Abu Dhabi is one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world featuring various destinations for visitors and residents to explore. From the exhilarating theme parks on Yas Island to the majestic Sheikh Zayed Mosque, there’s no shortage of things to do in the UAE’s capital. Were you looking for budget-friendly activities? You’re in the right place! There are loads of free things to do in Abu Dhabi, and we’ve shortlisted the very best for you. Read on for all the details.
BEST FREE THINGS TO DO IN ABU DHABI TO EXPLORE THE CULTURE
With a slew of new attractions in Abu Dhabi, it’s fair to say that the list of things to do in the capital city is increasing every day. But if you are looking for activities that won’t cost a single Dirham, this guide walks you through awesome places to visit and totally free things to do in Abu Dhabi.
SPEND A DAY AT THE MAJESTIC SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
The first place most people mention when asked about attractions in Abu Dhabi is the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. One of the world’s largest mosques with the capacity to hold 40,000 worshippers at a time, this place of worship is a pure work of art. Its beauty and splendour make it a deserving entry on our list of the best free places to visit in Abu Dhabi.
The Grand Mosque features 82 domes, 24-carat gold gilded chandeliers, over 1,000 columns and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. The beautifully-landscaped surroundings are also popular with visitors. Sheikh Zayed Mosque is also one of the few mosques that offer guided mosque tours for non-Muslims in the UAE.
EXPERIENCE AN AUTHENTIC EMIRATI TOWN AT HERITAGE VILLAGE
Heritage Village is a re-creation of a traditional Emirati Bedouin village and is one of the best heritage sites in Abu Dhabi. As you walk through the venue, you can see how the region’s inhabitants lived long ago. The area features everything from mud-brick houses decked with palm leaves to Bedouin tents with campfires for brewing tea.
Objects like old swords, pits and other historical relics are all on show. You will also come across camels, goats and Arabian horses, which make a visit here one of the best free things to do in Abu Dhabi with family.
WITNESS THE RICH CULTURAL LEGACY OF THE UAE AROUND QASR AL HOSN
If you want to explore the country’s history without spending anything, visit Qasr Al Hosn. It is the oldest stone building in the country and dates back to the 18th century. The structure was initially built as a watchtower by the Bani Yas tribe to protect coastal trade routes and the surrounding settlements.
Qasr Al Hosn has been transformed into an art and tourism hub in association with the Cultural Foundation. Visitors can become part of diverse public programmes like live painting, artist-guided tours, live music and other exciting activities – most of which are free. A top cultural free thing to do in Abu Dhabi, visiting Qasr Al Hosn also gives you the chance to wander around the artist’s area for zero charges.
EXPLORE THE MINA MARKETS AT MINA ZAYED PORT
Selling everything from machine-made carpets to exotic fruits and vegetables, the markets at Mina Zayed Port are some of the best traditional souks in Abu Dhabi.
Explore the souks and take in the sights and smells of the traditional bazaar for a memorable day well spent. You don’t have to pay anything. But if the urge does hit, a shopping spree won’t cost you that much as most items here are reasonably priced.
VISIT THE OASIS OF DIGNITY MEMORIAL
Wahat Al Karama, or “Oasis of Dignity”, is a war memorial built in homage to the UAE armed forces. This larger than life structure is all about little details that add significance and beauty. Wahat Al Karama is predominantly made up of aluminium-clad tablets with the names of the country’s martyrs etched on them.
This beautiful tribute is a popular tourist attraction in Abu Dhabi where you can pay your respects to the country’s fallen soldiers and civil service members. It also features a glittering pool that reflects the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque nearby.
AL JAHILI FORT
Constructed in 1890, Al Jahili Fort is one of the largest forts in the country. It is home to a permanent exhibition devoted to travel writer, photographer and explorer, Sir Wilfred Patrick Thesiger. He had the honour of crossing the world’s largest sand mass, Rub Al Khali, twice during the 1940s. A visit here will give you a chance to view a traditional form of Arabian architecture.
VISIT THE ICONIC FOUNDER’S MEMORIAL
Sheikh Zayed Memorial Abu Dhabi was built to celebrate the legacy and life of the late His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the UAE. Through multimedia presentations, visitors can learn about the man who made such a huge difference not just for his countrymen but also on a global scale. For anyone visiting Abu Dhabi, a visit to this place would be an educational experience.
APPRECIATE ART AT WAREHOUSE 421
Art enthusiasts searching for great places to explore can head to Warehouse 421 which brings many free activities in Abu Dhabi to indulge in. This repurposed warehouse, located in Mina Zayed, is a happening location that hosts art exhibitions, galleries, workshops, events and film screenings free of charge.
You can watch a film, admire the art, learn something new or mingle with the local creative community here. Since there is always something artsy going on at Warehouse 421, you can find great collections of brilliant work done by homegrown and regional artists, alongside a whole lot of other things to do.
