This is a post with the best places to visit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. If you are after opulence, indulgence and just OTT (over the top), then you have come to the right place.
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Dubai is the place of the biggest everything in the world – the tallest building, the biggest mall, the largest artificial island, the biggest synchronised water fountain in a man-made lake, amongst many others.
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai gained the title of World’s Tallest Building in early 2010. Shooting almost a whole kilometre above ground at 828 metres with 160 out of 200 stories inhabitable (source).
It is an understatement to say that you feel like you are on top of the world when you are at the apex of the skyscraper.
You can access entry to the Burj Khalifa through The Dubai Mall to purchase tickets.
I could not stress enough that you buy your tickets well in advance, so you have a chance to go up the Burj Khalifa when you are there and not miss out.
Fireworks on NYE
The Burj Khalifa hosts one of the biggest fireworks display in the world. If you want to visit Dubai, try to plan it so that you will be in Dubai to watch this splendid show on the 31st of December.
There is no expense spared for this fireworks exhibit. Dubai prides itself in being the biggest of everything and this is no exception.
We left our accommodation to watch the fireworks show on NYE. It turns out we left nowhere close to adequate time to get there.
Almost everyone was going in the same direction as us and to the same place. The highways leading to the Burj Khalifa was packed bumper to bumper and eventually to a standstill.
We were waiting for so long in traffic, that we started seeing some people turning off into a small lane that continued down a little bit. After waiting for some time, we decided to get off the highway and go down the same lane to park the car.
There were so many cars here that you could say that they were almost parked on top of each other.
If we were going to go in, we were going to have to stay till everyone left because people were going to start backing their car into ours leaving us no way to exit.
Normally we would be deliberating whether that’s a good idea as we would be trapped, but this time we were in agreement that we would stay.
The fireworks commenced just 10 mins after we got there giving us just enough time to get the car in and walk to the park from the road.
The display was little different to what we were used to back home, where they would work up to a finale. Here they went all in from the beginning and they had some fireworks that were new and interesting to look at as we had never seen that particular firework before.
They had fireworks predominantly shooting out, up and down the vertical lines of the sides of the skyscraper and many going straight up to light up the top of Burj Khalifa.
Groups of people were all around us huddled together, with their kids running around and playing. It was lively for a place that had no specific event planned.
Some cars from the highway had taken the lane to come into the area as well. Others stepped out of the car from the highway itself as the laneway was now blocked with an overfill of cars. They might as well watch the fireworks instead of being stuck in traffic.
It lasted somewhere between 8-9 minutes with a few short pauses and it was all over before we knew it.
All the people that got out of their cars from the highway had gone and the lane blockage was clearing up. We stayed for a short while after, for some people-watching and to take in the buzz from the atmosphere. Afterwards, there was only a couple of minutes wait to get our car out as the man who owned the Van blocking us, was close-by.
The night was not over yet though because it took us another hour to get through the traffic. It is, after all, the busiest time of the year.
At times of chaos, go with the flow and you may end up with a much better itinerary than the one you started with.The World Travel Diary
There is also a fireworks display near the Burj Al Arab if you would like a different vantage point or backdrop, especially with water nearby.
It is just as spectacular, if not more because it brings a different atmosphere with it.
The Burj Al Arab, or ‘The Tower of Arabs’ is a hotel in shade sails shape and design, at a height of 321 metres.
It is one of the most luxurious hotels in the world set right in the ocean on a man-made island, meaning you get water views or stunning city views of Dubai skyline.
It was open in 1999, consisting of 202 suites and has a pillow menu, in case you are particular about what your head rests on during the night. There are 17 types to choose from so you are assured to have a restful night of sleep.
It holds the record for the most expensive cocktail in the world at over $1,000 USD, but you get to take home a souvenir with you – The glass the drink was served in. The cocktail glass is made of Swarovski crystal and the stem of the glass contains diamonds.
A night at the royal suite can cost you a pretty penny and set you back about $24,000 per night.
You can feel like a royal yourself sipping on a hot cup of coffee with the top completely covered with Gold-Leaf.
Yes, you read that right, Gold-Leaf!
You can get a “Ultimate Gold Cappucino” from the Sahn Eddar lounge at Burj Al-Arab for $85AED.
What is in this coffee, you might ask, that validates this price tag?
The cappuccino is made with pure Arabica coffee beans with foamed milk covered in gold leaf leaving an outline of the Burj Al Arab building on top.
Accompanied with the cappuccino is a serving of Grand Cru Guanaja. A Grand Cru Guanaja is a chocolate flavoured marshmallow and this also comes with a side of gold leaf.
