15 of the Best Tourist Attractions in Abu Dhabi


The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is a buzzing, rapidly expanding city which has quickly become a major commercial and cultural centre, with plenty to see and do for tourists.

Discovered by the Bani Yas tribe in the 18th century, the city has a little more to offer than just the skyscrapers and shopping malls you might expect to see.

We’re going to take a look at the best of the old and the new in this roundup of 15 of the best attractions in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

There’s no other place to start in Abu Dhabi than the spectacular Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The mosque measures approximately 290m by 420m and holds 40,000 worshippers, but you really have to visit to appreciate the scale of it.

Clad in Macedonian marble, it’s a beautiful building, with influences from Mameluke, Ottoman and Fatimid architecture coming together to form a truly modern and Islamic mosque.

The mosque opened in 2007, after being under construction for almost 20 years and all areas are open to non-Muslims, with guided tours available.

Saadiyat Cultural District

The Saadiyat Island is quickly becoming Abu Dhabi’s cultural hub, with the Louvre Abu Dhabi due to open later this year, and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Zayed National Museum also under construction.

As it stands, you can currently visit the exhibitions and galleries of the Manarat al Saadiyat and UAE Pavilion, and learn more about Saadiyat Island itself and the coming developments.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

You probably didn’t know this, but Abu Dhabi is home to the world’s largest falconry hospital, and what’s more, it’s open to guided tours.

It’s a good opportunity to get really up close and personal with these magnificent birds of prey, with a museum on-site exploring the history of falconry.

If you’re feeling brave you can also try your own hand at holding and feeding a falcon, providing the vets’ schedules allow it.

Mangrove Kayaking Tours

Right in the heart of the city, you’ll find a space that feels a million miles away from the sheen of the skyscrapers, the Mangrove National Park.

These beautiful forests circle the islands that the city stands on, and many companies such as the Al Mahara Diving Centre offer kayaking tours around them, no matter what your age or experience.

The tours will also explain the importance of the mangroves to the city and its ecosystem, and you might bump into some of the local wildlife too!

Ferrari World

No prizes for guessing the ‘theme’ of this theme park! That’s right, Ferrari World is dedicated to all things Formula One, and is one of the city’s most popular attractions.

A hit with thrill seekers and younger visitors alike, Ferrari World features the world’s tallest and fastest rollercoasters (the Flying Aces and Formula Rossa), but is also home to the Junior GT driving school, where younger drivers can put their skills to the test!

You can also browse the extensive collection of Ferrari vehicles, all the way from the 1940s up to the modern day.

Boat Tours

The best way to really see the skyscrapers of Abu Dhabi is from the water, so why not take a boat tour?

Somehow the views from the marina are even more spectacular, and there are plenty of different tour operators to choose from, such as Capt. Tony’s.

Some of the most popular options include island hopping tours which allow you to spend some time relaxing on the beaches of the many islands dotted around the area, and the sunset cruises, where you can see the city slowly light up as the sun goes down.

Yas Island

Yas Island is a luxurious man-made island and leisure, shopping and entertainment centre, with miles of sandy beaches for sunbathing.

Other attractions here include the Yas Marina Circuit, home to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and Yas Links golf course.

Yas Waterworld

Also found on Yas Island is the Yas Waterworld waterpark, perfect for cooling off in the scorching Arabic heat.

The park is huge, with all the waterslides and inner-tube river rides you’d expect, as well as the world’s first hydromagnetic tornado water rafting ride, the world’s largest surfable sheet wave, and the Jebel Drop, a free-fall speed slide.

There’s also an array of restaurants, cafés and shops, as well as dedicated kid’s area.

Observation Deck at 300

For the best views in Abu Dhabi, head up to the 74th floor of the Jumeirah at Etihad Tower, the highest point in the city.

While you have to pay an entry fee if you’re not staying at the hotel, this can be redeemed for food and drink at the observation deck’s restaurant, and we highly recommend having high tea here in the afternoon, gazing out over the city below you.

Qasr al-Hosn

The al-Hosn Fort is the oldest building in Abu Dhabi and one of the best places to visit for a glimpse into the city’s history, noted for its courtyard and tiled northern gate.

The Old Fort (or the White Fort as it’s also known), was built in 1793 as the home of the ruling family and government and has since been renovated into a museum celebrating Abu Dhabi’s history and culture.

4x4 Desert Tours

Only an hour or so away from the city you can find yourself climbing sand dunes deep in the pristine, golden desert.

Companies such as Emirates Tours & Safari offer 4x4 tours out into the desert, and it can soon feel like you’re in a whole other world, with absolutely nothing for miles around, save for perhaps the odd oil well.

You may also wish to visit ‘The Garden City of Al Ain, known for its greenery, and the Al Jahili Fort.

Masdar City

Just next to the airport you’ll find the futuristic Masdar City. This planned zero-carbon city where no cars are allowed is still only small, but it’s an exciting glimpse into the potential cities of the future.

It’s completely powered by solar and wind power, and you enter via a futuristic driverless pod on rails.

The city is currently populated by a small number of students and researchers but it’s a fascinating trip if you get the chance.

Yas Mall

On the heart of Yas Island, you’ll find the huge 2.5 million square foot Yas Mall, packed with shopping, dining and entertainment.

The mall is home to over 370 stores, restaurants and cafés, a 20-screen cinema and family entertainment zone.

Wadi Adventure

The region’s first man-made whitewater rafting, kayaking facility is the Wadi Adventure, which can be found at the foot of the Jebel Hafeet mountain.

The park features a huge 3.3-metre surf wave, a 1.7km kayaking channel network and is a great day out whether you’re a watersports enthusiast or just looking for a family friendly day out.

Umm Al Emarat Park

One of the oldest and largest parks in the city, Umm Al Emarat was built in 1982 as Mushrif Park and recently reopened after extensive renovation.

It now features an animal barn, home to animals including a goat, cow and pony, 1,000 capacity amphitheatre, and the iconic shade house, which houses a number of species of plants in a moisture controlled environment.