Things to do with visitors in Abu Dhabi

Instead of scratching your head for things to do, we have done the hard work for you

The Knowledge

You don’t really have a leg to stand on. All of those Instagram posts of rooftop bars, pool days and fabulous brunch spreads have come back to haunt you. What was supposed to elicit envy in your pals has instead encouraged them to visit. And now that they’re on their way, you have to come up with something to do with them – all day, every day. Here are some ideas for you...


Abra through the city
Stock up on sun block, grab a hat and hit the high seas. Well, the fairly-calm Gulf. Catch an Abra to escape with a trip on the Red Route (daily from 4pm until 10.30pm), which goes from Khor Al Maqta to the Souk Qaryat Al Beri, Shangri-La Hotel and Fairmont Hotel, or the Green Route (evenings) around Yas Marina. One of the capital’s most beautiful locations is around the Maqta Channel, overlooking the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the tbridges that connect the island to the mainland.
Dhs20, free (children). Captain Tony’s, (050 636 5227).

Take on Yas Marina Circuit

Move over Lewis Hamilton. No, really, it’s our turn to train our bodies on the world-class Formula One circuit. TrainYAS and StartYas fitness sessions by Daman Activelife are a truly unique way to get fit with a weekly community run, bike or stroll round the 5.5km loop.
TrainYas Tuesdays: 6pm-10pm. StartYas Sundays: 6pm-10pm. Register for your ID card at (800 927).

Enjoy local art at Etihad Modern Art Gallery

A multi-purpose art space and café in the heart of the capital. It houses a lot of fantastic art, which is mostly the work of local artists, which Etihad Modern generously supports. There are also regular international exhibitions.
Free. Open Sat-Thu 10am-10pm. Al Bateen Area, Al Falah Street, (02 666 0175).

Find lost pearls at Yas Waterworld
Relive the days of Emirati pearl diving by plunging to the depths of an underwater tank in a quest to collect three oysters containing precious pearls in an adventure. The one-hour pearl diving experience includes a safety briefing in a purpose-built cabana before the five-metre dive. Accompanied by two fully trained dive instructors and in line with the ancient tradition, guests will wear only goggles for visibility and hold their breath on the underwater adventure to locate ‘The Lost Pearl’.
Dhs149 (one-hour experience). Yas Waterworld, Yas Island, (02 414 2000).

Fly in a Seawings plane
Get a bird’s-eye view of Abu Dhabi in all its magnificence with a flight around the city. Make a splash with a water take-off and landing from either Emirates Palace or Yas Island. Get clear, panoramic views of Yas Marina Circuit, Emirates Palace, Mina Zayed Port, Sheikh Zayed Bridge, Corniche, Mangroves and more.
From Dhs895. Departs from Yas Marina or Emirates Palace. For more info email (04 807 0708).

Get cultural at Manarat Al Saadiyat
Manarat Al Saadiyat literally means the “place of enlightenment” and includes three major galleries – the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which is set to open in November, the Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi – as well as a central gallery, a theatre and Fanr restaurant.
Open daily, 10am-8pm. Saadiyat Island, (02 657 5800).

Go dune bashing on a desert safari
Deep in the northern edge of the Rub’ al Khali (The Empty Quarter), aka the Liwa Desert, is where a group of the capital’s hardcore dune-bashers go to play. The Abu Dhabi 4x4 Club surf on the sand effortlessly and push their powerful V6 engines to the limit, stopping at the top of huge dunes to either take in the breathtaking views of an expansive sabkha (a salt flat)
or plummet down into the sand below. Heart-stopping, but incredibly fun stuff.
Abu Dhabi 4X4 Club. Free. Members must have their own vehicle. Training for driving on dunes is provided and donations to the club are expected.

Meet falcons at the falcon hospital

Falcons have historically been an integral and defining character of Emirati culture. Away from the high rises and clustered streets, the falcon hospital stands serenely between palm trees and greenery on the outskirts of the city. Beginning as a falcon veterinary care unit, today it has evolved to provide care to all sorts of animals and the site is also an award-winning tourist destination. You can see the magnificent birds of prey during daily tours.
Tours are held every day at 10am and 2pm.
To learn more about the ADFH, visit (02 575 5155). The Falcon Hospital tour is available through Arabian Adventures (02 691 1711).

