What to see in Dubai in 4 days
Dubai is an on-trend destination. But you need to remember that in barely half a century, the small city of Dubai has grown into a great metropolis. Everyone is talking about the best-known capital city in the Persian Gulf, and everyone can recognise its profile with its characteristic skyscrapers. This affluent city in the United Arab Emirates has found in tourism one of its great sources of wealth (besides oil, that is). To help you discover its charms, we have prepared a selection of options for things to do in this varied, buzzing city, traversed by a picturesque canal that you are sure to sail along in one of the attractive traditional boats known as abras.
They say that Dubai is a cross between ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ and ‘Futurama’. What is abundantly clear is that not only is Dubai a mecca for restless tourists, it is also a magnet for large numbers of workers from developing Asian countries and for Western company executives who move to Dubai on lucrative contracts, thanks to the city’s concentration of multinational companies. The wealth of Dubai’s economy, its ground-breaking urban developments, its excellent climate for most of the year, and its frenetic business activity are aspects highly appreciated by travellers arriving in the city, which, according to archaeological research, was inhabited as far back as 10,000 years ago.
If you’ve decided to spend four days exploring Dubai, you will have enough time to get the most from your break in the capital of the small Emirate of the same name, which has a population of three and a half million. A whole host of surprises and special experiences awaits you, because Dubai has a fascinating culture rooted in Islam.
Itinerary day 1
10:00 - 13:00
Start your visit to Dubai with a quiet, relaxed tour of one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. Deira is this capital city’s most authentic district, and it is here that you will discover the quintessential, traditional atmosphere of the Middle East. A few steps will bring you to the Gold Souk, a rival to Antwerp with its incredible jewels; the perfume souk, in Sikkat Al Khalil street, is very easy to find due to its distinctive smell of counterfeit European perfumes; or the spice souk, formerly known as the Old Souk, with its vast array of shapes, colours and aromas. If during your visit you take a fancy to some item or product, don’t forget that you will need to put your bargaining skills to the test. You’re sure to learn as you go along.
13:30 – 15:00
A stroll around Deira, with its hectic shopping scene, is enough to exhaust anyone, but it does help visitors to get a feeling for the city. Now it is time to recharge your batteries, and we have chosen Modern Dish, an informal, but very pleasant restaurant (Al Sabkha Rd), where you can enjoy a light lunch, such as a grilled meat dish, a salad, or fish and lots of fresh juices and delicious deserts. Just what you need to relax, recover your energy and continue with our sightseeing tour of Dubai.
15:30 - 18:00
Bur Dubai is the second historic neighbourhood that you really must visit on any tour of Dubai. You will need to cross the Creek, a 15-kilometre strait that divides the city into two, and to do so, we recommend you use a traditional small boat (abra), which will take you to the other side in a matter of a few minutes. So, what is there to see here? The essential sights are the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House, a museum housing artefacts and images of the city’s history; the Old Souk, where you can find all kinds of souvenirs; an Indian district (around Hindi Lane and Meena Bazaar) with attractive Indian shops and traditional restaurants; the Sheikh Mohamed Cultural Centre, and the Al-Seel Market, a very pleasant space with restaurants and shops built in the style of traditional houses. Here too, you will find the immense Dubai Frame and the spectacular illuminations of Dubai Garden Glow.
18:30 – 19:30
To round off your visit to Bur Dubai, it’s a great idea to go on a traditional boat, or abra, for a trip on the Burj Khalifa lake — and if possible, to enjoy the spectacle of the illuminated fountains of the Dubai Mall. This is a most impressive show, with 22,000 litres of water projected into the air and 6,000 lights. This is, in fact, the world’s largest fountain, and you can watch it while the boat sails along to the rhythm of classical, Arab and international music. The show takes places every 30 minutes between 6.00 p.m. and 11.00 p.m.
20:00 – 22:00
Nothing can beat dinner in an haute-cuisine restaurant to celebrate the end of your first exciting day in Dubai, especially in such an iconic spot as the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper. The At.mosphere restaurant occupies a very high-level position, on the 122nd floor of Burj Kahlifa, with views to take your breath away — certainly no place for those prone to dizziness. It is a European-style establishment, with products and menus of the highest quality. A violinist plays throughout dinner. If you can, go up to the observation platform on floors 124 and 125 of this, the highest tower in the world, and be hypnotised by the views. Or you could go up to the viewing point on floor 148.
Itinerary day 2
10:00 – 11:30
There is no better way to learn about the history of the capital of this Emirate than through a tour of the Dubai Museum. 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 understand how this city has evolved to become the place that everyone wants to visit. The museum is housed in one of the city’s oldest buildings, the nineteenth-century Al-Fahidi fort, the former seat of the government and residence of the regents.
12:00 – 13:30
This is an immense island, built in the shape of a palm tree, and is home to the iconic Atlantis The Palm Hotel. Close by is the Aquaventure Waterpark, Dubai’s biggest water park, with its spectacular water slides.
