While Dubai can easily be a stopover city where you hit the big sites in a couple of days, there’s a surprising amount of things to do here for those looking to spend more time.
I loved my time in Dubai more than I thought I would! It’s a city trapped between the old and the new. A place in a conservative culture with old world customs while at the same time a Middle-Eastern Vegas where anything goes (so long as it’s behind closed doors).
I was surprised at how much there was to do in this city – and how even in a week I barely scratched the surface.
The tallest building in the world lets you go up to the 128th floor for 100 AED (€27 USD). From there, you get panoramic views of the city and desert. I would highly recommend it (but don’t pay 500 AED (€136 USD) for the 148th floor. It’s not that much of a difference!). At night, the building is illuminated by a spectacular light show of fish, palm trees, and other scenes while the fountain below dances to music.
The marina area is surrounded by tall buildings and contains a beautiful boardwalk. You can see the fancy boats and get some stunning photographs of the harbor and skyline. Be sure to check out Pier 7, which is seven floors of restaurants and bars on the water
Visit Old Dubai – This is Dubai as it used to be. Markets (like the famous gold market) pepper the area, small shops line the streets, and you can get lost in a maze of alleyways. Take a boat across the river, wander aimlessly, visit the Dubai Museum, eat at some of the traditional restaurants, explore the art district, and see Dubai as it is away from the glitz of the malls and high-rises.
Located in nearby Abu Dhabi, the Grand Mosque is definitely worth a half-day trip. It’s a 90-minute drive from Dubai (about 290 AED each way in a taxi or 40 AED on the bus), and you’ll want to make sure you wear appropriate clothing. They do have cover-up items available there, however, for anyone without suitable attire. Admission is free.
Take a desert safari – If you want to get a taste of the desert, head out on a day-long safari with Arabian Adventure. You’ll be able to ride a horse or a camel, hold a falcon, explore the desert, and eat some traditional food. A day-long excursion will cost around 315 AED. (there are other desert safaris that may be cheaper, but this is the full experience).
In a city full of opulent hotels, the Burj al Arab is like no other. Located on its own private artificial island, the Burj is constructed like the sail of a boat—and has served as a shimmering symbol of glamour and opulence in Dubai’s ever-evolving coastline since its completion in 1999. It’s often mistakenly cited as the world’s first seven star hotel (even the owner insist it’s only five star) but one can hardly blame the world for jumping to such conclusions when the Burj boasts features such as its own helipad, a fleet of Rolls Royces, and a bridge that shoots jet flames to acknowledge the arrival of VIPs.
Afternoon tea at Skyview Bar in the Burj Al Arab in Dubai costs about AED 650 (€120) per person. Additional Burj Al Arab entrance fee is applicable to AED 100 per person for a window table where guests can enjoy the views of major attractions in Dubai.
Perched on the 25th floor of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, the Royal Suite is a sight for sore eyes. The Burj is famous for its striking sail-shape design, and the lavish suite, which is one of the most expensive hotel rooms in the world, has an average price tag of €24,000 a night.
Dubai is often described as Las Vegas without the casinos. It certainly likes to do things on a grand scale. Supersized hotels, buffets, malls, amusement parks, aquariums, designer cars and luxury yachts are all commonplace. Expect to crane your neck looking up at the world’s tallest building — the Burj Khalifa — and then score a dizzying number of Instagram likes with a photo taken in front of the world’s largest flower arrangement (five million blooms set in the shape of an Airbus A380 plane, thanks to the Dubai Miracle Garden).
Don’t be afraid of the heights, mega brunches or the 16-lane Sheikh Zayed Road that is the spinal column of Dubai. Indulge in the emirate’s excesses; put that elastic belt to the test, skydive out of a plane, spend like no one is watching and enjoy the year-round sunshine on more than 10 miles of wide sandy beaches.
Moderation doesn’t suit this place. Go big, and then go home!
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