The best places to live in Abu Dhabi

Each area and suburb of Abu Dhabi has its own unique qualities and there are plenty of options for expats looking for accommodation in the emirate.

Expats moving to Abu Dhabi will certainly want to learn a little about each part of the city before securing property. Below we've listed some of the areas that are popular with expats.

Downtown Abu Dhabi

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Abu Dhabi's city centre is a vibrant collection of shops, shisha bars, malls, five-star hotels and restaurants. The neighbourhoods that make up this capital city heartland are home to young singles and families alike, and most accommodation is found in low- and high-rise residential towers.

Expats who crave the frenetic energy of city life will find that downtown is just the ticket; every imaginable amenity is within reach and there are countless opportunities to socialise, entertain and dine out.

There are also good school and healthcare options in this part of the city. However, residents will have to sacrifice space and learn to deal with the congestion caused by crowds and traffic, especially on weekends.

Al Zahiyah and Al Markaziyah

Al Zahiyah (the Tourist Club Area) and Al Markaziyah are two cosmopolitan areas offering a number of attractions, such as the Abu Dhabi Mall and the Corniche (waterfront). Abu Dhabi Mall is one of the largest shopping centres in the city and packed with high-street brands. 

The Corniche has appeal for those expats who enjoy outdoor pursuits such as jogging, cycling or even just leisurely strolls. This area also has a vibrant nightlife scene as the numerous hotels are filled with bars and clubs.

Housing in Al Zahiyah and Al Markaziyah is limited to high-rise apartments; expats who choose to live here will have to compromise space for access. Parking can also be a problem, and some landlords will charge thousands extra for a space. 

Young, upbeat areas in Abu Dhabi

Madinat Zayed by Rizwan Ullah Wazir

Lying just outside the city centre, these areas bustle with life but are slightly quieter and more spacious. Traffic is bad during rush hour and weekends, and finding parking can be difficult. It normally takes 10 to 15 minutes from these areas to the city centre on a quiet day, and 30 to 45 minutes during rush hour.

Madinat Zayed

Madinat Zayed is close to the city centre and generally quieter and less congested than those districts found in the city proper. Properties in Madinat Zayed are slightly older than those in the city centre, although prices are much the same.

The Co-operative Society (Co-op) in Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre is good for buying groceries, while the vegetable/meat market and Gold Souk make the area ripe for those interested in a taste of Middle Eastern culture.

Al Wahda

Al Wahda is slightly further out than Madinat Zayed and traffic is lighter and parking easier to come by. Al Wahda Mall has a great range of shops and a large Lulu supermarket for groceries. Getting a taxi here is particularly easy because of the presence of the local bus station.


Khalidiya is a bustling area with a large Western community. Khalidiya Park is great for kids and a family picnic. There are also lots of shisha cafés that are popular among young expats. The Corniche is within walking distance for those who want to visit the popular waterfront. Abela supermarket is nearby, while Spinney’s is but a short drive; both offer a good range of products.

Family-friendly areas of Abu Dhabi

These areas have large expat communities and are good for families because of their proximity to a number of international schools. Housing in this area mainly consists of villas.

Al Karamah

Al Karamah is quiet, with villa compounds that house a large expat community. The compounds come complete with gyms, swimming pools and additional facilities. Standalone villas and low-rise apartments are also available. The closest place for food shopping is Al Wahda Mall’s Lulu supermarket. Traffic is light and parking spaces are plentiful.

Al Rowdah and Al Mushrif

Al Rodwah and Al Mushrif are quiet suburban areas perfect for family living. While there are a few corner shops, expats will have to travel to Al Wahda or the large Carrefour, which is slightly further out, to do large grocery shopping. Traffic is light and parking spaces plentiful, while getting a taxi is easy for the most part.

Al Muroor

Decently priced villas and close proximity to good schools make Al Muroor great for families looking to avoid the frenetic pace and congestion of the city centre. While parking spaces are plentiful, getting a taxi is difficult at times.

The Health and Fitness Center and the Equestrian Club are both in the area – perks for expats who want easy access to a gym or swimming pool. These sports clubs also offer activities such as tennis, squash and martial arts lessons.

The Corniche is within walking distance and offers a great stretch for those who want to go running or cycling. This part of Abu Dhabi is also quite green, making it good for picnics and outdoor activities.

Abu Dhabi’s mainland

Khalifa City by Jaseem Hamza

Khalifa City

Khalifa City is an up-and-coming suburb of Abu Dhabi. Streets are quiet and parking spaces and taxis are plentiful. As it’s still a developing area, houses are well spaced. While rental prices are rising, it’s still possible to get good deals on the villas. The only downside is that it takes roughly 40 minutes to get to town by car. There are some nice cafés and small shops nearby and an Abela supermarket for food shopping, which saves on having to make a long trip into town for groceries.

Al Raha

Al Raha mainly consists of villa compounds, but apartments are also available. Al Raha Mall has a Lulu supermarket, and new shops, schools and hotels are adding to the attraction of this area.

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