Abu Dhabi has often been overlooked by most visitors to the United Arab Emirates. Even so by locals in the country as most Abu Dhabi residents usually travel to Dubai to spend their holidays. However, a recent trip to my sister’s place there made me fall in love with the emirate! If you’re a resident or just a tourist looking to visit the United Arab Emirates, here is a useful Abu Dhabi guide on how to spend your holiday in Abu Dhabi.
Best Time to Visit Abu Dhabi
The best time to go to Abu Dhabi is from November to March as it is comparatively cooler during those months of the year.
Abu Dhabi Guide Details
Getting from Dubai to Abu Dhabi is about 2 hours by road. Some of the ways you can get to Abu Dhabi by road are:
- Car rental: If you have a car rented during your trip and a license to drive in UAE, you can drive using Google Maps
- Public transport: RTA provides 2 buses from different parts of Dubai to Abu Dhabi for approx AED 25 per person
- Ibn Battuta Metro Station 4 – Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station with bus E101
Al Ghubaiba Bus Station – Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station with bus E100
- Tour from Dubai to Abu Dhabi: The other option you can do is book a tour from Dubai to Abu Dhabi where you will be taken to explore the best places in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Mosque and the Louvre. This is a 9-hour tour including travel time to Abu Dhabi and back to Dubai. Check the rate for the tour here.
Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi
To spend your Abu Dhabi vacation, you needn’t do massive research as there are quite a number of hotels present in the city. We’ve stayed in our fair share of luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi that focus on quality, comfort, and aren’t going to burn a hole in your pocket.
Radisson Blu Abu Dhabi: We booked ourselves an Executive Suite at Radisson Blu Abu Dhabi and enjoyed the gorgeous view of Abu Dhabi Corniche from our windows. The hotel has a huge breakfast display that serves international cuisine when you’re staying in Abu Dhabi. Read more about our experience here.
If you would like to book a room at one of the best hotels in Abu Dhabi, click here.
Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Villas: If you’re more of an out-of-city person and would like a great option for Abu Dhabi beach hotels, then I recommend Park Hyatt with all my heart. We had a beautiful 2 day stay there and spent time exploring Saadiyat Island. Here’s how you can check rates for this beautiful resort.
Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi: Although I haven’t personally stayed at Holiday Inn’s Abu Dhabi branch, I can vouch for the hotel in terms of service, convenience, and affordability. The hotel’s location is also very suitable and within a walking distance from Abu Dhabi Corniche. You can check to see discounted rates here.
Best Places to Visit in Abu Dhabi
The first stop on your Abu Dhabi day trip would be to visit the Abu Dhabi landmarks. I say day trip because these Abu Dhabi tourist attractions are better seen during the day to actually marvel their beauty!
Visit the largest mosque in the U.A.E. – The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest in the country with splendid décor made of marble and one of the most popular Abu Dhabi tourist spots. The Masjid (mosque) has become one of the most visited tourist attractions in Abu Dhabi solely due to the unique architectural work and awareness of Muslim culture. A tip would be to visit on the weekdays as weekends are too crowded (https://goo.gl/maps/RXmkBRWbR472)
Want a tour to explore Abu Dhabi like a tourist? Check out this half-day Abu Dhabi city tour!
If you are a tourist, you must remember to wear modest clothing with shoulders and knees covered during your visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Women should have their heads covered to respect Islamic culture
Ride the fastest roller coaster in the world – Ferrari World is the first branded amusement park by Ferrari. Adventure seekers should definitely not miss Formula Rossa, which is the fastest roller coaster in the world (https://goo.gl/maps/UMahQfeVX2k)
Get inspired at Louvre Abu Dhabi – As a direct extension of the Louvre in France, this one of a kind art museum in Abu Dhabi is the largest museum in the region. The stunning design has been inspired by shade cast by date palm fronds on a surface. Since there is mostly a queue to enter the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, I suggest getting skip the line tickets to make sure you don’t waste time lining up. Here’s how you can check them. (https://goo.gl/maps/TYDjsqt25LC2)
Go on a Desert Safari – This is the touristiest thing to do while in the United Arab Emirates, however, it would be a crime to miss it. Desert Safari is basically a ride along sand dunes on a jeep. The package includes getting henna tattooed, watching belly dance shows, and a chance to ride on camels. Check the updated discount rates for Desert Safari in Abu Dhabi.
Best Things to do in Abu Dhabi
Apart from the popular places to see in Abu Dhabi, I will also give you some hidden gems to explore while you’re in the city! Abu Dhabi is quite underrated when people talk about the best place to visit in the U.A.E.
