Abu Dhabi vs Dubai – Which is the Better Place to Visit?


One of the questions I got asked a lot is whether I recommend Dubai or Abu Dhabi.  Abu Dhabi vs Dubai?! Which city is the better city to visit? To cut a long story short, can say it depends on your interests and preferences whether you prefer Abu Dhabi or Dubai.

Abu Dhabi vs Dubai, Dubai vs Abu Dhabi: Which city (emirate) wins? I am happy to share a list with you, which I have created based on my experiences, hoping that this list helps you to make the perfect decision for YOU :).


Both cities are incredibly safe, as in regards for female solo travelers or in regard of any kind of crime. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are “rich” and “clean”.

You can do desert safaris in both places (in my opinion desert safaris are one of the best things to do in both places), as you can do water sports activities, helicopter rides, and you can shop in both cities pretty well.

Both are quite westernized, so there is not a cultural shock for western tourists.

Why is Abu Dhabi better than Dubai?

Find an itinerary for Abu Dhabi here and find out what to do in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi

  • The capital of the United Arab Emirates
  • biggest emirate (in size of geography)
  • about 1 million inhabitants

Here are my personal reasons why I tend to say, that Abu Dhabi wins if it comes to: Abu Dhabi vs Dubai 

Grand Mosque

It is home to the most beautiful building: Grand Sheikh Zayed MosqueDubai has more interesting and famous buildings, but it does not have Grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

Why is Abu Dhabi better than Dubai

The mosque is just beyond amazing and one of my favorites reasons to always re-visit Abu Dhabi.

To find out more about the mosque and tips when visiting (and too see many more images click here).

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi Emirates
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi Emirates#
More Beautiful Beaches

Abu Dhabi has more beautiful beaches: the public beaches at Corniche or Saadiyat Island, the beaches in Abu Dhabi were more appealing to me. Though Saadiyat Island charges a small fee (about 5€) it is definitely worth the money and if you do not want to spend money on a day at the beach you will have a nice time at the free beaches in Abu Dhabi – which are quite empty and you´ll not see it crowded.


Luxury Accommodation is Cheaper

Accommodation in Abu Dhabi, especially luxury accommodation, is cheaper. As a test, I did some further research, so that I am sure it was not only at the time I visited.

It seems that accommodation is cheaper throughout the year in Abu Dhabi – to check out the best hotel deals click here.

I have stayed in several hotels in Abu Dhabi and whenever I visited the prices were below the prices in Dubai – while the standard is the same!

Which is better to visit Dubai or Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is Quieter

Abu Dhabi is quieter. This can either be a pro or a contra argument, but if you do not like too much “bling bling” and too much of a hustle and bustle, you´ll probably enjoy Abu Dhabi more than Dubai. Though you will also find authentic areas in Dubai Abu Dhabi is still a bit more “Arabian like”.

Heritage Village in Abu Dhabi

Emirates Palace

The Emirates Palace, the top hotel in Abu Dhabi, is also open to “ordinary” people who just want to have a look, while Dubai´s “top” hotel (Burj Al-Arab) is much more difficult to access.

Emirates Palace Kempinski in Abu Dhabi (Emirates)

Zaya Nuria Island

Abu Dhabi has Zaya Nurai Island – one of the most beautiful islands in the region. Zaya Nurai Island – after a 12-minute boat ride you will get to the private island – to be allowed to get on the island you have to get either a day pass or you can stay there as an overnight guest.

Why visit Abu Dhabi

So, this point goes to Abu Dhabi in terms of Abu Dhabi vs Dubai.

Better Place to Relax

Where can you relax better? In Dubai or Abu Dhabi? Well, I would say Abu Dhabi is the better place to relax. As it is less busy, less crowded, and there is less traffic Abu Dhabi is the better place if you like to…relax and  chill.

Abu Dhabi relax

Read about my 12 top tips for things to do in Abu Dhabi.

Why is Dubai better than Abu Dhabi?

Here are the reasons why I like Dubai better than Abu Dhabi.


  • The Biggest city in terms of inhabitants and the most famous city of the UAE
  • about 2,5 million inhabitants
The City of Superlatives

Dubai is the city of superlatives, and there are many interesting buildings: It is home to the highest building in the world, Burj Khalifa (pictures from the top of Burj Khalifa here), the 7* hotel Burj Al-Arab, and many more interesting buildings. If you are into superlatives, visit Dubai.

Dubai in 2 days

More Attractions in Dubai

There are more attractions, more to see and more to do. It will not get boring in Dubai. Whether you head to the tallest building of the world (Burj Khalifa), or Miracle Garden, Dubai Mall, or Madinat Jumeirah – there is so much to do, that it was hard for me to pick only 5o top activities in Dubai (click here to read my tips 50 things to do in Dubai).

Abu Dhabi or Dubai

So many “wow” effects all the time, even though I have visited Dubai several times I have these “wow” effects all the time, one of them was when I visited the top of Burj Khalifa.

Dubai is More Liberal

Dubai is more liberal- I think it is less conservative compared to Abu Dhabi (click here to find out what to wear in Dubai as a female).

