Dubai is one of those cities that’s so much more than meets the eye. Beyond the glossy building exteriors, there’s a wealth of award-winning restaurants, cultural hubs and incredible souks that are a stone’s throw from the melting pot that is Dubai.
For the longest time, I’d always disregarded Dubai as just another city, one that’s glitz and the shiny cityscape is lacking in culture somehow. If you’ve ever been to Dubai, you might know what I mean.
Everything looks so incredibly new and shiny, which isn’t a bad thing but for some reason, I assumed that would mean it’s missing that jigsaw piece that makes up other cities like; Tokyo, London or New York. How very wrong I was, you just need to scratch the surface to uncover a treasure-trove of culture, art and food that dreams are made of.
Take a look at some of the very best things to do on your next trip to Dubai – and with all our posts, if you need any tips or advice, just pop us a message, we’re always happy to help.
1.) See the historic fishing town of Al Bastakiya
Before Dubai was, well… Dubai, the area was scattered with small fishing villages that dotted the shoreline. I’m all for the glossiness of Dubai but I equally love to see some of the older parts of the city.
Take a moment from the towering city and head over to the Bastakiya Quarter, which has stood the test of time (even if this mega-metropolis of a city has grown around it).
Visit some of the historic buildings, visit the smaller souks and discover some of the beautiful architecture that makes up ‘old-Dubai’ it’s somewhere I loved visiting on my last visit to the city.
If you really want to escape some of that midday heat, hop over to the Dubai Museum to learn more about this region.
2.) Spend a night in the desert
If you’re anything like me you’ll be itching to explore outside of a city after a few days of city life. One of the things that struck me with Dubai is that it’s quite unique, once you leave the fringe of the city skyscrapers you realise pretty fast that you’re smack-bang in the gorgeous desert landscapes of the UAE.
There are quite a few ways to spend a night in the desert, some focus on gorgeous luxurious Bedouin-style tents, while others focus on exploring the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Whatever you choose, it’s got to be one of my favourite ways to see the sunset!
3.) Watch the sunrise over the city
Arguably one of the best ways to see the sunrise is via the age-old craft of hobby of air ballooning. To be honest, I was a little nervous at the thought of hot-air ballooning due to the height but it’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, especially at sunrise. It’s well worth waking up early for.
Best of all, you’ll be back in the city in time for brunch and a little dip in the pool!
4.) Indulge on brunch
Speaking about brunch, Dubai is quickly earning itself a reputation for world-class food, dishes and award-winning restaurants. I’ve started a pretty epic love affair with brunch lately, especially as it allows me a little longer in bed… and you’re not judged for eating cake for breakfast! Ha!
Head over to Bubbalicious for a hearty spot of brunch that will fill the hungriest of tummies! One of the best things about brunch at Bubbalicious is that it mixes a typical style of brunch (with a few bubbles, of course) that are mixed with regional dishes from around the Middle East. It’s the perfect way to fill up on some pretty yummy treats.
5.) Explore the souks for spices and gold
Once a thriving melting pot of local trade, the souks of Dubai are still a great place to explore. Popular amongst visitors, they do get a little busy but that shouldn’t stop you visiting (just embrace the crowds and enjoy it).
On the other hand, if you want to avoid most of the visitors, arrive in the early morning, a time when the souks traditionally thrived (as it kept locals out of the midday heat). As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not a morning person but I’d definitely aim to head here as early as possible.
Grab yourself some regional spices, peruse the gold souks and even try your hand at bartering with local owners, which is a skill in itself!
6.) Try your hand at falconry
A historic practice which is now open to us travellers that visit Dubai, Falcon handling is the art of ‘handling’ the falcon’s that are so very popular in Dubai (yes, I know I just used the same words to describe it 😀 🙂 but you’ll see what I mean when you visit).
Book yourself an excursion, learn more about how these gorgeous birds live and try your hand at guiding a Falcon in the desert landscape. Falconry, by the way, is an important part of the history here and is even classed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Item to protect and help raise awareness of falconry.
7.) See the old fishing boats at Bur Dubai Abra Dock
After spending the afternoon in the glitz of the city, head over to Bur Dubai Abra Dock where you can walk the boardwalk and experience some of the older trades that once sustained the region. I loved spotting them on my last visit.
Nowadays, only a few of the boats still operate as fishing vessels but they’re all still around for us to enjoy. For a relaxing coast tour of the city, hop on board and enjoy the ocean views, just don’t forget to pack your sunscreen for this one!
8.) Wander through the Dubai Miracle Garden
Dubai’s Miracle Garden is a uniquely designed garden that sits pretty within the city itself. Cultivated and crafted to show some of the most beautiful gardens in the UAE. Make sure you visit early in the day and discover some of the gorgeous gardens that are truly works of art.
I’m itching to get back to Dubai just to see the Miracle Garden, especially after heading over to the Cloud Forest in Singapore (which, as you can guess, I totally loved).
9.) Take in the views from the Burj Khalifa
You can’t go on a Dubai Holiday without getting to the top of the world’s tallest building. Although there’s no bad time to visit the top of the Burj Khalifa, it’s extra special around twilight when you can watch the city transform into a glittering jewel.
My biggest tip here is to buy your tickets before you arrive which will mean you skip some of that dreaded queuing which is exxxxxtra long around sunset.
10.) Gorge at Chutney’s
Arguably one of the best Indian restaurants in Dubai, Chutney’s has earned itself the reputation as the restaurant that can’t be missed in the city. Steering clear of nosebleed, high-priced dishes, Chutney’s focuses on yummy food that’ll leave your pockets with enough change for a gelato!
Don’t forget to try their yummy black lentil dish that’s just too good to miss.
11.) Visit the Third Line Gallery
Dubai is quickly becoming known as one of the best cities in the world to experience and see all types of art. Galleries, museums and cultural hubs are springing up across the city. Make sure to hop over to the Third Line Gallery that showcases thematic collections that change every few months.
The focus on contemporary Middle-Eastern artists makes this for an eclectic mix of cultures, pieces and interpretations for us all to enjoy.