Abu Dhabi

Things to do in Abu Dhabi

10 must-see attractions in Abu Dhabi: futuristic buildings, thrilling experiences, palaces from a thousand and one nights and other wonders.
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As one might easily expect from a city that makes luxury and grandeur its hallmarks, Abu Dhabi’s attractions are record-breaking.

All it takes is a one-day tour of this amazing city to fill up on firsts: the country’s largest mosque, the world’s largest handmade carpet, the world’s most modern Formula 1 circuit, the world’s third most expensive hotel, the world’s largest Ferrari emblem.

With a few more days, you can add to your list of things to see in Abu Dhabi an exclusive waterfront promenade, a museum whose architecture and collection represent a colossal work of cultural marketing, the palace where heads of state meet to make important decisions (but also banquet in style), a skybar with a splendid view of the Persian Gulf.

Leave some time for sunbathing on the beach too, or if you are travelling with children, have fun together in one of Dubai’s giant amusement parks.

Whether it is the destination of your holiday or a day trip from Dubai, Abu Dhabi will give you unexpected thrills. But more than the unbridled luxury, the ultra-modern (and ultra-expensive) buildings and the bizarre experiences you can enjoy, it will be the stark contrast between a present that already looks like the future and a past that is now recognised as having dignity and value that will remain indelibly etched in your memory.

Here are the 10 things to see in Abu Dhabi that will allow you to grasp this peculiar contrast.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

1Saadiyat - جزيرة السعديات - Cultural District - أبو ظبي - United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi also has its Louvre: this prestigious museum that mixes Arabian grandeur and French sophistication was opened a few years ago and has already become a must-see attraction.

The venue is a colossal work of contemporary architecture built over the sea: a complex of 55 buildings topped by an enormous dome that shelters from the heat but lets in the light. The collection is the world’s first attempt to investigate the connections between artistic currents around the globe.

And this is only the beginning: the Louvre is the first in a series of major works destined to develop Abu Dhabi’s Cultural Quarter and make the capital of the United Arab Emirates a major player in the international cultural scene.

Read moreBuy the ticket from 15,75 €

Yas Marina Circuit

2Yas Marina Circuit - Yas Island - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

For motor racing and thrill-seekers, a must-see attraction in Abu Dhabi is the Yas Marina Circuit, the most technologically advanced Formula 1 circuit in the world.

The easiest way to visit it is to take a guided tour, which takes you to the symbolic places of a race that are not normally accessible to the public – including the podium, with the possibility of having your photo taken while raising the race trophy.

To experience the thrills and excitement of the great champions, you can join a lap of the track in a car driven by a professional instructor… or if you dare, you can get behind the wheel of one of the fabulous sports cars available at the circuit.

Read moreBuy the ticket from 40,54 €

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

3Yas Island - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi is the second most visited city in the world by Ferrari fans after Maranello. The reason for this great interest is Ferrari World, a gigantic amusement park where you can enjoy all sorts of experiences inspired by the legendary flame-red cars that have made motoring history.

Winner of the Best Tourist Attraction in the Middle East award just a few years after its opening, the park includes attractions for children and adults, from the fastest roller coaster in the world (from 0 to 240 kmh in less than 5 seconds, like a Formula 1 car) to 3D cinemas that will let you experience the thrills and chills of racing, and many other attractions. A large number of bars, restaurants and themed shops complete the fun.

Read moreBuy the ticket from 205,67 €

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

4Abu Dhabi - Al Rawdah - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Don’t be dazzled by the skyscrapers, lights and billionaire excess: Abu Dhabi is a city still deeply connected to the sacred sphere. The most beautiful religious building in Abu Dhabi is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: completed in 2007, it is the largest and most important place of worship in the United Arab Emirates, capable of accommodating more than 40 thousand worshippers.

It is a gigantic construction, with 82 domes and more than 1,000 columns decorated with splendid floral motifs typical of Islamic culture. One of the halls houses the largest hand-stitched carpet in the world (5600 m2).

The beauty of this mosque is no less than its impressive size. This magnificent architectural and cultural treasure is also open to non-Muslim visitors (outside prayer times): take advantage of it.

