Dubai is one of those magical places that sits at the top of every traveler’s must-see list. It’s a playground for children and adults alike that continues to get more exciting every day. The tourism centre of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai has been working hard to shed its image of a travel destination for the exclusively rich and famous. Today, Dubai opens up for people of all culture, nationality, and social status. It’s a magnificent metropolis that combines state-of-the-art building structure with Old Town charm, natural beauty with cosmetic creations, and the oriental with the occidental.
Finding information about this lush city is no challenge, but it’s easy to get tired of the mainstream restaurants and supermalls – over 70 of them, in fact! Every day of the week you can find skydiving, skiing, surfing, racing, gambling, eating, drinking, dancing, and clubbing. If you can think it up, it exists in Dubai. Whether you’re visiting for a year or just a few hours of layover, you definitely want to make the most of your experience. But with so much choice, it’s easy to lose track of time, energy and money. Not to worry! We’ve checked with the best and created the ideal travel list for you to check off. For a more authentic Arabian experience, here’s a list of 15 of the most beautiful, fascinating, and exotic gems hidden within the city of Dubai.
15. Burj Park
Located at the base of the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa tower, Burj Park is the perfect location for an afternoon stroll through lush gardens. Pack a lunch for an impressive picnic or curl up with a book of Arabic poetry. If a slow stroll isn’t really your style, you can rent a bicycle at the opening gates of the park. Taking a walk after dinner to see the Dubai Fountain lit up at night comes highly recommended. The park is easily accessible downtown Dubai and has free entry 24 hours a day. Pets aren’t allowed but the park is home to many different species of beautiful birds you can photograph. If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive just in time to take part in a live concert, an outdoor fashion show, or an exclusive gala dinner.
14. Dubai Flea Market
If you haven’t been to the Dubai Flea Market yet, this is probably the best place to spend an afternoon. You never know the treasures you’ll find! You can get everything from clothes and furniture to textiles, ceramics, and antiques. Who wouldn’t love an authentic Arabic antique as a travel gift? The market consists of a number of non-commercial vendors selling exclusively second-hand and homemade artifacts. Usually open on Fridays and Saturdays from 1pm-5pm, entrance is free or minimal (~5 AED). Be sure to check out their website because the market moves around to different venues around the city. This would be a great chance to meet locals, ask questions about Dubai’s history, and learn about the rich Emirate culture. Plus, you’re sure to find some really nice things!
13. Shakeism (Milkshakes)
With a slogan like “Taste the Revolution,” how could you not give it a try? Shakeism is a milkshake bar located near the Mall of the Emirates with a thirst for democratic freedom. This is a perfect opportunity to see the rising new age culture in the UAE and maybe engage in a political discussion with one of the employees. The shakes are cheap and delicious – we recommend trying the Public Enemy (chocolate, caramel, espresso) or the Full Metal Jacket (banana, Nutella, Ferrero Rocher). Pair it with a grilled cheese or a waffle for a total comfort lunch. If milkshakes aren’t your style, you can always mix it up a bit with a yogoshake or a smoothie. Sometimes healthier really is the best option!
12. Ripe Night Market
Every Saturday night from 3pm to 9pm, the Al Barsha Pond Park is transformed into a night market street party. Ripe is an organization that grows local, fresh, and organic produce to distribute to the people of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It’s a great event to showcase the culmination of eastern plus western values and the celebration of food. Everybody has to eat! Ripe is a small team of international workers dedicated to promoting healthy eating – even in the urban desert. On Saturday nights the team tries to spread the word by hosting movies, local artists and musicians, fitness groups, and children’s arts and crafts under a canopy of brightly glowing lights. Bring some friends for an evening of fruit and veg, handmade jewelry, colorful lanterns, and the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever witnessed!
11. Czar Club
Sometimes it’s nice to just kick back and enjoy the lavishness that is this bourgeoning metropolis. The Czar Russian Nightclub is the perfect place for a boys’ night out; especially if you’re in Dubai on layover to another travel destination, for a birthday, or better yet, a bachelor party. The drinks are tasty, the lights are bright, and the go-go dancers are phenomenal. Every night they showcase different artistic talent like DJs, singers, bands, dancers, and performers. Located on the ground floor of the Capitol Hotel, this club is open until 3am with live bands every night from around the world. Not Russian? No worries. This bar is open to everyone looking to have a great time. If you feel like treating yourself to something special, you must try this place out.
10. Coffee Museum
We all want to make the most of our travels, but it’s easy to get run down when you don’t want to miss a thing. What better solution than coffee? This coffee museum is located in the beautiful Al Fahidi historical district of Dubai and is a great place to grab an espresso and an impressive gift for your boss. The museum is divided into two floors; the first for a bit of training on different countries’ roasting styles and the second for books and a cozy café. Check out the recipe books and the latte art pens! This place is perfect for coffee lovers or those looking to spice up their morning routines. Poke your head around for some exotic coffee grinders from all different corners of the world.
9. Al Ghantoot Beach
Before locals complained and got the celebrations shut down, Al Ghantoot beach was alive and hopping with party people from across the globe. Located on the border between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, this little piece of paradise is a quiet spot for a relaxing afternoon to burn off some energy and soak up the sun. A cheap day pass will get you access to the beach and if you don’t feel like packing a lunch you can always buy a hotdog or a hamburger to snack on. Skiing and wakeboarding lessons are offered – but they cost extra. To make your stay extra-special, book into one of the local B&Bs to stay the night. Sleep in and take your time getting back to the hustle and bustle of city life.
