During a one day tour of Dubai, start at the beginning: old Dubai. The traditional Gold and Spice Souks (souk means ‘market’ in Arabic) are only a 15 minute drive from the airport. This is a great opportunity to better understand what Dubai was like before the city boomed, and to get lots of high quality spices (and gold!) for a great price. Here, visitors also get the opportunity to cross the creek, a natural stream of sea that goes through the city via Abra, on a sort of traditional boat taxi.
When visiting Dubai, a picture of the Burj Al Arab is a must. The best way to get this famous photograph is to drive down to Sunset Beach, where you can get fairly close to the 7-star hotel, as well as get to see the beautiful Dubai Beach. The beach is a great way to relax for a minute, truly letting the Dubai air sink in while people-watching and getting a better understanding of Emirati culture.
One could spend well over 24 hours just walking around Dubai Mall, as it’s the largest shopping mall in the world! This is a great place to grab lunch, browse some unique Dubai stores as well as international brands and visit the famous Dubai Aquarium. Also check out the mall’s indoor zoo, with a variety of animals from penguins to crocodiles. The shops in the mall vary from luxury to ready-to-wear, tending to every taste, and the restaurants do too.
Dubai Mall, Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, +971 4 438 8888
Las Vegas eat your heart out: Dubai has taken your famous fountains and made them bigger and better. These are the world’s largest choreographed fountains and go off every half hour, between 6PM and 11PM every night. This is one of the best spots in the city to watch the sunset. They are located at the Dubai Mall, so you don’t have to travel very far. The fountains are synchronized to Arabic music, Micheal Jackson hits, and even opera. Although 24 hours is probably not enough time to go up the Burj Khalifa (at least, not if you want to do anything else), you can get great views from here.
A modern market that mimics the old souks that you visited earlier in the day, Souk Madinat Jumeirah is the best place to end the day with a view of a different angle of the Burj Al Arab, which is lit up with multiple colors in the evening. This market offers a huge variety of restaurants and bars — everything from Chinese to Latin food — as well as plenty of souvenir shops. This is also a great place to try hookah, a must-try tradition for those who don’t mind smoking. The Souk also has a large number of bars, making this a great place to wash the night away with a drink.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah, 6 Al Sufouh Road, +971 4 366 8888
The final must-see attraction in Dubai is The Palm Jumeirah. This man-made island imitates the shape of a palm tree and has an array of hotels to stay the night. For those looking to spend a little more, Atlantis The Palm is one of Dubai’s landmark five-star hotels, located at the island’s crescent, with a waterpark attached to it, should visitors have some time to kill in the morning before they leave. The hotel also hosts some household restaurants like Nobu and Ossiano, for an evening drink. Other hotel options are Fairmont The Palm and Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, massive resorts with their own private beaches.
Atlantis The Palm, Crescent Road, The Palm Jumeirah, +971 4 426 2000
Fairmont The Palm, The Palm Jumeirah, +971 4 457 3388
Jumairah Zabeel Saray, Crescent Road,The Palm Jumeirah, +971 4 453 0000