Things to do in Dubai or what to see in 3 days
Admit it, this has happened before – you are about to go on vacation, but are not very sure you know exactly what you will do. We get it – in the age of Internet and absolute connectivity, it is pretty easy to lose yourself in the constant stream of numerous recommendations from your usual Expedias or TripAdvisors. And while there is nothing wrong with trying to cram as much as possible into your well-deserved vacation, people usually bite more than they can chew, and end up losing the biggest chunk of their time to logistics. In case of Dubai, it should not be a problem though – it is not that big of a city, and can be covered in approximately one hour from side to side. In addition to that, the public transportation system is considered to be one of the best in the whole region, so, at least theoretically, it should not be a problem for a tourist to get to their final destination. Keeping all this in mind, we tried to compile a more or less consistent local guide, that would cover most of the essentials in three days. Now, we can’t promise that by following it you will see every Dubaian landmark, but it will definitely come in handy for those of you, who are here for a short stay.
We recommend to start your adventure in the city by going straight to the roots – to a place where it all started. Dubai is usually being seen as the center of Middle Eastern tourism, with all of its skyscrapers, luxury hotels and supercars. But it’s worth mentioning, that the old part of Dubai is still there, pretty well preserved by local authorities. It is called Al Bastakiya, and should be one of the first places on your visiting list. The district itself is not that big, and it won’t take much time to cover the whole thing from start to finish. First buildings date back to 1890s, so you’ll have a good chance to see the way buildings looked like back in the day.
Just a walking distance away is another local landmark – Al Fahidi Fort, that is also a home of Dubai Museum. Both names a pretty self explanatory, so you know what to expect. Al Fahidi is considered to be the oldest building in Dubai – dating back to 1787, it was built to prevent neighbourhood tribes from entering the town. To these very days, it has been preserved in perfect condition, and is a very popular attraction among local and regional history lovers. Besides the fort itself, you will be able to find Dubai Museum here, where local guides will be more than happy to walk you through the numerous interactive exhibitions. Overall, Al Bastakiya district in general, and Al Fahidi Fort in particular, would be a perfect place to start your tour of Dubai. After all, knowing where it all started from, would significantly help you to understand the enormous progress this country made in just 50 years.
After you’ve finished getting acquainted with the Emirati history, you can start exploring its rich culture. And Deira, old part of the city, with its souqs and Abra stations, would be a great place to do just that. There are three major souqs (old markets) in Dubai – Gold souq, Old souq and Spice souq. The most famous of all three is Gold souq. Believe it or not, but people from all over the world come here just to find something very special – something that can not be found anywhere else in the world. Bargaining is a must in here, so get ready to push and shove through many great deals around. Gold souq is also very famous for its yellow gold, that is a little bit shinier and darker, which makes it a must-have for every gold aficionado in the world. Then there’s a Spice souq, where you will be able to find every spice imaginable (surprise!). Cinnamon, saffron, cloves, mace – you name it, they have it. This would also be a perfect place to buy some nuts, almonds or dried fruits – the price is cheap, and selection is endless. Finally, there’s a Old (or Textile) souq. As you might have guessed already, here you will be able to find any cloth imaginable – silk, siffon, cotton or anything else that you may have in mind. But besides different textiles, this place sells a pretty good selection of local souvenirs for a ridiculously cheap price, so if you promised your friends back home to bring something special, here would be a perfect place to start looking for that “something”. Spice souq and Textile souq are divided by Dubai Creek, which is a landmark in itself. It can be crossed for just 1 AED in an abra – an old local wooden boat. Get your cameras ready – the trip last for just around 5 minutes, but you’ll have plenty of great photo opportunities, especially after or during the sunset.
After you have done exploring an old part of Dubai, it’s time to dive into another cultural feature of the local tourism – desert safari. Safaris have become a big part of UAE identity, and you simply can not miss an opportunity to try it out. It all usually starts with a 30 – 50 minute drive to the desert, where you will have a chance to experience dune bashing – an extreme driving course through the desert dunes, that, if done right, will leave you speechless. If you are not a big fan of bumpy rides in Jeeps, then you may ask to omit the whole thing altogether. After you are done with dune bashing, your driver will take you to the traditional camp right in the middle of the desert, where you will have a late dinner, and experience belly and kandura dance shows. Here, you will also be able to watch a falcon show, ride a camel, drive a buggy or grab a snowboard, and ride some sand dunes. How cool is that?! And when all is said and done, you will be glad to finally get into your bed, to have some well deserved rest, after a pretty eventful day.
