Take a trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa. This must-do in Dubai doesn’t take you quite to the top of the world’s tallest building but it gets you dizzyingly close – the outside viewing platform is 124 floors up. Book in advance as peak slots often sell out – tickets for the prime sunset slot are particularly sought after. For early risers, an early-morning sunrise ticket is a cheaper alternative.
See the Dubai Fountains. These amazing fountains at the foot of the Burj Khalifa perform a choreographed ‘dance’ to music every evening – accompanied by a light show on the Burj Khalifa itself. The show is free, so make sure you get there early for a good view.
Visit the Deira Souks. In a small area in the older area of Dubai you’ll find a very different side to Dubai. Walk through the Gold Souk to see the world’s biggest gold ring and amazing jewellery of every type, then continue through the Spice Souk and Perfume Souk for a true sensory experience. Carry along the banks of the Dubai Creek and watch wooden ships (dhows) being laden with goods destined for Iran and beyond – Dubai’s trading heritage in action today.
Take a boat trip on the Creek. Whether you choose a 20p ride on a traditional water taxi, a luxurious dinner cruise or one of the city’s futuristic water buses, seeing Dubai from the water shouldn’t be missed. Some tours take in the incredible Palm artificial island and pass the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab on their way to Dubai Marina.
Go shopping! Dubai Mall is the biggest in the world. As well as its 1,200 shops (including the world’s biggest sweet shop), the Dubai Mall is also home to a three-storey waterfall, a dinosaur, an ice rink and an aquarium. A short distance from Dubai Mall is Mall of the Emirates, another gigantic shopping centre which boasts its own ski slope with real snow.
Go dune-bashing and camel-riding in the desert. One of the most popular activities in Dubai is a desert safari. These are available from a range of tour companies and typically involve a trip out to the desert in a 4x4, an exciting hour or so dune-bashing across the sands, followed by a camel ride and a traditional meal as you watch the sun go down.
A day trip to Abu Dhabi. Dubai’s next-door neighbour is around a 90 minute drive away and well worth a visit. As well as the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi offers theme parks including Ferrari World, plus the new Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Enjoy a Friday Brunch. The Dubai working week is Sunday to Thursday, with the weekend landing on Friday and Saturday. Friday Brunch buffets are an institution across the city and most hotels and many restaurants offer their take on the tradition. Whatever type of food, drink or atmosphere you’re looking for, there’ll be a brunch that suits.
Hit the beach. For much of the year, Dubai basks in perfect beach weather, and there’s a spot of sand for everyone. On the Palm, many of the resorts have private beaches where you can bask in style with a cool drink never far away. For those on a budget, check out one of the public beaches – Kite Beach, JBR Beach and Sunset Beach are all favourites. If you’re looking for more of a party atmosphere, try one of the beach clubs – Zero Gravity’s Friday brunch beach party is legendary.
See wild flamingos. If the city’s getting too much and you’re longing for some nature, head out to the Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary. This surprising natural wetland just a few minutes from Downtown is home to tens of thousands of native and migrating birds, including gorgeous pink flamingos. Visits are free – try to go at morning or afternoon feeding time to see the biggest flocks.
Explore the history of Dubai. Across the Creek from the souks and bustling trade of Deira, the Bur Dubai area is the most historic in the city, and includes Dubai’s oldest buildings, the Al Fahidi fort. Inside the fort, which dates back to 1787, you’ll find a museum with evocative displays, taking you back to Dubai as it was before the skyscrapers. After your visit, stroll through the Al Fahidi historic neighbourhood with its traditional houses, art galleries and cafes.