WHAT TO DO IN ABU DHABI – BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE
- 1 WHAT TO DO IN ABU DHABI – BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE
- 2 ABU DHABI TRAVEL TIPS
- 3 Best Things to do in Abu Dhabi in 1-6 Days
- 4 Admire the Grand Mosque
- 4.1 Visit Corniche
- 4.2 Visit Heritage Village
- 4.3 Explore Emirates Palace
- 4.4 DAY 2 IN ABU DHABI
- 4.5 Shop Souvenirs or Traditional Clothes
- 4.6 See Abu Dhabi From Above
- 4.7 Do a Speed Boat Trip
- 4.8 DAY 3 IN ABU DHABI
- 4.9 Do a Desert Safari
- 4.10 DAY 4 in ABU DHABI
- 4.11 Spend a Day at Ferrari World
- 4.12 DAY 5 IN ABU DHABI
- 4.13 Check out Saadiyat Island
- 4.14 Do Cultural Sightseeing (Louvre)
- 4.15 DAY 6 IN ABU DHABI
- 4.16 Visit Zaya Nurai Island
- 4.17 DAY 7 IN ABU DHABI
- 4.18 Visit Dubai
- 5 FINAL THOUGHTS ON THINGS TO DO IN ABU DHABI
Are you planning your Abu Dhabi itinerary and wondering about the best things to do in Abu Dhabi?
Then read on as this post will help you plan your trip – whether you stay in Abu Dhabi for 1 day, 3 days, 5 days, or longer. Find out about what to do, the best places to visit, and many more travel tips for your first trip to the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
ABU DHABI TRAVEL TIPS
Before discussing the best activities in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or even 6 days in Abu Dhabi, here are a few important travel tips for your Abu Dhabi trip.
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.
Disclaimer: 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.
What to Wear in Abu Dhabi – Dress Code for Females
Though the UAE is an Islamic country, you do not have to cover. However, you should be aware that dress codes are in many places like shopping malls or public places.
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).
Is Abu Dhabi Safe for Tourists?
I 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 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
I recommend visiting 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 the heat, then April and June, and September should be fine. Be aware that some activities are not offered during the summer months, 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 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, and drinking and eating in public is not welcome. There is also a stricter dress code and less alcohol available.
Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi has some amazing hotels – the standard is pretty high, and so are the prices. Though hotels here seem a bit more affordable than in Dubai, it is not a budget destination. Even cheaper hotels offer good value for money.
Here is my detailed accommodation guide for Abu Dhabi – below, you find a summary of my recommendations.
5* Luxury Accommodation in Abu Dhabi:
- Emirates Palace (one of the most luxurious hotels in the world)
3* and 4* Accommodation in Abu Dhabi:
- Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri (a beautiful 4* hotel with a view of the Grand Mosque)
Budget Hotels and Hostels in Abu Dhabi
Best Things to do in Abu Dhabi in 1-6 Days
Find out about fun things to do – from free things to do to paid tours. Here is something for everyone.
In this itinerary, I tried to include experiences and activities that are geographically located close to each, which allows you to plan your itinerary but – of course – you might want to make some tweaks.
DAY 1 IN ABU DHABI
While Dubai wants to break all records, Abu Dhabi is home to the most beautiful building in the world!
Admire the Grand Mosque
Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is probably one of the best things to do. 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 places to visit.
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- 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.
How to get there: The mosque is located at the “beginning” of Abu Dhabi. Whether you are coming from Dubai or Abu Dhabi airport – it is almost impossible to miss it. There is a bus going from Abu Dhabi Downtown, or you can take a cab.
Personally, it is probably great to start your trip to Abu Dhabi with. This is especially true if you arrive in Abu Dhabi from Dubai or the Abu Dhabi airport (as this is one of the main attractions you will see in Abu Dhabi).
While it is pretty to look at any time of the day, it has a special charm at sunset – though I am 0% religious, I love the call of the muezzin.
If I am in a place with a mosque and hear the muezzin´s call, I get goosebumps all over – if you have the chance try to visit during prayer time (5 times a day). It is closed on Friday mornings for the big prayers, though – so keep this in mind when doing your Abu Dhabi itinerary.
Then you can either take a taxi or a bus to get to Corniche. Corniche is a beautiful promenade with access to the public beach. In my honest opinion, the beaches here 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.
It is also a nice place to 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 Abu Dhabi. Depending on how much you like strolling or spending time at the beach, you can either end your day 1 or visit some more of the best places in Abu Dhabi.
Visit Heritage Village
Abu Dhabi sightseeing is not complete without a stop at Heritage Village. Heritage Village is a small recreation of a traditional desert village with crafts workshops & monthly cultural festivals.
It is a charming 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 another free activity in Abu Dhabi.
It is located at the “end” of the city, so you can either continue to the Emirates Palace afterward, Corniche, or to Marina Mall.
Explore Emirates Palace
Visit the Emirates Palace, one of the most expensive and luxurious hotels globally and one of the main tourist attractions.
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.
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.
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 do not stay overnight at the Emirates Palace.
If you are thinking about staying here overnight, click here to find out about the prices.
