Best Things To Do In Dubai: The Superlative City

The city of superlatives, Dubai boasts multiple records for the world’s biggest, tallest, and longest, providing really unique things to see and do. Like the world’s largest man-made archipelago, the world’s tallest building, the world’s largest indoor gold souk, the world’s largest observation wheel, and many more. On top of this, the exotic flair of its Middle Eastern location and the glamorous appeal of its glittering skyscrapers add to its intrigue.

The most populous of 7 emirates in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), it’s ranked among the world’s top most cosmopolitan cities. Foreigners make up more than a staggering 80% of the population, all living together harmonious. Plus it’s contemporary, clean, and safe. All making Dubai an interesting and chic destination.

Best Things To Do In Dubai

Dubai Marina Walk

Marina Walk is a little over 5 miles (8 km) of spacious, meandering promenade along Dubai Canal, lined with prestigious high rises, restaurants, and shops. The promenade is always full of families out walking, kids riding cycles, joggers, and tourists. The perfect place to people watch and soak up the ambiance here.

Marina walk is one of the best things to do in Dubai.
Dubai Marina

It’s also beautiful at night, and very safe to walk solo.

Marina walk is one of the best things to do in Dubai.
mohammed Bin Ahmed Al Mulla Mosque

Other activities here include booking a boat tour from the marina, visiting Dubai Marina Mall, or touring beautiful Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al Mulla Mosque, which people of all faiths can visit.

How To Get To Marina Walk: Take the metro to Sobha Realty Metro Station, then head to the JLT exit and cross the pedestrian overpass to get to Dubai Marina Walk. You can also take the tram from Dubai Marina to Marina Towers, then walk 5-minutes.

Dubai Marina Beach

The clean white sand and gentle waves at this Persian Gulf public beach makes for an ideal afternoon of relaxation and sun. In true Dubai style, there are also many swanky lounging options if you want something fancier than a beach towel.

And if you want something more active, there are also plenty of water sport options, like jet skis, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), wakeboarding, parasailing, and more. When you need a break, this beach is also lined with tons of shops and restaurants, making this a very versatile destination.

Marina Beach is one of the best things to do in Dubai
Dubai Marina Beach With Palm Jereirah in The Distance

How To Get To Dubai Marina Beach: This beach is located on the sea side of the high rises at Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) and Marina Walk. To get here, take the metro to Jumeirah Beach Residence Station, then catch the tram or bus to the beach.

Dubai Marina Beach one of the best things to do in Dubai
Dubai Marina Beach

How To Dress At The Beaches in Dubai: You’re free to wear typical western beachwear, including bikinis, at Dubai’s cosmopolitan beaches. Just make sure to dress respectably, covering arms and legs away from the beach. Muslims will also be at the beach wearing niqabs and thawbs, although, as Muslim dress is not a requirement here, it’s possible some also wear western beachwear.

Palm Jumeriah Island

Palm Jumeirah | Richard Schneider

The world’s largest man-made archipelago, Palm Jumeirah, has a 6.8 mile (11 km) boardwalk around its perimeter (known as the crescent), offering great views of the Persian Gulf and Dubai Marina skyline in the distance.

You can also arrange a variety of water activities with companies like Seayou, including stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), kayaking, windsurfing, catamarans, and more. Or you can just relax and find a restaurant, bar, or public space to eat and drink while watching the sun sink beyond the Persian Gulf.

View From Palm Jumeirah, one of the best things to do in Dubai
View of Dubai Marina From Palm Jumeirah Island

Palm Jumeirah is also home to Atlantis, The Palm. This iconic luxury hotel is a destination in itself with Aquaventure Waterpark, Lost Chamber Aquarium, and Dolphin Bay, as well as multiple restaurants. Water entertainment activities do have fees, although some are complimentary with the Go Dubai Card.

Sunset from Palm Jumeirah, one of the best things to do in Dubai
Sunset on Palm Jumeirah

How To Get To Palm Jumeirah: There’s a monorail from mainland Dubai to the island, and an underwater tunnel links the top Palm frond to the crescent. The closest metro stations to the monorail are Al Khail and Internet City. Or you can take the Red Line to Damac station (Marina) and take a tram. Atlantis, The Palm is a short walk from the last stop on the monorail.

Bluewaters Island

This man-made, family friendly island boasts the world’s largest observation wheel, Ain Dubai, putting the London Eye to shame. Making it even cooler, there’s a pedestrian bridge over the Persian Gulf from Dubai Marina Beach to get to Bluewaters island. The island is also full of shopping and dining, a variety of accommodation for locals and tourists, as well as prime beaches, like Caesar’s Cove Beach.

How To Get To Bluewaters Island: If walking from Marina Beach, take the pedestrian bridge to the island. You can also take a taxi or drive.

Other Man-Made Islands In Dubai

Dubai was in progress with other man-made archipelagos, planned to be even larger than Palm Jereimah. Unfortunately, many of these were placed on hold due to the 2008 financial crisis and again by the pandemic.

Palm Jebel Ali Island: Also designed as a palm, but 50% larger than Palm Jumeirah, construction for Palm Jebel Ali started in 2002, but remains incomplete.

