A perfect day in Dubai

Whether you're simply stopping over or having your whole holiday in Dubai, you'll find these attractions are the best way to spend your first 24 hours in the city
Dubai city in sunrise aerial view. Photo: Shutterstock
Dubai city in sunrise aerial view. Photo: Shutterstock

Dubai city in sunrise aerial view. Photo: Shutterstock


As the world’s newest mega-metropolis, Dubai is a city that can easily overwhelm visitors, even those who have been before. Our perfect day itinerary is here to help you make the best out of your time in Dubai… 


9.00am: Start with a souk 

After breakfast at your hotel, head to Deira, one of the oldest parts of Dubai. Deira sits on the north bank of the Dubai Creek and is home to many colourful traditional markets and souks, including the famous Dubai Gold Souk and Spices Souk. Browse the markets looking for a bargain, and stroll along the banks on Insight Guides’ UAE Essentials trip.

11.00am: Sail across the creek

After you’ve looked around the markets, hop on an abra – a traditional local boat – that will take you take across the creek to Bur Dubai. The journey takes just five minutes and there are many crossing points and abras to choose from. Once you’ve arrived, stroll along the waterfront to Al Shindagha, an old neighbourhood with great views over Old Dubai. When you’re ready, walk back the way you came, towards the Juma Grand Mosque and your next stop, the Dubai Museum.    

 Dubai Creek. Photo: ShutterstockDubai Creek. Photo: Shutterstock


12.00pm: History of Dubai

Where better to spend an hour than in the Dubai Museum, learning about this city’s fascinating history? The museum is housed in the Al Fahidi Fort, which was built in 1787 and is the city's oldest existing building today. The museum opened in 1971 and is one of Dubai's most popular attractions. Inside, there are exhibitions ranging from 18th-century Dubai, all the way to the discovery of oil in the 1960s, and to the present-day.

1.00pm: Marvel at Dubai’s wind towers

Walk from the museum to the atmospheric Al Fahidi Historic District. If you’re hungry, head to the XVA Café and Gallery for lunch. The Al Fahidi Historic District is home to a marvellous collection of old wind tower houses – houses that were constructed around a large ventilation tower, designed to catch the sea breeze and direct it down into the property to cool it down. Wind tower houses also have an outlet so hot air can escape. Learn more with a guided tour of the Al Fahidi Historic District on Insight Guides’ History and Heritage in Dubai trip.

2.00pm: Wander down Sheikh Zayed Road 

Either take a taxi or a short metro ride to Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai’s most famous road. If you are going by taxi, get out at the Emirates Towers; if you are going by metro, there is a station at Emirates Towers, so get off there. Stroll down this magnificent road, admiring the futuristic and eclectic architecture as you go.

2.30pm: Hit the shops

When you reach the end of Sheikh Zayed Road, turn left onto the Financial Centre Road, and keep going until you reach the main entrance to the Dubai Mall. Home to over 1,200 different shops, the Dubai Mall is the largest shopping mall on earth and is a sight to behold in itself. For those who don’t like shopping, the mall has its own aquarium and an indoor waterfall to keep you entertained. Go shopping at the Dubai Mall during Insight Guides’ Dubai Luxury Stopover trip.

3.30pm: Top of the world

Exit the mall through the back, following signs to the Downtown Dubai Development. As you leave, you’ll see the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, on your right. Enter the building and take the high-speed elevator to the ‘At The Top’ observation deck, which sits at a dizzying 452 metres above sea level (note that booking in advance is required). 

When the deck opened in 2010, it was the highest in the world. However, in 2011 China’s Canton Tower opened an observation deck at 488 metres above sea level and claimed the number one spot. Not one to be outdone, the Burj opened the SKY level at 555 metres in 2014, only to be outdone once more in 2016, when the observation deck of the Shanghai Tower opened, at 561 metres above sea level. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Iran from the Burj. Experience the incredible view for yourself with Insight Guides’ Dubai Luxury Stopover trip.


The Madinat Souk at Madinat Jumeirah Hotel. Photo: ShutterstockThe Madinat Souk at Madinat Jumeirah Hotel. Photo: Shutterstock


4.30pm: Winding down

Catch a taxi from the Downtown Dubai Development to the Madinat Jumeirah complex. If you fancy, stroll around the souk, markets and canals. Alternatively, if you feel like a well-deserved rest, head to the Bahri Bar, have a relaxing drink and take in the fantastic views of the magnificent sail-shaped Burj al Arab, which is a little further up the creek.   

7.00pm: Arabian nights

Madinat Jumeirah is home to a superb selection of places to eat, many of which line the canals or the Dubai Creek. After dark, the area gets busy, so if you see somewhere you like the look of earlier, pop in and book a table. Once settled, this area is a great spot for people watching. If you fancy a drink after dinner, hop on a tram and make the short journey to the One&Only Royal Mirage Hotel, which has a great rooftop bar, often with DJs playing later on in the evening.


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