preloadUrban landscape of a city with a cluster of buildings amongst the skyscrapers.

With year-round hot weather and so many things to do in Dubai, the ‘city of gold’ makes for a fantastic exotic escape no matter when you choose to go.

Dubai is a showcase of startling modern Arabic architecture offering world-class dining, shopping and entertainment. It’s a city of supersized stuff. Buildings are taller and shinier, experiences are bigger and bolder, adventures are wilder and scarier.

Almost everything has some kind of “world’s first… biggest… tallest… most expensive…” label attached to it, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Dubai isn’t shy about showing its wealth but there’s a lot of substance beneath that shiny surface if you know where to look.

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What are the best things to do in Dubai?

A water canal across a neighbourhood of Arab structures with wind towers and distant views of Burj Al Arab.

Dubai offers a huge range of things to do and see. From fun free attractions to the ultimate in luxury experiences, it’s a city that caters to any budget.

While it appears modern and glamorous on its surface, it’s also a place with deep religious foundations that need to be respected by everyone who visits.

Where to begin then? In this guide we’ve laid out the KAYAK team’s favourite places to see and things to do. And if you need help planning your entire trip, from how to get there to where to stay, take a look at our in-depth Dubai Travel Guide.

  1. Burj Khalifa
  2. Dubai Harbour
  3. Chillout Lounge
  4. Dubai Miracle Gardens
  5. Illuminations
  6. Al Fahidi Historic District
  7. Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
  8. Ossiano at Atlantis, The Palm
  9. Alserkal Avenue
  10. Jumeirah Mosque
  11. Gold Souk
  12. Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
  13. Sandboarding
  14. Talise Ottoman Spa
  15. Desert hot-air balloon
  16. Museum of the Future
  17. Dubai Fountain
  18. Camel racing and riding
  19. Deep Dive Dubai
  20. XLine Dubai
  21. Aura Skypool
  22. Bedouin dune dinner
  23. Sky Views Dubai
  24. Afternoon tea on the QE2
  25. Atlantis The Royal

1. Climb above the clouds in Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building

Silhouette of a person looking at the cityscape by the sea with modern skyscrapers against the scenic twilight sky.

Topping out at 828 metres, Burj Khalifa is the ultimate example of a skyscraper and the most famed Dubai attraction. An architectural wonder, it’s spectacular to look at from ground level and mind-boggling to stare from at its top. As long as you don’t mind heights, that is.

The Sky Experience takes you up to the world’s highest observation deck with an outside terrace on the 148th floor. If the weather is cooperating, the views over the city and desert beyond can only be described as mind-boggling. Clever interactive experiences help bring them to life, only adding to the experience.

Tickets are available up to 90 days in advance and you’ll need to reserve in advance as they do sell out.

2. Walk on water at Dubai Harbour

Dubai Harbour is spectacular in its own right, but throw in some adrenaline sports and it’s undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Dubai. Head over to Nemo Watersports on Jumeirah Street at the harbour’s edge and book yourself a flyboard session.

You’ll spend half an hour learning to fly up to ten metres above the water, attached to a board powered by a water jet. It sounds crazy, and it is. Especially with the awesome spectacles of the Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa looming high above you.

3. Take a break from the heat at the Chillout Lounge

A person wearing winter jacket with purple gloves, holding a steaming mug of hot drink.

Make no mistake, this city gets hot. From May to September the average temperature in Dubai is around 37°C, and it can get as hot as 42°C. If you’re not used to this kind of heat, it can take its toll, which is why there are many places tailored to help you escape the heat.

Chillout Lounge is the first ice lounge in the Middle East. Located at the Times Square Centre Dubai, it’s a wintry wonderland sculpted entirely of ice with temperatures fixed at -6°C. Wrap up in a blanket, order a signature hot chocolate and chill out, literally. Open 10:00 to 22:00 Friday to Tuesday, it’s a great place to take the kids – book online first.

4. Get back to nature in the Dubai Miracle Gardens

Bright flowers cover the slope in this portion of the Dubai Miracle Garden.

Not just a city of skyscrapers and sand dunes, you’ll find a wonderland of flowers at Dubai Miracle Gardens. Across 72,000 square metres more than 150 million flowers have been landscaped in weird and wonderful ways. A vast sculpture park of nature, it also smells as good as it looks.

It’s closed in the summer months when the temperatures peak so check online to make sure it’s open before you go.

5. Find inner peace at Illuminations

Beautiful Afro American couple in sports clothes is stretching on yoga mat while working out at home; Shutterstock ID 473389471; Purpose: Commercial emails; Brand (KAYAK, Momondo, Any): All; Client/Licensee: Carlee Shults

Holistic healing, personal growth, mental wellbeing – wellness tourism is getting more and more popular. Combining wellness with travel is a great way to experience new approaches and can make a refreshing change from the more full-on Dubai attractions.

