Let me help you plan your Abu Dhabi itinerary with these best things to do in Abu Dhabi and places to visit in Abu Dhabi!
I recently visited Abu Dhabi for 5 days and I LOVED it! Yes, I’ve been to Dubai before and this things to do in Abu Dhabi post certainly isn’t comparing ‘is Abu Dhabi better than Dubai’ but I know many people wonder if Abu Dhabi is worth visiting and ‘what to do in Abu Dhabi?’
I found Abu Dhabi full of cultural attractions which included art, history and religion, and adventurous things to do like kayaking and the world’s fastest roller coaster! Let me tell you now that there ARE a lot of fun things to do in Abu Dhabi.
Whether you’re in the planning stages of a holiday to Abu Dhabi or you’ve got everything booked, keep reading for the best things to do in Abu Dhabi! Yallah!
Things to do in Abu Dhabi
Map of Abu Dhabi with Abu Dhabi Tourist Attractions
To help you plan your itinerary for Abu Dhabi, here are all of the places to see in Abu Dhabi and places to go in Abu Dhabi noted on a map.
Like all cities, to save you time and energy it’s best to look at the map and plan to visit attractions in one part of the city together and then focus on another section on another day.
In this Abu Dhabi travel blog, I also help you group together and plan your days like recommending seeing the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Jubail Mangrove Park together as they are both on one side of the city with not much else around and there’s no point in going over there twice in one trip.
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Without a doubt, the top place to visit in Abu Dhabi is Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque because it’s stunning and one-of-a-kind but also because it’s the iconic Abu Dhabi photo and photo spot!
The mosque is free to enter so get this on your list of places to visit in Abu Dhabi for free and the mosque is open all week for most of the day.
I do advise going to the mosque just before sunset and then you’ll get to see it in daytime golden hour and also at night, plus you’ll be there for sunset prayer and hear the call to prayer which is truly magical.
Scroll down to number 26 on this list of Abu Dhabi things to do to see where to get an amazing photo of the mosque from where you can get the whole mosque in the frame with water in front.
2. Qasr AlWatan
Qasr in Arabic means palace which is a word you’ll get used to in Abu Dhabi. So Qasr AlWatan means ‘Palace of the Nations‘.
This is high on my list of things to do in Abu Dhabi because it is absolutely incredible to visit and easily one of the top Abu Dhabi attractions. I could not get over the grander here!
You have to purchase a ticket online in advance or at the door and a bus will take you a short journey to the palace. Here you can walk around the huge courtyard before going inside.
This palace in Abu Dhabi was only opened in 2015 and it’s a working presidential palace so it’s in incredible condition and built with a mix of modern and traditional Arabic architecture.
You might have seen photos of people standing in a gold art piece in Abu Dhabi and this is into Qasr AlWatan so if you’re searching for Abu Dhabi Instagram spots, this is one of the best ones!
3. Qasr AlHosn
Another palace to visit in Abu Dhabi is Qasr AlHosn, this has a very different look to Qasr AlWatan but it’s fascinating to visit!
This is a fort and it’s actually the oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi has grown rapidly fast and visiting Qasr AlHosn is a great way to get an idea of what this part of Abu Dhabi looked like before it developed as we see it today.
The museum is inside in air-con so it’s one of the good indoor activities in Abu Dhabi and then you go outside to see some more parts of the fort.
I really liked the square that Qasr AlHosn is located in, there are a few cafes around so be sure to combine this stop with a coffee or lunch on your Abu Dhabi itinerary,
And if you are Muslim, there are really amazing prayer rooms by The Espresso Lab which is a minute away from Qasr AlHosn.
4. Gold Coffee or Ice Cream at Emirates Palace
The Emirates Palace is so iconic. I’d go as far as staying it’s the second most iconic place in Abu Dhabi after the Sheikh Zayed mosque so you have to add this to your list of places to go in Abu Dhabi.
The hotel is world-famous and a luxury 5-star hotel and thankfully you don’t have to stay here to visit.
