See and Do in Dubai

Dubai has grown into a thriving modern city. In the last 30 years the population has exploded, and now over 80 percent of the emirate's inhabitants are expats. Just as the population has mushroomed, so has the assortment of things to see and do in Dubai.

Expats should note that the time of year makes a huge difference when planning leisure pursuits; summer months (June to August) are best spent inside while the winter (November to January) offers plenty of outdoor fun and entertainment. The month of Ramadan is generally a quieter time when people visit family and friends and take some time for reflection, so opening hours will reflect this in some cases – be sure to confirm beforehand.

Here are some of the best things to see and do in Dubai:

Shopping

As host to two massive shopping festivals a year, and as the home of the world's largest shopping space, Dubai is definitely the best place to do some intense aisle cruising.

Visit the Dubai Mall, one of the biggest malls on the planet, and while there pop into the aquarium, go ice-skating, watch the Dubai Fountains, go up the Burj Khalifa (the world's tallest tower) or simply slow down and have a cup of tea.

Those who prefer to try their hand at some indoor skiing should head to the Mall of the Emirates.

For a more traditional option head to Deira and visit the Gold Souk or Spice Souk. When shopping in the souks remember to barter, as it's expected, and always ask for the best price. 

Dune bashing

A favourite way to spend a weekend in Dubai is desert, or dune, bashing. Undertaken either with one's own vehicle or as part of an organised outing, this is a fun way to spend a couple of hours in the otherwise sandy oblivion. Once comfortable in the desert, grab the GPS and a tent and head out for an afternoon drive; make camp in time for the sunset and enjoy the peace.

Sun 'n fun

As the weather is pretty much always sunny, an afternoon at a water park with the kids is a great way to spend a Saturday. The parks also offer “Ladies Only” evenings once a week and are open 365 days a year, although the opening hours do vary in summer.

Eating out

There is a fantastic selection of restaurants in Dubai, but beyond the average eating experience, there's a few not-to-be-missed highlights. High tea in the Sky Bar at the Burj Al Arab is spectacular, complete with a seven-star view. Otherwise, try a Dubai institution, the Friday brunch, or head to the Creek for a romantic dinner overlooking the water.

Culture

Those expats who'd prefer to inundate themselves with culture, rather than spend their weekend in Dubai indulging, should head to traditional Al Bastakiya for a walking tour, and then onto Heritage Village; these two areas on the Creek showcase old-style living and pearl diving. The Dubai Museum is worth a visit; and although the displays are a little tired, the old photographs are amazing.

Non-Muslims are able to visit Jumeirah Mosque on Beach Road for guided tours and a taste of Islam.

Bird's eye view

Dubai is spectacular from the air. The beautiful design of several residential compounds can really only be appreciated when seen from above. Take the trip just before sunset and watch the sun go down as one flies past the Burj Al Arab, the Palm Jumeirah and the World Islands.

Big Bus Tour

The best way to get a complete overview of Dubai is to take the Big Bus Tour. A hop-on-hop-off service is offered from several major landmarks and tourist attractions giving one the opportunity to sightsee without the hassle of parking or getting lost. It makes for an informative couple of hours, and offers a good way to get a feel for this amazing city.

Cat Russell Our Expat Expert

I have been living in Dubai since August 2008. I am enjoying adjusting to a new way of life, meeting new people and having varied experiences in a foreign country. I'm also the maker and creator of Sandcat, a blog where I can let loose all the impressions and interesting facts I find along the way.

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