We have spent two weeks in the United Arab Emirates during the summer of 2022. Two weeks are sufficient time to visit most of the attractions that UAE can offer to the tourists. So, you can absolutely rely on this article if you want to understand what the must-see sights of Dubai & Abu Dhabi are. Now you can discover Dubai & Abu Dhabi with us, and understand the differences in order to make the best choice where to spend your time. So to answer the questions: Dubai or Abu Dhabi – let’s review here 10 facts to consider before you choose.
Dubai is the most populated city in the United Arab Emirates, and the capital of the Emirate of Dubai. The most populated of the 7 monarchies which together form the United Arab Emirates. Dubai was established in the 18th century as a small fishing village, the city grew rapidly in the early 21st century with a focus on tourism and luxury. It has the second most five-star hotels in the world, and the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, which is over a half a mile tall.
In the eastern Arabian Peninsula on the coast of the Persian Gulf, it is also a major global transport hub for passengers and cargo. Oil revenue helped accelerate the development of the city, which was already a major mercantile hub. A centre for regional and international trade since the early 20th century. Dubai’s economy relies on revenues from trade, tourism, aviation, real estate, and financial services. The city has a population of around 3.4 million (as of 2021).
5 reasons why to choose Dubai
1. The most impressive skyline in the world
If you ask people where you can find the most impressive skyline in the world, for sure you will hear answers like New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Shanghai, but Dubai has definitely reached the top of this list with the uncountable number of on-going investments and constructions of skyscrapers all along the city. You can’t get enough of Dubai and there are so many great viewing points & terraces to take in the Dubai skyline.
2. The tallest building in the world
The Burj Khalifa is also called in English the Khalifa Tower. And until its inauguration people called it simply the Burj Dubai prior to its inauguration in 2010. It is maybe the world’s most famous skyscraper with a total height of 829.8 m and a roof height of 828 m. The Burj Khalifa has been the tallest structure and building in the world since its topping out in 2009, supplanting Taipei 101, the previous holder of that status.
Construction of the Burj Khalifa began in 2004, with the exterior completed five years later in 2009. The building was opened in 2010 as part of a new development called Downtown Dubai. It was designed to be the centerpiece of large-scale, mixed-use development. The decision to construct the building was based on the government’s decision to diversify from an oil-based economy, and for Dubai to gain international recognition. The building is named in honor of the former president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
3. Endless luxury, shopping & entertainment
Dubai has 65 malls in a city of just over 3 million people. There are some new constructions as well including Dubai Square, a megamall set to be the biggest in the world when it is finished. Among those 65 currently the two most famous are the Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates. They say that the number of malls is because the city is unbearably hot for most time of the year. While malls are large, open, climate-controlled spaces, they are used as community centers and public squares where people can gather, enjoy entertainment, or experience social events.
The Dubai Mall is the biggest mall of Dubai and the second largest mall in the world after the Iran Mall by total land area. It is part of the 20-billion-dollar downtown complex (called Downtown Dubai) adjacent to the iconic Burj Khalifa, and includes over 1,200 shops. In 2011, it was the most visited building on the planet, attracting over 54 million visitors each year. Dubai Mall opened on 4 November 2008, with about 1000 retailers. It also has a 250-room luxury hotel, 22 cinema screens plus 120 restaurants and cafes. The Mall has over 14,000 parking spaces across 3 car parks, with valet services and a car locator ticketing system. The easiest though it to approach it by metro. But be prepared with comfortable shoes as you need to walk many kilometres if you would like to see it all.
4. You can go skiing in the desert
Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort with 22,500 square meters of indoor ski area. The park maintains a temperature of -1 degree to 2 degrees Celsius throughout the year. It is a part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world. It was developed by Majid Al Futtaim Group, which also operates the Mall of the Emirates.
Opened in November 2005, the indoor resort features an 85-metre-high indoor mountain (equivalent to a 25-story building) with 5 slopes of varying steepness and difficulty, including a 400-metre-long run, the world’s first indoor black diamond run, and various features (boxes, rails, kickers) that are changed on a regular basis. A quad lift and a tow lift carry skiers and snowboarders up the mountain. Equipment such as skis and jackets are provided with the ticket and one can buy equipment in the nearby stores.
5. More than 1,000km of beaches to enjoy
As locals say there really is only one beach in Dubai but it has different names along it. Jumeirah beach runs for 60km, the entire length of the city. The water is clean and the beaches are clean.
- Tip 1: The JBR Beach offers white sand and turquoise blue waters. But there is more to love here than the sand and swimming. Head to “The Walk”, the leisurely promenade along the waterfront. Here international restaurants, fashion boutiques and luxury hotels (Sofitel, Sheraton, Hilton, Ritz Carlton…) have made The JBR Beach one of the city’s most popular spot. In the side streets you will find plenty of cafés with terrace, refreshing juice bars, gelato kiosks, surf shops, markets and cinema too. If arts is what you are after, then JBR Beach is the place to go. You will find every sort of summer bags and crafted beach towels.