You can enter the Emirates Palace for free, have a look around and dine in one of the cafes or restaurants.
I recommend going to Le Cafe as I did which is on the ground floor of the hotel and no reservations are needed. Here you can order a variety of drinks including a Gold Cappuccino, a Gold Matcha Latte and Gold covered Ice Cream.
You don’t have to book a ticket in advance but if you want to so it’s all paid for, or as a gift for someone else you can book this Le Cafe package which includes the Gold Cappuccino, and a Coffee or Tea and a slice of cake.
They are priced higher than usual drinks and they don’t taste that different but how often can you say that you have drank or eaten gold! Only in Abu Dhabi, that’s what I say and why I had to add it to my own things to do in Abu Dhabi!
To watch my time in Abu Dhabi, have a look at my Abu Dhabi travel vlog here:
5. Louvre Abu Dhabi
Yes, the Louvre is not just in Paris! There is one in Abu Dhabi too and I loved visiting it!
I’m not hugely into art galleries and museums but the impressive architecture of the Louvre Abu Dhabi was enough to impress me.
As far as Abu Dhabi tourist attractions go, the Louvre is high on the list.
It is surrounded by some lovely and tranquil gardens with an amazing view of the city skyline. Go inside and you are taken through a maze of art and sculpture pieces from around the world and at every turn, you get a glimpse of the water surrounding the museum.
At the end, you go outside and can sit by the water, have a meal or coffee in the restaurant and take in impressive dome structure from the inside.
I went for lunch at Aptitude Cafe after my visit to the Louvre which has an amazing view of the building, a great vibe and sells healthy drinks and meals so I really recommend it!
6. Kayaking at The Louvre
There are 3 great options for kayaking in Abu Dhabi and one of them is at the Louvre which you might not have expected, I certainly didn’t until searching for what to do in Abu Dhabi.
Sea-Hawks Water Sports can take you out onto the Arabian Sea for 1 hour to see the architecture of the building from another perspective and to learn more about the museum.
7. Kayaking in Eastern Mangrove National Park
For a super relaxing but educational and interesting kayaking experience in Abu Dhabi, check out this 2 hour kayaking trip in Eastern Mangrove National Park.
This mangrove is thriving in around 60 species including turtles and fish and this kayaking trip in Abu Dhabi allows you to get close to the mangroves, learn about the importance of them to Abu Dhabi city and you’ll stop halfway through at a beach and can swim if you want.
This is the longest kayaking trip you’ll get in Abu Dhabi, below I give you the experience of kayaking in Jubail Mangrove Park which I did but this was just a 1-hour trip whereas this is 2 hours!
8. Kayaking in Jubail Mangrove Park
The third opportunity to kayak in Abu Dhabi is at Jubail Mangrove Park. Jubail is another one of the islands in Abu Dhabi but it is connected by a bridge.
This actually works well paired with a trip to the Louvre as they are on the same side of the city. I went to The Louvre at 12:00 and then to Jubail Mangrove at 15:00.
The kayaking experience is 1 hour and you go out with a group and leader. We didn’t kayak that far and we thought we’d kayak through more overgrown mangroves whereas most of it was in open water but we did stop at a sand island halfway through before heading back and it was a really unique thing to do in Abu Dhabi so we enjoyed it and our guide was great to chat to and helpful.
It’s also one of the good things to do in Abu Dhabi for families due to the ease of the kayaking and as a way to get out of the city and into nature.
9. Jubail Mangrove Park Board Walk
Jubail Mangrove Park is the first self-contained educational, nature and leisure destination of it’s kind in Abu Dhabi and has been designed to make people aware of the important ecological function of the mangrove which protects the Abu Dhabi coastline.
Being here is so calming and you can’t believe the city is so close.
There is a visitor centre which is where the boardwalk starts and the kayaking starts. The boardwalk is a short walk alongside the mangroves in a relaxing setting and is great for photo opportunities. There’s also a cafe at the visitor centre so you can stay and take in the views a little longer after your walk or kayaking session.
