Attractions, Excursions and Activities
Abu Dhabi Attractions
From Formula 1 racing to falconry, from the Louvre to the Grand Mosque and from Yas Island Waterworld to the desert, the Emirates capital is a celebration of some of the world’s oldest traditions with some of the newest innovations. Explore Abu Dhabi, where bath-warm ocean swims, sandy camel rides and souk-haggling are as loved as Ferrari’s, fine dining and Louis Vuitton bags.
Discover top rated attractions, sightseeing must-do’s, excursion ideas, shopping suggestions and more in our Abu Dhabi visitors guide.
Arts and Culture
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi’s answer to one of the world’s most famous and historic museum-galleries might not have the history of its Parisian sister but is unquestionably one of the most beautiful museums in the world. Beneath a huge silver dome that weighs as much as the Eiffel Tower and perforated with nearly 8000 stars, the ‘rain of light’ that falls into the museum is a masterpiece in itself. Designed by celebrated architectural master, Jean Nouvel, the museum is the pride of the nation. And, of course, the collections are equally impressive. Exhibitions of exceptional rarity with historic works of art and cultural important pieces from around the world representing the museum’s universal theme, from ancient Egyptian to cutting-edge installations by Ai WeiWei.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque is the pinnacle of Islamic architecture in the UAE and arguably the world. Uniquely (in Abu Dhabi) this is open to non-Muslims and is a must on your visit list. Visiting it feels as much like you’re visiting a museum as it does one of the largest centers of worship in the world.
1,000 pillars, 80 domes and four 100m+ minarets create the sense of wonderment and put the grand firmly in the name. But it’s the other details that make it unmissable and unique, like the floral inlays of agate, amethyst and pearl, the 40kg of 24k gold adorning the chandeliers along with the thousands of Swarovski crystals, the 90,000 tonnes of paper-white marble, and the world’s largest hand-made carpet. Covering up in appropriate attire is expected (and provided for those who forget) as is respectful behavior.
The much-loved promenade sits in front of the skyscraping cityscape and is perfect for a gentle walk (if the sun isn’t too high) or a cycle ride. It is important to cover up while walking on the Corniche, as much as it is to respect local culture as it is to protect from too much sun exposure. The sea breeze and cooler evenings make the Corniche a magnet for locals who head to the beaches or the parks.
More than 40 rides, slides and water fun activities, the waterworld on Yas Island is a great day out for visitors travelling with all-ages kids. The freefall looping waterslides, giant six people water coasters, wave pools and much more are the perfect antidote for the heat.
Even if you just go for the roller coaster, it’s worth the trip. Home to the world’s fastest, this 240kmh thrill-ride coaster is as close as most people will ever get to sitting behind the wheel of an F1 car. Impressive design, Ferrari driving experiences and plenty of Italian dining spots, mean there is enough here to make a day of it.
Yas Marina Circuit
Whether you’re here to watch the F1 or to test your hands on the circuit behind the wheel, the Marina Circuit is a motorsport lovers dream. Race the circuit in anything from a GT4 Aston Martin to a drift car or even a Formula 3,000 racing car - rubber on tarmac is very much the heart of this Abu Dhabi attraction. The Formula One weekend also offers incredible value with amazing on and off-track action including concerts, evening entertainment, and of course the racing.
Dune bashing in the desert surrounding the city is less Lawrence of Arabia and more like the Paris-Dakar Rally. Race across, up and over the dunes in an air-conditioned 4x4 with an experienced driver for thrills you won’t quickly forget.
A variety of packages are available and can be organized with recommended tour operators by the Southern Sun Abu Dhabi concierge team. Desert safari highlights include everything from getting up close to baby camels at a camel farm, sundown belly dancing, sandboarding, lights-off star gazing, camel rides, quad biking, falconry and a little bit of Instagram worthy dress-up.
Unblemished white sands, warm Persian Gulf waters and limited man-made development has allowed nature to make itself at home here in the dunes and sets Saadiyat Beach apart as one of the prettiest in the UAE. The chance to see nesting turtles and dolphins playing in the surf are reasons enough to take the trip out to Saadiyat Island and pay the very reasonable entrance fee. Talk to the concierge about arranging a packed lunch, borrow a beach towel and make the most of the sunshine.
It’s city-centre location might lead to the assumption it’s always busy and lacks a little of the pristine nature many UAE beaches are known for but on the Corniche that’s definitely not the case. 2km of white sand on this Blue Flag graded beach that’s minutes from the Southern Sun Abu Dhabi hotel make it a great spot to seek out some sun or cool off in the water.
World Trade Centre Mall and Souk
The mall has all of your high-end wish-lists and your high-street favourites with the bonus of a souk next door. This reimagining of a traditional souk with the comforting addition of air-conditioning still retains the souk spirit and many of the haggling opportunities. Once of the easiest places to pick up a souvenir in the city.
Abu Dhabi Mall
From frankincense to fashion, jewellery to technology this is a favourite in the city because of its excellent shopping selection and great Al Zahiyah location.
When it comes to variety, Marina Mall is hard to beat. 400+ stores, a cinema, late-opening hours, as well as plenty of eateries, all with more than enough global and local choices make this a one-stop-shop.