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Best Things To Do in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi boasts a fair number of expansive shopping centers (such as the Marina Mall) and luxury attractions (like Ferrari World). But the UAE's largest emirate is also an excellent place to learn more about the nation's traditions. Spend your days touring the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (one of only two mosques in the country to offer entry to non-Muslims), learning about falconry at the Falcon Hospital or exploring the traditional streets of Heritage Village. You'll also find plenty of cultural sites in the eastern city of Al Ain, including the Palace Museum and the Al Jahili Fort. And if prefer the great outdoors, schedule some time for Corniche Beach, the Jebel Hafeet summit or the Empty Quarter desert.

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Abu Dhabi

Free
Constructed between 1996 and 2007 at the request of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder and first president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is by far the most popular of Abu Dhabi's sights, and it's easy to see why. One of the largest mosques in the world, this house of worship features 82 domes, more than 1,000 columns and a white and gold facade. What's more, this is one of only two mosques in the UAE open to non-Muslim tourists. That means that visitors from all around the globe can walk across the world's largest hand-woven rug, gaze up at one of the world's largest chandeliers and admire the fusion of Fatimid, Mamluk and Ottoman architectural styles, representing three different Islamic dynasties.
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Churches/Religious Sites Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Constructed between 1996 and 2007 at the request of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder and first president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is by far the most popular of Abu Dhabi's sights, and it's easy to see why. One of the largest mosques in the world, this house of worship features 82 domes, more than 1,000 columns and a white and gold facade. What's more, this is one of only two mosques in the UAE open to non-Muslim tourists. That means that visitors from all around the globe can walk across the world's largest hand-woven rug, gaze up at one of the world's largest chandeliers and admire the fusion of Fatimid, Mamluk and Ottoman architectural styles, representing three different Islamic dynasties.
... more

#2

#2 in Abu Dhabi

Free
Stretching nearly 5 miles along the coast of Dhow Harbour — from the Heritage Park to the northeast to Emirates Palace in the southwest — the Corniche makes up the horizontal part of Abu Dhabi city's "T" shape. This seaside promenade is lined with some of the city's most popular hotels, not to mention a variety of restaurants and shops. According to recent visitors, The Corniche offers extensive views of the Persian Gulf and the city skyline. "If you can, rent a bicycle," one TripAdvisor user advised. "It's […] a bit too long for a walk, but just right for a bicycle ride." You'll find several rental shops where you can pick up a set of wheels: FunRideSports has five stations along the Corniche where you can pick up a bike starting at 30 AED (around $8 USD) per hour.
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Beaches Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
The Corniche
Stretching nearly 5 miles along the coast of Dhow Harbour — from the Heritage Park to the northeast to Emirates Palace in the southwest — the Corniche makes up the horizontal part of Abu Dhabi city's "T" shape. This seaside promenade is lined with some of the city's most popular hotels, not to mention a variety of restaurants and shops. According to recent visitors, The Corniche offers extensive views of the Persian Gulf and the city skyline. "If you can, rent a bicycle," one TripAdvisor user advised. "It's […] a bit too long for a walk, but just right for a bicycle ride." You'll find several rental shops where you can pick up a set of wheels: FunRideSports has five stations along the Corniche where you can pick up a bike starting at 30 AED (around $8 USD) per hour.
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#3

#3 in Abu Dhabi

Free
Like the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, Emirates Palace sets the standard for luxury lodging in Abu Dhabi. This sprawling resort says its goes "beyond 5-star luxury" for its clientele — who are oftentimes visiting royals and dignitaries. But you don't have to be a guest to experience what all the fuss is about. This resort — which occupies nearly 250 acres of coastline along the Corniche and stretches more than half a mile from wing to wing — has become one of Abu Dhabi city's most recognizable landmarks. Emirates Palace looks almost like a cross between the Taj Mahal and a fairy tale castle: The structure features more than 100 domes, the insides of which are decorated with gold, crystals and mother of pearl. More than 1,000 chandeliers and rich handmade carpets add to the interior's opulence, while outside the hotel, palm trees, lush gardens and bubbling fountains create an oasis effect.
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Emirates Palace
Like the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, Emirates Palace sets the standard for luxury lodging in Abu Dhabi. This sprawling resort says its goes "beyond 5-star luxury" for its clientele — who are oftentimes visiting royals and dignitaries. But you don't have to be a guest to experience what all the fuss is about. This resort — which occupies nearly 250 acres of coastline along the Corniche and stretches more than half a mile from wing to wing — has become one of Abu Dhabi city's most recognizable landmarks. Emirates Palace looks almost like a cross between the Taj Mahal and a fairy tale castle: The structure features more than 100 domes, the insides of which are decorated with gold, crystals and mother of pearl. More than 1,000 chandeliers and rich handmade carpets add to the interior's opulence, while outside the hotel, palm trees, lush gardens and bubbling fountains create an oasis effect.
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#4