10. Evening Desert safari
Can you visit the UAE and not go on a desert safari?? Not really!
A desert safari is one of the fun things to do in Abu Dhabi! Yes, it is very touristy but it’s also a fun afternoon and evening and easy because you don’t have to think about a thing, the guides sort everything!
We got picked up at our hotel at 14:00 by our jeep guide and drove 1 hour into the Abu Dhabi dessert, we let down the tires a bit, met the other jeeps and the thrill of dune bashing started!
This is the most highly rated desert safari tour in Abu Dhabi and it’s a great price. Bookings are needed in advance so click here to check availability!
We drove up and down the dunes dune bashing for about an hour or so stopping to see some camels on the way too before arriving at our camp where we could go on the quad bikes, sandboarding or just walk along the dunes until sunset and then enjoyed a buffet and some entertainment.
Both my husband and I had been on a desert safari in Dubai and we nearly cancelled this activity as it was on our last day in Abu Dhabi and the last of our things to do in Abu Dhabi but we went and we enjoyed it so much, it’s touristy and not an authentic dessert experience but you have to enjoy it for what it is!
Here are more highly rated desert safaris in Abu Dhabi to book in advance:
11. Morning Sunrise Desert Safari
If you don’t have time for an evening safari on your Abu Dhabi holiday then you can do a morning safari or perhaps you’ve done an evening one before, this will offer you a new experience!
This is a highly rated and reviewed morning Safari for a great price which includes dune bashing, sandboarding and a camel ride.
A positive of a morning safari is benefitting from cooler temperatures, especially if visiting Abu Dhabi in summer.
12. Abu Dhabi Hop On Hop Off Bus
Abu Dhabi city is big and all Abu Dhabi tourist attractions are quite far from each other. As with many cities around the world, the best and easiest way to see them all is a hop-on-hop-off bus!
This bus will take you to the best Abu Dhabi tourist spots and give you information about the city on the way.
Some people think these are too touristy but honestly, they are convenient and great value for money.
Getting around Abu Dhabi on your own means hiring a car and driving or getting taxis but communication with taxi drivers can be hard and waiting for taxis each time and the cost of them do add up.
13. Sunbathe or Watersports on Saadiyat Beach
There are so many Abu Dhabi activities that it’s easy to forget that you can just head to the beach and chill in Abu Dhabi too!
One of the best beaches in Abu Dhabi and most desirable beaches is Saadiyat Beach which is a long stretch of white sand perfect for sunbathing and doing eco-friendly watersports. There is also a range of food and leisure outlets to help you give you a beach day in Abu Dhabi!
14. Saadiyat Beach Club
If you want an exclusive experience and day of luxury in Abu Dhabi then look into Saadiyat Beach Cub. They offer day passes which give access to their private beach, outdoor pool and cabana sunbeds.
15. Observation Deck at 300
For an amazing view of Abu Dhabi head to Observation Deck at 300! When planning your Abu Dhabi itinerary this pairs well with visiting the Emirates Palace, Qasr AlWatan and the Founders Memorial as it is close to them all!
16. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Easily one of the top things to do in Abu Dhabi and famous Abu Dhabi attractions is Ferrari World!
This is the only Ferrari branded theme park in the whole world located in the heart of Yas Island with the world’s fastest roller coaster because this is the UAE and Ferrari working together!
It’s great for families with young children and adults to visit on their own because it’s not all about the rides, there are shows, shopping and you can even drive your own Ferrari!
There are so many things to do on Yas Island which I’ll go into next in this list of things to do in Abu Dhabi!
17. Cycle Around Yas Marina Circuit for free
One of my friends told me about this, they went with their kids in the evening time and said it was great, especially in the cooler evening weather. Plus, how often can you bike around a real F1 track?
Yas Marina Circuit is open for cyclers, joggers and walkers to go around the track in a clockwise direction. This is actually one of the free things to do in Abu Dhabi as in partnership with Abu Dhabi cycling cub complimentary bikes are available for adults and children from ComYas village.
If you go in the evening, get there early as there are limited bikes available.
18. Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi
A waterpark is one of the best activities in Abu Dhabi in the hot months so welcome to Yas Waterworld located on Yas Island.
This waterpark is home to 45 rides, slides and attractions and has something for every water lover!
Related post: 5 Must-Try Yas Waterworld Rides in Abu Dhabi!
19. Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi
Want to visit some well-known household names? Get Warner Bros on your list of things to do in Abu Dhabi!
This is the world’s first-ever Warner Bros. branded indoor theme park meaning it’s perfect if you’re looking for indoor things to do in Abu Dhabi as it gets so hot outside during the day here and can be unbearable for children in the summer.
With 29 state of the art rides and lots of famous names like Scooby-do, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Tom and Jerry you’re bound to have a memorable day out by yourself or with the kids.
20. Yas Mall
I was searching for the best shopping mall in Abu Dhabi and there are not that many impressive shopping malls to be honest, not like Dubai with fountains and aquariums inside but Yas Mall is the largest shopping mall in Abu Dhabi and offers a great experience with all the shops you could ever want and plenty of food options.
21. Yas Bay
Sometimes in countries in the Gulf, you just want to walk and it can be hard to find areas to walk through.
Yas Bay is a great place to come to get some food, have a walk and see what takes your fancy. No need to book any attraction tickets in Abu Dhabi here just enjoy this waterfront leisure destination.
22. Yas Island Sightseeing Cruise
As you can see above, there are so many places to visit in Yas Island and Yas Island attractions and to see them all at a relaxed pace, why not take a sightseeing cruise in a traditional dhow boat?
This Yas Island sightseeing cruise leaves from Yas Marina and sails the waterways around Yas Island.
23. Climbing & Indoor Skydiving at CLYMB
Holidays are for trying new things and the UAE tries to do everything as the ‘best in the world’ ‘the biggest in the world’ ‘the highest in the world’, so at CLYMB located on Yas Island, you can do an indoor skydive in the worlds biggest indoor flight chamber as well as indoor climbing.
Again, this is one of the great indoor things to do in Abu Dhabi if it’s getting too hot for you outside!
24. Sir Bani Yas Safari
Earlier in this list of things to do in Abu Dhabi I mentioned a desert safari which actually had nothing to do with animals but this is a safari in Abu Dhabi that does!
Sir Bani Yas Safari gives a unique opportunity to see wildlife roam free in a protected environment off the coast of Abu Dhabi on Sir Bani Yas Island. Drive around in a 4×4 in search of some of the 17,000 animals including Arabian Oryx, ostriches, giraffes, hyenas and cheetahs.
If you are still planning your Abu Dhabi itinerary and accommodation, you can actually stay on Sir Bani Yas Island in 5-star accommodation!
This is definitely one of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi and the best places to visit in Abu Dhabi, especially as a family!
25. Abu Dhabi Pearl Journey
This is one of the Abu Dhabi things to do I missed and I’m really gutted about it so please try and do it for me!
Take a 90-minute boat ride on a traditional pearling dhow boat to learn about the history of pearling and how this contributed to the growth of the UAE.
It’s a lovely experience where you get to sit on Arabian cushions and try Arabic coffee and dates with your guide.
The trip leaves from the Anantara Eastern Mangroves Abu Dhabi Hotel which is a beautiful hotel and sight to see itself!
26. Speedboat Tour around Mangrove National Park
If kayaking isn’t your thing as mentioned earlier in this list of things to do in Abu Dhabi and you want some adrenaline, check out this self-drive speedboat tour around Mangrove National Park!
What’s even more unique about this Abu Dhabi activity is that you’ll pass by the flamingo sanctuary, stop in the mangroves and get to see what the full speed of your Rhino Rider speedboat is! This is definitely one of the fun things to do in Abu Dhabi!
27. Etihad Modern Art Gallery
If you enjoy art and art galleries then the Etihad Modern Art Gallery must be on your list of places to visit in Abu Dhabi for art.
This is a unique art gallery with modern art by local and international artists.