The Dubai Mall
The Dubai Mall is not just a mall with over 1200 stores in operation. It is the largest mall in the world at over 1.1 million square metres, equivalent to 200 football fields!
You would think that with such extravagance and costs that come with increased maintenance and owning bigger spaces, comes a higher tariff to house your rented vehicle, especially considering Dubai Mall is in the middle of metropolitan area, but here is the welcome news. Parking is completely free! You are free to roam about in the area with a choice of up to 14,500 spaces, as long as it has not already been occupied.
If you feel that this is insufficient , you will be happy to find out, that the Dubai Mall further expanded towards late 2019 and added plenty of brand new stores along with 3000 new parking spots.
With mammoth-sized shopping centres come larger spaces, more nooks, more turns, longer times to get from one place to another. In the process of exploring and shopping, we had gotten ourselves lost. Everything looked the same when we tried to retrace our steps back and many times we thought “it should be at the end of this walkway” when it was a completely different walkway altogether. We went back to where we thought we came from many times and it was nowhere close to where we started that day. We had circled the mall for a solid 40 mins before we started recognising some shops we saw earlier that day.
Finally, after searching through centre directories and asking concierges, we made our way back to familiar territory, the mall entrance to Burj Khalifa. From there, we further retraced our steps until we found the car park.
I was stumped that we had lost our way in the shopping center and for that long. Back when my husband and I were dating, back at home, we used to go to malls a lot. We had been so many different shopping centers at so many different locations that malls became second nature to us. We could have just visited a new mall one day and knew our way around within the first 30 mins. But Dubai Mall had surprised and challenged us to rethink what we thought we knew!
TIPWhen you park your car, make a note of which section and level you parked on and put it down in your phone. Then leave breadcrumbs through the mall of your trail. The easiest way to do this is by paying special attention to large retail stores as landmarks to pass as you are nearing the car park when you are returning. You can also ask a concierge on how to return to the car park that you parked your car at.
Unless you are happy to lose your way and take some time to return especially when you have little kids (or even big kids), who want to go home at a moment’s notice when they get very tired and are done for the day or even if you are by yourself with a lot of shopping bags, the last thing you will want to do is walk around the mall with them while you try and remember where you parked your car.
Dubai Ice Rink
As I mentioned earlier, the Dubai Mall is not just a mall that you can visit for retail therapy. You can also visit for entertainment purposes suitable for the whole family complete with an Olympic sized Ice Rink,
The kids will really be excited about this opportunity to have a break and test out their skating skills on the ice, whether they are beginners or practised. You can hire essentials such as helmets, skating boots, lockers and even skating boots that aid in balance.
So if you are thinking that you don’t want to skate because you land on your bottom way more times than you are on your feet, this will no longer be a worry for you. They have the same skating aid for kids, so they can use these boots until they are more comfortable on the rink.
If you think you would like some guidance on what to do, they have coaches that you can hire either for a private session or as part of a group.
They only run 5 sessions per day from 12:15 pm to 9:45 pm, so ensure that you book in advance if you have a short stay in Dubai or to avoid disappointment.
Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
Dubai mall also houses an entire Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and it is also the same place as the largest acrylic panel installation in the world at 2,450 tonnes and 8 metres high. The capacity of the tank is 10 million litres and there are over 140 different species that can be found in the main tank. A combination of 300 sharks and rays live in this water tank. It is, of course, the largest suspended aquarium in the world!
The kids would also love the aquarium which has some dimmed spots where they can watch sub-aquatic critters glide smoothly through the water. This can help in calming them in case they are feeling perturbed from over-stimulation, as it did for ours.
There are daily shows running such as shark feeding, ray feeding and crocodile feeding, because, a sea creature’s gotta eat! They also have animal presentations after lunchtime for Otter and Piranha feedings. Yikes!
They offer discounts for group bookings of 25 or more, so if you are travelling with other families and friends, this would be really useful.
There is also an immense indoor cinema with a roof that opens up in the winter months. Unlike other countries, in the UAE the mercury can be seen touching the 45 degrees Celsius mark on an average basis. It is one of the hottest countries in the world and in 2019 (source) Dubai was recorded at 48 degrees Celsius. So on an average day, you will feel comfortable in the open spaces and not too cold. There are 26 screens and it is, you guessed it, the largest cinema in the world! It is also very luxurious so you will feel like a special guest – unless you are already used to that kind of environment in your local cinema.
Another bonus with this complex is that they designed a cinema with kids in mind, called Reel Junior. So if you are watching the kids (and they are a little bit older than preschoolers), while your travel companion shops, this cinema has beanbag seating where they can get comfortable and munch on little kiddie snacks. Don’t worry, you don’t have to sit on beanbags like your kids – you can sit on seats designed for adults in the back of the cinema so you can keep your eye on them while being comfortable.
