My 29th birthday found me in Dubai 🇦🇪; one of the most cosmopolitan and vibrant cities in the world. It is a destination that combines relaxation, shopping, adventure, and culture. Therefore, it has it all. Dubai is one of my favourite places so far. Maybe because although I experienced and did so many new things, I also rested and enjoyed the heat and sun. It is a place I definitely recommend visiting at least once…and if you keep an eye out on flight deals, you don’t need to break the bank to experience a luxurious holiday! In this post, I will share my top 12 things for exploring Dubai in 7 Days.
Essential tips to keep in mind ✏️
- Using BA, I managed to find an amazing deal that combined flights (from London) and hotel. If I had booked my trip separately via e.g. booking.com, it would have been almost twice more expensive.
- The city tax in Dubai is very high, but when booking with BA it comes down to 1/3 of the price!!!
- For great discounts when visiting attractions, buy the iventure card.
- Alcohol is only allowed in restaurants/hotel areas and it is quite expensive.
- Be respectful of the Emirati culture and avoid taking pictures of the locals.
- Dress moderately. I wore shorts every day, but they were knee high.
- If you visit the old souks in Deira, definitely wear trousers and be aware of pickpocketing.
During my trip, I stayed at Park Hyatt Dubai resort. It is probably the most luxurious hotel I have ever stayed in! The rooms and the resort are really beautiful and the staff are incredibly nice and helpful. However, what took my breath away is the infinity pool overlooking Burj Khalifa and Dubai’s city centre. The resort is located in Deira (aka the old Dubai) near the Creek, only 20 minutes away from the heart of Dubai. There’s a metro station around 50m away from the main entrance of the park, which takes wherever you want to go.
Moving around the city is very easy and cheap. I used the metro, taxis and Uber. Just keep in mind that although the metro is the cheapest option, it takes significantly longer. The local taxis in Dubai are relatively cheap, clean, and most importantly – take credit cards! Uber – if you don’t have good internet connection and you’re not near a mall, this is probably the last option.
TIP ✏️: The underground is very easy and safe to use. They also have female only cabins to ensure that women will have an easy and non disturbing ride.
1. The Dubai Mall 🛍️
Dubai is often being called the “Shopping Centre of the Middle East” and it’s called that for a very good reason! If you didn’t know already, in Dubai you will find the second biggest shopping mall in the world; The Dubai Mall. It is so big, that sometimes trying to find the exit can be a challenge! 😂
In the mall you will find any shop you can possibly think of. They also have restaurants and (original) products from all over the world…! I was really impressed specifically with the Italian shop/restaurant Eataly, which had authentic products that someone can only find in Italy 🇮🇹! Even if you have no interest in shopping, you should visit the mall at least once!
Below are few of the pictures I took inside the mall..
2. An impressive aquarium 🦈
In the mall you will also find the undoubtedly impressive aquarium which you can’t miss! The ticket costs around £40 (though, it is also included in the iventure card attractions) and you have the option to do a full tour or just walk through the famous tunnel. The full tour also includes a behind the scenes tour, access to the underwater zoo, and a glass-bottom boat tour. Although I really liked the tunnel, I do have to admit, that I was not that impressed with the rest of the activities!
If you are brave enough, you can scuba dive in the aquarium…Do not forget that there are over 300 sharks in the tank! If you already have a PADI scuba diving licence, the cost is around 600 AED, otherwise it is over 1000 AED.
3. The Human Waterfalls
Another thing that you should not miss if you find yourself in Dubai mall is The Human Waterfalls sculpture falls! Due to its big size and unique dramatic design, to me, this is probably one of my favourite and interesting attractions in the mall. I was compelled to stay and enjoy for a while the impressive human diver sculptures whilst listening to the rhythmic water flow.
I found this to be somewhat relaxing and relieving…maybe even inspiring. All I could think at that very moment was: “Sometimes we have to take a deep breath, jump, and dive in deep…”
4. A stunning fountain show
At the other side of the mall, you will find one of the most impressive human made lakes. The area is gorgeous and one of my favourites. The lake is surrounded by the beautifully architectured Souk al Bahar, the Dubai Mall, and the Burj Khalifa – which is impressive when it’s lit up.
The lake is filled with traditional boats and also accommodates the most impressive and biggest fountain show in the word! I had never seen anything like it! The shows run every 30 mins and it’s most impressive during sunset!
It is definitely worth catching one of these boats to enjoy the fountain show. The view is unique and you avoid being surrounded by a lot of people. The ticket costs around £16.
Of course you can’t miss the breath taking Burj Khalifa:
⚠️ Best spot to watch the fountain show
Usually during the fountain show, the area by the mall and Burj is filled with so many people that it makes it so hard to enjoy the view. I was told to go to the Apple Store which overlooks the show from the mall. However, this was also full!