28. Al Wathba Wetland Reserve
You may think that wetlands and the desert landscape of Abu Dhabi don’t go together and neither does it go with the city landscape but there are wetlands in Abu Dhabi!
Al Wathba Wetland Reserve was once a coastal salt flat but it has now flourished into natural and man-made lake where many species can flourish, including flamingos!
There are 2 self-guided walking trails (1.5 kilometres or 3 kilometres) which are free but there are no toilet or food facilities so come prepared for this and enjoy the serenity!
29. Al Wathba Salt Lake
If you’ve been searching photos of Abu Dhabi on Instagram, you might have seen some photos with bright green water and people posing by them, these are the salt lakes in Abu Dhabi also known as long Salt lakes.
They are man-made lakes on either side of a road filled with green water and encrusted by salt which has also formed into circles in places giving it even more of an interesting look.
You will need your own transport to get here and it might be on the tricker side to find. Of course, please do be respectful as this is not a designated tourist attraction in Abu Dhabi so there is no one to clean up after you.
30. Abu Dhabi Aquarium
Abu Dhabi Aquarium is a great place to visit with kids and a great indoor activity in Abu Dhabi and because this is the UAE you know this is going to be one of the best and most immersive aquariums you’ll go to!
31. Wahat Al Karama
Wahat Al Karama is a tribute that honours the Emirati martyrs who sacrificed their lives in service of their country and a lovely memorial to see in the city.
It is located opposite the Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque and if you are wondering where and how people often get an amazing shot of the mosque with water in front and often with them stood or sat down with the whole mosque in front of them?? That’s here!
32. Marsa Mina Food Trucks
The weather in the evening in Abu Dhabi can be lovely and what better way to enjoy it than choosing food from a huge range of food trucks at Marsa Mina!
Actually, a lot more is on offer at Marsa Mina! It’s a maritime-themed waterfront destination open all day serving family-friendly dishes in various food trucks and there are shops and shows around to keep everyone entertained.
If you are stuck for something to do, searching whats on at Marsa Mina is a great way to find out things to do in Abu Dhabi today!
33. Founders Memorial
The Founders Memorial is one of the new Abu Dhabi attractions that only opened in 2018. It is a cultural attraction to celebrate the life and values of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE and also known as the Father of the Nation.
It only requires a quick visit on your itinerary for Abu Dhabi and is best explored with the Qasr AlWatan Emirates Palace or a Corniche walk because it is close to all of these.
The main thing to see is a piece of artwork featuring a three-dimensional portrait of Sheikh Zayed.
On first appearance, it’s hard to work out its significance but I went into the small founders memorial museum and paid a small fee to watch a video on its creation of it where I realised that 1,327 geometric shapes create a constellation that looks like Sheikh Zayed’s head and when you can see this in the artwork after, it’s pretty impressive.
At night it lights up so that’s a good time to visit and one of the good things to do in Abu Dhabi at night and there are a few gardens surrounding to relax in.
34. The Old Souk
It’s always great to visit a souk in Middle Eastern countries on holiday and despite how modern Abu Dhabi is, there is still the chance to visit a traditional souk.
The Old Souk in Abu Dhabi is the oldest market in Abu Dhabi and is great to visit if you’re looking for Arabic spices, jewellery or even home decor bits but it’s equally great to visit even if you are just window shopping.
35. The Gold Souk
Located in Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre but also on Google Maps as Gold Souk Abu Dhabi is… the old souk in Abu Dhabi!
This is not a traditional market as you might expect, for that, you have to visit the Old Souk which is in a different part of the city, it’s inside a fairly modern shopping mall and there are many individual stores within here.
If you are looking for some Gold you can browse the shop windows easily before going in and it does have a less intimidating feeling than perhaps a traditional market does where you’re sometimes not sure if you’re being ripped off or not.
However, if you’re not in the market for gold, there’s no point in adding this to your Abu Dhabi sightseeing plan.
36. Walk along The Corniche
The Middle East loves a corniche. This is a long stretch of path than runs down the water’s edge where lots of people come together to have picnics, eat, take their kids to the playgrounds, and walk and run.
