21 Nov Exploring Abu Dhabi: 5 Amazing Places to Visit in the UAE’s Capital

Abu Dhabi is the UAE’s Capital and the biggest among the 7 emirates, accounting for 87% of the country’s total area. Aside from being the largest emirate, Abu Dhabi has a lot to offer to tourists and travelers. Elika G. gives you a sneak peek of what Abu Dhabi has to offer: its top 5 tourist destinations and some activities your friends and family can enjoy as you explore its rich culture.

Emirates Palace

Emirats Palace
Photo by Elika Genteroy

Aside from its iconic scene in the most recent sequel of ‘The Fast and the Furious, Emirates Palace is known for its grand welcoming to Abu Dhabi tourists. Set in 85 hectares of beautifully landscaped gardens, this palatial, beachfront 5-star hotel is unmissable when you visit the Capital. It reminds me of those castles in my mom’s bedtime stories when I was a kid. Ravishing, magical, and elegant, it is like a place that came straight out from ‘The Arabian Nights: One Thousand and One Nights’.

The Emirates Palace is built for the Royal Al Nahyan Family. Its West Wing is open for tourists and travellers who can access the lobbies and exhibitions. The family currently lives in the palace but in more secluded areas (just imagine the size of the lot). Visitors can take a tour further at the West Wing to find art exhibits that showcase Arabic Calligraphy and some interesting artifacts.

Trivia: there are ATMs in the palace that dispense gold bars! Its distributor ‘Gold to Go’ lets you withdraw stacks of gold bars like a true royal king and queen. The Palace is decorated with marble, diamonds, and gold – very fitting of an opulent lifestyle. There are cafés and restaurants where you can dine in to get a ‘rich’ gastronomical experience. Some high-end stores are also in the vicinity. You can take a gander at the Bedouin Tent right outside of the palace to see the magnificent Arabian Gulf horizon.

Emirates Palace
Photo by Elika Genteroy

The Palace is absolutely divine in each corner. Everywhere you look; it’s an eyeful of gold that even hotel staff get amazed every time. What I love about the Palace is the eye-catching colors when you reach the middle and look up to see the dome ceiling. The contrast of gold and blue with shades of dark and light all mixed up making a mesmerizing harmony of colors. A great time to visit the place would be during mid-day to sundown, as it also features a different ambience at night. From its façade to its landscape, The Emirates Palace is a true cultural destination you must not miss in Abu Dhabi.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Photo by Elika Genteroy

One of the biggest mosques ever built, The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosques “unites the world” as it is a collection of art and designs from different countries.  It is the vision, a dream in the heart of the UAE’s first president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Even though it is open to the public, tourists and visitors strictly follow a dress code. Everybody is asked to pay respect to the worshippers in the Holy Palace by observing etiquette and proper behavior. Women wear an ‘abaya’ and ‘hijab’ which they can use temporarily when inside the premises of the mosque. For men, ‘gandurah’ or ‘taub’ are used to cover their skin. They can go in as long as they are not wearing short pants, sleeveless shirts and sandals. The Mosque offers tours for all visitors. If you fancy exploring all by yourself, you can try downloading a recorded audio tour as you look around.

You’ll not only see the beautiful pure white marble and colorful designs of the structure, but most importantly, you will observe the holy atmosphere as Muslims worship – a unique cultural experience. Sometimes, they allow the public to enter the prayer room located at the center of the mosque. To access the prayer room, you would have to walk to the center of the mosque, crossing the white spaces. As you reach the end of it, you are asked to remove your shoes, for it is accustomed in the Arab culture to pray barefooted. As you enter the Prayer Room, you’ll be able to witness more majestic architectural artworks that show the richness of the Islamic culture in Abu Dhabi.

Grand Mosque 2
Photo by Elika Genteroy

Truly a picture-perfect sight to behold, the Grand Mosque also holds the final resting place of H.E. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Emiratis recite ‘salah’ (Arab prayers) for a certain period of hours to pay respect to the late leader. Photography is allowed in this area. Visiting the Grand Mosque at day and night time is a great idea. But I personally recommend visiting during the night, so you can see a dreamy, silhouette of the magnificent structure. If you’re a photographer or someone who loves taking snaps, this might be a good chance to practice night photography skills.