Illuminations is the largest wellness platform in Dubai. It runs a huge calendar of classes, activities, events and retreats across many different holistic healing approaches. It also holds regular free seminars and activities if you’re just curious to find out what it’s all about. Dive in and find yourself.

6. Step into the past on a tour of Al Fahidi Historic District

An alley in an old neighbourhood of mud and brick houses.

Dubai isn’t just a city of glass towers and modernity. Its foundations stretch back far before the Emirates were formed in 1971 and as a result, it has many stories to tell. To find out more about its origins, take an atmospheric heritage tour of the Al Fahidi Historic District and Al Farooq mosque.

This excellent tour is a classic Dubai excursion through its old alleys and pathways of stone, teak and gypsum. Tours take place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 09:00 and on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30. Alternatively, wander unguided and revel in getting lost in its history.

7. Swim with sharks at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

Various species of sharks swim in a massive aquarium.

You don’t have to swim with sharks of course, but at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo it’s an option! If you’re feeling brave, jump into the 10-million-litre tank and dive with the resident sand tiger sharks, reef sharks, leopard sharks, tawny nurse sharks, giant groupers and stingrays.

If you’re less excited about getting up close to so many teeth, the amazing 50-metre-long underwater tunnel is an impressive alternative. Spy some of the 140 different aquatic species without getting a single hair wet or try some of the other experiences like snorkelling.

As with all things diving, regulations and qualifications are required so check and book well in advance.

8. Dine with fish (and on them) at Michelin-starred Ossiano

An individual with a meal and sipping from a glass of rose wine.

Fine fish dining and fine fish views are the order of the day at Ossiano in Atlantis The Palm. This one-Michelin-star restaurant is set amid Atlantis The Palm’s vast aquarium teeming with colourful aquatic life. Those are not for eating, though.

Instead, push the boat out and try chef Grégoire’s Berger’s 10-wave tasting menu. A culinary foray into the ocean, it promises sustainably sourced ingredients and sustained taste sensations.

Ossiano is unsurprisingly popular so you’ll need to book a week or two in advance, unless you can be flexible with your dining times.

9. Get artsy at Alserkal Avenue

A man checking out the pictures hanging on the wall of a museum.

Alserkal Avenue is home to a community of contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers, businesses and community spaces. Wandering through them gives great insight into the art of the region, both established and up-and-coming.

Among them, the excellent Ayyam Gallery focuses on lesser-known aspects of global art history while Green Art Gallery explores more contemporary regional art. There are plenty of great pit stops dotted around too, such as coffee specialists Nightjar and Japanese street food specialist, Susuru.

KAYAK top tip: if you’re an art lover, head to 18B Street to see the city’s best street art. Massive murals daubed across traditional buildings make it a photography hotspot.

10. Photograph Jumeirah Mosque at dusk

The exquisite Jumeirah Mosque with its two minarets stretching into the deep blue sky.

Casting a startling outline against always-blue skies, the imposing Jumeirah Mosque is the only Mosque in Dubai that’s open to non-Muslim visitors. Tourists are encouraged to come and explore the mosque and learn about Islam and Emirati culture under its “Open Doors. Open Minds” programme.

Hewn from white stone and built in the Fatimid style, Jumeirah Mosque is one of Dubai’s most impressive attractions. With its protruding portals, keel-shaped arches and highly detailed stucco decorations it’s particularly beautiful (and photogenic) as the sun sinks, skies glow and shadows lengthen.

Excellent guided tours start at 10:00 and 14:00 daily except on Fridays, which is reserved for prayer. No need to book in advance but visitors must dress appropriately – cover your knees and shoulders and women will need a head covering. Make sure to hang around after to sample the complimentary and very tasty Fuala Emirati snacks.

11. Bring home the bling at the Gold Souk

A variety of intricate gold jewelry pieces hanging from a glass window.

There are many things to do in Dubai that are so bling, it’s hard not to notice the city’s obsession with gold. Nowhere is that truer than the vast Gold Souk at Deira, a recently-expanded bazaar of hundreds of stalls that together make up the biggest gold market in the world.

Whether you’re there for photos or to find something special, the Gold Souk is one of the most eye-catching Dubai excursions. Hop aboard a traditional abra wooden water taxi at Bur Dubai to arrive in style and bring your best bargaining skills to bag a deal.

Traders expect to barter and as the souk is regulated by the UAE government, you know that what you’re haggling for is authentic.

