Top 5 Tourist Attractions in Dubai
This city of high-rises and shopping malls has transformed itself from a desert outpost into a destination du-jour, where tourists flock for sales deals, sunshine, and family fun. Dubai is famous for sightseeing attractions such as the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) and shopping malls that come complete with colossal aquariums and indoor ski slopes.
But this city has many cultural highlights and things to do, as well as most of the glamorous contemporary add-ons. Take a wander around the Bastakia district, and you’ll find the Dubai of old, then cruise across Dubai Creek in a traditional dhow, and you’ll soon realize there’s more to this city than its flashy veneer. Find out more about the best places to see with our listing of the best attractions in Dubai.
For most visitors, a trip to the observation deck on the 124th floor here’s a must-do whilst in the city. The views across the city skyline from this bird’s-eye view are just staggering. The slick observation deck experience includes a multimedia presentation on both Dubai and the construction of the Burj Khalifa (finished in 2010) before a high-speed elevator whizzes you up to the observation deck for those 360-degree views out across the skyscrapers to the desert on one side and the ocean on the other.
Nighttime visits are particularly popular with photographers due to Dubai’s famous city-lights panoramas. Buy your Burj Khalifa”At the Top” Entrance Ticket in advance to avoid long line-ups, especially if you are planning to visit on a weekend.
Back on the floor, wrap around the Burj Khalifa, are the building’s beautifully designed gardens, with winding paths. There are loads of water features including the Dubai Fountain, the world’s tallest performing fountain, modeled on the famous Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.
Dubai Mall is the city’s premier mall and provides entry to the Burj Khalifa, in Addition to the Dubai Aquarium. There is also an ice-skating rink, gaming zone, and theatre complex if you’re looking for more entertainment options. The shopping and eating is endless, and there are almost always special events like live music and fashion shows within the mall. The most famous of these are the Yearly Dubai Shopping Festival in January and February and the Dubai Summer Surprises Festival in July and August.
Dubai’s excellent museum is housed in the Al-Fahidi Fort, built in 1787 to defend Dubai Creek. The fort’s walls are made out of traditional coral-blocks and held together with lime.
In its history, the fort has served as a home for the ruling family, a seat of government, garrison, and prison. Restored in 1971 (and again extensively in 1995), it is now the city’s premier museum. The entry has a fascinating exhibition of maps of the Emirates and Dubai, showing the colossal expansion that hit the region after the oil boom.
The courtyard is home to several traditional boats and a palm-leaf home with an Emirati wind-tower. The right-hand hall features weaponry, as well as the left-hand hallshowcases Emirati musical instruments. Below the ground floor are screen halls with exhibits and dioramas covering various aspects of traditional Emirati life (like decoration fishing and Bedouin desert life), as well as artifacts from the 3,000- to 4,000-year-old graves in Al Qusais archaeological site.
The Bastakia Quarter (also known as the Al-Fahidi neighborhood) was constructed in the late 19th century to be the home of wealthy Persian merchants who dealt mainly in pearls and fabrics and were lured to Dubai because of the tax-free trading and access to Dubai Creek.
Bastakia occupies the eastern portion of Bur Dubai across the creek, and the coral and limestone buildings , many with walls topped with wind-towers, have been excellently preserved. Wind-towers provided the houses here with an early form of air conditioning — the wind trapped in the towers was funneled down into the houses. Persian merchants likely transplanted this architectural element (common in Iranian coastal homes ) from their home country to the Gulf.
Lined with different Arabian architecture, the narrow lanes are highly evocative of a bygone, and much slower, era in Dubai’s history. Inside the district, you’ll find that the Majlis Gallery, with its assortment of traditional Arab ceramics and furniture (housed in a wind-tower) and the Al Serkal Cultural Foundation, with a shop, cafe, and rotating art exhibitions (located in one of the historical buildings).
Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House
Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum was the Ruler of Dubai from 1921 to 1958 and grandfather to the present ruler. His former residence was restored and rebuilt as a museumthat’s a nice example of Arabian architecture.
The original house was constructed in 1896 by Sheikh Saeed’s father, so that he could observe shipping activity from the balconies. It had been demolished, but the current house was rebuilt next to the original site, remaining true to the original model by incorporating carved teak doors, wooden lattice screens across the windows, and gypsum ventilation displays with floral and geometric designs. Thirty rooms are built around a central courtyard with wind-tower details on top.
Inside are the exhibits of this Dubai Museum of Historical Photographs and Records, with many wonderful old photographs of Dubai in the period between 1948 and 1953. The marine wing of the museum has photos of fishing, pearling, and ship construction. Throughout the building there are many letters, maps, coins, and stamps on display showing the evolution of the Emirate.
Nearby is the Sheikh Obaid bin Thani House, restored with displays of traditional interiors.