Looking for things to do in Dubai? With the world’s tallest building, dancing fountains, mammoth amusement parks, heritage museums, cutting-edge galleries, traditional souks and a ground-breaking show to rival any you’d see in Las Vegas, Dubai has it all.
Dubai will sweep you off your feet and keep you on your toes with attractions that break records and blow minds. On a visit to this city, you can walk among millions of blooms in Dubai Miracle Garden one minute and whizz around the world’s largest indoor theme park the next. From jumping out of a plane 3,962 metres (13,000 feet) over Palm Jumeirah to seeing Dubai from the 154th floor of the tallest building on the planet, the edges of past and future blur together in this compact destination of souks, skyscrapers, deserts and beaches.
On both sides of the creek in Al Fahidi Historical District, the Dubai souks are loaded with gold, fabrics, perfumes and spices. Sail between these alleyway bazaars by traditional abra water-buses for just 1AED (£0.22). On the left bank, the textile souk vendors push their wears on passing tourists, while on the right, the gold, spice and perfume souks lure with a golden glow and intoxicating scents of frankincense, saffron and oud (agarwood). Not the easiest area to navigate, you can visit the souks in a comprehensive four-hour tour that also takes in the Coffee Museum, Dubai Museum and Arabic Calligraphy Museum, sampling authentic street food en route.
Franco Dragone, creative director of ‘Le Reve’ in Las Vegas, is the mastermind behind Dubai’s ‘La Perle by Dragone’, an enchanting show that sails through the seasons and the region’s history through death-defying stunts and body-bending acrobatics. Part of Al Habtoor City’s hotel complex, guests at the local Hilton, Habtoor Palace and V Hotel get complimentary passes. Tickets and special offers are also available online, and the pre-theatre dinner and gold seat deals represent brilliant value.
Replicating a photo frame, this soaring landmark puts two sides of Dubai in the picture from the vantage point of its surrounding park. Old Dubai is framed from one angle, while New Dubai and its skyscrapers are seen from the other. Inside, the 360-degree view from the top spans past to present and sky to earth with a glass-bottomed walkway connecting the two 150-metre (492-foot) towers. Lower floors house exhibits dedicated to the future of Dubai.
Discover how hard-working Emiratis of the past raised families and grew businesses as merchants and seafarers at Dubai’s newest heritage complex on Dubai Creek. Historical Shindagha was once prime real estate occupied by Bedouin leaders; today, their traditional courtyard homes have been converted into a collection of museums. If you only have time to visit one, inhale the history at Perfume House, with interactive displays revealing the mysterious scents of oud, civet musk and whale ambergris used in Arabia’s revered fragrances.
Pinned in a curve of Dubai Creek, next door to Palazzo Versace Dubai, Jameel Arts Centre is free to enter, placing it among Dubai’s best budget-friendly attractions. Set within its own sculpture park, punctuated with courtyards designed for personal reflection, the gleaming white Cubist building is as striking as the art inside. Enjoy contemporary collections largely created in the Middle East and Asia through installation, assemblage, drawing, photography and painting. There’s also a regular programme of talks, workshops, films and events.