The pearl of the Middle East, Dubai is really worth visiting and you should consider going.
Many people think that Dubai, one of the hotspots of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is the last place on earth they should travel to. Yet, there is something magnetic about this city that will inevitably draw you to it.
Beautiful, shiny skyscrapers, state of the art buildings and beautiful beaches and sand dunes; fine dining; fabulous all-inclusive accommodation options, shopping at Dubai Mall and adrenaline filled experiences all make Dubai a fantastic tourist destination.
Visit Dubai, and you will feel like you are in Bangkok, Saigon in Vietnam, and even Delhi in India, all at the same time. Continue reading to discover the many reasons to visit Dubai and for tips on things to do in Dubai, places to visit in Dubai, and how to plan your trip.
Is Dubai Worth Visiting? 21 Reasons To Visit Dubai
It is a major airport hub
A lot of flights from Europe to South East Asia stop in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (I stopped in Doha on my way to Indonesia), which means that it is very easy to travel to Dubai. Airports in the region are impressive. Dubai is one of the world’s busiest airports.
It is rapidly changing
No other place on earth knows development to the same level Dubai and other places in the UAE are experiencing it. This really is a start-up city. At any moment, a new skyscraper is being built and the skyline is always taking a new shape. The best part of it is that since the government is generally involved in the construction of these marvels, you can get in for free.
Consider going on a walk (or a drive) along Sheikh Zayed Road, the main street cutting through Downtown Dubai, to admire the many high-rise modern buildings. This is where you will also find the Dubai World Trade Tower, whose observation deck is a cheaper alternative to Burj Khalifa. Another attraction there is the Gold and Diamond Park – pretty much a mall for jewelries.
You can get impressive views of the city
A city with so many skyscrapers is bound to gratify you with stunning views. The latest addition to the already impressive skyline of the city is Dubai Frame, a stunning frame located in Zabeel Park which was first opened in 2018. Dubai Frame is 150 meters (492 feet) high, and from there you will be able to enjoy a 360-degrees view, spanning from the Arabian Gulf to the sand dunes of the Arabian desert, all the way to Dubai Marina.
You will also find a 93 meters (305 feet) long glass bridge with a 25 square meters glass panel that connects the two towers.
If you want to visit this incredible attraction, you may want to join a guided tour such as this one.
It’s incredibly diverse
It won’t take you long to understand that Dubai is an incredibly diverse destination. This is a place where people from all over the world fly in and out of, regularly. And more than that, they do work there as it is a huge business hub. Of all the UAE, Dubai is a huge melting pot, with cultures mixing to give it a special international flavor.
The food is delicious
Speaking of flavors, did you know that food in Dubai is delicious? Whatever kind of food you may desire is available in Dubai – Lebanese, India, French… you name it!
There’s a lot of street food to be found in Al Dhiyafah Road, which means that it is not nearly as expensive as you may imagine – though if you want to indulge in an expensive five-star restaurant, you surely won’t have trouble finding one to suit your appetite. Should you decide to visit Dubai make sure to also book a food tour – it’s not expensive at all.
For a great food tour of Dubai, click here.
To experience dining on Burj Khalifa 124th floor, click here.
For a local find, you may want to try Tent Jumeirah, on 1 31A St Umm Suqeim 2.
It’s a sand extravaganza
Among the coolest places to visit in Dubai and in the Emirates, there are the desert dunes. Make sure to go on a desert safari: you can ride buggies or camels (make sure that these activities are 100% ethical before agreeing on doing them). You can drink mint tea in the desert; enjoy a belly dancing show; go sand boarding; and even get a henna painting.
You can book a desert safari here.
For a safari that includes sandboarding, click here.
But the beaches are also great
I know a good beach or two – I am from Sardinia after all.
Did you know that some of the best places to visit in Dubai are actually beaches? Jumeirah Beach is more than your regular beach: you can also go parasailing there, to enjoy a spectacular view of Dubai and of the man-made Palm islands. Up to 3 persons can apparently go on the same parasail – even more fun, actually.
You can also take a yacht for rent to go along the coast and explore Dubai Marina.
For a speed boat tour of Dubai Marina, click here.
Another great beach is Kite Beach, which is south of Jumeirah and, as the name gives away, is a great place for water sports such as kite surfing and paddleboarding. Kite Beach is also a cool place to just bask in the sun.
Finally, if you are looking for a less commercial beach, head to Mamzar.
It’s home to the best shopping
Whether you are a shopaholic or not, if you visit Dubai you can enjoy endless shopping opportunities – much like the rest of the Middle East. Dubai Mall is one of the best places to visit in Dubai. It serves as entrance to Dubai Aquarium and Burj Khalifa: there is an ice-skating rink; it is a great place for eating as it is packed with restaurants, and it even holds the month-long Dubai Shopping Festival each year in January and February.