Deira Islands: The third Palm island, also halted, was intended to be 8 times the size of Palm Jumeirah. The most recent plan was to convert Deira into 4 smaller islands. One planned to contain the worlds largest night market, or Night Souk, with over 5,000 shops and almost 100 eateries.

The World: This man-made archipelago is made of 300 small islands shaped like the world map. Along with being hindered by the financial crises and pandemic, it is also reportedly sinking, with only a few countries completed.

The Universe: Also on hold, this archipelago was planned to look like the Milky Way and Solar system, surrounding The World.

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa, designed by Armani, is the world’s tallest building and the building with the most stories. It stands almost 1/2 mile tall, at 2,722’ (829.8 m). Three times taller than the Eiffel Tower, the sphere at its peak can be seen up to 59 miles (95 km) away.

There are two observatory levels, the 124th floor, which the elevator ascends to in an astonishing 60 seconds, and the 148th floor. The tour to the 124th floor is referred to as ‘At The Top’, but isn’t really. Tickets can sell out days in advance, so book early.

Visiting Burj Kalifa, one of the best things to do in Dubai
Burj Khalifa

Optional activities here include an aquarium, fun photos with a green screen (like one of you climbing Burj Khalifa), and there’s also a bar with a view for cocktails.

If you visit over the holidays, make sure to see the spectacular New Years Eve fireworks and laser show off the Burj Khalifa.

The view from Burj Khalifa, the best things to do in Dubai
View From The 124th Floor

The Dubai Fountain

The world’s tallest performing fountain, the Dubai Fountain, sits at the base of Burj Kalifa. It performs every 30 minutes with songs from classic to contemporary Arabic and world music.

How To Get To Burj Khalifa: The entrance to access the elevator for the observation decks is at the lower level of Dubai Mall, opposite the food court. The closest Metro Station is Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall Metro Station. From there, take the Metro Link Bridge to the mall.

Burj Al Arab

Dubia’s opulent and most iconic hotel is Burj Al Arab, the world’s only 7 star hotel. It stands on a man-made Island near Jumeirah beach.

Note that you cannot enter the hotel or grounds without a room or meal reservation. One of the cheapest ways in is to book a table at the Skyview Lounge and have a cocktail (reserve early!). I ate dinner at Al Muntaha, its Michelin chef French restaurant. Just my glass of wine was over $100. A rare splurge. But the Seabass with foie gras and figs in a port reduction was unforgettable…and the view was amazing.

Visiting Burj Al Arab is one of the best things to do in Dubai
Burj Al Arab Hotel

Other guest amenities (for those booking a room) include a spa, pool, and private beach access with many water sport options.

How To Get To Burj Al Arab: Located northeast of Dubai Marina, you can travel by taxi or a combination metro and taxi or metro and bus. Take bus 81 from Dubai Mall or Mall of the Emirates.

Global Village

Global Village is boasted as the world’s largest tourism, leisure, shopping, and entertainment center. Open mainly in evenings, the colorfully lit buildings make a striking impact against the dark sky. And with 6 million visits a year, it’s lively, with a family-friendly feel, full of people of all ages from all over the world.

It has 26 pavilions representing 90 countries. Each loaded with experiences from its respective culture, including food, music, clothes, products, and souvenirs.

Visiting Global Village is one of the best things to do in Dubai
Global Village

The Taj Mahal, for example, was full of gold jewelry. And there were a lot of people buying! You can learn Persian history in Iran, bargain at bazaars in India, and eat Italian in Italy…all in one day…

Visiting Global Village is one of the best things to do in Dubai
Taj Mahal, Global Village

The USA is represented as the Wild West (lol).

Visiting Global Village is one of the best things to do in Dubai

There are also concerts, shows, and amusement rides, making it a true family entertainment venue.

How To Get To Global Village: Located at Sheikh Mohamed Zayed and Emirates Road, the park can be reached by local bus, taxi, or car. Click here for the most recent bus information. This venue is usually only open October to mid-April, when the temperatures are most comfortable, but please verify as these sometimes change.

Miracle Garden

Miracle Garden claims to be the world’s largest natural flower garden, with over 50 million flowers in creative arrangements in a 780,000 feet² (72,000 m²) space. It also features a Butterfly Garden with over 15,000 butterflies (this area has a separate entrance).

Visiting Miracle Gardens is one of the best things to do in Dubai

The gardens are usually only open from November to March, due to the heat in summer. The best time to visit is January and February.

How To Get To Miracle Garden: Via Metro, take the Red Line to the Mall of Emirates. From there, take RTA bus 105 to Miracle Garden. Taxis are also an option.

Historic Dubai Creek Area, or Khor Dubai

Amidst all the glamorous newness here, there actually is an historic core to learn about Dubai’s roots. Khor Dubai, or the Dubai Creek area is an inlet in the Persian Gulf where the first settlers arrived.

At the time, this was just a small fishing village. It was also famous for pearls and pearl diving, until the development of cultured pearls.