8. Almaz by Momo (Shisha)
Have you ever experienced the seduction of pulling shisha through a delicately designed hookah? If you have the chance to do one authentically cultural Arabic thing, shisha comes highly recommended. Especially in the elegant Almaz. The art and Arabic music in this café makes it a must-go for every shisha enthusiast. Even if you aren’t a regular smoker, a little bit of shisha really is an enjoyable experience. After all, when in Rome! This flavored tobacco is easy and refreshing to smoke – plus, it’s sourced locally. The décor in Almaz will make you forget you’re inside the Mall of the Emirates which makes it an excellent spot to take a break. Enjoy a snack and a mocktail during a day of shopping!
7. The Jam Jar
Sometimes when we travel abroad we miss the comforts of urban western living. Comforts like organic produce, hip brands, and alternative lifestyles. Thejamjar is a community art space that supports DIY projects and educational initiatives. Is there anything hipper and more alternative than that? It’s been running for more than 10 years now and showcases visual arts, music, theatre, film, and much more. Thejamjar has easels, paints, art supplies, and a delicious coffee bar. All of which make it the perfect place for a family party or a first date. Another thing – don’t worry if you’re no Picasso. We can barely draw at all! Prices start at 110 AED (about $30 USD) and the projects are ideal for amateur artists. Look them up on Alserkal Avenue!
6. C. mondo
Everyone loves happy hour, right? Well what about a happy hour that lasted until 11pm? Every day? C. mondo is a cozy little lounge in the Centro Barsha hotel that’s a great place to catch up with old friends or watch your favorite sports team in peace. Kick back with a Cosmo, a Mojito, or a Pina Colada. Want to spend some more time with those people you met at the couchsurfing meet-up? Curious about new colleagues? Invite them to eat off C. mondo’s Euro-friendly menu. Comfort food can be a hot commodity on a long travel itinerary! This is a great chance to grab some comfort food without breaking the bank. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet other travelers in the process!
5. VOX Outdoor Cinema, Galleria Rooftop
The only thing better than watching a great flick on a huge screen is watching it on a rooftop patio under the stars, am I right? The VOX Cinema is located above the Galleria Mall and has two showings per night, seven nights a week. The cost to enter is 150 AED (about $40 USD) and includes a cozy blanket – plus a basket of snacks! Italian food and pastries are available to order and if it rains, you get your money back. What a great place to snuggle up with your partner and look for shooting stars! Make sure to double check their site before you head down – the cinema is closed during the hottest summer months but reopens again in the fall.
4. Bastakiya District (Old Dubai)
This tiny corner of Old Dubai city was established by pearl and textile traders from Iran. A walking tour of this neighborhood is like traveling through time to the late 19th century. The streets are lined with art galleries, cafes, B&Bs, and boutique gift shops. This is definitely a rare opportunity to learn about Persian culture and heritage within the Emirate lands. Educate yourself at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding while you explore the art and architecture of the district. Pop in to visit the local shops that sell sculptures, jewelry, and hand-crafted artifacts. If you get tired from walking, treat yourself to a meal of hummus, mixed kebab, and a steaming cup of Persian tea. It’s guaranteed to satisfy any hunger you have.
3. BiCE Sky Bar
This 10th floor Hilton Hotel bar absolutely has one of the most breathtaking views in the entire city of Dubai. It’s an excellent location to watch the sun set over the city skyline. Focused on delivering pleasure to expats, BiCE offers an extensive wine and cocktail list, Italian dishes featuring pork, and quiet corners reserved for romance. Admittedly a little pricey, this place is worth a visit if you’re looking to treat yourself to something special. Try the eggs benny with a mimosa for an extra-special brunch. Even if you only have the chance to drop by for dessert, this is a must-see for every excursionist. Check out their website for updates on the nights they have live music so you can be serenaded while you enjoy your tiramisu.
2. Black Palace Beach
This small strip of beach is a bit hard to find but is definitely worth the trouble. Located on Al Sufouh St, this little gem has excellent views of the Palm Jumeirah and the Burj Al Arab. This is a public beach with free admission, making it a great place to spend the day working on your tan. Hint – take your camera! The beach is a bit of a secret so you won’t have to fight crowds of people and you can get some great shots for your Instagram. The water is a gorgeous turquoise color and paired with the white sand it’s a dream background for any aspiring photographer! Be warned – there are no facilities so you’ll have to map out a bathroom route. Pack a picnic for the evening so you can watch the sunset!
1. Al Mushrif Bar
Itching to go see some dancing in the city of Dubai? Check out Al Mushrif, a nightclub with Lebanese singers, belly dancers, and a live orchestra to keep you tapping your toes until the wee hours of the morning. The bar is located on the 10th floor of the St. George Hotel and is a great place to stop for a drink before going out or a nightcap before settling into bed. Don’t plan to eat dinner here as the food menu is quite limited – this is more of a place to stop and have a snack. Listen to bands from all over the world as you relax with a cocktail. Marvel at the art of belly dancing and appreciate how those girls can move!