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If I had to describe Abu Dhabi with one word, it would be this: WOW!
I didn’t know what to expect from Abu Dhabi. With all the fuss that is made about Dubai, I imagined that it must be the much poorer sibling of snazzy Dubai. I read somewhere that it was more traditional so I think I imagined a quiet place, not a huge city full of top Abu Dhabi attractions.
I was so wrong!
Abu Dhabi is amazing. One of the most modern places I have visited. It’s a big, beautiful city. The out of this world high rises, the beautiful beaches and the ever present desert in the background makes for a city like no other I have seen.
It’s opulent, it’s luxurious and it’s very easy to visit. It’s obvious they are also adding to it constantly so I imagine it will be even more amazing, opulent and luxurious in the years to come. In fact, they are currently aiming to turn it into the cultural capital of the Arab world with some amazing attractions currently being built.
I am yet to visit Dubai, but you can’t go wrong visiting Abu Dhabi.
It was strange flying into Abu Dhabi from Oman. One second I’m seeing a very sandy desert without many signs of life. Suddenly I’m seeing a desert suburbia and Abu Dhabi itself seems to pop out of nowhere. It is amazing to think this big city has been built in the desert.
What is there to do in Abu Dhabi? So you can plan your own awesome trip, below you will find my list of what to do in Abu Dhabi with kids, some specific information about Abu Dhabi for kids, best place to stay in Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi tourist map and other information about this great city!
Please note: Although I focus on the best places to visit in Abu Dhabi for kids in this article, the places listed are just as relevant for people travelling to Abu Dhabi without kids.
I started my time in Abu Dhabi at the Corniche and I think this was an excellent choice! It’s the perfect place to start your Abu Dhabi things to do list. It’s a great introduction to the city and definitely one of the best attractions in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi’s Corniche is a beautiful wide path along the waterfront. There are trees, places to sit, lights. I went in the late afternoon and had it pretty much to myself. I imagine it gets busier in the evening but I am sure it’s enjoyable at any time of day.
The water is beautiful and there’s great views to the city as well as across the water to where you can see desert which makes for quite a contrast. As an added bonus, there’s a nice sea breeze. I loved it here.
Getting here is easy. The path stretches a long way and there are regular pedestrian underpasses from the city side of the road. There are ramps at the passes I visited so it’s also stroller friendly.
On the other side of the road along the waterfront, I also found a great path lined with green areas. It’s not just great for adults but one of the top kids’ activities in Abu Dhabi as its very pedestrian friendly.
It’s possible to hire a bicycle and cycle along here. I think this would be great.
When you are thinking about what to see in Abu Dhabi, you probably aren’t thinking about going to the beach! However, this is one of the fun things to do in Abu Dhabi with some lovely choices.
Abu Dhabi’s beach surprised me by being wide, sandy and pretty with patrolled patches to swim. It’s easily accessible via the Corniche and some hotels have their own private stretches.
I personally get frustrated when I read articles about “things to do in x” to plan my next trip and they have pointless items like “go shopping”, “look around” etc and wonder if the person even explored the city they were visiting.
However, in this case I cannot help but have one of the top things to see in Abu Dhabi be just looking up and around. There are so many amazing buildings to see.
In fact, you may end up with neck pain as there are just so many to look at. I just kept seeing more from the Capital Gate Building (also known as the “Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi” to the building constructed to look like golden sand dunes!
There are so many unlike any I have seen before that would be a centrepiece of any other city but are just part of the landscape here. I kept thinking that the motto for Abu Dhabi should be “if you can think it, you can build it”.
So keep looking up! And you will keep seeing the best places to see in Abu Dhabi.
One of the Abu Dhabi places to visit if you want to do some shopping is the Central Market/WTC Souk.
I found visiting this market confusing as it seems some guides and references online are talking about the old souq that used to exist on this spot and some are talking about the new, so hopefully I can clarify things for you here!
The Central Market is now located inside “The Mall”, the shopping centre at the base of the World Trade Centre. It’s a stylish, modern take on a souq which is quite pretty and I found it interesting. It’s beautifully presented and definitely captures some elements of a souq well. It had the same incense smell as the more traditional souq I had visited in Muscat the day before!
The stalls sell some beautiful things and if you don’t mind spending perhaps too much money on your souvenirs, this would be a good place to shop. It’s worth keeping in mind that it is an up market place with up market prices.
You can find more information about these tourist spots in Abu Dhabi here.
If you are looking for free things to do in Abu Dhabi then this is a definite winner. This small heritage village is a little peak at how Abu Dhabi used to be.
It’s a small place and I only needed to spend about 20 minutes here. There’s a museum with jewellery and outfits, some traditional houses set up, a stage and many market stalls. What I loved most about it is the views! There’s a pretty white sand beach (unfortunately no swimming is allowed) and there’s great views back over to Abu Dhabi. It’s worth it for this alone.
