It’s always a challenge to figure out how to see everything that a city has to offer in one day. And when you or a friend has only 24 hours to spend in a city like Dubai, well, then that’s a challenge of the highest order. This seemingly tiny emirate packs the largest mall, the tallest tower, the largest choreographed dancing fountains, and the charm of old Arabia – so many things to do in Dubai and so little time! Lucky for you, we’re here to help you out. Here are some places to visit to make the most of your 24 hours in Dubai.
Take An Early Morning Hot Air Balloon Ride
This one isn’t exactly cheap but if you have just a day in Dubai, can you think of a better way to be introduced to the city than looking over sprawling desert dunes and the distinct Dubai skyline in the distance? The early morning silence of the desert and the warm sunshine give you a unique opportunity to soak it all in: you are in Dubai. The hot air balloon ride starts early morning and some operators also engage in some light falconry (i.e. you’ll be soaring with falcons!). Once you’re back on land, enjoy a delicious breakfast at a Bedouin camp while looking at the amazing pictures from your time in the sky.
Tickets for hot air balloon rides in Dubai with Balloon Adventures Dubai start at AED 1,195 and usually include pick-up, breakfast and drop off.
Explore Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
Start your sprint in Dubai with a visit to the city’s past. This historical district, also known as the Bastakiya, is located in the Bur Dubai area and offers a glimpse into the pre-oil era in the UAE. One of the oldest neighbourhoods in the country, this area dates back to the 1900s. A walking tour of Al Fahidi Historical District’s winding alleyways and bustling courtyards will definitely give you a unique perspective on Dubai’s heritage in one day. You will also come across museums and art galleries in its many nooks and crannies. Make the most out of your 24 hours in Dubai and also check out other heritage sites in the city that take you back in time when Dubai wasn’t the city of skyscrapers that we know today.
Must-try: Quick bite at the Arabian Tea House and a visit to Dubai Museum.
All Aboard The Abra
In many ways old Dubai still stands tall (figuratively speaking) in this fast-changing city. One of the oldest modes of transport, the Abra, is the best way to see old neighbourhoods in Dubai from the sea. Hop on to one of these motorized wooden boats from the Bur Dubai Abra Station. Take a 5-minute ride crossing Dubai Creek and taking in unique views of the old parts of town, get off the boat in Deira and soak in the old Dubai vibes. This experience is a definite must-try on our ‘things to cover in one day in Dubai’ list.
No tickets are issued on the Bur Dubai-Deira route – you simply pay the driver on the boat a fee of AED 1 for transport services. This is the cheapest way to commute between Bur Dubai and Deira.
Lunch With A View Of Dubai Water Canal
One of the newer attractions in town is the spectacular Dubai Water Canal. Located in Business Bay, this great spot is easily accessible via a short cab ride or the metro. Take a leisurely walk around this architectural wonder along the promenade and soak in the surrounding areas. For lunch, head out to BASTA! by celebrated chef, David Myers, in Renaissance Downtown Hotel.
Getting to BASTA! from Dubai Water Canal is a 2 minutes’ walk. Opt for outdoor terrace seating and enjoy great views of Dubai Water Canal while you feast on delicious Italian Cuisine.
Sunset ‘At The Top’ Of The World
Journey from old Dubai to the new. Head to the top of the world’s tallest tower Burj Khalifa to see spectacular views of everything that personifies Dubai today. Standing 828 metres tall, the iconic tower’s At The Top observation deck on the 124th floor has floor-to-ceiling glass windows offering views of significant landmarks such as Burj Al Arab, The World Islands, and several skyscrapers on Sheikh Zayed Road. The entire experience will leave you mesmerized.
It is cheaper to book tickets in advance and buy them online from At The Top’s official website. Tickets are priced at AED 130 for adults and AED 100 for children under 12 years.
Evening At The Dubai Mall
While we’ve got you in Downtown Dubai, how about shopping in one of the largest malls in the world? The Dubai Mall is one of the most popular places to see in Dubai. This shopper’s paradise boasts numerous international brands, great dining options, and fantastic tourist attractions. It takes well over a day to explore this huge mall and all that it offers. The mall is the size of 50 football pitches and houses over 1,200 stores!
Once you’ve had your shopping fix, a visit to the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo is a must. It is one of the largest suspended aquariums in the world.
Dinner With A View
Enjoy a delicious meal at one of the restaurants overlooking the spectacular Dubai Fountain. This fascinating dancing fountain is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system that sits in Burj Khalifa Lake. Synchronized with the rhythm of popular tracks from all over the world, the fountain shoots water up to a height of 500 ft. It is truly a treat for the senses. There are several restaurants in the lake promenade that offer great views of the Dubai Fountain. You can also catch an outdoor spot at restaurants and cafés on the first and second level of Dubai Mall for a view from the top.
Shows take place every 30 minutes from 6 PM to 11 PM. You can also enjoy a Dubai Fountain Lake Ride in to see the dancing fountains up close. Tickets cost AED 65 and are available at the waterfront promenade outside Dubai Mall.
Late Night Stroll On The Boardwalk at The Palm Jumeirah
One doesn’t usually think of this when planning out things to do in Dubai. But what better way to call it a day than a late-night walk with views of the Dubai skyline and the Arabian Gulf? The Boardwalk at The Palm Jumeirah stretches 11 kilometres on the man-made island’s crescent that circles the ‘palm tree fronds’ of the islands. A quiet walk on this waterfront stretch gives you a glimpse of this beautiful city from afar, with some time to really appreciate both, the old and the new Dubai.
The Boardwalk at the Palm Jumeirah is also lined with numerous food trucks but arrive early if you plan to grab a bite by the water.
That pretty much sums up all the must-see places when you only have a day in Dubai. This certainly will be a fun-filled, full of action, super tiring day but you will not regret missing out on not including any of these fabulous landmarks in your 24 hours in Dubai. Of course, the city has so much more to offer. Off the top of our minds, other must-dos you could squeeze into your itinerary include a visit to the amazing Dubai Frame, Atlantis The Palm, and La Mer for some beach time fun. If you have an extra day to spend in Dubai, a desert safari experience is also worth a try.
If you happen to be in Dubai this month, do check out events and festivals happening in Dubai in February.
Need a place to stay? Plan in advance and book a night’s stay at one of these hotel apartments in Dubai.