But there’s more to it: next to the luxury brands of Dubai Mall, Dubai has plenty of souks where it is possible to buy at more than reasonable prices.
You can go to Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa is the symbol of the city, one of the most famous places to visit in Dubai. With its 829.8 meters (that’s 2723 feet) this is the tallest building in the world at the moment. In other words, if you visit Dubai you shouldn’t skip it for any reason. The views from Burj Khalifa are jaw dropping. For incredible birds-eye views of the city, make sure you go all the way to the Observation Deck at the 128th floor. If you are into photography, make sure to visit at night.
Tickets to Burj Khalifa can be bought online here.
The surroundings on the ground level are interesting too. The gardens feature the Dubai Fountain, which is a performing fountain known to be the tallest in the world.
You can get tickets for the fountain show here.
Ski Dubai will blow your mind
You really wouldn’t imagine that if you visit Dubai you can go skiing, right? In fact one of the coolest (literally!) places to visit in Dubai is Ski Dubai, a resort with slopes long enough to either ski or snowboard. They even rent all equipment.
For a two-hour slope session at Ski Dubai, click here.
Bastakia (Old Dubai) will bring you back in time
Bastakia Quarter (which also goes by the name of Al-Fahidi and you will sometimes see spelled as Bastakiya) is one of the best places to visit in Dubai. Known as Old Dubai, it is in the eastern part of Bur Dubai, and it was built in the late 19th century. The area was meant to be the home of wealthy Persian merchants (indeed the buildings follow the typical architectural style of Iranian coastal houses) who enjoyed the tax-free trading. It is located near the creek.
Buildings in the area are beautifully preserved. Wind-towers had been adjoined to homes and provided some form of cooling system, trapping the wind and funneling it down into the houses.
Don’t miss Majlis Gallery, also located in Bastakia, which has a great collection of traditional Arab ceramics and furniture (which are all kept in a wind-tower); and the XVA Gallery, a contemporary art collection. Also go to the Al Serkal Cultural Foundation, a nice place in a historic building in Bur Dubai where you will find more art exhibitions.
Dubai creek is truly lovely
Dubai Creek marks the border between Deira, to the north, and Bur Dubai to the south. It is one of the nicest places to visit in Dubai. It was because of the presence of the creek that people started living it the area, as they could go fishing or pearl diving. Located north of Al-Maktoum Bridge, one of best attractions is the Dhow Wharfage, where you can spot some beautiful dhows that are more than 100 years old. Other boats are still in use for trading.
Along Dubai Creek, on the Bur Dubai side, you will also find the Al Seef district – a lovely area with beautifully kept buildings, shopping opportunities, and a floating market. You can get there by dhow or by abra (small wooden ferry).
On the northern banks of Dubai Creek, Deira is the most multi-cultural part of the city and expats live; and home of the famous souk. The Gold Souk of Deira is the world’s largest gold bazaar. The spice souk is a perfect place to wander around for hours.
I also recommend boarding a cruise on one of the restored dhows that are currently used for tourist purposes. It’s a great way to get beautiful views of the city and even have dinner. You can book it here.
You can visit the exact copy of a mosque in Cairo
Many will tell you that Jumeirah Mosque is the most beautiful one in Dubai. Built to be identical – but smaller scale – to Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, it follows the Fatimid tradition in the style it’s been built. It has two minarets.
You can visit on guided tours organized by the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding. They run Saturday to Thursday at 10:00 am.
You can dive at Dubai aquarium
Dubai has it very own aquarium. This is literally an underwater zoo with walk-through tunnels which are perfect to admire the various species of marine life, as well as take a glass-bottom boat tour. You can also dive in the Dubai Aquarium. How cool is this way or exploring this underwater zoo?
For tickets to the Aquarium, click here.
And go for a walk around Dubai Miracle Garden
Another must-visit in Dubai is Dubai Miracle Garden, located in Dubailand. This is the world’s largest flower garden, measuring a whopping 2000 square meters and with plenty of flower sculptures. It’s a fantastic burst of colors, perfect for a late afternoon stroll.
To join a guided tour of Dubai Miracle Garden, click here.
You can get your adrenaline fix at Aquaventure waterpark
Visiting Aquaventure Waterpark is one of the most fun things to do in Dubai. This is a world-class waterpark where you can get your adrenaline going. It’s located in Palm Jumeirah island. There’s even a lovely private beach there.
To get your ticket for Aquaventure, click here.
Another incredible theme park is IMG Worlds of Adventure – a great place for both adults and children located in Global Village. Motiongate is a Hollywood productions theme park; whereas Bollywood Parks is a similar theme park but obviously focussing on Indian cinema. Other theme parks are Legoland Dubai and Legoland Waterpark. Most of them are located in Dubai Parks and Resorts, next to Riverland Dubai.
