If you want proof that Dubai is one of the most popular destinations in the world, look no further than the fact that Dubai International was the world’s third busiest airport in 2019.
Dubai has come a long way from the quiet Arabian port it once was. It’s one of the world’s premier tourist destinations, with a whole range of things to see and do.
If you’re planning a Dubai vacation, the list of activities can be a bit overwhelming. Let’s look at some of the best things to do in Dubai.
Visit World-Famous Buildings
Dubai has some of the world’s most recognizable and most impressive architecture.
The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building, at 2,722 feet. It towers 160 stories above the city, which also makes it the world’s tallest free-standing structure. It also holds the title for the world’s highest outdoor observation deck.
If you’ve seen Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, you saw Tom Cruise scaling the outside of the Burj Khalifa.
The Burj Al Arab is another jewel in Dubai’s crown. Known as the “world’s first 7-star hotel” it offers incredible luxury. It’s modeled after a sail, making it one of the world’s most recognizable buildings.
The Burj Al Arab sits on its own man-made island and houses the world’s tallest atrium, at 600 feet. You don’t need to stay in the hotel to experience it, however. Guests and non-guests alike are welcome to take advantage of the hotel’s restaurants and activities.
Only paying guests get to take advantage of the hotel’s complimentary Rolls-Royce service, however.
Dubai’s architecture isn’t the only thing that leads the rest of the world. It also offers a huge range of options for shopping.
Dubai Mall is one of the largest shopping centers in the world. The mall, laid out surrounding the Burj Khalifa, is home to over 1,300 stores. But shopping isn’t the only thing you can do here.
The Dubai Mall also offers several types of entertainment activities including a full-size ice rink, a movie theater, and an aquarium with thousands of species.
At night, don’t miss the Dubai Fountain outside the mall. The same team that created the Bellagio’s dancing fountain in Las Vegas designed the Fountain and the nightly show features a mix of Eastern and Western music.
If you’re looking for something a little more “old world” be sure to check out the Gold and Spice Souks. These traditional souks, or bazaars, have been around for centuries, providing the backbone of Dubai’s trade.
The Gold Souk is one of the world’s premier gold jewelry trade centers, with roughly 20 percent of the world’s gold moving through it. The government keeps tight control over what is sold in the souk, and who it’s sold by, so you can feel confident about your purchase.
The Spice Souk is right across the creek and is a source of many popular spices like ginger, chili, and cinnamon. It’s also a great source for saffron, which sells for considerably less than it would in most other countries.
Explore Dubai’s Cultural Heritage
While modern Dubai is home to some of the world’s most technological and architectural marvels, it has a long and storied history. There’s still plenty of cultural history nestled among the modern city.
The Bastakiya Quarter is Dubai’s historic district, located amidst the modern skyscrapers. It’s a former fishing village and is home to the famous Arabian Tea House and several art galleries.
You can also see many restored buildings like the wind towers that were an early type of air conditioning.
The Dubai Museum is located in the Bastakiya Quarter as well. It offers a look at Dubai from historic times through to the modern era (and beyond). You’ll find information about the history of trade in the city, its native wildlife, and some of its folklore.
The museum is a great place to get out of the heat for a couple of hours while you learn about Dubai’s history.
Outdoor Activities in Dubai
While Dubai is a bustling metropolis, there are lots of fun and exciting outdoor activities within a short drive of the downtown core. And if you stay a little further away from the city, such as in this community, you’ll be even closer.
The surrounding desert offers several activities, including desert safaris, camel rides, and sandboarding. You’ll also get to enjoy extravagant BBQ meals at the end of the day with many of them.
There are also several gorgeous beaches in Dubai. Some of them are privately owned and only accessible to guests of the hotel or residents of certain communities. But the Jumeirah Public Beach is open to everyone.
Fun for the Whole Family
Many of the activities offered in Dubai cater more to adults than to children. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of activities for families too.
The Wild Wadi Waterpark, situated at the foot of the Burj Al Arab, is home to 30 water rides and play spaces. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a thrill-seeker or looking for something a little more laid back.
You can even go surfing on the Riptide, one of only 4 simulated surfing rides in the world.
If winter sports are more your thing, it might surprise you to learn that you can go skiing in the middle of the desert. Ski Dubai is an indoor ski center with five ski runs, the longest stretching over 1,300 feet with a nearly 200-foot vertical drop.
Or if you’re more interested in something a bit more laid back, try swimming with the dolphins in Dolphin Bay.
There’s a Long List of the Best Things to Do in Dubai
These are some of the best things to do in Dubai from our experience but there’s plenty more we haven’t touched on in this article. Dubai offers a host of activities for visitors of all ages so you’ll find lots to keep you busy if you spend several weeks there (or take several trips).
Be sure to browse the rest of our site for more information about popular travel destinations.