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Dubai [ © Fintrvlr/Flickr ]
Dubai [ © Fintrvlr/Flickr ]
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The Best Things to Do in Dubai

Picture of Leah Simpson
Updated: 6 September 2018
For a trip that’s more than just sightseeing, get stuck into life in the emirate by choosing the best things to do in Dubai.

These things to do in Dubai ensure you won’t forget the visit in a hurry, with activities to get your heart racing with excitement, palms sweaty with nerves (the good kind) and, of course, all you need to return home feeling relaxed.

Zip line across the Dubai Marina

XLine Dubai can be used day or night | © Dubai

Also on the adventurous side for things to do in Dubai is zip lining. XLine Dubai Marina allows people to see the area from above by sending thrill-seekers across the water with their feet dangling in the air. Anyone wanting to make their heart pump while taking in views of the famous skyscrapers, and feel the breeze against their skin, can sign up at the dedicated kiosk inside Dubai Marina Mall before jumping off a building in the heart of the buzzing city.

Go on a desert safari

A typical Dubai desert safari involves bashing the dunes in an SUV, watching a belly dancing show and maybe even trying out henna body art. You can even stay overnight and do a spot of camping in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Arabian Adventures does a package where individuals and groups can go a night without technology, instead eating local food under the light of lamps and showering in huts, waking up to find bird footprints and seeing oryx wander by the site.

But this is more glamping than camping, with bathrooms cleaner than you’d find in a dive bar, plus chilled wine and hot coffee available. Although guests are picked up from their Dubai, Ajman or Sharjah hotel by a private driver in a Land Cruiser, visitors ride to their large tents (featuring a double bed and cosy duvet) on a camel. Activities include the chance to go falcon watching (it’s the UAE’s national bird), another great thing to do in Dubai.

Take tea like a local

Tania’s teahouse puts a new spin on the tea tradition | © Tania's Teahouse

Drinking the caffeinated stuff is big business in Dubai. Just walk down a street of food and beverage venues and you’ll see locals sipping tea while smoking shisha. Check out the Arabian Tea House Restaurant and Café in Bur Dubai for a touch of old Middle Eastern style – it’s one of the more cultural things to do in Dubai. The more modern Tania’s Teahouse on Jumeirah Beach Road gives the tradition a bright twist, with decorative touches that make the visit especially picture-perfect.

See two sides of the city at once

Step inside Zabeel Park to see the old side of the emirate, with significantly lower buildings than the new. Then look through the other side of the shimmering platform in the sky, the Dubai Frame, that resembles a photo or mirror frame, for a view of the more recent things that have built up the city.

It’s 150 metres high and contains a glass-floor platform for visitors to look down and potentially get wobbly legs, so those afraid of heights might want to reconsider. It’s open from 9am to 9pm and costs AED50 (£11) for adults or AED20 (£4) for children. Children under three and over 65s can enter free.

See a theatre show

The La Perle show from Franco Dragone | © La Perle

Dubai has many venues where you can watch enthralling performances from international stars. The Dubai World Trade Centre regularly hosts acts in dance, comedy and music. Dubai Opera has boasted an impressive line-up since opening in 2016 and is the place to see anything from ballet to musicals to taking part in a Q&A with a star.

The acrobatics-filled performance La Perle is unique in that Dubai is the only city where you can see Franco Dragone’s show. Dragone, who has his roots in Cirque du Soleil, has created a dramatic water-based show set in its own Al Habtoor City circular venue, where every seat in the house offers terrific views.

See the city from a new point of view with a skydive

Take the leap with Skydive Dubai and experience one of the only ways to see the Palm Jumeirah the way it was designed to be looked at. While some skyscrapers in Dubai give you a good view of the palm tree-shaped island, this bird’s-eye look is like nothing else you’ll ever see.

Experienced instructors take guests up into the sky on a small plane from their Dubai Marina site before jumping in tandem as people watch from the beach areas below. If you’re thinking about skydiving, Dubai’s coastline is the place to do it, but Skydive Dubai also offer it at their desert campus.

Party at a mega-nightclub

1OAK Dubai is one of the top nightclubs | © 1OAK Dubai

Dubai is known for its huge nightlife scene, with international acts coming from all over the world to perform and make social appearances. There’s WHITE Dubai, one of the DJ Magazine Top 20 Clubs in the World, set at the open-air venue on top of Meydan racecourse. Nearby is American brand Drai’s, a Las Vegas beach club that draws in massive music acts by night. Similarly, there’s Base nightclub in the Dubai Design District, where a long line-up of rappers have performed – Jennifer Lopez has even partied there. 1OAK has even come from the United States to make one of the biggest party destinations in the Middle East even better, and clubbing in general one of the absolute musts for things to do in Dubai.

Make your way to Ain Dubai

Even throughout its years of construction, Bluewaters Island has been a popular attraction for visitors and residents alike. Visible from the JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) beach, it’s an ideal snap for those who want to be pictured in front of the world’s largest observation wheel, Ain Dubai. It outdoes the High Roller in Las Vegas and the London Eye, so make getting a good social media shot with this record-breaker one of your priorities for things to do in Dubai.

Ride down Dubai Creek

View from the boardwalk at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club | © Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club

Whether you want to spot the beautiful flamingos at the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary or simply want to experience a traditional inexpensive abra (wooden boat) ride, Dubai Creek is a must-do location in the city. It allows a look into Old Dubai, before the skyscrapers obstructed views of the water across the emirate. But for residents of the city, an abra may not be the most convenient way to get to work. To avoid traffic in a taxi going from A to B, or a crowded metro train, water taxis take passengers down the water by a lesser-known mode of transport.

Look into the lion’s den at Dubai Safari

The Dubai Safari is twice the size of Vatican City and contains 2,500 animals from across 250 species. You’re likely to see crocodiles, fruit bats, Arabian wolves, monkeys and blackbuck antelopes on a trip to the park, where guests can pay extra for a tour or stick to the regular AED85 (£10) for adults and AED35 (£7) for kids. The highlight for cat lovers has to be the white African lions roaming around.