Abu Dhabi is an amazing city packed with amazing experiences, events and attractions.
If you’re looking to soak up the local culture, see what historical gems exist in the capital and learn more about the UAE, there are plenty of places to visit.
From immersive classes, historical attractions and amazing museums, there’s lots of great cultural experiences to try in Abu Dhabi.
Check out these 15 great cultural attractions, many of which are free, that you can try when you’ve got some spare time.
Take a class at Abu Dhabi Art Hub
With its downtown location and ever-changing exhibitions, Abu Dhabi Art Hub is great place to visit if you’re looking for a dose of culture. You can explore what’s on show in the galleries, with works from local and international artists, or check out the list of art classes covering skills such as calligraphy, as well as regular talks from emerging and established artists. There’s a lot going on here.
Free, class prices vary. Daily 10am-10pm. WTC, Khalifa Street (055 550 9640).
Check out Al Ain Classic Car Museum
In 2019, the Al Ain Classic Car Museum will celebrate its tenth birthday. Despite its relative newness, this current location at Ain Al Fida Complex is actually its second spot, having moved there in 2013. The reason for the new location? The rapid growth of the collection, which quickly became too large for its original housing. The classic cars on show here are rotated, meaning each visit should yield a surprise, but if you happen to own a suitable vehicle, you can also have it displayed here. On top of that, it offers restoration and maintenances services, whether you’re driving a Model-T or a muscle car from the 1960s.
Dhs10 (Adults), Dhs5 (kids). Open Sat-Thu 9am-6pm; Fri 4pm-8pm. Al Ain, www.alainclassiccarsmuseum.net
Explore Al Ain Palace Museum
This historical venue was the royal residence of UAE founding father HH Sheikh Zayed until 1966. The building, constructed in 1937, has loads of great things to see and offers some unrivalled insight into the childhood of the founding father of the UAE. The sprawling grounds are impressive and there are plenty of great photo opportunities, too.
Free entry. Sat-Thu 8.30am-7.30pm; Fri 3pm-7.30pm. Hessa Bint Mohammed Street, Al Ain, visitalain.ae (03 711 8388)
Explore art and culture at Al Qatatra Arts Centre
This cool cultural spot in the Garden City hosts regular events, exhibitions, workshops and more throughout the year. When you visit you can learn about local history, archaeology, local cultural traditions and a whole lot more. Plus, it’s beautiful and would look good on that Instagram feed of yours.
Free. Sat-Thu 8am–8pm. Mohammed Bin Khalifa Street, Al Qattara (03 711 8225)
Explore local art at The Cultural Foundation
If you’re feeling creative then there’s plenty of opportunities to express yourself at the Cultural Foundation. Located at the historical Qasr al Hosn fort, the Cultural Foundation has been fostering creative talent in Abu Dhabi since its launch in 1981. Inspiring youngsters to take an interest in the arts and give creative talent a platform to showcase their ability, the foundation is a meeting place for experienced and aspiring artists to meet and create. A diverse public programme includes workshops, artist-guided tours, live painting, masterclasses and live music. Check it out for yourself.
Free. Various times. Qasr Al Hosn, www.culturalfoundation.ae.
Learn more about dirhams at the Currency Museum
You might not think much about your dirhams before you hand them over but there’s lots of interesting things to learn about the local currency. The UAE Currency Museum opened in 2013 to mark the 40th anniversary of the UAE Central Bank and at the centre you can see a variety of old notes, coins and historic regional currency including the Indian rupee and Saudi Arabian riyals. Who knew money could be so fascinating?
Free, booking required. Sun-Thu 9am-3pm. King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street, Al Bateen (02 691 5265).
Check out a new exhibition at Etihad Modern Art Gallery
Fancy some culture? At the end of 2019, a new exhibition has opened showcasing the work of Filipino artist Manuel Baldemor. The collection of paintings depict scenes in simplified geometric forms with a folk art character. Most of his subjects in his art are inspired by his hometown Paete, its people, their everyday activities, and their celebrations.
Free. Thu 3pm-10pm. Etihad Modern Art Gallery, Huwelat Street, Al Bateen (055 923 2398).