Corniche Park

Corniche 1
Photo from worldtravelserver.com

Corniche is the most well-known public park in Abu Dhabi. However, when you say ‘Corniche’, it may mean another place called Corniche Beach. Located in Liwa Street, the park is a long stretch from Marina Mall to Sheraton Hotel, heading towards Mina Co-Op. You can pretty much do anything in the park. However, as much fun place as it is, there are prohibitions in using the public establishment. The following activities are not allowed: public display of affection, using fireworks, walking of pets (some parts are more animal-friendly) and having a barbecue or bonfire. Near the Park are small alfresco cafés and playgrounds for kids and outside gym area for adults. Across the park you’ll find a refreshment stall called “Sea Shell” and the rest are some office buildings. If you like to go malling, the nearest mall is the World Trade Center which is just a few blocks away. The Park does not have free parking space. You would have to park and pay the fee in the Mawaqif stalls. But, with its charming yet quiet environment, you can have a little oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of the metropolitan.

Corniche Beach

Corniche Beach
Photo by Elika Genteroy

Corniche Beach spans from Hilton Hotel near ADNOC Head Quarters to Mercedes Benz Showroom office next to NBAD and ADCO Offices. Its long stretch is a favorite of joggers and bikers in the city. It’s still part of the Corniche Park.  However, a part of Corniche Beach is accessible only if you pay AED 10 per person.  You can also rent a shade booth for a separate price. There’s also a part of the beach for free, located at the front of Spinneys and ADNOC Petrol Station, near Nation Towers and Hilton Hotel. After a day of tanning under the sun, you can chill by walking towards the middle part of the beach for a sumptuous meal. It is a long walk towards the main food stands but a nice weather will make you forget the distance.

Corniche Beach 2
Photo by Elika Genteroy

Every October and November, Corniche Beach holds various events such as science fairs, open beach concerts as well as the F1 Booth. In mid-November, a free concert called “Beats on the Beach” or Yasalam is held where local and international artists perform to entertain tourists and residents alike. You can check out food trucks and some exhibitor booths either from F1 or some after-race concert artists’ booth to cap the night off.

Yas Island

Yas Island Yas Mall
Photo from aldar.com

Yas Island is a man-made island that houses world-class attractions and hotels perfect for exploring Abu Dhabi. It is a 25,000-ha project to cater a multi-purpose leisure, shopping and entertainment. Yas Mall is one of Abu Dhabi’s largest malls offering designer and luxury brands to tourist shoppers. You can check out mini shows and events held in the mall as well. There is a place called ‘Townsquare’ where you can sit down and watch people walk by against the waterfall, a relaxing way to spend the afternoon after a day of shopping.

Ferrari World 2
Photo by Elika Genteroy

It is also a home to the famous Ferrari World Theme Park which is located inside the Yas Mall. You can find the “World’s Fastest Roller Coaster” called Formula Rossa and other delightful rides that fulfill anybody’s race car dreams. For small media, art events, these are held at the du Forum Tent. If you want to you go clubbing? “The Village” is for you. You can head down to IKEA or ACE Hardware for your quick fix of home and outdoor decors.

Yas Marina Circuit
Photo by Elika Genteroy

For the real experience of thrill, Yas Marina Circuit got you covered. Register to test drive a sports car with a professional instructor or you can drive one yourself during the open door car testing nights. Formula 1 is also held in the Circuit every mid-November. Racers from all over the world compete to win the Grand-Prix. Afterward, you can check in at the du Forum Tent for the after-race concert where international singers and bands perform live. Sometimes the Circuit is used for marathons and other fitness activities.

Yas Island du Forum
Photo from visitabudhabi.ae

Yas Waterworld is the most visited waterpark during summer. Just across du Forum, Yas Waterworld is packed with adrenaline-fueled rides and surf slides great for the family and friends. It sometimes has great deals and promotions when it’s that season of the year.

Imagine the amazing trip full of adventure and memories to learn the UAE’s culture in no other than in its capital, Abu Dhabi. It sure has more than five tourist destinations, but these places are sure to be in the globetrotter’s list. This year’s UAE National Day, go out and bask in the rich heritage and culture of Abu Dhabi, perfect to share the experience with family and friends.

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