Picnic at Umm Al Emarat
City dwellers eagerly awaited the opening of one of the city’s largest green spaces. Mushrif Central Park has an amphitheatre, an animal barn, a shade house, a great lawn and botanical garden, children’s and evening gardens, and a new Saturday farmer’s market. There is also the brilliant Salt food truck, with modern al-fresco seating, to relax at with a bite to eat.
Dhs5 (free for children under three). Open daily 8pm-midnight. 17th Street, Mushrif Area, Karama, or

Ride the world’s fastest rollercoaster at Ferrari World
Feel 4.8Gs on your face on Formula Rossa, the fastest rollercoaster on the planet. Strap yourself into the F1 cockpit and hold on tight as you accelerate up to 240kmh in under five seconds, launching 52m into the bright blue sky (not that you’ll be able to see it for tears streaming under the safety goggles), and flying through chicanes inspired by some of the world’s most famous race tracks. It’s certainly one for the thrill-seekers in your life.
Ferrari World ticket Dhs275. Yas Island (02 496 8000).

Shop for weird and wonderful art at Warehouse 421
When you think of Mina Zayed, you may think of souks, warehouses and derelict dhows. But where some see urban decay, the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation sees creative renewal. Specifically with its launch of the Warehouse421 arts initiative, a new cultural destination where the transformed buildings become a platform for artistic expression and the further development of the UAE’s emerging creative community. It’s a brilliant place to see how local talent is nurtured so we recommend heading down to see how these rising talents are getting on.
Mina Zayed.

See where Fast and Furious 7’s was filmed
As ridiculous, mad and daft stunts in action movies go, Vin Diesel’s and the late Paul Walker’s flaying car was pretty special. It involved tearing up a party hundreds of floors up in a super car before smashing it through the window and “flying” into the neighbouring tower as it sparkles in the sun. Relive the moment at the glorious Etihad Towers.
Etihad Towers, West Corniche, Al Khubeirah.

Visit UAE Heritage Village
Located on the Breakwater near the Corniche and Marina Mall, the Abu Dhabi Heritage Village is set in elegant gardens and features a mock souk, traditional mosque, a recreated Bedouin encampment and a barasti house. Watch craftsmen making pots, blowing glass, beating brass and weaving on traditional looms in a range of workshops that are entertaining for kids and adults alike. You can also get some of the best panoramic shots of the Corniche from here, so if you’ve got visitors to impress, this is a good spot for #inAbuDhabi pics.


Admire the colours at Skylite
Set under the colour changing roof of the
Yas Viceroy, this surreal bar has a resident DJ playing commercial house music to set the rhythm of your night.
Open daily 8pm-2am. 9th floor, Yas Viceroy (02 656 0600).

Dance the night away at Pop
Pop is a whole nightclub dedicated to the wonderful medium of (you guessed it) pop music, from the buoyant tunes of Abba to the Caribbean-inspired dance beats of Rihanna. If, like us, you tire very quickly of hearing endlessly meh urban tunes and background house music at almost every turn (oh, and Ed Sheeran), then this nightclub is a breath of fresh air. But only if you’re not, you know, too cool to be seen pulling some shapes to Whitney Houston, or singing along to Despacito.
Open Sun-Fri 10pm-3.30am. Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche Road West (055 780 0086).

Party at Empire

The new club, built over the Yas Marina Curcuit track at the Viceroy, has just opened and is set to be a hit on the nightlife scene this season. Along with stunning panoramic views of the Yas Marina Circuit, home to the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix – the last race of the season – the club will feature a series of weekly theme nights to provide revellers with a brand-new experience every time they visit.
Open Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 10pm-3.30am. Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuit (050 501 5052).

Try the famous Beirut beauty spot, Iris

A unique atmosphere, ambiance and setting, make Iris on Yas Island stand out as a trendy yet unconventional backyard. With its chilled vibe it is addictively easy to get lost in a tasty drink, great conversation, exceptional views and smooth music from a host of international DJs. It has ladies’ night on a Wednesday, and an 80s and 90s-themed ladies’ night on a Sunday.
Open daily 6pm-3am. Yas Marina, Yas Island (02 406 2000).

Limber up for ladies’ night
Whichever night of the week you fancy going out on the town, there’s a ladies’ night that will knock your socks off. Try Loca on a Wednesday with free Mexican mixed drinks all night, and every venue in Yas Marina has food and drink deals the same night. There are plenty of others if you fancy a smaller venue or more chilled vibes. Whatever your mood suits, really.
Loca, free entry and free Mexican mixed drinks for ladies. Open 12pm-2am daily. The Galleria Mall, Al Maryah Island (02 582 3639).

