Show me...

Abu Dhabi is a land of extremes – it’s home to the world’s tallest leaning building, the biggest indoor theme park on the globe and is one of the richest places on the planet. But the UAE capital isn’t all about world records. In fact, there are plenty of things to do in Abu Dhabi, and here are just a few of them:

Stroll along The Corniche

The Corniche is Abu Dhabi at its most manicured. It boasts nearly five miles of untouched waterfront, punctuated by modern cycle paths, cafés, restaurants and vast stretches of sand. Unsurprisingly, it’s perfect for a leisurely amble and bike ride or, if you’re not feeling energetic, simply sit on a bench and watch the world – and the amazing Arabian Gulf views – go by.

Explore the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a vision of shimmering whiteness, gleaming so white that you’ll probably need sunglasses to look directly at it. It’s the jewel in Abu Dhabi’s crown, famed for its ornate beauty and its status as a place of worship during Eid. In fact, more than 40,000 visit this place of worship to pray during these annual Muslim celebrations. You don’t have to be worshipping to appreciate its grandeur though; the impressive mosque is ripe for exploration and visitors can wander its intricately-carved halls on their own on a complimentary tour, Saturday to Thursday, 9am-10pm, or Fridays 4.30-10pm.

Hit the shops

Abu Dhabi is a paradise for those who love a spot of retail therapy. No matter what your budget is, or whether you plan to shop for local spices or designer handbags, it has plenty of diverse options to tempt your wallet. Choose from modern malls, independent outlets and even culture-filled souks, where you can get your hands on some traditional wares.

Ride the rollercoasters at Ferrari World on Yas Island

Even if cars aren’t your thing, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is a must visit for all the family. It’s so much more than the world’s first Ferrari theme park – it’s also the world’s biggest indoor theme park, home to Italian cuisine, souvenir shops and of course, a range of rides for all ages. Pro driving fanatics can also visit the island’s Yas Marina Circuit, which hosts the Formula One Grand Prix each year. 

Other Yas Island highlights include: Yas Waterworld, a futuristic water park equivalent in size to around 15 football pitches; Yas Mall, the Emirate’s largest shopping centre; the 5-star Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, the only hotel in the world to straddle an F1 racetrack; Yas Links Abu Dhabi, the only true links course in Arabia; Yas Marina, which attracts super yachts from as far away as Australia; and Yas Beach, located on the island’s tranquil southern shores. 

Visit the museums and galleries

Culture is in huge supply in Abu Dhabi, so much so that it’s even set to have its own Louvre (later in 2016) and Guggenheim (opening date to be confirmed) establishments. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, art aficionados will be mad to miss the N2N Gallery – a fusion of sculptures, graphic art and paintings – not to mention the Etihad Modern Art Gallery or the Abu Dhabi Art Hub, a community run by both foreign and local emerging artists.

Summit sky-high sand dunes

It’d be rude to visit the capital of the United Arab Emirates and not partake in a bit of dune-bashing. After all, Abu Dhabi is home to the renowned ‘Empty Quarter’, the largest sand desert on the planet. And whether you’re in a 4X4, atop a quadbike or giving sandboarding a go, there are few things more thrilling than flying over mountains of golden silica, bouncing from peak to peak as you soak up the endless chestnut-hued plains that surround you. 

If you'd prefer to experience the sand dunes at a slower pace, you can join a camel trek and leisurely journey across golden hills, soaking up the beauty of the desert. 

Look out for nesting turtles

Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island has been a nesting spot for hawksbill turtles for decades. Head for the 5.5-mile beach of the same moniker and you’ll find the spot where these rare sea creatures come to nest each year, with several sites containing between 90 and 100 eggs. Pedestrian access is restricted to elevated boardwalks, so you can still see the beach and its visitors without disturbing the nests.

For those who simply want to hit the beach, there are plenty of other options in addition to Saadiyat Island. Yas Island and the Corniche also boast pristine family-friendly beaches with play areas and water sports.  

For more ideas on what to do in Abu Dhabi, see our Abu Dhabi holidays

Other Middle East Destinations