- Tip 2: La Mer is also called as the eclectic beachfront of Dubai. It is packed with high-standard coffee shops and juice bars, some beauty and fashion stores and some ice cream stands. You can enjoy here the beach for free, but be prepared as there is no shadow – so take your umbrella or sun hat to avoid the strong rails.
Best things to do in Dubai
More tips for Dubai
Abu Dhabi is the capital and the second-most populous city (after Dubai) of the United Arab Emirates. It is also the capital of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The city of Abu Dhabi is located on an island in the Persian Gulf, off the Central West Coast. As of 2021, Abu Dhabi’s urban area had an estimated population of 1.5 million, out of 2.9 million in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, as of 2016.
Please note, that starting from 15 June 2022 in line with the precautionary measures in force, all residents and tourists must show ‘green’ status on Alhosn App to enter almost all palaces, sites, mosques, entertainment parks, shopping malls, etc. That currently means:
- Visitors coming from outside the UAE and who face difficulties using Alhosn App they then can show an internationally approved vaccine certificate which testifies that they have taken two doses and a negative PCR test taken during the 14 days.
- Visitors who are not vaccinated must present a negative PCR result no more than 48 hours.
- Please always check the latest precautionary measures before your travel, to avoid the rejection.
5 reasons why to choose Abu Dhabi
1. Enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere with less crowd & tourists
Dubai is much bigger and has more entertainment options, nightlife, family activities, luxury hotels, and plenty of budget options. In contrast, Abu Dhabi is slightly more expensive. Despite being more expensive, Abu Dhabi is a more peaceful location with a more relaxed atmosphere.
You wouldn’t guess, but Abu Dhab was even voted the third most relaxing city in the world in 2021. Well there are obvious reasons for that especially if you compare the city to Dubai.
- One thing is that much less tourist are visiting Abu Dhabi than Dubai. In 2019, Dubai ranked 7th among the world’s most popular cities with 16.33 million tourists. Abu Dhabi was in 94th place with 2.57 million tourists.
- The other thing that Abu Dhabi has much less expats than Dubai.
- Besides that the current metro area population of Abu Dhabi in 2022 is 1,5 million, while Dubai is 3,4 million.
2. You can visit the Presidential Palace – Qasr al Watan
In 2020, the Qasr Al Watan Presidential Palace was nominated for the World Travel Awards as the main cultural tourist attraction in the Middle East. To celebrate the heritage of the country, Sheikhs Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the United Arab Emirates) and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces) decided to open the palace to the public in 2019.
Prior to its opening, the palace was used only for official purposes. Mainly hosting foreign leaders of states, and for meetings of the country’s supreme council and federal cabinet. Even after being opened to the public, the palace continues to be used for these purposes.
3. The largest mosque of the UAE: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the world’s largest mosques and an architectural masterpiece that beautifully combines Islamic architecture and design. If you would like to visit it, you need to get to Gate 6 entrance, recently this one is opened for public. It’s important to keep the dress code, otherwise you won’t be able to enter.
Once you got through the shopping mall and all the security checking you can approach the Grand Mosque by free golf car taxis or walk on the moving pavements. The mosque is very big, and is always packed with a lot visitors, therefore you can only move on the paths dedicated for visitors. Amazing experience, really worth it!
- Tip: You can find the best viewing point about Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque at the Oasis of Dignity Viewing Terrace.
4. Be a Ferrari driver at the largest indoor theme park of the world
You can enjoy a one-on-one experience in the car of your dreams. In Abu Dhabi Ferrari World, you can choose this driving option and experience the thrill around Yas Island roads behind the wheel of a Ferrari. The Ferrari World is also the home to the world’s fastest rollercoaster, the highest loop ride, the tallest space-frame structure ever built on the planet and over 40 record-breaking attractions, this is the ultimate destination for non-stop, hyper-adrenaline, heart-racing fun.
5. Flights can be cheaper to arrive to Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai
Both cities have similar prices for food, drinks and taxis. However, the cost of hotel accommodation in Abu Dhabi on average is cheaper than Dubai. Besides that we have found that flights to Abu Dhabi are often cheaper than flights to Dubai. Especially if you don’t mind flying low cost, you can check WizzAir‘s flights as they have many connecting routes for several European locations directly with Abu Dhabi.
Best things to do in Abu Dhabi
More tips for Abu Dhabi
- Abu Dhabi Bucket List
- Let’s visit Qasr Al Watan!
- Read our complete UAE collection of articles
- Book your trip here!
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