Emirates Palace#3 in Best Things To Do in Abu Dhabi
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.
Non-guests are welcome to enjoy a traditional hammam (Turkish bath) experience or a skin treatment at the Anantara Spa or grab a bite to eat at one of the hotel's nine restaurants. But most visitors were content simply wandering the grounds. One TripAdvisor user described Emirates Palace as "beautiful inside and out," adding, "I would recommend dressing nicely, to not feel out of place. It gives you a view of how 'the other half' lives." Some recent visitors recommend stopping in for afternoon tea, while others say that an evening visit is the way to go so that you can see the hotel all lit up.
You can reach the Emirates Palace (located in the southwest corner of Abu Dhabi city) by taxi or by bus — the Nos. 010 and 034 bus routes both service the Ras Al Akhdhar stop near the hotel, while several other buses run along Corniche Road, stopping within walking distance of Emirates Palace. You are welcome to tour the hotel at any time of day, free of charge; however, access may be restricted when the hotel is hosting official delegations. You are also welcome to stay at Emirates Palace, though you can expect to pay a pretty penny to bed down here. To learn more about Emirates Palace, visit the resort's website.
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#1 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.
Although it's not Abu Dhabi's oldest attraction, those who have visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque say that a stop here is a must for those who want a better understanding of the city's religious identity. The site is one of the world's most significant examples of contemporary Islamic architecture. You are welcome to explore the mosque on your own, but many travelers recommend tagging along on one of the free guided tours; tours take between 45 minutes and an hour and can be reserved in advance, or you can simply show up and wait for the next scheduled English tour. "Our guide was outstanding; no religion, just amazing facts and with his commentary we understood the incredible engineering, art [and] workmanship that make this so very special," according to one TripAdvisor user. Previous visitors highly recommend touring the mosque in the evening when the sunset reflects off the marble courtyard.
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