Post-work pints and sports at Velocity
Leave the office early on a Thursday (you know you want to) and head downtown to Velocity to get the weekend off to a flying start. Between 4pm and 7pm pints are just Dhs10. Why not also show all your mates how incredibly tough you are with their chicken wings competition – finish a 12-wing portion of the volcanic hot wings in 15 mins and receive life-long infamy. And a Velocity T-shirt.
Every Thursday, 4pm-7pm. Ongoing. Marriott Hotel Downtown Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street (Old Airport Road) (02 304 7777).

Sing killer karaoke at Stars ‘N’ Bars
Don’t be a wallflower, let your inner superstar shine every Sunday at Stars ‘N’ Bars, Yas Marina. Hosted by entertainer Ian Cox, come and sing your heart out on stage in front of a friendly crowd of strangers and receive a free drink in return. Please, please, please don’t sing Agadoo, though.
Free. Every Sunday. Yas Marina, Yas Island (02 565 0101).

Watch the sunset at Buddha-Bar Beach

Opening later this year, this glamorous beach bar will bring together a brilliant blend of pan-Asian cuisine, trendy mixed drinks and super cool beats to the beach, with some unbelievable sunsets. Seasonal versions of the exciting brand appeared in Baku and swanky Greek islands Santorini and Mykonos this summer, now it will take pride of place at the swish St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort. Buddha-Bar Beach takes the urban brand al fresco and will be open from morning until late. Maestro mixologists will concoct exquisite mixed drinks to complement gastronomic treats, which blend Japanese, Thai, and other Asian flavours with Mediterranean flair.
Opening date TBC. St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Saadiyat Island (02 498 8888).

Visit the superclub MAD
The UAE’s biggest indoor nightclub, get your dancing shoes ready for Abu Dhabi’s MAD.
It’s out on Yas Island, and we’ll use any excuse to head out there. Tuesdays are all about deep house with new night Backdoor, and URBN Fridays are pretty self-explanatory. Look out for the top DJs and acts MAD regularly lines up, too.
Open Tue, Thu, Fri and Sun 10.45pm-3.30am. Leisure Drive, Yas Island (052 788 8111).


Go vintage at Butcher & Still
Superb steaks and excellent mixed drinks are de rigueur at this 1920s Chicago-style steakhouse. Everything is prohibition-era themed, down to the secret room that is themed on Al Capone’s getaway car. The terrace offers good views across the sea and city, too.
Open daily 4pm-2am. Four Seasons Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island (02 333 2700).

Brunch at Bubbalicious
This popular brunch is still one of the most lively ways to spend an afternoon in the city. This is a UAE institution – with a famous cousin in Dubai - and if you’ve never been, you should absolutely go. There are food and beverage stations serving just about everything you can think of. This brunch doesn’t feel as though the food is the main event, though. It’s an upbeat crowd who are here to socialise and they are not afraid to get down and boogie.
Dhs348 (soft drinks), Dhs426 (house beverages), Dhs618 (bubbly). Fri 12.30pm-4pm. The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, Abu Dhabi Golf Club (02 616 9999).

Chinese with a difference at Hakkasan
Authentic Chinese food has been hijacked. Forget greasy noodles and deep-fried mystery meats, this famous chain of upscale Chinese restaurants delivers an unrivalled quality and freshness. A meal at Hakkasan is everything that you hoped a night out could be.
Open daily noon-4pm, 6pm-2am. Emirates Palace, Corniche Road (02 621 0708).

Dine by the race track at Atayeb
Lewis Hamilton secured his second Formula One championship on the tarmac below Atayeb. Sit at corner 18 of Yas Marina Circuit where the track meanders below the Yas Viceroy hotel. Not only is the interior of Atayeb visually stunning, but dine al fresco at this classy Arabic restaurant and you’ll want to soak in your surroundings for hours as you feast on the stunning Arabic, Lebanese, Moroccan and Emirati cuisine.
Open Sun-Fri 7pm-1am. Yas Viceroy, Yas Island (02 656 0600).

Eat the majilis way at Al Fanar
Enjoy local Emirati cuisine indoors and outdoors in nostalgic surroundings meant to look like old Dubai, with the odd camel. Sit cross-legged at a traditional Arabic majilis around a sunken table and eat local foods such as mutton on the bone, huge platters of rice, and fluffy flatbreads.
Open daily 8.30am-10pm. Venetian Village, The Ritz Carlton Hotel, Al Maqtaa (02 448 1144).

Go “krazy” for KOI
A trendy celeb favourite in Los Angeles, KOI’s Abu Dhabi incarnation has top-level service and a cool nightclub feel. It has a dedicated sushi bar, lounge and terrace and a short menu of thoroughly modern takes on traditional Japanese dishes. This place is popular before a big night out.
Open Sat-Thu 6.30pm-1am, Fri 12.30pm-4pm, 6.30pm-2am. The Collection, The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Saadiyat Island (02 678 3334).