Travel back in time with the Heritage Village
Abu Dhabi wasn’t always skyscrapers, smart technology and supercars (yes, we know that’s hard to believe). Want to catch a glimpse of life in the UAE before it evolved into a modern metropolis? Take a trip to the Heritage Village and you can see a snapshot of traditional Emirati life and heritage. The free-to-visit village showcases a range of local crafts, explores the history of pearl diving and gives insight into the past that can sometimes be forgotten.
Open Sat-Thu 9am-4pm; Fri 3.30pm-9pm. Near Marina Mall, Corniche Breakwater (02 681 4455).
Explore Korean culture
Learn more about The Land of the Morning Calm with a trip to the Korean Cultural Center. The immersive venue has a host of displays and experiences to get you clued up on Korea as well as regular classes from arts and crafts, cooking, film screenings and much more that you can sign up for. If you’re also planning a trip to Asia it’s a great resource for helping to plan your holiday.
Free. Sun-Thu 9am-6pm. Ministries Complex, near Khalifa Park www.uae.korean-culture.org.
Feel cultured at Manarat Al Saadiyat
Once upon a time, Manarat Al Saadiyat was little more than a display case showing what the grand plans were for the wider island. Today it’s a destination in its own right, hosting events, workshops and exhibitions and more. There’s loads going on here at this trendy space and it’s worth checking out to find out more.
Free entry. Open daily 9am-8pm. Saadiyat Island (02 657 5800).
Check out Qasr Al Hosn
As the oldest standing building Abu Dhabi, Qasr Al Hosn is a great place to visit to imagine the city long before the skyscrapers dominated the capital’s skyline. Built in 1790, the old stone fort was originally constructed to overlook the coastal trade routes and offer protection to the growing settlement on the island. Now, having completed successful restoration, you can see the original structure and visit a number of other cultural attractions at the site.
Dhs30 adults, Dhs15 children. Sat-Thu 9am-7pm; Fri noon-10pm Corner of Zayed the First Street and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Street, www.qasralhosn.ae.
Discover Qasr Al Muwaiji
Head to the Garden City of Al Ain and you can explore an impressive archaeological and historical structure and UNESCO World Heritage Site, at Qasr Al Muwaiji. The impressive structure is also birthplace of the country’s president, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 1948. Visitors can explore a variety of historical and traditional experiences, including oral narrations of the significant moments of Sheikh Khalifa’s life from his early childhood, leadership and vast national achievements. The museum also features interactive activities and performances that celebrate the overall spirit of the significant cultural site as well as daily tours. It’s one to check out when in Al Ain.
Free entry. Tue-Thu, Sat-Sun 9am-7pm; Fri 3pm-7pm. Khalifa Bin Zayed Street, Al Ain, www.qasralmuwaiji.ae.
Hang out at hipster art space Warehouse 421
Warehouse 421 is effortlessly cool. It’s a repurposed warehouse in the heart of Mina Zayed and there’s always something going on. Art galleries, exhibitions, events, film screenings and workshops – as much as it’s a cliché, there truly is something for everyone. If you want to find out what local and regional artists are creating and catch a glimpse of brilliant work from overseas then this is the place to do just that.
Open Tue-Sun 10am-8pm. Mina Zayed, www.warehouse421.ae.
Explore the Women’s Handicraft Centre
Showcasing local arts and craft, the Women’s Heritage Centre is an important, yet little known-about, cultural centre in the capital. You can check out work made by local women, learn more about traditional skills and practices and support the venue, run by the Abu Dhabi Women's Association, by picking up a few items at the store. Just remember to ask permission before taking pictures and show respect at all times when visiting.
Free. Sun-Thu 7am-3pm. Karama Street, Al Mushrif (02 447 6645).
Wander the Zayed Heritage Centre
With new hotels and better roads, the Al Bateen neighbourhood is fast modernising but one of its highlights proudly looks to the past. The Zayed Heritage Centre focuses on the life of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed, displaying personal artefacts and photographs as well as providing a snapshot of an era of tremendous change in his country. Tours are available, but you need to book a week in advance.
Free. Open Sun-Thu 8am-2.15pm. Al Bateen (02 665 9555).
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