Draped in luxury, Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s richest cities that overflows with opulence and style. As the capital of the United Arab Emirates, this vibrant city provides Middle Eastern character, a rich culture that complements its stunning landscapes. You will find plenty to see and do on your Abu Dhabi holiday, from traditional souks, glamorous hotels, fine dining and incredible shopping.
The Arabian city lies on a T-shaped island and boasts glorious year-round sunshine, pristine beaches and incredible sand dunes offering an array of relaxing spots away from the striking cityscape. Bridging the Eastern and Western worlds, you can get the best of everything, from world-class sporting events, top class shopping and a glimpse of local rural culture.
For a five-star experience on your Abu Dhabi holiday, Yas Island offers a tranquil atmosphere, along with lots of sights. Home to the formula 1 circuit and a beautiful marina full of super yachts, the island also has fantastic attractions including a water park and plenty of theme parks. Elsewhere on Saadiyat Island you'll find untouched beaches and secluded hideaways, as well as a cultural district that houses many museums.
Most popular hotels in Abu Dhabi
Yas Viceroy Hotel, Abu Dhabi
Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
At a glance
- Language: English
- Time Zone: GMT +4
- Average flight time: 7h 15m
When to go
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Holidays in Abu Dhabi aren't complete without a visit to The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. As one of the largest mosques in the world, the architectural marvel is decorated mainly in white and gold, with Swarovski crystal chandeliers garnishing the inside. The mosque’s library, located on the upper floor of the Northern Minaret, includes collections of over 50,000 rare editions of manuscripts and Arabic calligraphy.
The Corniche, a waterfront promenade that stretches for six kilometres, is another top tourist attraction in Abu Dhabi. Along it there are a host of cafes, restaurants and ice-cream parlours, as well as go-karting tracks. You can also cycle along the Corniche and take in the outstanding views.
Away from the bustling city, there is the Garden City of Al Ain. Abundant in greenery, the Al Ain National Museum is home to palm plantations with cool shaded walkways that transport you from the noisy city centre to a lush tranquil haven.
Located on the edges of the Empty Quarter is the Liwa Oasis. For a unique desert experience, have a go at sand skiing on some of the world’s largest dunes. Alternatively, you could hire a 4x4 for some dune bashing. You can also discover the ancient and traditional sport of falconry at a desert retreat.
Wine and Dine
Abu Dhabi has diverse choice of cuisine and dining options, with a vibrant mix of international flavours and impressive culinary standards. You will only be served alcohol in resorts and hotels, but you can enjoy Belgian beer at the Belgian Beer Cafe overlooking the marina.
You can experience age-old dining traditions at many contemporary restaurants, heritage desert camps, and traditional dhows (sail boats), as well as at street side cafe across Abu Dhabi. To experience the local produce, rise early to visit the Arabian Gulf at Mina Fish Souk and the Al Mina Fruit & Vegetable Souk, which are bursting with colour.
Emirati food includes ingredients like cinnamon, saffron and turmeric, along with nuts, limes and dried fruit. The most popular dish is Al Harees, which is meat and wheat slow-cooked in a clay oven, and Al Majboos, which is boiled meat with a distinctive blend of spices and dried limes.
To sample Emirati cuisine visit Al Arish in the Al Dhafra Tourist Village near Mina Zayed Fish Market. Or take the Al Dhafra Dinner Cruise on a traditional dhow. The cruise offers brilliant views of the Corniche with comfortable seating. For something a little different, you can experience an authentic Arabic barbecue at the Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort.
A destination for the whole family, holidays in Abu Dhabi offer a plethora of activities that everyone can enjoy. From rollercoasters, to zoos and grand sights, the city will appeal to all ages.
On for all the family, Yas Waterworld has 43 rides, slides and attractions, including the world's first and largest hydromagnetic-powered, six-person tornado waterslide at over 235 metres long. The futuristic Yas Island waterpark has a theme of ‘The Lost Pearl’ with a gigantic pearl towering at the park's altitude-defying summit and measuring eight metres in diameter.
Also on Yas Island is the world's first Ferrari-branded theme park which is home to many Ferrari inspired rides and attractions, along with a huge Ferrari Store and a range of authentic Italian eateries. Featuring the highest rollercoaster loop in the world, Formula Rossa is the world's fastest rollercoaster with a top speed of 250kmph.
Situated in Jebel Hafeet, the Al Ain Zoo is home to a large animal collection in enclosures that are similar to their natural habitats. You can take the train to tour the wildlife area which includes over 4,000 animals. From camel riding, giraffe feeding to the ‘Elezba’ petting zoo, you and the family can get interactive. The Children’s Garden provides and outdoor learning area featuring a rolling hill, picnic spots and gardens with indigenous species from the United Arab Emirates.