Go cuckoo for COYA

Even though it only opened this year, COYA is already a firm favourite. The food is Peruvian (it feels like everything is at the moment) and excellent. The signature dish arroz nikkei, a sea bass fillet on a risotto-like sticky rice base that is mixed at your table, is the ultimate comfort food. The bar is good and the vibe is chilled-out and fun.
Open Sun, Mon, Wed, Sat 12.30pm-1am, Tue, Thu, Fri 12.30pm-2am. The Galleria Mall, Al Maryah Island (02 306 7000).

Grab coffee at The Third Place Café
We love this characterful coffee shop, which comes as a welcome break to all the hotel lobbies and international chains. Curl up with a good book from the miniature library and some top-notch coffee, or hunker down to get some serious work done.
Open daily, 8am-11pm. The Third Place Café, Al Khalidiyah (02 681 1877).

Indulge in Indian at Tamba
From the moment you step foot inside Tamba, with it’s huge copper installations and teal-coloured accents, you know you haven’t just entered a second-rate Indian restaurant. The food here is as much a feast for the eyes as for the palate, and the creative, Indian-inspired sharing dishes, including some that tell a tale, will leave you with plenty to talk about. The terrace is also great for sundowners.
Open Sat-Wed noon-1am, Thu-Sat noon-2am. The Hub at the World Trade Centre, Al Markaziya (02 672 8888).

Join a Latino party at Asia de Cuba
Louis Pous, the executive chef who has cooked for Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson, has hit on a Chino-Latino gold mine on the Corniche. The huge, lantern-dotted island bar conjures upLatino vibes and a carnival atmosphere. Between the drinks, the view and flavour riot of the food, you’ll be getting in the conga line for a coveted seat every weekend night.
Open daily noon-2am. Nation Riviera Beach Club, St. Regis Abu Dhabi, (02 699 3333).

Take the bull by the horns at Toro Toro
One of the capital’s newest restaurants fuses traditional and contemporary Latin tastes in a colourful environment – the mosaic frames are from Peru and the handmade carpets are from Mexico. Already a hit in Dubai and beyond, stunning views of the waterfront and adjacent private marina are not going to hurt the experience. As well as hot and cold sharing plates, such as aperas and ceviche, there is traditional churrasco served a la carte. To top it off, there is a live Cuban band. Bliss, if your fancy getting your groove on.
Open Sat-Wed 7pm-1am, Thu 7pm-2am, Fri 12.30pm-4pm, 7pm-2am. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche (02 811 5882).

Try sea urchin at Catch
The spacious seafood restaurant is adorned with artistic coral and brushwood sculptures. Already a stylish restaurant in a beautiful setting on the Corniche overlooking the Arabian Gulf, the creative menu of dishes with interesting Asian and Middle Eastern influences here is the cherry on the crab cake. The tuna tatki comes with pretty purple flowers and is topped with sea urchin, and the squid ink crab sliders are a treat. There’s a new 15-course brunch, too.
Open daily noon-1am, upper terrace from 6pm-3am. The St. Regis Corniche, Al Khubeirah (02 611 0909).

Turn Japanese at Zuma
One of the capital’s most high-end establishments, serving izakaya-style Japanese, often found in casual Japanese joints that typically serve food to accompany beverages. Chill out with a mixed drink and watch the highly skilled ‘itamae’ (or sushi masters) do their stuff.
Open Sat-Wed noon-1am, Thu noon-2am, Fri 12.30pm-2am. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 401 59000).


Be an Eco-Donut at Eastern Mangroves
See the beautiful and protected mangroves up close with this unusual boat tour. This pocket of protected swampland and greenery can only be accessed via the water. The silted, sandy mud is home to indigenous wildlife such as egrets, herons, clan plovers, sandpipers and cormorants – so if you were not a bird watcher before, you will be now. Just climb into an Eco-Donut – it’s a slow moving circular boat seating six with a table in the centre that doubles as a cooler box (store the food and dirnks in here) and a parasol to shade riders from the sun.
Dhs200 (30 mins), Dhs300 (1 hour), Dhs500 (2 hours) and Dhs700 (3 hours). Daily 4pm-7pm, 9pm-12pm. Eastern Mangroves Promenade, behind Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara, (02 643 1494).

