How to experience the best of Abu Dhabi

From cultural tours to creative activities and nature walks – the emirate is brimming with great ways to spend a fun day out!

Whether you are new to the city or a long-time resident, there’s plenty to see and enjoy in Abu Dhabi to occupy your day.

The diversity of spots to explore means that there’s something for everyone to discover, giving us more reason to love this city we call home.

Whether you have children in tow or want to venture out solo, love exploring culture or just want to soak up the sun, here are some options for a great day out.

Culture

Qasr Al Hosn

This historic landmark reopened late last year after a lengthy renovation and currently features four different sections: the fort itself, the Cultural Foundation, National Consultative Council and the House of Artisans.

You can learn about the emirate’s history through photographs, artefacts and oral testimonies, and there’s even a children’s library that hosts workshops for kids and adults.
AED 30 for adults, AED 15 for children aged six to 11 years old. Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street. Sat-Thu 9am-7pm, Fri noon-10pm. Contact: 02 697 6400, qasralhosn.ae

Qasr Al Watan

The latest addition to Abu Dhabi’s growing cultural landmarks is located inside the Presidential Palace complex. Designed with huge domes, lush gardens and elegant chandeliers, the venue offers a glimpse of the country’s governing traditions.

There are many areas to explore, including a hall that displays gifts given to the UAE president by diplomats from all over the world.

Meanwhile, a library houses over 50,000 books while a section named House of Knowledge features artefacts and manuscripts detailing Arab contributions in the field of arts, literature, science and humanities.

In the evening, a light and sound show projected onto the building’s façade reveals the palace’s significance to the country’s culture and history. AED 60 for adults, AED 30 for children aged four to 17. Ras Al Akhdar. Daily 10am-8pm. Visit: qasralwatan.ae

The Founder’s Memorial

This attraction pays tribute to the life and legacy of Sheikh Zayed through an array of activities including art displays and exhibitions.

Visitors can explore the Sanctuary Garden designed with seating areas and the Heritage Garden adorned with medicinal desert plants. An elevated walkway, meanwhile, provides a great view of the Arabian Gulf and the city’s skyline.

The highlight, however, is The Constellation, a 3D portrait of the UAE’s founder that shines like stars in the evening, hence the name. It represents Sheikh Zayed as a guiding light and his bright vision for the UAE. Free. Corner of Corniche Road and 18th Street. Daily 9am-10pm. Visit: thefoundersmemorial.ae 

Also in the area: If you’re in need of refreshments, visit the stunning Emirates Palace for afternoon tea in the gold-decked lobby lounge. Visit: bit.ly/29g1YX2

Louvre Abu Dhabi

With 86,000 square feet of galleries, this is the largest art museum not just in the UAE but in the entire region.

You can explore 23 galleries, each containing collections that chronologically document the story of humanity spanning various eras.

Some of the must-see artworks include Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘La Belle Ferronnière’, Vincent Van Gogh’s 1887 self-portrait and Jacques-Louis David’s huge ‘Napoleon Crossing the Alps’ painting.

Before 18th May you can also see paintings by renowned 17th century artists from the Dutch Golden Age, including Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt van Rijn. The artworks on display are from The Leiden Collection and Musee du Louvre in Paris, France.

There’s also a children’s museum, family tours and ongoing workshops and activities. AED 60 for adults, AED 30 for children aged 13 to 22 years old. Saadiyat Island. Sat-Sun and Tue-Wed 10am-8pm, Thu-Fri 10am-10pm. Visit: louvreabudhabi.ae

Manarat Al Saadiyat

Also located on Saadiyat Island, this art hub hosts art, cultural and community events including weekly film screenings.

Aside from exploring the temporary and permanent exhibitions, you can join in workshops and classes at the art and photography studios. You can also visit the newly opened Special Olympics Garden featuring commissioned artworks from six internationally renowned artists that aims to serve as a lasting reminder of the values and message of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. Free. Daily 9am-8pm. Contact: 02 657 5800, manaratalsaadiyat.ae

Also in the area: Why not pair your Saadiyat Island cultural experience with a trip to The Art Gallery at NYU Abu Dhabi?

Wahat Al Karama

This landmark serves as a permanent tribute to soldiers and Emiratis who lost their lives in combat and in service to the country.

The main attraction is the imposing 31 massive aluminium-clad leaning tablets symbolising the unity and solidarity between soldiers and civilians.

Guests can visit three sections: the Memorial, Memorial Plaza and Pavilion of Honour. The latter features a roof constructed from eight slabs along with inscription of the soldiers’ names above the glass sculpture facing the entrance. Free. Khor Al Maqtaa, opposite Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Daily 9am-10pm. Visit: wahatalkarama.ae

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

If you’re visiting Wahat Al Karama, it’s the perfect opportunity to head across the road to see Abu Dhabi’s most popular landmark.

Visitors can marvel at the grand designs including chandeliers adorned with Swarovski crystals, ornate marble columns, Qibla wall inscribed with 99 names of Allah and the carpet, which is touted as the world’s largest hand-woven carpet, measuring 60,570 square feet.

A free tour at 5pm gives visitors a chance to learn more about the mosque’s history and features. Free. Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street. Sat-Thu 9am-10pm, Fri 4.30pm-10pm. Visit: szgmc.gov.ae

Al Ain Oasis

This UNESCO World Heritage Site in neighbouring Al Ain demonstrates the country’s rich agricultural history.

Wind your way through the network of shaded pathways among the surrounding 147,000 date palms. You can see how farmers cultivate the trees and various plants grown in the area.

Learn about the traditional method of farming including the ancient irrigation system called falaj. The eco-centre, meanwhile, features an interactive exhibit that details the measures implemented to preserve the ecosystem. Free. Al Mutawaa, Al Ain. Daily 8am-5pm. Visit: visitalain.ae

Also in the area: If you’re in Al Ain for the whole day, you might as well make the most of it. On either side of the oasis are two great museums, Al Ain Palace Museum and Al Ain National Museum, while a short drive away is the historic Al Jahili Fort.

Leisure 

Yas Island
Yas Island is a destination in itself with three theme parks, a mega mall with its own entertainment and attractions, a beach club and the marina with its great restaurants and boat activities.

For an action-packed day out, go for the one-day, two-parks pass, where you can access two of the three theme parks: Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld and Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi theme park – the first of its kind in the world – features 37 rides. Those looking for heart-stopping fun can try Flying Aces, which features the highest rollercoaster loop in the world, or go full throttle on the world’s fastest rollercoaster, Formula Rossa.

There are also children’s rides, modern simulators, pop-up shows and performances.
AED 295 for adults, AED 230 for children. Daily 11am-8pm. Visit: ferrariworldabudhabi.com

At nearby Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi indoor theme park you can check out 29 state-of-the-art rides, as well as other family-friendly attractions and restaurants. In the distinct zones you’ll come across beloved characters such as Superman, Wonder Woman, Scooby Doo and Bugs Bunny. AED 295 for adults, AED 230 for children. Daily 10am-8pm. Visit: wbworldabudhabi.com

Or grab your swimmers and head to Yas Waterworld to check out the rides, slides and attractions. You can learn to surf on the world’s largest surfing sheet wave, float down the lazy river or let the kids run amok in one of the children’s water playgrounds.

Also in the area: If you’re hungry at the end of all the theme park action, head to Yas Marina where you can choose from several restaurants and cuisines including Thai at Mr Miyagi’s, seafood at Aquarium and British grub at The Scene by Simon Rimmer. Visit: yasmarina.ae

Saadiyat Beach

Immaculate white sand and turquoise waters characterise this popular capital attraction.

You can take part in various activities here from watersports to beach yoga sessions. But more than just a public beach, this place is a sanctuary for wildlife, so you won’t find any motorised watercrafts disturbing the silence. AED 25 for adults, AED 15 for children. Saadiyat Island. Daily 8am-6pm.

Also in the area: Saadiyat Beach Club offers a more secluded and peaceful beach experience where you can also enjoy a great meal, take a dip in the pool or get some exercise in the gym. Visit: saadiyatbeachclub.ae

Al Bahar

This beachfront community on the Corniche has certainly livened up this already popular attraction.

There are food trucks and leisure and retail outlets to cater to visitors. A dedicated area is allotted for live events while there are also basketball and beach volleyball courts for those looking to break a sweat.

Beach lovers can check out Abu Dhabi’s first inflatable waterpark, AquaFun, which features a host of attractions including monkey bars, slides, bridges and ramps. If you still have energy to burn, check out the exercise classes on offer at Fitness by the Shore. Free access to Al Bahar. Corniche. Daily 10am-10pm; beach 7am-sunset; AquaFun 9am-6.30pm. Visit: al-bahar.ae

Also in the area: Pack a picnic and venture across the road to Al Khubeirah Garden.

Reem Central Park

This community park opened late last year and features a variety of activities for visitors of all ages.

Some of the attractions include a skate and bike park, basketball courts, sand pit, slides, a community lawn, water fountain and even a beach.

The little ones can enjoy hours of entertainment before you refuel at one of the food trucks, including Keki, Park House and Taqado. Free. Al Reem Island. Daily 8am-10pm. Visit: reemcentralpark.com

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

If you’re a nature lover, a day out at this lush spot is a must.

Surrounded by mangrove trees, reeds and other plant life, the nature reserve comprises wetlands, salt flats, fossilised sands and dunes, and provides a safe haven for various species, including greater flamingos, spiny tailed lizards and black-winged stilts. 

You can walk among the trails, take photos and bird watch from the designated hides equipped with telescopes. Free. Off E30, Al Wathba. Thu and Sat 8am-4pm. Visit: ead.ae

Also in the area: Grab your bike and head to Al Wathba cycling track, open 24/7,
where you can complete various loops from 8km and up.

WORDS Ferdinadn Godinez

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