EXPLORE THE LIWA OASIS
The Liwa Oasis located to the north of Rub Al Khali or the Empty Quarter is a green space in the middle of red sand dunes. One of the popular oases in the UAE, the Liwa Oasis, is home to nine forts constructed by Bedouin tribes in the 19th and 20th centuries to protect precious water reserves.
Two of these forts still stand tall today, and you can visit them for free. Besides that, you can also explore the date plantation in the area that has been a staple of the Bedouin lifestyle for centuries.
APPRECIATE THE ART AT THE ETIHAD MODERN ART GALLERY (EMAG)
If you are into art, the Etihad Modern Art Gallery is one of the best places to visit in Abu Dhabi free of cost. Situated just behind Al Bateen Mall, EMAG is a multi-purpose space that hosts art shows and exhibitions featuring the work of local artists.
Counted among the best art galleries in Abu Dhabi, EMAG is also known for hosting some of the best free activities in Abu Dhabi for art enthusiasts, such as art workshops, poetry nights and music events.
While entry is free, some exhibitions have limited seating and require tickets.
FREE SPORTS AND ADVENTURE ACTIVITIES IN ABU DHABI
If you love to stay active or want that instant adrenaline boost, here are some free activities in Abu Dhabi for you!
GEAR UP FOR A DAY OF CYCLING AT AL WATHBA TRACK
Next on our list of free things to do in Abu Dhabi is cycling on Al Wathba Track. Counted among the best cycling tracks in Abu Dhabi, Al Wathba Cycling Track is a public road that’s open for cyclists all day. Thanks to solar-powered lights, you will have no trouble cruising the track at night.
Apart from a stellar track, ADNOC Oasis store is where you can stop by for refreshments. So, pack your bicycle and drive down to Al Wathba Track. It is located just off the E22 Abu Dhabi-Al Ain Road and makes for a superb option for those looking for exciting things to do in Abu Dhabi for free.
GET THAT ADRENALINE PUMPING AT THE YAS MARINA CIRCUIT
How about an evening of free fitness in the city’s very own Yas Marina Circuit, where you can get a dose of the Formula 1 experience? You can run, walk or cycle around the expansive motorsport circuits on certain days of the week, making this one of the best free activities in Abu Dhabi.
*It’s better to register in advance at the ”TrainYas” section of the official Yas Marina Circuit website to avoid disappointment.
These free fitness activities in Abu Dhabi’s most famous locations are perfect for building stamina and getting the much-needed boost of adrenaline!
OFF-ROADING IN THE DESERT
Take a break from city life and venture out into the desert. For adventure fanatics, one of the best free things to do in Abu Dhabi is to go off-roading in the dunes. There are several off-roading routes in Abu Dhabi that you can explore for an adrenaline-pumping experience.
Cruise the dunes at Rub Al Khali, aptly called ‘The Empty Quarter.’ Known as the world’s largest uninterrupted sand desert, this epic location has dunes reaching heights of over 150 metres. The tallest is the Moreeb Dune, believed to be at least 300 metres high.
Desert camping in the UAE is an experience like no other. Away from the sky-piercing towers and into the wild, overnight camping in the desert is certainly one to tick off your bucket list. Pitch up your tent, fire up a grill, and toss some meat on it while you stoke the bonfire to perfection.
A night on the sand dunes, under the stars, makes this one of the best free things to do in Abu Dhabi, especially if you love a bit of adventure in your life.
FREE THINGS TO DO AND PLACES TO VISIT IN ABU DHABI FOR FAMILIES
Apart from culture and adventure, there are plenty of free activities in Abu Dhabi for families.
PLAY VOLLEYBALL BY THE BEACH AT HUDAYRIAT ISLAND
Enjoy a game of beach volleyball at Hudayriat Island, Abu Dhabi’s latest entertainment and leisure district. Playing volleyball at the beach is one of the most fun things to do in Abu Dhabi. But if volleyball isn’t your sport, there are five football fields, four basketball courts and four beach football courts for everyone to enjoy!
This beautiful beachfront location also has cycling tracks, food trucks and play areas. That’s plenty of free game time for the whole family!
ENJOY SUN, SAND AND SURFING AT AL BATEEN BEACH AND AL QURM BEACH
Al Bateen Beach is one of the capital city’s hottest seaside destinations. And best of all, it’s free to visit! You can build sandcastles on the beach, go fishing at Al Bateen fishing spot, play in the surf or soak up some sun as beaches are a great place to spend the day with family.
Another one of the best Abu Dhabi places to visit for free is Al Qurm Beach. This is a smaller beach compared to other famous ones in the capital but offers the perfect setting for a small picnic with friends and family.
SPEND A RELAXING DAY AT THE CORNICHE
One of the cheapest places to visit in Abu Dhabi for free activities is Corniche. You can try out fun activities at the Abu Dhabi Corniche or simply take a pleasant stroll down the beautiful promenade.