Now it’s time to experience something completely different. Let’s dive head first into downtown Dubai – one of the most recognizable places in the world. If you have ever read an article or seen video about Dubai, then it probably had some visuals of downtown in one form or the other. The famous skyline, with Burj Khalifa at its helm, is considered to be one of the best in the whole world. Here, and we can absolutely guarantee it, you will always see or discover something new.
We suggest you start your downtown trip with a visit to Dubai Mall – the biggest mall in the region. Please keep in mind, that even if you plan to just have look at some shops, your trip won’t probably end up being short. The place is huge, and very popular not only among tourist from all over the world, but also among the local audience. Here you will be able to find (almost) everything – from luxury clothes and jewellery brands, to Hollywood prop collectibles and video games. A huge food court, along with a dedicated area for some pricier restaurants, will come in handy when you will finally realize that you are very hungry after a couple of hours of shopping. This place is also a perfect spot for family outings – just hop into Dubai Aquarium, and see some exotic sea fauna. The mall itself is often being redesigned and shuffled, so the constant addition of new shops and joints should come as no surprise. One of the latest additions was Apple Store, that opened a couple of months ago. Its main feature is a set of huge moving glass panels, that closely resembles the ones installed in Apple’s new headquarters’ cafeteria in Cupertino. All in all, we can not stress this enough – even if you are sick and tired of the shopping malls, you must visit this one, because shopping here never feels the same.
After you’ve done exploring every nook and cranny of Dubai Mall, it’s time to get on top of the world (well, almost). From the interior of Dubai Mall, you can get inside one of the world’s fastest elevators, that would get you to one of the two observation decks inside Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world. Not for long though – by 2020, Dubai is scheduled to have Dubai Creek Tower, that’s going to be even taller. Anyway, on your way up, you will be able to see the brief history of Dubai’s development, projected on the LED panes in the elevator itself. You have two choices – either visit floor 125, or go even higher, to the so called At The Top Sky observatory, where the vantage point would be even better. You will have approximately 45 minutes to see around, and have have a look at Dubai from up top. Please keep in mind, that we strongly recommend reserving your tickets far in advance – you can always do it online – to avoid any unfortunate incidents. And yes, sunsets are the busiest hours, as you might imagine.
After gazing at one of the fastest developing cities in the world from above, we think it would be a great idea to visit At.Mosphere – the world’s tallest restaurant, conveniently located in the same building. Here, again, you have two choices – either go the the restaurant itself, or just visit the nearby lounge – it’s all up to you. The place is far from the cheapest in town, but hey – it is Dubai, and you are still on top of the world. Reservations here are a must (the place is pretty popular, as you might imagine), so please plan your visit in advance. And we mean it when we say it – getting that window table will be pretty hard. We warned you.
It’s time to go back to earth now – back to Dubai Mall and outside, right to Dubai Fountain. Designed by WET Design, and stretching for 275 meters, this is the second biggest dancing fountain in the whole world, second only to The Fountain in Manila. From 6 PM onward, you will be able to experience a show every single hour, accompanied by different musical performances. But be careful – the space around the fountain fills up pretty fast, so you better come 20 – 15 minutes earlier, to get the best observation spot. And there’s a catch – remember that Apple Store in Dubai Mall we mentioned earlier? Well, the glass panels are usually being moved out of the way during the performance, so you can use the balcony of a store as your personal observation deck.
Finally, there’s something special we would like to add to your itinerary for the second day. Built a mere year and a half ago, Dubai Opera became one of the most recognizable spots in the whole downtown really fast. This beautiful establishment, built in a shape of a dhow (a traditional sailing vessel), can host a variety of events – from rock concerts and intimate opera performances, to stage musicals and squash tournaments. You can always check the schedule and the ongoing repertoire online, and instantly book a ticket if you find something you like. We really advice you to give it a chance, even if you are not really into stage performances – give a try, and you may find out that you have always loved musicals! As of the moment of writing, the venue sells tickets for a very broad range of events, both for traditional art lovers (Aïda and Eugene Onegin from Polish National Opera) and for those, who define art in a broader way (Jersey Boys and Evita).
