Abu Dhabi Guide

Best Things to Do in Abu Dhabi

+ Important Travel Information for UAE

A few years ago Abu Dhabi was still a hidden gem and people would rather visit Dubai than its bigger sister. However, over the last years, there has been a lot going on in Abu Dhabi and it is definitely worth to visit the capital of the Emirates.

I have visited Abu Dhabi twice and I will most likely visit again in the near future – I just love the city, the safety, cleanliness and different activities you can do in Abu Dhabi. Of course, there are less attractions in Abu Dhabi than in Dubai, but it has its own charm and here are my favorite places and best tips for Abu Dhabi.

So if you are asking yourself questions like “Where to go in Abu Dhabi?” “What to do in Abu Dhabi” or about general travel tips for Abu Dhabi you are lucky you got here since you will find all the answers to your questions.

Before I start with the top things to do in Abu Dhabi I have gathered the most important travel information for Abu Dhabi.

Find out:

Do´s and Don´ts in Abu Dhabi

What to Wear in Abu Dhabi

Is Abu Dhabi Safe for Tourists?

Solo Female Travel in Abu Dhabi

Best Time to Visit

Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi

What to Pack for Abu Dhabi (Packing List for Abu Dhabi)

Best Things to Do in Abu Dhabi

 

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Abu Dhabi Guide for First-Time Visitors

Do´s and Don´ts in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi probably is not as famous as Dubai (both cities border each other) but is actually the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and also has quite a lot to offer.

While I have written a more detailed post about the differences between Dubai and Abu Dhabi I recommend Abu Dhabi to anyone who enjoys nice beaches and a more authentic feeling of the UAE.

Any intimacy between couples should be reduced to a minimum (even holding hands) and is forbidden in some places (mosques etc.).

Never drink in public (except in restaurants etc.) and do not get totally drunk.

Follow the dress code.

What to Wear in Abu Dhabi

Though UAE is an Islamic country, you do not have to cover – either as a female or a male tourist. However, you should be aware that there are dress codes in many places like shopping malls or public places.

Dress Code for Females in Abu Dhabi

You can wear bikinis at the beach and shorts/skirts in many places but probably should not take the shortest and tightest clothes you have. If you want to find out more about the dress code for Abu Dhabi you can read my post about “What to wear as a female in Dubai” (though Abu Dhabi is a bit more conservative the post gives you some great ideas about the dressing behavior in Abu Dhabi as well).

Scroll down to read more about “What to pack for Abu Dhabi”.

Is Abu Dhabi Safe for Tourists?

I personally think Abu Dhabi, like Dubai, is a great place to visit as a tourist, because it is safe – Abu Dhabi tourist places are safe in terms of crime, terror, and also a great solo female travel destination (read more about safety in the UAE here).

Solo Female Travel in Abu Dhabi

I visited Abu Dhabi 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, exercise common sense, but you should not be afraid to travel to this Islamic country (as I also think Dubai is great for solo female travel). Abu Dhabi is one of the best destinations in the Arab world for solo female travel, so enjoy!

Best Time to Visit Abu Dhabi

I recommend visiting Abu Dhabi between October-March, as it gets really hot in summer. I visited the UAE several times and it was actually too hot for me in October and April (and even March is still a bit too hot for me), but I am not good with heat.In December however, some days were really foggy and it was hard to do “sightseeing in Abu Dhabi” 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 enjoy heat then April and June, and September should be fine as well but be aware that some activities are not offered during the summer months and some restaurants etc. are closed during the time.

If you visit the UAE (or any Islamic country) you probably should avoid the time during Ramadan as well. During this time, which last about 4 weeks, Muslims are not allowed to drink or eat during the day, which has also an effect on tourists as some restaurants are not open during the day and drinking and eating in public is not welcome. There is also a stricter dress code and less alcohol available.

When is Ramadan (Ramadan changes every year)

In 2018 Ramadan starts in the middle of May -until mid-June

In 2019 Ramadan is mostly during May

Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi has some amazing hotels – the standard is pretty high and so are the prices. Though Abu Dhabi´s hotels seem a bit more affordable than in Dubai it is not a budget destination, even cheaper hotels offer good value for money.

