Summer is coming and you probably can’t stop thinking about your holiday. Where to go, what to visit, how to find cheap flights? I know, planning a holiday can be exciting and stressful at the same time.
In case you haven’t already picked your destination then allow me to make a suggestion. Have you thought about visiting Dubai?
These days everybody is crazy about Dubai. All serious travelers have to check this on their Must-See travel list, as they have to see the young city that raised from the desert sand in just about 20 years.
Today I would like to make your holiday planning easier by giving you a lot of useful details about my recent trip to Dubai. They will help you take a decision whether to go there or not. You can even bookmark this page and use it as a travel plan if you decide to go on holiday to Dubai.
In this article, I will tell you about the best places to visit in Dubai. As always I will go deep into details, I’ll give my honest reviews and I will document everything with the photos I took during my trip there.
And to make your holiday planning even easier, I wrote an article about how I got two cheap flights to with almost 40% discount and a 4-star hotel with almost 50% discount. I suggest you read it as it saved me a lot of money and you can apply it for all your travels, not only for Dubai
But before diving into details about the best places to visit in Dubai, I would like to answer a question that most people ask before going there.
Where to stay in Dubai?
But if you’re like us, the “unlucky” 99%, then you probably want a decent hotel, cheap and in a good location so you won’t have to spend much on taxis.
To answer this question with some details and examples, I went to travel.americanexpress.co.uk and booking.com. I filtered my search to show only 4-star hotels and apartments, with an overall customer rating of at least 8. I sorted the search to show me the lowest price first. And this is what I found:
And on American Express:
After a thorough search, I found that hotels in Deira are among the cheapest. So if you are tight on budget, then this would be the best place to stay in Dubai. Here you can find a nice 4-star hotel for around £300 (for 7 nights).
However, you will notice quite a difference between that part of Dubai and the new one. It’s interesting but not as nice and shiny, and it is quite far away from the main attractions in Dubai. This means that you will spend a few extra bucks on cabs.
TIP: I found that marked yellow taxis are the cheapest, followed closely by Uber taxis. Don’t take the unmarked cabs because they will rip you off.
This brings me to what I think is the best place to stay in Dubai
Why is this the best place to stay in Dubai?
Well, that’s because there are lots of things to do in Dubai Marina, all within walking distances. Here are some of the main reasons why I think this is the best place to stay in Dubai:
It’s close to Jumeirah Beach
Close to The Palm (not within walking distance, though). If you’re traveling with children you can take the monorail to the famous Atlantis Water Park
It has the best Nightlife. Dubai Marina Walk is filled with restaurants and clubs within walking distance. So it will be easy to enjoy a night out with your friends or try a wide range of international cuisines.
Dubai Marina Mall is within walking distance. They didn’t forget about you shopaholics.
It offers beautiful views at night. This makes it one of the best places to visit in Dubai at night
As you can see the prices are a bit higher in Dubai Marina, but if you follow these steps you should be able to get at least 50% discount at a hotel here.
And now let’s start our journey and see the best places to visit in Dubai
13 best places to visit in Dubai
I’ve started with the desert because this was one of my favorite places to visit in Dubai. To get here you can either rent a car and drive yourself (about 50 minutes drive), or book a Dubai Desert Safari Tour with barbecue and Entertainment
I booked it from travel.americanexpress.co.uk as they had the best prices, as you can see below. Other good websites from where you can purchase holiday experiences are Viator.com and Expedia
If you happen to collect Reward Points from American Express (like yours truly), then you can pay for this experience with points.
Note: This is not for the faint-hearted. They will take you into the desert in a reinforced SUV and they will seriously bash those dunes, kind of like what you see in the movies. It will be even more exciting if you get a driver that’s really passionate about what he’s doing.
And after pumping a bit of adrenaline in you, they will take you to a nice Bedouin Campsite. Here you will enjoy barbecue, drinks, Shisha and Arabian music entertainment.
Our next best places to visit in Dubai are …. not in Dubai.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque and Emirates Hotel in Abu Dhabi
I know, you’re going to say ‘This is in Abu Dhabi and I am not staying there’. But if you’re visiting Dubai, then these two places are something you don’t want to miss. That’s because they are only an hour away and believe me, they are amazing.
