Dubai is an ever-evolving city with something new to experience or to see on your every visit here.
So if you’re looking for a list of top things to do in Dubai, here we’ve amassed a guide on the topic, which is a mix of all-time favorite activities, classic sights, and newest attractions.
I. Important things to know before visiting Dubai
Before you set out on your Dubai sightseeing or exploration, keep a note of these essential tips.
1. Getting around Dubai
The majority of attractions mentioned below are not at a walkable distance and are farther than they appear.
Hire a private transfer or opt for convenient public transport operated by Dubai’s RTA (Road and Transport Authority).
Now even if you don’t have any intention to use public transport, be sure to take a ride in its metro. It’s swift, spotless, and absolutely special, being completely automated and driverless.
2. Plan your trip in advance
With plenty of sights and experiences, plan your sightseeing program in advance. This allows you to make the most of your limited time in Dubai.
3. Pre-book your tickets in Dubai
Pre-book your tickets to avoid any hassle. If you’re planning to visit famous landmarks on a weekend or a holiday, opt for fast track tickets, which lets you beat the long, time-consuming queues.
Choose combo tickets which allow you to see your favorite Dubai attractions for a single price.
4. How to pack for Dubai
Know that the sunlight in Dubai is intense all throughout the year. So no matter you’re traveling to Dubai in summer or winter, carry your sunblock cream, hats, sunglasses, etc.
Another must-have for your Dubai visit (even in summer months) is a light jacket, as the indoor attractions, including malls and theme parks, are incredibly air-conditioned.
5. Shopping tips in Dubai
For shopping (particularly during Dubai Shopping Festival), avoid peak hours and weekends; instead, do it during day time or weekdays.
6. Learn about the traditions and customs
Acquaint yourself with Dubai’s customs and traditions in order to keep yourself away from awkward situations.
Dubai’s traditions largely reflect Islamic values, so don’t expect to eat or drink here in public during the holy month of Ramadan.
7. Drinking in Dubai
Although alcohol is served in licensed bars, it will not be served during Islamic occasions.
Moreover, don’t think of getting drunk in public or driving under the influence. All these would cause you to pay hefty fines and even result in imprisonment.
8. Know when not to take photos
While Dubai is filled with Instagram-worthy attractions all over, be careful when you snap pictures of important government structures.
You may also run into problems by clicking pictures of locals, particularly Emirati women, without their permission.
II. Top things to do and experience in Dubai
1. Admire Dubai’s Skyline from the world’s tallest building
Dubai is unmatched for its awe-inspiring skyline.
One of the easiest ways to experience its sheer magnitude and magnificence is to make your way to one of the viewing platforms of Burj Khalifa.
Towering to a height of 828 meters, it’s the world’s tallest man-made structure.
You can take to its ‘At the Top Observation Deck’ on the 124th level or go further on the Sky Deck at the 148th level to experience both the exquisite ever Dubai views and the world’s highest observation deck (at the height of over 555 meters).
As part of your Burj Khalifa experience, you’ll get to enjoy one of the fastest elevator rides plus an intriguing multimedia show on Dubai’s past.
2. Immerse yourself in the exquisiteness of Dubai Fountain Show
We think this is one attraction that you’ll never get bored or tired of watching again and again during your Dubai trip.
Right next to Burj Khalifa and surrounded by attractions such as the Dubai Mall and Souk Al Bahar, the Dubai Fountain on Burj Lake is a wonderful water and light show.
It offers immaculately choreographed water performances in tune to your favorite Arabic, Bollywood, or Western music.
The interesting point is that water reaches up to a height of over 500 feet during the show.
You can watch this every 15 minutes, and the best thing is that it’s free to attend.
However, if you want to watch it more up close or from an exclusive spot, consider an abra ride on the lake or reserve a table at one of the many restaurants that directly face the fountain.
3. Go Mall-hopping – Experience shopping, dining, and entertainment all under one roof
Dubai is undoubtedly a shopaholic’s paradise with over 70 shopping malls. Unsurprisingly, you’ll find an extensive mall at its every turn.
Despite its numerous shopping options, these malls are an ideal leisure destination packed with high-end entertainment and dining choices.
It’s very likely that you’ll find something distinct in every mall.
Walk into Mall of the Emirates, where you’ll be able to enjoy Dubai’s coolest attraction in the form of the snow-filled Ski Dubai.
And needless to say about Dubai Mall. It’s the world’s biggest mall and evidently a one-stop destination for adults and kids alike, with Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, KidZania, Dubai Ice Rink, and more.
Ibn Battuta Mall, Wafi Mall, and Dubai Festival City Mall are other malls that you should visit for wholesome fun and entertainment.
