Thrill rides and exhilarating speeds.
Arabian opulence and 24-karat gold.
Pristine beaches and sensational wildlife.
You can explore them all in the Emirati capital.
On this list, you’ll find 33 great things to do in Abu Dhabi.
From preservation areas to world-class museums, and from record-breaking skyscrapers to gorgeous promenades, let’s discover what amazing activities await you in the megalopolis.
Let’s dive right in!
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The Top Attractions of Abu Dhabi
What better way to start this list than with the most famous things to do in Abu Dhabi?
These attractions are on everyone’s radar, so make sure you plan an early visit to beat the crowds. If your time doesn’t allow you the check them all out on your own, join this tour to get a nice first taste of the Emirati capital.
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Without a doubt, the shiniest pearl in Abu Dhabi’s crown is the temple named after the late President of the Emirates. Even if you’re only visiting on a day trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, that’s the one attraction you shouldn’t miss in the Emirati capital. The monumental mosque is the main religious site in the country and one of the largest in the world. The jaw-dropping exterior features marble from multiple regions of the world, while precious stones cover the massive columns. The highlights of the magnificent interior are the lavish chandeliers and the largest hand-knotted carpet in the world.
- Corniche Road. The 5-mile (8-kilometer) long waterfront boulevard is a striking promenade lined with palm trees. It features walkways, fountains, playgrounds, bicycle lanes, dining options, and dazzling beaches. If you’re in search of a nice, quiet spot to sit down and enjoy the sun, you can choose from several wonderful parks along Corniche Road. They include Sheikha Fatima Park, Capital Park, Abu Dhabi Corniche Park, and the Urban Park. On the boulevard, you’ll also find top-notch hotels offering staggering views. This makes it one of the best areas to stay in Abu Dhabi.
- Emirates Palace. Unless you give in the temptation of trying the world’s poshest cappuccino – sprinkled with 24-carat gold flakes – visiting the Emirates Palace is the most luxurious free thing to do in Abu Dhabi. Luxury is an understatement for the majestic hotel. The rooms and suites are richly furnished in marble and gold. Over 1,000 breathtaking chandeliers, featuring premier Swarovski crystals, brighten the halls. The hotel also has two helicopter pads and 17 top-brand shops catering to the needs of even the most fastidious guests.
- Qasr Al Watan. The gorgeous U.A.E. Presidential Palace receives official delegations but is also open to the public. The intricately designed edifice features bright limestone and white granite. Inside, you can dive into the Arabian opulence. A huge dome covers The Great Hall where a chandelier with 350,000 crystals will flabbergast you. The east wing is named The House of Knowledge and the west wing – The Spirit of Collaboration.
- Louvre Abu Dhabi. The most visited museum in the Arab world resides in an extraordinary, futuristic structure. The remarkable building features a floating dome, consisting of 7,850 aluminum stars. Inside the art gallery, timeless masterworks will spellbind you. Marvel at Egyptian sarcophagi, Renaissance paintings, and post-modernistic art installations. Exceptional works by Leonardo da Vinci, Paul Gauguin, Joan Miró, and Picasso share the space with ancient goddesses and ritual statuettes.
- The Founder’s Memorial. Probably one of the most extraordinary things to do in Abu Dhabi, this attraction celebrates the legacy of the founder of the U.A.E., Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The memorial on Al Ras Al Akhdar Peninsula tracks the history and culture of the young Middle-Eastern country. The monument consists of two open-air spaces, the Heritage Garden and the Sanctuary Garden. At the center, you’ll see a cubic pavilion. It houses The Constellation, an artwork dedicated to Zayed’s memory.
- Qasr Al Hosn. The oldest remaining building in Abu Dhabi was built in the late 18th century. Qasr Al Hosn is the fortification around which the modern Emirati capital grew. It consists of an inner fort, an outer palace, and the first permanent structure in the city, a watchtower. Its purpose was to overlook the costal trade routes and protect the fast-growing settlement. Nowadays, Qasr Al Hosn is a museum of Abu Dhabi’s history. It also hosts an annual Emirati heritage festival.
The Greatest Amusement Parks in Abu Dhabi
You can spend a whole day in each of these amazing entertainment hubs and still want more.
