Standing 828 metres high, the Burj Khalifa is hard to miss. The world's tallest tower naturally dominates the Dubai skyline, but the true majesty of the building is best appreciated up close or, even better, from inside. On a clear day, the view from the observation deck on level 124 is absolutely stunning, topped only by the view from the luxurious At The Top Sky Lounge on the 148th floor. And for those who would like to linger awhile, enjoy a meal at Atmosphere on level 122 or head to The Lounge, Burj Khalifa that covers levels 152, 153 and 154, making it the tallest lounge on the planet.
Right next to the Burj Khalifa is The Dubai Mall. To call the sprawling development merely a shopping mall is doing it a disservice. Even an entire day spent here isn't enough to see it all. Along with its 1,200-plus shops and 150 restaurants, the venue is home to an indoor theme park, an ice rink, a huge indoor waterfall, a choreographed outdoor fountain and the giant Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo.
A manmade island in the shape of a palm tree - there's a reason why locals say 'only in Dubai'. Palm Jumeirah is one of the largest artificial islands in the world and a triumph of human ingenuity. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the Palm's vast array of high-end hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria, Fairmont, One&Only, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray and, perhaps most notably, the iconic Atlantis, The Palm. And with a monorail running down the 'trunk' that connects to the mainland's tram system, getting there couldn't be easier.
Dubai may be famous for the glitz and glamour of its sky-high towers, but the real heart of the city is, and always will be, the Creek. The saltwater estuary is the original site where the Bani Yas tribe settled, and its waters were vital for what used to be Dubai's main forms of economy: pearl diving and fishing. Today, the area is awash with the history of the emirate, as it's home to the Dubai Museum as well as the labyrinthine alleyways of the gold, spice and textile souks. While at the Creek, a ride across the water on a traditional abra is a must, and at an unbelievable AED1 per ticket, it's easily the best value tourist attraction in the city.
For those who like to shop, dine, see a movie and go to the beach all in one place, consider a trip to The Beach at Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR). With guest DJs pumping out the tunes on weekends, a regular open-air cinema and a popular water park to entertain the little ones for an hour or two, JBR is always buzzing with activity. The Beach is also connected to the new Bluewaters Island district by a pedestrian bridge. This hip new destination is home to the Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai – the world’s second Caesars Palace – and the sunshine-soaked Cove Beach, as well as an array of restaurants and lounges.
Less than 20 minutes driving from the modernist streets of Downtown Dubai, you can experience the marvels of the Arabian desert, the original tourist attraction of Dubai. Take a desert safari Dubai-style with off-roading, quad biking and sandboarding followed by traditional barbeques, henna and camel rides. Or just drive out and experience the wonder of the desert on an adventure of your own. Those looking for luxury should indulge in a Heritage Dinner Safari. Can't get enough in a day? Treat yourself to an unforgettable night amid the dunes at the Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa or Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood in Bur Dubai is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. Best seen walking, this area offers a nostalgic view of a bygone era with traditional wind towers and a maze of winding alleyways. You can visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) where guests can take part in Arabic classes, heritage tours and guided mosque visits to better appreciate the local culture. After exploring, take an atmospheric abra ride to the souks on the other side of the Creek.
Dubai Water Canal is a 3.2km long waterway extending from the Creek in Old Dubai through Business Bay before finding its way to the Arabian Gulf. Since opening in 2016, it's created 80,000sqm for public space and facilities, and a 12km cycling path. The Canal has become a popular visitor attraction with five pedestrian bridges that snake its way across the iconic waterway. Nearby is the Habtoor City development that's home to the exciting La Perle by Dragone show, five-star hotels, and an array of restaurants.
For an experience that marries tradition and luxury, come to Madinat Jumeirah. Literally translated as 'City of Jumeirah' this complex is inspired by an ancient citadel. It encloses luxury hotels, private enclaves built in the traditional style, the world-class Talise Spa, the Madinat Souk, Madinat Theatre, and more than 40 restaurants and lounges. You can also explore the serene area on traditional wooden abras to appreciate the waterways and architecture.
The Dubai Opera, situated in the new Opera District in the heart of Dubai, offers an enticing schedule which can be likened to that of London’s West End or Manhattan’s Broadway. With views of the Dubai Fountain and next to the Burj Khalifa, the building was inspired by the shape of Arabian dhow ships and is sure to catch your eye. While the rear of the building arches upwards like a hull and is used as a foyer, taxi rank and car park, the stage area is designed in such a way that it can easily be converted into three different event platforms: theatre, hall or concert hall. Want to know what's on while you're holidaying in the city?
Sitting slap-bang between Dubai's older neighbourhoods clustered around the creek and the city's modern sprawl, this ginormous 150-meter-high picture frame is one of Dubai's latest sights. Inside, a series of galleries whisk you through the city's history and explore Emirati heritage before you travel up to the Sky Deck, where there are fantastic panoramas of both old and new Dubai to be snapped on the viewing platforms.
Afterwards check out Future Dubai gallery, which imagines what a futuristic vision of the city will look like.
