Driving time: 1hr 28mins (140km).
Head north for around an hour and you’ll be at the border with Dubai. From the theme parks of Jebel Ali to the historic Bur Dubai area, there’s plenty to see and do in the UAE’s tourist hotspot.
As well as beautiful beaches and stunning architecture, there are incredible restaurants and nightlife and some places firmly in keeping with tradition. Prepare for your eyes to bulge and your jaws to drop.
Things to do
Marvel at the world’s tallest building
There’s no taller building on Earth than the Burj Khalifa. That’s a fact. So of course you’re going to tick it off your bucket list of things to do in Dubai. You can see if from pretty much everywhere in the city of course, but the best vantage point is from just outside in Downtown Dubai, either by the Burj Lake (you can watch the record-breaking fountains here, too) or from the super terraces of one of the excellent nearby restaurants.
The Meat Co. in Souk Al Bahar has reopened with a new look and is a prime spot. Or you could head to Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera. The rooftop restaurant has a brilliant terrace with views of the Burj Khalifa.
There’s also the option to venture into the burj itself. The Armani Hotel takes up the first few storeys and has some top restaurants, while At.Mosphere on the 122nd floor has a fine-dining restaurant and lounge area that serves frankly brilliant food and beverages all day long.
You could also check out one of the viewing decks at the tower’s At The Top, which sit on the 124th, 125th and 148th floors. There’s quite a view from up there.
At The Top from Dhs135. Daily 5.30am-11pm. Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai, www.tickets.atthetop.ae.
Explore the old town at Al Seef
Dubai Creek is where the emirate first sprung to life, and it’s still the site of much hustle and bustle today. The areas of Deira and Bur Dubai sit at either side of the water and each have their own character and things to see.
You can get an abra ride between the two sides around the clock for Dhs1. Deira is filled with traders and shops selling everything from spices to gold and from watches to washing machines.
Bur Dubai is where the historical heart of the emirate lies. The Shindagha area (where Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum lived from 1912 to 1958) is well preserved and offers the chance to look around the former homes of the ruling family.
You can walk all the way to Al Seef, past the Dubai Museum (Dhs3 to get in and great fun), the textile souk and the Al Fahidi Historical District (where you can experience alleyways and buildings as they were in the early 20th century) to Al Seef.
The area has been built to resemble an old Dubai village, but is filled with bars, restaurants, cafés and shops that show off the diverse ways of life in the modern city. It’s a superb way to spend a day.
Bur Dubai, www.alseef.ae.
Have a day of retro-luxury at the QE2
The legendary cruise ship has come to rest in Dubai. Although rest isn’t quite the right word. Restored and rejuvenated, the old lady’s corridors and venues have just the right retro balance between cheesy and cool.
Check out the Golden Lion pub for a bit of English history and keep an eye on the programme of events at Theatre by QE2 for some old-school entertainment. There are daily tours, which are insightful and fun, too. A winning combo.
Port Rashid, Bur Dubai, www.QE2.com.
Take a stroll along a beach
There are loads of places to get the sand in between your toes, from the bustling shoreline of JBR to the more serene Kite Beach (which comes with views of Burj Al Arab). Perhaps the most fun can be had at La Mer, near the giant flat at Jumeirah 1.
There’s a waterpark, restaurants, bars, shops and loads more to check out at the new development, as well as a public beach.
Jumeirah 1, www.lamerdubai.com.