Abu Dhabi Travel Guide: Things to Do in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Sitting in the shadow of its more flashy brother Dubai, Abu Dhabi is often forgotten about by visitors to the United Arab Emirates. However, with a population of 1.5 million people and its status as the capital of one of the more progressive countries in the Middle East, Abu Dhabi deserves more recognition and respect than its currently receives from the world.

As with Dubai, Abu Dhabi began rapidly modernizing within the past generation, transforming from a boring seat of government to a rival worthy of its glitzier cousin in little more than a decade. Like Dubai, Abu Dhabi is a little light on culturally significant landmarks, but it more than makes up for it with the kind of largess that oil-earned mega-billions can buy.

Thus, if you are a fan of admiring the finer (or the more expensive) things in life, then a trip to the capital city of the United Arab Emirates will be well worth it.

Abu Dhabi skyline featuring impressive modern buildings in the United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi City Guide: A Brief History Of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, has a rich and fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. The region has been inhabited since prehistoric times, with archaeological evidence indicating that the area was once home to several ancient civilizations. Over the centuries, Abu Dhabi has been shaped by a variety of cultures, including the Bani Yas tribe, the Portuguese, the British, and various Arab and Islamic groups.

The Bani Yas tribe is credited with founding Abu Dhabi in the 18th century, when they migrated to the region from the Arabian Peninsula. The area was originally a small fishing village, but the Bani Yas quickly established themselves as a dominant force in the region, thanks in part to their strategic location along important trade routes. Under the leadership of Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa, the Bani Yas expanded their control over the surrounding desert and coastal areas, building a powerful tribal federation that would eventually become the United Arab Emirates.

In the 19th century, Abu Dhabi became an important hub for trade and commerce, thanks to its strategic location on the Persian Gulf. Traders from across the region flocked to the city to buy and sell goods, including pearls, spices, and textiles. During this period, Abu Dhabi was ruled by the Al-Nahyan family, who had gained control of the city in the early 18th century. The Al-Nahyan were known for their skillful diplomacy, and were able to maintain good relations with neighboring tribes and emirates, while also forging alliances with powerful European powers like the British.

In the early 20th century, Abu Dhabi was transformed by the discovery of oil in the region. The first oil fields were discovered in the late 1950s, and within a few years, Abu Dhabi had become one of the wealthiest cities in the world. The newfound wealth brought rapid development to the city, as new infrastructure was built and modern amenities were introduced. Today, Abu Dhabi is a modern metropolis that is known for its stunning architecture, world-class museums, and luxurious resorts.

Despite its rapid modernization, Abu Dhabi has worked hard to preserve its cultural heritage and traditions. Visitors to the city can still see remnants of its ancient past, including historic fortresses and mosques, as well as traditional markets and souks. The city is also home to a number of museums and cultural institutions that celebrate the history and culture of the region, including the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, the Abu Dhabi Heritage Village, and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Overall, Abu Dhabi’s rich and complex history has played an important role in shaping the city into the vibrant and cosmopolitan destination that it is today. From its early days as a small fishing village to its current status as a global economic powerhouse, Abu Dhabi has undergone a remarkable transformation over the centuries, and continues to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of its people and visitors alike.

Abu Dhabi Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in Abu Dhabi

Seeing how the predominant faith of this rich emirate is Islam, stopping by its most elaborate house of worship, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, should top the list of any culturally-attuned visitor to Abu Dhabi. Open during the morning on every day except for Friday (the Islamic Sabbath), this mosque will dazzle even the most jaded visitor with its pure white marble, gold trim, and a wide assortment of precious stones spread throughout the fixtures in this flagship mosque.

The marble mosaic, with its floral design, is said to be one of the largest in the world, and the carpet inside the main prayer hall is the largest carpet in existence. Be sure to be respectful when visiting this sacred place, as even Rihanna couldn’t get away with what was considered to be provocative behaviour when she was visiting the mosque a couple of years ago.

Next on our list of cultural attractions in Abu Dhabi is Qasr al-Hosn, a structure that started out as a fort that protected the only freshwater well in the area hundreds of years ago. Expanded to become a palace that housed the sheikh of Abu Dhabi, it is the oldest stone building still standing within city limits.

Known these days as the white fort due to a renovation that painted the greyish concrete surface of the structure to the lighter tone that adorns it today, Qasr al-Hosn is periodically open to the public each year for about one week during the annual festival bearing its name.

While there is a dearth of cultural attractions in Abu Dhabi at present, plans are afoot to change this in a dramatic way in the next five years. Saadiyat Island, an artificial isle that is under development as this article is being written, is slated to become Abu Dhabi’s cultural center, with a number of art galleries and museums such as a national museum and reproductions of the Guggenheim and the Louvre planned to be the centerpiece attractions of this new cultural hub of the United Arab Emirates.