The amusement parks in Abu Dhabi will live up to every thrill-seeker’s standards. Let’s discover what each one has in store for you.
- Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. Home to the fastest rollercoaster in the world, the amusement park is themed around motor racing. It seduces with thrill rides, driving simulators, and a car factory tour. The highlight is the Formula Rossa Rollercoaster, which reaches the whopping speed of 149 mph (240 km/h). In 2016, Svet rode in the front row. He still remembers the spine-tingling experience! Four other rollercoasters and a free fall tower will make sure your adrenaline levels are sky-high during your whole visit.
- Yas Marina Circuit. Another thrill thing to do in Abu Dhabi is visiting the Yas Marina Circuit. Since 2009, it has been hosting the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. At the track, you can not only watch the best racers in the world… you can also experience the adrenaline-rush yourself. Drive a Formula Yas 3000 bolide, ride with a professional in a Chevrolet drift taxi, or race your friends in a go-kart at the Yas Kartzone.
- Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi. The record-breaking water park features huge surfing waves and heart-pumping waterslides. It’s home to Bubbles Barrel, the world’s largest surfing sheet wave, and Jebel Drop, the park’s highest and steepest waterslide. The main theme of the award-winning waterpark revolves around “The Legend of the Lost Pearl”. The story is inspired by Emirati history and traditions.
- Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi. Wanna meet your favorite Warner Bros superheroes and cartoon characters? You can do it in this indoor amusement park on Yas Island. It’s filled with fun rides and amazing shows. Inside the park, you can explore six themed areas: Gotham City, Metropolis, Bedrock, Cartoon Junction, Dynamite Gulch, and Warner Bros Plaza. We bet you can guess straight away which characters you’ll meet in each 😉
- Clymb Abu Dhabi. This awesome activity in Abu Dhabi is only for the toughest. You can put your body to the ultimate test at the indoor skydiving and climbing park. In the Flight Chamber, you can learn to skydive. It’s the world’s widest vertical wind tunnel. The Summyt offers a whole other experience. It’s the world’s tallest indoor climbing wall. Only a few succeed in climbing all the way to the top. Will you give it your best attempt?
The Best Shopping Areas in the Emirati Capital
Similar to the neighboring Emirate of Dubai, Abu Dhabi is a great shopping destination, too. Find the top locations to spend your money below.
- Abu Dhabi Mall. Although not as impressive as Dubai Mall, exploring the huge shopping center is still one of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi. The arcade seduces with its 200+ stores. It also offers a wide variety of food options, fun play areas, and a high-end multiscreen cinema. The mall also has a direct access to the upscale Beach Rotana Hotel. From there, you can head straight to the beach.
- Yas Mall. The mall on Yas Island is probably the coolest retail location in Abu Dhabi to explore. It’s designed as a town, with a network of streets, boulevards, and squares. The central place receives lots of natural light and displays striking sculptures by contemporary artists. The indoor courtyard features trees, shops, restaurants, and a pool. There’s direct access to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi from the mall.
- Avenue at Etihad Towers. Shopping at this exquisite place is among the most expensive things to do in Abu Dhabi. Bring your thickest wallet and your extraordinary taste because the arcade is a Mecca for fashion and jewelry aficionados. In the high-end boutiques, you’ll find the latest collections of the world’s top designers, as well as some of the finest jewelry and chronographs on the planet.
- Miraj Islamic Art Centre. The art gallery displays an extensive collection of unique Islamic art pieces. The items come from around the Muslim world, including Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Inside, you can admire hand-woven carpets, silk textiles, royal robes, miniature paintings, encrusted ceremonial objects, and Arabic calligraphy-engraved vases. Apart from learning how the items were crafted, you can also purchase the art pieces. The waterfront center features a rooftop café with panoramic views of the Emirates Palace and the Arabian Gulf as well.
The Best High-Tech Spots in Abu Dhabi
Digital museums, observation decks, futuristic leaning architecture? Yes, you can explore them all and more in the metropolis. Discover the best high-tech attractions in Abu Dhabi in this section.
- The Observation Deck at 300. This lookout is the highest viewing platform in Abu Dhabi. The deck is located on the 74th floor of the Etihad Towers. It offers a 360-degree sweeping panorama of the city’s majestic skyline from 300 m (984 ft.) high. Note that the entrance fee includes credit for the café. You can use it, for their popular afternoon tea or the venue’s signature virgin cocktail, the Etihad Sparkler.