Marvel at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
When you visit the awe-inspiring Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, take after supermodels Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner’s modest selfies: dress respectfully in an abaya (for women) or kandura (for men). A visit here is a special, spiritual experience, so switch off your phone and silently take in the pure white, astonishing marble architecture, crystal chandeliers and the world’s biggest hand-knotted carpet, which weighs 47 tonnes. At night, the lighting system reflects the phases of the moon, projecting stunning clouds of blueish grey onto the domes making sure each day is unique and gradually brighter than the last.
Free. Must supply ID. General visiting hours Sat-Thu 9am-10pm (last entry 9.30pm). Closed Fri morning until 4.30pm but open for worship. Airport Road, (02 419 1919).

See the camels at Emirates Palace
Make sure try a camelccino or the Palace Capuccino (with a dusting of gold leaf) before saddling up on this wonderful hotel’s camels for a trot along the beach. Make sure you drop into the luxurious resort’s traditional Bedouin-style tent for Arabian coffee, tea and dates. Emirates Palace is one of the capital’s must-visit places.
Adult day pass to beach club Sun-Thu Dhs300 (adult), Dhs150 (child), Fri-Sat Dhs400 (adult), Dhs200 (child). Emirates Palace, West Corniche, (02 690 9000).

Spot wildlife at Saadiyat Beach

Over one hundred dolphin sightings have been reported within five miles of the Abu Dhabi coastline in the past year, particularly along Saadiyat Island on the St. Regis beach front and in the waterways to Nurai Island, as well as in the main canals in Abu Dhabi. Good news for the marine environment, as a strong flipper population means low levels of sea contamination and lots of fish. If you do spot any of the three species – bottlenose, humpback and finless porpoise – then make sure you notify the UAE dolphin project.
Email or send a text message with the time and place of the sighting to 056 671 7164.

Travel back in time to Qasr Al Hosn fortress
Soak up a sense of history at the oldest stone building in the city. The ancient watch tower was built by settlers making camp in palm frond huts, but transformed into a white fortress by Sheikh Shakhbut Bin Dhiyab. Visit the permanent exhibition and see fascinating oral testimonies and historic photographs that reflect Emirati heritage, culture and tradition. This is one not to be missed.
Free entry. Open from 4pm-11pm. Al Hosn, Sheikh Zayed the First Street, email (02 697 6472).


Get posh at The Galleria

Popular with diners and friends meeting for a beverage as well as shoppers, this luxury mall is one of Abu Dhabi’s coolest spots. The Galleria bursts with activity as people explore its higher-end brands and a wide selection of fashion, jewellery and watches. Restaurants serve up every conceivable cuisine to a hungry crowd and regular events entertain a diverse audience of urban professionals and families.
Open Sat-Wed 10am-10pm, Thu 10am-midnight, Fri noon-midnight. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 616 6999).

Go for gold at Madinat Zayed
Half souk, half mall – the Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre is a bit more traditional than other malls. There are around 65 gold, jewellery and watch stores that buy and sell goods. It would be easy to blow your whole bank account here. We don’t recommend that, of course.
Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre and Gold Centre, between Jawasat Road, Airport Road, Electra Road and Muroor Road.

Healthy goodies at RIPE market
Reopening on October 28, RIPE Market will this year be set among the palmed walkways of Umm Al Emarat Park. As well as local food businesses with live cooking stations and produce such as locally grown organic fruit and vegetables, there will be artists, designers, local crafts people, live musicians, local Emirati talent and fitness workshops.
Saturday 3pm-9pm. Umm Al Emarat Park, 15th Street (04 315 7000).

Hit the high street at Marina Mall

As well as indoor playground Magic Planet, a VOX cinema and a BOUNCE trampoline park, this mall features a 100-metre-high viewing platform and lots of big name high street brands to splurge on.
Open 10am-10pm daily. Break Water, Corniche (02 681 8300).

Keep the kids busy at Yas Mall
Connected to Ferrari World and with three floors with more than 300 shops and 60 restaurants and cafés, Yas Mall is a favourite of many in the capital. It’s a one-stop shop for all your retail, dining and entertainment needs. There’s a Battlezone and an action adventure spot, Adventure HQ, to keep the kids busy, as well as some shopping options that are unique in the city, such as Swedish brand COS. The mall is designed to mimic the wide boulevards of a European city with a town square in the centre.
Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm, Thu-Fri 10am-midnight. Email, Yas Island, (800 927 6255).

Shop like royalty at Nation Galleria
The décor is elegantly understated; cream and brown marble play backdrop to white abstract sculptures, while light installations are more works of art than just bulbs. However, there is also excellent, upmarket shopping to be had
at Nation Galleria.
Open Sun-Wed 10am-10pm, Thu-Sat 10am-midnight. Corniche Road (800 5566).

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