BEST 1 DAY IN ABU DHABI ITINERARY
Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is a great place to visit. Whether you get there as a day trip from Dubai or have a layover in Abu Dhabi, here are the best things to do in Abu Dhabi one day.
Although it’s bigger than Dubai, it’s much quieter and has fewer attractions. But that does not mean it is boring! Not at all. 1 day in Abu Dhabi is a good amount to see the main sights – and if you can stay longer, even better!
TRAVEL TIPS FOR ONE DAY IN ABU DHABI
Before talking about your 1-day Abu Dhabi itinerary, here are some tips for your trip.
Do´s and Don´ts in Abu Dhabi
- Any intimacy between couples should be reduced to a minimum (even holding hands) and is forbidden in some places (mosques etc.).
- Never drink alcohol in public (except in restaurants etc.) and do not get totally drunk.
- Follow the dress code. Abu Dhabi is a bit more conservative than Dubai, but you can show some skin (arms, legs), but my tip is always to respect the culture and religion, and don’t forget that it is not a western country. Check out my guide on the dress code for Dubai.
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Is Abu Dhabi Safe for Tourists?
Keep in mind that the UAE is neither a democracy nor transparent. We do not know about crime rates or problems. However, I think Abu Dhabi, like Dubai, is safe in terms of crime and terror. You do not have to worry about being robbed or attacked or whatever. Exercise common sense and you will be fine.
Solo Female Travel in Abu Dhabi
I visited Abu Dhabi several times as a solo female traveler and absolutely loved it. Abu Dhabi is safe – for female and male travelers, for solo and family travel. As always, be aware of your surroundings, but you should not be afraid to travel to this Islamic country (as I also think Dubai is great for solo female travel).
- Read more about safety in the UAE here.
Best Time to Visit Abu Dhabi For a Day
I recommend visiting between late October and March, as it gets boiling in summer (from April to the beginning of October).
- In December, however, some days can be really foggy. I experienced it myself and it was hard to do sightseeing as I wished to do. Luckily, I had seen many parts of Abu Dhabi before, but it can be a bummer for Abu Dhabi first-time visitors.
If you visit the UAE (or any Islamic country), you probably should avoid the time during Ramadan as well.
- During this time, which lasts about 4 weeks, Muslims are not allowed to drink or eat during the day, which also affects tourists as some restaurants are not open during the day.
- Drinking and eating in public is not forbidden but not welcome.
- There is also a stricter dress code and less alcohol available.
- In 2023, Ramadan is from 22nd March to 21st April.
Where to Stay For a Night
If you stay overnight, then I have some hotel recommendations for you. Though hotels in Abu Dhabi seem a bit more affordable than in Dubai, it is not a budget destination.
- Here is my detailed accommodation guide for Abu Dhabi – or click on the links below to find some of the places I recommend staying at.
- Luxury Accommodation: Emirates Palace is one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.
- Mid-Range Accommodation: Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri is a beautiful 4* hotel with a view of the Grand Mosque.
- Budget Hotels and Hostels: Click here to find budget-friendly hotels and hostels
How to Get to Abu Dhabi
1 day in Abu Dhabi most likely means you will get there from Dubai as a day trip, or you will have a stopover. Here are tips on how to get to the city center from either Abu Dhabi airport or Dubai.
From Abu Dhabi Airport
Abu Dhabi’s airport is close to the city center. So even if you only have an eight to ten-hour layover, you can still visit many great places in Abu Dhabi.
- There is public transportation from the airport in Abu Dhabi. Buses take about 40 minutes and cost around 1€.
- If you take a taxi from the airport, you have to pay $6-20 to the first stop (depending on the exact location).
From Dubai to Abu Dhabi
There are two main ways to visit Abu Dhabi from Dubai – do an independent tour or book a guided tour.
You can explore Abu Dhabi by public transportation, taxi, guided tours, or a rental car. If you stay a full day in Abu Dhabi, an independent trip (by public transportation and taxi or a car) is the best option.
- Depending on your exact location, a taxi ride might cost around 70€ ($75) and takes about 90 minutes.
- A public bus is much cheaper, but it will take more time, and you are less flexible.
- You can also rent a car and drive to Abu Dhabi – the main highway is quite easy to drive. In Abu Dhabi, driving might become a bit more stressful, though it is nothing compared to driving in Dubai.
Tours From Dubai to Abu Dhabi
There are different tours that take you from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. The choices seem endless. Though those itineraries might not be 100% the way you want them to be, you can see which of the activities mentioned in the tour descriptions are the most appealing to you. Many tours have bundled a couple of great activities in Abu Dhabi.
- Check out this full-day trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.
- This tour covers THE main attraction in Abu Dhabi and is perfect if you have less than a day in Abu Dhabi.
- Here you have a tour from Dubai to Abu Dhabi that focuses on the cultural attractions.
- And here is a tour that focuses on the main attraction plus Ferrari World
PLACES TO VISIT IN ABU DHABI IN 1 DAY
If you have only one day in Abu Dhabi, my tip is not to waste time and start with the highlight first.
Grand Mosque / Sheikh Zayed Mosque
I begin with the most awe-inspiring place in Abu Dhabi: the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, also known as the Grand Mosque.
The Grand Mosque is located towards the inland side of Abu Dhabi Island, about 20 kilometers from the airport. It is probably the most beautiful building in the world. Even if you are not religious or Muslim, I still highly recommend visiting it.
It’s lovely during the day and at night! If you want to feel a special atmosphere, you can visit during prayers. When the muezzin calls for prayers you get a feeling of this exceptional experience. During the prayers, however, you cannot enter the prayer room itself.