Until then, the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation operates as the humble heart of this cities’ art community. Being conveniently located just steps from Qasr al-Hosn, this small space hosts art exhibitions, concerts, film screenings and much more!

Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

If modernity and monuments to financial wealth are appealing to you, there will be plenty for you to see and do in Abu Dhabi. Hitting Yas Island would be an advisable first stop on your itinerary, as it holds a high density of things to see and do. Motorheads will love Ferrari World, an indoor theme park that is the largest in the world. While we’re sad to report that you don’t actually get to race Ferraris here, all the rides here are themed around the car and the F1 racing team that Ferrari sponsors. A variety of attractions spans from go-karts shaped like Ferrari F1 cars, to V12, a flume ride that simulates a ride through one of the companies’ engines.

Additionally, Yas Waterworld has won accolades since its recent opening as one of the best parks in the world (noticing a theme here?), Yas Marina Circuit hosts a race in the prestigious Formula 1 racing league annually, and there are abundant shopping venues present here for those looking to give their credit card a workout.

Those seeking to stroll Abu Dhabi’s waterfront should head to Corniche, an urban walkway that spans the downtown area’s frontage on the Arabian Gulf. There are some stretches of sandy beach along the way for those looking to lounge in the sun, and there are countless playgrounds, stages for shows, and even a go-kart track to keep you and any children you might have with you thoroughly entertained.

Costing a cool fifty million to construct, Khalifa Park is widely regarded as one of Abu Dhabi’s cornerstone parks. Not just a green space in a busy urban jungle of glass, steel and concrete, this space also boasts beautiful fountains, an aquarium, a miniature railway, and a splash park for days when the heat becomes too much for your young ones to bear.

Top 10 Things To Do in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates For Visitors

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is a city that boasts of a rich cultural heritage, vibrant lifestyle, and fascinating landmarks. Whether you are interested in history, architecture, or leisure activities, Abu Dhabi has something for everyone. Here are the top 10 things to do in Abu Dhabi:

  1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: This stunning mosque is one of the largest in the world, with 82 domes and four minarets. The mosque features beautiful marble flooring, intricate mosaics, and exquisite chandeliers, making it a must-visit attraction.
  2. Ferrari World: For thrill-seekers and car enthusiasts, Ferrari World is an exciting destination. This indoor amusement park features the fastest roller coaster in the world, as well as a variety of other adrenaline-pumping rides and attractions.
  3. Emirates Palace: This luxurious hotel is a symbol of Abu Dhabi’s opulence and wealth. Visitors can explore the palace’s stunning architecture and indulge in high-end shopping, dining, and spa experiences.
  4. Yas Island: This man-made island is home to several attractions, including Yas Waterworld, Yas Marina Circuit, and the Yas Mall. Visitors can enjoy a range of activities, from water sports to shopping and dining.
  5. Qasr Al Hosn: This historic fortress served as the residence of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family for centuries. Today, the fortress has been restored and transformed into a museum, offering visitors a glimpse into the city’s past.
  6. Saadiyat Island: This island is home to several cultural institutions, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, and the soon-to-be-opened Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Visitors can explore world-class exhibitions and cultural events.
  7. Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital: For a unique experience, visitors can visit the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital and learn about the importance of falcons in Emirati culture. Guests can even interact with the majestic birds.
  8. Corniche: This picturesque waterfront is a popular spot for walking, jogging, and cycling. Visitors can enjoy views of the Abu Dhabi skyline and the Arabian Gulf.
  9. Al Ain Oasis: This UNESCO World Heritage site is a lush oasis in the heart of the desert. Visitors can explore the gardens and learn about traditional falaj irrigation systems.
  10. Al Ain Zoo: This expansive zoo is home to over 4,000 animals, including endangered species. Visitors can enjoy up-close encounters with the animals and learn about conservation efforts.

Abu Dhabi offers a wide range of activities and attractions that cater to all interests. Whether you are interested in history, culture, or leisure activities, you will find something to enjoy in this vibrant city.

Machboos is a must try dish when visiting Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

What To Eat and Drink in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, is a cultural melting pot that boasts a rich culinary heritage. The city offers an array of mouth-watering dishes and beverages that cater to a variety of tastes and preferences.

If you’re looking to experience the local cuisine, then you should definitely try the famous Emirati dish, Machboos. This flavorful rice dish is cooked with an aromatic blend of spices, meat (typically chicken or lamb), and vegetables, which gives it a unique taste that’s sure to delight your taste buds. Another must-try Emirati dish is Luqaimat, a sweet dessert made of deep-fried dough balls, and drizzled with syrup.

