A perfect day in Abu Dhabi

Spa treatments, retail therapy and feasting on Middle Eastern delights, here are the best things to do, if you want to spend an indulgent 24 hours in Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Photo: Shutterstock
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Photo: Shutterstock

A morning tour of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a must while you're in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Shutterstock


The vibrant, modern city of Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, is a sight to behold. More than just a hub of gleaming skyscrapers and megamalls, travellers will find an indulgent and relaxing destination here. Read on for our favourite ways to spend 24 hours in the city


9.00am: Breakfast in style

Energise yourself with the wide choice of foods from the breakfast buffet at your hotel, perhaps sampling a couple of local specialities like ful medames (an exotic fava bean dip) or luqaimat (crunchy, sweet dumplings). Visit Abu Dhabi on Insight Guides' Luxury Stopover and you'll stay at the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, an indulgent hotel, where breakfast will certainly set you up for the day. 

10.00am: Tour the Grand Mosque

Grab a taxi to the beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and take the free guided tour. This is undoubtedly Abu Dhabi's single most worthwhile attraction: a spectacular snow-white mass of domes and minarets visible for miles around - the vast courtyard alone is capable of accommodating some 40,000 worshippers. The mosque is one of the world's biggest and one of only three mosques in the UAE open to non-Muslims. Ensure you dress conservatively; female visitors not suitably attired will be offered a black abbeya robe to wear. 

12 noon: Unwind with a spa treatment

Drive across the Al-Maqtaa Bridge past the famous watch-tower and onto the mainland, for a revitalising CHI spa treatment at the Shangri-La Hotel. All massages and treatments here are based on authentic natural healing methods found in traditional well-being practices shared by many Asian cultures. 

1.30pm: Lunch in Qaryat al-Beri

Take an abra water taxi along the canal through the Shangri-La resort for lunch in one of the restaurants in the Qaryat al-Beri complex. Travel on Insight Guides' Magnificent Emirates tour and you'll use this luxurious hotel as your base, while staying in the city. 

3.00pm: Splurge while taking a little retail therapy

Immerse yourself in the decadent architecture, opulent interiors and regular exhibitions at the Emirates Palace. Then head over to the Breakwater for some retail therapy at Marina Mall, one of the city’s largest shopping malls.


Shisha pipe. Photo: ShutterstockShisha pipe. Photo: Shutterstock


5.00pm: Get caught up in Abu Dhabi's café culture

Have coffee and cake at the lively Havana Café overlooking the marina and Corniche, just across from the main entrance to Marina Mall. You can also consider joining in with the locals and order a shisha pipe.

6.00pm: Stroll or cycle along the Corniche

Work off some of the calories with a stroll or cycle ride along the Corniche, while watching the gymnastic water displays of the jet-skiers as they spin and spray their way along the waterfront. Rehydrate with a fruit juice from one of the vendors.

7.00pm Relax with a sunset drink

Pre-dinner drinks at one of Abu Dhabi’s many bars and restaurants with great sea views, such as the Byblos sur Mer Lounge.

8.00pm End your day with dinner with a view

Have dinner in the sky and watch the city life below. The Tiara restaurant high above the Marina Mall revolves every 90 minutes.


Marina Mall illuminated at dusk. Photo: ShutterstockMarina Mall illuminated at dusk. Photo: Shutterstock


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