Dubai never ceases to amaze. From the impressive massive palm frond-shaped archipelagos that can even be seen from outer space to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, Dubai is a true wonder in its own right. Whether you’re holidaying in Dubai or are on a layover for a few days to break up your long haul journey, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to indulge yourself during your stay. There’s an endless stream of activities to keep you entertained, whatever your travel style or budget at this vibrant and swanky destination. To get you started, here are ten things to do in Dubai:
1. Afternoon tea in the sky
Afternoon tea at the iconic Burj Al Arab is an experience to remember. Book a Sky Tea in the Skyview Bar located on the top floor for the ultimate treat. Check out the unrivalled views of the Palm Jumeirah and The World islands as you indulge in a selection of hot drinks, delicate sandwiches, pastries and cakes.
2. Haggle at the markets
No visit to Dubai would be complete without visiting Dubai’s souks. You can buy all sorts of goods at the markets and there are specific souks for gold, spices, textiles and fish. Allow yourself plenty of time to explore the winding streets on both sides of the Creek and absorb the sights, sounds and smells of the city. You can hop on a traditional wooden dhow to take you across the water to give you a truly authentic experience.
3. Eat out
While you’re in Dubai you need to eat out and explore the fantastic range of culinary experiences on offer. If you’re looking to treat yourself, book a table at Rhodes Twenty10. Or you could dine by the flicker of candlelight at Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire, run by the acclaimed Michelin star chef, Pierre Gagnaire. This romantic restaurant serves exquisite French cuisine in sumptuous surroundings. Eating here is an experience – food is served with added drama from the chef who is widely credited as one of the front-runners of ‘molecular gastronomy’.
4. Go shopping
Dubai is one the greatest places in the world to go shopping, with shopping malls for all occasions. The Mall of the Emirates is a complete entertainment experience. Browse the hundreds of stores – including Harvey Nichols, Debenhams and Marks and Spencer – and then check out the leisure complexes which include a multiplex cinema as well as Ski Dubai.
The Burjuman Centre is the place to go for high end fashion and luxury shopping with brands like Prada, Versace and Ralph Lauren, so be sure to take your credit card. Wafi Mall has a distinctive Egyptian style façade. Browse the extensive galleries where you can purchase art to take home, shop in over 300 stores, eat dinner and then stay on for the nightly light and sound show. If you want to truly immerse yourself in a shopping experience, then you need to visit Dubai Mall. The world’s largest shopping, leisure and entertainment destination has over 1200 stores and world-class attractions that include the Dubai Aquarium and Dubai Ice Rink.
5. Be pampered
Dubai is the perfect place to pamper yourself. The Talise Ottoman Spa within the luxurious Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel is the winner of the World Travel Awards ‘UAE’s Leading Spa Resort’ in 2011 and 2012. Numerous treatment rooms, steam rooms, saunas, baths and pools create the ultimate spa retreat. If you really want to push the boat out, choose the Assawan Spa and Health Club at Burj Al Arab. This ground breaking spa offers intimate facilities that inspire relaxation. Your visit includes use of the infinity pools, fitness centre and there is even a hair salon and grooming studio, so you can leave looking and feeling radiant.
6. Go wild in the desert
One of the essential trips to do when you visit Dubai is a desert safari. There are half day safaris if your time is precious, but if you can it’s worth booking an overnight safari. Go dune bashing in a 4×4, take a camel ride, try to remain upright while sand boarding, take incredible sunset photographs, watch a traditional show, eat until you burst at the evening barbeque and curl up under the stars to enjoy the most incredible view of the night sky you’ve ever seen.
Then rise early to watch the sunrise in the desert. It’s an inspiring opportunity to get out in the wild away from the distractions of modern life – there’s no Wi-Fi and no plugs, so leave your phone in the hotel and enjoy the isolation.
7. Go skiing
Stepping out of the blazing sunshine and into Ski Dubai is a strange experience. The indoor ski park is the world’s largest, with a range of slopes suitable for skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing. Get wrapped up, throw snowballs, take a ski lesson and drink hot chocolate in the chilly attraction before peeling off your layers and stepping back out in the soaring temperatures.
8. Splash around in the water parks
One of the best ways to cool off is in one of Dubai’s adventure water parks. Aquadventure, Wild Wadi Water Park and Dreamland all have lots of rides, slides and attractions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or just young at heart, the pools, tidal rivers and slides will keep you entertained all day. Aquadventure is the slickest, biggest and best of the trio if you’re looking for challenges for older children and adults (although it also has a special area for babies and toddlers too). It has a jaw-dropping, vertical slide that is sure to test your nerves as you peer over the 27.5m drop. Wild Wadi is much smaller, so it’s perfect if you have only half a day to spare. With fewer crowds and less queues, it’s an appealing alternative. For those with little ones, Dreamland is a good choice. This attraction is further out of town making it quieter, and the rides are shorter and calmer.
And for the adrenaline junkies…
Gravity Zone offers bungee jumps with a spectacular city backdrop. Conquer your fear by hurling yourself off a tower either on your own or with a partner attached. Few adrenaline activities are as terrifying or as exhilarating, and a holiday is the ideal time to push yourself to your limits and try out new experiences.
10. Sky dive
What better place to do a tandem sky dive than over Dubai’s incredible landscape? Enjoy the thrill of jumping out of a Skydive Dubai plane with a view of the Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina. Certain experiences make a holiday, and this is one you’ll remember forever.
However long your break in Dubai, you still won’t be able to tick everything off your list as there is so much to do. Cram in as much fun as you can and you’ll just have to plan a return visit.
Note: this post was written in partnership with Emirates Airlines.