KAYAK top tip: search out the display housing the Najmat Taiba (Star of Taiba). A 64kg, 21-carat gold ring, it is the world’s largest and the very definition of bling.

12. Take a tour of the first UAE national park

Dubai may be set in the Arabian Desert, but that doesn’t mean it’s short of wildlife and natural wonders. The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR) was set up to preserve and showcase the region’s diverse and surprisingly abundant indigenous flora and fauna.

DDCR day tours are a great way to get familiar with Dubai beyond its skyscrapers, as they put the environment and sustainability at the heart of their agenda. On a tour of the reserves four ‘zones’ keep an eye out for Arabian gazelles and oryxes, red foxes and caracals.

Book tours with an operator through the DDCR website to make sure they’re official and contributing to, rather than damaging this extraordinary environment.

13. Sandboard down towering desert dunes

A man descends as he sandboards on the slope of the dunes.

The Arabian Desert is one of the world’s great adventure playgrounds and plays host to some epic Dubai excursions. Top of our list for those adventures is a sandboarding trip – make for the top of a dune, strap on your sandboard and fly down it to the valley floor. It’s snowboarding without the cold, what’s not to like?

Novice or expert, you should book a licenced adventure tour group like Arabian Adventures. They’ll know the best dunes for your experience, have all the equipment you’ll need and most importantly, are licensed and so know how to take care of the environment.

If you’re feeling particularly bold, ask to board the impressively steep Al Badayer, AKA the Red Dune.

14. Wash away the desert at the Talise Ottoman Spa

A woman relaxes in a hot tub with her eyes closed.

After a hard day adventuring in the Arabian Desert, a scrub and soak in a Turkish Hammam is about as rejuvenating as it gets. The Talise Ottoman Spa at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray is one of the city’s best, having won multiple awards around the world (not to mention the heart of yours truly).

Pay it a visit and you’ll soon see why. Inspired by the region’s Ottoman heritage, the spa is laser-focused on relaxation across its 8,000 square metres. The Royal Ottoman Signature Hammam is the one to go for, followed by a soak in the huge pool and hot tubs.

Book online in advance and make sure to confirm your booking before you go.

15. Fly with falcons from your own hot air balloon

Two staple tourist activities in Dubai are a hot air balloon trip over the desert and a falconry experience. This epic excursion with Balloon Adventures Dubai combines the two. Hop in your own personal balloon with your expert pilot, who also happens to be a falcon handler, and take to the skies.

At 4,000 feet (more than a kilometre) up the world’s only in-air falconry show takes flight. Views stretch over the Arabian Desert to the Hajar Mountains and take in roaming wildlife.

Oryxes and camels wander the dunes below while the world’s fastest bird puts on a unique airshow just for you. Truly a one off experience, you’ll need to book in advance and flights are weather dependent.

16. Widen your horizons at the Museum of the Future

A beautiful monument in the shape of a sphere with Arabic letters written in bright LED lights stands next to a road. 

Worth visiting for the extraordinary architecture alone, the Museum of the Future is a 77-metre-high ovular ring etched in giant Arabic calligraphy. Its mind-boggling shape is symbolic of the Earth, humanity and the unknown future.

Step inside and explore the many interactive exhibits that bring that future to life. Your imagination will run wild in the digital recreation of the Amazon Rainforest. Your mind will be blown as you travel to a moon space station and gaze back at Earth. And ‘Tomorrow Today’ gives you a rare chance to get up close with the near-future technologies that will shape our lives.

For me, it’s the most exciting and progressive showcase of art and learning anywhere in the world and an absolute must-do in Dubai. Unsurprisingly, tickets sell out so book in advance.

17. Enjoy the free show at Dubai Fountain

People on a boat contemplate the fountains of the lake and the cityscape with modern and stylish skyscrapers against the twilight sky.

On Burj Lake in the shade of the Burj Khalifa, another Dubai attraction lays claim to being the world’s tallest. It’s likely you’ll find yourself in the Dubai Mall (the world’s largest of course) at some point, if only to enjoy the air conditioning. That will give you easy access to the Dubai Fountain and its impressive show.

The 900-foot-long fountain blasts out more than 1,000 different shapes with around 83,000 litres of water in the air at any given time. You can pay to board the boat ride across the lake but with a stroll along the new free-floating boardwalk getting you so close to the action, there’s no real need to.

18. Connect with your inner camel

The ships of the desert are ubiquitous in Middle Eastern culture, and Dubai offers lots of ways to incorporate them into your visit.