Address: Zabeel Park, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Road
This theme park, near Global Village, is immersive entertainment at its finest and has thrills and spills for both kids and big kids. With one zone devoted entirely to Marvel's iconic characters; another to dinosaur-themed rides; and a zone where the Cartoon Network takes the helm, with gentler rides and activities for younger children, there's something here for every age. Whether you want to help the Avengers battle Ultron, scare yourself silly in a haunted house, or join Spider-Man as he swings through the city, this is heaven for families looking for a fun-filled day out.
At Dubai Parks and Resorts, your entertainment needs are all rolled together into one location. The only problem here is choosing what you want to do. This mammoth project incorporates a swag of world-class theme parks providing something for everyone, whatever your age. Motiongate takes its theme from Hollywood productions, with rides based around movie blockbusters; Bollywood Parks brings the world of India's famous movie industry alive on its rides; and Legoland Dubai and Legoland Waterpark provide younger visitors with a fun-packed day out on its interactive rides, water slides, and wave pool.
The district's attached Riverland Dubai dining hub means that there's no need to leave after you've exhausted yourself with theme park pursuits, as there's plenty of evening entertainment here as well.
This waterpark, based at Atlantis, The Palm on the Palm Jumeirah — Dubai's famous man-made island development — is a great place to cool off after a few days of hectic shopping and sightseeing. The waterslide action here is excellent and world-class, with the Aquaconda, the world's longest water slide; a nine-story-tall slide, aptly named the Leap of Faith; and water coaster rides. There's also underwater safaris using Sea TREK helmets; a dedicated water play area for smaller children with slides; and for when all your energy has been used up, a 700-meter sweep of white-sand beach.
This is the zaniest garden ever. Not content with constructing the world's largest buildings and malls, Dubai has created the world's largest flower garden, spanning 2,000 square meters and home to a reputed 100 million flowers. Everything that can be covered with flowers has been, from twee English-style cottages to windmills and trucks. There's even a flower version of the Burj Khalifa. Stroll the walkways and enjoy the riot of color and the wacky flower displays.
Escape the city's skyscrapers for an afternoon here. For a slice of nature, this vast butterfly garden, with around 15,000 butterflies flitting under the domed enclosures, can't be beaten. It's a great chance for kids to get close-up views of butterflies as they often land on visitors' shoulders and hands. There's a museum here, too, with plenty of information on butterfly varieties, their habitats, and life cycle.
Address: Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Rd, Al Barsha
This long stretch of white-sand beach, south of Jumeirah beach, isn't just a top destination for sunbathers looking to lap up a lazy day of swimming and soaking up the rays on the sand. Kite Beach is renowned as Dubai's premier destination for kitesurfers and is home to an array of water sports operators. This is where you come to get out on the water kitesurfing or try your hand at stand up paddleboarding, with equipment hire and lessons all easily arranged on the beach.
Mall of the Emirates is one of the city's most famous malls, with the spectacular (and surreal) Ski Dubai facility inside. The indoor ski slope is complete with chairlifts and a penguin enclosure, all at a continuous temperature of -4 degrees Celsius. There's also a cinema complex and a family entertainment center with a whole host of rides aimed at both the big and small. The shopping opportunities are boundless, as are the eating options, offering every conceivable world cuisine.
You don't have to go too far away from the skyscrapers to soak up a more natural vista. The Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary incorporates the mangrove forests and wetlands of Dubai creek. An important stop-off on the migration routes, it's a prime place to spot flamingos in winter when massive flocks of these majestic pink birds wade through the lagoons, backdropped by soaring high-rises. Various hides in prime spots have been set up within the park to allow bird-watchers good views of the bird life.
One of the city's top tourist attractions, the Dubai Aquarium houses 140 species of sea life in the huge suspended tank on the ground floor of the Dubai Mall. As well as free viewing from the mall, if you enter the Underwater Zoo, you can walk through the aquarium tunnels.
Different activities help you get a closer look at the sea life. Glass bottom boat tours (on top of the tank) are particularly popular. Cage snorkeling and shark diving activities are also on offer.
Global Village is the region’s largest and first ever multi-cultural festival park that takes you on a journey across the world offering an engaging experience to families through a wide variety of shopping, dining, entertainment and funfair activities in an open-air environment that is usually open throughout October till April 1st week.
An extravaganza of sights, sounds and smells from around the globe, it is a true feast for the senses. Experience the hustle and bustle of the street markets, discover unique handicrafts and watch age-old traditions brought back to life. Soak up the atmosphere of different countries coming together. Be wowed by the magic of the past, and the spectacle of the new.
From cultural shows from across the globe to dancing fountains and breath-taking stunt shows, Global Village has it all.
With over 4,000 outlets offering an incredible variety of products from China including home essentials, furnishings, office equipment, furniture, electronics, building materials, machinery and fashion, you’ll find everything could possibly wish for at Dragon Mart.
The Dubai Gold Mart (known as Gold Souk in the local language) is a traditional market in the heart of old Dubai by the creek. This market mainly sells gold, silver and precious stones. You’ll find the odd seller of handbags here and there, but this is the best place to buy gold in the UAE. The souk is home to over 300 retailers. Some have been there for over 40 years, while others have just set up shops a couple of years ago.