Views of Abu Dhabi from the Heritage Village:
It’s mostly outdoors which also helps makes it good for activities in Abu Dhabi for kids. It is, however, the one place I visited which wasn’t completely pram friendly as there are sandy parts (like pictured above) which did not work with my stroller.
Entry is free.
One of the best places in Abu Dhabi has to be the Emirates Palace. It is the most expensive hotel ever built and is owned by Abu Dhabi government.
It sounds absolutely luxurious. The good news is if you don’t have the fund to stay here, you can have a meal or a drink at one of the restaurants and bars which will give you the opportunity to have a look around. They do have a dress code – basically smart casual, no flip flops, shorts or anything that exposes too much skin. I’m sure it will impress your kids as well.
More information on their site.
One of the Abu Dhabi must see places are the Etihad Towers which are home to the Observation Deck at 300. This is the place to go for sightseeing in Abu Dhabi as you get to see the entire city.
I came here from the Big Bus tour and it was hard to find where to go! Go to level P3 and then ask people until you find the small reception area. You buy the ticket here and then they put you in the lift.
There are so many levels that this is actually the first time I have ever seen an elevator where there isn’t a button for each level. Instead there are all the digits and you have to enter in the number you want! The observation deck is on floor 74 which places it 300 metres above the ground.
The deck itself is awesome. The views are just amazing. You can see them below.
I have been to many of these attractions all over the world and I think this one is my favourite. It wasn’t full of people. Instead there was nice music playing and plenty of couches and tables so you can sit around in groups, have a coffee and cake and take in the view.
There’s also plenty of space around the chairs so you can easily walk past the people sitting down to get views everywhere… and what views they are! It was great to see Abu Dhabi like this.
You can find more information about this must see in Abu Dhabi and the latest ticket prices here. Tickets are discounted for Big Bus ticket holders.
As much as I loved the views from the Observation Deck at 300, there’s one attraction that tops it out of the must see places in Abu Dhabi – the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
This mosque is unbelievably stunning. It’s the third largest in the world and made from Italian marble and semi precious stones.
It opened in 2007 at a cost of 2 billion AED and can hold over 40,000 worshippers! It’s also home to the biggest Persian carpet in the world and the largest chandelier in the world.
It’s simply breathtaking. It’s built on a hill 9.5 metres high so it’s visible from across the city and there’s views on the way into town from the airport.
Entry to this must do in Abu Dhabi is free. As usual, no tight fitting clothing is allowed and you do need to cover up. There are robes available to help you out.
The East Coast section of the Corniche is one of the worthwhile Abu Dhabi attractions for kids.
It’s another lovely pathway and it’s popular with families in the evening. There’s a playground and lots of greenery. It’s also by the water with mangroves on the other side. This is the perfect place to go when looking for Abu Dhabi kids’ activities to ensure they let off lots of steam.
If you love Ferraris and/or theme parks then Ferrari World is one of the best tourist places in Abu Dhabi for you.
It’s home to the world’s fastest roller coaster as well as other thrilling rides. For families that like things a bit slower, there are also some tamer options including a flume ride through a V12 engine and 4D adventures.
There are also car exhibitions and live shows as well as many chances for kids of all ages to learn how to “drive” a Ferrari.
There’s a long list of attractions and this has to be one of the best things to do with kids in Abu Dhabi.
Find more information about these Abu Dhabi tourist destinations and buy discounted tickets here.
There’s no better way to finish of your Abu Dhabi sightseeing with kids that cooling down at Yas Waterworld. As with all the Abu Dhabi top attractions, this big waterpark is amazing with 43 rides and waterslides.
There are slides to appeal to all ages as well as some amazing water playgrounds.
Find more information about these top attractions in Abu Dhabi and buy discounted tickets here.
This hop on, hop off, Abu Dhabi sightseeing bus is a great way to explore Abu Dhabi. I spent a day exploring the city this way and I found it a great way to go. It’s air conditioned and has commentary in a bunch of different languages as you drive around the city.
If you are short on time and are wondering what to do in Abu Dhabi for a day then this is definitely my pick. It stops at all the major sites including the ones that are still being built. It also includes a dhow cruise, half price entry to the Observation Deck at 300 and some other things. The free water on board is especially good in the heat.
There’s an upstairs where you can choose to sit either inside or outside and a downstairs. It made it super easy for me to both get around and learn more about the city. I am glad that I did this rather than just getting a taxi between the top tourist attractions in Abu Dhabi as it did take me around a lot of the city and I was able to see all the amazing buildings I wouldn’t have otherwise as well as learning a lot more about Abu Dhabi.
There’s space for prams onboard.
Unlike in Muscat, there aren’t signs at most of the stops. Although some are easy to work out as they are right in front of the Abu Dhabi tourist places that are listed at the stop on their map, others you would never work out without being dropped off at them which is a shame.
I purposefully stayed at a hotel on the route so I could join it easily but ended up having to take a cab to a more clear stop as I had no idea where to get it (and it turned out the map was quite misleading for this stop so I would never have found it).
There are people at some stops to buy tickets from. If they are not at the stop where you start your journey, they will check your ticket when you reach one with people.
It’s easy to buy tickets online which is what I did. Although I think it is the perfect answer to what to see in Abu Dhabi in one day, my advice would be to buy a two day ticket if you have the time. This would be a great length of time to get on and off at the main places and enjoy extras such as the dhow cruise.
You can see the full route, the latest ticket prices and buy the tickets here.
If you are looking for indoor activities for kids in Abu Dhabi, an option is Fun City. They describe themselves as an indoor play centre for 1-12 year olds.
It’s located in both the Marina Mall and Abu Dhabi Mall so this is also something you could combine with shopping.
Find more information about Fun City on their site.
Saadiyat Island is poised to become the top of the list of things to visit in Abu Dhabi. It is the new cultural district where the best Abu Dhabi attractions for tourists are currently being built.
Saadiyat Island is going to be home to the Lourve, Zayed National Museum and the world’s largest Guggenheim.
The buildings were mostly completed when I visited but nothing was open yet so I only saw them from the bus window of the Big Bus Tour. As you would expect in Abu Dhabi, the buildings themselves look amazing.
There is also a public beach and hotel options here.
Abu Dhabi is an absolutely fabulous destination to visit with kids. I only visited with my youngest child, 4 month old Baby J, but I know my older kids would have loved it too.
It’s an amazing city with many attractions in Abu Dhabi for kids and the whole family. I don’t think there are many (any?) kids who wouldn’t love Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld and they are sure to be as impressed by the buildings as I was.
There’s also beaches, great outdoor Abu Dhabi activities for kids like the Corniches and it’s very stroller friendly. There are quite a few playgrounds around.
I was travelling alone with my baby and the people were also very friendly and helpful which ensured I never had a problem. I have no hesitation in recommending a trip to Abu Dhabi with kids.
There are so many fabulous places to stay in Abu Dhabi and if you are after a luxury option, you will not be disappointed. They are seemingly everywhere!
For me, however, I wanted something that was very well located so I could walk to attractions and be surrounded by eating options and shops. I needed things super easy with my baby. For this reason, I stayed at the Mercure Centre.
The downtown location is what attracted me to this hotel and it is great. I could walk to the Al-Hosn Fort, WTC Souq, the Big Bus Tour and the Corniche. There are lots of shops and eating places out the front as well as a small supermarket a half a block away.
The room was on the small side but had everything I needed including some of the best wifi I’ve ever had, a desk, couch and a queen bed. They also have cribs.
The hotel itself has multiple restaurants and a pool. The minibar and room service were very reasonable prices and had some great food.
My one gripe is that I was given a room with a connecting door and it made it sound like the people next door were in the same room. This was especially a problem when the couple had a huge fight in the middle of the night. Otherwise, I was happy here.
Click here to see the latest prices.
This Abu Dhabi tourist attractions map has all the places listed above.
The easiest way to get around Abu Dhabi is via taxi. These are easy to find and I had no problems with them using the metre which is cheap.
The Big Bus Tour (more above) is also a great way to get around the city. There are also public buses.
I flew to Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways. You can read my full review here. You can also read the World Travel Adventurers review of Emirates Airbus A380 First Class, which flies to Dubai.
There’s probably no need to say it from what I’ve written above, but I love Abu Dhabi.
I’m a city slicker and this city is just awesome. I love the Corniche, the beautiful beaches and the energy downtown. I love the architecture. I love the combination of the modern and the traditional. I love how there are so many best things to do in Abu Dhabi.
I love how easy it is to explore. Many people speak english. Taxis are cheap and easy (and use a meter!). And they have a great airline which makes it easy to get here. The crime rate is very low.
I had no problems as a woman “alone” but I did have my baby escort 😀
It is a great city to visit in combination with Muscat, Oman like I did. They are both so different but amazing in their own way. It’s interesting how the different countries have managed their wealth and what they do with it.
Abu Dhabi simply blew me away. It’s not like anywhere else and I think it’s only going to become more interesting. It’s so opulent and amazing now and they have so many projects currently underway that I wonder just how crazy modern and luxurious it will be in ten years time.
So do yourself a favour. Visit Abu Dhabi!
While in the region, consider visiting Muscat. You can read our guide to Muscat here.
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