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It would be easy to spend weeks exploring the charming contradiction that is Dubai — part 21st-century trailblazing city and part traditional Arabic enclave. Here’s how to cherry-pick the best in just three days, from gleaming contemporary Dubai to old-world souks, and leaving the city behind to discover the desert.

Good for
  • History Buff
  • Thrill Seeker
  • Shopping Fanatic
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Nightlife Seeker
  • Nature Lover
  • Foodie
  • Beach Goer
  • Luxury Traveller
  • Thrifty Traveller
  • Like a Local

15 Places

5 City Tips

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15 Places

Day 1

Dubai Mall

Shopping Malls

Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo

Aquariums

Al Hallab

Restaurants

Burj Khalifa

Architectural Buildings, Observation Decks & Towers

Souk Al Bahar

Speciality & Gift Shops

Bice Mare

Restaurants

Dubai Fountains

Fountains

Day 2

The Dubai Heritage Village

History Museums

Bastakia Quarter

Historic Walking Areas

Dubai Museum

Museums, History Museums

Bur Dubai Abra Dock

Piers & Boardwalks

Gold and spice souk

Speciality & Gift Shops

Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Shopping Malls

Day 3

Aquaventure Waterpark

Water Parks

Desert Safari Dubai

Safaris, Cultural Tours, Walking Tours, 4WD, ATV & Off-Road Tours

Sasha H's City Tips

  • When traveling within Dubai city, use the metro system, which has two lines, Red and Green.
  • Taxis are the best option for areas not covered by the metro, which include Bur Dubai and Deira.
  • Tipping: round up to the nearest note for taxi drivers and leave 10% in restaurants if service was good (and has not already been charged to the bill).
  • Dubai is a Muslim country and visitors should dress conservatively when appropriate. Swimwear is accepted on the beach but not in the malls, public parks, restaurants, and mosques.
  • In the city, women should always cover shoulders and preferably legs as well.
    Day 1
  • Save
    Dubai Mall
    Shopping Malls
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    Dubai is the undisputed queen of shopping and Dubai Mall is the glitziest of them all. Complete with waterfalls, an aquarium and zoo, a multitude of restaurants, an ice rink, kids’ play areas, multiplex cinemas, and 1,200 stores; Dubai Mall is also the world’s largest one-stop entertainment destination. It has pole position in downtown Dubai, right underneath the Burj Khalifa (the tallest man-made building in the world) and next to the Dubai Fountain. Key shops include Bloomingdales, Galeries Lafayette, and Marks & Spencer; there’s a gold souk to dazzle even the weariest of shoppers and designer stores, from Gucci to Armani, on Fashion Avenue.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • The Burj Khlifa is accessed from the lower-ground floor of the Dubai Mall. Book in advance online.
    • Take a walk along Waterfront Promenade, which has perfect views of the Burj Khalifa and the nightly dancing fountains on the lake.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 271 things to do in Dubai
    • the REAL mall 20/04/2015
    • Fun to see and a good place to eat 20/04/2015
    • Dubai Mall
    Address:
    Al Mussallah Rd
    DownTown Dubai, Near Souk Al Bahar Bridge
    Dubai 113444
    United Arab Emirates
    Phone:
    4 362 7500
    Hours:
    Thu - Sat
    10:00 - 14:00
    Sat - Wed
    10:00 - 12:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
    Aquariums
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    The Aquarium is on the ground floor of the Dubai Mall and has a 51m walk-through tunnel in which 33,000 sharks, manta rays, and eels swim endlessly above the heads of gaping shoppers. There’s a marine zoo with crocs, colonies of penguins, and otters, and a choice of experiences from a glass-bottomed boat ride behind the scenes in the aquarium, as well as caged shark dives and fish feeding.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Check online for the various packages available at the aquarium; price is dependent on the experience.
    • Parts of the aquarium can be seen for free in the Dubai Mall.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #28 of 271 things to do in Dubai
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Amazing underwater zoo 20/04/2015
    • Wow! Sharks overhead 20/04/2015
    • Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
    Address:
    Dubai Mall
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
    Phone:
    +971 4 448 5200
    Other:
  • Save
    Al Hallab
    Restaurants (Lebanese, Dessert)
