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The Top 10 Things to Experience in Abu Dhabi and Beyond

There is no doubt that Formula 1's Grand Prix is one of the great annual attractions to see in Abu Dhabi. But this capital city of the United Arab Emirates has many other beautiful sites and activities that are also worth exploring while visiting. Bubbly Tourist shares the top 10 things to see and do in Abu Dhabi as well as the day trips that lie beyond the city limits.

The Top 10 things in Abu Dhabi to Experience

1. Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque

This is the largest mosque in the UAE (third in the world) and it's simply stunning. The mosque is large enough to accommodate over 40,000 worshippers, while the main prayer hall can hold over 7,000 people. The carpet itself is the largest in the world. There are 96 columns in the main prayer hall that are clad with marble and inlaid with mother of pearl. The pools along the arcades reflect the mosque's columns, which become illuminated at night. Bubbly Tip: buy your tickets online before going and ladies, remember to cover your hair, shoulders and legs.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi; Bubbly Tourist; things to do; places to see
A view from within the great Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

2. Qasr Al Watan, the "Royal" Palace

Completed in 2017, this building is only used for official purposes such as hosting foreign leaders of states, and for meetings of the UAE's supreme council and federal cabinet. It has been open to the public since 2019. The exterior facade made of white limestone and granite is impressive in itself. With the interior being intricately designed and ornately decorated, one can very quickly appreciate the grandeur of this beautiful palace. One of the more interesting rooms inside the palace displays gifts from visiting Heads of State.

Qasr Al Watan in Abu Dhabi, UAE; Bubbly Tourist; things to do; places to see
The grandeur is well on display inside the Qasr Al Watan with a view down the East Wing

3. The Louvre Museum

This incredible museum is in association with the Louvre in Paris. The building is both indoor and outdoor and is simply stunning and that alone is worth a visit. To be honest, Bubbly Tourist had low expectations going to a Louvre museum that wasn't the original but those expectations were quickly dashed while taking in the beautiful architecture. The building is on the water with views of the city and includes water features that flow through the complex. The detached roof made of multiple latticed layers of steel is beautiful and allows for an open air feel throughout the complex. The artifacts in the museum itself are sparsely laid out and are average in terms of interest. However, each window has a unique view and a quote in Arabic, English and French that are quite thought provoking. If you get hungry, there are a couple of nice places to eat on site. We ate at the cafe and it had beautiful views with good food. Feel like splurging? The restaurant is much more luxurious and potentially destination worthy. Bubbly Tip: from the on-site parking lot, there are guys in golf carts waiting on the front path willing to shuttle you to and from the front entrance. It's not a far walk, but could be very helpful when aid is required or simply on a hot day.

Abu Dhabi Louvre, UAE; Bubbly Tourist; things to do and places to see in UAW
A view from within the Louvre Complex over the cafe out to the city

4. YAS Island, the playground

Want a day or a few to just play around with the kids or with other adults? YAS Island is without a doubt the top place to go for this. Ferrari World, SeaWorld, Warner Bros World, and YAS Waterworld are four options for enjoying your time on YAS Island. Ferrari World headlines the Formula Rossa rollercoaster that blasts you out of the building and accelerates you to 240km/h in 4.9 seconds. SeaWorld is home to over 35 interactive experiences and rides, live characters and performances. Warner Bros World includes 30 action-packed rides, family-friendly experiences and world-class entertainment that are all in a climate-controlled setting. YAS Waterworld offers 45 water rides, slides and attractions. Lastly, head over to YAS Marina where you can check out the yachts and dip in and out of waterfront restaurants.

YAS Marina in Abu Dhabi for Grand Prix; Bubbly Tourist; things to do; places to see
View of YAS Marina with the F1 Grand Prix Racetrack behind it

5. Golfing

There are 7 golf courses in Abu Dhabi, but the big attractions are Yas Links, the best golf course in the UAE, the Abu Dhabi Golf Club with its iconic Falcon Clubhouse, and the picturesque Gary Player course, the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club. Full disclosure: Bubbly Tourist did not golf here but did enjoy the clubhouse at Yas Links during the Grand Prix.