#4 in Abu Dhabi

Surrounding the Liwa Oasis in the western part of the emirate is the Al Gharbia region, home to the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter). As the largest uninterrupted sand mass in the world, the Empty Quarter provides the perfect backdrop for a variety of desert excursions. Whether you'd prefer a more traditional camel trek or a wild dune buggy ride (often known as "dune-bashing"), a safari-style jeep ride or a birds-eye balloon tour, you'll find plenty of ways to explore the Arabian desert. A number of companies offer organized tours of the Empty Quarter; some of the more reputable options are Arabian Adventures, Emirates Tours, Abu Dhabi Adventure Tours and Abu Dhabi Desert Safari. Tours can be booked through the companies' websites, and the earlier you try to make reservations, the more likely it is that there will be availability.
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Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Desert Tours
Surrounding the Liwa Oasis in the western part of the emirate is the Al Gharbia region, home to the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter). As the largest uninterrupted sand mass in the world, the Empty Quarter provides the perfect backdrop for a variety of desert excursions. Whether you'd prefer a more traditional camel trek or a wild dune buggy ride (often known as "dune-bashing"), a safari-style jeep ride or a birds-eye balloon tour, you'll find plenty of ways to explore the Arabian desert. A number of companies offer organized tours of the Empty Quarter; some of the more reputable options are Arabian Adventures, Emirates Tours, Abu Dhabi Adventure Tours and Abu Dhabi Desert Safari. Tours can be booked through the companies' websites, and the earlier you try to make reservations, the more likely it is that there will be availability.
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#5

#5 in Abu Dhabi

Free
Rising more than 4,000 feet out of the desert and straddling the UAE-Oman border about 15 miles south of Al Ain, Jebel Hafeet stands as the tallest mountain in the emirate and the second-tallest mountain in the country. This mountain has played a significant role in Emirati history: Not only have several notable fossil discoveries been made here, but archaeologists have also unearthed more than 500 ancient burial sites in the Jebel Hafeet foothills. Yet most travelers don't plan a trip to this mountain because they're interested in history; rather, Jebel Hafeet offers what many road trip enthusiasts (including Edmunds.com and The Weather Channel) have deemed one of the best driving roads in the world. The road weaves its way through the mountain's limestone up to the summit, where you'll find the Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet hotel, as well as beautiful views of Al Ain and neighboring Oman. Many recent travelers recommend making the drive late in the afternoon to enjoy the sunset from the mountaintop.
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Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Jebel Hafeet & The Al Ain Camel Souk
Rising more than 4,000 feet out of the desert and straddling the UAE-Oman border about 15 miles south of Al Ain, Jebel Hafeet stands as the tallest mountain in the emirate and the second-tallest mountain in the country. This mountain has played a significant role in Emirati history: Not only have several notable fossil discoveries been made here, but archaeologists have also unearthed more than 500 ancient burial sites in the Jebel Hafeet foothills. Yet most travelers don't plan a trip to this mountain because they're interested in history; rather, Jebel Hafeet offers what many road trip enthusiasts (including Edmunds.com and The Weather Channel) have deemed one of the best driving roads in the world. The road weaves its way through the mountain's limestone up to the summit, where you'll find the Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet hotel, as well as beautiful views of Al Ain and neighboring Oman. Many recent travelers recommend making the drive late in the afternoon to enjoy the sunset from the mountaintop.
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#6