Camel racing at Al Marmoom is as entertaining as it is traditional, its roots dating back to the 7th century. It’s an amazing spectacle to see 60 camels hurtling around the track at up to 40 miles per hour, robotic jockeys on their backs, chased by trainers in 4x4s screaming encouragement from loudspeakers. Due to the midday heat, race meets start early, usually between 06:00 and 09:00, but are well worth getting up for.

If camel racing isn’t your thing, why not ride one instead? Platinum Tours hosts ethical and sustainable adventures into the desert, many of which will have you rolling over dunes perched high for a camel’s eye view.

19. Explore an underwater city with Deep Dive Dubai

A scuba diver swims in the deep turquoise crystal clear water creating air bubbles.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, the desert to the deepest dive pool in the world. Deep Dive Dubai is the epitome of Emirati extravagance – 14 million litres of water in a 60-metre-deep tower themed to look like an abandoned submerged city. Also doubling as the region’s biggest film studio, it’s as crackers as it is epic.

Novices and anyone older than ten can snorkel the surface and try diving down to 12 metres. Certified scuba divers can explore the entire city at their own pace over different dives. Freediving and scuba courses are also available. You’ll need to book in advance and show proof of any certifications.

20. Soar through the city with XLine Dubai

An aerial skyline of Dubai featuring its towering skyscrapers and marina.

Feeling brave and/or stupid? Then strap yourself into XLine Dubai. Dive belly down from the top of the Jumeirah Beach Residence and whip across the Dubai skyline taking in its streets, skyscrapers and swimming pools on your descent into Dubai Marina.

Terrifyingly long, steep and fast, you’ll hit speeds of 50 miles per hour and if you don’t fancy doing it alone, you can always go tandem. Age, size and health restrictions apply so check the website before booking.

21. Take a break and drink in the views from the Aura Skypool

A person immersed in water leans in a pool and gazes at the city skyline.

While many of Dubai’s rooftop pools are open exclusively to hotel guests (such as the 77th-floor Address Beach Resort infinity pool, another ‘world’s highest’ winner), Aura Skypool Lounge is open to all.

Fifty floors and 200 metres up, it’s the ultimate place to rise above the city streets and spend a serene day soaking and sunning yourself. The world’s highest 360-degree infinity pool, its stunning setting casts views over the entire Dubai skyline including The Palm and Burj Al Arab. Book your slot online and don’t forget your suntan lotion.

22. Dine under the stars with a Bedouin dune dinner

A man hugs a woman from behind enjoying a campfire in the desert.

Sunset in the Arabian Desert is an otherworldly experience. Once the sun has dropped past the horizon, don’t head back to the city but instead embrace the Bedouin life. For one night, at least.

A Dune Dinner Safari combines the best of all worlds. Following a 4×4 dune-bashing session in Al Maha Desert Resort in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, it’s time to eat.

Head to your torchlit Bedouin camp for a barbecue feast of grilled meats, fresh salads, Arabic sweets and shisha. All served to the spectacle of belly dancing and a Tanoura Arabic folk dance show.

Yes it’s a bit touristy, but sometimes that’s exactly what you want and dinner in the sand dunes is just such an occasion.

23. Test your nerve at Sky Views Dubai

The last Dubai adrenaline adventure, I promise! This one’s worth waiting for though. Two hundred and nineteen metres above Downtown Dubai, Sky Views Dubai is a series of vertigo-inducing experiences designed to make your head spin.

Just taking the glass lift up to the 53rd floor is enough to get most hearts pumping. That’s before you take a ride in the glass slide attached to the building’s exterior that carries you down a storey.

Even more intimidating is the Edge Walk, which does exactly what the name suggests – a hands and barrier-free stroll outside the building just shy of 220 metres up. Just don’t look down.

24. Take a Sunday roast or afternoon tea on the QE2

A refreshing cup of tea served on a pink rose cup and saucer set.

You can take the English out of England, but they’ll still find it overseas. What better way to assuage any homesickness than with a full-blown Sunday roast or afternoon tea aboard the legendary QE2?

Now Dubai’s only floating hotel, moored at Port Rashid, the Queen’s Grill was once the most celebrated restaurant at sea.

Today it serves up hearty high-end British food smothered with a side of nostalgia. Roasts are served Sundays between 12:30 and 16:00, and cream teas Friday and Saturdays from 15:00 until 18:30. Dress smart and book in advance.

25. Check in at the crazy Atlantis The Royal Hotel

Opened at the turn of 2023 to huge fanfare, Atlantis The Royal describes itself as the “most ultra-luxury experiential resort in the world”. Judging by its facilities and scale, that’s a hard claim to argue, and it’s plain to see why Dubai was the city where they chose to build it.

