Whether you plan to spend one day in Dubai as a stopover or as a day trip from Abu Dhabi – this post will help you plan your trip.
As a regular Dubai visitor, I know how much the city has to offer – I never tire of it and often revisit old places, but also discover something new each time I visit the city.
And when people ask me about what to do in Dubai in 1 day, I struggle because I could name tons of place. However, I sat down and narrowed it down, so that will ease your headache of planning.
Yes, it is busy 1-day itinerary, but I want to make sure you get to see different places and don’t miss out on too much.
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Travel Tips for One Day in DUbai
Anyhow, Dubai has two airports, and most likely you will fly into Dubai International Airport (DXB International). From there, it takes about 10-20 minutes drive (taxi) to get to the old town of Dubai and about 20-30 minutes to get to Burj Khalifa. Warning: There might be a lot of traffic and it might take longer.
Abu Dhabi – Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) is the second biggest airport in the United Arab Emirates and it takes about an hour drive to get to Dubai (about 50-60€ taxi fare, public transportation from the airport to Dubai is not really great.
How to Get Around
I highly suggest not renting a car but only use public transportation and taxi/Ubers when needed if you stay in Dubai for one day.
Where to Stay
Accommodation in Dubai is pricey but if you stay in Dubai for one night only, I suggest staying in Dubai Downtown so you are close to the main attractions mentioned here.
You can check out my full Dubai accommodation guide to find the perfect place for your stay here.
Okay, with only one day in Dubai, there is not much time to relax and to waste time – so let’s get started straight away with the main places to visit.
Old Dubai – Around 9 am
If you are in Dubai early in the morning, then start in Old Dubai – if you are up and out at 9 am, you are actually doing quite well because most people in Dubai start the day rather late and you can seize your one day in Dubai to the fullest.
The Gold and Spice Souks are fun places to visit.
So, if you arrive at the Gold and Spice Souk around 9 am, there will not be many other tourists – and you can enjoy the calm (which you will not experience often in Dubai).
Most shops might not be open yet – they open around 10 am – but at least it is not overly busy yet. If you want to wait for all the shops to open, stroll Dubai Creek. I love getting here early and watching the people getting ready for the day before checking out the shops myself.
While most shop owners are foreigners (Afghan, Indian, and Pakistanis), it is still somehow authentic.
This is the place to buy souvenirs, affordable clothes, or spices. They are much cheaper here. Haggling with the shop owners can be fun and it feels more authentic than shopping in the malls and one of my favorite places to visit.
And if you want to buy gold, then buy it here. Oh, and even if you don’t want to buy gold, it is worth it to see what people could buy.
Tip: Just a quick warning – visiting the souks can feel intense. Shop owners approach you a lot and it is not really a relaxing time. If you are a female traveler, especially traveling solo, you might want to dress a bit more moderately, as stares can be intense.
To get from the Gold Souk to the Spice Souk, jump on one of the abras – the water taxis that cost only about 0.25€ and are a fun activity, and you have crossed the creek.
La Mer – Around 11 am
Then, it is time to get to La Mer. It is quite close to Old Dubai. However, walking there would take too long. Take an Uber, taxi, or use the hop-on and hop-off sightseeing bus (there is no direct bus connection from Old Dubai). You might not find it on many Dubai itineraries as it is quite new and many itineraries are a bit older but it is a must see.
There is a lot of beach, cafes, and restaurants, as well as water activities you can enjoy – and you’ll get the first good glance of Burj Khalifa, the highest building in the world.
Beaches in Dubai are, in general, very clean and safe and this beach is free and open to the public. There are even free showers (which are quite stylish), and after some time at the beach (and in the water?), it is time for lunch at La Mer.
Madinat Jumeirah – Around 2 pm
So, this is optional as it depends how fast/slow you travel and how much to want to hurry. You can spend some more time at La Mer, or add another area to your 1-day Dubai itinerary.
If you want to do another activity, it is time to continue your journey to Madinat Jumeirah (no direct bus, but if you are on a budget and like to walk, then you can do that and take a bus for the most part).
It takes some travel time (about 30 minutes by car), so if you don’t have a full day in Dubai, I would probably skip this.
