What to see in Dubai, the on-trend city
A seven-hour scheduled flight from Spain, Dubai has transformed itself into the fashionable capital of the Persian Gulf. Dubai has over three million inhabitants, and everyone can recognise its iconic skyline with its distinctive skyscrapers, the most outstanding of which is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. But its cutting-edge architecture is far from being Dubai’s only claim to fame — it is a diverse, vibrant city, with as many facets as it has visitors, and is divided in two by an attractive canal plied by charming traditional vessels known as ‘abras’
Dubai is not merely a tourist destination, as it has a high concentration of foreign business people and executives who work for the big multinational companies based there. Dubai’s wealth, its excellent climate and its frenetic business activity are aspects highly appreciated by travellers arriving in this modern city, which, according to archaeological research, was inhabited as far back as 10,000 years ago.
- Burj Khalifa
- Fuente de Dubái
- Barrio de Deira
- Bur Dubai
- Dubai Marina
- Mezquita de Jumeirah y Mezquita Bastakiya
- Palm Jumeirah
- Miracle Garden
- Dubai Mall
- Burj al Arab
- Dubai Frame
- Museo de Dubái
- Zocos de Dubái
- La Mer
- Excursiones cerca de Dubái
- Dónde alojarse en Dubái
Below, we tell you what you can see in Dubai on a tourist break. We also give you ideas for things you can do in Dubai.
The Burj Khalifa, at 828 metres, is the tallest building in the world, and is one of the attractions you can visit in Dubai. It was built between 2004 and 2010, with a budget of 20,000 million euros, and takes its name from the sheikh and president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It was designed and created by the architect Adrian Smith. Up to the level of the 156th floor, the building is constructed from reinforced concrete, and from floor 156 upwards, steel was used as it is lighter. On floor 124, there is a balcony (‘At the Top’) which is open to the public and offers a 360o panorama of the city. Not suitable for those prone to dizziness.
The Dubai Fountain is one of the city’s great attractions, and one of the things you can visit. It is officially the largest dancing fountain in the world, and the best way to see it is from the Burj Khalifa artificial lake, on board a traditional boat or abra. Every day, between 6.00 p.m. and 11.00 p.m., there are great shows of light and sound here, involving 22,000 litres of water projected into the air and over 6,000 lights.
This is one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, and where you will find the true culture of the Emirates. In Deira, you will see scenes that you will want to capture for posterity, especially when you step into the city’s most traditional souks, such as the Gold Souk, with its treasures and jewels; the perfume souk with its distinctive smells; or the spice souk, with its vast array of shapes, colours and aromas. If an item takes your fancy, don’t forget to haggle.
Bur Dubai is the second historic neighbourhood that you really must visit on any tour of Dubai. It is right opposite Deira, but you need to cross the canal; the best way to do this is on one of the traditional small boats. Here you will find essential sights such as the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House, a museum housing artefacts and images of the city’s history; the Old Souk, where you can find souvenirs; an Indian district (Hindi Lane), and the Al-Seef Market with its restaurants and shops.
At Dubai Marina, you can enjoy the sight of the many luxury yachts and even, if you like, book a short cruise to get a view of Dubai from the water. And you can sail past the Atlantis Hotel, renowned for its unique architecture.
Jumeirah Mosque and the Bastakiya Mosque
The Jumeirah Mosque is the only mosque in Dubai open to non-Muslims, so it offers an opportunity to learn all about the traditions and fundamental beliefs of Islam. There are two tours a day. The Bastakiya Mosque is in a popular area of traditional buildings and narrow streets that are worth going for a stroll in, if only to appreciate that Dubai is not all luxury and futuristic architecture.
This is an immense artificial island, built in the shape of a palm tree, and is home to the iconic Atlantis The Palm Hotel. In fact, Palm Jumeirah is a complex of several artificial islands occupied by luxury residences. The best way to view this ‘palm tree’ is from high up, so we recommend you go up, for example, to the Burj Al Arab Sky Bar, where you can have a drink or even have lunch or dinner.
