Tick off the bucket list – here are the biggest and best things to do in Dubai across one, two and three days.
Whether you’re on layover, holiday or just a local looking to have your own Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in Dubai, we’re here to help you make the most of the city.
Dubai may be a compact 620 square miles with a population of 3.3 million people, but it is the largest and, dare we say it, most famous city in the UAE. Located on the eastern Arabian Peninsula, it has grown from a small fishing village to an international tourism destination.
Navigating the city is straightforward – while there are buses, bikes, trams and trains, taxis are so cheap and the most convenient mode of transport. Tip: download the Careem app, so you can book taxis in advance.
Since Dubai is home to world-famous sights – the world’s tallest building, anyone? – you’d be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed. So, whether you’ve got 24 hours, 48 hours or 72 hours, this is how to make every second count. Here’s our curated Dubai itinerary featuring must-visit cafés, galleries, restaurants, bars and beaches in Dubai. On your marks, get set, explore.
Day one: 24 hours in Dubai
Behold blockbuster sights, from Burj Khalifa to Atlantis Dubai, in Downtown Dubai, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina and JBR.
Breakfast near the Burj
Dubai is home to some brilliant breakfasts. Jones the Grocer brings relaxed Aussie vibes (along with healthy brekkie options) to Dubai, and is located in Dusit Thani Hotel, Palm West Beach and The Dubai Mall. Café Beirut serves an all-day breakfast, which ranges from ballila with pine nuts to eggs and soujouk, and can be found inside Al Marooj Complex. Plus, City Walk’s Eggspectation has a cracking egg-focused menu.
Visit the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa
Go big or, well, go home. New York has The Empire State Building, London has The View from The Shard and Dubai has the big daddy – the Burj Khalifa, aka the world’s tallest building, in Downtown Dubai. Beat the queues and get to the superstar sight early. You’ll thank us, as you don’t want to feel like a pap elbowing people out of the way. Instead, take your time to appreciate the clear 360-degree widescreen view and get shots for the gram, obviously. Tickets for At The Top on level 124 and 125 start from AED 169.
Hit high-end shops at The Dubai Mall
In true Dubai-style, it’s time for superlatives again – The Dubai Mall is the world’s biggest mall. Located in Downtown Dubai, it boasts more than 1,000 shops. It’s easy to get lost (and distracted) by the rows and rows of luxurious shops – we’re not judging. Make a beeline for the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, which is inhabited by penguins, stingrays and sharks. Even if you don’t visit inside, you can admire the 22-million-gallon tank, which is visible to all shoppers.
Shop for Arabic souvenirs at Souk Al Bahar
A footbridge connects Dubai Mall to Souk Al Bahar. Offering a modern twist on the traditional Middle Eastern marketplace, it’s a top spot to pick up a souvenir. With more than 20 shops, it includes Arabic handicrafts, perfumes and antiques. Be warned: sellers will be vying for your attention. The souk is also home to cafés, restaurants (including Time Out Market), and a waterfront promenade. Be sure to stop outside, as it’s a perfect spot to take photos in front of the Burj.
Watch The Dubai Fountain show
Okay, so while dancing fountains are probably not anyone’s thing, The Dubai Fountain puts on an outstanding show. It’s the world’s largest (again) fountain show, and even bigger than the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Watch as the choreographed fountains move to Western and Arabic hits, then shoot up to more than 500 feet into the air. Attracting crowds each day, the show is free and takes place at 1pm and 1.30pm daily, then every thirty minutes between 6pm to 10pm on weekdays.
Take advantage of a business lunch deal
Don’t let the name fool you. Here’s a restaurant hack you’ll want to know: Dubai has so many business lunch offers, and are a smart way to sample fine dining restaurants at a discounted price. Exceptional options nearby include 99 Sushi Bar & Restaurant, CÉ LA VI and ROKA. The set menus often include a starter, main and dessert, and can run from 12pm to 4pm – do check beforehand, though. If you have more money than time, head to nearby DIFC. Known as the city’s financial hub, it has a reputation for being home to Dubai’s swankiest restaurants. We’re big fans of Caviar Kaspia, CLAP Dubai, LPM Restaurant & Bar and Zuma.
