Abu Dhabi has lots of places to go sightseeing. The emirate has it all, from glittering skylines to pristine beaches and beautiful nature, there isn’t much you won’t find in the capital.
Whether you’re a resident who can’t get enough or visiting for the first time, there’s plenty to see and experience in the city.
To make sure you get the best of it, here are some of the best places to go sightseeing in Abu Dhabi…
Visit Al Ain Oasis
If you’re looking to enjoy a cultural experience that feels a world away from a busy city then this is the one to visit. The 3,000 acre oasis is jam-packed with 147,000 palm trees and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011. You can see how early inhabitants in the region created irrigation systems and a steady water supply to combat the intense heat of the desert. Plus, it makes for some amazing Instagram shots too.
Free entry. Sat-Thu 9am-4pm; Fri 2pm-4.30pm, Hessa Bint Mohammed Street, Al Ain, visitalain.ae.
Explore Al Hili Archaeological Site
Located a short drive outside of Al Ain, this historical site and gardens, is an interesting place to check out. Highlighting the ancient monuments of the Garden City, you can see many historical attractions including monuments, forts and tombs dating back thousands of years. Plus with a large garden with plants and fountains it’s a nice place for a day out while the weather is a little cooler.
Free. Daily 4pm-11pm. Mohammed Bin Khalifa St, Al Ain
See Al Jahili Fort
This picturesque fort is one of Al Ain’s oldest and most impressive structures. It’s also a former residence of Al Nahyan family and parts of the original building still remain despite being fully resorted in 2007. As well as giving insight into local history, there are exhibitions, events and attractions at the historical site throughout the year so keep an eye on the calendar to see if you can get involved. The site is also pictured on the Dhs50 note, too.
Free. Tue-Thu and Sat-Sun 9am–5pm, Fri 3pm–5pm. Hessa Bint Mohammed Street, Al Ain (03 711 8311).
See a real glimpse of history at Al-Meraikhi Old House
It’s one of the UAE’s oldest buildings and as well as being a fantastic photo opportunity it offers a real glimpse into the past. Historically the building was the home of a Mohammed Bin Hassim Al-Meraikhi, a pearl diver, and there’s nothing else quite like it in the emirate. You’ll have to get the ferry across to Dalma Island to visit and it’s not always open but if you fancy a day trip and are interested in local culture this should be on your to do list.
Free. Dalma Island. Ferry times vary. Visit: dalmaisland.com.
Check out Al Mezyad Fort
Sitting close to the border with Oman, Al Mezyad Fort is one of the Garden City’s largest historical structures. Spanning 3,600 square metres the fort, constructed in the 19th century, has been restored using traditional methods in recent years. With more than 40 rooms across the space, the fortified structure is a cool attraction for history buffs of those who want to connect with local culture while in Al Ain.
Free. Near Green Mubazzarah.
Go flamingo spotting at Al Wathba
Head to the UNESCO site Al Wathba Wetland Reserve and you’ll not only get the chance to check out a cool natural wetland but also see some great wildlife. Flamingos have made the site their home and while they like to migrate, you can catch colonies (or flamboyances) of the birds at the site relaxing in the water. Don’t worry, you’ll spot them easily, they’re bright pink after all. Plus a new observation tower is being built at the site so soon you’ll be able to get an even greater vantage point. The wetlands are still closed for the summer but are set to re-open very soon. Watch this space.
Spot some dolphins
Who doesn’t love dolphins? If you know someone that doesn’t, don’t trust them, they’re clearly quite strange indeed. Want to see some in the waters of Abu Dhabi? You got it. The UAE Dolphin Project is a non-profit initiative that aims to take a scientific approach to tracking the species in our waters. Gaze out to sea long enough and report any sightings, or volunteer with the organisation to become more involved in this great project and find out where the best spots to see them are. Here’s a clue, they’re in the ocean, that’s all we’re saying.
Visit www.uaedolphinproject.org or call 050 955 1742 for more information.
Daydream about a new vehicle at Emirates National Auto Museum
One of the quirkier museums anywhere in the UAE, the Emirates National Auto Museum has a collection of 200 vehicles owned by HH Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan. Among several highlights, there’s the world’s largest truck.
Dhs50. Open daily 9am-5pm. Drive South from Abu Dhabi on Abu Dhabi-Liwa Road (055 749 2155).
Get some amazing snaps of Emirates Palace
It’s lavish, it’s grand and it’s incredibly gold. Emirates Palace is iconic in this part of the world and if you’ve ever visited it’s easy to see why. The massive hotel is super impressive and the swathes of tourists pouring in every day are testament to that. You can get some great shots of the Abu Dhabi skyline from the entrance or look at the incredible interior and top up your Instagram feed. We’ve all done it, don’t worry.
Corniche West (02 690 9000).
Explore the Empty Quarter
Have you forgotten we live in a desert? When you drive south of Abu Dhabi you’ll soon remember. If you’ve been on Instagram and seen those snaps of dunes spreading as far as the eye can see well the good news is that these picturesque scenes are right on your doorstep. The Liwa desert is a sprawling landscape and it isn’t for the faint-hearted. If you’re going off road, things can get rough and ready and should you be going dune bashing make sure you prepare and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Throw a few tents and sleeping bags in the back and you can even spend a night under the stars but remember to bring water, not to travel alone and leave nature the way you found it. We’d all like to enjoy it for many years to come, thank you very much.
Set your GPS for 22.974905, 53.785472 and explore.
Check out some cool Fossil Dunes
Pack the car and head out on the road for a trip to see some amazing sights. Out in the desert at Al Wathba’s fossil dunes you can explore a collection of twisting, wind-swept towers of rock. It’s a unique place, and budding photographers will love the shadows and shapes created at sunrise and sunset. The dunes are very fragile so please don't climb all over them or damage them when taking pictures and try to leave the site as you found it when you head back to the city.