Yas Links Golf Club on YAS Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE; Bubbly Tourist; things to do; places to see
Chilling with some night beverages at Yas Links Golf Club on YAS Island

6. Shopping

For luxury brands and plenty of other stores, entertainment and restaurants, head over to the Abu Dhabi Marina Mall in the heart of the city or Galleria Mall on Al Maryah Island. If you want to shop instead of hitting the theme parks on YAS Island, the YAS Mall is home to over 370 international brands, 68 food & beverage outlets and a range of entertainment destinations which includes a 24 Screen Vox Cinemas, and the family-entertainment venue Fun Works.

Galleria Mall on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE; Bubbly Tourist; things to do; places to see
Some of the interesting art at Galleria Mall on Al Maryah Island

7. Seek out the city's Interesting Architecture

There is no shortage of interesting architecture in this city, or the country, as it is constantly growing. There is an advantage to being a young country with unlimited wealth as it attracts a number of architects that are trying new and innovative designs in the structure and layout of the city and also to its cityscape. While walking and driving around the country, Bubbly Tourist would continually stop to take photos of all the different opulent buildings and waterways.

Abu Dhabi skyline from Qasr Al Watan UAE; Bubbly Tourist; things to do; places to see
View of some of the interesting architecture in the Abu Dhabi skyline from Qasr Al Watan

8. Walk along the Corniche

Corniche Road is 8 kilometers of waterfront in the heart of downtown Abu Dhabi. It has plenty of restaurants, hotels, eateries, playgrounds, and a beach. When it's time to cool off from the sweltering sun, stop at Corniche Beach for a swim. It's a soft white 2km sandy beach with plenty of walkways and manicured gardens overlooking the Arabian Gulf. You can also use the walkways to get in a walk or a run. Early morning is an ideal time for this.

Corniche Beach in Abu Dhabi UAE; Bubbly Tourist; places to see; things to do; champagne
Bubbly Tourist with local friends eating on Corniche Beach with views of Rixos Marina across the water

9. Sample some Emirati cuisine

The traditional food of the United Arab Emirates utilizes meat, grain, and  dairy.  Vegetables that are easy to grow in fertile soil, such as cucumbers and tomatoes, are strongly featured in the diet. Dried lemons, called loomi, are also grown locally, and used in many dishes. Meats traditionally used are goat, lamb, chicken or small fowl, such as Houbara bustards. The dishes are usually a type of stew, and everything is often cooked in the same pot. Saffron, turmeric, cardamom, and thyme are the go to flavors. Some mealtime traditions include a welcome with dates and gahwah (Arabic coffee), which are offered on arrival and are kept available throughout the meal. Bubbly Tip: Arabic coffee is interesting to taste but not really like any coffee we have ever had so if you are looking for a traditional coffee- you will likely be disappointed. Fun fact: cultivation of date palms in the area can be traced back to the third millennium BC!

Emirati Food in Abu Dhabi UAE; Bubbly Tourist Top 10 things to see and do
Pancake dish (notice the burning cloves on top which is used to keep the flies away)

10. Attend Formula 1's Grand Prix Race and other related race Events

This exciting annual event takes place each year at the end of November on YAS Island. Bubbly Tourist has been twice and in a separate article provides all the tips including the things you need to know and see while attending.

Formula 1's Grand Prix on YAS Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE; Bubbly Tourist Top 10 Things to see and do
Formula 1's Grand Prix on YAS Island

In Search of Bubbly

In an ongoing segment by Bubbly Tourist, we always search for a location - if not the best location - to have some champagne wherever we go.

