In the dazzling desert city where extravagance is the norm, it’s no wonder Dubai has so many incredible things to do. And what better way to discover its most thrilling adventures than by asking those in the know? From serene safaris to sky-high suppers, our Personal Travel Experts have picked out their unmissable recommendations of things to do in Dubai.
When it comes to astounding attractions, Dubai seems to be constantly looking for ways to outdo itself. Home to the world’s tallest building, its fastest roller coaster and its longest urban zipline, it comes as no surprise that Guinness World Records has bestowed the city with over 300 titles.
In this land of superlatives, the sheer number of big-ticket facilities can soon feel overwhelming. After all, where else can you chill on golden sands, whizz down ski slopes and eat dinner in the sky, all on the same day? “Dubai just has this energy about it," says Becky Allen-Gurr, Personal Travel Expert at Kuoni, Chester. “Even seasoned regulars will be tempted to try something new every time they visit.”
Megan Reilly, Personal Travel Expert at Kuoni Liverpool agrees. “Dubai may be famous for its glitz and glamour, but it’s not just luxury hotels and designer shopping. From families to couples, thrill-seekers to history buffs, there’s a huge breadth of activities to try.”
Kuoni marketing expert Heather Flanagan has this advice for first-time visitors. “I’d recommend starting off with an open-top bus tour around the city. Not only does it help you get your bearings, you can do all the big-hitters in one go - a mall, a traditional Souk, the Burj Khalifa and the best beaches and museums. That way you’ve ticked off all the must-sees before you start looking into Dubai’s hidden gems.”
With its unique blend of opulence, tradition and adventure, Dubai captivates all who visit. Want to create an unforgettable experience of your own? We asked Becky, Megan, Heather and Personal Travel Expert Zoe Fox of Kuoni Meadowhall to take us on a tour of the city’s best attractions so that you can return home with plenty of tales to share. Wondering what to do in Dubai? You’ll find out here.
In this article we’ll be covering:
- Watersports in Dubai
- Indoor things to do in Dubai
- Things to do in Dubai with family
- Fun activities for adults in Dubai
Watersports in Dubai
What’s better than basking on Dubai’s butter-soft beaches? Immersing yourself in the tranquil azure waters they lead onto. “Because of its futuristic skylines and buzzing city feel, people often forget that the Arabian Gulf is so naturally beautiful in its own right,” says Heather. And, from yacht tours and jet-skiing to scuba diving and snorkelling, Dubai has so many adventures for water babies to dive into.
Boat trips in Dubai
What should you not miss in Dubai, according to Zoe? Escaping the frenetic pace on dry land for a while. “My personal highlight was taking a speedboat from Dubai Marina around the Palm Jumeirah (a palm-shaped archipelago of artificial islands) at sunset. We also saw people paddle-boarding around the Palm, where the man-made outer ring keeps the wind off the sea. Truly spectacular.”
Once a humble fishing village, Dubai has a long and illustrious maritime past. Fast forward to today and a trip to the skyscraper-surrounded waterfront enclave of Dubai Marina lets you gawk at the superyachts that now call the city home. But it also gives you the chance to jet-ski in Dubai, with the pin-drop quiet waters of the Arabian Gulf making it a safe place for newbies to learn the ropes.
Prefer to take to the water at a more sedate pace? “Taking a yacht ride in Dubai is not just luxurious. Looking back at the city from the Arabian Gulf gives you a unique perspective and a chance to escape the crowds for a while. Many yacht tours in Dubai lay on delectable food and drink, plus you get the best photos of the Burj Khalifa,” says Megan.
Snorkelling in Dubai
Snorkelling in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach may be free, but you’re only likely to see the occasional tiddler. But this being Dubai, it has an extravagant solution. Snorkelling in Atlantis The Palm's Ambassador Lagoon lets you admire the vibrant hues of 65,000 marine animals, including manta rays, tropical fish and sharks.
Part of the waterpark’s Lost Chambers Aquarium, Heather tells us, “To me, it’s hands-down the best aquarium in Dubai - from now on, no others will match it. But that’s Dubai all over - everything is big, bold and exhilarating.”
Scuba diving in Dubai
When it comes to fun activities in Dubai, the more extravagant they are, the better. And the same can be said for the city’s scuba diving. Found in the Nad Al Sheba neighbourhood, Deep Dive Dubai features the world’s deepest swimming pool - with a one-of-a-kind twist. At 60 metres deep and holding 14 million litres of water (about the same as six Olympic-sized swimming pools), it’s 15 metres deeper and four times bigger than any other diving pool in the world.
Designed to take divers to a sunken city, it offers everyone from beginners to pros the chance to experience the feel of a real open-water dive. The water is kept at a balmy 30 degrees, while state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems create a variety of moods.
Indoor things to do in Dubai
With a distinct lack of rain and the promise of near-guaranteed sunshine, Dubai’s desert climate is part of its appeal. But if you fancy escaping the sizzling heat for an hour or two, the city has some delightfully air-conditioned ways to keep you cool and entertained.
Shopping malls in Dubai
Is Dubai good for shopping? “It’s more than good,” says Megan. “It's a retail paradise, and Dubai Mall is the best of the best. At 12 million square feet and home to more than 1,200 stores and every designer brand you can think of, it’s the biggest shopping mall in the world.”
Becky concurs. “Apart from the phenomenal shopping, there’s so much for kids to enjoy, from the ice rink, soft play and trampoline park, to the crocodiles and otters at the only underwater zoo in Dubai. Make sure you round off your trip to Dubai Mall with a visit to The Cheesecake Factory where you can choose from over 200 delicious varieties.”
