The best places to visit during your stay in Abu Dhabi

When you think about the United Arab Emirates (UAE) probably the first city that comes to your mind is Dubai. However the capital city, Abu Dhabi is just as glamorous as Dubai and whether your final destination is Abu Dhabi or not, the city definitely worth a visit!

MY EXPERIENCE OF ABU DHABI

I had the chance to spend almost a week in this wonderful city, thanks to AirBaltic. Personally I’ve never travelled somewhere outside of Europe, so this trip to the United Arab Emirates was really special in many ways. It was enthralling to learn about a new culture and experience the everyday life there. As soon as our flight arrived to Abu Dhabi and we managed to get out from the airport we couldn’t really feel much of a difference. Maybe it is because of the features that every airport has nowadays. But after we left the airport with the shuttle bus, the real side of the city’s started to open in front of our eyes.

I guess there’s no need to mention that the whole city was quite different than the „standard” European scheme. Our only connection was the English language which is widely spreaded there, and almost everybody can speak that language, and all of the signs and informations are also shown in English everywhere. The city center’s full of high-rise residential buildings which are only fragmented by wide motorways. Finding a big supermarket was a real adventure as most of these stores are usually located at the ground floor of a building, and they mostly had a very limited option in all kinds of products. Also not to forget mentioning, none of these stores are selling any alcoholic beverages because of the strict Islamic laws. The variety of products were also quite distinct than I’m used to. Please keep it in mind that wearing T-shirts with no sleeves, or shorts are not recommended anywhere in the city.

The public transportation system was also surprising. Even though this city is the capital of UAE with nearly one and half million citizens, Abu Dhabi has no metro system. The easiest way of getting around is by public transportation, taxi or Uber (if you’re wallet can handle it). Walking around the city is not as possible as in Europe would be, since all of the sights and main attractions are quite far away from each other.
The buses are divided into two parts. Males are not allowed to get on the bus from the first door, and they are not allowed either to sit in the front part of the vehicle as it is only for women and children. I was travelling there with Dominika and I’m sure she could also tell some stories about this system there.

Abu Dhabi is rich in its culture and it has many places that are all should be on your bucket list.

PLACES TO SEE IN ABU DHABI

• AL MARINA
• CORNICHE BEACH
• DESERT TRIPS
• EMIRATES PALACE
• ETIHAD TOWERS
• LOUVRE ABU DHABI
• MANGROVE NATIONAL PARK
• OASIS OF DIGNITY
• QASR AL WATAN/ UAE PRESIDENTIAL PALACE
• SHEIKH ZAYED MOSQUE
• THE GATE TOWERS
• YAS ISLAND/YAS MARINA

AL MARINA

Al Marina is an island between Corniche Beach and the Etihad Towers. One of Abu Dhabi’s biggest mall can be found here (The Marina Mall), surrounded with many great programs there. Visitors can choose between various activities such as boat rentals, helicopter tours or enjoying the view from the Marina Eye, which is an observation wheel on water.
One of the landmarks of the island is the Fairmont Marina Hotel, which is usually compared architecturally to Dubai’s Atlantis The Palm. I advise to visit this area around sunset, so that you can enjoy the great view of the skyline of Abu Dhabi during the blue hour.

CORNICHE BEACH

If you’ve spent enough time visiting all the sights around the city, I can highly recommend this beach to just chill, and enjoy the great waves of the Persian Gulf. The beach is easily accessible with all kind of transportation and there’s all kind of service that you might need during your stay at the beach. Please keep it in mind that Corniche Beach is divided into separate parts, so locals and tourists must have to enter at the right place (because of Islamic rules).

DESERT TRIPS

There are many companies offering different packages for tourists, giving you a chance to visit the sand dunes around the city. The packages offer different activities, but pickup and live English tour guide is always included. Our tour to the desert was in the morning, so the pick-up and drop off at our hotel was absolutely a great option. Transportation is always hold by a 4×4 Land Cruiser, or similar 4WD vehicle. Firstly, we visited a camel farm, where we could feed the animals and have a little insight of the everyday life of the farmers there. After that we had a great ride along the sand dunes. The drivers have to go through strict trainings to be a licensed driver for these conditions. Adrenalin was above the rooftop as our driver started to drive (especially because it was his first drive after successfully getting the license)! It was an experiencing and exhilarating dune bashing adventure, where you could feel the thrill as the captain maneuvers the vehicle through the sand dunes. After this great drive we could make some picture in the desert and we also visited a small village there, where we could have a short camel ride as well.
All together I can highly advise to book a trip like this and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

EMIRATES PALACE

Emirates Palace is a luxurious five star hotel located close to the Etihad Towers. The lobby area and the main lounge is open for everybody. The dome above the lobby area is really wonderful, just as all the details of the building. Breath-taking architecture, both inside and outside, sitting conveniently close to the newly-built Presidential Palace. Teatime at the Emerald Palace is a beautiful experience not to be missed. Costly, but worth the experience. Taking time to stroll the history-rich interiors and corridors is very educational and awe-inspiring thanks to the modern guides all around the building. Before the main entrance you can wonder of the skyline of the city.

