Abu Dhabi is a huge metropolis, so how do you choose where to stay? One factor to keep in mind when choosing where to stay in Abu Dhabi is that the city does not have a metro system, which makes travelling slower.
It is not difficult to get from one part of the city to another because the public bus service is very efficient and taxis are affordable, however, it is a good idea to sleep in an area that suits the type of holiday you want to take in order to avoid spending most of your holiday on transport.
If, for example, you want to combine cultural visits with lazy afternoons at the beach, look for a hotel in an area with beautiful beaches, or if you think you can only handle the unbridled modernity of Abu Dhabi for a limited time, look for a hotel in an area that still offers glimpses of the past.
The amazing thing is precisely this: the capital of luxury and excess is actually a city of many facets, with areas that are better suited to one type of holiday than another. Look for the best neighbourhood to sleep in Abu Dhabi for you… and you will find your Abu Dhabi.
Here are the recommended areas for location, attractions, hotel prices and some recommended facilities.
Abu Dhabi’s favourite area for tourists to book a hotel is The Corniche, famous for its beautiful 8-km-long waterfront. In a hectic metropolis with a very high rate of cementisation, it is the most human-friendly district, thanks to its waterfront promenade, bicycle lanes and parks: not surprisingly, it is one of the most popular haunts for locals and expats working in Abu Dhabi.
The main tourist attractions are within easy reach from here, while the fine white sandy beach is one of the most beautiful in the city and has large open areas accessible to all. It is therefore the best area for those who want to combine cultural visits and the sea.
Moreover, it is particularly suitable for families who can let their children run around safely on the promenade and for those who want a cosmopolitan atmosphere.
The downside of La Corniche? It is one of the most expensive areas in Abu Dhabi. The facilities in this area are mainly 4- or 5-star hotels along the coast, with access to a private beach.
Hamdan Street and Khalifa Street are the two liveliest streets in the centre of Abu Dhabi and are a good alternative to La Corniche, especially for those who enjoy the dynamic atmosphere of the city. They extend close to the waterfront, so the beach is not that far away, are packed with shops and clubs and are very lively both day and night.
These two avenues are the best place to sleep for those who cannot afford the super-luxury hotels in the more exclusive areas. The best hotels can be found along the central part of the two avenues, but in the southern and northern parts or in the adjacent streets it is possible to find lower category hotels with excellent value for money.
The Tourist Club Area, recently renamed Al Zahiyah (Coloured Quarter), owes its name to the headquarters of the Abu Dhabi Tourist Club, which was located here until 2014.
The purely tourist vocation of this district to the north-east of the centre has remained and there are many reasons to book a hotel in the area. Here more than anywhere else it is possible to discover traits of the Abu Dhabi of yesteryear, before skyscrapers and multi-billion dollar buildings completely changed the city’s urban planning.
Characteristic streets with markets and small shops, splendid views of the Al Meena harbour, excellent bus connections with the main tourist areas make the Tourist Club Area one of the best choices for sleeping in Abu Dhabi for those who want to stay away from the excesses and discover the city’s history. Also recommended for those who want to save money: hotel prices in the Tourist Club Area are among the lowest in the city.
Another area of Abu Dhabi popular with tourists is the artificial island of Yas Marina. It is an area that has been recently developed, so it is a concentration of modernity made in Emirates: state-of-the-art technology, stunning contemporary architecture, brazen luxury.
It is home to two of Abu Dhabi’s main tourist attractions, both motoring-themed: the Formula 1 circuit and Ferrari World; to these are added other theme parks and numerous shopping malls. It is bustling during major motoring events, but at other times of the year it is generally quiet.
Yas Marina Island is a recommended area for families looking for a fun theme park holiday and for those looking for a hotel near the airport.
Saadiyat Island is set to become the cultural quarter of Abu Dhabi: the Louvre Abu Dhabi is already open to visitors, but other major museums are under construction. The development plan for the area envisages not only cultural institutions but also prestigious residences and numerous hotels and resorts, making it an area with high tourism potential.
The accommodation facilities already present are mostly 5-star hotels with swimming pools and spas, all with direct access to a private beach. The area is therefore suitable for those who want to combine sea and culture in a single holiday.
The city centre can easily be reached in about 20 minutes.
For those interested in seeing a less touristy Abu Dhabi, we recommend Al Markaziyah, an area with a high concentration of shopping malls and famous brand shops that is very popular with residents.
Another opportunity to see slices of authentic life is to stay in the hinterland area that stretches between the centre of Abu Dhabi and the airport. A bit far from the centre, it is a purely residential area, but it is possible to find some good-priced hotels and visit some interesting attractions including the splendid Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
If you want to combine shopping with a bit of history, the ideal area is Breakwater, an artificial island with the Marina Mall and the Heritage Museum.