Are you planning your holiday in Abu Dhabi and want to know what you definitely shouldn’t miss? In this blog, we have compiled the most important things to do in Abu Dhabi and other highlights you should see or do there.
Discover the largest of the Arab Emirates and its unique atmosphere. An area where high-tech and tradition live side by side. From the modern architecture of the metropolis on the Arabian Gulf coast to the endless expanses of the Rub al-Khali, the largest sand desert on the planet.
1. Visit The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is undoubtedly one of the most impressive buildings and one of the most important sites in the city of Abu Dhabi. It is a must-see. Named after the late Sheikh Zayed, one of the founders and first president of the United Arab Emirates, it is one of the largest mosques in the world: it can hold up to 40,000 worshippers at any one time!
Take some time to visit and let the mosque work its magic on you. You might spot one of the seven huge chandeliers decorated with thousands of Swarovski crystals and made in Germany.
2. Discover Qasr Al Hosn, Abu Dhabi’s first settlement
Qasr Al Hosn, the city’s first fortified settlement, is one of Abu Dhabi’s most important historical sites. Its watchtower, built around 1761, is the oldest building in the emirate. The complex consists of two parts: the Inner Fort (built around 1795) and the Outer Fort (built between 1939 and 1945). After its expansion to include the Outer Fort, Qasr Al Hosn was the seat of government until the 1960s.
In 2018 it reopened as a museum after years of extensive conservation and restoration work. Today, you can learn a lot about Abu Dhabi’s history here, and about the astonishing transformation of a region whose population still lived mainly from fishing, pearl fishing and date farming in the early 20th century into one of the world’s most modern metropolises.
3. Take in the views at the Observation Deck at 300
For the most spectacular views of Abu Dhabi, visit the Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers hotel. More specifically, the Observation Deck at 300, located on the 74th floor of the second tower of the Etihad Towers. It’s the highest observation deck in Abu Dhabi and really worth the visit. The view of the skyline is breathtaking – perfect for panoramic photos!
And while you’re up there, why not treat yourself to the delights of the cafeteria? Some of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi are definitely related to food! Entrance to the lookout costs the equivalent of around 22 euros, but this includes a 12 euro voucher for the café. The luxurious afternoon tea, with exquisite teas accompanied by savoury and sweet nibbles, costs just under 58 euros per person.
4. Enjoy water sports at Sir Bani Yas
While it may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of the desert emirate, water sports enthusiasts are also rewarded in Abu Dhabi. A very special place to do them is Sir Bani Yas Island (not to be confused with the adventure island, Yas Island, which we’ll get to later).
Located about 250 km southwest of Abu Dhabi City, it is a natural paradise and a unique ecosystem. Home to numerous animal and plant species, its coastline offers excellent conditions for a variety of water sports. Diving enthusiasts, and snorkellers in particular, will be delighted by the underwater scenery. But it is also possible to practice kayaking, catamaran trips or paddle surfing.
More water sports: a must in your list of things to do in Abu Dhabi
And if that wasn’t enough, Abu Dhabi has much more to offer in terms of water sports. The Al Forsan International Sports Complex has a wakeboarding, water skiing and cable kneeboarding facility. The Yas Water Park on the island of the same name not only gets the hearts of all water-slide fans racing, but you can even dive for pearls here. And the Al Ain Adventure Park at the foot of Jebel Hafit, Abu Dhabi’s highest mountain, has surfing and rafting facilities.
5. Visit Abu Dhabi’s Louvre
After all the action, we now have some culture on the agenda. The Louvre Abu Dhabi Art Museum is the result of cooperation between the United Arab Emirates and France, and its name is inspired by the famous Louvre in Paris. This impressive, futuristic-looking building was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and is located on Saadiyat Island, directly on the water.
In addition to the exhibits, the building itself is also a work of art. The layout of the building is reminiscent of an Arab settlement. Above it is an elaborate dome construction made of 8,000 overlapping metal stars which, depending on the position of the sun, cast a “rain of light” on the buildings and water surfaces below. The best way to marvel is to take a guided kayak tour of the Louvre Abu Dhabi – a unique experience!
6. Spend a night in the desert
If you are looking for the best things to do in Abu Dhabi, you should take a trip to the desert. When else will you have this unique opportunity to drive through the largest sand desert in the world? The Rub al-Khali is also called the “Empty Quarter”. Its endless expanses and wild beauty are breathtaking. An unforgettable experience.
If you are adventurous, then we recommend a round of dune bashing! This is a kind of desert rally in an off-road vehicle, and there are several operators who offer these guided tours with experienced drivers. Driving along a dune ridge in a jeep is guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping.
To round off your trip to the desert, you should also spend the night there. The starry sky over the Rub al-Khali is simply spectacular. A very special overnight stay in the desert is, for example, glamping in the Jebel Hafit Desert Park at the foot of Abu Dhabi’s highest mountain. Here you will also have the opportunity to ride camels in the desert during the day.
7. Relax on the beach
After all that adventure, you deserve a bit of relaxation and rest – and what better place to relax than on the beach?
If you prefer something more exclusive and luxurious, you should treat yourself to a day pass at one of Abu Dhabi’s many beach clubs. For example, the Saadiyat Beach Club, the Yas Beach Club or the Nurai Private Island Resort on Nurai Island, which is only a 10-minute boat ride from Saadiyat Island.
You can also sunbathe and splash in the sea at one of the many beautiful public beaches. Corniche Beach, Kai Beqch and Yas Beach, for example, are great.