The truth is, our list of the 25 best things to do only scratches the surface of what the city of gold has to offer. Hopefully, though, it’s inspired you to think about booking a trip to Dubai.

Handily, we have many more articles to help inspire and plan your trip. Focus on fun with the 11 coolest things to do in Dubai and don’t miss our rundown of the 11 best beaches in Dubai.

Hungry? Then you’ll love our article uncovering the food of Dubai. And if you’re not coming alone, we’ve got the lowdown on everything you need to know for family holidays in Dubai.

If it’s views and architecture that’s luring you east, we’ve scaled the heights of architecture for you. And lastly, if you’re unsure we can also guide you through when is the best time to visit Dubai.

Important rules to remember when visiting Dubai

A curly long-haired woman is in deep thinking.

Dubai is a fantastic and friendly city that’s thrown its arms open to Western tourists and non-Muslim visitors. It is also, however, a place of deep religious roots, traditions and customs – and it’s extremely important you respect and pay close attention to them when you visit.

You’ve likely read stories of tourists breaching social etiquette while on holiday in Dubai and as a result getting in trouble with the authorities. This is most often a simple lack of awareness of the rules around how to dress and behave, so we’ve laid them out for you here.

  • Dress respectfully and don’t walk around in swimsuits and bikinis.
  • Do not hold hands, kiss or show public displays of affection with your other half, especially if you’re not married.
  • Don’t walk in front of or stare at any Muslim when they’re praying.
  • Don’t point at people, show the soles of your feet or sit with your legs crossed as it’s considered disrespectful.
  • Ask permission before taking photos of local people.
  • Never, ever get aggressive with anyone.

Lastly, Ramadan. The holy month of fasting doesn’t fall on fixed dates so you’ll need to check before you visit, as it comes with strictly enforced rules everyone has to follow as a sign of respect. From sunrise to sunset, you must avoid alcohol, dancing, chewing gum, smoking and singing in public. Once the sun sets, the city opens up again.

Rules have been greatly relaxed in recent years as Dubai welcomes more and more tourists, but that’s not an excuse to ignore them. Be respectful and you’ll get to see and experience the true warmth of Arabic and Emirati culture.

A mother and daughter strolling barefooted on sand dunes in the desert.

How did we choose what goes in our guide to Dubai?

Dubai’s location makes it such an easy place to reach that it’s a hugely popular place to visit. That’s greatly helped by its growing role as a transit route for many flights between Europe and Asia.

The result is that lots of the KAYAK team have spent a lot of time there, and got to know the city beyond its glossy veneer. I too have passed through several times, usually fleetingly, but for long enough to be spellbound by its wonders.

This guide is a culmination of all our experiences, researched, checked and checked again. We hope it gives you the inspiration to dive into the wonders of the Emirates and its shining beacon of the future, Dubai.

Visiting Dubai: FAQs

Thanks to its scale and infrastructure, renting a car in Dubai gives you the freedom to explore the city and its surroundings at your own pace. It could also save you serious money in taxi fees, transfers and guided tours.

Although traffic can get heavy, Dubai is a safe and relatively ordered place to drive. You can rent a car on an international licence as long as you’re over 21. Rental prices aren’t too expensive either, especially if you book well in advance – just remember to drive on the right!

Dubai is sunny and hot all year round. Summer months are scorching and best avoided but temperatures seldom drop below the mid twenties at any point. For more check our seasonal guide to when is the best time to visit Dubai.

There’s an almost unlimited number of things to do in Dubai. It’s the kind of city that could keep you entertained for a lifetime. It’s also busy and brash and quite overwhelming with heat and sand and dust.

I’d suggest a week for a first visit. That’s enough time to be wowed by the big city attractions, get your adrenaline fired up in the Arabian Desert, and spend a day or two beach or poolside for some R&R.

Dubai is one of the safest cities in the world with very few incidents of personal crime. As always, you should be aware of the potential for pickpockets, especially around Jumeirah Beach, but compared to most major global cities crime is not an issue.

Go City has a range of Dubai passes that can save you money on attractions. They range from the ‘All Inclusive’ for experiencing as much of Dubai as possible to the ‘Explorer’ for ticking off the big attractions on your bucket list.

About the author

Duncan MaddenDuncan is a freelance travel writer, copywriter and book author in constant search of travel stories and the perpetual sensation of being on holiday. He’s never happier than when on a dusty trail in search of empty waves or ducking under the piste tape in search of snowbound solitude. British born, living in Germany, but happiest heading for the horizon. His first book, Found in Translation, explores the etymologies and stories of country names around the world and is out now.

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