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Born out of the desert and cultivated over the years to wow all who visit, Dubai is a city of contrasts that needs to be seen to be truly believed. It’s where old meets new; ostentatious high-rises give way to undulating desert dunes; and traditional street fare comes up against award-winning cuisine. Whether for just a day, a week or longer, the list of things to do in Dubai is an eclectic one. Here are our top recommendations:

The Burj Khalifa in the Dubai skyline

Head to the top of the Burj Khalifa

If you do just one thing (and you’re not afraid of heights), make your way to the top of the world’s tallest tower; the 828 metre and 160 stories high Burj Khalifa. The highest observation deck within this needlepoint structure sits on the 148th floor (555 metres) and offers panoramic indoor and outdoor views across the city. You can also enjoy a meal in the world’s highest restaurant At.Mosphere, or indulge in the world’s highest lounge venue on the 144th floor. Whichever level you visit be sure to brace yourself – the super-fast lift is almost like a ride in itself.

Shopping at Dubai Mall

 

Get lost in The Dubai Mall

The largest shopping mall within an entertainment complex, it’d be rude not to hit the stores in Dubai – even just for a bit of window shopping. There are over 1,200 major outlets to choose from, spread across a floor space of nearly 502,000 square metres – that’s nearly three times the size of Manchester’s colossal Trafford Centre! Just don’t forget to bring your credit card.

Jumeriah Beach Residence

Spend an evening at Jumeirah Beach Residence

Jumeirah Beach Residence, or The Walk at JBR as it’s affectionately known, is a popular waterfront strip featuring shops, restaurants and apartments. The area is ideal to visit in the evening for a stroll along the ocean, a browse of the homemade wares at the outdoor Covent Garden Market or for dinner at the promenade’s many eclectic restaurants. Popular places to dine at include Eat Greek, Indian Palace and the Lebanese restaurant Jedoudna.

Madinat Jumeirah Restaurant

Don’t miss Friday brunch

Move over breakfast, lunch and dinner: it’s all about brunch in Dubai. And Friday – the first day of the city’s weekend – is the time to do it. Pick the right venue and you’ll be signed up for a multi-hour affair, banquet-style, with more food than you could ever hope to consume in one sitting. Foodies will love the Fork & Cork brunch at the Anantara the Palm resort, while lovers of luxury can dine on steak and fresh seafood with the decadent Al Qasr Jumeirah lunch offering. For more recommendations, read our article on the seven best brunches in Dubai.

Jewellery at the gold souk in Dubai

Haggle in the Gold Souk

One of the things Dubai is best known for is its cheap, yet high quality, gold. If you’re willing to play the long game, you can haggle some of the best bargain jewellery (from necklaces to diamond rings) at the Gold Souk – a traditional market that’s home to as much as 10 tonnes of gold at any one time. But haggling is an art and for some, can be daunting. Make sure you prepare in advance by researching how much this precious metal normally sells for, and follow haggling etiquette: for example, knocking 30% off the asking price is common practise.

Atlantis The Palm building

Cool off at the Aquaventure Waterpark

Much like the rest of Dubai, Atlantis the Palm’s Aquaventure Waterpark is larger than life. So regardless of whether you’re travelling with family or are just a big kid at heart, you can partake in the plunges of the Tower of Neptune slide, the excitement of The Rapids and the heart-pounding thrills of the Atlantean Flyer zip-line. All across 42 acres, and all for just 260 AED per person.

Camels in the desert in front of a sunset

Explore the desert on a 4X4 tour

Beyond Dubai’s soaring skyline are miles upon miles of desert. Leave the city to explore this dusty, uncharted wilderness and you’ll go off-road in a 4X4 before taking a camel ride across the golden landscapes, sandboarding down dunes that resemble mountains, and learning about Bedouin food and culture beneath a canopy of stars.

The Dubai Fountains at night

Admire the choreography of the Dubai Fountain

Every night the Dubai Fountain puts on a show for the whole city. Set on the 24-acre Burj Khalifa Lake, the jets shoot skywards up to 140 metres, illuminated by over 6,000 lights and accompanied by a range of melodic tracks, from Lionel Ritchie’s All Night Long to La Vie En Rose by Edith Piaf. As the world’s largest musical fountain, it’s also given Dubai another record to add to its already burgeoning repertoire.

Boats in Dubai Creek

Discover the city’s roots with a cruise on Dubai Creek

Dubai Creek couldn’t be more different to the city it calls home. Far away from the pizazz and in its place, traditional water taxis (abras) ferry passengers for just 1 dirham along the creek and put them in touch with the Middle East at its most authentic. It’s perfect for those seeking a peaceful reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Downtown.

Enjoy these experiences and more with our Dubai holidays.