There is a delicate balance of old and new in Dubai, resulting in a smorgasbord of things to do. You can spend your mornings sprawled out along Jumeirah Beach and your afternoons shredding powder at Ski Dubai. Or you can start your day haggling at the traditional Gold and Spice Souks before exercising your credit card at the contemporary Dubai Mall. But first thing’s first: Get to know the city. Head straight to the top of the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) where you’ll find incredible views stretching into the Persian Gulf. And if you’re interested in a more traditional perspective, take an abra (water taxi) ride along Dubai Creek.
Standing 828 metres high, the Burj Khalifa is hard to miss. The world’s tallest tower naturally dominates the Dubai skyline, but the true majesty of the building is best appreciated up close or, even better, from inside. On a clear day, the view from the observation deck on level 124 is absolutely stunning, topped only by the view from the luxurious At The Top Sky Lounge on the 148th floor. And for those who would like to linger for a meal in the clouds, At.mosphere on level 122 is the place to be.
The Dubai Mall
Right next to the Burj Khalifa is The Dubai Mall. To call the sprawling development merely a shopping mall is doing it a disservice. Even an entire day spent here isn’t enough to see it all. With its 1,200-plus shops and 150 restaurants,there are plenty of things to do, and the venue is also home to an indoor theme park, an ice rink, a huge indoor waterfall, a choreographed outdoor fountain and the giant Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo.
The Dubai Fountain
The Dubai Fountain, located at the base of the iconic Burj Khalifa and just outside the doors of the famous Dubai Mall, features the world’s largest choreographed fountain system. This popular dancing water show jets water streams as high as 150 metres in the air. Each colourful, illuminated jet sways in time to various musical numbers from around the world, producing what has become the one of the most popular shows in Dubai. Two showings occur in the afternoon (1pm and 1:30pm), except on Fridays (1:30pm to 2pm) and evening displays begin at sundown and take place every 30 minutes until the final song plays at 11pm.
A man-made island in the shape of a palm tree – there’s a reason why locals say ‘only in Dubai.’ Palm Jumeirah is one of the largest artificial islands in the world and a triumph of human ingenuity. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the Palm’s vast array of high-end hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria, Fairmont, One&Only, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray and, perhaps most notably, the iconic Atlantis, The Palm. And with a monorail running down the ‘trunk’ that connects to the mainland’s tram system, getting there couldn’t be easier.
Dubai may be famous for the glitz and glamour of its sky-high towers, but the real heart of the city is, and always will be, the Creek. The saltwater estuary is the original site where the Bani Yas tribe settled, and its waters were vital for what used to be Dubai’s main forms of economy: pearl diving and fishing. Today, the area is awash with the history of the emirate, as it’s home to the Dubai Museum as well as the labyrinthine alleyways of the gold, spice and textile souks. While at the Creek, a ride across the water on a traditional abra is a must, and at an unbelievable AED1 per ticket, it’s easily the best value tourist attraction in the city.
The Walk and Beach at JBR
For those who like to shop, dine, see a movie and go to the beach all in one place, consider a trip to The Beach opposite JBR. With guest DJs pumping out the tunes on weekends, a regular open-air cinema and a popular water park to entertain the little ones for an hour or two, JBR is always buzzing with activity.