airport_transferbarbathtubbusiness_facilitieschild_activitieschildcareconnecting_roomcribsfree_wifigymhot_tubinternetkitchennon_smokingpetpoolresturantski_in_outski_shuttleski_storagesmoking_areaspastar
Sign In
Lykos Terzis / © Culture Trip
Lykos Terzis / © Culture Trip
Save to wishlist

The Best Things to See and Do in Dubai's Old Quarter

Picture of Thais Kelly
Updated: 6 February 2018
There’s so much to see and do in Dubai – from going up the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, to going skiing indoors at Ski Dubai. However, many forget that before the skyscrapers and mind blowing records, Dubai was only a village of fisherman who lived around the creek. For those who wish to see what life was like before the city began its rapid growth, Dubai’s Old Quarter is the ideal place to visit and learn more about the history and tradition of this Emirate.

Visit the Gold Souk

For those who are looking to purchase gold for great prices or to simply better understand the jewelry market in Dubai. Here, visitors will be able to see the largest gold ring in the world as per the Guinness World Records and shop for great priced pieces, all the while getting a glimpse of what a traditional Arabic market looks like. The Dubai government assures the quality of all pieces, so visitors can be safe as they shop in hundreds of retail stores at the Souk – haggling is encouraged to get the best prices!

Lykos Terzis / © Culture Trip
Lykos Terzis / | © Culture Trip

Walk Around Al Bastakiya Quarter

The historical quarter of Al Bastakiya dates back to the 19th century and is the oldest residential quarter in Dubai. Visitors can walk around the maze-like streets and admire the original architecture of this neighborhood established by merchants. The buildings, completed with wind towers that illustrate an era before air conditioning. These days, the quarter is no longer the residence of merchants using the Dubai Creek for trade. However, it is populated with several attractions for visitors, such as the Bastakiya Museum, art galleries and traditional retailers.

Lykos Terzis / © Culture Trip
Lykos Terzis / | © Culture Trip

Admire the Local Art in the Al Bastakiya Quarter – XVA Gallery

Perhaps one of the most unique and interesting attractions in the Al Bastakiya Quarter is the XVA Gallery. This is the ideal place for art lovers to check out the local art scene and learn more about international artists. The gallery brings exhibitions from important artists from the region and a touch of art to the traditional and historical neighborhood. The contrast of the colorful and eye-catching pieces on the old construction, originally built with materials such as coral is an interesting blend between art and history.

Lykos Terzis / © Culture Trip
Lykos Terzis / | © Culture Trip

Visit the Coffee Museum

For coffee lovers from all over the world, the Coffee Museum in the Al Bastakiya Quarter is the dream destination. This museums gathers regional and international flavors in order to offer visitors a cozy and elegant experience to sip on coffee while admiring the traditional architecture. Some of the more popular styles offered by the Coffee Museum are local Arabic coffee, Ethiopian coffee and Japanese coffee. In addition to the coffee to be tasted, visitors can also check out the antique items and learn more about coffee roasting and brewing.

Courtesy of Coffee Museum
Courtesy of Coffee Museum

Have a Traditional Arabic Lunch in an Arabic Tea House – Basta Art Cafe

The Basta Art Cafe is a charming cafe in the heart of the Old Quarter, the venue brings a comfortable and chic atmosphere to the traditional buildings of Bastakiya. This is a perfect spot to try some traditional Arabic food and further indulge into the region’s culture. Also known as Arabian Tea House, the spot is located outdoors on the terrace of Bastakiya and offers regional dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner – allowing visitors the opportunity to get a taste of Dubai while in one of its most historical sights.

Lykos Terzis / © Culture Trip
Lykos Terzis / | © Culture Trip

Visit the Dubai Museum

Perhaps Dubai’s most popular museum, the Dubai Museum was built inside the historical Al Fahidi Fort, which dates back to 1787. The fort played a massive part in Dubai’s history, having originally been the residence for a monarch, as well as holding the role of a weapon’s arsenal and a prison. Today, the museum welcomes visitors to walk through several models of what Dubai was like in the past – providing an immersive experience for tourists to see how the city has become what it is today.

Lykos Terzis / © Culture Trip
Lykos Terzis / | © Culture Trip

Souvenir Shop at the Souk

One of the must do things when visiting Dubai is buying souvenirs for those back home. The city offers a fun variety of traditional items to purchase – anything from the typical gifts such as magnets and mugs to more unique items like camel milk soap and Emirati clothing. The Souk is a fantastic place to shop for all kinds of souvenirs for the whole family. Unlike stores in malls, shopping at this traditional market gives tourists the opportunity to haggle and get the best possible price.

Lykos Terzis / © Culture Trip
Lykos Terzis / | © Culture Trip

Shop at the Spice Souk

The Spice Souk is one of the most unique and beautiful experiences visitors can have during their visit to Dubai. From the mixture of scents perfectly accentuating the flavors of the region, to the vivid colors of the different spices brought to Dubai from neighboring countries through the creek. The Spice Souk gives visitors the chance to shop for traditional and rare spices in a traditional setting and acquire some of the highest quality spices in the region.

Lykos Terzis / © Culture Trip
Lykos Terzis / | © Culture Trip

Take a 1 AED Boat Ride Across the Dubai Creek

The Dubai Creek was where life in the city started, from the fisherman to the merchants, this saltwater canal is a vital piece of Dubai’s history. The creek expands into the Persian Gulf and was one of the main channels for trade for the small city that has now grown into a major metropolis. Visitors and residents can cross the Dubai Creek for a mere 1 AED in a shared abra, a traditional Arabian boat that operates like a water taxi. This allows people to go from Bastakiya to the Souks.

Lykos Terzis / © Culture Trip
Lykos Terzis / | © Culture Trip

Watch the Local Workers Pack the Ships with Imports and Exports

There are very little scenes visitors can witness now days in Dubai that will better depict the city’s past than watching the local workers pack the ships with imports and exports to go out into the Dubai Creek for trade. The packages are stocked in old style dhows, these wooden boats were used to trade in the past and still do to this day. There’s nothing modern or sophisticated to the boats of packing procedure, which provides a clear contrast to life in the newer areas of Dubai.

Lykos Terzis / © Culture Trip
Lykos Terzis / | © Culture Trip