- Capital Gate. The skyscraper’s nickname is the “Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi”. The reason for it is that the metallic tower has an 18° incline to the west. The 35-story structure is one of the tallest in the capital and holds a Guinness World Record for being the farthest manmade leaning building. Two frameworks of diagonally intersecting beams support the unusual structure and make sure it’s stable despite the large incline. If you’re looking for a unique accommodation, book a room at Hyatt Hotel inside Capital Gate.
- Zayed-Gandhi Museum. Explore this digital collection to pay your respects or learn about the life and work of two extraordinary leaders, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Mahatma Gandhi. The museum celebrates 100 years since Sheikh Zayed’s birth and 150 years since Gandhi’s birth. Inside, you can marvel at the rare photos, videos, and memorabilia showcasing the life, work, and philosophies of the two world leaders.
- U.A.E. Pavilion. Originally built for the 2010 Shanghai Expo, the stunning structure found its permanent home on Saadiyat Island after the world fair’s end. Its unusual shape resembles two rolling sand dunes. They’re smooth and curvy on one side, while almost vertical on the other. After the pavilion’s relocation, it’s been hosting art collections from Abu Dhabi.
- Manarat Al Saadiyat. At this unique, high-tech center, you can do several things. You can participate in numerous art and photography workshops. You can explore interactive art displays. Or you can attend theater performances. The current exhibition includes a graphical journey of reinterpreted recollections of the 1990s. Check it out to see if you remember this funky era the same way as the authors.
The Best Places to Learn About Emirati Culture in Abu Dhabi
Before the Emirati discovered precious natural resources in the area, their way of life was far from racing cars and ultra-luxurious shopping malls. Discover the history, culture, and traditions of the region at these incredible spots in Abu Dhabi.
- Abu Dhabi History Museum and Aquarium. Located inside Khalifa Park, the museum offers unique displays. Rather than reading a bunch of informational signs, you can learn about the Emirate’s past from life-like dioramas. They depict essential moments in the city’s growth. Discover how Abu Dhabi developed from scattered desert communities to a megalopolis of skyscrapers. Take a journey from the traditional desert life through the pearl diving industry to the discovery of precious natural resources. When you’re done with the history lesson, visit the aquarium next door. It will acquaint you with another important part of Abu Dhabi – the sea and its inhabitants.
- Heritage Park. One of the coolest free things to do in Abu Dhabi is visiting the Heritage Park. Inside the waterfront attraction, you can learn about the history of the region. Roam between recreations of traditional Emirati houses of an oasis village while enjoying the stunning views over the capital city. Learn about life in the desert, attend one of the artisan workshops, or explore the goods at the traditional market called souk.
- Emirates Heritage Village. You can visit the reconstructed traditional desert village on Al Kasir Island, overlooking Corniche Road. The attraction serves to showcase and educate about the Emirati way of life before petrol became the source of the local’s wealth. A small museum displays artefacts found in the area, while several workshops present typical handicrafts. The Heritage Village often hosts events and exhibitions.
- Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. Another great place to learn about the local culture in Abu Dhabi is the falcon hospital. This is the first medical institution specifically for the majestic birds. A tour of the hospital offers an exciting insight into the falcons’ world, the history of falconry, and the special bond between the Bedouins and the birds. All around the institution, you’ll see countless falcons. In the demonstration center, you’ll get the chance to hold one and get your photo taken with it. In the falcon museum, you’ll hear epic stories and observe falconry equipment.
The Best Outdoor Things to Do in Abu Dhabi
Apart from visiting glamorous shopping malls and futuristic skyscrapers, you can do a ton of outdoor activities in Abu Dhabi. Below, you’ll find which beaches, protected areas, and reserves to explore in and around the Emirati capital.
- Desert Safari. One of the most popular things to do in Abu Dhabi is a 4WD safari in the desert. You’ll drive up and down the huge fine-sand dunes before visiting a camel farm. Next, you’ll participate in dune bashing. After your adrenaline levels have gone through the roof, you’ll relax at a Bedouin camp with traditional coffee and mouthwatering dates. Observe the heart-stopping desert sunset before smoking a shisha or getting a henna tattoo. Your evening will end with Tanoura and belly dancing, accompanied by a scrumptious barbecue dinner.