#6 in Abu Dhabi

Free
Sitting about a block west of the Palace Museum is the striking Al Jahili Fort. Built in the late 1800s, Al Jahili is the largest edifice in Al Ain made from mud bricks (a traditional form of Arabian architecture), and it has recently been refurbished for public visitation. The structure was erected as the headquarters of the Oman Trucial Scouts, a group tasked with the protection of the region's palm groves and the preservation of peace between the different tribes that once occupied the area. Today, visitors are welcome to explore the fort's battlements and watchtowers, which surround an expansive courtyard that often acts as a backdrop for outdoor concerts. Al Jahili also houses a small exhibit dedicated to British explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger (fondly known in the UAE as "Mubarak Bin London), who is known for his journeys across the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) desert.
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Al Jahili Fort
Sitting about a block west of the Palace Museum is the striking Al Jahili Fort. Built in the late 1800s, Al Jahili is the largest edifice in Al Ain made from mud bricks (a traditional form of Arabian architecture), and it has recently been refurbished for public visitation. The structure was erected as the headquarters of the Oman Trucial Scouts, a group tasked with the protection of the region's palm groves and the preservation of peace between the different tribes that once occupied the area. Today, visitors are welcome to explore the fort's battlements and watchtowers, which surround an expansive courtyard that often acts as a backdrop for outdoor concerts. Al Jahili also houses a small exhibit dedicated to British explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger (fondly known in the UAE as "Mubarak Bin London), who is known for his journeys across the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) desert.
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#7

#7 in Abu Dhabi

Free
The United Arab Emirates are a shopper's paradise: This wealthy country has no shortage of traditional souks (marketplaces) and high-end megamalls, with the Marina Mall being one of Abu Dhabi's most popular shopping venues. Located near Heritage Village on the Breakwater in the southwest corner of Abu Dhabi city, this immense shopping complex houses more than 400 stores, as well as a bowling alley, a movie theater, an ice rink and an amusement center complete with arcade games and rides. You'll also find a variety of restaurants and cafes in addition to a sprawling food court.
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Shopping Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Marina Mall
The United Arab Emirates are a shopper's paradise: This wealthy country has no shortage of traditional souks (marketplaces) and high-end megamalls, with the Marina Mall being one of Abu Dhabi's most popular shopping venues. Located near Heritage Village on the Breakwater in the southwest corner of Abu Dhabi city, this immense shopping complex houses more than 400 stores, as well as a bowling alley, a movie theater, an ice rink and an amusement center complete with arcade games and rides. You'll also find a variety of restaurants and cafes in addition to a sprawling food court.
... more

#8

#8 in Abu Dhabi

Free
When the blazing Arabian heat starts to take its toll, you can find respite at the Al Ain Oasis. Occupying nearly 3,000 acres of central Al Ain, this quiet park is best known for its date palms — nearly 150,000 of them. These towering trees are part of plantations (some of them privately owned) that still help supply Abu Dhabi with the popular regional snack. Meanwhile, you'll have a chance to witness the ancient irrigation tactic known as "falaj," which is still used to water the mango, orange, banana and fig trees. While you walk around, keep your eyes open for the remains of an old mosque and fortification, and keep your camera primed to capture the stark contrast between the verdant oasis and the dry desert.
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Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Al Ain Oasis
When the blazing Arabian heat starts to take its toll, you can find respite at the Al Ain Oasis. Occupying nearly 3,000 acres of central Al Ain, this quiet park is best known for its date palms — nearly 150,000 of them. These towering trees are part of plantations (some of them privately owned) that still help supply Abu Dhabi with the popular regional snack. Meanwhile, you'll have a chance to witness the ancient irrigation tactic known as "falaj," which is still used to water the mango, orange, banana and fig trees. While you walk around, keep your eyes open for the remains of an old mosque and fortification, and keep your camera primed to capture the stark contrast between the verdant oasis and the dry desert.
... more
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#9

