Abu Dhabi holiday highlights

Discover ancient sculptures on display in lavish hotels, head to the newest art addition, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, for state-of-the-art permanent collections and masterpieces on loan from its Paris counterpart, and visit one of the United Arab Emirates’ most outstanding monuments, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, where glistening white marble domes meet chandeliers, gilded calligraphy and Mamluk, Ottoman and Faklid styles.

Aimed predominantly at families and kids, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is worthy an afternoon stop for roller coasters and simulators, and Yas Island’s WaterWorld offers a similar experience, albeit with surf waves and super slides instead. If you’re looking for sand there’s plenty of it – the renowned Corniche Beach has three long stretches with the majority of beach being Blue Flag certified. No Abu Dhabi holiday is complete without a journey into the desert – take a morning or evening safari and experience everything from sand boarding to dune bashing and a traditional Bedouin evening feast.

Abu Dhabi is one of the most popular departure points for Arabia and Indian Ocean cruises. Cruise lines such as Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean made Abu Dhabi their home port for at least one of their ships, allowing you to travel in style around the Arabian Sea and beyond.

Where is Abu Dhabi?

In the Arabian peninsula on the north-eastern side of the Persian Gulf, Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, is an island city just 250 metres from the mainland, connected by four bridges: Maqta bridge, Mussafah bridge, Sheikh Zayed bridge and Sheikh Khalifa bridge.

Getting around

Bus services have thorough networks throughout the emirate while silver taxis and metered limousines are also popular methods of transport. Hiring a car is easy and convenient and roads are good – although often gridlocked during rush hour.

Shopping

Abu Dhabi’s shopping malls are almost out of this world, packed not only with designer stores and high-end brands but also cinemas, entertainment and dining. You’ll find the very best of Arabic sweets and pastries, cult perfumeries selling hand-made scents and even ice rinks, bowling alleys and musical fountains. Shopping highlights include Yas Marina Mall, Al Wahda Mall, Avenue at Etihad and The Galleria. 

Food and drink

Red snapper and ceviche, Persian cuisine, omakase Japanese tables, restaurants with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto wild beaches and rooftop bars where cocktails come with a serving of smoke: nightlife in Abu Dhabi is exciting, innovative and lavish. Mostly found in hotels and resorts, you’ll find candlelit dining with Arabian Gulf views, stylish cafes with vegan menus and sky-high delights overlooking Yas Marina and afternoon tea 300 metres up at Etihad Tower’s Observation Deck 300.

Abu Dhabi key facts

Time difference

GMT +4 hours

Currency

Dirham

Flying time to destination

7 hours

Language

Arabic. English is widely understood.

Passport & visas

•  Visas are not required for UK passport holders

Abu Dhabi good to know

Etiquette

• A tourist tax applies to all hotels in Abu Dhabi and is only payable locally.

Religion

Islam

Shopping in Abu Dhabi

As with Dubai, there’s no shortage of extravagant shopping experiences in Abu Dhabi. These include the magnificent three-storey Abu Dhabi Mall and the popular Marina Mall, famous for its musical fountain and ceilings that sound with the roll of thunder and the tinkle of rain. Here a variety of retailers including super-brands, high street and boutique stores enable you to purchase everything from the latest gadgets, to designer clothes and traditional jewellery.

Food & drink

For foodies, restaurants endorsed by celebrity chefs are popping up in world-class hotels throughout the United Arab Emirates. With cuisine here influenced by the surrounding Middle Eastern and Asian countries and increasingly by the international culinary stage, restaurants serving solely Emirati dishes can be difficult to find. Many of Abu Dhabi’s independent restaurants serve North Indian cuisine, Lebanese and Persian.

Gourmet seafood is a favourite with locals and visitors alike, with contemporary dishes made with locally-sourced products such as tuna tartare with lemon capers, oestra caviar with crème fraiche and grilled scallops with tomato and basil ice cream. Traditional shisha cafés serving the flavoured water pipes are perfect for passing time with friends while enjoying light refreshments.