14:00 – 15:30
This is a small, informal restaurant specialising in freshly caught fish and traditional cooking. It stands next to the Ismaili Centre in Street 8, and is sure to please any traveller seeking to eat lunch in a clean, pleasant establishment, with good service and excellent food. The restaurant also serves prawns and other seafood dishes. Highly recommended.
16:00 - 17:00
This is the only mosque in Dubai open to non-Muslims. It offers an opportunity to learn about the traditions and fundamental beliefs of Islam. There are two tours a day (except on Fridays), each lasting an hour and a half. If you want to go inside, remember to make sure your legs and shoulders are covered.
17:30 – 18:30
At the Etihad Museum, you can discover how the United Arab Emirates were established in 1971. You can see films, records and documents about the founders, the seven sheikhs of the Emirates. The museum tour lasts approximately one hour.
19:00 – 20:00
Global Village is an enclave on the outskirts of the city, divided into pavilions representing many different countries including Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Japan, France, and Italy. Each pavilion sells the typical products and crafts of the country concerned, and it is fascinating to undertake a round-the-world tour via these establishments, which also serve food.
20: 30 – 22:00
Located at No. 8, Gate Village in Dubai’s international business district, this lovely restaurant is a fine way to treat yourself at the end of a day’s sightseeing in Dubai. It is a very prestigious French restaurant with an attractive outdoor terrace and a very friendly, yet pleasant and elegant ambience. The food is prepared to a very high standard, and the service is excellent. And the wine list is extensive and offers a good price range. An apt reward to round off the day.
Itinerary day 3
10:00 – 12:00
We could begin the third of our four days in Dubai soaking up the atmosphere on the city’s seafront promenade. Here, you will find pleasant restaurants and cafés with terrace overlooking the sea. This is a point from which you can access various beaches or a water park with attractions such as 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.
12:00 – 13:30
Do you know how many shops are in Dubai’s shopping centre? There are no less than 1,200. There is something to suit every taste and budget. Perhaps shopping doesn’t really appeal to you, but you may instead like to go to the cinema, or try a flight simulator, or go ice-skating or go-karting. You’ll find all this and more in Dubai Mall, which attracts more visitors than any other shopping centre in the world.
14:00 – 15:30
This is the ideal restaurant to take a break from your hectic sightseeing tour of Dubai, and to sit in a place with a pleasant atmosphere and good food. The restaurant is on floor G of the Dubai Mall, and has a wide range of options for lunch. Every day, a different traditional dish is on offer, and the bread is always freshly baked. If you like fish, you could try the sea bass with sour edamame. Prices are reasonable, and the service is of a high standard.
16:00 – 18:00
The Walk offers a great place to go for a stroll by the sea, as it is lined with traditional shops, clothes shops and restaurants. The Beach is the name given to the public beach, where you can go for a swim or try a water sport. From here, you can see the tallest water wheel in the world.
18:30 – 19:30
At Dubai Marina, you can feast your eyes on a huge array of luxury yachts and if you like, you could hire a small cruise and see Dubai from a different perspective. And you can even sail past the Atlantis Hotel, renowned for its unique architecture.
20:00 – 21:00
This area of Dubai is chiefly famous for its covered ski slope, designed to make users feel as if they’re at a genuine mountain ski resort. Here, you will find chair lifts, little chalets, ski and snow slopes of varying degrees of difficulty and of course lots of artificial snow! In addition to the ski slope, there are a large number of shops and restaurants.
21:30 – 23:00
We end the third day of your our visit to Dubai as we finished days one and two: at an exclusive restaurant, enjoying a good dinner in a congenial atmosphere. Pierchic (Madinat Jumeriah) is one of Dubai’s most romantic restaurants, so particularly appropriate if you are travelling with your partner. It is located near the sea, affords relaxing views, and is regarded as one of the city’s finest fish and seafood restaurants.
Itinerary day 4
10:00 – 18:00
We really cannot leave Dubai without seeing and enjoying the desert that lies so close to the city. So we will devote the last day of our 4-day sightseeing tour of Dubai to an excursion to this sea of sand that Westerners find so attractive and mysterious. We recommend you book a guided excursion with lunch, as it is much more difficult to travel to the desert independently. What usually happens is that you are picked up from your hotel and taken by jeep to tour the desert sand dunes. Once there, you have the choice of a camel ride, snowboarding on the sand (sandboarding), or taking your first steps in the art of falconry. The most adventurous can book a quad bike or buggy tour of the dunes. And some visitors opt to explore the desert from a hot air balloon. So this is your moment to step up and make your choice.
20:00 – 22:00
To leave Dubai with the city’s finest flavours on our tastebuds, we’re going to say goodbye with a great banquet at the city’s most luxurious restaurant. We’re talking about Al Muntaha, regarded as the most sophisticated restaurant in the world of French and Italian cuisine. The restaurant, at No. 27, Burj Al Arab, is managed by the chef Saverio Sbaragli, and affords spectacular views. We can say farewell to Dubai with a delicious tasting menu. A special dinner for a special day.