Abu Dhabi regularly conjures images of beautiful blue skies, powder-white beaches and glittering skyscrapers. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. World-class hotels, exhilarating theme parks, superlative shopping, great cultural attractions, championship golf, wonderful wildlife and desert adventures all lie in wait in the UAE capital.
Culture & History
Culture lovers will be in their element when in Abu Dhabi with heritage, art and traditional experiences spread across the city. Louvre Abu Dhabi fosters a spirit of openness between cultures with over 600 pieces of art exhibited across 23 galleries, telling the story of shared human experience from ancient times to the present day, set underneath the magnificent dome designed by Jean Nouvel.
The stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the world’s largest mosques celebrating cultural diversity, is a real must-see. Coming third in TripAdvisor’s list of the world’s top 25 landmarks, ahead of India’s Taj Mahal and Peru’s Machu Picchu, the mosque is open to all faiths and free to the public, with space to accommodate more than 40,000 worshippers at one time. To understand the history of Abu Dhabi, visitors should explore the recently restored Qasr Al Hosn fort, Abu Dhabi city’s oldest stone building. The fort now showcases historical artefacts, photographs and memorabilia that allow visitors to see how the city has developed over the years.
With a golf course, luxury yacht marina, the city’s largest shopping centre and white-sand beaches, Yas Island is a destination in its own right. Keen golfers can practice their swing with the breathtaking sea as their backdrop at Yas Links Abu Dhabi. As the first true links golf course in the Middle East, the 18-hole course offers an impressive 112 bunkers and a luxurious clubhouse. Meanwhile, adventurers can tackle the world’s tallest indoor climbing wall at CLYMB Abu Dhabi or take a ride on Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster, at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. To keep their pulse racing, speed-lovers can wind their way around the Yas Marina Circuit in an Aston Martin or Mercedes AMG, which, home to the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, closes the F1 season each year. Before leaving the island, retail therapy can be enjoyed at Yas Mall, packed with both luxury brands and high-street merchandisers, or dine at one of the many restaurants overlooking Yas Marina.
Nature and outdoor activities
With green spaces, water activities and nature deep at its core, Abu Dhabi, unlike other bustling metropolises, offers a more relaxed city break, allowing visitors time to restore. Located on the Arabian Gulf, Abu Dhabi is spread across numerous islands, linked by bridges and interspersed with mangroves, avoiding a concentration of skyscrapers that are seen elsewhere in the world. Abu Dhabi’s seafront position allows visitors to enjoy jet skiing, wakeboarding and sailing, a stone's-throw away from the city’s leading attractions and hotels.
In particular, at Mangrove National Park visitors can enjoy the water by either kayaking or paddleboarding alongside a whole host of wildlife including dugongs and flamingos. For those who prefer to explore on foot, the new Jubail Mangrove Park offers a serene environment to get immersed in nature, where boardwalks meander through the mangrove forest.
With a more relaxed atmosphere to its immediate neighbour, Abu Dhabi’s desert offers sunrise camel trekking and dune bashing, just a short journey from the city, whilst its numerous beaches are perfect for soaking up the sun, including Saadiyat Island, which is home to endangered Hawksbill turtles.