Big, bigger, Dubai! Well, some might use the word ostentatious to describe this city at the Persian golf. And yes, in Dubai the motto clearly is „the bigger the better“. I have been to Dubai twice now and had a great time – The city offers plenty of things to do, be it shopping, relaxing, enjoying all kinds of great food or just having a good time – and always with a sunshine guarantee. Yet there is also a much underrated cultural side to Dubai that is worth a visit. So if you are thinking of going there I have compiled my top 10 things to do for every first-time visitor to the city of wonders.
Said to be the tallest building in the world, this tower can be seen from far away when you fly or drive into Dubai. When you visit make it a priority to see this fantastic site. From the top you’ll have a fantastic view over the city. I recommend that you book your tickets in advance here and then just print them out before your time slot. If you want a really spectacular view reserve the time slot at 5:30 pm. Then you’ll be up during sundown, twilight and full darkness – beautiful to see the city going from busy hot days to sparkling nights.
The biggest mall I have ever been to (more than 1500 stores!) – a shoppers paradise. And the best part of it – the mall is connected to the Burj Khalifa so you can have a great day at the mall, go up on the tower and then have a nice dinner in the food court – try the Sushi place, I loved it. There is also a Cheesecake Factory for us Europeans who have never had the most decadent cheesecake and a few other nice bakeries and restaurants to try. Just stay clear of the typical Fast Food places. For us shopaholics the mall is the best I have ever been to. You can find almost all different types of retailers from luxury brands like Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, to high street stores such as GAP, Zara, H&M. Home retailers Pottery Barn, West Elm, Muji – you name it. What I liked is that there are brands that I don’t have back home – can you imagine me walking out of the store with a huge bag filled with Bath and Body Works goodies? I also bought a nice new Canon DSLR; the prices are much lower than back home and I even got a discount. Don’t forget to go down to the basement to find a Japanese Daiso and a Carrefour – I love exploring foreign supermarkets.
At 7 p.m. you can also go outside of the mall to the fountain to take a look at the water show. On the opposite side of the lake are a few nice restaurants where you can have a drink while watching the show. Quite spectacular – just make sure that there is no rain shower that day – they can’t cope with a little bit of natural water.
The world’s largest indoor aquarium it is located in the middle of the Dubai mall. If you like to take a trip underwater you can buy a ticket to walk under an archway into the aquarium – if that’s a bit too much for you just take a look at the deep blue and the starry sky above.
Located in the south of Dubai on the way to Abu Dhabi, this new part of town is great if you want to spend some time at the beach. The outdoor walkway hosts restaurants, cafés, shops – all the things you need to spend a nice and relaxing afternoon. I went there on the day I flew back to Germany (my flight left at 1 a.m.) to relax a bit before going home. From the beach you have a great view onto The Palm Atlantis Hotel. If you should stay in a hotel without a beach it’s a great place to go to enjoy the summer weather – all year round.
What can I say? I love a good amusement park. And I have never been to an outdoor waterpark in my life before Dubai! The WildWadi was a great fun day out. It’s located next to the Jumeirah Hotel and if you stay at the hotel you’ll have free entry during your stay. I don’t know how often I took the waterway around the park where jets boost you up and you twist and turn on your swim ring. And don’t forget to try the Jumeirah Sceirah – the drop down waterslide – and don’t forget your goggles!
Dubai City Tour
Getting around Dubai can be a bit tricky. The public transport is not too great and driving in Dubai is scary as hell. If you want to go and see the old parts of town I recommend to take one of the city tours. I had the pleasure of meeting a nice tour guide named Chubby from Sri Lanka who spoke perfect German – without ever having been to Europe.
The tour I took lasted for about 4 hours. I was picked up at my hotel in the morning and brought to a central place where I had to get into a very nice little air-conditioned tour bus. From there we drove around the city, headed to the beach at Burj Al Arab to take pictures, visited the Jumeirah Mosque, got some insight into how Dubai developed at the Dubai Museum, took a boat to cross the creek and wandered the souks before I was brought back to my hotel. The best part of the tour though are all the insights you receive from the tour guide. Little anecdotes about life in Dubai by the guides made this tour especially memorable – did you know that they are planning to build an air-conditioned beach?
Book the tour from get your guide here!
If you are looking to hunt for treasures then have a go at the traditional Souks in Dubai. My visit was part of the guided tour I took which in te end proved to be the best decision. Small and narrow streets host a variety of different little stores that are dedicated to a different theme depending on the street you are in. Beware though – the haggling and bargaining can be a bit much for some people – just pass by and don’t react to the merchants if you want to be left alone. Be sure to check out the spice market to bring back some authentic Arabic spices for a fraction of the price you’re paying at home!
JW Marriott Marquis – Vault
Want to grab an exquisite drink and party to great club music? Check out Vault at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel! I celebrated my birthday at the hotel and went up to their bar/club after dinner for a delicious cocktail. From there you’ll have a fantastic view over the city – I sure did. The club has an exclusive vibe without being pretentious. It made me feel like I was at a special event – the right surrounding for a birthday party!
Dubai has one of the best international cuisines that I have every tasted. You can get anything you want at any time of the day. Which makes deciding where to eat especially hard. All the malls have good restaurants if you want to have something decent without breaking the bank. I was lucky to stay at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel during my time in Dubai where you’ll find several different restaurants that are top. If you want to know more about the local cuisine check out the blog A to Za’atar for some insights and tips into the food culture of Dubai!
I hope you enjoyed my Top 10 of things to do for your first-time visit to Dubai. Tell me, do you have any more tips?
Be sure to check out my vlog during my stay!