Whether you use this as an itinerary for Abu Dhabi or just an inspiration, the above-mentioned activities can be done in one day.
DAY 2 IN ABU DHABI
For day 2, I have a few suggestions though you most likely will not be able to do them all. But given that we all have different tastes and do not like 100% the same, you can pick those activities you like for your 2 days in Abu Dhabi.
Shop Souvenirs or Traditional Clothes
Go (window) shopping. 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.
If you like to get souvenirs or traditional clothes, 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.
See Abu Dhabi From Above
As I have a thing for great views, it was on my list, but I spent too much time on Zaya Nurai Island so that I ran out of time.
It was on my list for the second trip to Abu Dhabi. After reading the reviews, a visit seems to be totally worth it, but Abu Dhabi in December can be quite foggy, so I had to 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 an entrance fee while also getting a voucher they can use for a drink at the restaurant).
Do a Speed Boat Trip
One of the best things to do – especially on a hot day – is doing a speed boat tour in Abu Dhabi.
You see a lot and can enjoy the fresh breeze. It took about an hour – it is extremely refreshing. You can forget the heat even in the hottest summer months.
The meeting point depends on the boat tour. Tip: if your boat tour starts from Emirates Palace, you can combine the trip to the Emirates Palace with the boat tour.
DAY 3 IN ABU DHABI
If you have 3 days in Abu Dhabi, I suggest going on a desert safari.
Do a Desert Safari
I have done a couple of desert safaris in Dubai and totally loved them – they were actually one of my travel highlights, so I had to book one desert safari in Abu Dhabi.
If you have not planned any desert safari in Dubai, you should definitely do a desert safari here.
On my last trip, I visited the UAE with my cousin, and I booked 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.”
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 here to 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 sandboarding, I recommend this desert safari.
DAY 4 in ABU DHABI
If you have 4 days in Abu Dhabi, I suggest that I did not do it myself, and while I am intrigued, I am also honest. At the moment, it is not worth my time nor money.
Spend a Day at Ferrari World
Ferrari World is rated as one of the best activities in Abu Dhabi, so visit Ferrari World.
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 coming from Dubai and heading back to Dubai.
DAY 5 IN ABU DHABI
Have I mentioned that Abu Dhabi has some amazing beaches? No, then it is time to experience them (you might have gotten a good idea when you visited Corniche, though the best beaches are more secluded and private. So, if you have 5 days in Abu Dhabi, visit this beach.
Check out Saadiyat Island
Relax at Saadiyat Island – it is probably the most beautiful public beach in Abu Dhabi.
Though it is a public beach, you have to pay about 5€ entry (for 10€ you get a lounge and towels). Though the beaches at Corniche are pretty and free, this is even more beautiful. It is also not very crowded, and it feels safe 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.
I have not figured out how to get there if a public bus is getting there, but it is a bit farther away, and I recommend getting there by taxi.
Do Cultural Sightseeing (Louvre)
Visit the Louvre. Yes, Abu Dhabi has just gotten its own Louvre. Once you are on Saadiyat Island, you can visit the newly opened Louvre museum, an art and civilization museum and opened in November 2017. So, after some time at the beach at Saadiyat Island, it is time to explore the Louvre (or do it the other way around) as they are close to each other.
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 and get skip-the-line tickets.
DAY 6 IN ABU DHABI
I really enjoy the beaches in Abu Dhabi to plan on another day at the beach – so if you have 6 days in Abu Dhabi, make sure to add this beautiful island to your itinerary.
Visit Zaya Nurai Island
When in Abu Dhabi, you need to plan a day trip to this private island.
I missed out on some activities because I spent too much time at Zaya Nurai Island Resort. It is a private island that has been voted to one of Conde Nast Traveller UK’s most incredible islands.
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.
DAY 7 IN ABU DHABI
Okay, if you have not planned a trip to Dubai, then it is about time to do so. If you have 7 days in Abu Dhabi, then visit the famous city of Dubai.
If you are in Abu Dhabi, consider a day trip to Dubai. I know not everyone likes the idea of a busy city, but I highly suggest at least a day trip to Dubai if you have one week in Abu Dhabi.
There are buses from Abu Dhabi to Dubai for about 10€ ($11) return. However, whenever I wanted to use them, it was still not perfect as I would end up in the middle of nowhere in Dubai. So, I suggest either doing a guided tour from Abu Dhabi to Dubai or to splurge and take a taxi from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (prices depend on your starting point, but I always paid around 60€).
In Dubai, there is a lot to do – what exactly? Well, find out here.
Also, I have written a quite detailed post on whether to visit Abu Dhabi or Dubai to check out if you are unsure which city/emirate to visit.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THINGS TO DO IN ABU DHABI
Abu Dhabi in one day is possible – but with so many fun and interesting things to do in Abu Dhabi, you should try to add a few days to your Abu Dhabi itinerary so you can get a better glimpse of the city.
It is a safe city and has quite a lot to offer – whether you visit by yourself, with friends or family or with your partner. Given its religion and politics, there are things to keep in mind when visiting (as you can see in my do´s and don´ts), but Abu Dhabi is an interesting place to visit.
So, whenever you visit – stay safe and enjoy!