#9 in Abu Dhabi

Free
Sitting on the western edge of the Al Ain Oasis, the Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum (also known as the Al Ain Palace Museum) offers visitors a glimpse of what life was like for the UAE's founder and first president. Built in 1910, this large complex housed Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his family while he was in power. Visitors to the museum can learn more about the "Father of the Nation" as they wander through the palace's courtyards, gardens and sleeping quarters. You'll also have to opportunity to peek into the meeting rooms where Sheikh Zayed met with visiting dignitaries and other guests.
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Castles/Palaces Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum
Sitting on the western edge of the Al Ain Oasis, the Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum (also known as the Al Ain Palace Museum) offers visitors a glimpse of what life was like for the UAE's founder and first president. Built in 1910, this large complex housed Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his family while he was in power. Visitors to the museum can learn more about the "Father of the Nation" as they wander through the palace's courtyards, gardens and sleeping quarters. You'll also have to opportunity to peek into the meeting rooms where Sheikh Zayed met with visiting dignitaries and other guests.
... more

#10

#10 in Abu Dhabi

Free
Although Abu Dhabi is constantly evolving, remnants of the UAE's heritage are easy to find. If you're interested in learning more about Abu Dhabi's roots, consider a visit to Heritage Village. Set across the Dhow Harbour from the Corniche, Heritage Village is a representation of the original fishing village that once stood here. While touring this living museum, you'll stroll past Bedouin tents and wooden huts housing workshops where you can watch weaving and metal-working demonstrations. The facility also features a restaurant and several shops where you can pick up local crafts and spices.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Heritage Village
Although Abu Dhabi is constantly evolving, remnants of the UAE's heritage are easy to find. If you're interested in learning more about Abu Dhabi's roots, consider a visit to Heritage Village. Set across the Dhow Harbour from the Corniche, Heritage Village is a representation of the original fishing village that once stood here. While touring this living museum, you'll stroll past Bedouin tents and wooden huts housing workshops where you can watch weaving and metal-working demonstrations. The facility also features a restaurant and several shops where you can pick up local crafts and spices.
... more

#11

#11 in Abu Dhabi

Fans of racing will feel at home in Abu Dhabi. While those more interested in Abu Dhabi's heritage make their way to the camel race tracks near Al Ain, travelers with a need for speed need only look to the Yas Marina Circuit for their fill of fast cars. One of the world's most technologically innovative racing venues, the Yas Marina Circuit hosts Grand Prix and Formula 1 races, but when the professionals aren't burning rubber, visitors are welcome to test out the track. Here, you have your choice of racing a variety of vehicles, including go-karts, Mercedes-Benz vehicles and even Aston Martins.
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Amusement Parks Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Yas Marina Circuit & Ferrari World
Fans of racing will feel at home in Abu Dhabi. While those more interested in Abu Dhabi's heritage make their way to the camel race tracks near Al Ain, travelers with a need for speed need only look to the Yas Marina Circuit for their fill of fast cars. One of the world's most technologically innovative racing venues, the Yas Marina Circuit hosts Grand Prix and Formula 1 races, but when the professionals aren't burning rubber, visitors are welcome to test out the track. Here, you have your choice of racing a variety of vehicles, including go-karts, Mercedes-Benz vehicles and even Aston Martins.
... more

#12

#12 in Abu Dhabi

One of Abu Dhabi's more obscure attractions is the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital: This functioning animal care unit is devoted to the health of falcons, which have long played an important role in Emirati society. Falconry has been practiced in the UAE for thousands of years: Bedouins used falcons to help them hunt and scavenge for food. Today, falconry is more of a sport than a necessity as hunting is now restricted in Abu Dhabi. But the birds are still revered — domesticated falcons are even granted their own UAE passports. Having opened in 1999, the ADFH cares for more than 8,500 falcons each year.
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Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
One of Abu Dhabi's more obscure attractions is the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital: This functioning animal care unit is devoted to the health of falcons, which have long played an important role in Emirati society. Falconry has been practiced in the UAE for thousands of years: Bedouins used falcons to help them hunt and scavenge for food. Today, falconry is more of a sport than a necessity as hunting is now restricted in Abu Dhabi. But the birds are still revered — domesticated falcons are even granted their own UAE passports. Having opened in 1999, the ADFH cares for more than 8,500 falcons each year.
... more
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