Read more

Emirates Palace

5West Corniche Road - Al Ras Al Akhdar - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Among the many super-luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi, the most famous is the Emirates Palace: it is one of the most expensive hotels in the world, with prices ranging from 400 to 8000 euros per night (24-hour butler included). The building has nothing to envy a royal palace, richly decorated in gold and marble; it has almost 400 rooms, plus restaurants, shops, meeting rooms, spa, private beach, marina and heliport.

For around 200 euro you can treat yourself to a beauty treatment fit for a king: instead of the ‘usual’ massage, you can have one with gold oil, diamonds or infused with caviar. And while you’re at it, why not also try the gold leaf cappuccino?

Prenota una stanza all'Emirates

Etihad Towers

6F85C+FPM - King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud St - opp. Emirates Palace Hotel - Al Bateen - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Opposite the Emirates Palace stands another symbol of Abu Dhabi: the Etihad Towers, a complex of five futuristic towers of different sizes, shapes and uses. What they have in common is their ultra-modern design and the glitzy life that goes on inside them.

You too can experience a day of luxury inside these iconic buildings by indulging in shopping or sports in the shops and gyms of these vertical cities.

A well-deserved end to your day is afternoon tea at the Observation Deck on the 74th floor (300 metres above sea level).

Buy the ticket from 118,67 €

Corniche Road

7Corniche St - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Corniche Road is Abu Dhabi’s most exclusive waterfront. It is an 8 km promenade that runs parallel to one of the city’s most beautiful beaches.

This area is packed with cafes with outdoor tables, perfect for having a drink or a snack while admiring a splendid view of the sea and Abu Dhabi’s skyscrapers.

Lively both day and night, Corniche Road is loved by locals and is one of the most popular hangouts for expats working in Dubai.

Qasr Al Watan Palace

8Abu Dhabi - Al Ras Al Akhdar - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

The opulent Qsar Al Watan Palace has for years been the country’s most important institutional building, where the leaders of national and world politics have gathered. For the past few years, one wing of the palace has housed an interactive exhibition open to visitors dedicated to the history and cultural heritage of the United Arab Emirates.

It is an unmissable visit: you will be able to admire a marvel of Arab architecture, enter the presidential banquet hall and learn about the vistas and rituals of a gala dinner at the highest level, browse among the gifts exchanged between heads of state, discover the enormous contribution made to science, the arts and literature by Arab culture.

Qsar Al Watan is also worth seeing at night, when the façade of the palace becomes the location for a stunning light and sound show.

Buy the ticket from 15,00 €

Amusement parks in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is also a family-friendly destination. There are many family-friendly attractions in the city, including phantasmagorical theme parks of colossal dimensions, in pure Emirati style.

Two of these are located on Yas Island, the island also home to Ferrari World and the Formula 1 circuit: they are Yas Waterworld9, a gigantic water park with more than 40 slides and attractions, and Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi10, a park dedicated to the characters of the famous Hollywood studios.

With a day trip from Abu Dhabi you can reach the Arabian Wildlife Park on Sir Bani Yas Island, one of the largest nature reserves in the Arabian countries. You will experience an experience in many ways similar to an African safari, but with a different landscape and animals.

Abu Dhabi Beaches

A holiday in Abu Dhabi is not just about modern quirks and Arabian charms, but also sun and sea. Much of the coastline is now private, reserved for super-luxury hotels and villas, but there are still many beaches that are accessible to all: of these, some are fee-paying, others free. The city is modern and very tolerant, so western travellers can enjoy the beaches safely and without feeling uncomfortable in a swimming costume.

The most famous beach in Abu Dhabi is Corniche Beach11, winner of the Blue Flag for the quality of services and cleanliness of the sea.
Other beaches not to be missed are Saadiyat Island12 and Zaya Nurai Island13.

Map

In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article.

Insights

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Louvre as synonymous with Paris? Not any more. Today, Louvre is also the name of the most important cultural institution in Abu Dhabi, a museum not to be missed!
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi is the amusement park inspired by the Maranello red car, located right next to the Formula 1 circuit.
Yas Marina Circuit

Yas Marina Circuit

The Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi is the top tourist attraction for lovers of speed and thrills, to be experienced from behind the wheel or from the comfort of a bus!
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is an architectural masterpiece that can be visited on a day trip from Dubai.