I lived in Dubai for one year. But I visited the city as a tourist a couple of times – with friends and family who came to see us. Below I am describing five attractions of Dubai, but it’s a totally subjective vision of the city and I am not even slightly trying to be an expert or a guide, because I know that I don’t know Dubai that well. I just want to describe my favorite places, my personal TOP 5 attractions of Dubai, that I recommend to everyone who plans to spend couple of days in the city. Ah, and one small detail – I like walking, so the routes I’m describing require a bit of effort 🙂
1. Dubai Marina. Probably my favorite place in Dubai. Full of high buildings, restaurants, bars, boats and people, but at the same time quite peaceful.
What to do? Stroll along Marina Walk, lean your head up to observe the skyscrapers, cross one of the bridges to admire the views on the water canal. Walk along the water until Pier 7 Tower, a round building full of bars and restaurants. Choose one (I recommend Cargo), find a spot on the terrace, relax and appreciate the views.
When? In the afternoon. Catch this moment when it’s still daytime, but the street lanterns start to shine, take some photos and slowly walk till Pier 7 Tower for dinner or a drink.
How to get there? By taxi to Marina Walk Roundabout, by metro to Damac Properties Station (3 minutes walk to get there). By car – I don’t recommend it as it’s difficult to find a parking space and in the afternoon there is a lot of traffic. Map here.
2. Bur Dubai. Mix of India, Pakistan and Emirates in the oldest part of Dubai located on one side of the Creek. Busy, crowded, quite touristic, but definitely worth seeing.
What to do? Walk to Heritage Village, for more inquisitive visitors – enter the old house of the Sheikh (I wasn’t there, so I don’t know any details, but they say it’s rather interesting), walk back to the creek, in the opposite direction from the village, get through the busy market Bur Dubai Souq (blond readers of this post – let me know if they also called you Maria or Shakira), find the Hindu temple and if you don’t mind walking barefoot through very narrow and sticky floors to one of the secret entrances – go inside this one of the weirdest, with all due respect, places in Dubai. Although, for people familiar with the Hindu culture it won’t be any big attraction. Come back to the creek, trudge along the riverbank and for braver visitors – take one of the boats, pay 1 dirham and cross to the other side of the creek.
When? Better during the day (but not in summer), in the afternoon it gets very crowded and during the weekend whole families relax on every piece of grass.
How to get there? By taxi to Heritage Village (although it’s a bit far, from JLT maybe 80 AED), by metro to Al Ghubaiba station, by car to Heritage Village. Map here.
3. Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and surroundings. Going up the Khalifa tower is not the cheapest attraction, but definitely the most cliche… But to be in Dubai and not climb the highest building in the world? Not go shopping to the biggest shopping center in the world? Shame!
What to do? Buy the tickets to Burj Khalifa beforehand by internet. Walk along the numerous shops in Dubai Mall (find a part called souq), see the ice rink, enter the Aquarium, take a photo of a shark, go outside the mall and admire Khalifa from the level of an artificial lake with amazing turquoise water. Take one picture with the whole tower, go up and enjoy 🙂 In the afternoon find Dubai Boulevard and drink a coffee staring at Khalifa.
When? The price of the tickets to Khalifa changes depending on the time of the day. Peak hours and sunset are more expensive, so maybe just buy the tickets for before the midday.
How to get there? By taxi or by car to Dubai Mall (remember the number of the parking spot – I bet it’s probably also the biggest parking in the world), or by metro to Burj Khalifa metro station. Check the video here.
4. Souq Madinat – do you want to buy souvenirs in a nice place, with something more than just cheap junk things and where there are no pushy shop assistants? Madinat is a perfect place. It’s a luxurious resort designed to resemble a traditional Arabian town with an elegant re-creation of an ancient marketplace with traditional Middle Eastern style and ambience, with both normal cheap souvenirs and a choice of interesting, traditional Arabic objects (sculptures, coffee pots, clothes, scarfs, etc.), which will satisfy even the most picky tourists. Moreover, there are many pleasant bars and restaurants with a wonderful view over even more wonderful Burj al Arab.
What to do? Get lost in the labyrinth of narrow alleys of the market, buy souvenirs, see exclusive silk carpets, get to the other side (beach side), sit in one of the bars or restaurants with a view on Burj al Arab.
When? Any time is good, shops are open until 11 pm, bars probably even longer.
How to get there? By taxi, because there is no metro station nearby, the closest station is Mall of the Emirates, or by car, there is a parking next to the hotel.
5. Gold souq. A market with many small shops on the other side of the Creek in the district of Deira. Real concentration of wealth and splendor under one roof of an old market. Perfect place to practice your skills of bargaining.
What to do? I recommend crossing the Creek on a boat from the side of Bur Dubai, walk along the streets of old part of Dubai, wander around the souq, see traditional gold Hindu jewelry and the biggest gold ring worth more than three million dollars.
When? Any time is good; however, the market is open and crowded, so better avoid the heat of midday. Open from morning to 10pm (Friday from 4pm).
How to get there? By metro to Banias Square station, or if you visit Bur Dubai – by boat for 1 dirham across Dubai Creek, by car might be difficult as the area is crowded and it may be difficult to find a parking spot.