Open 24 hours. Off the E30, behind Al Dhafrah Air Base, co-ordinates: 24.192078, 54.584732.
Watch the sunset at The Founder’s Memorial
There are many great places to watch the sun set in the city but The Founder’s Memorial is truly special. As night descends on the city, The Constellation, an artwork and memorial to the late Sheikh Zayed, lights up. Standing 30m tall and using 1,327 geometric shapes, the installation projects a portrait of Sheikh Zayed out into the night and it’s brilliant to watch. Plus, the site won at the CODA (Collaboration of Design + Art) awards last year in the Institutional category, so you know it’s pretty amazing.
Open daily 9am-10pm. Corniche West, www.thefoundersmemorial.ae.
Check out Green Mubazzarah
The Garden City is home to some pretty spectacular scenery, (Jebel Hafeet anyone?) and at Green Mubazzarah it’s certainly scenic. The lush, green views and hills at the feet of the Abu Dhabi’s highest peak make for quite the setting and if you fancy you can even have a dip in the natural hot springs too. Go on, why not?
Free, Dhs20 for hot springs. Daily 11am-8pm. Green Mubazzarah, next to Wadi Adventure (03 783 9555).
Take in the view from the top of Jebel Hafeet
It hardly seems Everestian, but at 1,249m Jebel Hafeet is the highest mountain in the UAE and fewer than 100m shorter than Ben Nevis, Britain’s loftiest peak. There are a glut of tourist attractions around this part of Al Ain, but arguably nothing more spectacular than hitting the summit here which, thanks to a road up it, is really a pretty simple task.
See the Jebel Hafeet Tombs
Okay, tombs may not appeal to you unless you think you’re Indiana Jones, but these incredible archeological sites In Al Ain are well worth a visit. Thought to date back over 5,000 years, the site offers a glimpse into the ancient past of the UAE and the rituals of the time. The dome-shaped tombs are an impressive site and were constructed from local stone thousands of years ago. The site is off the beaten track and you’ll need a 4x4 to reach it but just make sure not to damage anything and leave the site as you found it before arriving.
Free. GPS coordinates 24.0451051, 55.7997776.
See the Liwa Forts and Oasis
If seeing something that’s off the beaten track is what you’re after then set course for Liwa Forts. Located near Liwa Oasis, which is also worth seeking out, these forts, constructed by Bedouin tribes in the 19th and 20th centuries, were built to protect their most treasure resource: water. These are not an official tourist destination don’t expect a gift shop, a guide or resources, just check them out, take your pictures and make sure to leave them as you found them for the next person to explore. There are at least five forts to explore along the road including Al Jabbanah Fort, Attab Fort, Mezair’ah Fort, Dhafeer Fort and Qutuf Fort.
Head towards Hamim and set your GPS for 23 07 60.00, 53 45 59.99.
Explore Louvre Abu Dhabi
Louvre Abu Dhabi has become one of the most popular tourism destinations in the region and we’re sure you’ve already added to your list of things to do with visitors when they come to town. If you’ve still never been, we’d be surprised, as there is so much to see and do from amazing exhibits and changing exhibitions, to activities, events and even film screenings, too.
Museum entry Dhs63 (adults), Dhs31.5 (ages 13-22), free (under 13). Oct 30-Feb 18. Louvre Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island, www.louvreabudhabi.ae (600 565 566).
See the epic Tal Moreeb dune
The Moreeb Dune, or ‘terrifying mountain’ as it’s also known, is an epic sand dune that has to be seen to be believed. With a reported 300m high slop at an angle of 50 degrees, it’s not the most inviting of dunes for trying to traverse. But that’s where you’d be wrong, every December the Liwa Sports festival sees bold drivers take on the slop at breakneak speeds as part of the annual festivities. It makes for quite the sight and a fantastic camping experience so why not check it out for yourself?
Free. Moreeb Dune www.lsc.ae.
Explore Qasr Al Watan
The stunning Qasr Al Watan, part of the Presidential Palace, has opened its doors to the public for daily tours. A total of 149,000 unique pieces of silver, crystal and china were used in the construction of the palace that was completed in 2017. Visitors are able to explore a host of facilities and attractions during their visit including the extensive gardens, great hall, library, visitors centre, courtyard and more. Plus, in the evening, a light and sound show projected onto the building’s façade reveals the palace’s significance to the country’s culture and history.
Dhs60 (adults), Dhs30 (children aged four to 17), free for kids under four. Daily 10am-8pm. Corniche West www.qasralwatan.ae.
Marvel at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Okay, it’s unlikely that you’ve never been and there’s a good chance that every time a new visitor comes out to see you that you find yourself back at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. But that’s a good thing. What can you say about it that hasn’t been said before? It’s stunning, it’s one of the most iconic structures in the region and with 82 domes, 1,000 columns, 24-karat gold chandeliers and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet it’s a masterclass in craftsmanship and architecture. Just remember to be respectful, dress conservatively and to get those brilliant snaps for social media.
Open Sat-Thu 9am-10pm; Fri 4.30-10pm. Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street (02 419 1919).
Visit Wahat Al Karama
This military memorial was built in recognition of the UAE’s armed forces and as well as being a fitting tribute it’s also an architectural wonder. The name means “oasis of dignity” and it is a permanent homage to soldiers who have given their life protecting the nation’s values and security. The sculpture features massive aluminium slabs that lean on one another and the site also features a visitors’ centre and a 4,000 square metre plaza enjoying amazing views over Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Open daily 9am-10pm. Khor Al Maqta (02 668 1000).