- There is a dress code. Females have to cover their heads, legs, and arms. Men also have to cover their arms and legs. You can either use your own clothes or rent clothes for free. There is also a changing room.
- It is always open to the public except on Friday mornings or on special occasions.
- There is no entrance fee.
- I would plan one to three hours for a visit. Here are my travel tips for the Grand Mosque.
I would then head to the Emirates Palace, another must in 1 day in Abu Dhabi (at least to me). The Emirates Palace is one of the most expensive hotels in the world, and it is absolutely stunning!
Unlike Burj al-Arab, where only overnight guests or people with a written reservation for a restaurant/spa can enter, you can visit Emirates even if you are not a guest. The guards, at least in my experience, are very nice and will let you in so that you can take a look at the amazing, stunning lobby or have a meal or some coffee in one of the numerous restaurants. Of course, even the food/drinks are not very cheap.
- Buses run between the Emirates Palace and the Grand Mosque. However, it can be a little bit difficult on public transport as it is not yet perfect in Abu Dhabi. An alternative is taking a cab.
From the Emirates Palace, you could head to Heritage Village! It is a reconstruction of a traditional oasis village that gives you a little feeling of ancient Arabia.
Here you will also find public workshops where craftsmen demonstrate traditional skills such as metalwork, pottery, weaving, and spinning yarn. It’s quite small, but it’s worth a quick stop.
- It’s located at the Marina Mall, which is a great place to have a quick lunch or get some retail therapy.
- Open daily from 11:00 am – 11:00 pm and it is free of charge.
Corniche Walk and Beach
One of my favorite things to do in Abu Dhabi is to take a walk along the Corniche. It is a lovely promenade and includes children’s play areas, separate cycle and pedestrian pathways, restaurants, cafés, and the public Corniche Beach. If you’re fit you might want to walk the whole eight-kilometer stretch of the promenade.
In my opinion, Abu Dhabi’s beaches are nicer than the ones in Dubai. Here you can enjoy some time at the beach as there are sections that are public and free to visit. It’s lovely to relax after the walk whether you sit down on a bench or at the (sandy) beach.
If you enjoy spending time at the beach, then you can probably be half a day there and have the time fly by. If you are not that much into beaches, you can just see them in an hour or so.
So, all of the above activities actually will take between 4-8 hours, so you can see a few more attractions.
Louvre Museum is a beautiful museum with stunning architecture that opened in late 2017 – add it to your one-day Abu Dhabi itinerary. The museum is an art and civilization museum and is approximately 24,000 square meters in size, with 8,000 square meters of galleries which makes it the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula. This is not a place to visit in an hour or so, but you will probably need more time to explore it. Apart from the art displayed, the interior also looks incredible.
In case you might be wondering why it is named after the famous Louvre in Paris – this one is a separate museum, although the two are linked by a thirty-year branding and training agreement.
- It is located on Saadiyat Island Cultural District, which is further away. It takes about 15-20 minutes to get there from Corniche by car or 35 minutes from the airport.
- It can get busy at times, you probably should book your tickets in advance.
Abu Dhabi at Night
If you stay a full day in Abu Dhabi and spend the evening/night in Abu Dhabi, then you have several options for the evening.
- You can always go back to Emirates Palace, where the area is illuminated very nicely after dark.
- Or you could go to Downtown Abu Dhabi, which is not very far from the beach section. Here you have more shopping areas, restaurants, and cafes. Plus, it’s a fab place to stop for dinner!
- Alternatively, you can do a desert safari and spend the evening in the beautiful desert.
Alternative: Desert Safari
I am a big fan of desert safaris – I have enjoyed a few in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi, and highly recommend doing at least one in the UAE.
Normally, the evening tours include a hotel pick-up in the afternoon and drop-off in Abu Dhabi before midnight. The one I did, and this goes for most desert safaris, included dune bashing, star gazing, a belly dance show, and a great BBQ (with lots of options for vegetarians and vegans).
HOWEVER, with only one day in Abu Dhabi, you need to make sure you have time for it because it will not allow you to see many other sights/places on a typical 1-day Abu Dhabi itinerary.
- Click here to find out about desert tours in Abu Dhabi in the evening.
- If you want to do a morning desert safari, then check out this tour.
- Keep in mind that if you arrive during the day in Abu Dhabi, your flight might be late and it takes time to get out of the airport.
Alternative: Visit a Theme Park
Ferrari World on Yas Island is another top attraction – many people actually come to Abu Dhabi just to visit Ferrari World. It is situated close to the airport (about 10 kilometers / 6 miles) and if you have a layover for a few hours, you could still visit.
Ferrari World is a mostly indoor theme park – it is the world’s first Ferrari-themed park and features the world’s fastest roller coaster. It is an ideal trip for those who either love Ferraris, and cars in general, or those who are totally into rollercoasters. However, you will not have much time to visit other places if you head to Ferrari World.
Some tours from Dubai have the Grand Mosque and a trip to Ferrari World as one tour.
- To check out day tours from Dubai to Ferrari World, click here.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ONE DAY ABU DHABI TRIP
One day in Abu Dhabi is not a lot of time – but it will allow you to get a good idea of what the city is about. You can visit some of the main attractions and see the most beautiful places in a day. I hope these have given you some great inspiration for what to do in Abu Dhabi in 1 day – whether you explore Abu Dhabi as a layover or a day trip from Dubai.
As you have seen, I have added tours here for you. I personally love GetYourGuide and use them regularly for my own tours.
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