Designer shopping in Dubai without the designer price tag? It is possible, according to Becky. “I really liked Dubai Festival City Mall. It is slightly further out, but has more high street shops with outlet prices".
Other retail powerhouses include the Mall of the Emirates, home of Ski Dubai, and the less-crowded Mirdif City Centre. Like Festival City it’s slightly off the beaten track but the big draw here is iFly, the place to head for indoor skydiving in Dubai.
Butterfly Garden in Dubai
Last on our climate-controlled list of attractions? Butterfly Garden Dubai. The world’s largest covered butterfly garden is made up of ten domes, each one filled with thousands of fluttery creatures from 50 different varieties. A riot of colour, it makes for an envy-inducing Instagram snap if you can persuade one to land on your finger.
Museums in Dubai
Dubai’s cultural scene is a vibrant tapestry of the ancient and the ultra-modern, something that’s reflected in its museums. A place where traditional Bedouin values sit side-by-side with a distinctly global ethos, nowhere showcases the city’s history better than The Dubai Museum. Housed in the Al Fahidi Fort, it offers a captivating journey through time, from traditional Bedouin life to Dubai's rise from pearl-diving village to gleaming metropolis.
But the museum in Dubai that everyone’s talking about? The Museum of the Future. Opened in 2022, this strikingly beautiful, oval-shaped building challenges you to consider what humanity’s future will look like - and how we can all make the world a better place.
Things to do in Dubai with family
Famously family-friendly, Dubai is such a dream destination for little ones you may struggle to get them to leave the hotel. Becky says, “For families, I always recommend the Centara Mirage Beach Resort Dubai. This candy-coloured haven keeps them enthralled, with slides, a lazy river and tons of child-friendly entertainment.” If you do manage to venture out, you’ll find most of Dubai’s best family attractions are within easy reach, and rarely more than a 30-minute cab ride away.
Go to a theme park
“Dubai’s answer to Disneyland, Dubai Parks & Resorts is incredible,” says Heather. “This huge theme park has more than a hundred rides and attractions and is essentially four parks in one - there’s the Hollywood-blockbuster-inspired Motiongate, Riverland, LEGOLAND Dubai and a LEGOLAND-themed water park. Perfect for those aged two to 12, like the Windsor resort, the LEGOLAND in Dubai offers car driving and boating, multiple rides, and LEGO Factory tours.”
Whizz down an extra-long zipline
The world’s longest urban zipline? It just had to be in Dubai. Perfect for thrillseekers aged 12 and over, the kilometre-long Brave XLine zipline in Dubai hovers 170 vertigo-inducing metres above ground and holds speeds of up to 80kph. If they manage to open their eyes, they’ll enjoy views of the Marina skyline as they hurtle towards the landing point at Dubai Marina Mall.
Go on a desert adventure
Take the family on an Arabian adventure they’ll remember forever with a desert tour of Dubai. The city is surrounded by sunbaked dunes and offers so many fun ways to explore them, from cultural tours to more adrenaline-fuelled dune bashing and sand surfing.
A tip from Megan? Make sure you pre-book. “The desert safaris in Dubai are popular, and rightly so. I couldn’t recommend them enough. I did a half-day tour and after a thrilling jeep drive and surfing on the dunes at sunset, we ended the evening with traditional food and a performance from local dancers. It really is a must-do while you’re in Dubai.” Zoe agrees. “The dune-bashing jeep safari and Bedouin meal was the absolute highlight of our trip. We did it on our last night in the city and it was the perfect end to our holiday.”
Fun activities for adults in Dubai
Heading to the city for a romantic break? You’ll fall in love with all the adult-only activities. As Becky says, Dubai is a place to woo and be wooed. “Nothing beats an intimate dinner for two at At.mosphere in the Burj Khalifa. The highest restaurant in the world, it offers jaw-dropping views as the sun sets - and it’s the best seat in the house for the famous dancing fountains. You won’t be stuck for conversation!”
A sky dinner in Dubai sounds idyllic, but if you haven’t got a head for heights Megan suggests booking a cabana at one of the city’s chic beach clubs instead. “These grown-up playgrounds are as famous as they are popular. Relax in the sun with a cocktail by day, then have an all-out party with live music by night.”
And the best beach club in Dubai? “I always recommend Zero Gravity with its pool and beach party and Nikki Beach, located right on the waterfront of Pearl Jumeirah. But the nightlife in Dubai isn’t all about beach clubs. There are great places to go out in Jumeirah and Downtown, while Pier 7 in the Marina has amazing views over the city.”
This article features expert advice from:
• Megan Reilly, Personal Travel Expert at Kuoni Liverpool and expert in honeymoons, short breaks and more.
• Becky Allen-Gurr, Personal Travel Expert at Kuoni Chester. With eight years’ experience in the travel industry, Becky’s brings a wealth of worldwide knowledge to Kuoni and loves finding customers their perfect holiday.
• Heather Flanagan, Marketing Team. Former Personal Travel Expert and mum to two active boys, Heather’s an expert travel writer who knows a thing or two about dream family destinations.
• Zoe Fox, Personal Travel Expert at Kuoni Meadowhall, has worked for Kuoni for eight years. She specialises in holidays to the Middle East, Mauritius and Thailand.
With so many incredible things to do, a visit to Dubai is an exciting experience that’s not to be missed.
Read more about our Dubai holidays.
This feature was created on 12th February 2024. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge.