Beloved of Instagrammers, holidaymakers, and shopping addicts taking advantage of its tax-free status, Dubai is a travel destination like no other in the world.
Proud of their past but with a passion for dreaming up – and carrying out – some incredible futuristic projects, Dubai is now on many a traveller’s bucket list.
It’s not always thought of as conventionally beautiful, but this is a seriously glamorous place filled with truly extraordinary sights where everything seems bigger and better and more wow-inducing. Here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in Dubai…
1. Burj Khalifa lookout – one of the most extraordinary views in Dubai
The tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa is an impressive sight that dominates the skyline. Standing on the ground looking at up at the incredible architecture is one thing though, take a trip up to the lookout is something else entirely.
The journey up is an adventure in itself, but once you get to the lookout, you’re standing at a height of 555m on the 148th floor, and the view is surreal.
It is so high that your brain has difficulty with what it is seeing, and it takes a minute or two to get used to it. Laid out in front of you is the beautiful scenery of the city, with the vast expanse of clear glass giving a 360-degree view to enjoy, it is unlike anything else you have experienced.
It’s a must-visit for any Dubai trip, and the views are something you will never forget.
2. Palace Downtown – a beautiful Dubai hotel with a blend of past and present of Middle-Eastern heritage
A traditional palatial residence, Palace Downtown is one of the best places to stay in Dubai – a sumptuous hotel that looks out over the wonderful Dubai Fountain and the lake, with Burj Khalifa at its centre.
A haven for those seeking some of the best leisure facilities in Dubai, whether it is the palm-lined outdoor pool or the traditional Arabian-style spa or a fully-featured gym with on-hand personal trainers, there is something for everyone.
With four restaurants offering a choice of fine dining opportunities, including an all-day Mediterranean buffet as well as more formal eating, Palace Downtown has plenty to keep you occupied and entertained without leaving the hotel.
3. Palm Jumeirah – a striking and iconic symbol of Dubai
If you’ve looked at images of Dubai anywhere, you’ve seen the Palm Jumeirah, it’s the manmade island that when viewed from above forms the shape of a palm growing outwards into the sea. It is a stunning visual from above, and it is just as beautiful when you visit it too.
Tree-lined roads and pristine sandy beaches create a wonderful environment unlike anywhere else in Dubai, while the monorail makes getting around not just fast but fun too.
With a range of clubs and hotels like the Atlantis, great food such as Nobu and 101 Dining, entertainment, and activities to suit every taste from swimming to watersports, it’s a complete resort experience if you want.
For the adventurous, you can skydive over the Palm, seeing that famous overhead view for yourself.
4. Bur Dubai Abra Dock – one of the most beautiful places to explore in Dubai
Easily one of the most picturesque spots in Dubai, the dock allows you to look out over the traditional Arabic boats, known as dhows, to the modern cityscape beyond the water.
That blend of traditional and modern is always something special, but of course, you come to the dock not just to look, but to take a trip in one of those lovely boats.
A ten-minute trip from the dock to Gold Souk takes you past many of Dubai’s landmarks, along with the Textile Souk and notable art galleries. It’s a great way to slow the pace a little on your trip, sit back and relax as the world rolls past.
A wonderful experience and a taste of tradition that can often feel missing in this most modern of cities.
5. Pier 7 – one of the most glamorous spots to explore in Dubai
Named after the seven restaurants found within its circular walls, this tower sits next to the Dubai Marina Mall, with the two connected by a glass-walled walkway that makes approaching it something of an occasion.
Inside, you have a choice of dining, with everything from modern twists on traditional local cuisine to a British Pub experience, there is dining to suit every taste.
Each restaurant has a terrace for al fresco dining, and whether you try Atelier M, Abd el Wahab, The Scene by Simon Rimmer, Cargo, Mama Zonia, or Fume, you can enjoy exceptional dining.
6. Dubai Creek Harbor – a great spot to relax and people watch
Great for a family evening, it’s a fantastic site that gives you a great view across the cityscape, more relaxed than many areas around Dubai, it has fun architecture, plenty of places to sit and just enjoy the ambiance, as well as great options for dining and plenty of entertainment too.
A great spot for photography, it sits next to the Ra Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, giving a great view of the flamingos as you stroll along the marina boardwalk.
Perhaps the highlight is the sightseeing cruise available from the marina on the Black Pearl, a unique custom boat that brings the essence of pirate adventure to your Dubai experience.
An hour-long and fully guided, the cruise takes you by Mangroves, Sheikh Zayed Road Skyline, Dubai Festival City and Dubai Library, the Dubai Canal, and other attractions, well worth your time and great value too.
7. Hatta Water Dam – a beauty spot to explore in Dubai
A 90-minute drive from Dubai through some breathtaking scenery, the Hatta Water Dam gives you a wonderful view of the blue-green water and the scenery beyond.
It’s a haven for water lovers, with the option to rent a kayak, water bike or electric boat to explore the lake and its surroundings, as well as a range of other activities.
Food trucks are in abundance as it’s a popular destination, and it is one of the few places you can walk among lush greenery in Dubai by taking a stroll on the footpath between farms.
While it is a fun day for all the family, there is a lot of climbing involved so small children will need carrying, but as a spot that shows a very different side to Dubai, it is a must-see on any visit.