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    Eat lunch in a traditional Lebanese restaurant right by the spectacular waterfall in the Dubai Mall atrium. Pick a mezze from hummus, stuffed vine leaves, falafel and garlicky aubergine, or try the grilled lamb kebabs from the wood-fired oven, accompanied by the freshest of fruit juices.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • There’s also an outdoor terrace overlooking the Dubai Fountain, perfect for evening diners.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #573 of 3,476 restaurants in Dubai
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • One of the best Hamoos and best View of Fountain + Burj Khalifa 30/03/2015
    • Good address for Middle eastern cuisine 15/03/2015
    • Al Hallab
    Address:
    Dubai Mall
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
    Phone:
    +971 - 4 - 3411 880
    Other:
  • Save
    Burj Khalifa
    Architectural Buildings, Observation Decks & Towers
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    The elegant bronze-and-glass spike of the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building at 828 meters, and has three observation decks, including the world’s highest at 148 floors high up in the sky. Elevators whisk visitors to the 'at the top' observation deck on Level 124 at 10m per second to see a pocket-sized Dubai, Arabian Gulf, and the desert laid out below.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Pre-book tickets on the lower ground floor of the Dubai Mall for a trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa.
    • Time your trip for the evening and you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the dancing fountains in the lake next to the Burj.
    • Open daily, and until midnight between Thursday and Saturday.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 271 things to do in Dubai
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Savage 20/04/2015
    • At the Top--Nice but nothing special. 20/04/2015
    • Burj Khalifa
    Address:
    1 Emaar Boulevard
    Downtown
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
    Phone:
    800 28843867
    Other:
  • Save
    Souk Al Bahar
    Speciality & Gift Shops
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    Connected to the Dubai Mall by bridge on the lower ground floor, the Souk al Bahar is designed in Arabic style to resemble an ancient souk. It’s full of quality souvenir shops offering expensive carpets, brass and copperware, shishas, art galleries, and traditional fashions. The souk also has a great choice of upscale cocktail bars and dining options, from seafood at Bice Mare to fine Arabic dishes at Al Malouf — both have terraces overlooking the Burj Lake.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Souk al Bahar is fully licensed.
    • The Souk overlooks the Burj Lake, where the Dubai Fountain dances nightly every 30 minutes between 6pm and 11pm.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #14 of 150 Shopping in Dubai
    • Surprisingly understated 18/04/2015
    • Very nice 17/04/2015
    • Souk Al Bahar
    Address:
    Exit 32 Sheikh Zayed Road
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
    Phone:
    971 4 362 7011
    Other:
  • Save
    Bice Mare
    Restaurants (Italian, Seafood, Pizza & Pasta)
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    This smart, top-end fish restaurant has a gorgeous open-air terrace overlooking the Burj Khalifa, which is lit up like a space station at night. Signature dishes include salmon carpaccio, great steaming bowls of mussels, and sushi plates to share. There’s also a decent list of Italian wines.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • Book a table on the terrace overlooking the Burj Lake to see the dancing fountains.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1,006 of 3,476 restaurants in Dubai
    • Great atmosphere of Dubai. 18/04/2015
    • Great! 12/04/2015
    • Bice Mare
    Address:
    3rd Floor, Souk Al Bahar
    Souk Al Bahar Bridge, DownTown Dubai
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
    Phone:
    +971 4 423 0982
    Price range:
    20 $ - 40 $
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    11:00 - 13:30
    Other:
  • Save
    Dubai Fountains
    Fountains
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    As this is Dubai, of course the Dubai Fountain is the biggest and most impressive dancing fountain in the world, with 6,600 lights stretching for 275m over the Burj Lake. Performances are every 30 minutes between 6pm and 11pm, with choreographed water jets shooting 150m into the air, 'dancing' in time to well-known classical tunes and world music.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • The Dubai Fountain also has afternoon shows at 1pm and 1.30pm (1.30pm and 2pm on Fridays).
    • The fountains can be viewed from the restaurant terraces of Souk al Bahar, or for free from the Waterfront Promenade outside the Dubai Mall and from the bridge across Burj Lake.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 271 things to do in Dubai
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • I never get tired of the Dubai Fountain 20/04/2015
    • Ok, not fantastic 20/04/2015
    • Dubai Fountains
    Address:
    Financial Centre Road
    Dubai Mall
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
    Phone:
    800 38224 6255
    Other:
  • Day 2
  • Save
    The Dubai Heritage Village
    History Museums
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    Two of Dubai’s many heritage projects are found side by side in Shindagha at the mouth of the creek; here displays in restored barasti houses (made from palm-tree leaves and mud) highlight ancient Emirati life. The Heritage Village showcases ancient crafts, from pottery to cooking and weaving, while the Diving Village examines Dubai’s pearl-diving industry, which brought much wealth into the emirate.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Many of the crafts displayed in the villages are for sale; take home a decorative ceramic tagine or delicate string of pearls.
    • Take a taxi from here to Bastakia. Don't walk; the traffic is appalling and there’s little shade.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #123 of 271 things to do in Dubai
    • Its not exceptional but its good 17/04/2015
    • Village, must visit! 09/04/2015
    • The Dubai Heritage Village
    Address:
    Entrance of the Dubai Creek
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
    Phone:
    +971 (0)4 393 7151
  • Save
    Bastakia Quarter
    Historic Walking Areas
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    On the west side of the Creek in Bur Dubai, Bastakia (now known as Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood) is a charming conservation area of beautifully restored sandstone houses. Their distinctive wind towers were used as primitive air conditioning to counteract the stifling desert heat. Nowadays its shaded lanes and palm-fringed courtyards hide smart art galleries, edgy cafes, traditional open-air restaurants, and expensive design shops.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Hidden Gems
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • There are several courtyard cafes open for salads and juices in the streets of Bastakia.
    • From Bastakia, walk to the Dubai Museum a few streets back into Bur Dubai.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #60 of 271 things to do in Dubai
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Mock history. 19/04/2015
    • glimps into the past 15/04/2015
    • Bastakia Quarter
    Address:
    Bur dubai
    Building 20
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
    Phone:
    43539090
  • Save
    Dubai Museum
    Museums, History Museums
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    This is the best place in the city to glimpse Dubai pre-oil and pre-tourist, and to witness the city's transformation in mere decades. Located among the neon and noise of Bur Dubai, the museum romps through the history of the UAE with a range of Middle Eastern weaponry; dioramas of a souk, a mosque; and an oasis showing the former lifestyles of Bedouin nomads. There are thoughtful displays on the pearl-diving industry and traditional fishing by dhow in the Arabian Gulf too.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • A wooden dhow stands right outside the museum, making it easy to spot among the chaos of modern-day Dubai.
    • The museum is open daily 8.30am–7.30pm, but closed on Friday morning.
    • Walk past the glittering green and blue tiles of the Grand Mosque, and through the textile and old souks to the Abra station on the Dubai Creek.
    • There is a small admission fee but a free, guided tour of the museum is included in the price.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #40 of 271 things to do in Dubai
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • On the tourist trail 20/04/2015
    • Dubai Highlights 19/04/2015
    • Dubai Museum
    Address:
    Al Souq Al Kabeer
    Bur Dubai
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
    Phone:
    04-3531862
    Hours:
    Sat - Thu
    8:30 - 4:30
  • Save
    Bur Dubai Abra Dock
    Piers & Boardwalks
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    Join the locals and jump aboard a traditional wooden abra to cross Dubai Creek from Bur Dubai to Deira. The Creek is where life began in the emirate and it’s still the hub of its commercial activity, with wooden dhows docking up and disgorging their cargo haphazardly on the quayside.

    Good for
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Senior
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • An abra trip across the Creek is good-value.
    • If time permits, take a traditional dhow trip up the creek to admire the ever-changing Dubai skyline. Cruises leave from the Dubai Creek waterfront southeast of Bastakia.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #15 of 271 things to do in Dubai
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great atmosphere 20/04/2015
    • nice to see for a balance to the luxury shopping and outings 20/04/2015
    • Bur Dubai Abra Dock
  • Save
    Gold and spice souk
    Speciality & Gift Shops
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    The spice and perfume souks in Deira are hidden away among a tangle of backstreets, whereas Dubai’s most famous market is quite simply bling central — the gold souk glitters and shimmers, its arcaded streets teeming with life. The prices are reasonable and the quality of gold on sale is consistently high; haggling is all part of the deal and to ensure that you’re not ripped off, anything you buy should be fully authenticated and certificated — feel free to walk out of the store if you’re not happy with a purchase.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Shopping Fanatic
    Tips
    • Much of the gold for sale in the souk is 18 carat to conform to western tastes.
    • Take a taxi to the Madinat Jumeirah.
    • You’ll get a better deal if paying by cash.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #18 of 150 Shopping in Dubai
    • Good Bargains 09/04/2015
    • Gold gold everywhere 08/04/2015
    • Gold and spice souk
    Address:
    downtown Dubai
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
  • Save
    Souk Madinat Jumeirah
    Shopping Malls
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    As far away from frenetic Deira as imaginable, this spectacular, beachfront Arabian-inspired resort neatly combines the heritage of old Arabia with the comforts of today's modern Dubai. Madinat Jumeirah comprises three five-star hotels, an upmarket souk selling classy gifts, nightclubs, theater, and fine -dining restaurants sprinkled throughout the complex; they are all linked Venetian-style by canals serviced by abras. Take your pick of venues and settle in for the night.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • Recommendations at Madinat Jumeirah include the ceviche and tequilas at the Mexican restaurant Tortuga or the delicious Lebanese mezze at Al Muna.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #23 of 271 things to do in Dubai
    • NOT ONLY SOUK 19/04/2015
    • Amazing 17/04/2015
    • Souk Madinat Jumeirah
    Address:
    Jumeirah Road
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
    Other:
  • Day 3
  • Save
    Aquaventure Waterpark
    Water Parks
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    And finally, a chance to see how Dubai has triumphed over geographical adversity. Run out of space? Simply build an island! Dubai’s biggest waterpark is Aquaventure at the Atlantis Hotel, stunningly located on the man-made island of The Palm, whose artificial fronds jut out into the Arabian Gulf. Aquaventure has dozens of water rides from family-friendly to seriously scary, feeding sessions with manta rays, and close encounters with dolphins; both of these need to be booked in advance. There are fruit and water stalls scattered around the park plus self-service kiosks offering tempting dosa or noodle lunchtime fillers.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Beach Goer
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Travel to Atlantis via the cool monorail from Gateway for views over The Palm.
    • Tickets are available in a multitude of different packages; check online for prices.
    • Towels and lockers are provided at Aquaventure.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #9 of 271 things to do in Dubai
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Fun for all 20/04/2015
    • Fab day in the sun 20/04/2015
    • Aquaventure Waterpark
    Address:
    Crescent Road
    Atlantis, The Palm
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
    Phone:
    +971 4 426 0000
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    10:00 - 8:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Desert Safari Dubai
    Safaris, Cultural Tours, Walking Tours, 4WD, ATV & Off-Road Tours
    See more photos
    Sasha H Says:

    Only the UAE could turn the desert into a tourist attraction — and what a way to wind up a whirlwind visit to Dubai. Afternoon desert-adventure tours include dune bashing at Big Red, sand boarding, or hot-air ballooning over the dunes as the sun goes down. For a Dubai finale, join a traditional Bedouin feast in a nomadic encampment, complete with belly dancing, henna tattoos, and camel rides.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • It’s best to join a tour for dune bashing, and it’s never safe to drive off into the desert unaccompanied.
    • Whenever you venture out into the desert, take sun cream, hat, sunglasses and water with you.
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #19 of 143 Outdoor Activities in Dubai
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • touristy 20/04/2015
    • Breathtaking Tour 20/04/2015
    • Desert Safari Dubai
    Address:
    3206, Churchill Towers
    Dubai
    United Arab Emirates
    Phone:
    +971-50-2768-111
    Other:
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