18 Of The Best Things To Do In Abu Dhabi

From camel racing to the largest mosque in the UAE; Abu Dhabi’s list of must-see’s incorporate history, art and expansive modernity. 

Abu Dhabi, capital city of the UAE, might boast some of the most stunning architectures but it’s, in fact, made up of 200 islands. Hence years ago, visiting Abu Dhabi used to be a small part of an itinerary of Dubai, or a simple day trip. Today, however, the island in the Persian Gulf deserves a few more days filled with artistic masterpieces, natural wonders, desert excursions, historical discoveries…and so much more. Here are some of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi as we kick off this list with a strikingly gorgeous mosque that is sure to take your breath away.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Al Rawdah - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

A trip to Abu Dhabi isn’t complete until travelers personally experience the brilliance of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Located on Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street, the grand mosque is the serene pylon to Abu Dhabi City Island. Its very existence comes with several record-breaking stats. UAE’s late founding father, Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, commenced the mosque as a passion project. He worked with a team of global experts to build a mosque for worship as well as an architectural icon. On December 20, 2007, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque finally opened its majestic doors in Abu Dhabi and quickly became the top tourist attraction in the capital city. SEE ALSO: 10 Fun Facts About Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque In Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Desert road trip in Empty Quarter

Rub Al Khali, or Abu Dhabi’s “Empty Quarter,” is the world’s biggest uninterrupted sand mass, making it an ideal spot to enjoy a plethora of desert activities. From trekking through the Arabian dunes on the backs of camels, jeep rides or ATVs and buggies; there are numerous tour companies that provide a wide array of excursions. The desert spans over 650,000 square kilometers of golden sand, across over 1/4 of Saudi Arabia. For those less accustomed to heat, the desert’s climate is one of the driest in the world, so prepare lots of water during your adventure.

The Corniche

F9R3+W8 - Al Danah - Zone 1 - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Extending close to 5 miles from Heritage Park to Emirates Palace is The Corniche, where a promenade along the Persian Gulf also boasts numerous sleek hotels, popular restaurants and busy shops. If you can, rent a bicycle so you can capture the view of the city skyline while easily access The Corniche’s public beaches that offer tons of water sports and even live concerts.

The Corniche in Abu Dhabi
Photo by Karthik B K on Unsplash

Observation Deck at 300

Tower 2, Level 74, Etihad Towers - Corniche W St - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

To capture the best view of the entire city, head over to Observation Deck at 300 where the 74th floor of Conrad Abu Dhabi Hotel encompasses a breathtaking and dramatic prospect of modern buildings stacked along the Persian Gulf. There’s also a café where you can sit and enjoy the whole scenery in total style.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Saadiyat - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Just as expected, one of the major must-see’s is Louvre Abu Dhabi, an extension of the largest museum in the world. In 2007, a deal was signed between France and UAE, in which the Abu Dhabi location could use the Louvre’s name until 2037. Now, it has become the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula. In addition to incredible temporary exhibitions and abundant permanent collections, this location is evidently ultra unique due to the stunning architecture which personifies a “seemingly floating dome structure” – a web-like roof illuminated by natural sunlight.

Al Ain Camel Market

5R67+R4V - Cattle Market, Zayed Bin Sultan Road, Al Ain - Al Noud - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Stop by Al Ain Camel Souk to experience a traditional animal market in Meyzad – near the Oman border. Camel trade has been a part of the Arabic culture for centuries, at this vibrant market, visitors can witness how it’s done. Hot tip! Females should dress conservatively since the souk has long been a male-oriented place. For all visitors, be respectful to the camels as you take photos at the souk.

Al Ain Camel Market in Abu Dhabi
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Umm Al Emarat Park

15th Street, Mushrif Area - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Want to stroll in a tranquil park? Check out Umm Al Emarat Park where immense palm trees extend to water fountains, beautiful gardens, an amphitheater, an animal barn and a playground made for children. The Wisdom Garden, for example, features many plants accompanied by mottos from UAE’s late founding father Sheikh Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Qasr Al Hosn

Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum St(2nd St) - Al Hisn - W3 - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Qasr Al Hosn is a beautiful reminder of what Abu Dhabi was before modern development. Constructed in the 18th century, the oldest stone watchtower oversaw trade routes and controlled the establishment of settlers in the city. Later, it also became the residence of governing parties. Now, it is a cultural center, hosting frequent exhibitions in both the Inner Fort (old) and the Outer Palace (new.)

Qasr Al Hosn
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Yas Mall

Yas Island - ياس غرب - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

One thing you’ll notice in the UAE is, there’s no shortage of malls and markets. Abu Dhabi is not an exempt. The reason is that once summer heat picks up, locals and visitors can indulge in indoor air conditioning, making malls a convenient place to escape the blazing sun. Head on over to Yas Mall – the largest and most popular mall in the city. Much more modern than others of its kind, Yas encompasses a beautiful pool on the exterior.

Yas Mall
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Emirates Heritage Village

Near Marina Mall - Abu Dhabi Theatre Rd, Corniche - Breakwater Rd - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Interested in learning more about the history of Abu Dhabi before the city became home to luxury condos and exotic cars? Then check out Heritage Village across from The Corniche, where an ancient fishing village once took place. The museum depicts huts, Bedouin tents, various workshops of textile-weaving, metal stations…etc.

Emirates Heritage Village
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Al Wathba Camel Race Track

5JRW+6VW - Unnamed Road - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

In Abu Dhabi, camel racing is a thrilling sport similar to horse racing in the Western world. For an exciting experience, watch a race at Al Wathba Camel Race Track where families and friends cheer on camels that compete at surprising speeds. The races typically take place on weekends and on holidays, so be sure to head over to the race tracks early since entrance is free and there may be crowds.

Camel racing Abu Dhabi
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Al Ain Oasis

Al Tuhaf St - Central District - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Spreading over 1,200 hectares of Al Ain, the lush Al Ain Oasis is a lush example of a “Green City.” Situated 90 minutes from Abu Dhabi, the oasis exists in the desert, and showcases 147,000 palm trees, 100 varieties of plants and vegetations. Visitors can also study the falaj – an old irrigation system. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is also UAE’s oldest inhabited settlement.

Al Ain Oasis
INSTAGRAM @ernestong995

Al Ain Palace Museum

Hessa Bint Mohamed St - Central District - Al Mutawaa - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Next to Al Ain Oasis is the Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum, or Al Ain Palace Museum where travelers can learn about UAE’s founding father. The structure was built in 1910 and it was home of the “Father of the Nation” as well as his family. Gardens, bedrooms, courtyards, meeting rooms all make this palace museum a fascinating look inside the lives of royals.