5* Luxury Accommodation in Abu Dhabi:

Emirates Palace (one of the most luxurious hotels in the world)

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers (the famous two towers that were also featured in the Fast & Furious movie)

Maya Nurai Island Resort (a gorgeous luxurious resort on a private island, also my favorite place in Abu Dhabi)

Anantara Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort (luxurious hotel in the desert)

Millennium Corniche Hotel Abu Dhabi (I stayed here as well and it is really good value for money

St. Regis Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi (Saadiyat has one of the most beautiful beaches in all of UAE).

3* and 4* Accommodation in Abu Dhabi:

Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri (a beautiful 4* hotel with view of the Grand Mosque)

Southern Sun Abu Dhabi

Courtyard World Trade Center Abu Dhabi

Check out the best prices for hotels in Abu Dhabi or click on each link to find out more about the hotel

Abu Dhabi Guide for First-Time Visitors
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Abu Dhabi Guide for First-Time Visitors

What to Pack for Abu Dhabi (Packing List for Abu Dhabi)

Things you should pack for your Abu Dhabi trip (apart from your basics, like luggage or underwear and toiletries)

Most important of all: Sun protection and after sun treatment (even in winter)

hat is more than just an accessory in Dubai, so my must-have item for Dubai is a stylish hat

Sunglasses

Abu Dhabi is made for maxi dresses, to get your own maxi dress click here (try to avoid dark and synthetical materials and stick to cotton etc.)

Linen trousers are great to wear (covers legs and protects from heat – get them here

You can wear short skirts in most places – but I would still recommend to have them not too short and to be aware that they are not appropriate everywhere

Some long skirts should be on your list

The more the merrier – my rule for hot destinations – this applies especially for tops

Blouses should be on your list (for the evening, some places that do not allow naked arms, or for the winter)

Shorts are great for the beach

Some cardigans for winter or the evening

Most of the women I saw in Abu Dhabi were wearing flat shoes though you can hardly be overdressed in some restaurants and malls

It is totally fine to wear bikinis in Abu Dhabi

I love kaftans and think, it is best to wear from the beach back to the hotel room etc. Luckily, they look super cool these days

Flip Flops are my must-have for beach days

Pack an international adapter – check if you need one

Do not forget to take your camera equipment

Best Places to Visit in Abu Dhabi and the 12 Best Things to Do in Abu Dhabi

While Dubai is crazy, Abu Dhabi is a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle though it still has developed over the last years and though the most famous sight might be the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque there is much more to see.

If you enjoy relaxing at the beach, visit luxurious hotels and do some shopping activities you will not get bored at all, but if you have only a few days in Abu Dhabi here are some tips on the top places to see in Abu Dhabi .

Find out about the top tourist attractions and points of interest in the capital of the UAE – these are also great things to do for solo female travelers.

Best Places to Visit in Abu Dhabi

#1 Admire the Grand Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is probably the most important sight in Abu Dhabi and my top tip for Abu Dhabi.  The mosque is one of the most stunning, or probably the most building I have ever seen and it is not a surprise it is one of the best tourists places in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque best tourist attraction in Abu Dhabi
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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The beauty is just beyond words, and it is worth to crowds and the abaya you have to wear despite the heat. If possible, visit it during the day and at night time as well. The best: it is a free thing to do in Abu Dhabi – free, free, and totally awesome.

There is no entry fee and you must follow a few rules when visiting. Click here to find out more about the most beautiful place in Abu Dhabi and what to know before visiting the Grand Mosque.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi Emirates Where to go in Abu Dhabi
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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi Emirates

#2 Do a Desert Safari

Go on a desert safari. I have done a couple of desert safaris in Dubai and totally loved them – they were actually one my travel highlights and so I had to book one desert safari i in Abu Dhabi….

Best things to do in Abu Dhabi
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If you have not planned any desert safari in Dubai you should definitely do a desert safari in Abu Dhabi. On my last trip I visited the UAE with my cousin and I cooked the trip for both of us. After asking her about the highlight of the trip to the United Arab Emirates one of the first things she said was “The desert safari in Abu Dhabi”.