Action and Adventure
If you're looking for an active holiday to Abu Dhabi, then you’ll find many ways to explore its landscape. As it’s a city surrounded by water, there are a host of water sports that you can enjoy including jet-skiing. You can also try water sports at Al Forsan International Sport Resort, or paddle board at Al Marina.
See turtles, dolphins and dugongs on a boat trip in the Mangrove National Park. The mangrove forest provides the habitat for 60 species of birds and 200 species of fish. Stretching for five miles along Eastern Ring Road in Abu Dhabi there are also channels for kayaking and other water activities.
The Arabs are known for their love of horses, so why not go on a horse ride at one Abu Dhabi’s equestrian centres, Tailored to meet your ability, you can choose from a ride in the dunes or on the beach.
Life's a Beach
Abu Dhabi boasts lots of beaches that offer an escape from the city, where you can soak up the rays and enjoy the shimmering turquoise waters.
Corniche beach is very popular with families due to its Blue Flag rating, shallow waters with floating fences and lifeguards keeping watch. The beach is rather busy but does offer sun loungers and parasols, as well as ample parking.
Another Blue Flag beach is Al Bateen which overlooks Hudariyat Island and Hudariyat Bridge to the west of Abu Dhabi. The views here are picturesque and the clear water is popular with locals for fishing, swimming and waterfront picnics. If you are looking for some action then the beach is ideal to play beach volleyball and the nearby water sport centre offers various activities.
Strictly for women, the Al Bateen Beach for Women also has the prestigious Blue Flag award for sustainability and accommodates up to 1,100 women and children in its waters. The beach is extremely safe with privacy being a priority.
Home to the Al Gharbia Watersports Festival, Mirfa Beach is the Western Region's only developed beach. It's very quiet with little crowds and a children's play area. Camping is also popular.
Holidays in Abu Dhabi are incomplete without trying out its nightlife. From poolside parties, world-class DJs and chic cocktail bars, you’ll find a brilliant mix of energetic nights out and laid-back hangouts, catering for all tastes.
Abu Dhabi’s nightlife mainly begins in the hotels and resorts, with La Cava wine bar at Rosewood Hotel being one of the best. Its underground wine bar has over 1,500 labels, as well as a very snug cigar bar.
Ray's Bar sits on the 62nd floor of the Jumeirah Etihad Towers Hotel and offers excellent views of Abu Dhabi's skyline.
For something a little different, The Sea Lounge at the Saadiyat Beach Club provides a chilled environment with resident DJs playing not-too-loud music. The exclusive club is outdoors so you can enjoy the fresh air and sounds of the sea, whilst enjoying a cocktail.
A couples holiday to Abu Dhabi is full of sun kissed activities and Arabian nights. One of the most romantic spots in the city is the Corniche where both locals and tourists go to relax on benches to watch the sunset with a loved one. From luxurious spas to fine dining with a view and camel riding trips in the desert, you’ll always find something exotic to make the perfect romantic retreat.
Take a stroll at The Breakwater, an area of ocean walkways near Corniche, perfect for a romantic walk, overlooking the ocean. Or see the waterways, palm plantations and forts of the Al Ain Oasis, which provides a tranquil day out, in the lush calm of gardens.
Indulge in a spa day at Zen. Together, you can enjoy a unique relaxation treatment called dhara, where oil and milk are gently poured onto your forehead in a steady stream, with the aim of washing away sorrows.
If you want to see the sights then check out Arabian Adventures. They offer desert and city tours, as well as camel rides and boat tours. Create a custom tour and book a moonlight cruise on a traditional dhow.
Firmly rooted in Arabia's Islamic traditions, Abu Dhabi's culture combines the tolerance and hospitality of Islam with local heritage and international influences, creating a mix of new and old influences. Historical remains of the city can be seen in the various forts, tombs and museums.
Get to know Emirati culture at the Al Ain Heritage Village, which is an oasis of green in the desert and where you can learn about traditional weaving and textile making at the handicraft market.
Soak up some history at the Qasr Al Hosn Centre which houses the Cultural Foundation within its grounds. The 18th century fort is the subject of extensive historical, archaeological, and architectural research as well as a museum displaying artefacts and pictures representing the history of Abu Dhabi.
As the centre for arts and learning in Abu Dhabi, the Cultural Foundation centre hosts various art exhibitions and musical performances from all over the globe.
As one of the United Arab Emirate’s historic buildings, the striking Al Jahili Fort was erected in 1891 to defend the city and valuable palm groves. The fort is set in delightfully landscaped gardens which you are able to explore.