You can book a day trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi online, or you can buy tickets from your hotel. I purchased it from the American Express Travel site as their prices were the best I could find.
Keep in mind that this trip will take about 9-10 hours and it starts early in the morning. So don’t party hard the night before, ok? This trip also includes other tourist attractions in Abu Dhabi, like the Heritage Village, Ferrari World, and the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 track.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque is truly impressive. It’s one of the largest in the world and it really stands out in both style and grandeur. This mosque can accommodate over 40.000 worshippers. Check out what Wikipedia says Sheikh Zayed Mosque
TIP: All places of worship in UAE have a dress code. Both men and women need to have their knees and shoulders covered. That means no shorts or short dresses allowed. Women should also wear a scarf to cover their hair.
The next important tourist attraction in Abu Dhabi is the Emirates Palace. According to Wikipedia, this is ‘the second most expensive hotel ever built’.
Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi
This hotel’s architecture is simply stunning, inside and out. And just like Sheikh Zayed Mosque, this is a wonderful place for photography. There is a luxurious tea house inside, where you can enjoy your Earl Grey, listen to live piano music and simply admire the hotel’s amazing design.
TIP: Do a bit of research before going the Emirates Palace, because there are days when they don’t let anyone in. And you wouldn’t want to miss this.
Now let’s go to the most popular places to visit in Dubai.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai Fountains, and the Dubai Mall
According to Wikipedia, Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. According to me, it’s also the most beautiful. Granted, I haven’t seen them all, but at the moment it’s definitely my favorite. And it’s arguably one of the best places to visit in Dubai
Just take a quick look at the records it broke:
It’s best to visit Burj Khalifa later in the afternoon. That’s when you get the best light for photography. Also, the Dubai Fountains will start their ‘dance’ at 6 pm so you can actually see them from above.
To get to the top of Burj Khalifa, you have to buy a ticket from the Dubai Mall. Then jump into the fastest elevator in the world, which will take you to the 124th floor in just 55 seconds. That’s right, I counted them.
And this is how you see the world from the 124th floor.
After visiting Burj Khalifa, you can go for a stroll along the fountains and maybe stop for a romantic dinner with a view.
Oh, and I almost forgot. If you’re a shopping addict, then it might be best to stay away from the nearby Dubai Mall. Trust me, you’ll break your credit cards into pieces.
And just like you would expect from a Dubai building, this is the largest mall in the world.
You will probably notice a pattern every time someone describes something in Dubai. If you ask a local, a guide or search on Wikipedia anything about buildings in Dubai you will see that all of them are described with adjectives finishing in ‘est’ like: biggest, tallest, largest and so on.
I guess these guys really like to break records.
They should probably call it ‘Dubaiest’ or better yet: “Qarth, the greatest city that ever was and ever will be” (from Game of Thrones)
Moving on, from the heights of Burj Khalifa towards the beach, right next to Burj al-Arab, the fourth tallest hotel in the world
This is a 5-star resort and as you might expect … it’s THE LARGEST in the Emirates.
The Resort comprises a Souk which means a traditional Arabian Market. It’s sort of an Arabian labyrinth of alleys with shops scattered all over it. It also has a private beach which, unfortunately, is only available for guests.
What I loved most about this resort is its restaurants and the view of Burj Al Arab. This is an excellent place to have dinner and one restaurant that I tried and really liked is TheMeatCo.
If you decide to dine there, make sure you book a water-side table with a view like the one below
And now it’s time to move forward to another popular tourist attraction in Dubai.
The Palm Dubai
The most important attraction here is Atlantis, The Palm. You can get to Atlantis by taking a taxi or The Palm Monorail.
This is a monorail line that runs across the whole length of The Palm and offers nice views over it.
But there’s one more attraction here, that might be of interest especially if you have children.