The choices of desert safaris in Abu Dhabi are not as numerous as in Dubai but my two favorites in Dubai are also offered in Abu Dhabi. My top recommendation for a desert safari in Abu Dhabi is the one in the evening with dinner under the stars – what an experience! You can click her ego find out which tour I did exactly and click here to find out about the latest rates.

If you like a desert safari and would like to test sand boarding as well, I recommend this desert safari.

Arzo Travels Abu Dhabi where to go in Abu Dhabi and what to see in ABu Dhabi
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More Places to See in Abu Dhabi

#3 Visit Corniche

Visit Corniche, which is a beautiful promenade with access to the public beach. In my honest opinion, the beaches in Abu Dhabi are nicer than in Dubai. The water is clearer and the sand finer, and in October, the beaches and the promenade were still pretty empty.

Corniche in Abu Dhabi @shutterstock places to visit in Abu Dhabi
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Corniche in Abu Dhabi @shutterstock

It is also a nice place to just walk, jog, or ride a bike with some nice views of Abu Dhabi and so visiting Corniche is one of the places in Abu Dhabi – and another free thing to see in Bu Dhabi.

More fun things to do in Abu Dhabi

#4 Do a Speed Boat Trip

Cool down during a speedboat tour. My top tip for a hot day in Abu Dhabi is to do a Yellow Speedboat Tour with Arabian Adventures.

Arzo Travels Abu Dhabi best things to do in 3 days
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You see a lot and can enjoy the fresh breeze. It took about an hour and it is the best thing you can do outside because it is extremely refreshing, you can forget the heat even in the hottest summer months.

Abu Dhabi tourist attractions
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#5 Explore the Emirates Palace

Visit the Emirates Palace, which is one of the most expensive and luxurious hotels in the world. I had lunch at one of the restaurants, but you can visit even without dining there – the guards might ask you what you’re doing there so be prepared for an answer.

Emirates Palace Kempinski in Abu Dhabi (Emirates) top things to see in Abu Dhabi
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Emirates Palace Kempinski in Abu Dhabi (Emirates)

I took the chance and dined at one of their restaurants and then headed to the backyard – which I had all to myself and which is a nice way to splurge yourself in luxury even if you not stay overnight at the Emirates Palace.

The Emirates Palace is even one of the best places to visit at night in Abu Dhabi. Many tourists find their way to that luxury hotel and the buildings around are illuminated and it is fun just watching people.

If you are thinking about staying here overnight click here to find out about the prices.

Abu Dhabi points of interest
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Emirates Palace Kempinski in Abu Dhabi (Emirates)

#6 Spend a Day at Ferrari World

Ferrari World is rated as one of the best activities in Abu Dhabi and considered as one of the top places to visit in Abu Dhabi, so visit  Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.

Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi @shutterstock best activities in Abu Dhabi
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Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi @shutterstock

To be honest I did not visit Ferrari World. I was interested in visiting (as it is apparently more than just cars and a big theme park with crazy roller coasters), but since my time was very limited I skipped it.

If you are into theme parks and/or interested in cars, it should be on your list, but plan a full day for that activity.

As it is located at “the beginning of Abu Dhabi” it is a great activity to start with coming from Dubai and heading back to Dubai.

Click here to check out the best rates for a day ticket to Ferrari World.

#7 Check out Saadiyat Island

Relax at Saadiyat Island – it is probably the most beautiful public beach in Abu Dhabi and one of my top recommendations for Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi most beautiful places in Abu Dhabi
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Though it is a public beach, you have to pay about 5€ entry (for 10€ you get a lounge and towels as well). Though the beaches at Corniche are pretty and free, this is even more beautiful and probably one of the most beautiful places in Abu Dhabi – it is also not very crowded and it feels save enough to leave your stuff at the beach while hopping into the water (I admit, I tend to be a bit paranoid in some places and never leave my stuff unattended).

If you stay in one of the few hotels on Saadiyat Island you will have free access to the hotel beach.