- Mangrove National Park. The ecosystem has a huge importance for Abu Dhabi. The trees purify the water, protect the region from tidal surges, and absorb carbon dioxide from the air. The mangrove forest is home to more than 60 species of birds. You can visit the Mangrove National Park for free. However, the best way to observe the wildlife is on a kayaking or a speedboat tour through the canals. During the tour, you might see some of the inhabitants, including crabs, turtles, herons, flamingos, foxes, dugongs, and even dolphins.
- Jubail Mangrove Park. On the pristine Jubail Island, you’ll find this mangrove sanctuary. The park is a self-contained educational and leisure area, where you can see bird and marine species indigenous to Abu Dhabi. A winding boardwalk through the mangroves allows you to discover the beautiful nature on the island. The best time to visit is at high tide. Apart from walking the boardwalk, you can also rent a kayak or a paddleboard to explore the area.
- Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. This protected area is the best free thing to do in Abu Dhabi for nature lovers. You can reach the lake system within 30 minutes from the city center. The reserve attracts with its large population of Greater Flamingos. During autumn and spring, it’s home to approximately 4,000 of the gracious birds. Almost 250 other species also thrive in the protected area. The Al Wathba Wetland Reserve has two self-guided walking trails. You can choose between the 0.9-mi (1.5-km) and the 1.9-mi (3-km) path to explore the park and observe the flamingos.
- Corniche Beach. This 1.2-mi (2-km) long public beach has an international clean-water status. Ropes and floats show you how far you may swim out, and a lifeguard is on duty until sunset. You can rent cabanas, sun loungers, and umbrellas for a fee. Showers and changing rooms are also available. If you want to get active, you can do so on one of the five volleyball courts, two football pitches, or three playing fields. Corniche Beach is also one of the best spots in Abu Dhabi for sunset photos.
- Saadiyat Beach.Spoil yourself at this gorgeous beach on Saadiyat Island. The fine, white sand and the clear, turquoise water will rejuvenate your body and lift up your spirit. Access the beach via a wooden boardwalk. The area is rich with wildlife, including the endangered Hawksbill turtles, so make sure you don’t disturb their nests. On Saadiyat Beach, you can indulge in numerous fun activities, from beach yoga through windsurfing to sailing. Sun beds, umbrellas, showers, and changing rooms are at your disposal.
- Yas Beach. Located on the northern shore, Yas Beach is a tranquil spot away from the crowds and the amusement parks on Yas Island. You can relax all day in the sun on the soft sand beside the glittering sea. Beach cabanas and loungers are available on the beach, as well as tempting food and drinks at the restaurants and food stalls nearby. Have in mind that beach access is free only if you’re staying at one of the hotels on the island. Otherwise, you need to pay an entrance fee.
- Al Bateen Beach. The stunning, free Al Bateen Beach stretches for 0.5 mi (800 m). The Blue Flag awarded beach is located in one of the city’s most laid-back residential areas. It offers a picturesque waterfront and unparalleled views of Al Hudariyat Island. You can also rent a sun bed, a lounger, or a gazebo to relax at the beach. The available activities include tennis, football, and volleyball, as well as various water sports. A unique feature of Al Bateen Beach is the reflexology pathway. What better place to get a free foot massage than the beach, eh?
Which One Is Your Favorite Thing to Do in Abu Dhabi?
There you have it – 33 great things to do in Abu Dhabi.
Whether you want to spend a day exploring wildlife on a kayak, lazy around on a pristine beach, shop till you drop in luxurious malls, or sip your coffee while admiring a futuristic skyline, you have a ton of choices in the Emirati capital.
Before you go book your trip, we have one final travel tip for you.
Since walking in the desert heat is rarely an enjoyable activity, we recommend investing in a hop-on hop-off bus ticket. This way, you’ll be able to visit the most important attractions in this guide without a sweat and enjoy an audio commentary about the things to do in Abu Dhabi.
Now, it’s your turn:
Which Abu Dhabi activity attracts you the most?
We’d love to hear it in the comments below.