Best Things to Do in Abu Dhabi, UAE

WHAT TO DO IN ABU DHABI – BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN

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.

What to visit in Abu Dhabi - the desert is one of the best places to visit
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ABU DHABI TRAVEL TIPS

Here are a few important travel tips for your Abu Dhabi trip.

Abu Dhabi is not as famous as Dubai (both cities/emirates border each other) but is actually the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

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 wants to have a more authentic feeling of the UAE.

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.).
  • Do not drink alcohol in public unless you do it in a licensed restaurant/bar etc. Do not get totally drunk.
  • Homosexuality is forbidden in the UAE.  

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 bring 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? Solo Female Travel in Abu Dhabi

Keep in mind, that Abu Dhabi (UAE) is not a democracy nor transparent. So, I can just talk about how I felt as we do not have relaible information about the crime rate.

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).

I visited Abu Dhabi as a solo female traveler and absolutely loved it. 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!

Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi has some amazing hotels. The standard is pretty high, but so are the prices. Though hotels here seem a bit more affordable than in Dubai, it is not a budget destination.

Below, you find a summary of my recommendations.

Abu Dhabi Guide for First-Time Visitors
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BEST THINGS TO DO IN ABU DHABI 1-6 DAYS

Let´s talk about the best activities and attractions.

Admire the Grand Mosque

Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is probably one of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi. The mosque is one of the most stunning, or probably the most building I have ever seen.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque best tourist attraction in Abu Dhabi
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The beauty is just beyond words! If possible, visit it during the day and at night time as well. 

Personally, it is probably great to start your trip to Abu Dhabi. 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 not religious, I love the call of the muezzin´s call for the pray.

  • If you have the chance try to visit during prayer time (5 times a day) -except on Friday mornings or special occassions, where the mosque might be closed.
  • The best: it is free, free, free, and totally awesome.

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.

Visit Corniche

Then you can either take a taxi or a bus to get to Corniche which is is a beautiful 8-kilometer promenade with access to the public beach.

Corniche in Abu Dhabi @shutterstock
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@shutterstock

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.

Depending on how much you like strolling or spending time at the beach, you can either end your day 1 here or do some more sightseeing.

  • It is free to visit (including the beaches).

Visit Heritage Village

Abu Dhabi sightseeing is not complete without a stop at Heritage Village. It is a small recreation of a traditional desert village with crafts workshops & monthly cultural festivals.

Abu Dhabi layover -Heritage Village Sehenswerte Orte, Heritage Village
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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 place. 

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

  • This is another free activity in Abu Dhabi.

Explore Emirates Palace

Visit the Emirates Palace, one of the most expensive and luxurious hotels in the world and one of the main tourist attractions. Many tourists find their way to that luxury hotel, and the buildings around are illuminated, and it is fun just watching people.

Emirates Palace Kempinski in Abu Dhabi (Emirates)
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I had lunch at one of the restaurants and thus was able to do a bit of sightseeing, but you can visit even without dining there. The guards might ask you what you’re doing there, so be prepared for an answer. However, they were quite nice and if you say, you want to have a coffee, it might be fine.

After lunch,  I headed to the backyard, which was lovely, too. It is a nice way to splurge yourself in luxury even if you do not stay overnight at the Emirates Palace.

Emirates Palace Kempinski in Abu Dhabi (Emirates)
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Whether you use this as an itinerary for Abu Dhabi or just an inspiration, the above-mentioned activities can be done in one day. 

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

To see Abu Dhabi from above, go to Etihad Towers Observation Deck. You might remember those views from the Furious 7 movie.

Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi @shutterstock
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@shutterstock

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.

Yellow Speedboat Tour with Arabian Adventures
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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

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.

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 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.” The safaris normally include dune bashing and photo stops in the desert.

My top recommendation for a desert safari in Abu Dhabi is the one in the evening with dinner under the stars – what an experience!

Spend a Day at Ferrari World

Ferrari World is rated as one of the best activities in Abu Dhabi.

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

Check out Saadiyat Island

Relax at Saadiyat Island – it is probably the most beautiful public beach in Abu Dhabi.

Itinerary Day Tour from Dubai to 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). 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.

Arzo Travels Abu Dhabi Louvre best things to see
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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.

Visit Zaya Nurai Island

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

things to do in Abu Dhabi what to do in Abu Dhabi
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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.

Visit 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.

La Mer Beach Dubai - best places to visit in Dubai
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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!

Safe Travels, Arzo
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