Madinat Jumeirah is so pretty and picturesque – it has its own souk and a bunch of restaurants and cafes with a view of Burj al Arab. You could also do an abra ride (abras are small wooden boats) here. They are way more expensive than in Dubai Deira, the Gold and Spice Souk area, but you can ride them for free if you stay in a Jumeirah hotel.
If you have seen Instagrammers on an abra with Burj al Arab in the background, then those pictures were taken here. While it is picturesque and pretty, I think that 1-3 hours is definitely enough.
Burj Khalifa – Around 4 pm
It is time to visit the tallest building in the world – Burj Khalifa. Before you go to the top, take a few pictures of the iconic building in the daytime.
It saves you time to book your tickets in advance – with one day in Dubai, you don’t want to waste too much time in lines.
If you want to avoid all lines, buy tickets for level 148 (with access to levels 124 and 125). Ticket prices vary slightly depending on the level access (only levels 124 and 125 are cheaper than access to level 148) and also the time of your visit.
If you want to watch the sunset from Burj Khalifa, it is slightly more expensive. And it is not guaranteed that there is a nice sunset to watch. However, you can try to arrange your Burj Khalifa visit in the late afternoon and watch Dubai from above.
It gets busy and it is not really a relaxed atmosphere, but I still love going up, and have done so three times so far.
Don´t underestimate the time it takes to find the entrance for Burj Khalifa – it is located in Dubai Mall. Also, you can book other packages and combine it with a dinner at Burj Club (I loved it).
Get the best rates for your Burj Khalifa tickets here:
Dubai Mall – Around 6 pm
Then, it is time to take the lift down and explore Dubai Mall, which is just gigantic – and busy, especially on a Friday (Friday is the Sunday of the Islamic world).
If you are into shopping, you could spend days here – I just love to stroll the mall because it houses several attractions like Dubai Aquarium (tip: unless you are super into aquariums don’t buy a ticket).
You get to see some parts of the aquarium just by being in the mall (the aquarium itself is not worth the money, in my opinion) and the dinosaur skeleton that is on display. Shopping in Dubai is more expensive than in Germany – whether it is luxury items or the clothes in one of my favorite shops (Oasis). Everything is pricier than in Germany.
The time has definitely passed when Dubai was known as a shopping paradise. If you are from the US, it will be even more expensive to you. So, unless you are looking for something specific, I would not necessarily recommend shopping a lot.
Dinner: It is probably time for dinner. Inside Dubai Mall, you will find many restaurants – and in the food hall, some very affordable places that have food from all over the world.
Then there are also other – quite high-class – restaurants inside Dubai Mall. I suggest, however, having dinner at Burj Club (and buy your combined ticket with an entrance ticket to Burj Khalifa) or choose a restaurant outside with a view of Dubai Fountain.
Dubai Fountain / Burj Khalifa LED show – Around 8 pm
After 6 pm, the famous dancing water show goes on and I tell you, it gets crazy there. I mean, really crazy just because it is so crowded.
Whenever the fountain show or Burj Khalifa LED shows take place, this place will be one of the busiest in Dubai. To get a good view, secure yourself a good spot before the shows starts.
You can also book an abra ride and enjoy the water show without all the crowds.
Dubai Downtown is a beautiful place to end the evening – this is where you have all the bling-bling you can imagine.
Everything is illuminated, and with the view of Burj Khalifa, ending the day here is a good idea I guess.
Sometimes, there also the LED show takes place – which is honestly, even more stunning than the water show. However, I have never really figured out when the LED show takes place. Check out the LED show time the day of your arrival to find out when to see it.
Alternatively: Dubai Desert Safari – Around 3 pm
Alternatives: I love desert safaris. If you have only 1 day in Dubai, I am not sure if it is the best activity to do though.
It takes some time (around 4-10 hours) and you will have to schedule all your other activities around it. You have to decide for yourself whether you want to skip on some other activities instead.
With one day in Dubai you can get an idea what the city is about – however, I suggest staying at least 3 days but knowing it is not always possible, I hope you get the most out of your time.
Whether you follow this Dubai itinerary rigorously or not – the city is surely like no other and though surely not perfect it is a lot of fun. Just thing to keep in mind – Dubai is a conservative city (even after all) and there are a few things to keep in mind when visiting the city – check out my guide on what NOT to do in Dubai so you will stay safe!
Enjoy your one day in Dubai!