Two days is not a lot of time, but if you’re only in Dubai for a weekend, here’s how to soak in as much of the city as possible.
Go for a morning stroll along JBR Walk and choose between a range of hotel buffets and cafés for breakfast. We recommend Eggspectation, a family friendly restaurant that is obsessed with eggs. If you have dietary concerns, Eggspectation also caters to gluten-free and dairy-free diets.
After breakfast, relax on The Beach, soak in the sun, and go for a swim. If you’re feeling up to it, JBR also has the world’s biggest inflatable water park—Dubai Aqua Park.
On your way out, keep a look out for the Marina, which is located beside JBR. The Dubai Marina has 14 of the 20 tallest residential towers in the world, including Princess Tower, The Torch, 23 Marina, Cayan Tower, Marina 101, and Elite Residence.
Spend the afternoon at one of Dubai’s star attractions. Go skiing or snowboarding in the desert at Ski Dubai in Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha; ride the infamous freefall water slide Jumeirah Sceirah at Dubai’s iconic waterpark Wild Wadi, located on Jumeirah Beach Rd on the Umm Suqeim coast; swim in shark infested waters at Atlantis, The Palm; or jump out of an airplane and freefall above The Palm Jumeirah at Skydive Dubai, located in the Dubai Marina on Al Sufouh Rd (be sure to book this experience in advance).
If amusement parks and daring activities isn’t your speed, head to the Dubai Miracle Garden in Barsha South and the Dubailand area for a relaxing day outdoors. This heavenly fantasy land is full of intricate flower sculptures. When you’re finished exploring the garden, be sure to check out the butterfly sanctuary.
Enjoy a marvelous dinner in Downtown Dubai. The Arabian Souk Al Bahar is a popular dining destination that offers brilliant views of the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain—the largest choreographed fountain in the world. At Souk Al Bahar you will have the choice between 22 dining destinations. For the best views of the dancing fountain, we recommend the popular Karma Kafé, a restaurant and bar that serves flavorful Asian fusion. Or, for a romantic night out, head next door to The Palace hotel. At Thiptara, a restaurant that specializes in Royal Thai food and Bangkok-style seafood, you can dine on a breathtakingly beautiful terrace that seemingly rests above the fountain’s waters.
After dinner, go for a walk. If you’re feeling like a casual night, take the walkway towards the Dubai Mall and check out the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo. Here you can gaze upon 140 different species of fish and over 300 sharks and rays. Or, walk around the fountain and head straight to At.mosphere in the Burj Khalifa, the highest restaurant in the world, for a classy dessert and sophisticated drink with spectacular views.
Head down to Old Dubai early in the morning for a true cultural experience. Before walking out the door, know that this is the traditional center of the emirate, so please be respectful and cover your knees and shoulders—a pashmina will do.
Start your day at the traditional markets in Deira. The Gold Souk is a wonder to behold, with 300 shops overflowing with gold. Walk south and you will find the Deira Grand Souk, formerly known as Al Souk Al Kabeer. In another era, this was the largest market place in Dubai. The souks are the reminiscences of a forgone era, but to this day they are still bustling with people who are busy buying textiles, spices, perfumes, and souvenirs.
Located adjacent to the Grand Souk (or the Spice Souk area) is the Dubai Creek, a popular tourist destination that serves as a reminder of the past and a time when Dubai was known as a seafaring trading hub for pearls, fish, textiles, and more.
Take an Abra across the Creek to Bur Dubai, an area that is home to historical monuments and museums. If you get hungry while you’re out and about, stop at one of the stalls for a traditional snack. Walk north towards the Al Shindagha area (near the mouth of the Creek). Here you will find the Dubai Heritage and Diving Villages as well as the official residence of the grandfather of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum (1912-1958).
After exploring Al Shindagha, head south to where the Abra first let you off. Take a break and stop at the Bayt Al Wakeel for a traditional Levantine and Emirati lunch. Try the grilled lamb and quail with a seafood salad, and a refreshing Middle Eastern lemonade—also known as a “lemon and mint juice.” The Bayt Al Wakeel is one of the oldest buildings in Dubai (built of mud, coral, and wood in the 1930s) and houses a maritime museum as well as the restaurant. After lunch, continue heading south until you find the Textile Souk, which is filled with fabrics, clothes, and more souvenirs.
When you’ve had your fill of shopping, continue down the river until you reach the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (or Al Bastakiya Quarter)—an area where rich merchants once lived. Here you will find old Arabian homes with traditional wind towers, winding alleys, and contemporary art galleries. Located close by is the story of antiquity in the Emirates at the Dubai Museum.
Next, head to your prearranged meeting point for an excursion in the dunes. Desert safaris are a fabulous way of experiencing the UAE sands and Bedouin culture. All safaris include a range of activities, and the staples include: dune bashing, camel riding, quad biking, shisha, belly dancers, and an Emirati dinner under Arabian tents.
Depending on how many sights you saw in the morning and which safari package you booked, if you’re back in the city by evening, I recommend a dhow cruise for dinner. This intimate experience lets you see the sites of Old Dubai from the Creek. Boats also usually have fun entertainment, like live music and belly dancers.
Please note that the weekend in Dubai is Friday and Saturday. This itinerary will work for most days of the week but it has been created with Friday as day 1 and Saturday as day 2. If you would like to visit Old Dubai on a Friday, be sure to check the timings first. Friday is the holy Sabbath day in the UAE, so many places will have different opening hours. Also note that most shops in the souks close between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. daily (except on Fridays).