosque and tent town. Traditional craftsmen present their skills in pottery, glass blowing, weaving, spinning and metalworking.

Young guests can stroke camels in the Heritage Village, for example, and numerous spices, clothes and leather goods are offered at the market. Replicas of traditional Arabian sailing ships can be admired directly on the beach. There visitors also have a great view of the skyline of Abu Dhabi.

9. Falcon Hospital and Desert Safari

Falcon breeding has a long tradition in the Emirates and in Abu Dhabi the most famous clinic in the world for injured animals is located. The Falcon Hospital offers interesting insights and exciting tours for visitors. Here you can learn more about these impressive birds. Many tours are offered in combination with a desert safari.

The desert safaris mostly lead into the largest continuous sand desert of the world, the Rub al-Khali. Here it goes with rapid speed by the dunes, before the driver lets for better Grip a majority of the air out of the tires. The robust Landcruisers are perfect for this adrenaline rush, in the end a refreshment in the Bedouin camp is tempting.

10. Yas Waterworld

Abu Dhabi is not only a very hot holiday destination in midsummer and also the water in front of the coast has warm temperatures all year round. How good that visitors can cool off in the adventure pools of the Emirate. One of the most spectacular water parks is Yas Waterworld on the island of the same name, Yas Island. With its slides of various degrees of difficulty, the park is a paradise for bathers of all ages.

The brave ones dare the Liwa Loop. With this slide, guests are literally pulled away from the floor under their feet and slide almost in free fall. If you prefer a quieter atmosphere, visit Cinesplash, a 5D cinema with shaking seats and real water effects. The adventure pool also has the longest suspended roller coaster in the world, the Bandit Bomber.

More things to do and activities for your Abu Dhabi holiday

Best time to visit Abu Dhabi

We recommend the following months as best time to travel for exploring the attractions and acivities of Abu Dhabi:

January, February, March, April, May, June, September, October, November, and December

You can find more information about the weather, including all climate data, on our climate page for Abu Dhabi.

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