When it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine, Abu Dhabi has a lot to offer. One of the most popular Middle Eastern dishes is Shawarma, which is essentially a sandwich made of shaved meat (chicken or lamb), vegetables, and a variety of sauces, all wrapped in a pita bread. Falafel is another Middle Eastern dish that you should not miss, especially if you’re a vegetarian. These deep-fried balls made from ground chickpeas are usually served in a pita bread with vegetables and sauce.

Hummus is another popular Middle Eastern dip that you must try. Made from mashed chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic, it is usually served with bread or vegetables. Labneh is a thick and creamy strained yogurt that is another Middle Eastern favorite, often served as a dip or with bread.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try camel milk, a traditional Emirati beverage that is increasingly becoming popular worldwide due to its numerous health benefits. Arabic coffee is another popular drink in Abu Dhabi. This strong and flavorful coffee is typically served with dates, which symbolize hospitality in the Emirati culture. Mint lemonade, a refreshing drink made with lemon juice, mint leaves, and sugar, is another popular beverage that you can find in most restaurants and cafes.

Finally, Kunafa is a Middle Eastern dessert that you should try at least once during your stay in Abu Dhabi. Made of shredded pastry dough, cheese, and syrup, this sweet delicacy is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

In conclusion, Abu Dhabi is a food lover’s paradise that offers an endless variety of delicious and authentic dishes and beverages. Whether you prefer traditional Emirati cuisine or are looking to explore Middle Eastern flavors, you are sure to find something that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you wanting more.

Tours For Visitors To Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, is a popular destination for tourists from all around the world. With its rich culture, stunning architecture, and beautiful natural scenery, there’s plenty to see and do in this vibrant city. Here are some of the best tours you can take as a visitor to Abu Dhabi:

  1. Abu Dhabi City Tour: This tour takes you to the city’s most famous landmarks, including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Emirates Palace, and the Abu Dhabi Corniche. You’ll also get to visit the Heritage Village and the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital.
  2. Desert Safari: A desert safari is a must-do experience when in Abu Dhabi. You’ll be able to explore the beautiful sand dunes and enjoy activities such as dune bashing, camel riding, and sandboarding. This tour typically includes a traditional Arabic dinner and entertainment.
  3. Yas Island Tour: Yas Island is a man-made island that is home to some of Abu Dhabi’s most famous attractions, such as Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld, and Warner Bros. World. This tour allows you to explore the island and enjoy its many attractions.
  4. Dhow Dinner Cruise: A dhow is a traditional Arabian boat that has been used for centuries for trading and fishing. This tour takes you on a romantic cruise along the Abu Dhabi Corniche while you enjoy a delicious dinner and live entertainment.
  5. Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Tour: This tour allows you to get up close and personal with the majestic falcons that are an important part of Emirati culture. You’ll learn about the history of falconry and get to see the birds being trained and cared for.
  6. Abu Dhabi Night Tour: This tour takes you on a night-time exploration of the city, where you’ll see the illuminated skyscrapers and landmarks of Abu Dhabi. The tour also includes a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which is especially stunning at night.
  7. Abu Dhabi Cultural Tour: This tour takes you to the heart of Emirati culture, where you’ll visit museums, art galleries, and historic sites. You’ll learn about the history and traditions of the UAE and get to experience Emirati hospitality firsthand.

Abu Dhabi offers a wide range of tours that cater to different interests and preferences. Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s famous landmarks, experiencing the thrill of the desert, or immersing yourself in Emirati culture, there’s a tour that’s perfect for you.

Abu Dhabi Accommodations: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

Whether you’re looking for luxury accommodations, affordable guesthouses, or budget-friendly hostels, Abu Dhabi has plenty of options to suit your needs. Here are some of the best accommodations in Abu Dhabi:


  1. Emirates Palace: This is one of the most luxurious hotels in Abu Dhabi, offering opulent rooms, private beaches, and world-class restaurants.
  2. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers: Located in the heart of the city, this hotel offers breathtaking views of the Arabian Gulf and a range of amenities including a private beach, pool, and spa.
  3. Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri: This hotel is situated on a private beach and offers luxurious rooms, multiple swimming pools, and an indulgent spa.
  4. Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Residences Emirates Pearl: This hotel features spacious rooms, an outdoor infinity pool, and multiple dining options.


  1. Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi: This guesthouse is located near the Abu Dhabi Corniche and offers comfortable rooms, an outdoor pool, and a private beach.
  2. Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel: This guesthouse is situated on the edge of the Eastern Mangroves and offers a peaceful retreat away from the city center.
  3. The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort: This guesthouse is located on Saadiyat Island and offers luxurious rooms and suites, multiple swimming pools, and access to a private beach.