8. Al Nafoorah Restaurant – one of the best places to visit in Dubai
Found in the Jumeirah Emirate Towers, the Al Nafoorah Restaurant offers one of the best dining experiences in the city. With award-winning Lebanese cuisine, you can enjoy sublime food, but that is only part of the reason it’s such a must-visit spot.
The dining room is breathtaking, with soaring arches and impressive decoration, an ornate homage to middle eastern tradition.
With exceptional service in these impressive surroundings, it is easy to see why the Al Nafoorah attracts so many visitors, and it is one restaurant that should be part of every visit to Dubai.
9. Mall of the Emirates – a shopper’s paradise
A shopper’s paradise and so much more, the Mall of the Emirates is the grand scale and incredible architecture of Dubai distilled into a single place.
From the vast dome of glass to the spacious walkways, everything has been thought out to make this a comfortable, easy place to spend your time.
Along with both the high and middle-tier designer brands you may expect to find, the mall also offers some excellent restaurants, hotels, theaters, and even the famous Ski Dubai ski resort.
Here you can spend the day on the slopes with its complete indoor snow resort with ski lift and everything else you expect from your ski vacation.
Also found in the mall is Vox Cinema, where you can catch the latest blockbuster movies, Magic Planet, coffee bars, and more. A great place to spend the day with everything you may want in a single place.
10. Atlantis, The Palm – Dubai’s most iconic luxury hotel on The Palm and a must see
One of the more famous buildings in Dubai, Atlantis, The Palm towers over Palm Island beach with its pink walls reaching towards the sky and unmistakable central Arabian archway. A favorite destination for visitors from around the world, it offers sublime luxury on an epic scale.
It offers a wonderful blend of Arabian and modern for those staying in one of its rooms, but there is plenty for those just visiting this impressive hotel too.
With no less than 23 bars and restaurants, there is a cuisine for every taste, along with the Aquaventure Waterpark to keep the whole family entertained. Even in Dubai, this is a hotel that stands out for the sheer scale and breadth of its luxurious service, one you don’t want to miss.
11. Pure Sky Lounge – one of the most glamourous and Instagrammble spots in Dubai
Rooftop dining is always something a little special, and in the heart of Dubai, the Pure Sky Lounge continues that tradition, and then some.
Sitting on the 35th floor of the Hilton Dubai The Walk, with its cool white and blue theme, á la carte dining and relaxed lounge, this is a prime spot for watching the sun go down and enjoying the incredible views it brings.
With a happy hour for great cocktails, the terrace features glass walls for absolutely stunning views, and whether you visit for the dining experience or just enjoy the views and atmosphere in the lounge with one of their trademark Marshmallow Martinis, the Pure Sky Lounge will provide memorable views of this fantastic region.
12. Souk Madinat Jumeirah – a beautiful souk to explore in Dubai
One of the best places to visit in Dubai, this is a wonderful traditional Arabian bazaar full of locally produced goods including spices, jewelry, textiles, and more.
It’s also an incredible experience, wandering through the endless stalls underneath carved wood décor and beautiful lamps. There is always something new to find, and every trip is a chance to discover something magical.
It may be traditional, but it’s also Dubai, and that means plenty of modern amenities to make your day go smoothly.
With more than twenty-five restaurants serving a variety of food, you can enjoy everything from a coffee or light lunch to a la carte international dining, whatever you prefer, it’s on offer.
13. Marina Beach – one of the most beautiful beaches in Dubai
This is the best beach in Dubai and one of the most beautiful places to explore in Dubai. Parking is expensive at Marina Beach, but with easy travel on the metro and tram, you can enjoy a glorious day on pristine sands.
The beach has an open gym and children’s play area, with sunbeds and umbrellas for hire to keep you comfortable all day.
A weekend shopping market offers great bargains, and the beach is surrounded by restaurants and cafes to cater for your eating needs. There are a range of watersports available to try in those clear waters, and the whole area is meticulously maintained.
A fantastic place to spend a day as it has something for all the family, or a place to relax and watch the world go by.
14. Hatta Heritage Village – an interesting Dubai attraction
Dubai is many things, a sublime place to visit, a testament to modern construction, and a fabulous city for enjoying fine dining, beautiful scenery, and entertainment. If you were critical, the one thing it lacks is a touch of history, but the Hatta Heritage Village is where that is remedied.
This is a great must-see Dubai attraction as it’s a real traditional village that has been restored to give you insight into the culture and lifestyle of the region, with video and more to guide you along the journey.
It’s a wonderful way to show the region’s heritage, with some lovely on-site dining, and because it’s within easy reach of the Hatta Dam, makes a great trip to pair the two for a days exploring.
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Emma-Clair Ni Clearaigh – writer and photographer
With itchy feet, an inquisitive nature and an ardent wanderlust, Emma Clair has always been a traveller at heart. Hailing from the Emerald Isle she calls a small coastal town near Dublin home, but has lived in a few countries including Saigon, Vietnam where she resided for over a year, now she balances travel and travel writing with teaching and a passion for vintage interior design. She counts supping on Bloody Marys on a rooftop in Manhattan, downing Singapore slings at the Raffles Hotel, daring a paraglide on the Grand Cayman, spending an exotic Christmas in Malaysia and exploring the Angkor Wat, Cambodia as her all time favourite travel moments. Although, she’ll always have a special place in her heart for the city where she makes her annual pilgrimages – Paris, her true city of lights. Find Emma-Clair on Instagram or Facebook.