- Watch Abu Dhabi from above – If Dubai has Burj Khalifa, then Abu Dhabi has Observation Deck at 300. Its 74th floor is the highest point where you can have a bird’s view of the capital of the United Arab Emirates (https://goo.gl/maps/6zJSY5v859o)
- Learn how to pearl dive – Abu Dhabi Pearl Journey offers an exciting tour which shows how the Arabs used to dive for pearls in the olden days to earn their living. Watch how pearl diving is done and oysters are cut open to find a pearl that you can keep as a souvenir at the end of the visit (https://goo.gl/maps/8aLn9r3GiGQ2)
- Feed animals at Emirates Park Zoo and Resort – Animal lovers can visit the Emirates Park Zoo and Resort which is a short drive from Abu Dhabi city. The zoo has a lot of experiences to offer that you will remember for a lifetime. having breakfast with giraffes and crocodile feeding are pretty popular with residents and tourists alike, apart from parrot shows and lunching with leopards. Here’s where you can get more information and click here for discounted rates on tickets. (https://goo.gl/maps/QP3Nhh7Jpa92)
- Go camping in the desert – Camping in the desert is one of the activities to try when you are in the capital. There are plenty of tours available, but you can also go your way. The night time is when it really gets chilly so be sure to pack warm wear if you cannot bear low temperatures. The stars really shine brighter in the desert as it is away from the city and the experience of sitting next to a bonfire will sure be a memorable experience
- Walk along Abu Dhabi Corniche – Apart from being the only awarded eco-friendly beach in UAE, Abu Dhabi Corniche also offers you some pretty great activities while you’re there. There is an open “gym” set up for fitness minds, playground for kids, small eateries to explore, and a bicycle track for bikers. A tour of Abu Dhabi Corniche is also included in when you sign up for a half day city tour of Abu Dhabi, check the price here.
Get a discounted rate for Cyacle Pass here.
- Get yourself some “24 karat magic” – Dubai is known as the city of gold but really, Abu Dhabi is where most of the locals come to shop as prices are comparatively lower. Most tourists head to Gold Souq in Dubai and Abu Dhabi is where a person should visit if they want to beat the crowd
- Go to a Botanical Garden – Umm Al Emarat Park is a great place to take the kids.
The park has a maze, a botanical garden, and an animal barn. Look at the lush greenery at this spot! My little one is just over a year, but if you have older kids it can be a nice educational experience for them to learn about the different kinds of plants.I would like to say that I took my kid to the animal barn, but since we visited in April, the heat was too much for us to take in so we couldn’t. Definitely during the cooler months as it is one of the best places to visit from Dubai.
Traveling to Abu Dhabi with kids? Here’s a list of 40+ Free Things to do in Abu Dhabi!
What and Where to Eat in Abu Dhabi
I find food in Abu Dhabi more authentic compared to Dubai, where competitive restaurants have forgotten their roots and focus more on theatrics and high prices with almost no attention to taste and service.
Of course, there are a few great places that deserve all the hype and I always highlight them in lists like Best Breakfasts in Dubai and Brunches in Dubai, but the majority are turning out to be very repetitive in terms of concept.
Whenever I am on an Abu Dhabi trip, I make sure to try local spots to find the best hidden gems serving street food in Abu Dhabi. Find below some of my favorite places to eat in Abu Dhabi for Arabic food:
Felafel: Malik Al Felafel is in Khalidiya and very close to where my sister lives (the place I mostly hang around when in the capital) The owner is a friendly chap who is always ready for a chat! The felafels are very crispy and fulfilling! They come quite affordable at 3 pieces for AED 1. We always have it as a takeaway but you can stop by and sit around for a while to take a look at the menu (https://goo.gl/maps/LVNvMsyGNhv)
Shawarma: I know shawarma is a big deal in this country and everyone has a favorite place. My place to usually stop for shawarma is from a Lebanese joint named Karam Al Sham who specializes in Chicken and Beef Shawarma. Both are great and different in their own way. (https://goo.gl/maps/PxjrQXm3McK2)
Being a big fan of this snack, I would love to hear if you have any suggestions of your own. ‘Cause sharing is caring, right?
Karak Chai: This has to be Tea Break! I think most of the folks living in Abu Dhabi will agree that Tea Break is the best place to grab a Karak. I’ve seen such a crowd during the weekends and a queue is always a good sign. The restaurant does not just limit to serving good tea but also have some finger food if you’re feeling hungry
Mandi: Mandi is traditional UAE food made with rice, meat, and spices. The meat is slow cooked, hence extremely soft and “fall off the bone”. Mandi is served with a tomato sauce and yogurt to enhance the dish with spicy and tangy flavors. It is important to note that this dish is eaten with hands as it really brings out the taste.
I like Al Marhabani located in Al Dhafrah, a hidden gem although now becoming very popular with the residents in the area. The service might not necessarily be friendly but the atmosphere and food are as authentic as it can get. (https://goo.gl/maps/9gxmqkBTUCq)
Lugaimat: Think deep-fried dough balls topped with drizzles of date syrup and sesame seeds! Lugaimat is a popular street dessert in the UAE, and a must when you are planning your Abu Dhabi vacation. It available is most places serving Emirati food but Lgaimat and Chebab is famous for this sweet treat and that is where you should try Lugaimat! (https://goo.gl/maps/n3aEU717UgH2)
Of course, other snacks or “street food” includes the very popular Oman Chips, Areej juice, and Laban sold very cheap for AED 1 and found in almost all groceries/ supermarkets. Do you have other snacks you swear by?
I hope I have covered everything when it comes to spending your holiday in Abu Dhabi in the best possible way. Have you been a resident in the other Emirates and have never visited Abu Dhabi? Then, this is THE guide for you!
Until then, happy traveling! x
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