From futuristic architecture and deep-seated traditions to stark desert landscapes, the cosmopolitan city of Dubai leaves visitors truly awestruck. Listed as one of Lonely Planet’s top ten cities to visit in 2020, this multi-cultural metropolis is a world leader in innovation and splendour. Here’s our guide to the top things to do in Dubai.

Burj Khalifa

Dominating the city skyline, Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world and Dubai’s most famous landmark. Stretching 828 metres high, this 160-storey skyscraper is an unmissable experience. A trip to the world’s highest observation deck on the 124th floor is a superb way to get your bearings. If you fancy a gourmet experience, book afternoon tea at The Lounge, Burj Khalifa, on floors 152, 153 and 154.

The Walk & The Beach at JBR

Part of the Dubai Marina, The Walk and The Beach at JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) are neighbouring areas at the heart of Dubai’s urban beach district. The Walk is a buzzing boulevard featuring local and international retailers and a number of trendy pop-up markets, while The Beach is a low-rise shopping complex with an assortment of beachside eateries and a waterfront fun zone complete with open-air cinema and a kiddie splash park.

The Dubai Fountain

Set in a giant lake at the entrance to the Dubai Mall, this dancing fountain is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system set against the backdrop of Burj Khalifa. Colourful, illuminated jets of water surge up to 150 metres high, while gracefully swaying to a range of musical numbers, from classical and world music to traditional Arabic tunes. Visit the floating viewing platform for the best views of this free and awe-inspiring water dance.

Dubai Marina

One of the city’s liveliest neighbourhoods, Dubai Marina is the world’s largest manmade marina. Glittering skyscrapers line the canal, which extends from Al Sufouh Road to the base of Palm Jumeirah, while luxury yachts rub shoulders with traditional dhows. Browse designer shops, dine al fresco, explore the waterways on a dhow cruise, or get a view from above on the world’s tallest urban zipline or Dubai Skydive.

Atlantis Aquaventure

Located on Palm Jumeirah, Dubai’s famous manmade island shaped like a palm tree, Atlantis Aquaventure is the city’s top waterpark. Featuring 30 waterslides and attractions, you can ride Aquaconda (the world’s largest tube-waterslide), plunge down a near-vertical nine-storey drop on Leap of Faith, cruise through a clear tube in a shark aquarium, and ride the wild River Rapids, amongst many other watery adventures.

Dubai Desert

With miles of desert less than 20 minutes’ drive from Dubai, it’s little wonder it’s also known as the ‘Desert City’. Ride a 4×4 desert safari around towering sand dunes, get off-road on a quad-bike tour, or go sandboarding down slippery sandy slopes. For a more luxurious experience, opt for a vintage Land Rover safari with Bedouin guides and nocturnal astronomy tours, or go glamping in a desert oasis and enjoy a sunset camel ride over the dunes.

Dubai Mall

If a spot of retail therapy is on your Dubai to-do list, then you can’t afford to miss the Dubai Mall. The world’s largest mall (you’ve probably realised by now that Dubai loves superlatives) offers an almost-unlimited assortment of 1,200+ shops and 150+ restaurants. Similar in size to a small city, it also houses an ice-skating rink, aquarium, indoor theme park, cinema complex, and gaming zone.

Dubai Creek

Dubai may be famous for its glitzy skyscrapers and glamorous lifestyle, but it started life on the banks of a saltwater estuary where the Bani Yas tribe settled and began trading. Known as the Dubai Creek, this body of water separates the districts of Deira and Bur Dubai, and the entire area offers an insight into Dubai’s intriguing past. Cross the Creek in a traditional abra, and explore the winding souks and attractions, including the infamous Gold Souq and Dubai Museum.

Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood

Located in Bur Dubai, Al Fahidi gives you a glimpse of Dubai’s historic past. Formerly known as the Bastakiya Quarter, this beautifully restored district offers a wealth of labyrinthine alleyways to wander through, replete with traditional wind towers (an early form of air-conditioning) and numerous attractions including museums, art galleries, craft shops, and the Sheikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding, which offer Arabic lessons and guided tours.

Dubai Canal

The city’s newest manmade attraction, the Dubai Canal is a 3.2-kilometre waterway that runs from the Creek, through the business district and into the Arabian Gulf. This environmentally friendly project is both a functional transport system and a stunning spectacle with pedestrian bridges and a mechanical, illuminated waterfall. Travel along the Canal on a dhow or abra, or make use of the running and cycling tracks that fringe the water.

Kite Beach

A pristine stretch of white sand beach off Jumeirah Road, Kite Beach is a vibrant sunshine spot that’s hugely popular with kitesurfers and watersports lovers. It’s also a hip place to hang out with open-air cafes and restaurants, beach volleyball, a skate park, and sublime views of the graceful silhouette of Burj Al Arab, the world’s most luxurious hotel and one of Dubai’s iconic landmarks set on an island just offshore.

Jumeirah Mosque

The only mosque in Dubai open to non-Muslim visitors, the Jumeirah Mosque is also the city’s most beautiful. Crafted from white stone in the medieval Fatimed style, it features twin minarets flanking a graceful central dome. Perhaps most beautiful at dusk when it’s lit by floodlights, it’s worth taking a guided tour to better understand the architecture and intricacies of Islamic religion. Visitors are requested to dress modestly and traditional attire is available.

Dubai Restaurants

With over 5,000 restaurants, Dubai is a sensational place to dine with a world of flavours and cuisines to explore. The diverse restaurant scene ranges from fine dining establishments to humble seafront shacks, and covers just about every national cuisine you can imagine. Some of our favourites are Pierchic, a romantic seafood restaurant set on a pier, Bait Al Mandi for authentic Arabic cuisine, and 3 Fils for sensational Asian seafood.

If this has whet your appetite for a trip to Dubai, check out our recommended Dubai hotels or contact our travel experts at eShores who can put together a tailormade itinerary for your dream trip to Dubai.

James David Massey Travel Consultant