The bonus of having the Aquarium, Ice Rink and Cinemas available is you can do one of two things. You can either enjoy these activities with the kids and reap the same benefits together. Or if you are travelling with another adult like your partner or a trusted friend, then one of you can take advantage of uninterrupted time to do some shopping, for both of you or just for yourself in one of the world’s best shopping paradise while the other takes the kids to do the activities. The choice is yours!
I used to reside in Abu Dhabi for seven years when I was a child, as my dad was an expat.
So it was a fantastic coincidence that my childhood bestie had since left Abu Dhabi to finish schooling and start working in Dubai. We worked out that it would be best to meet at Dubai Mall since she worked very close to the Mall.
We met at a waterfront restaurant and caught up 20 years worth in 1 hour, or at least we tried what we could with the time we had.
After lunch, she had to return to work and recommended visiting a Gourmet Sweet Shop, Bateel Boutique, that sells Organic Dates and Chocolates.
I’m not going to lie, we did get some dates, but we helped ourselves to more chocolate than we could consume ourselves and looked way too good to eat. We figured worst-case scenario would be we would have some delicious leftover chocolate to enjoy later when our sweet tooth itches for more.
After lunch, we went for a stroll outside down the strip and watched the Dubai Fountains. For fountains, they are actually quite entertaining, with bursts of water being shot into the air up to almost 75 metres high at various, but synchronised times in allocated spots to make it seem like the water was dancing. Did I mention that this is the largest dancing fountain in the world? Because it is! And it in the largest man-made lake at over 12 hectares.
As the water show progresses, some contemporary Arabic music plays in the background and as you keep watching it sway away so gradually and back towards you, the water almost morphs into something between the elegant limbs of a ballet dancer and a fireworks display.
Palm Jumeirah Islands
The Palm Jumeirah Islands are clusters of islands that began development in mid-2001 and completed at the end of 2006 by one of the biggest property developers in Dubai.
The Palm Jumeirah is built in the shape of a palm tree and each island holds 17 villas and the design of the villas range between Islamic and the Mediterranean styles.
The islands sit on a huge lake called Jumeirah Lake which is filled with seawater.
There are up to 736 houses, each with its own swimming pool. 46 of the clusters in the archipelago are residential units. The 4 others form the remainder of the community with a pharmacy, gym, supermarket, beauty salon and leisure centre.
The Palm Jumeirah islands are one of three artificially built islands. If you are facing the ocean, on the right is The World Islands. As the name suggests the islands are artificially built to resemble the globe. On the left is Palm Jebel Ali, a bigger version of The Palm Jumeirah islands (source).
The island was built by dredging sand from the seafloor and sand erosion is prevented with the use of breakwater rocks (source).
One of the amazing things about this development is that it can be spotted from space.
You can access The Palm Jumeirah islands with a taxi from Dubai Internet City or Nakheel Metro stations. The other option is to get to DAMAC station (the station for the Marina) on the Metro and then catch a tram from there.
Dubai Gold Souk
The Dubai Gold Souk is a place you must visit, even if it is just for the experience. It is located in the business district of Deira, in the locality of Al Dhagaya and there is an array of over 380 stores, lined up one after the next, predominantly with jewellery traders. You will not find yourself short of choice when you browse for gold jewellery as the displays range from simple and dainty to showy and flashy.
Dubai Gold Souk is a highly popular choice for buying gold because the price is comparably lower to anywhere else in the world. This is hugely ascribed to the exclusion of taxes applicable to gold. But this changed in 2018 when a 5% VAT was imposed on gold. Even then, the price of the gold you buy in Dubai is more competitive and affordable to obtain than anywhere else.
If you think the price of the gold item you have your eye on, is still too high, you can negotiate with the jeweller for a discount. Almost always they will want your business and they will work with you to make you happy with your purchase.
Gold is a highly regulated item by the government in Dubai. This means that rest-assured any gold product you buy is of high quality and you will know exactly how pure the gold is (usually almost completely pure), the weight of the gold, the cost of labour for producing the item and the details about the stones placed in the piece. You can ask for a document that certifies these details, as it is compulsory for the retailer to give this to you upon request, so it can be used in other parts of the world for valuation purposes.
Furthermore, you will be able to claim back the VAT you paid as a tourist as long as you fulfil certain criteria as part of making the purchase.
You can easily fit the Dubai Gold Souk almost anywhere in your itinerary with their convenient trading hours from between 10 am to midday till 10 pm. If you are there on a Monday, you will have the full 24 hours.