ETIHAD TOWERS

In front of the Emirates Palace, the Etihad Towers are located, which is a complex of buildings with five towers. Set in the most desirable and exclusive beachside at Al Ras Al Akhdar district of Abu Dhabi, it is also located close to Corniche beach, Etihad Towers is designed, inside and out, to give guests who live, work, shop, dine and stay the most memorable and enriching of experiences. Among a few attraction, these buildings are one of the most recognizable landmark of the city. I advise to visit this place both daytime and night, as it can offer many great photo opportunities any time.

LOUVRE ABU DHABI

Yes, you saw it right: just as the french Louvre Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi is an art and civilization museum, located on the Saadiyat Island Cultural District. It is approximately 24,000 square metres with 8,000 square metres of galleries, making it the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula. The origin of the name came from the fact that the establishment of the museum was approved by the French Parliament. The museum is designed as a „seemingly floating dome structure” as its web-patterned dome allowing the sun to filter through. The overall effect is meant to represent the rays of sunlight passing through palm tree leaves in an oasis. If you want to discover more about the culture, this might be the best place for that.

MANGROVE NATIONAL PARK

One of the best ways to experience nature between the sand dunes in Abu Dhabi is to visit the Mangrove National Park. Filled with a great variety of animals, the park teems with wildlife and is also a popular tourist attraction. The Mangrove National Park is a hub for tourists who prefer activities that bring them closer to nature. The best way to experience the mangroves is to take advantage of the many tour operators nearby – you can easily book online, just as for the desert trips. The lush concentration of mangrove trees and the water surrounding is a hotspot for bird watchers, kayakers, paddle-boarders and other visitors looking for a bit of adventure.

OASIS OF DIGNITY

As a photographer, one of my favourite place to visit was the Oasis of Dignity which is located in front of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. My best advice for all of you, who visit this place is to try getting there around sunset for the best lighting conditions. From the begining of the sunset, through blue hour and nighttime, this place has a lot of undiscovered perspectives, which can help you to create unforgetable photos.
Wahat Al Karama or the Oasis of Dignity (in english) is a war memorial and monument located across Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to commemorate all Emiratis who are killed in the line of duty. The memorial was unveiled on the United Arab Emirates Commemoration Day on 30 November 2016. The memorial is composed of three structures: the leaning pillars, the pavilion of honor, and the memorial plaza. The names of all Emirati soldiers who are killed in duty are inscribed in the pavilion of honor.
At the middle of the monument, a great surface of water can be find, which gave me the perfect possibility for a stunning reflection shot!

QASR AL WATAN / UAE RESIDENTIAL PALACE

Qasr Al Watan is a cultural landmark in Abu Dhabi where you can discover the legacy of knowledge and tradition that have shaped the journey of the nation, boosting cultural understanding of the United Arab Emirates. It’s much more than a traditional palace as it is an exquisitely crafted tribute to the Arabian heritage.

SHEIKH ZAYED MOSQUE

This sight is probably to most famous landmark of the city, as visitors can have a day trip here from even Dubai. This is the largest mosque in the country and it is the key place of worship for daily prayers, Friday gathering and Eid prayers. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi was probably the most amazing place I’ve visited in the city. The whole journey was unbeliveable, but specially this building, with its shining details and enormous heights. There is no shortage of mosques in the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi alone has approximately 1,500 places of worship for Islamic devotees to attend. However, there is one mosque that stands out when compared to the rest. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the eight largest in the world and is impressive not only for its size but for its architecture. With marble walls, intricate stone work and crystal chandeliers, this mosque truly is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Visiting this building is free, however online ticket booking is required. Please keep it in mind as well, that the building is not always open beacuse of the Islamic religion. Also strict rules are given to you before entering the place.

THE GATE TOWERS

Part of the Shams residential development on Al Reem Island, Gate Towers is one of the largest and most eye-catching developments in Abu Dhabi. The Gate Towers consist of a series of towers that act as pillars beneath a curving lintel. This renders the effect of a monumental portal that defines the threshold to the Shams Abu Dhabi district, a newly-created land mass formed as an extension of the Central Business District on exposed tidal sands within a fringe of mangroves at approximately five to seven meters above sea level. The area is gradually developing at a high density and growing in prominence. This mixed-use residential project has a total of 3,533 luxury residential apartments in three towers of 66 stories, connected at their top with a two-level sky-bridge structure, which contains 21 large luxury penthouses.

YAS ISLAND/YAS MARINA

This island is home to many theme parks in the city, such as the Ferrari World, Warner Bros. World and the Yas Waterworld. It is a popular leisure island and one of the top tourism projects in Abu Dhabi. Yas Island holds the Yas Marina Circuit, which has hosted the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. This Island offers a lot to tourists making it possible to spend a few days only on the island. With a great variety of hotels and other services, this place deserves more than just a visit.