During my visit, I discovered probably the best spot to enjoy the show… Exactly at the opposite side of the mall – if you walk across the lake – you will find a small hidden park of which not many people seemed to know about, which offered amazing views of the lake!
5. The Souk Al Bahar
If you find yourself in that area, you should definitely walk around the lake and also pay a visit at the Souk al Bahar. It is a beautiful market with a unique architecture, home to lots of different local shops, restaurants, etc.
5. The Burj Khalifa
Of course, you can’t miss visiting the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world (828m), to enjoy its breathtaking panoramic views! By catching one of the fastest (10m/s) elevators in the world, you can go up to the 148th floor within seconds. On the way to the observation deck floor, you will learn all the interesting facts about its history and architecture. It is supposed to be a symbol of ambition and to show that “anything” is possible.
One of the facts that blew my mind about this building is that due to its height and elevator speed, it is the only place in the world from which you could see the sunset twice in the same day!
6. The desert experience 🏜️
When I decided to visit Dubai, I already knew that I really wanted to visit the desert, but I wasn’t sure about the safari. I have to say, it was one of the coolest and unique experiences ever!!
⚠️At the time, the desert experience packages online seemed pretty expensive. Whilst in Dubai though, I discovered Arabian Adventures agency, from which I booked quad bikes, safari, camel rides, and sandboarding for less than £70!
I had never felt the desert sand, the heat, and the sun so intensely! It was a completely new experience for me. The safari was also great fun. I am not sure there are words to describe this, so here are a few pictures:
7. The souks at the old Dubai
Of course, you can’t miss visiting the old Dubai..where all the traditional souks, restaurants, shops, and people are! It is a unique experience! The Old Dubai is located near the Deira area, where you will find the Grand souk or “market”, which is the oldest one in Dubai. There, you will also find the famous spice and gold souk! If you enjoy cooking (like I do) you will be able to buy lots of different “unusual” spices for great prices! I found some of the best saffron there. Don’t forget to negotiate!!
⚠️You have to be extremely careful whilst wandering around the souks as it is an area well known for pickpocketing. Additionally, make sure to wear long trousers and avoid short shorts and skirts. Finally, be prepared for the people who are selling things to come directly up to to you and try to put scarves on you and wanting you to try their goods! It can be an intense experience. But it’s their job. The best way is to politely decline and walk away.
8. Crossing the Creek
Once you finish strolling around the souks, you should catch one of the traditional boats to cross the creek that separates Bur Dubai from Deira, Dubai’s city center. The ticket costs 1AED. The ‘water taxis’ run every few minutes throughout the entire day.
The route that I took was from Deira Old Souk Abra Station (near the Spice Souk) to Bur Dubai Abra Station (west of the Old Souk). Whilst on the boat, you can really admire the spectacular old and new Dubai from the traditional houses and towers..
9. Bur Dubai
At the other side of the creek, you will discover one of the most traditional and authentic areas in Dubai. What I loved mostly about this area was the light and delicate architecture of the houses and towers and strolling around the town and its souks!
10. The Dubai Museum
Whilst on that side of town, you should definitely visit the Dubai museum! I really enjoyed visiting the museum and I actually learnt a lot about the history and evolution of Dubai and its people. It felt like a journey through time, which helps understand the culture, traditions, and mentality..
A visit to Dubai Museum “Al Fahidi Fort” offers an opportunity to get acquainted with the history of Dubai, which gives an impression that Dubai’s current development, modernism and distinction are only a continuation of a journey of a unique and distinguished civilization that was subjected to different cultures and people, as well as an example of the strong bond with Arabism and Islam. The comparison between old and modern Dubai, which are separated by a few number of years, show you the great, continuous efforts that led Dubai to its current state of progress and pioneering. It also consolidates the confidence that all that Dubai has become today is based on a deeply rooted civilization.
11. Arabian Tea House
Just a few minutes away from the Dubai museum, you will find a really beautiful, delicious, and unique restaurant called Arabian Tea House. In general, I was not that impressed with the restaurants in Dubai, however this place was so good!!! Those working here wear traditional Arabic clothing and are very nice. Several local people were also eating here, which to me, was an indication that it was going to be good.
12. Indoor Skydiving
Another activity that I unexpectedly enjoyed in Dubai was indoor skydiving at the ifly Dubai in the City Centre Mirdif. It was a lot of fun and I definitely recommend it! This was an activity as part of my iventure card which was worth buying!
I really hope that you found this post interesting. Overall, Dubai is a very interesting destination, which offers many things to see and experience. Its unique culture, the desert, the luxurious lifestyle, the ambition of its people, the glamorous and vibrant town centre…makes Dubai a must visit destination. I had an amazing time and I hope that one day I will be able to visit it again.
Until next time…
P.S. 📝 Check out my other blog post here, where I discuss how learning languages changed my view of the world!