What are the must-sees in Dubai? This is one of the most common questions I get from you, so here is my list. I’ve only included the biggest attractions, and you’ll probably find similar lists on other websites, but you have to start somewhere, right? So here are the essential things to see in Dubai, if you ask me. It shouldn’t take more than a day or two to visit all of them, so I’ve therefore also started writing on a guide to less mainstream things to do in Dubai for those of you with more time on your hands.
Dubai Creek, the souks and Bastakiya
The area around Dubai Creek is very different from the rest of the city. It’s a great place to get an impression of how Dubai used to be, before the skyscrapers and the highways, and even thought he souks aren’t as old as they look, it’s still a really nice area to explore. Go inside and allow yourself to get lost in the maze of narrow alleys. Haggle with the vendors and purchase spices and scarves and take one of the abras (the traditional boats) to the other side of the Creek. The fare is only 1 AED, so if you don’t manage to get the perfect photo the first time you go, you can always go back and forth again. On the Bur Dubai side is the historical district Bastakiya, which is among the most beautiful places in Dubai.
Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall
The world’s tallest building is conveniently located right in front of the world’s biggest mall, so there’s really no excuse for not visiting both of them. If you want to go up in Burj Khalifa, you can purchase your tickets online before you go, so you’re sure that BK would be able to accommodate you on your specified time. You can choose between tickets to the 124th & 125th levels or tickets which also include access to level 148. The tickets to level 148 are more than twice as expensive as the other tickets, so I’ve never been up there, but the view from the 124th floor isn’t bad at all. If you don’t like heights, you can always enjoy the view of the beautiful building from the ground.
In the evening, you can watch the dancing fountains in front of Burj Khalifa. You get the best view of the fountains from the small bridge leading to Souk Al Bahar. The timings for the shows are every 30 minutes from 6pm to 11pm. There are also a couple of shows during daytime, but the dancing fountains are most beautiful in the evening.
A day in the desert
The desert is only a short drive from the city but when you’re out there, it feels like you’re on a different planet. Sand dunes as far as the eye can see, and a natural beauty which no artificial islands or tall building will ever be able to match. Most excursions include activities such as camel riding, dune bashing in jeeps, lunch or refreshments, but the quality varies, and not all tour operators are allowed to enter the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, which is where you want to go.
Some might say it’s a bit fake with all those brand new buildings which are made to look old, but I’m definitely diggin’ it. The canals and the beautiful “old” buildings look great in photos and there’s a good selection of both bars and restaurants serving alcohol. Madinat Jumeirah looks best at night, so go for sundowners at one of the bars and have dinner later at one of the restaurants with Burj Al Arab view.
The beach at JBR is the most popular beach in Dubai. It’s also the public beach with the best facilities, and when you’re done with swimming and tanning, you can go for a stroll at The Beach, which is an outdoor shopping mall and which is where you’ll find most of the action. While there’s better shopping elsewhere in Dubai, the selection of restaurants at The Beach is great. Many of them are franchises, but they are franchises of all the nicer chains, so if you’ve been curious to try out ShakeShack or Cheesecake Factory, then this is your chance. Please note that the restaurants inside The Beach don’t serve alcohol. On Thursday and Friday nights, JBR is a popular place to cruise around, and you’ll see more luxury cars in an evening than most people do in a lifetime.
I almost forgot mentioning Dubai Marina. This is where I live, and I guess I have become a little blind to the fact that this is actually an area most people enjoy visiting. Get off the metro at Damac Properties or ask the taxi driver to drop you off at “Marina Walk Roundabout” and you’re right in the sweet spot. This is the nicest part of the Marina, and I’m not just saying that because I live here. You can also take the tram to Marina Mall and start your walk there.
The Flamingos at Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
Ok, some of you might probably disagree about the Ras Al Khor flamingos being a must-see in Dubai, but I’m in love with these long-legged pink creatures, so of course I had to put them on my list, If you’re not as big a flamingo fan as I am, just disregard this one.
Here are some of my Dubai videos: