Explore Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Travel Guide

The brash, bold city of Abu Dhabi is a modern marvel, capital of the wealthy United Arab Emirates and headquarters of the world's richest oil operating companies. The pulsating city, with futuristic skyscrapers and wide tree-lined boulevards, is capitalising on its sophistication, amazing duty-free shopping zone, its luxury hotels and top class transport and communication infrastructure to attract tourists. They come not only for the 'retail therapy' and glitz, but also to explore the fascinating culture of the vast Abu Dhabi Emirate itself (it is the largest of the seven Emirates), with its miles of desert and interesting oases.<br /><br /> The city is almost an island, jutting into the Persian Gulf, with land having been reclaimed from the sea to make way for a long seafront Corniche, lined with lush gardens and gushing fountains. It is a relatively young city, the area having been first settled by nomadic tribesmen in the mid-18th century; it remained little more than a fishing village until oil was discovered in the 1950s, and the financial and trading boom began.<br /><br /> Today the international airport and deep water port bring in visitors from around the world, most clutching credit cards and cash, set on spending as much as possible in the enticing shopping malls and buzzing souk (market). Limousines are a common sight in the congested streets, and restaurants offering the cuisine of many nations do a roaring trade, especially along the waterfront. Shopping fever is at its height during the annual Shopping Festival held in early March. Those taking a break from modern luxury can escape to the desert for a Bedouin feast under the stars, or a camel ride through the dunes.<br /><br />

Ferrari World

Address: Yas Island, 30 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi

Strap yourself in for the ride of a lifetime at Ferrari World, which opened at Abu Dhabi's Yas Island in November 2010. At over 2 million sq feet (200,000 sq m) this is the largest indoor amusement park in the world. The headline attraction is the Formula Rossa rollercoaster, by some margin the world's fastest, attaining speeds of up to 160 miles p/h (240km) and an acceleration of 4.8 G, which is what a Formula One racing driver experiences at full throttle. The park's many attractions include the largest Ferrari gallery outside of the brand's headquarters in Marinello, Italy; the Speed of Magic immersive 4-D film experience; the G-Force space shot tower; Bell'Italia, which reproduces Italy's main attractions in miniature; and various state of the art racing simulators. An enormous red-domed roof encloses the facility, creating a futuristic and unique structure that has been nominated for several architectural awards. Ferrari World includes six restaurants, featuring four Michelin-starred chefs.<br /><br />

Al Hosn Palace (White Fort)

Address: Khalid bin Walid St Abu Dhabi

The oldest building in young Abu Dhabi is the Al Hosn Palace, known colloquially as the White Fort. It was constructed in 1793 as the official residence of the former ruling family, and was extensively renovated in 1983. Today it houses the Cultural Foundation, featuring a museum of traditional artefacts and historical photographs. The Palace is renowned for the magnificent tile work over its main gate.<br /><br />

Heritage Village

Address: The Breakwater Abu Dhabi

Designed as a living museum depicting traditional Bedouin life, the Heritage Village over the Abu Dhabi Corniche features tents, courtyard houses, an ancient irrigation system, workshops where craftsmen ply their trades, a museum and much more.<br /><br />

Liwa Oasis

Address: Abu Dhabi

Numerous local tour operators in Abu Dhabi offer trips from the city to the famed Liwa Oasis, about three hours drive away along a modern highway. This green, agricultural strip at the edge of the Rub Al Khali ('Empty Quarter') is surrounded by desolate desert with farms abutting towering sand dunes. Visitors enjoy overnight camel trips to camp in the desert. The oasis, made up of a string of small towns and villages, is resplendent with pools of fresh water and date plantations, and is the ancestral home of the Bani Yas tribe from whence sprang Abu Dhabi's ruling family.<br /><br />

Marina Mall Fun City

Address: Marina Mall, Ras Al Akhdar Abu Dhabi

Admission: Rides range AED 4-12.

The Fun City at Marina Mall is a great place for kids, offering an exciting range of arcade games and rides to enjoy. Favourite rides at the amusement centre include the thrashing shark rollercoaster, the whizzy little bumper cars and the 'Extreme Shock' machine - actually very safe!<br /><br />

Bowling, Paintball and Table Tennis

Address: Al Maqtaa, near the Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

Admission: Daily 10am-10pm.

Kids in Abu Dhabi will love honing their skills in the bowling alley at the Armed Forces Officers' Club, or perhaps playing a game of paintball or table tennis. There is also a large playground and an Olympic-size swimming pool at the club for kids to cool off in after all that action. The Armed Forces Officers' Club also has a Ladies recreation area with massage tables, a swimming pool, steam bath, sauna and gym.<br /><br />

Hili Fun City

Address: Al Ain Abu Dhabi

Admission: AED 45 (AED 40 Mondays and Tuesdays); free for children under 35 inches (0.89m). Fridays, Saturdays 10am-10pm, weekdays 4pm-10pm. Closed Sundays. Wednesdays are female admission only.

A great attraction for children and often called the 'Disneyland of the Middle East', Hili Fun City is the largest theme park in the Gulf. Completely refurbished and modernised in 2009, the park offers a number of rides and amusements, including a mini train tour, an ice skating rink, a rollercoaster and sky-flyer, and the Dynamic Motion Theatre. There are also beautifully landscaped gardens and various picnic spots to enjoy at the park.<br /><br />

Hiltonia Beach Club

Address: Hilton Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi

Belonging to the Hilton Abu Dhabi Hotel, the Hiltonia Beach Club is an exclusive beach with excellent facilities. Open to non-guests on weekdays for a fee, the beach offers lounge chairs and umbrellas in the sand, and water sports like snorkeling, fishing, windsurfing, water skiing, kayaking and sailing. There is also a café and cocktail bar, and three swimming pools with water slides.<br /><br />

Beach Rotana Brunch City

Address: 10th Street, Al Zahiya Area Abu Dhabi

Food Type: Brunch

Friday brunch is an institution in Abu Dhabi and this five star hotel sets the bar very high with an epic brunch spread, combining the food selection of a number of its restaurants to provide customers with a dazzling array of culinary choice. Beach Rotana's relatively high prices are offset by the exceptional food and complimentary champagne.<br /><br />

Al Mina

Address: Al Dhafra, Dhow Harbor Abu Dhabi

Food Type: Local

Al Mina is a relaxed restaurant on the harbour serving traditional Iranian cuisine, with a special focus on local seafood like lobster and squid. Try one of the starter platters, overflowing with hummus, tabbouleh, and dolmades. The restaurant has both an Arabian-style indoor section and an outdoor patio with waterfront views. Open daily from 4-11pm.<br /><br />

Automatic and Lebanese Flower

Address: Near the corner of Hamdan &amp; 4th Streets, Al-Manhal, Khalidia Abu Dhabi

Food Type: Middle Eastern

These restaurant chains offer a good local variety of fast food at a low price. They do shawarmas (roast meat rapped in pita bread), hummus, falafels and roast chicken. The mouth-watering fare and local cultural inspiration makes them a must try.<br /><br />

Pars Palace

Address: Al-Khalidiya Abu Dhabi

Food Type: Local

Considered the best place to eat Persian food in Abu Dhabi, Pars Palace is tucked away in a small backstreet behind Corniche Towers, near the marina. A wide selection of authentic Middle Eastern dishes, including saffron chicken and spicy kebabs, is accompanied by complementary fresh loaves of flat bread with sheeps-milk cheese. One of the best-value restaurants in Abu Dhabi, Pars Palace is busy for lunch and dinner. Open 11am to 3:30pm and 6pm to midnight.<br /><br />

Hediard

Address: Marina Mall, Ras Al Akhdar Abu Dhabi

Food Type: French

This elegant French patisserie is popular over lunch for its excellent people-watching and relaxed environment. Linger over a cup of coffee and a petit four, or indulge in a leisurely meal of French fusion cuisine. Located in the Marin Mall, Hediard is open daily from 9am to midnight.<br /><br />

While quieter than Dubai, Abu Dhabi has a very festive nightlife; most of the bars and clubs located in the city's upmarket hotels, which are allowed to serve alcohol under UAE law. The nightlife only really kicks off at around 11pm; many venues have a strict dress code to adhere to but an otherwise relaxed and safe atmosphere to enjoy. There are a number of English, Mexican and American-style bars and pubs in Abu Dhabi; some of the most popular including the Harvester's Pub at Sands Hotel, the Jazz Bar at Hemingway's and the Irish pub at the Abu Dhabi Grand. Live performances, happy hour, ladies nights and quiz evenings are regular events in Abu Dhabi bars. The local nightclubs feature international and local DJs, as well as live performances from Arab singers and belly dancers. Exotic cocktails, vintage brandies and Arabic mezzes (snacks) are also offered by most venues. Popular Abu Dhabi nightclubs include Le Meridien's Gauloises Club, and the Tequilana Discotheque at the Hemingway's complex.<br /><br />
Shopping in Abu Dhabi is a very rewarding experience with souks, malls and the airport duty free shops offering some of the lowest prices in the world on a wide range of goods, thanks to very low import duties. Most shopping malls are open Saturday to Wednesday from 10am to 10pm, on Thursdays from 10am to 11pm, and on Fridays from 2pm until late. Independent shops close for lunch from 2pm to 4pm, and then stay open until at least 9pm.<br /><br /> There are a number of souks (markets) in Abu Dhabi offering a vast selection of oriental carpets, gold and antique jewellery, electronic gadgets, designer clothes, cosmetics, spices and souvenirs. The Al Nasr Street, Sheikh Hamdan, Sheikh Khalifa, Iranian and Al Meena souks are among the most popular in Abu Dhabi. Local souvenirs include items such as traditional coffee pots, Bedouin jewellery and antique chests.<br /><br /> There are more than 18 shopping malls and centres in Abu Dhabi offering a variety of brand-name outlets, hypermarkets, cinemas, cafés, restaurants and fast-food joints for shoppers to enjoy; two of the biggest are the Marina and Abu Dhabi malls. Some of the international outlets at these malls are IKEA, Woolworths, Body Shop, Virgin Megastores, Versace, Burberry and Gucci. The Abu Dhabi Shopping Festival is held each March in malls throughout the city and consumers can find excellent bargains and win a number of shopping prizes.<br /><br />
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