The Grand Mosque Image Credit: GN Archive

ABU DHABI The UAE capital has a lot to offer to a willing explorer. Whether you are an art lover or fitness enthusiast, there is plenty to do here. Here’s an XPRESS selection of 10 things you can do in Abu Dhabi without spending a single dirham:

Visit Grand mosque

1 If you are looking for a soul-stirring experience, a visit to the Grand Mosque is not a thing to be missed. Grand Mosque is the resting place of the UAE’s founding President Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and the third biggest mosque in the world. The Dh2.5 billion structure built in white marble has 82 domes and a central courtyard featuring 1,048 columns. The mosque is open to visitors daily.

A peek into the past at Abu Dhabi Heritage Village

2 Take a peep into the country’s glorious past at this perfect heritage site. Run by Emirates Heritage Club and located at the Breakwaters at the end of the corniche, the Heritage Village has everything from crafts, spice shops, camels, Bedouin tents, photography exhibitions, museums and stalls that recreate life in the desert.

Admire Emirates Palace

3 It is definitely the most jaw-dropping sight in the capital city. The seven star Emirates Palace hotel, spread across 100 hectares of lush lawns and gardens on the corniche, is an architectural marvel you can admire for free. The golden-sandy coloured hotel features 114 domes, 1,002 crystal chandeliers and its interiors are decorated with gold leaves, marble and pearl.

A stroll on the corniche

4 There is nothing more relaxing than sauntering on the Abu Dhabi corniche in the evening. Soak in the amazing views of the azure Arabian Gulf and admire the sky-kissing towers crowding the skyline. It is a sprawling green space in the heart of the city with paved walkways lined with benches. The two kilometre public beach is free for all and has toilets, changing facilities, showers and retail outlets.

Al Bateen Shipyard

5 Why not learn a thing or two about building traditional Arab boats when you have a free day? Al Bateen shipyard is just a few minutes away from the corniche, and a heritage gem of Abu Dhabi. You can watch craftsmen using traditional hand tools to carve wooden dhows out of thick teak planks, and even take home a miniature dhow from their souvenir shop.

A date with Ghaf Gallery

6 A hotspot for art lovers in the capital, this gallery is located in a villa in the Khalidiya area. With a 1,500 square foot exhibition space, the gallery nurtures local talent and regularly features contemporary art exhibitions by upcoming artists. If you are curious about the buzzing art scene in Abu Dhabi, spend an evening at Ghaf. You will go back with enough leads.
Check out Manarat Al Saadiyat

7 Manarat Al Saadiyat, which means ‘the place of enlightenment’, is truly the cultural nerve centre of Abu Dhabi. Located in the Saadiyat Island Cultural District, the venue has four gallery spaces that run exhibitions by international artists year-round. The venue is open to visitors from 9am to 8pm.

Visit Qasr Al Hosn Fort

8 Qasr Al Hosn fort is the oldest building in Abu Dhabi, and the former home of Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Standing in stark contrast to the modern city outside, this fort, built in 1773, now restored to its original condition, contains a museum, a natural history section and photography exhibition.

Carpet souq in Mina

9 You need not have an oriental carpet on your shopping list to visit the carpet souq, also known as Afghan Souq, on Mina Road. These time-worn shops also sell prayer rugs, majlis-style sofas. The Afghan shopkeepers are eager to tell a story or two about the old market that also has a vegetable and fish market in the vicinity.

Free movie at The Space

10 If you want a movie fix during a weekday, you can have it at The Space, on the ground floor of the TwoFour54 building. The venue regularly holds free movie nights, and you can capture an Emirati short film or a European art flick for free.


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