Dubai Opera will keep you cultured
A common misconception about the Emirates is that they attract a less than sophisticated, money spending crowd that has little interest in cultural activities. On the contrary, places like Dubai Opera, opened in 2016 in the Opera District of Downtown Dubai, is perfect for a night out. You will be able to enjoy all sorts of concerts, opera, ballets. The theater can host up to 2000 spectators and has quickly become one of the most popular tourist attractions in town.
As well as Dubai Museum
Located in Al Fahidi Fort, which was built in 1787 with the aim of protecting Dubai Creek, and last restored in 1995, Dubai Museum is the city’s most well known museum and one of its most popular tourist attractions, with an exhibit of old maps of the area, weapons, local musical instruments, and other artifacts that will give you a bit more insights into the Emirati life. Some of them come all the way from the Al Qusais archeological site.
What’s interesting about this museum is that for a long time the building was used as the residence of the local governors, as the seat of the government as well as a prison.
If you are a lover of art, head straight to Alserkal Avenue, in the old Al Quoz industrial district. There you will find some of the best art galleries you can think of, such as The Third Line, Ayyam Gallery and more. The area is also known for its local designers boutiques, pop-up restaurants and in general a very welcoming, young vibe.
It’s easy to move around
This is an incredibly easy city to get around. You will have the option to travel by taxi, but if you are looking for something more budget friendly, you can count on the many efficient buses – which by the way are all air conditioned. You can also go around by bike, by train and by boat. Finally, consider investing in a hop-on hop-off bus pass to easily reach all the main attractions in town.
The Dubai Pass makes it actually more convenient than you think
The Dubai Pass is a great way to save some $ when you visit Dubai and get a ticket for a lot of tourist places.
It’s a great base to explore the region
One more reason to visit Dubai is that you can easily use it as a base to go on day trips to nearby places.
Among the best travel destination for a day trip from Dubai, there is Abu Dhabi, another record-breaking destination which you can reach in 90 minutes from Downtown Dubai. Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven Emirates, this is home of the newly opened Louvre Museum.
For the best day trip to Abu Dhabi departing from Dubai, click here.
Another must-see is Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which is at 132 km from Dubai, in Abu Dhabi. Built in honor of the first president of the country between 1996 and 2007, this beautiful mosque has a whopping 82 domes and is absolutely stunning with its crystal chandeliers and the world’s largest carpet. Remember that even non-Muslim visitors need to be properly dressed to visit the mosque, so cover your shoulders, chest, legs, don’t wear anything tight. Women must cover their hair too.
Other great day trips from Dubai are to Jumeirah archeological site, which is located between Jumeirah and Al-Wasl road and dates back to the 9th century; Ferrari World which is also located in Abu Dhabi; and Musandam Peninsula, which is at around 200 km from the city and where you will find mountains as well as incredibly clear waters.
Further Information To Plan Your Trip To Dubai
The best time to visit Dubai
Dubai is hot year-round. The best time to visit is between November to April, and generally during the winter months. January and February are the busiest months, because that’s when the Dubai Shopping Festival happens in Dubai Mall. Needless to say, that’s when places in Dubai get the most crowded, with hotel rates and airfares skyrocketing.
In terms of weather, winter is the best time to travel to Dubai because it is a bit cooler and hence it is possible to venture on outdoor activities.
The months from April to October are definitely not recommended for travel. That’s when temperatures start rising, going well beyond 40 degrees Celsius. The weather tends to be really hot, and worst than that it is so humid that any outdoor activities are impossible.
Where to stay in Dubai
Such a famous destination as Dubai has no shortage of incredible accommodation options, to the point that some argue that Dubai is worth visiting just to experience a fabulous hotel. You can opt to stay in one of Dubai’s super luxury hotels in downtown so you can have access to attractions such as Dubai Fountain and be close to Jumeirah Beach, but there also are cheaper options.
Here is a selection of the best places to stay in Dubai:
The sail-shaped Burj Al Arab is an incredible seven-star hotel. This over-the-top luxury hotel is located on its own man-made island – Palm Jumeirah – so you have easy access to the beach, but you’ll have to take a taxi to reach other attractions. All rooms have ocean views. And if this is not enough, there is the Skyview Bar at 200 meters (656 feet) above sea level, on the 27th floor.
For as expensive as Burj Al Arab is, other places are actually quite cheap. Rove City Centre is a budget friendly hotel, as is the rest of the Rove chain. At the same time it is incredibly stylish, in line with the rest of the city. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Ibis Al Rigga is an incredibly budget friendly option. It is close to the metro station, not far from the International Airport, and features plain but modern and comfortable rooms. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Another option is to stay in a high-end holiday home or apartment instead of a hotel, even better if it has a penthouse. Dream Inn Dubai may seem pricey, but the place is so big that it fits an entire group and the costs can be easily shared. It’s a few minutes walk to Dubai Fountain and Dubai Mall. Not a bad option if you visit Dubai with friends. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
For more places to stay in Dubai, check out this post.
Have you been to Dubai? Do you think Dubai worth visiting?