4. Stroll the Bastakiya Quarter and visit Dubai Museum
Once the dwelling of traders from Iran’s Bastak region, this well-preserved heritage attraction (also known as the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood) now offers a mindblowing retreat from the glitz and hubbubs of Dubai’s modern part.
Step back in time as you weave through its narrow alleys dotted with old-style houses complemented by wooden courtyards and topped with traditional wind towers. Most of them are now transformed into art galleries and museums.
Want to know more about Dubai’s ancient past?
Nearby is the Dubai Museum, which is inside the region’s oldest of its kind Al Fahidi Fort. The vast array of art and artifacts allows you to glance into the age-old Emirati lifestyle and traditions.
5. View old and new Dubai from a single frame
One sight that would easily catch your attention on your Dubai visit is a giant structure that is modeled after a picture frame
Yes, it’s the biggest of its kind in the world. And it’s worth visiting too!
It’s located inside Zabeel Park and has some fantastic surprises on offer.
Starting with a discovery of Dubai’s ancient past at its Past Gallery, you’ll next take a swift elevator ride to its 150-meter-high Sky Deck with a glass bridge.
Scope out at both sides to take in Old and New Dubai and finally make your way down to directly walk into Dubai’s future at the Future Gallery.
6. Hang out in Dubai’s beaches
The sparkling waters of the Arabian Gulf, pristine ambiance, and striking views all around, among others, make Dubai’s beaches a favorite of water lovers and sightseers alike.
You can visit the famous Jumeirah Beach, Kite Beach, Al Mamzar Beach, or The Beach at JBR.
Now, if you’ve already been to these beaches, visit the newest La Mer Beach.
Most of these beaches offer superb facilities to enjoy your favorite water sports as well.
Whether you want to go on a relaxed boat ride or the exhilarating ever flyboarding, parasailing, donut ride, or super fun-filled banana boat ride, you’ll get to enjoy all here.
7. Sample cuisines from all corners of the world
This is one of the fantastic things about Dubai.
From Chinese, Indian, and Afghan specialties to authentic English and American delicacies, just think about any cuisine; this will be right in front of you.
After all, Dubai is home to a strong expat community, representing over 200 nationalities.
If you’re skeptical about trying exotic cuisines, you can still stick to your favorite fast-food chains or culinary brands, with multiple outlets of KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and Subway dotted all over Dubai.
Regardless of what you prefer to try in Dubai, make sure that save some room to sample the region’s popular traditional dishes and desserts, such as Shawarma, Al Harees, Falafel, Kunafah Luqaimat, and Mehalabya.
8. Spend a full day in Dubai Parks and Resorts
This Dubai attraction is unmissable for theme park fanatics.
While there are many world-class theme parks such as IMG Worlds of Adventure, we recommend Dubai Parks and Resorts, particularly for those with time constraints.
Rightfully so, the region’s first of its kind integrated resort has three theme parks and a water park in its precincts.
The biggest of all is Motiongate Dubai, which stands out for its Hollywood movie-based rides and attractions.
The second one is Bollywood Parks Dubai, entirely themed around the popular Hindi movies.
Then there is LEGOLAND Dubai and LEGOLAND Water Park, both LEGO-based and exclusively designed for families of kids from 2 to 12 years.
Apart from these four parks, there are two hotels plus dedicated dining and shopping attractions, known as Riverland Dubai.
9. Take pictures against the backdrop of Burj Al Arab
The sail-shaped structure of Burj Al Arab is probably the first of images that come into mind when one thinks about Dubai.
Set on a private island, it’s one of the most luxurious hotels and is regarded as the only seven-star accommodation in the world.
If staying in the hotel is unthinkable for you, then the most recommended way to experience its interiors is by reserving a table at one of its dining venues.
Sumptuous dining options apart, it welcomes you with the most stylish ambiance and outstanding views of the surroundings.
Precisely, you won’t regret shelling out a fortune for it.
10. Visit the bustling traditional Souks
Dubai’s souks are a must-experience for those who like sensory overload.
These charming Arabian bazaars in the areas of Bur Dubai and Deira may be bustling and packed, but they give you an authentic look at the region’s traditional trade scenario.
There are Perfume Souk, Textile Souk, Spice Souk, and, most of all, the Gold Souk, where you’ll find an entire market dedicated to selling gold jewelry.
Unlike malls, haggling is encouraged in souks, which allows you to purchase some unique souvenirs and precious items at unbelievably low prices.
11. Soar over Dubai’s cityscape in the most thrilling way
Dubai is a dream-come-true destination for the fanatics of airborne adventure.