Visit the iconic Atlantis, The Palm
No trip to Dubai is complete without visiting Palm Jumeirah. The artificial palm tree-shaped island is a sight to behold, and at the end of it is the magnificent Atlantis Dubai, which has become an iconic part of Palm Jumeirah’s skyline. Whether you’re travelling with kids or are a big kid yourself, Atlantis Dubai has action-packed fun. Aquaventure Waterpark is one of the world’s most epic waterparks. Thrill seekers will be excited by the 100 record-breaking water slides. There’s one kilometre of private beach, water sports and dolphin experiences. Plus, Wavehouse has a surf machine and bowling alley.
Grab sundowners at Palm West Beach
The sun sets quickly in Dubai, so you want to make sure you’ve got a prime position to catch this beauty. Palm West Beach is a recent development, but it’s packed with bustling beach clubs. If you want to go classy, visit Kyma Beach Dubai or SĀN Beach. Grab a cocktail (or three) and toast your trip.
Eat a MICHELIN meal on Palm Jumeirah
With the unveiling of the first-ever MICHELIN Guide Dubai, the city received a grand total of 11 MICHELIN Stars. So, if you’re looking for a meal to remember, the options on Palm Jumeirah include fine dining French food at Stay by Yannick Alléno in One&Only The Palm; Italian dishes at Torno Subito in W Dubai – The Palm; innovative Indian at Trèsind Studio; or Chinese classics at Hakkasan, and seafood at Ossiano, which are both in Atlantis Dubai.
Go for a night crawl (and cap) in Dubai Marina
Dubai shines brightly at night. Head to nearby Dubai Marina and admire the Blade Runner-like skyscrapers, some of which are the world’s tallest residential buildings. Stroll around Marina Walkway, which comes alive at night with ice cream shops, market stalls and shisha lounges. Head to a bar with a view: Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel’s Observatory Bar & Grill, Siddharta Lounge by Buddha Bar, and W Dubai – Mina Seyahi’s Ginger Moon overlooks The Palm, and Pier 7 has restaurants with terraces overlooking Dubai Marina.
Party the night away in JBR
If you’re normally the last one standing, then continue reading. JBR is family-friendly by day and party-friendly at night. At this buzzing nightlife spot, many venues stay open until the wee hours. BLA BLA Dubai has numerous bars (and one slide), Trader’s Vic’s JBR is great for classic and quirky mai tais, and Lock, Stock & Barrel JBR is a crowd pleaser. All of these venues are open until 3am.
Day two: 48 hours in Dubai
Experience Emirati heritage and hotspots in Dubai Creek, Burj Al Arab and on a desert safari.
Have a traditional breakfast at Arabian Tea House
With more than 150 different types of tea, Arabian Tea House is a cute spot to enjoy a cuppa. Whether you’re after herbal, fruity or straight-up Arabic tea, this much-loved spot knows its blends. The authentic Emirati breakfast includes khameer halloumi zaatar, balaleet with an omelette, and tanoor cheese.
Explore Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
Get a glimpse into 19th-century life in Dubai at this well-preserved heritage site. Wander through the winding streets, and make your way through the 50 old houses. The cultural stops include the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding, Symposium House and Events House, Calligraphy House, and Coin Museum.
Hop on board a one-dirham abra ride
Sure, you can glide down a yacht in Dubai Marina or a catamaran on Palm Jumeirah, but nothing quite matches hopping on board an abra in Dubai Creek. You’ll feel like you’re travelling back in time, not just because these are traditional motorised wooden boats, but because the prices seem to have remained frozen – it’s only one dirham. As the boat chugs along the creek between Bur Dubai and Deira, it’s an enchanting way to see this part of town.
Go shopping at the Gold and Spice Souks
Shop at the souks, glorious souks. This cave of wonders has markets ranging from the glittering Gold Souk to the fragrant Spice Souk. It’s a wonderful spot to pick up souvenirs including perfume, scarves and antiques. While the whole experience can be full-on – get ready to barter – there’s no harm in people-watching.
Visit the legendary Ravi Restaurant
Ravi Restaurant is a Dubai institution. The small, family-run restaurant has been serving traditional Pakistani cuisine for more than 40 years. There is an enduring charm to the venue, which is a hit with the local community. As long as you don’t mind plastic cloths and tissue boxes on the table, we’d highly recommend making your way through the cost-friendly menu. Curry awaits.
Learn about Islam at Jumeirah Mosque
It’s not often that non-Muslims can go inside a mosque, so make the most of the opportunity at Jumeirah Mosque. Located in Jumeirah 1, it offers daily tours from 10am and 2pm, except on Fridays. The tours start off with traditional Emirati refreshments in the majlis. The friendly guides explain what happens during a visit to a mosque, from the ablutions (which you can join), to the prayers. Make sure you arrive up to 30 minutes beforehand and dress modestly. Tours cost AED 35.