Abu Dhabi offers a wide range of accommodations to suit different budgets and preferences. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious hotel or a comfortable guesthouse, you’ll find plenty of options to choose from in Abu Dhabi.

Day Trips From Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

If you’re looking to explore more of the UAE’s natural and cultural wonders, there are many exciting day trips that you can take from Abu Dhabi.

One of the most popular day trips from Abu Dhabi is to Dubai, just over an hour’s drive away. Dubai is a city of contrasts, featuring modern skyscrapers alongside traditional markets known as souks. Visitors can experience the iconic Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, shop at the Dubai Mall, and explore the historic Al Fahidi neighborhood. Dubai also has a range of other exciting attractions, such as the Dubai Miracle Garden and the Dubai Museum.

Another great day trip from Abu Dhabi is to Al Ain, which is also known as the “Garden City.” Al Ain is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to beautiful oases, traditional forts, and museums. Some of the top attractions in Al Ain include the Al Ain Palace Museum, the Al Ain Oasis, and the Hili Archaeological Park.

If you’re looking for a day trip that is more off the beaten path, consider visiting the Liwa Oasis. This natural wonder is located in the heart of the Rub’ al Khali desert and is characterized by its towering sand dunes and stunning sunsets. Visitors can take a 4×4 tour of the sand dunes, visit historic forts, and learn about the region’s Bedouin culture.

For a day trip that is a little closer to Abu Dhabi, consider visiting Hatta. This tranquil retreat is located in the Hajar Mountains and offers visitors the chance to explore the Hatta Heritage Village, hike scenic mountain trails, and cool off in the refreshing pools of the Hatta Dam.

Another exciting day trip from Abu Dhabi is to Sir Bani Yas Island. This natural island wildlife reserve is home to free-roaming animals such as gazelles, oryx, and cheetahs. Visitors can take a safari tour of the island, go kayaking or snorkeling in the clear waters, and relax on the pristine beaches.

Moreover, for a day trip that offers a little bit of everything, consider visiting Fujairah. This city is located on the east coast of the UAE and is known for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and historical sites. Visitors can explore the Fujairah Fort, learn about the UAE’s history at the Al Badiyah Mosque, and relax on the beaches of Dibba or Khor Fakkan.

Abu Dhabi is a great base for exploring the many natural and cultural wonders of the UAE. Whether you’re interested in exploring the desert, learning about history, or relaxing on a beautiful beach, there are plenty of exciting day trips that you can take from Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi walkway with scenic views of the city and national flag

Abu Dhabi Travel Guide: Final Thoughts

Abu Dhabi is a fascinating destination that has a lot to offer visitors, whether they are interested in history, culture, nature, or simply relaxing on beautiful beaches. As the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is home to some of the country’s most impressive landmarks, including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the Emirates Palace.

In addition to these iconic attractions, Abu Dhabi also has a thriving arts and culture scene, with a range of museums, galleries, and cultural events to explore. For those interested in nature, the city is surrounded by stunning natural wonders, including the Liwa Oasis and the Hajar Mountains. And of course, Abu Dhabi also offers plenty of opportunities to relax and unwind, with luxurious resorts, beautiful beaches, and world-class dining and shopping.

As with any travel destination, it is important to be respectful of local customs and traditions while visiting Abu Dhabi. This includes dressing modestly, being mindful of local laws and regulations, and showing respect for religious and cultural sites. Visitors should also be aware that Abu Dhabi can be quite hot and humid, especially in the summer months, so it is important to stay hydrated and take breaks as needed.

Abu Dhabi is a destination that is well worth exploring, with a unique blend of history, culture, nature, and luxury that is sure to appeal to a wide range of travelers. Whether you are interested in exploring the city’s landmarks and museums, embarking on a desert adventure, or simply relaxing on the beach, Abu Dhabi is sure to leave a lasting impression.

In the heart of the UAE, Lies a city that’s here to stay, Abu Dhabi, land of dreams, Where the desert meets the sea.

From the grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque, To the luxurious Emirates Palace, Every corner’s a sight to see, A perfect blend of old and new.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi’s art, Will leave you breathless from the start, And the Qasr Al Watan’s halls, Will take you back to ancient times.

But beyond the city’s glamour, Lies the desert’s untamed wonder, The Liwa Oasis’ towering dunes, And the Bedouin’s culture rich and true.

So take a camel ride at sunset, Or embark on a desert safari, Abu Dhabi’s beauty will amaze, And leave you with memories to last.

In Abu Dhabi, there’s always more, From the mangroves to the shore, A destination like no other, For every traveler to explore.

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