The third day of your trip should definitely start with a trip to Burj Al Arab – after all, it’s not like there are tons of seven star hotels around, right? Completed in 1999, it stands on an artificial island in the middle of the Gulf, and is connected with the mainland by a bridge. One important thing to know though – you can’t just walk inside this sail shaped architecture masterpiece. The entrance is allowed only for those, who have reservations – room or restaurant that is. Before stepping onto that bridge, security officer would ask you to show a proof of reservation, so they are sure that you are not there just to look around. Once you are inside, get ready to be amazed – the lobby alone would be enough to blow your mind away. Every room is a suite, and the service is legendary – just as it should be in a seven star hotel on an artificial island. If you would ask us, we would definitely recommend to visit Al Mahara – a seafood restaurant, that incorporates a transparent aquarium glass wall into its design. The view is magical!
After you are done with an epiphany of Arabian luxury, you can move next door into another signature Dubaian property – Souq Madinat Jumeirah. Remember those souqs you’ve been to on the first day? Well, this one was build to resemble old Arabian markets, but with a touch of that exceptional Arabian luxury. Here, you’ll encounter the mixture of history and modern convenience – the numerous amount of different shops, stalls and cafes nestles inside a huge air conditioned structure, where you can spend a couple of hours just wandering around. You can even visit a theatre if that’s your thing – Madinat Theatre usually hosts around ten performances a month, so we’d recommend to check the schedule before deciding to spend your time watching a play. Madinat Theatre and a nearby Madinat Arena are usually being used as a central hub during Dubai International Film Festival in December. So if you are in town during the last month of the year, you might as well spend a couple of hours watching movies with Hollywood celebrities sitting right next to you. But, as always, we we urge you to check the schedule first.
Now, it would be a shame to visit Dubai, and spend the whole time indoors, don’t you think so? That’s why your next destination in the list should definitely be JBR The Walk. Located next to luxury high-rises of Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residences was specifically designed with international tourism community in mind, that would definitely want to come here and have a look at slightly different Dubai. The Walk is 1.7 kilometres long, and is practically covered by a numerous amount of cafes and food joints. Haute couture shops and illuminated fountains are standing right next to local family run bakeries, and everybody feels at home here. La Liga fans would be delighted to know, that the only Real Madrid Cafe in the world can be found right here in JBR, so if you are a true Madridista, you must check this place out. Overall, this place would be a perfect destination for those, who just want to have a stroll along the beach, and carelessly enjoy the slow buzz around them.
Dubai is known for creating all kinds of incredibly mesmerizing things, but a lot of people tend to ignore the fact, that Dubai itself is a stand alone treasure of human creativity. And we believe, that there is no better place to absorb the overall glory of this beautiful city, than from a board of a yacht or a boat. This way, you will be able to have a look at Burj Al Arab without needing a reservation, you will gaze upon a beautiful skyline of Dubai, you will sail along the whole Palm Jumeirah, and will meet an astonishing Arabian sunset. You can even go check The World islands out, or sail straight into the newly opened Dubai Water Canal, and have a look at Business Bay and Habtoor City skyscrapers from a slightly different perspective. All in all, the choice is yours – the final route will be tailor-made according to your own preferences. Before we move forward, we should mention the fact that usually the process of booking a marine trip would take a lot of effort and time, especially for tourists, who do not know their way around the city. But not anymore – now you are able to book your yacht trip anytime you want – even right after you finish reading this blog post. CharterClick lets you do it in an easy, convenient and fast manner – in the same way as you would book you flight ticket or a tour to Burj Khalifa. Just tell us when, what time and how long you would like to go for (don’t forget to mention the number of people you are bringing with you as well), and you will see all the available options. If you you are not sure what boat to choose, you can always have a look at its photos and features by proceeding to its page. And once you have decided, just book and pay for it online right there – that’s it. Now check your inbox – the confirmation is already there, with all the location info and a phone of your captain. See, isn’t that cool? The whole itinerary created just in a mater of minutes!
We hope that this small list would be of a great use for all of you out there, who are venturing into Dubai for a very first time. And don’t worry – we are planning to release lists and recommendations like this on a regular basis, so you always have a material to get inspired by.
Until next time!