Dubai: Since travelling really isn’t the best option for any UAE resident right now, this is a perfect opportunity to ‘travel’ within this beautiful city that we live in.
There’s plenty to see here, from concrete jungles to hidden natural gems and incredible places to eat.
Whether you choose to staycation at a hotel, or save your money and stay at home, here are all the things you can do in Dubai to make it feel like you went on a little vacation.
Early breakfast by the water at Kite Beach
Foodies will have a selection of restaurants, cafes and unique food concepts by the beach, all just a stone’s throw from the water. Kite Beach’s promenade has a variety of spots to relax and tuck into tasty fare while feeling the sand between your toes. Our favourites include Park House, The Surf Cafe, and Grind, which is the morning pop-up at Salt Burger, serving egg sandwiches and amazing coffee.
Morning activity: A morning exploring Dubai’s oldest neighbourhoods
A visit to Al Fahidi Neighbourhood offers a great opportunity to get acquainted with Dubai’s old way of life, reflected in the traditional buildings featuring wind towers (Barajeel) built out of stone, gypsum, teak, sandal wood, fronds and palm wood. Wander through the narrow alleys, pathways and public squares, and discover the beauty of old Dubai. Don’t miss the area’s various art exhibitions, specialised museums, cultural centres and quaint cafés, restaurants and guesthouses.
A cultural lunch at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
Located in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, one of the oldest in Dubai, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) serves traditional Emirati lunch in the ambience of a beautifully restored wind-tower house where visitors can enjoy a meal with local flair while chatting with an Emirati host about UAE culture and customs. There literally is no better way to get to know Emirati culture than to sit and enjoy their traditional food, while asking anything.
Afternoon activity: Afternoon stroll through Dubai’s oldest souks
Since you're in the area, discover the city's shopping heritage at Dubai’s souqs, with gold jewellery, hand-woven fabrics, traditional oud fragrances and quirky knick-knacks. A wander through one of Dubai's bustling souks is an essential experience for both visitors and local hosts. The shopkeepers are friendly and chatty, and more than happy to introduce lesser-known spices. Remember, haggling is not only accepted, it’s encouraged!
Evening activity: Visit Atmosphere at Burj Khalifa
Many people will tell you that everyone who visits and lives in Dubai has to go up the Burj Khalifa. They usually recommend the viewing deck, which is amazing. But my hack is to visit the Atmosphere at Burj Khalifa lounge instead. The same money you spend on a ticket "At the top" you can spend on amazing food instead and enjoy the same views of the city.
Dinner by the Dancing Fountains
Watch the Dubai Fountains from a number of different dining options across Dubai Mall and the licensed Souk Al Bahar. Whether you want a casual burger at Five Guys, French dinner at Paul or a relaxing Thair dinner at Thiptara, all of these and many more are prime spots to take in one of Dubai’s most popular son-et-Lumiere (song and light) show.
Breakfast at Arabian Tea House
Start the day unwinding at an oasis of quiet and calm at Arabian Tea House. Set in the historic Al Fahidi district on the Bur Dubai side of the Creek, the tea house offers everything from breakfast platters, healthy sandwiches, salads and dips, to pastries, refreshing mint lemonades and over 100 types of tea – including a house special blend of black tea with fruit and herbs.
Take an Abra ride to the other side of town
For just Dh1, you can cross the creek with one of Dubai's oldest modes of transportation. The Abra. It's mostly used as a public transportation, lower budget way to cross the creek, but the ride on its own is an adventure.
Morning activity: Cool Off at Aquaventure
Aquaventure at Atlantis has also introduced an amazing summer deal at almost half off of their usual ticket prices. Kids can enter the waterpark for Dh99, while adults can enjoy it for Dh119. Aquaventure offers a way to beat the heat with a splash-filled break for the entire family. Choose from record-breaking rides and slides, close encounters with sharks and rays, or simply relax on their 700 metre private beach.
Lunch: Check out Bread Street Kitchen
The famous Gordon Ramsey opened Bread Street Kitchen, right near the entrance of the waterpark. It’s open guests of all ages, serving up Bread Street Kitchen favourites such as king crab and lobster cocktail, beef Wellington with truffle mash and honey roasted carrots, and desserts including bread and butter ice cream. The restaurant is also very kids friendly offering items like burgers, fish and chips and a kale salad.
See the world's largest dancing fountain
The Pointe, at Palm Jumeirah, is home to the largest dancing fountain in the world. The Palm Fountain has 20 shows with five different performances running daily between sunset to midnight (7pm to 12am) swaying to an array of popular songs including Khaleeji, pop, classic, international and more. Each show will last for three minutes and will be performed every 30 minutes. Spread over 14,000 sqft of sea water, the fountain’s super shooter will stand tall at 105 metres and come alive with over 3,000 LED lights.
Evening activity and dinner: Desert Adventure
For a quintessentially Arabian experience, book yourself a desert safari that highlights the local Emirati culture and heritage set in an ultra-luxury desert landscape. Complete your Dubai experience with a traditional feast and performances as the sun sets. You can even catch a glimpse of native desert animals including gazelles and Arabian Oryx, or you can trace your way through the desert on a traditional camel convoy. Whether it’s sandboarding, camel or horseback riding or going on a desert safari, this is one adventure the kids will love.
Sunrise activity: Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Desert
Drift 1,200 metres above the dunes, over green oases with oryx, gazelles and wandering camels in their natural habitat below. Soar the skies with the teams at Balloon Adventures, Sindbad Balloons or Platinum Heritage for a sky-high tour, from pick-up to take-off.
Breakfast: Start your day at Brunch and Cake
This famous Barcelona spot has come to Dubai. Located in Jumeirah’s newly launched Wasl 51 development, the cafe is oh so beautifully designed. The interiors are perfect for people who love that shabby chic, woody style beach house with touches of millennial pink look. The high ceilings and glass windows flood the place with sunlight. The breakfast menu is both comforting as well as wholesome with every dish designed in a very visual way. The portions are very generous, so ideally share dishes if you can. Breakfast includes a variety of Acaii bowls, pancakes, waffles and eggs. On my last trip to Brunch and cake, I ordered the Eggs Carbonara, unbelievable and so wonderfully filling. It gets quite popular during breakfast time, so make sure you head there early. The menu is vast and the drinks options are plenty.
Location Jumeirah 1, Wasl 51 Cost Approx. 120 per couple Timings Open daily from 8am to 12am
Morning activity: Spend the day by the pool
Despite the temperatures being unbearably high on some days, summer is also the best time to enjoy pool deals in Dubai. Five-star hotels will offer great deals. For example, spend the day at the Waldorf Astoria on the palm and spend Dh250, which you can fully redeem against food and drinks. If you are looking for something a little more lively, then head to Cove Beach on Bluewaters Island. Spend Dh200 and you can enjoy the full amount of food and drinks as well.
Afternoon activity: Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
Translated as ‘Cape of the Creek’, Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary sits at the mouth of the Dubai Creek and is among the few protected urban areas in the world – a critical staging ground for the wintering birds of the East African to West Asian Flyway. This wildlife haven covers an area of 6 sq km and features a combination of salt flats, intertidal mudflats, mangroves and lagoons, supporting over 20,000 water birds and 67 species. The site is also home to more than 500 species of flora and fauna and is one of the best-managed arid wetland zones in the region.
Dinner: Finish off the day at Ce La Vi
Ce La Vi offers incredible food and one of the best views of the entire city and the Burj Khalifa. Because of how high you are, the weather is also a lot cooler, so it's possible to dine outdoors on their terrace and really enjoy a killer view of the city.