Formerly known as the Tourist Club Area, Al Zahiyah was once the social hub of Abu Dhabi. Though the city’s rapid development means it doesn’t have the trendy reputation that other areas of the city enjoy, it’s a fantastic place to rediscover oldie-but-goodie bars and under-the-radar nightspots that you’d be unwise to overlook.
Blu Sky Lounge & Grill
This futuristic sports bar is the official Manchester City supporters’ bar in the city, but that shouldn’t put fans of other teams off as it’s a great place whichever team you cheer on. There’s always something going on to keep you entertained, too, from bingo on Thursdays to Tuesday quiz nights and various drinks deals every night. The pub grub is decent here, as well, and the big screens are brilliant for watching the match. There’s a lot going for Blu Sky, all told.
Open Fri-Sat noon-3am; Sun-Thu 3pm-3am. Southern Sun Abu Dhabi, Mina Street (02 818 4888).
Holed up in a corner of this Bavarian bar you could easily kid yourself that snowstorms are swirling outside. Mounted antlers line the polished, dark wood walls and the menu is crammed with dishes such as currywurst and wiener schnitzel, plus a selection of German hops served, if you like, stein-sized.
Open Sun-Thu 3pm-1am, Fri-Sat noon-1am. Beach Rotana, 10th Street (02 697 9000).
The closest thing to a traditional pub garden in Abu Dhabi, this wood-panelled, barrel-dotted venue is quaint and cheerful. It’s cosy inside, and outside the palm-trees-meet-Mock-Tudor space is the ideal place to laze away sunny afternoons with the gang.
Open daily noon-2.30am. The Village, Le Méridien Abu Dhabi (02 644 6666).
Though known primarily as a chic seafood restaurant, there’s comfy lounge-style seating that spills out onto the terrace. The bar serves a good selection of grape and sparkling, plus some classic mixed drinks. Prices are on the high side, but if you’re looking for a setting that’s a little more special – with stunning water views, we might add – this will do nicely.
Open Sun-Wed 6pm-1am, Thu-Fri 12.30pm-3.30pm and 6pm-1am, Sat 12.30pm-1am. Beach Rotana, 10th Street (02 697 9000).
Up on the 27th floor of the Southern Sun Abu Dhabi, this unpretentious bar spreads out onto the poolside terrace. The interiors may not have the wow-factor of bars like Stratos, but outside Hytes still has spectacular city views – minus the higher price tag. Staff are friendly and food is good value for money. Excellent for an affordable night out.
Open daily 10am-midnight. Southern Sun Abu Dhabi, Al Mina Street (02 818 4888).
NRG Sports Café
There’s no mistaking this spot for a sports bar – there are flatscreen TVs and decorative football shirts whichever way you turn – but aside from being a great place to catch the match, there’s plenty more to make us recommend it. They have a daily happy hour (between 4pm and 8pm) and a menu of classic bar snacks such as crispy calamari, nachos and chicken wings, plus you can face off with your friends over games of darts and pool in between the big-screen action.
Open daily 4pm-2am. Le Méridien Abu Dhabi (02 644 6666)
A rollicking Irish bar loved by Abu Dhabi old-timers. Prices are reasonable, there are some great weekly events (head down on a Monday for Dhs25 drinks during the day-long happy hour or rally a team for the Tuesday pub quiz) and the excellent live music acts always manage get the cheerful crowd singing and dancing along.
Open Sat-Wed noon-2am, Thu-Fri noon-3am. Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa Street (02 674 2020).
Rock Bottom Café
Rock Bottom Café is a name that has become legendary throughout the country. Though it might be a bit rough-and-ready, there’s an affordable drinks menu and fantastic house band that will (probably) win you over. A bit like Marmite, but also a must-try-it-once UAE experience.
Open daily noon-3.30am. Al Diar Capital Hotel, Mina Street (02 678 7700)
Spinning slowly above the city, Stratos isn’t as gimmicky as you might expect a revolving bar to be: take a seat in the elegant gold-tinted lounge and admire the glittering, 360-degree skyline views. The drinks menu is fittingly fancy with a long list of grape and bubbles-based mixed drinks, and a selection of premium and organic hops from around the world. It also houses a pretty good steakhouse, for when you get peckish.
Open Sun-Fri 5pm-1am. Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa Street (02 674 2020).
This tiki-themed institution has been popular for years and anywhere else the heavily Polynesian décor might seem tasteless. Here, somehow, there’s charm to the tackiness. Combined with its elaborate mixed drinks (served, of course, in glasses shaped like seahorses and pineapples), and exuberant live band (after 9pm), it’s a fail-safe option for a fun evening.
Open Sat-Wed 5pm-2am, Thu-Fri 5pm-2am. Beach Rotana, 10th Street (02 697 9011).