How to get there: I have not figured out if a public bus is getting there, but it is a bit farther away and I recommend getting there by taxi.

Arzo Travels Abu Dhabi best beach in Abu Dhabi where to go in Abu Dhabi
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#8 Do Cultural Sightseeing

Visit the Louvre. Yes, Abu Dhabi has just gotten its own Louvre and once you are on Saadiyat Island you can visit the newly opened Louvre museum – which is an art and civilization museum and has opened in November 2017.

I stopped by but the lines were quite long, so I did not get into it.

Click here to see prices for tickets and tours of the Louvre.

Arzo Travels Abu Dhabi Louvre best things to see
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#9 Visit Heritage Village

Heritage Village is a small recreation of a traditional desert village with crafts workshops & monthly cultural festivals.

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It is a very cute place, though quite small – if you do not visit any workshops you will not need a lot of time to visit this point of interest in Abu Dhabi but it is still worth a visit – and it is anther free activity in Abu Dhabi.

It is located at the “end” of Abu Dhabi, so you can either continue to the Emirates Palace afterwards, Corniche or to Marina Mall.

Abu Dhabi best places to see Abu Dhabi
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#10 Shop Souvenirs or Traditional Clothes

Go (window) shopping in Abu Dhabi. Of course, Abu Dhabi has some big shopping modern centers like Marina Mall though they are not as numerous and bis as in Dubai shopping is one of the most popular things tourists and travelers do.

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If you like to get souvenirs or traditional clothes you I recommend getting them from smaller markets, so called souks, which you can find in many places – do not forget to bargain when you buy from the souk.

#11 See Abu Dhabi From Above

See Abu Dhabi from above and go to Etihad Towers Observation Desk. You might remember those views from the Furios 7 movie.

Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi @shutterstock where to go in Abu Dhabi
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Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi @shutterstock

As I have a thing for great views it was on my list but I did spend too much time Zaya Nurai Island so that I ran out of time. It was on my list for second trip to Abu Dhabi, after reading the reviews a visit seems to be totally worth it and is another great point of interest in Abu Dhabi, but Abu Dhabi in December can be quite foggy and so I had do postpone my visit again – however, if you have a clear day you should visit (hotel guests can get up there for free, other guests have to pay a entrance fee while they also get a voucher they can use for a drink at the restaurant).

#12 Visit Zaya Nurai Island

When in Abu Dhabi you need to plan in a day trip to this private island.

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Visit Zaya Nurai Island. I wanted to do several of the activities which I did not do, as for example visiting the Etihad Towers. However, I missed out because I spent too much time at Zaya Nurai Island Resort which is a private island that has been voted to one of the most incredible islands by Conde Nast Traveller UK.

Depending on your budget you could either book one of their incredible villas or if you are on a budget you can get a day pass which is surely worth each penny.

Best Things to do in Abu Dhabi in 1 Day

What to do in Abu Dhabi in one day? If you only have one day or a few hours in Abu Dhabi (you can use a hop-on and hop-off bus from Dubai to get to Abu Dhabi) make sure you visit the Grand Mosque (day and night time), go to Corniche beach to relax and walk along the Corniche promenade and visit Emirates Palace as these are the top attractions in Abu Dhabi.

What to Do in Abu Dhabi in 2 Days?

You have a bit more than 24 hours but not 3 days in Abu Dhabi to spend? The Sheikh Zayed Mosque should be on your list, as well some resting time at the Corniche beach, a visit at Emirates Palace and a Speedboat tour (speedboat tours start at the Emirates Palace so you can easily combine it). Then you should visit Zaya Nurai Island either with a day pass to Zaya Nurai Island or even with an overnight stay.

Want to read more about Abu Dhabi and the Emirates? Click here to find out more.

Check out the best prices for flightshotels I activities and tours in Abu Dhabi

Disclaimer:  Arabian Adventures and Zaya Nurai Island Resort invited me as their guests. But all opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links – this means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product/service via my links (at no extra cost to you). More about it here.

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Top Things to do in Abu Dhabi