The Miracle Garden is an attractive space where you can relax with a leisurely stroll along its avenues. The park contains over 150 million flowers, which adorn the Disney characters scattered around. You can also see a scale replica of an A380 plane made from flowers, as well as a path in the shape of hearts. This garden, which is only open from October to April, appears in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest natural flower garden.
Can you imagine shopping in a retail centre with over 1,200 shops? That is how many you’ll find in Dubai Mall, the world’s largest and most visited shopping centre in the world. So there is something to suit every taste and budget. Perhaps shopping doesn’t really appeal to you — if not, it doesn’t matter, because there are lots of other things you can do here: go to the cinema, go ice-skating or go-karting, or try a flight simulator.
Burj al Arab
This building, standing 270 metres from the beach, and built in the shape of a sail, is another of Dubai’s architectural icons. It is 321 metres tall, and houses the only 7-star hotel in the world; prices per room per night are over 1,500 euros. The cheaper way to visit it is to make a reservation at the Skyview Bar, 200 metres above the ground; a minimum food and drink order of €70 is required.
The Dubai Frame is a gigantic structure, 150 metres tall, which resembles an enormous photo frame. From here, you can gain two completely different perspectives of Dubai. To one side, you will see historic, traditional Dubai, and to the other, modern Dubai. The structure’s roof is partly made of glass, and it is one of Dubai’s most popular attractions.
This is the best place to learn about the history of the capital of the Emirate. Here, you will find out about the first tribes to inhabit this territory, and discover the reasons for the economic growth that has enabled Dubai to become a modern, cutting-edge capital. And you will see exactly how the city has developed to become the tourist destination that everyone now wants to visit.
Dubai’s traditional souks are situated in the oldest and most traditional areas of the city. In the Deira neighbourhood, you will find the splendid, glittering Gold Souk, the aromatic Perfume Souk and the traditional Spice Souk. You can also find souks selling textiles and local products in the Bur Dubai area.
This is the name given to Dubai’s seafront promenade, which is lined with charming restaurants and cafés with terraces overlooking the sea. From here you can access many of Dubai’s magnificent beaches, or the nearby water park with its water slides and swimming pools. From the seafront promenade, you can get a view of the Dubai skyline, with the Burj Khalifa as a backdrop.
Excursions near Dubai
The most popular excursion with visitors to Dubai is to Abu Dhabi, another city associated with luxury and opulence. It is 140 kilometres to the south of Dubai, and can be visited in a single day. It is the most important city in the United Arab Emirates, and is home to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, one of the world’s largest mosques, the world’s most expensive hotel, the Emirates palace, and the Heritage Villa, an outdoor museum where you can learn what life was like in the Emirates before the discovery of oil. Other possible excursions from Dubai are to the cities of Fujairah, Al Ain or Sharjah. And if you’re a fan of Formula 1 racing, don’t miss Ferrari World, the theme park dedicated to this legendary make of car — the perfect treat for those who love speed. Ferrari World is in Yas Island, in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Another popular option is a visit to the desert and a ride on a camel.
Where to stay in Dubai
The best options for accommodation in Dubai are Spanish hotel brands. For excellent value, we recommend Dukes The Palm, a Royal Hideaway Hotel, located in the iconic Palm Jumeirah, opposite the Nakheel shopping centre; the Barceló Residences Dubai Marina, offering spacious apartments in Dubai Marina; the Occidental Dubai Production City, near the Expo site; and the Occidental Al Jaddaf, with spacious rooms and, possibly, the largest suites in the city.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Dubai’s biggest attraction?
Dubai’s biggest attraction, depending on the tastes of the individual traveller, is its futuristic architecture juxtaposed with its traditional neighbourhoods. Don’t miss Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, or the old neighbourhoods of Deira and Bur Dubai.
What can visitors see near to Dubai?
There are other interesting cities near Dubai, such as Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Al Ain, and Sharjah. You can also visit the desert and try an activity with a difference, such as a camel ride.
How many days are needed to see Dubai?
If you want to see all the city’s tourist attractions, we recommend you spend a minimum of four days in the city, so that you have the chance of at least one excursion to a nearby destination.