Book afternoon tea at the Burj Al Arab
Burj Al Arab is one of Dubai’s most iconic landmarks. Nestled on its own island off of Jumeirah Beach, it had the bravado to call itself a seven-star hotel – and the label has worked. In Sahn Eddar’s atrium, you can indulge in a classic afternoon tea with hot drinks, sandwiches, pastries and scones with jam. Plus, there’s the option of adding a glass of bubbly or date juice. The tea experiences run from 3pm to 5.30pm.
Go on a swanky desert safari with Sonara Camp
Amid the soaring skyscrapers, you can forget that Dubai was originally a desert. Set high upon a sand dune within the Dubai Conservation Area, Sonara Camp offers unspoilt sunset views over the Arabian desert, where guests can embark on a range of experiences including camel rides, dune bashing, live Oud music and a falcon show, ahead of a relaxing dinner or (if you’re feeling adventurous) an overnight stay. Guests can be picked up and dropped off at hotels in Dubai.
72 hours in Dubai:
Chill out with cool cafés, culture, cabanas and concept stores across Alserkal Avenue, Al Qouz, Boxpark and La Mer.
Breakfast at Nightjar Coffee Roasters
When only hip will do, head to the FACT Award-winning Nightjar Coffee Roasters. Make like the cool kids, as you’ll spot fabulously dressed people and creatives having meetings. Start your day with its speciality coffee, and then take your time over breakfast – it is all day, after all. The menu includes ricotta pancakes, breakfast muffins, chilli scrambled eggs and avocado on toast.
Visit modern galleries and arty shops at Alserkal Avenue
We’re calling it: Alserkal Avenue is the art hub of Dubai. Don’t believe the haters who say that Dubai lacks culture. These streets are paved with a range of galleries, workshops and concept stores, all ready to provide you with a culture fix. Best of all, most of the exhibitions are free. Plus, the shops include vinyl record shop Flipside, quality leather brand Tamashee, and jewellery store The Jewel Teller.
Have lunch at a trendy Al Qouz café
Al Qouz is bursting with on-trend cafés. The newly opened Matcha Club is a boutique padel club and community hangout, which also includes the healthy French meets Japanese-inspired café, NETTE. Boston Lane is an Instagrammable café hidden in The Courtyard at Al Quoz. It has an artistic edge, as there is a ripe market, book exchanges and live music – oh, and succulent toasties. Tom&Serg is a local favourite with industrial chic interiors, laid-back vibes and a Melbourne-inspired menu. Come on, it has a keto breakfast, sourdough crumpets and banana bread.
Go shopping at the hipster-friendly Boxpark
Boxpark is a shopping destination with a fun vibe and urban edge. The outdoor shopping mall has stylish, homegrown brands and boutiques, from the Arabian fashion company Ghawani to the avant garde concept store Urbanist. Plus, each shop is situated in an upmarket version of a cargo box – yes, really.
Schedule some sun (or spa) time at Nikki Beach Dubai
Make the most of the Dubai sunshine, and set aside time to visit one of the chicest beach clubs in town. Nikki Beach is located in a serene spot with views of the Arabian Gulf, Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai. The venue prides itself on combining music, dining, entertainment, fashion and film into one destination. If you need refuelling, there are salads, sushi, seafood and shisha. Make sure to dip into the pool(s), and check out the spa with a hammam, sauna and steam room.
Watch the sunset from Monkey Bar’s rooftop cages
25Hours Hotel Dubai One Centralis packed with personality. Head to the cheeky spot, Monkey Bar, for some sundowners. Located on the sixth floor, it has views of the Museum of the Future and Zabeel Park. Settle into one of the monkey cages, boogie to the DJs and order some cocktails. Drinks range from mai tais to old fashions.
Feel like a champion at Brass Monkey’s gaming arcade
Still got some stamina? Show off your skills at Brass Monkey on Bluewaters Island. Come for the fun 12-lane bowling alley, and stay for the pool tables, basketball machines, VR racing car simulators and old-school arcades – there’s even Pac-Man. The venue has major swagger, thanks to its neon statement signs and adults-only rule. Guests must be aged 21 years old or above, and the venue stays open until 3am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.