They might not be top of the list of places to drag tourists to, they might not even be on your midweek regular list and, well, you may not have ever even heard of them. These lesser-known hangouts, however, are well worth a visit.
1. 3rd Avenue
If Sherlock Holmes weren’t a fictional detective but instead was a tourist looking to spend a quiet evening with Sam from Cheers eating stodgy burgers and watching Premier League football while humming along to a well-oiled covers band then
this would certainly be one of his top three options in the city. And we say that with the highest possible affection.
Open daily noon-2am. Sheraton Khalidiya Hotel, Zayed the 1st Street (02 666 6220).
2. Balcon Terrace
Low lighting, poolside seating and the faint whiff of shisha hanging in the air make for a rather relaxing hangout, albeit in a glamorous sort of way. Yes the vibe is low key, but it is also blessed with cabana-loads of charm to boot, and a great-value food menu that you order through Instagram. Fancy!
Open daily 3pm-1am. Southern Sun Abu Dhabi, Al Mina Street, Al Zahiya (02 818 4888).
Promises can be empty. But we’re going to flat out guarantee you there are fancier, cooler and more picturesque nightspots than this. But nowhere, and we mean nowhere, is going to make you want to hum the Cheers theme tune more than here.
Open daily 6pm-3am. Al Ain Palace, Al Markaziya (02 679 4777).
4. Harvesters Pub
Look, if you want wow factor go somewhere swish on the beach or up in a swanky lounge on the 50th storey somewhere. If you want a load of fun, a boisterous quiz, pool tournaments, generous ladies’ nights, sports on the big screen and a laid-back, low-pressure, friendly vibe, then bust the doors down here. Don’t actually bust a door down. That would spoil the atmosphere somewhat.
Daily noon-2.30am. Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi Downtown, Madinat Zayed (02 615 6441)
Read this magazine often enough and you will see that we like to talk about things you must do. See the mangroves, walk the corniche and experience Yas Marina circuit from trackside are three that spring to mind. This Italian-sounding sports bar in Hamdan Street is not a must. It is, however, a budget option in one of the busiest areas of town where you can get a mixed drinks, watch sports and eat tapas. Maybe it is a must after all.
Daily noon-1am. Mercure Abu Dhabi, Hamdan Street, Al Markaziya (02 633 3555).
6. Société Bar
Sheer force of will stops this Sofitel spot disappearing into obscurity. It seems that almost every night of the week it is pushing hard with some promotion or other. Ladies’ nights, hotelier nights, gent’s nights, happy hours and more – they’re all available here. By the way, there’s a pretty lively band and the appreciative crowd are encouraged to sing along with them, so bring your star quality.
Open daily 11.30am-3.30am. Capital Plaza Complex, Corniche Road East (050 917 2246).
The name means “hangout” in Filipino and that tells you much of what you need to know.
It is a low-key hangout which serves up Filipino food. Oh, and there is karaoke, darts, pool and live music in the mix as well. It won’t make it onto the fancy list, but when you need to burst into song at a moment’s notice you won’t find a more welcoming spot.
Open daily noon-2am. Al Ain Palace Hotel, Al Markaziya (02 679 4777).
8. Thirty 1st Bar & Lounge
Don’t be fooled by the functional location and mid-market hotel brand, this place has more ticks than many tourist traps. It is on a rooftop, there are TVs showing sport, drinks are sold by the bucket-load, it has karaoke and quiz nights, ladies’ nights and the DJs are crowd-pleasing and, if you turn up early enough, there is a bargain happy hour as well. That’s eight ticks in one sentence.
Open Sun-Tue 4pm-2.30am; Fri-Sat 4.30pm-2.30am. Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi, Embassies District (02 657 4865).
9. Up & Below
This rooftop bar on one of the city’s busiest streets, with direct access from a major shopping mall isn’t where you’d expect to find a hidden gem. Yet here it is, with all the views, mixed drinks and poolside vibes you’d expect to find at a high-profile tourist hot spot.
Open daily 6pm-2am. Courtyard by Marriott, Abu Dhabi World Trade Center Abu Dhabi, Al Markaziya (02 698 2222).
10. WXYZ Bar
What it lacks in early alphabetisation it makes up for in bright and colourful décor. You can catch sports, grab a burger, sample mixed drinks and bottled hops while sitting around on low seating. Aloft hotels are rather funky and the Relax@12 bar takes the headlines for nightlife, but you can enjoy a warm-up here.
Open daily noon-midnight. Aloft Abu Dhabi, National Exhibition Centre (02 654 5000).