1. Bottomless Champagne Brunch

This experience at the Shangri-La Hotel is an absolute blast! It's fun and it's kitschy, the food is delicious and plentiful with huge varieties of cuisine, and the drinks - both champagne and cocktails - are endless. Be entertained by a spunky singer while enjoying your meal with amazing views across the water at the Grand Mosque. Don't be surprised if a Conga line breaks out and people start dancing. This is not your average stuffy brunch. It takes place on Saturdays from 1 - 4pm. Bubbly Tip: Come hungry right at 1pm and stay for the entire brunch. Ask for the Champagne brunch supplement and order your last bottle right at 4pm so you can linger longer with your bubbly!

Festive champagne brunch at the Shangri-La Hotel in Abu Dhabi, UAE; Bubbly Tourist; things to do; places to see;
Festive Champagne brunch at the Shangri-La!

2. Emirate's Palace Mandarin Oriental

Who wants gold flakes in their sparkling wine? Bubbly Tourist did and went to the incredible five star Mandarin Oriental in Abu Dhabi for cocktails out on the beach. It is unbelievably grand in this hotel made of gold. The bubbly was meh, but the experience was simply incredible! Fun fact: the palace was originally built for the Sheik - at a cost of $3 Billion - but was later changed to a hotel when a new palace was constructed.

Day Trips from Abu Dhabi

1. Dubai

The glitz and glamour of the UAE's most populous city is only an hour away. Go to visit the world's largets building, the Burj Al Khalifa or some of the iconic hotels such as the Burj Al Arab or the famous manmade island Palm Jumeirah. Read what Bubbly Tourist recommends as our top 10 things to see and do in Dubai.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE; Bubbly Tourist top things to see in Dubai and Abu Dhabi
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is only one of the spectacular must see's in Abu Dhabi

2. Dune Bashing and Camel Rides in the Desert

The United Arab Emirates has plenty of options for you to get out and experience the desert. One activity is look for is called Dune Bashing. It consists of riding in a 4x4 (driven by experienced drivers) that go up and down sand dunes at high speeds without tipping over. It's quite exhilarating and can be a bit unnerving when the drivers drive sideways across the steep dunes. Somehow the low air tires keep the vehicles from rolling over. If that's not your thing or if you're looking for additional activities, consider going on a camel ride. We went on a combined camel ride and dinner experience in Desert Park that included live entertainment with authentic music. Prior to dinner, we were given free time to explore the desert and test our skills at sand boarding on the dunes. Both dune bashing and camel rides can be found in Desert Park (which is much closer to Dubai than Abu Dhabi) but they can also be found in Al Gharbia which is in the western region of Abu Dhabi Emirate.

Desert Park in al Badayer Big Red, UAE; Bubbly Tourist; things to do; places to see
Exploring an oasis in the desert at Desert Park

Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi

1. Shangri-La Hotel

Bubbly Tourist loves this hotel because of its beautiful accommodations at good value. You're getting the luxury of a 5-star hotel with all of its amenities without having to pay 5-star pricing that you would in downtown Abu Dhabi. It sits on the Khor Al Maqta waterway and has magnificent views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and evening sunsets. It has several great restaurants inside the hotel that includes an incredible Saturday brunch as mentioned above in our In Search of Bubbly segment. There's also a souk that's just a couple minutes walk away that has local products and additional restaurants. The downside of this hotel is that it's distant from other major sites outside of the Grand Mosque.

Grand Mosque from the pool of the Shangri-La Hotel in Abu Dhabi; Bubbly Tourist where to stay in Abu Dhabi
Sunset view of the Grand Mosque from the pool of the Shangri-La Hotel in Abu Dhabi

2. YAS Island

There are plenty of hotels to stay on YAS Island so you can pick your range of hotel from budget conscious to 5-star (the W). There's the shuttle service to help you get around the island so it doesn't really matter where on the island you choose to stay as you'll be close to all the adult and child playground activities that are mentioned above. It really does make for a great location to stay, not to forget that you're also only 15 minutes from the airport so that helps when it's time to leave.

Bubbly Tourist Bon Voyage!


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