You can also take a book and sit on one of the benches with fantastic views of the sea with the waves lapping nearby. If relaxing at the beach isn’t what you’re looking for, enjoy a BBQ picnic at one of the parks on the Abu Dhabi Corniche.
HAVE A PICNIC AT REEM CENTRAL PARK
You can wander into the city’s numerous gorgeous parks and hang out for hours without paying a penny. For those looking for free places in Abu Dhabi to visit with family, Reem Central Park on Al Reem Island is a must-visit! From a fully equipped skate park to a wide range of restaurants, there are plenty of activities in Reem Central Park for adults and kids alike.
You can go skating with your little ones or let them frolic in the kids’ play area. Enjoy the artwork or take a relaxing stroll on the Canal Walk. There’s also the ever-popular classic of enjoying a family picnic at the park!
VIEW EXHIBITS AT MANARAT AL SAADIYAT
Located on the stunning Saadiyat Island, Manarat Al Saadiyat follows a similar concept to the Etihad Modern Art Gallery. They have an ongoing calendar of free events in Abu Dhabi that includes workshops for kids as well as adults on printmaking, self-portraits, figure drawing and robotics.
All that makes it the perfect spot to indulge in free family activities in Abu Dhabi. Being one of the best Abu Dhabi art galleries, it offers an all-encompassing experience for people looking for free places to visit in Abu Dhabi.
CATCH A GLIMPSE OF FLAMINGOS IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT AT AL WATHBA WETLAND RESERVE
Looking for free nature tours in Abu Dhabi? Visit Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. It’s similar to the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary in Dubai, where flamingos and dozens of other bird species migrate.
If you love learning more about the region’s natural wonders, it’s one of the best places to visit in Abu Dhabi for free. How can you not be excited about the chance to watch pink flamingoes feeding and nesting in all their glory?
OTHER FREE ACTIVITIES IN ABU DHABI
Need more options to enjoy in the capital? Here are some more things to do for free in Abu Dhabi.
ENJOY CLASSIC MOVIES AT CINEMA SPACE
When we mentioned things to do for free in Abu Dhabi, you probably did not expect the list to include free movie screenings…but Cinema Space makes it happen!
Since 2014, this initiative hosts free community screenings of restored and contemporary films from International filmmakers. Better book your seat fast. Reservations are mandatory!
LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE AT THE LANGUAGE CLUB
If you’re looking for free activities in Abu Dhabi that are fun and educational, go to the Language Club. It is a free initiative run by translator and linguist Marisol Vasquez. Participants can practice their skills in a fun environment via dynamic activities and workshops.
The club currently covers eight languages — English, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, German and French. Whether you are interested in foreign languages or want to learn Arabic for free in Abu Dhabi, head to the Language Club!
VISIT THE SUSTAINABLE CITY IN ABU DHABI
Masdar City, also known as the sustainable city in Abu Dhabi, is a fascinating district that offers an abundance of unique architecture and initiatives driven towards greater sustainability and greener urban living. The area is home to some of the most incredible building projects in the country, constructed to reduce the community’s carbon footprint while fulfilling the demand for water and energy.
Dubbed to be one of the most sustainable urban neighbourhoods globally, Masdar City is also home to the Shams 1 solar plant – a monumental project for harnessing renewable energy in the UAE. A visit to Masdar City opens up your eyes to an entirely different world and lifestyle that promises a better environmental future for all.
EXPLORE EMIRATES PALACE
An iconic landmark in Abu Dhabi, Emirates Palace is a beautiful hotel that perfectly blends modern luxury with traditional Arabian hospitality. This place is a structural marvel, especially for those who appreciate the evolution of architectural designs.
Even though visitors can only access the lobby and the outdoor courtyard, the sight of the central passageways and arched ceilings alone will leave you in awe. The chance to wander through the majestic halls and corridors makes Emirates Palace another one of the top places to visit in Abu Dhabi for free.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HOW CAN I SPEND A DAY IN ABU DHABI?
If you only have 24 hours in Abu Dhabi, here are some of the activities you shouldn’t miss out on.
- A visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
- A cruise on a traditional dhow.
- Taking the Big Bus Tour for a comprehensive sightseeing experience.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS IN ABU DHABI?
There are plenty of things to do for kids in Abu Dhabi. Let them run at the Murjan Splash Park, visit the Orange Wheels and Orange Spin edutainment centre, or see them discover and create new things at Little World. These kids’ activities in Abu Dhabi will keep the little ones occupied for hours.
That completes our list of free things to do in Abu Dhabi! Aside from the destinations mentioned above, you can also visit some of the best beaches in Abu Dhabi free of charge. If the urge to splurge does take hold, you can always indulge in the many other activities in Abu Dhabi during your trip. Foodies can head to The Botanic Atrium, a first-of-its-kind food hall in the emirate.