We love Ferrari World, we love COYA, we love plenty of popular places in the capital. But sometimes it’s nice to do something a bit different. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide to secret Abu Dhabi. So get stuck in to a less obvious day out. Just keep it to yourself, yeah?
Want to try Ethiopian cuisine? Well this is the perfect place to do so. Bonna Annee offers an intimate setting and authentic recipes from an under-represented country on the culinary map, try the fermented grain bread, injeera, with a range of spiced meat and veg dishes, such as the minced beef abesh.
Open daily 10am-midnight. Opposite Old Blood Bank Building, behind Salam Street, Al Zahiyah (02 491 2128).
This popular vegetarian Indian is simply top notch if you fancy some inventive veg while you’re downtown. Evergreen’s prices are as reasonable as its food is excellent. Try it.
Open daily 7am-3pm, 4.30pm-11pm. Electra Street, Al Markaziya (02 676 7361).
Hankook Korean Restaurant
A casual Korean with a comprehensive menu, this place is busy and includes enclosed dining rooms where you sit cross-legged on the floor. It’s no-frills, affordable fare with some cracking beef ribs.
Open Fri-Wed, 11am-11pm, Thu 11am-midnight. Near Al Wahda Mall, off Hazza Bin Zayed Street (02 642 3399).
Russian Kitchen House Cafeteria
As well as Russian food, this place serves Ukrainian dishes. The cabbage rolls are a favourite with diners and be ready for some foodie surprises. All the dishes, including pancakes, pasta, pizza, pies and dessert, have a Russian twist to satisfy Baltic guests. You can also opt for more traditional plates such as manti, lagman and kvas.
Open 11am-11pm. Hamdan Street, Al Markaziya (02 674 4342).
A cosy little shop in Muroor that specialises in serving karak tea and brunch. Its name means “perfect tea” in Arabic and is a great spot for a cuppa. The menu is as small and compact as the restaurant itself, with tea at its centre. The selection ranges from caramelised karak to Moroccan tea and all at less than Dhs5. A stuffed porotta costs Dhs4 and classic Arabian delicacies such as shakshuka (or eggs poached in tomato sauce, chilli and onions to the uninitiated) comes in at a mere Dhs35.
Open daily 7am-10pm. 21 Dihan Street, Muroor (02 621 7323).
The ultimate spot for a private, mysterious hideaway, this cozy lounge features cocoon-style seating with gliding, veiled drapes and soothing music. Relax indoors or step outside to the comfortable terrace to experience beautiful views of the Abu Dhabi skyline. Guests can enjoy decadent teas and the finest selection of grape and mixed drinks.
Open daily 4pm-1am. Rosewood Hotel, Al Maryah Island (02 813 5550).
Karaoke at Tambayan
Who doesn’t love karaoke? Ok, you might not think you do at 7pm, but we’re pretty sure you’ll have chanfged your mind come 10pm. It’s free to sing your heart at this downtown Filipino hangout, which is often forgotten about, offers more “professional” live music, and is, quite frankly, glorious.
Open daily noon-3am. Al Ain Palace Hotel, Corniche Road (02 679 4777).
The Hideaway at Butcher and Still
Take a secret passageway that leads down two levels via a private lift to this ultra-exclusive speakeasy-style entertaining area. It can only be booked by knowing a Four Seasons insider, and the bar was designed as a replica of Al Capone’s prison cell, while the Cadillac Lounge is inspired by the interior of Capone’s legendary 1928 bulletproof car. You don’t have to be a wannabe gangster to appreciate just how cool this place is.
Open daily 4pm-2am. Four Seasons Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island (02 333 2700).
For unique gift ideas you won’t find anywhere else, Little Majlis is the place to head. It offers local, handmade products from an online platform and is home to vendors from Abu Dhabi and across the UAE, who produce original goods at very reasonable prices, with items ranging from clothes to jewellery to home décor. What’s better than supporting local creative types?
Thrift Distribution and Books
A second-hand bookshop that recently moved to larger premises, inside a world of written wonders awaits. You can swap old books and buy pre-loved tomes at a fraction of the price of new ones. There’s a much less predictable selection than you’d find in chain stores.
Open Sat-Thu 10am-2pm, 5pm-10pm; Fri 5pm-10pm. Behind the Royal Rose Hotel, Electra Street (055 224 3980).
Started by an Abu Dhabi husband and wife team, these 100 percent natural and organic handmade cosmetics contain no parabens, no mineral oil and no colourants. As well as serums and anti-ageing mixtures, the company offers a body and hair range using ingredients such as argan oil and neroli.
Open Sun-Thu, 9am-5pm. www.womncosmetics.com (055 466 0429).
Al Wathba Wetland Reserve
It’s the start of migration season for flamingos so, at this time of year, you can spot around 2,000 of the beautiful birds, as well as mammals and the Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard, known as a dhub. There is a Visitor Experience Centre, self-guided trails and a bird hide equipped with binoculars and a telescope. The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, which manages the site, has purposefully kept the reserve as raw as possible (there are toilets) so bring your own water and snacks with you.
Free. Open Thu and Sat, 8am-4pm. Abu Dhabi-Al Ain Truck Road, www.ead.ae.
East of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain, this is the last souk of its kind in the UAE. See camels up close and see and hear traders discussing their price and merits. There are some excellent Instastragram opportunities to be had (always ask permission first), and an organised tour will set you back just Dhs30.
Open daily 6am-7pm. Cattle Market, Zayed Bin Sultan Road (800 555).
This reconstruction of a traditional oasis village offers a glimpse into Abu Dhabi’s past. As well as a spice shop selling a range of herbs and handmade soaps, there are workshops where craftsmen demonstrate traditional skills, such as metal work, pottery and weaving. A campfire with coffee pots, a goats’ hair tent and a falaj irrigation system are on display, showcasing traditional aspects of the desert way of life.
Open Sat-Thurs 9am-4pm; Fri 3.30pm-9pm. Near Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi Corniche Breakwater (02 681 4455).
Masdar is a pioneering vision of a city of the future with the goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable eco-city. Cars are banned so leave yours at the car park and explore. The city is built around a solar-powered, central Arabian wind tunnel that channels a cooling breeze through the streets and alleys. Take a stroll and then relax at one of the numerous restaurants or browse the luxury convenience store, and organic food shops.
Masdar City, Khalifa City A (02 653 3333).