Though I am not into clubbing, there are more bars, more clubs, more parties than in Abu Dhabi. I, somehow, also feel less restricted in my clothing than in Abu Dhabi.

Better place to visit in UAE

More Luxury Hotels

There are more luxury hotels.  If you are on a budget you can just do hotel sightseeing for free – and you´ll do not get disappointed – like the  Atlantis- The Palm.

Palm Island

Dubai has the Palm Island. Though the beaches are private (you can get a day pass though at many hotels) it is a perfect place to ride a bike and enjoy great views.

Madinat Jumeirah

Dubai has Madinat Jumeirah, without any doubt, it is one of my favorite areas in Dubai. It is just a great place to spend the day, get lost and crop the day off.


Bigger Shopping Malls

Dubai has more shopping (and bigger) malls (quick guide for Dubai Mall here) and is the place to shop.


Crazy Souks

I have a love-hate relationship with Dubai Deira – the old part of Dubai often means to be stressed out as it is really busy but it is a place that reminds me like no other in the UAE (except for the desert) that I am in Arabia. The souks (markets) there are just something you have to experience once – you cannot find souks in that intensity in Abu Dhabi.

Which place to visit - Abu Dhabi or Dubai

Better Day Trips Options

Location: Dubai has, in my opinion, a better location. It is closer to Oman (and a day trip to Oman is fun) and to other emirates like Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah and so day trips to other places are easier and more fun.



Find my tips for the 50 best things to do in Dubai here – and click here to find all my Dubai posts. 


As you can see, it really depends on what you are interested at and what you like to answer the question whether Abu Dhabi or Dubai is better for a vacation.

Are you more a person who likes to go out and enjoy those “wow” moments, or do you enjoy the “natural” beauty and more quietness?

What about me? Do I think, Abu Dhabi or Dubai is better?

I actually liked Abu Dhabi as well as Dubai. To be fair, I have to admit that I visited Abu Dhabi only twice while I visited Dubai more often and spent much more time there.

Knowing what I know now, I would say: If I stayed in the United Arab Emirates for one week, I would probably stay 4-5 nights in Dubai and then in Abu Dhabi for 2 nights.

By the way: Abu Dhabi and Dubai are not that far away from each other. So if you still cannot decide which place to visit you can just take a hop-on and hop-off bus to Abu Dhabi or to Dubai  or take a taxi to get from one city to the other (about 80 kilometers).

There is also a bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi or the other way around.

Ready to book your next trip? Will you visit Dubai or Abu Dhabi? Or both 🙂

Important Travel Information for Dubai and Abu Dhabi 

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are both fun cities to visit with great tours and activities to see – before you plan your trip to Dubai or Abu Dhabi check out visa regulations.

What to Pack for Dubai and Abu Dhabi 

Read more about important things to pack for Dubai and Abu Dhabi

10 Luxury Hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi 

Find out about the 10 luxury hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Dubai on a Budget

Click here to find some budget travel tips for Dubai

Where to Stay in Dubai

Ready to visit Dubai? Then book your hotel but make sure to get the best hotel in Dubai rates by clicking here.  Here are some of my favorite picks for your stay in Dubai:

Luxury Hotels in Dubai : 5* Grosvenor House – The Grosvenor has become one of my favorite hotels (with the most beautiful lobby restrooms 🙂 It is one of the classiest places and since it is located in Dubai Marina it is perfect for those who like busy areas – perfect for business and younger guests that want to be in a fun location.

Mid-Range Hotels in Dubai: 4* Four Points by Sheraton Downtown Dubai – When I visited Dubai for the very first time I stayed at this hotel and was positively surprised by the high standard of hotels in Dubai. It is a beautiful hotel located in Downtown.

Budget Hotels in Dubai: 3* Ibis Al Barsha – a great budget hotel quite close to Dubai Marina. Simple but sufficient if you do not expect much. Click here to find the best rates for Ibis Al Barsha

Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi

Here are some accommodation tips for your trip to Abu Dhabi (check out my full Abu Dhabi accommodation guide).

Luxury Hotels in Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi has several amazing luxury hotels.

Zaya Nuria Island: Zaya Nurai is like a dream come true. This exquisite boutique hotel is the perfect place for a nice getaway.

Emirates Palace: Emirates Place is located to many interesting sights in Abu Dhabi and is one of the most elegant hotels in the world. To check out prices and book your stay click here.

Mid-Range Hotels in Abu Dhabi: The standard of hotels in Abu Dhabi is high and accommodation is much cheaper than in Dubai.

Traders Hotel by Shangri-La: Traders Hotel is a beautiful hotel located close to the Grand Mosque with nice views of the impressive sight. It is a bit far from other tourists attractions in Abu Dhabi – like Corniche promenade or the Emirates Palace, but well, it comes with a nice private beach section and

Safe Travels, Arzo

P.S. Another little argument speaking for Dubai is the proximity to Oman – whether you visit as a day trip from Dubai or for longer, Oman is worth a trip. Either way, hopefully, this post will help ou decide which place is better to visit: Abu Dhabi vs Dubai.


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