Usually, the corniche comes alive at night when the temperature is cooler and I definitely recommend taking a late-night walk along here, it’s a great way to get a feel for local life as lots of locals will be there too.
I walked along here at about 10:00. pm on my own and felt totally safe too.
37. Activities on Hudayriyat Island
What’s incredible about Abu Dhabi is the range of areas and places to go in Abu Dhabi. Hudayriyat Island is one of those areas.
It’s connected to the main island of Abu Dhabi by a bridge so it’s easy to get there. There are a range of sports activities available like a bike park, skate park, cycling track, tennis courts, beach for swimming and even an obstacle course.
So get your sportswear on, head over here and see what you can do! This is definitely one of the great places to visit in Abu Dhabi with kids and as a family as there is plenty to keep them busy!
Abu Dhabi Day Trips:
Abu Dhabi is a great base to see more of the UAE from, here are some day trips from Abu Dhabi you can do and add to your Abu Dhabi itinerary!
I did a day trip to Al-Ain from Abu Dhabi which I absolutely loved and really recommend.
To get allll the information, read my full post: 8 Things To Do In Al Ain | Day Trip From Abu Dhabi or Dubai!
Al-Ain is nearly 2 hours from Abu Dhabi City but it is still in the Abu Dhabi Emirate even though it’s so close to the Oman border!
In one day, I visited Al-Ain Oasis which is an Oasis of Palm Grove trees and Al-Ain Palace Museum which was once the home of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who lived here until the ’60s, Al Jahili Fort and Qasr AlMuwaiji.
I find the growth of the UAE fascinating but apart from Qasr AlHosn in Abu Dhabi city, it is hard to see what Abu Dhabi and the UAE looked like before this and it really wasn’t that long ago.
So to see Al-Ain Palace which is very basic for a Palace in an old Arabic mud building design and thinking that the founding Father of the UAE lived here with his family until the ’60s is really interesting and eye-opening to see and really made me appreciate the city of Abu Dhabi much more afterwards.
For this day trip from Abu Dhabi, I recommend hiring a driver who will take you there, take you from attraction to attraction and bring you home. Give yourself from about 9:00 am to 17:00 – 18:00 to do the full day trip.
39. Telal Resort Al-Ain
Telal Resort is a luxury boutique resort in the stunning and unique oasis outside of Al-Ain.
The accommodation features poolside villas and if you haven’t planned your whole Abu Dhabi itinerary yet, I’d recommend checking this out and seeing if you can fit in a night’s stay here.
However, it’s also great as a day trip from Abu Dhabi because you can book one of their one-day heritage and cultural packages where you will be welcomed to their own Heritage Village in the morning with Arabic Coffee, dates and local sweats followed by a tour of the Heritage Village, then you can go camel or horse riding, try on traditional clothes, take a wildlife safari and end your day with an Arabic dinner before heading back to Abu Dhabi.
This is perfect for those who want an adventure day out in Abu Dhabi in the desert but want everything organised, a high level of service and a bit of luxury.
Yes, a day trip to Dubai from Abu Dhabi is possible as they are only 1.5 hours apart by car.
Getting from Abu Dhabi to Dubai via public transport is limited but you can get a taxi or hire a car and drive yourself.
I think Abu Dhabi is a great place to visit if you have already been to Dubai and want to get a different feel from the UAE and experience more UAE attractions but perhaps you want to pop back for a dose of Dubai life which you can do from Abu Dhabi.
Thank you for reading and I hope this things to do in Abu Dhabi blog post has helped you plan your trip!
- For more of my related posts see:
- What To Wear in Abu Dhabi & Dress Code in Abu Dhabi For Tourists!
- 8 Things To Do In Al Ain | Day Trip From Abu Dhabi or Dubai!
- 10 Things To Do in Dubai on a Girls Trip to Dubai!
- How To Visit The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque from Dubai!
- 16 BEST Winter Sun Destinations in Europe & Nearby!