In the Al Fahidi historical neighborhood here, or Al Bastakiya, you can cruise on a traditional abra boat and see local boat making shops.

You can also visit a fortress from the 1700’s, Al Fahidi, that now houses the Dubai Museum (which is currently closed for renovations). There are also other museums, like the Coffee Museum, with coffee from around the world, and galleries to explore, like XVA Gallery, which features contemporary art in the Arab world. And if you want experience local foods, this is the ideal area for that. The best way to get here is via taxi.

The Gold Souk

Dubai’s Gold Souk is the world’s largest indoor gold souk. I’ve never seen so much gold in my life! With over 300 shops, people come here from India, Pakistan, and all over the world to buy gold. I was told, however, that if you look western, they start negotiating at a higher price point. Bring a local if you can!

Shop for gold, one of the best things to do in Dubai.
Gold Souk

How To Get To The Gold Souk: Located near the Al Fahidi Historical district, you can drive, take a taxi, or take the metro. The closest metro stop is Al Ras Metro Station.

Dubai Mall

Dubai is a shopping mecca. There are many malls here, with Dubai Mall as not only its largest here, but also the largest in the world (by area). It’s 12 million square feet, which is about 50 football fields.

The malls are not just for shopping, they’re also entertainment centers, with places like the Discovery Center, an aquarium, an underwater zoo, several cinemas, and an ice rink.

Dubai Mall

In true Dubai fashion, there are also fancy cars if you want to get somewhere in style.

How To Get To Dubai Mall: The closest Metro Station is Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall Metro Station. From there, take the Metro Link Bridge to the mall.

Ski Dubai

This unique experience is in the mall of the Emirates, another large mall in Dubai. Ski Dubai has (22,500 m²) of indoor ski area with a 278’ (85 m) mountain and 1,312’ (400 m) run. It even has a quad lift to take skiers and snowboarders to the top of the mountain. In addition to skiing, there’s also an area for sledding, climbing, and playing in the snow and ice.

And if you didn’t bring your coat or equipment, you can rent/buy everything you need. Of course!

How To Get To Ski Dubai: Located in Emirates Mall, you can take the Red Line to the Emirates Mall Metro Station.

Museum Of The Future

The Arabic words on this elliptical building, reported poetry from Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, are illuminated at night. The Museum of the Future. reportedly showcases some of the most important innovations in the world and thought-provoking solutions for future challenges.

Museum of the Future | Lyonerov

This museum opened in 2022 and tickets are still in high demand, so make sure to book yours in advance!

Other Things To Do In Dubai

Water Adventures

There are a variety of options for boats, catamarans, and yachts to see the main sights in Dubai. I took a sunset catamaran ride out past the island and Burj Al Arab and watched the sun set behind the city.

Desert Adventures

Other popular options are to venture out of the city to explore the desert. The most traditional offering is a Camel Safari. Some include overnight stays and are paired with traditional dinners and a ride at sunrise. For something that provides more adrenaline, you can ride 4 x 4’s or Quad bikes over Dubai’s sand dunes. Hot air balloon rides and sand surfing are also options. Check with your hotel, Viator, or Airbnb Experiences to see the latest offerings.

Skydive Over Palm Jumeirah

For an even better adrenals rush, skydive from 13,000’ over Palm Jumeirah Island. Skydive Dubai is one of the top companies and offers tandem jumps with a certified instructor. They also provide photos and video. If it’s your birthday, they offer a discount.

Watch The Sunset From A Rooftop Bar

There are many rooftop bars in Dubai, offering stunning views of the area. Just a few include, Level 43 of the Four Points by Sheraton, Ce La Vi at Address Sky View, Pure Sky Lounge at the Hilton Dubai, Bibe Roof Top Bar at JA Lake View Hotel, and Atelier M in the Pier 7 complex at Dubai Marina.

There are always new places opening up, so check with your hotel for the latest and greatest. The best time to visit these bars is late afternoon, pre-sunset.

Contemporary Art Galleries

Dubai also has a flourishing contemporary art scene. A great spot to experience a variety of galleries is in the Al Quoz neighborhood on Alserkal Avenue. You can wander from gallery to gallery around several blocks, with plenty of options for restaurants and shops in between. If you’re really into art, check out Dubai’s international art fair in March, Art Dubai.

Contemporary Art In Dubai

How To Get To The Al Quoz Neighborhood: Alserkal Avenue is located between Dubai Mall and Dubai Marina. The best way to get here is via taxi.

Day Trips From Dubai

If you still have time and want to see more of the UAE, there are several day trips with intersting sites. Abu Dhabi, the second most visited emirate, is home to the iconic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, and Ferrari World Park.

Sharjah, the most populous emirate, a short 9 miles (15 km) from Dubai, is a great cultural stop, with the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilizations, the Sharjah Art Museum, the Science Museum, and more. It’s also loaded with family friendly entertainment like Al Montazah water park, the Eye of the Emirates Wheel, and a butterfly house on Al Noor Island.

To lean more about visiting the UAE, what to see, how to get around, money matters, tipping, safety, what not to do, and more, see the UAE Travel Guide.

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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