If sky-high sightseeing is what you’re looking for, you can go on a helicopter ride or seaplane tour.
However, if you want to make it a wild experience, then nothing could beat the Sky Dive experience wherein you’ll jump out of the aircraft from a height of over 13,000 feet.
Geared up with the most advanced safety features, it also promises you the most unhindered views over Dubai’s breathtaking man-made islands and architectural marvels.
Another thrilling aerial experience is XLine Dubai, which gives you the chance to experience the world’s swiftest and longest urban zipline over Dubai Marina’s uber-contemporary sights.
12. Take in Dubai’s newest neighborhood at Bluewaters Island
Bluewaters Island may be a new kid in the block, but it has already become renowned for the attractions it hosts.
Although not officially open, Ain Dubai has grabbed all attention, being the world’s largest observation deck. It’s also set to be the venue of the Middle East’s first Madame Tussauds Museum.
Most of all, it boasts of the only Caesar’s Palace property (other than in Las Vegas).
However, that’s not all the specialty. Caesar’s Palace also has to its credit some world-class leisure and entertainment attractions by way of the dome-shaped Rotunda Dubai, Cove Beach, and Empire Club (to name a few).
13. Soak up Dubai creek on a Dhow cruise
There is nothing as alluring as admiring Dubai’s blend of old and new sights from the water on a dhow cruise.
If you’re not aware of this dhow, it’s a traditional sailing vessel that was most active during the pre-oil era when Dubai was just a fishing and pearling settlement.
In the present day, it’s retained as a symbol of Dubai’s culture and heritage.
So don’t miss this experience; a cruise aboard a wooden dhow not only gives you a slice of Dubai’s past but also treats you with the most exquisite views, finest food, unlimited refreshments, and awe-inspiring entertainment (like Tanura show).
14. Explore the man-made island of Palm Jumeirah
Designed to resemble a giant palm tree topped by a crescent, this is an unequaled engineering marvel which proves that Dubai not only dreams big but also realizes it in a grander way.
Sign up for aerial sightseeing to experience this sight in its entire grandeur or at least take a monorail ride, which whisks you through its main sights.
Speaking of its main attractions, there are aplenty, and one of the most visited is Atlantis, The Palm Resort, which also includes Aquaventure Waterpark, Lost Chambers Aquarium, and Dolphin Bay.
15. Go off-the-beaten-path on a Desert Safari
Just 40 to 45 minutes away from the city center, Dubai’s desert is a real gem that is untouched by any crowd or swanky developments.
So get ready for a desert safari. It will take you back to the Emirati roots; however, with a generous bout of fun, excitement, and adventure.
Enjoy an electrifying drive over dunes on a 4X4 ride and continue the thrill with a sandboarding or quad biking session.
You’ll also get to take a camel ride, besides involving in many cultural experiences.
Depending on your choice of desert safari (evening or overnight desert safari), this also includes a BBQ dinner with traditional entertainment such as belly dance and Tanura show.
III. Seasonal Attractions in Dubai
While the above list is ideal for crafting a Dubai itinerary any part of the year, don’t miss the following Dubai attractions if you’re visiting the city between November and March.
1. Global Village
This six-month event runs from October / November to April (first week).
For those who don’t know, it’s the region’s ultimate and most significant shopping, leisure and entertainment destination. It has close to 30 pavilions, representing about 80 countries.
Not to mention, you’ll be able to experience diverse cultures, savor several cuisines, and shop the authentic specialties of different parts of the world all on a single trip to this venue.
Add to this mindblowing cultural show, celebrity performances, and fireworks display.
2. Dubai shopping festival
This one-month long extravaganza dedicated to shopping, dining, and entertainment should be experienced at least once in your lifetime.
Held in December – January every year, it’s the time when you’ll get to immerse yourself in unmatched festivities, enjoy shopping at head-spinning low rates, and further participate in raffle draws with jaw-dropping prizes.
3. Miracle Garden
Miracle Garden is truly a wondrous sight in the middle of the desert city.
It’s the world’s biggest natural garden with millions of flowers in its vast area of over 72,000 square meters.
Yes, you can expect to see here several different varieties of flowers and plants set in a spectrum of themes, designs, shapes, and patterns.
Final thoughts about experiences in Dubai
So whether you’re planning for an action-packed weekend, a family trip or a relaxing vacation, we hope that we’ve covered almost all interests in this extensive list.
As you now have an idea about what to do in Dubai, don’t delay to create your perfect Dubai itinerary.
A post-graduate in Mass Communications, Neha has been a keen writer and loves telling stories about her travel experiences. In her pastime, she loves trying out new food, explore new places and meet new people.