The Aquaventure Waterpark
It was closed when I got here, so I don’t have any photos with me taking a leap of faith in that crazy slide, but you can check it out on Tripadvisor. It’s rated #6 out of 386 things to do in Dubai. So that’s definitely something you want to check on your Must-See list
Now it’s time to see another side of Dubai. This tourist attraction is completely different than what we’ve seen so far, but nevertheless it is one of the most interesting places to visit in Dubai.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (a.k.a Al Bastakiya)
The contrast between the new and the old part of the city is truly startling. Here you can have a glimpse of how this city looked like before the oil boom and before the ‘tallest, largest, biggest’ buildings the world has ever seen.
You can take a taxi to get here or take a boat from Dubai Marina like I did. The boat ride is considerably longer, but as you can see below the views are far better.
As soon as you hop off the boat, you’ll start noticing the difference. Gone are the lavish yachts from Dubai Marina and guess what replaced them … some good old abra boats.
Oh well, they may not be as luxurious, but I still find them interesting and most importantly authentic.
There are two main points of interest you should visit here:
The Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
The Textile Souk
The Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood is also known as Al Bastakiya. It is the historic district of Dubai, which has been preserved and restored to an outstanding condition. The Al Bastakiya is like a network of small alleys full of museums, tea houses, workshops, and galleries.
You can let yourself get lost in the Al Fahidi Neighbourhood and explore every gallery or workshop you encounter. You never know what you may find. I actually stumbled upon a gypsum sculptures workshop, where two nice people offered to teach me how to make gypsum sculptures.
Then I discovered a nice little shop with amazing spices and local perfumes. Being a passionate foodie, I simply couldn’t help myself from buying a bit of everything. And after filling my tote bag with spices, I resumed my journey towards the next beautiful places to visit in Dubai
Dubai Textile Souk
This is a traditional Arabian market, where you can find hundreds of small shops offering all sorts of textiles and souvenirs. It’s nice to see and take photos of it, however, the vendors can make you feel a bit uncomfortable because they are very pushy. Of course, you can always ignore them and mind your photography.
TIP: Souvenirs are cheaper here, even though they are exactly the same as the ones in Dubai Mall or other popular tourist areas in the new part of the city. And you can always bargain with the vendors.
Gold Souk and Spice Souk in Deira
After wandering through the alleys of Al Fahidi Neighbourhood and the Textile Souk, I wanted to see the last 2 places on my Must-See list:
Dubai Gold Souk (Gold Market)
Spice Souk (Spice Market)
They are both in Deira, which is opposite to the Al Fahidi Neighbourhood. So I asked a local how to get there and he advised me to take an abra boat and cross the Dubai Creek (water canal), as it is considerably cheaper than a taxi and a lot more interesting.
And that it was. Just 1 Dirham to cross the canal, that’s less than a quarter of a pound. Cheapest ride in Dubai.
After crossing the canal, I headed towards the Spice Souk. This is sort of a foodie’s Arabian dream. Here you’ll find all kinds of spices from all over the world.
There is something that you should be aware of when visiting the Spice Souk. Shop owners and vendors can be very pushy (even more than the ones in Textile Souk), practically dragging you into their shops. That might make you feel uncomfortable, especially if you’re a girl traveling alone. They are not dangerous by any means, but for some reason, they think this is a good selling strategy.
If you get past that uncomfortable feeling and just ignore them, you will find lots of interesting spices (some of which I didn’t even know existed) and souvenirs. And remember: everything is negotiable there.
And our last stop is …
Gold Souk, a.k.a Dubai Gold Market
This souk is rated number 12 out of 221 Shopping Experiences in Dubai. So yes, it is definitely worth a visit.
Although I expected to see lots of Gold jewelry (as this is what a gold market is all about), I was still amazed by what I found here. And more precisely, the amount of gold in their jewelry astonished me. This is not the type of market where you go and buy a small gold ring. That’s the kind of market where you go and buy this
End of journey
After a 6 day visit, these were my favorite places to visit in Dubai. If I were to go back I would definitely try again the ones at the top of my list. These four are my favorite places to visit in Dubai, and I don’t think I could ever get tired of them:
Sheikh Al Zayed Mosque
Dinner near Burj Khalifa
Dinner in the Madinat Jumeira (with a Burj Al Arab view, of course)
I’m sure there’s more of them, so let me know what are your favorite places to visit in Dubai?
Till next time…