So you’re en route from one far-flung destination to another, and have been gifted a long layover in Dubai. Consider yourself lucky.
As one of the world’s most exciting cities, Dubai has plenty to offer short stay visitors. So much, in fact, that 24-hours isn’t nearly long enough to take everything in. Nevertheless, thanks to great transport links, and the close proximity of many attractions in comparison with sprawling metropoles such as New York, it’s possible to take in much more than you’d imagine, and still have plenty of time to make it back to the departure lounge. With this in mind, we’ve put together the following list of essential sights and destinations in the glittering desert jewel- just remember one key rule; you can sleep on your outbound flight.
The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence
Even if you’ve been lucky enough to arrive in business class, chances are you’ll get into town feeling clammy, groggy, and in need of some fresh air. The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence is the ideal place to clear your head. Much more than a 1.7km stroll down the shoreline, this promenade is lined with restaurants and cafes, and offers a great perspective on Dubai as a whole. What better place to start you day then?
Get your bearings properly... on a Big Bus Tour
Had your fill of photo opportunities for now? Keen to get acquainted with the lay of the land? There’s no better way to do that than on The Big Bus Tour. Buy a day pass and you can hop on and hop off at any one of a number of major tourist attractions. Offering two routes, these trips make it easy to see the city’s souks, Dubai Museum, Al Fahidi Fort, Dubai Creek and many of the world famous shopping destinations. Speaking of which...
Retail therapy at the Gold Souk
Taking its name from the fact that estimates suggest 10 tonnes of gold are on sale from some 300 trading stalls at any one time, even if you’re not in the market for precious jewels, which are cheaper here than pretty much anywhere else in the world, the Gold Souk is an unmissable sight. A hive of activity, if you are shopping don’t expect to haggle for your sovereign rings; prices are set by the international market value.
Not just shopping, marine life or ice at Dubai Mall
Dubai is renowned for shopping- whether that’s in one of the luxury hotels or the many indoor shopping centres in town. Our pick of the best would have to be Dubai Mall, where you can spend until broke, before heading to one of the other attractions inside this sprawling entertainment mecca. Pick from the aquarium, underwater zoo, cinema, and ice rink. Or, if none of that appeals, Sega World is a high tech theme park dream.
Marvel at a man made marvel; The Palm Jumeirah
Spanning 560 hectares, and comprising 3.3billion cubic feet of sand, the Palm Jumeirah is testament to Dubai’s attitude towards life- a place where nothing is impossible. A breathtaking sight from the air as you land, a visit to this man made island, built to provide a home for sprawling luxury hotel complexes, private villas and more is essential. Better yet, it gives you an excuse to ride the Palm Jumeirah Monorail that connects the island to the mainland; yet more proof of the city’s focus on the future.
Ascend the Burj Khalifa
You’ve seen the city from the streets, or rather beach, now it’s time to get to grips with the layout from above. At 828-metres, the Burj Khalifa is currently the tallest building on the planet, and understandably makes the most of that position via a 124th floor viewing level boasting floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Best viewed at sunset, you’ll see the great ball of fire go down on the horizon three minutes after those at ground level would do.
Lights, water and spectacle at Dubai Fountain
You may think you’ve seen a fountain before. Most of us have. But then the Dubai Fountain isn’t just any old water feature. The world’s largest choreographed fountain was built at a cost of $217million (US), and from 6PM each day this is the site of arguably the most spectacular display of liquid, light and sound in the world. Lasting five minutes, and repeated every half hour, think water shooting 125-metres into the air, spray dancing to specially chosen background music, and jaw-dropping use of LED bulbs to create a truly memorable experience that’s perfect to round off the day. Just be careful to avoid the ‘splash zones’ if the wind picks up.
Still not tired? Don’t forget about these fantastic places
Dubai Museum and Al-Fahidi Fort
The Al Fahidi Fort was built from stunning coral blocks in 1787 to defend the Dubai Creek. A wonderful insight into the region’s history, today it houses the Dubai Museum, the city’s number one cultural institution showcasing many Emirati artifacts.
Affectionately known as Old Dubai, Bastakia is a labyrinthine area of narrow streets first constructed in the late-19th Century, and is like stepping back in time.
The waterway that separates the city into two halves- Deira, in the north, and Bur Dubai in the south- once a cluster of villages, now very much at the centre of the metropolis, you can take a tour on a Dhow boat and learn how sailers once navigated this channel.
Open for tours from 10AM daily, except on Fridays, the Jumeirah Mosque is a showcase of both Dubai’s wealth and its strong religious beliefs. A replica of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque, only eight times as big, the word spectacular doesn’t even come close.